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Little’s Fate: even a used up boar is useful

mature boar, pasture raised heritage pork

What do you do with a mature boar pig?  (“Boar” meaning an intact, fully functional male as opposed to the breed of pig.) We have met people who claim they taste good, but our experience has been that they have a smell and taste that is…well…unappealing.  “Boar taint” is the term for that unsavory taste, and it comes from the testosterone in an intact male.  Cows, goats, and sheep don’t seem to have the same problem, but pigs do.

So, our options were:

  1. Sell him.  (We tried.  No one wanted him.)
  2. Take him to the sale barn.  (We would get less for him than the cost of the gas to haul him, and he’d likely go to slaughter anyway.)
  3. Castrate him, wait 2-4 months, then harvest him.  (We did that once.  One boar got infected and died.  The other one turned into a massive couch potato, lost the “taint,” and made fabulous steaks.  But the process was traumatic, and with only a 50% success rate, we didn’t feel it was a great option.)
  4. Shoot him and bury him.  (Not the best use of resources and a waste of his life in our farm system.)
  5. Make a heck of a lot of raw dog food.

We chose option 5.  The dogs don’t mind the taint, the raw food is good for them, and it gives purpose to the boar right to the end.  Plus, our son got a chance to learn some more about harvesting hogs.

Here is Mark’s commentary:

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Homestead Hog Harvest

Keith moving beyond organic whole chickens on grass in chicken tractors on pasture.
Farming is a very seasonal operation.

While that seems like an obvious statement, I wonder if that’s so.  Are fresh tomatoes or strawberries ever not available at the grocery store?  Does the milk change flavors or creaminess as winter melts to summer?  Is the meat stocked at the meat counter different in July than in November?  We eat very out of sync with the seasons, as a culture.

Yet, strawberries are only really ripe in June and July.  Beef only marbles well in the fall.  And June butter from grass fed cows is prized for it’s nutrient density.

Fall on the farm: pastured chickens, pastured hogs, hog harvest time

So, now that the leaves are reds and yellows and falling from the trees, it is hog harvesting season.   November/December is really prime time for harvesting, but October is good, too.  The grasses have dried.  The roots are sweet and are very nutrient dense as the plants prepare for winter.  The animals (pigs and cows) are packing on fat and storing it in their muscles (marbelling) against the cold.  The flies, pesky varmints, are gone.  If you plan to salt and hang, or cure, any pork (like proscuitto or coppa), the natural heat/cool cycle and dryness of fall is the perfect primary cure condition.

Harvesting is seasonal.

It’s Hog Harvest time.  We always do a couple of hogs on the farm every year just for ourselves.  We want to scald and scrape the hide so we can use it.  We want to hang a few legs of proscuitto and a few coppas.  We like our own bacon (here’s a quick video about that) and sausage recipe.  The only way we get the pork we want preserved the way we like is to do it ourselves.

We learned this cool skill (how to make bacon, how to make a bunch of different sausages, how to make proscuitto).  We think that if you value the best tasting pork, if you consider food your art medium, if you want to live more in sync with natural cycles and the universe, or if you simply want to know how to procure calories in a tough situation, this is an invaluable skill.  We want to share.  That’s what life is about.

We are seeking folks who want to learn these skills.  We plan to share more on the blog about living well, living in sync with the world around us, and how to eat in a healthy manner.

Farming is seasonal.  Soil is seasonal.  Planting is seasonal.  Harvest is seasonal.

You can watch our videos on YouTube.  Follow our facebook page.  And come to the farm for a class (you get the farmers and the farm for a time, plus the specific information of the class).  Come join us!

P.S.  The Anyone Can Farm: Homestead Hog Harvest class for 2017 is around the corner!  Sign up while there’s still space in this opportunity!

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Fall pigs: why now is the time to get your hog!

Pasture raised heritage breed Mangalitsa pigs: sow and piglets

Way back when, long ago, in the mists of time, the folks who homesteaded the land had hogs.  Fat hogs.  Hardy hogs.  Hogs that didn’t need a lot of pampering and could live off the land.  Even in the fall, going into winter, there were no worries about taking care of the pigs.  Once it froze and the grasses finished curing and the flies disappeared, it was time to process the fat pigs and wean the little pigs for next year.

