Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

“Time Or Monies.”

Posted on | February 7, 2014 | 1 Comment

Now that I have created my own language, I have added another term.  And I just thought you should know.  It all started with the fact that the goats are due to kid this month.  So last week I rushed around the farm tying up loose ends in the flurry of nesting behavior that always precedes kidding season.  The new buck pasture had to be finished and the bucks released into to it.  To start tearing up those trees, too.

Fallen trees on the fence line had to be cleared and the fence repaired.

The barn had to be loaded with enough hay to get us through the next few months.

The kidding barn needed new bulbs in the heat lamps, stall dividers, a sprinkle of DE, and fresh bedding.

Shots, hoof trims, and selenium gel for all the pregnant does.

Luna found the pre-kidding frenzy to be exhausting.

I was headed down the driveway, congratulating myself on having everything done when I noticed we still had pigs.

Not only did we still have pigs, but Penny and Pushy were now so fat that we couldn’t even tell them apart anymore. The pigs were such easy keepers that they had faded into the background down by the pond.  We were going to butcher them in the fall.  Except that we went to the beach instead.  Thanks, Grammie and Grandaddy!

And we were going to butcher them before we had to get another load of bread.  Except that bread was easy to come by and easy to feed.

We were going to butcher them before we got another bag of grain.  Except that a bag of grain lasted for a month or more since they faired just fine on barn and kitchen scraps.

Now, with a future of long nights spent checking on kidding does and early mornings spent milking quickly approaching, I knew it was time.  But I was truly surprised when the measuring tape revealed that it was almost past time.  Because Penny and Pushy turned out to be 256 and 268 pounds, respectively.  I think respectively.  Probably.  Maybe.  Eh.

Our first pig, Papa Noel, also sized out at 250lbs. It took him 6 months for him to reach that size.  But he was going through 50lb bags of grain as fast as I could haul them out to the barn.

Penny and Pushy took a year to reach the same weight as Papa Noel.  But they managed on a whole lot less purchased food.  Which made them the perfect example of choosing to spend your time or spend your money when getting things done on the farm.  Turns out pigs were the ultimate “Time or Monies.”

When they arrived, they didn’t need any food except what was in the garden.  But it did take me and the kids about 30-45 minutes to move their pen every couple weeks to a fresh spot.

Then we fed them mostly on food scraps, extra milk and eggs, and imperfect produce from the garden.  Which didn’t cost us a dime.  But we did spend a whole lot of time traipsing up and down the driveway with the scraps bowl.

Hog feed (out of date bread and pastries) was free if you picked up whatever leftovers were on the delivery truck and $8 for as much as you could haul away in your vehicle if you picked it up from the warehouse.  The kids got used to spending some time after school unwrapping pecan rolls and honey buns to fill the pigs’ pail.  The only real cost was to our feelings.  Because a little piece of your soul dies every time you unwrap a Hostess cupcake and then have to put it in the pig bucket.  Put it in the pig bucket.  For the pigs.  Sigh.

We almost decided to pay the local processor to butcher the pigs.  After all, we had planned on finishing them at a smaller size.  Plus, we knew one 250 pound pig was enough of a butchering project, never mind two of them.  But The Other Half was up for the job.  And I couldn’t figure out a way to get the pigs onto the back of the truck while he was at work.  So we saved our money, corralled the kids as free labor, and set aside an entire Sunday for the job.

Pretty evenly distributed the final back scratches….

….and belly rubs.

The Other Half took care of the hardest part and all that was left was taking the time to change this:

into this:

Don’t be fooled by the quick juxtaposition between those two photos.  “Time or Monies” really do take a long, long time.  Getting the meat off those pigs took so long the kids were forced to entertain themselves by identifying the different internal structures of pigs….

….and measuring the length of the small intestine.

It took 2 days to get all the meat cut up and sealed.  Especially since the hams and shoulders were so large they had to be cut in half and were still big enough portions to feed our family of 6 with a week of leftovers to spare.  This photo didn’t even include the 2 racks of ribs we ate the first night and the hams we set aside for friends and family.

I’m still working on rendering all that fat….

….into lard for cooking and soap making.

Of course, I’ll be storing it in some old margarita tubs.  Because I don’t want to waste money on buying jars and I have plenty of time for drinking margaritas.

But pigs aren’t the only “Time or Monies” around here.  We’re always having to choose between meat chickens that can be slow-growing-and-free-foraging breeds or fat-and-feed-bucket-chasing Jumbo Cornish Cross.  Or veggie transplants for the garden that can be started from cheap seed packets in January February (note to self:  move Plant Seeds In Greenhouse from January to February on calendar.  ‘Cause January is already over and I haven’t done it yet.) or bought right before planting from the local home and garden store.  Sometimes it seems like every aspect of farming comes down to time or money.

Except for when it involves time and money.  Like fencing.  And housing.  Laying hens.  And dairy goats.  All of those are “Time and Monies.”  Speaking of which, the pigs were done just in time for the first goat kids’ arrival.  Triplets from Carmen.

The two chocolate females already have deposits.  Which just leaves the little white male.  As long as he sells when he’s weaned at 6 weeks old, he won’t cost me anything other than the time to disbud him and give him his first shots.  Once he’s eating grain, the bills start adding up.  So what’s it gonna be, little man?  Time or Money?

Hmmmmm… enigmatic, one, I see…


One Response to ““Time Or Monies.””

  1. Lin
    February 8th, 2014 @ 9:45 am

    Please, I need a warning at the beginning of a post that shows final belleh rubs and scritches…only to scroll down and see that same piggy hanging by his dead feet.

    I’m a city gal…we aren’t used to murdered animals. Gang-bangers, yes–but not farm animals. I get it, it’s your life and I’m not disagreeing….just please give us fair warning, okay? I’m a softy. 🙂

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