New Adventures :: Show Pigs

PIG ADVENTURE

When we moved to our little slice of land close to town, I knew that chickens would be making a home with us.  I never would have imagined pigs.  But, friends, strange and unexpected things happen.  You see, a great family moved in across the street from us & they just happen to be pig people.  Champion show pig raisers to be exact.  They know their pig stuff.  We hit it off & especially our girls hit it off & that leads me to this::  I spent all day Saturday at a pig auction.  A. Pig. Auction.  Twelve months ago, I didn’t even know there were pig auction.  True words.  And yesterday I found myself examining pigs & bidding on pigs & bringing two little piggies home.  Two pigs are now a part of Weed Acres.

The auction was something.  All kinds {and I do mean ALL kinds} were present and accounted for.  It was like a mini state fair except with free food and no mini donuts-sad face.  They started with sheep and goats, which I’m happy to report we resisted.  That there is an act of will power.  Those little things are adorable!!  One of the goats went for nearly $3,000.  Yes, I have no words.  At that point I became incredibly nervous, but am happy to report the pigs didn’t go for anywhere near that price.  Hallelujah.

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Do I have any idea at all what I’m doing?  Not really.  But lucky for me, neighbors {did I mention they’re champions} & 4-H are willing to teach us.  Technically the pigs are Baby Girl’s pigs, but let’s be honest, mama needs to know what the heck is going on.  {Good thing one of my top 5 Strengths Finders is Learner.}  Pinterest and Google are my best friend in this adventure so far & having a board called Swine Time is both exciting and ridiculous.

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Paprika – Hereford gilt
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Winchester – Cross Breed barrow
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Winchester & Paprika – chowing

So, what do you do with pigs?  Excellent question.  We plan to show them.  And because 9 months ago I had no idea what that meant, let me share my limited knowledge of what that entails.  We attempted to pick pigs with the proper structure that is desirable.  So far, I think that mostly has to do with the pig’s butts.  With some back, legs and length thrown in.  We will feed our pigs a food designed to get them to their desirable show weight with muscles in all the right places and fat in the right spots {we are talking about ham and bacon after all}.  Then with the help of our local county 4-H, Baby Girl will take the pigs to the County Fair in July and show them.  She showed one of our neighbor’s pigs last year & loved it.  And with any luck, she’ll win a ribbon.  Then the two pigs will likely head to another auction where they will be purchased and most likely be prepared for eating.  I know…it’s the harsh reality of raising animals for meat.  But let’s be honest.  Most of us are eating meat & I can guarantee that these pigs will have been given the very best life they could get while living & they will meet their end in a humane and sensitive way.  That cannot be said for all the meat we find in our refrigerators today.  True words.

The auction was super exciting.  We spent a good hour walking around looking at all the available pigs trying to determine what we were looking for.  Thankfully our neighbors were there to help guide us.  We circled our favorites & tried to maintain a budget. And we were successful.  We purchased both pigs for less than we had set as our top budget amount.  Not bad.  We purchased a Hereford gilt {girl} and a cross breed barrow {boy}.  We got them home and settled and we are all surviving.

A new adventure.  I love a good adventure!

Playing in the Dirt – Spring Gardening!

Hooray, hooray, hooray.  Spring is nearly here.  Even as I type I see the weather forecast for these parts includes some snowflakes still, but I am optimistic that eventually this weather will turn and spring will be upon us.  And you know what that means?  Summer is right around the corner.  Oh, how I love summer!  The weather of summer is my favorite…it really never can be too hot.  Impossible.  My second favorite thing about summer is my garden.  Oh, how much I love my garden!  Fresh produce by the bucket full!  Tomatoes and peppers and beans and zucchini and…and…and…

In order to ensure that my garden will be overflowing with all the things we love, planning is super important.  I learned the hard way that this upper midwest growing season is pretty darn short.  In order reap most things before the frost hits, it’s important to start things inside.  Last year, I didn’t pay too close attention to what I started in those cute little divided trays {read :: I forgot to water & everything died} and I ended up paying a small fortune at the garden center for tomato and pepper plants.  But, friends, not this year.  This year I will succeed at starting plants from seeds.  I am again optimistic!

