Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

A Good Day.

Posted on | October 11, 2015 | 4 Comments

There are days when it all seems worth it.  Days when the hard work starts to pay off.  Days when it all goes as planned.  Those days are good days.

On a cool sunny afternoon this week, the pigs were loaded up and taken to market.  We’ve butchered our pigs ourselves in the past.   But 2 pigs takes up an entire day and I couldn’t face the time and effort put into butchering 4 pigs.  Plus 4 pigs was 3 pigs too many for our freezer and taking the pigs to a state inspected butcher enabled us to feel comfortable selling the extra meat as well as getting custom cuts for which we don’t have the proper equipment.  So with the help of a borrowed livestock trailer, a piece of ply wood for a ramp, a few cattle panels to encourage them down the right path, and, of course, a pail of milk and grain, we let the pigs off their pasture and tried heading for the truck.

They were good pigs that day.  They were actually good pigs the entire time they were here.  It’s doubtful that our field fencing could have resisted an assault from 4 pigs, even before they reached 250 lb pigs.  Even if the fence was strong enough, the fact that it didn’t reach the ground in a whole lot of places made a determined attempt unnecessary.  A simple snout push would have been enough to set them free.  But they didn’t really have it in them.

When they did get out, they were mostly concerned about getting back in.

They learned to drink from their nipple water without any trouble at all.

They ate everything we gave them.  Including vanloads of bread from the outlet bakery that was completely fine to eat but too close to its “Use By” date to leave on the shelves….

pallets of fruits and veggies that were discarded by groceries because they were waaaaay too “rotten” for human consumption….

and, of course, any abundance out of the garden that we just couldn’t face eating one more time.

They always pooped in just one corner of their pasture, away from their food and their house.  Which was handy.

They even taught us something new about pigs.  They were the first pigs we’ve had that took turns cleaning each other after they ate.

Of course, clean up might not have been necessary if they didn’t eat like this:

And come out looking like this:

Regardless, they were easy keepers that stayed manageable to the end.  They were always up for back scratches or nose rubs through the fence.  Pretty didn’t have any trouble measuring them for weight checks.

And as long as you watched for them stepping on your toes, they were never even a bother if you were working in their pen.  Just friendly and curious.

They loved swimming in the pond, snuffling through the woods, and, best of all, taking naps.

True to their easy going nature, they followed us right up the ramp to a final helping of milk and grain on the livestock trailer.  And stood in their feed bowl for the last time.

I know it seems cruel to some people to raise pigs so trusting that they follow their farmer right to the slaughter house door.  But in the days of factory farming, feed lots, and confinement pens, our pigs seem like a small victory.  Proof that you can have your meat and treat it well, too.  And when you raise your own food—-whether you gather your own eggs, pick  your own produce, or raise your own beef—-making it to market is a good day.  It’s the end of gathering proper feed, maintaining housing and fencing, worrying about heat, about rain, about predators, about illness.  Big, happy, healthy pigs meant we did a good job of taking care of them and now they’ll be taking care of us.

It’s hard to believe they came like this:

And six months later, left like this:

I gave them one last nose rub and thanked them.

Then The Other Half drove them to the local processor, just 30 minutes away, and he stayed to help move them calmly and make sure they were humanely dispatched.  While he was gone I took down the pigs’ housing, returning tarps to the garden to cover fallow rows, pulling up T-posts, washing out feed troughs and buckets and moving them to the sheep pasture.  When I was done, the only thing left was their favorite wallow.

It remains to be seen if the pond will hold water better now that the pigs have mucked it up and trampled the edges.

If the pond seals, that’s a bonus.  If not, the freezer will still be full.  Most of the meat is already sold, but we still have a whole or half pig to spare—-which includes center cut hams, boston butt from front shoulders, ribs, pork chops (approx 20 in a 1/2), whole tenderloins, and sausage (medium or mild).  Let me know if you’re interested.

Meanwhile, the turkey and the chickens were happy to get the scrap bucket back for themselves.  I’m happy to cut back on buying chicken feed.

Plus, we can move forward with the plan to sell the dairy herd.  With 7 months passed since she first freshened, Vanessa’s udder looks like this:

And she produced 2 overflowing quarts of milk this morning:

We’ve been using the milk to feed the pigs, because milk-fed pork beats any other feed, hands down.  Now that the pigs are gone, Vanessa, a Toggenburg, can go to a new home.  She’ll be $250 as she is, in milk.  Or $300 if I breed her to one of my Nigerian dwarf bucks before she leaves.  She can be dried off, too, if that’s preferred.  We’re hoping for a nice homestead where she can remain as a family milk producer.

Cutting back on a few more mouths to feed always make for a good day.  Because someone around here is about to burst with new life.  Carmen’s due around October 15th.  Who knows how many kids are in there???

Guess we’ll just be thankful for the good days and take the rest, one day at a time.


4 Responses to “A Good Day.”

  1. Annabelle
    October 12th, 2015 @ 8:06 am

    Once again-‘you perfectly articulated it all! Thanks- I’ll just direct friends to this post the next time they ask how I can eat the sweet and curious pigs:)
    I’m excited to learn about life after farming through you!

  2. Jill
    October 12th, 2015 @ 9:14 am

    Thank you for your ethical treatment of your pigs. They are wonderful, but big, animals! You seem to have a great system in place. Congrats.

  3. Jodi
    October 12th, 2015 @ 6:42 pm

    Why are you selling your dairy herd?

  4. admin
    October 13th, 2015 @ 3:29 am

    Planning on traveling cross country the next 2 summers and just can’t arrange for milking while we’re gone for such a long time.

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