A few months back I placed my seed order for all the wonderful things I wanted to eat, errrr grow this year.  I used Seed Savers.  Their selection is amazing and they are conservationist at their core.  They specialize in organic and heirloom varieties and are committed to making sure that non GMO seeds remain in our seed supply for those that want to grow “vintage” varieties of fruits and veggies.  {I am not making a statement for or against GMO’s.  But for my garden, I’m trying to go old school sometimes for no other reason than they look really cool.}  I know that there are other companies out there selling similar seeds, so shop around.  Or go to the Burpee’s section at your local garden center and pick seeds up there.  Whateverworksforyou.

My little packets of wonderfulness arrived shortly there after.  It was snowing outside, but I was looking way past that to the spring that was coming. I looked at those little packets nearly everyday, read the back and dreamed of the deliciousness they would produce.  And then I began to worry.  When do I plant them?  Should I start them inside?  Wait till the last freeze and put them straight in the ground?  What if I let them die again in those indoor starter containers?  How do I know what to do?

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Introducing Zukeeni.  This is quite simply the best online gardening resource I have ever found.  Ever.  I made a free account {because free is important to me}.  I entered the names of every seed I purchased.  Some of them were weird, but Zukeeni had them in their database.  And then,like some sort of magic, Zukeeni produced a detailed plan for me and my garden.  What?  In a great week-by-week list form, it showed me what to plant when…so for example the week of March 15 it told me to start my tomato and pepper plants inside.  How cool is that?  And when I completed that task, I clicked it as complete on the screen & Zukeeni calculated when it would be time to transplant those same plants based on when I started them.  I don’t have to think or know anything about gardening to know what to do.  They think for me.  Amazing!!!

A couple of weekends ago I spent the morning getting my hands dirty.  I bought two starter trays from my local garden center and some starter soil {organic}.  Reading the instruction on the packets of how deep to bury those little seeds, I got to work.  To make sure that I knew what was growing {because although I think I will be able to remember what I planted where, I know that I in fact will not}  I used some cocktail toothpicks to indicate what was in each little square.  I used  a sharpie, so it wouldn’t run when I watered {these are lessons learned the hard way}.  Everything looked so great, if I do say so myself.  I put the greenhouse tops on my trays and placed them where Zukeeni told me to.  And slowly watched the miracle of growth begin.  It really is amazing!

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So here I sit on this sunny April morning with two trays of spouting wonder.  I decided to locate the starter trays this year in my “office” so I’ll see them and hopefully remember to give them some water {smirk} and keep an eye on their progress.  They are actually growing.

Look at 'em Grow! I see the potential of what is to come…the hope of the veggies that will grace our summer dinner table, beginning to emerge.  It is a beautiful thing.

Frozen Chicken

It’s even hard for me to believe at times just how very much I adore raising chickens.  I’m not necessarily a country girl, I didn’t grow up with animals, never was a part of 4-H & truth be told I always avoided the animal barns at the county fair.  But, somewhat on a whim, after moving out to some acreage, I ordered my first batch of chicks.  And I’ve loved nearly every day with my chickens since.

Chickens.  They’re kind of amazing really.  I only have ladies. {our two “oops” roosters became soup a while back}  We are a completely pasture-raised chicken operation around here.  The ladies can wander anywhere on the property {or off} that they desire.  The dogs keep them off the lawn, the cars keep them off the road, but otherwise they’re free to roam.  They put themselves to bed at night & the door closes behind them & they are secure until morning when the door opens to let them out.  They eat some organic feed, some table scraps & a whole lot of bugs and whatnot from wherever they scratch.  And then they lay glorious, delicious, fresh eggs.

Chickens are a great gateway animal to farm life.  I mean, you may not want to jump in full force with a heard of cattle or a pen full of pigs, but chickens are completely doable.  And fun too.  After nearly two years of learning {mostly trial and error} here are my top things to make chicken raising the best it can be during the winter:

  1. Get your chicks from a  reputable chicken seller.  All of my day old chicks have come through the post from on online chicken store.  Yes, that sounds strange but it works and is wonderful.  I use mypetchicken.com.  I have had a great experience with them.  They guarantee their chicks & are quick to refund or offer replacements when things aren’t quite right.  They have many, many varieties to choose from.
  2. Get yourself an automatic coop door.  You will thank me for this!  We installed this one last year & it has changed my chicken farming life.  I no longer have to go to the coop in the morning to let the ladies out & I no longer have to go down after dark to make sure the ladies all went to bed.  It all happens without me.  It is 100% worth the cost.
  3. Don’t worry about heating your coop {if you live in the frozen tundra}.  The ladies really don’t care.  We added a heat lamp once to the coop & even on the coldest of days the ladies sat outside.  All I could figure the heat was doing was thawing the poop & making is moist {ew, I hate that word} and smelly.  Both are bad for chickens.
  4. Do worry about fresh water.  If you live in a climate that is freezing, make sure that you have a good heated water dispenser.  Chickens need water.  And they can’t get it it it’s frozen.
  5. Do not force your ladies to lay through the winter.  This may be my personal opinion, but I think it’s best for the ladies.  Ladies lay based on the sun and the amount of sunlight hours there are.  You can artificially add light to the coop to trick them into laying all winter long at the same rate that they lay in the summer months.  But they were not designed to lay all winter & to do so can cause their lives to become shorted, their eggs to become less substantial and their lives to be less than full.  Additionally, chickens that lay in the harsh winter months can suffer calcium deficiencies that can lead to bone fractures and even death.  Just count on less production in the winter and know that spring is coming & you’ll be overflowing with eggs soon.
  6. Get yourself a great winter wardrobe.  Even on the coldest of days, even if you have an automatic door you will need to go the coop at least once, but most likely a few times to make sure water is liquid, food is provided & eggs are collected.  This will be much less awful if you’re dressed for it.  Trust me!  Your wardrobe need not be spectacular.  The ladies don’t care.  But it will need to be warm & you will need to cover you skin. FullSizeRender 65

I’m placing my order later this week for my spring chick additions.  I’m looking at some unusual breeds and some fun colorful egg layer for this batch.  I can’t wait for them to arrive in a few months.  I love chickens!

Big Day @ Weed Acres

I love chickens.

I never thought I would.  But I do.  Chickens became a part of my world in the summer of 2014.  A box arrived from My Pet Chicken through the post {yep, the good ole’ mailman delivers} with 9 two-day old chicks inside.  Unfortunately 8 of those chicks were not peeping {it was a fluke due to weather conditions…or the one left living was a serial chicken murderer…you decide}.   The one chick alive in that box, all yellow & fluffy & cute, stole my heart.  {regardless of her possible serial killer-ness} We named her Frieda Solo.  The following week a replacement box arrived full of eight peeping, very much alive baby chicks.  And thus began the chicken adventure at Weed Acres.

We watched them all grow from cute little downy fluffballs with legs, to happy hens roaming the acres.  By late autumn is was pretty clear that my happy hen house also housed two boys.  Seems Freda & Katondra were actually Fred & well, Katondra {my ginger haired named Katondra & didn’t like the idea of changing it’s name due to a gender change}  On a side note you may be  thinking that I made a spelling error.  Earlier I had said the first chick was Frieda Solo & now I’m saying Freda was actually Fred.  Good story here.  These chickens were named after my two grandmas {because everyone names their chickens after their grandmas} who had the same name with different spellings. It’s a wacky life.  Anyhow, I wasn’t against roosters.  Until I had a couple.  They’re mean.  Nasty. They were violent!  They were upsetting the ladies & chasing me.  They became soup.

Five ladies ruled the hen house.  Frieda Solo, Mabel, Opal, Bek-kah & Myrtle Louise.

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They calmed down after the terror of the violent males was removed and on December 26, 2014 they laid their first egg.  You may think it odd that I remember this day.  It’s not…move on.  Since then, these lovely ladies have been fairly consistent little layers of the most delicious farm fresh, pasture raised eggs ever.

This spring we added some more to the hen house.  Seventeen to be exact.  They arrived though the post with greater success than my first batch, at only 2 days old on April 20.  I had a little fun with them while they were cute & fluffy & little bundles of adorableness!  They LOVED being dressed up in all kinds of fun.

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They officially moved in with the ladies in June after the addition to the coop was complete.  After working out their pecking order battles {it is a fierce fight for supremacy in the hen house, friends} they settled in.  Oh, there are still some scuffles {they are ladies after all} but they seem to get along alright.

So this brings me to the latest news from Weed Acres.  Today is a day which I will certainly remember! {partly because it’s chronicled here & nothing ever disappears from the internet – we say that to the three little Weeds all the time…it’s true.  never.  this stuff you post will haunt you.  some. day}  But today I will remember because one of the little ladies laid her very first egg.  IMG_2156 2At the ripe old age of 4 months 2 days old. I have no way to know which of the 17 little ladies it was, but I congratulated them as a whole.  They were thrilled with my excitement.  That or my red toe nail polish.  No telling which.  It’s a big day at Weed Acres.  A very big day!  Delicious eggs come from Happy Hens & Weed Hens are the Happiest!