Welcome to the world of the Mangalitsa.  These guys are heritage pigs that thrive on heritage living.  They don’t fear the cold of winter.  They can thrive on a variety of feeds.  The sows take care of their young well.  In fact, the whole herd watches out for the young.  The other day two sows, one with piglets, gave me a  hard time when I went into look at them.  Then I realized the puppy had followed me in.  They didn’t appreciate her presence!  The Mangalitsa is the ultimate homestead hog for our farm.

You can get your own piece of heritage today! Fall is a fine time to start your Mangalitsa for next year.

  • For one thing, there’s not as much competition, so prices are lower.
  • Also, they grow fine on the extra veggies and other feeds you can scrounge. We feed hay, meat scraps, household scraps (the old “slop bucket”), apples, and root crops.
  • Due to their heritage genetics, they don’t need you to break the ice in the waterer.  If there’s snow, they are set.  (That flies in the face of common thought, but we’ve proven it.  Nature rarely provides running water in the winter and these guys are still adapted to survive.)
  • They do need shelter and bedding, but a hut and a bale of straw will suffice.  They don’t need a heaeted barn.
  • In the spring they’ll grow exponentially and be ready to butcher before you know it!  The yield of rich red meat and creamy lard will be worth the wait.

Check out these posts to see how the Mangalitsas have performed at Baker’s Green Acres:

Pigs and Cute

Fill Your Freezer

Pig Breed Comparison

Now’s the time to get your Baker’s Green Acres heritage hog for next year!  Check with us for fall specials on weaner pigs, half grown feeder pigs, and breeding stock.

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Learn to take your hog from field to freezer -Harvest time!

Homestead Hog Harvest: Anyone Can Farm

Learn to take your hog from field to freezer -Harvest time!

We are busy making plans for the two hog harvest classes, possibly three, we have on the schedule so far this year.

October 20-22: Come help us harvest Shady Grove Farm’s hogs in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Penninsula.  We’ll start Friday afternoon with scalding and scraping the pigs, sampling some of the quickest and most nutrient dense gifts the animal has to offer: the internal organs.  On Saturday and Sunday we’ll break the pigs down so that by Sunday afternoon we have all the pork on salt, ground into sausage, or wrapped and in the freezer.  You’ll get to do it all HANDS ON, so you take this knowledge home in a deeper way than if you just watched.  To get more information, and to sign up, contact Randy Buchler and Shady Grove Farm.

November 3-5: Baker’s Green Acres will host the Anyone Can Farm class.  We’ll start in the pasture and end up with meat for you to take home (included in the class as a bonus).  You will get to do the work, guided by Mark, Sam, and Jill, to turn the pigs into bacon, ham, sausage, pork chops, and all the other good things the pig has to offer.  If proscuitto and coppa is your interest, we’ll get those started with you as well.  Read more about the class here: Homestead Hog Harvest.

As an added bonus, at both classes you get to spend the weekend on a sustainable, regenerative permaculture minded farm and get to pick the brains of some thoughtful farmers while touring their farm and sitting around a dinner table sampling world class pork.  For free!

Here’s an old video of Sam teaching a class how to start working on a carcass:

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Integrity Matters: know or learn to be your farmer

Keith moving beyond organic whole chickens on grass in chicken tractors on pasture.

“Trust is the combination of intelligence and integrity.”

“Husbandry, which is not replaceable by science, nevertheless uses science, and corrects it too. It is the more comprehensive discipline. To reduce husbandry to science, in practice, is to transform agricultural “wastes” into pollutants, and to subtract perennials and grazing animals from the rotation of crops. Without husbandry, the agriculture of science and industry has served too well the purpose of the industrial economy in reducing the number of landowners and the self-employed. It has transformed the United States from a country of many owners to a country of many employees.” ~Wendell Berry

This summer has been a new venture in food for us.  We are redesigning our business model.  We are assessing what’s important and what we can do without or outsource.  We are seeking to keep our business and life in integrity with our personal values and choices.  We increasingly find that there are aspects of where we live in the midst of big agriculture country are out of integrity with how we want to live.  The land, it’s soil, grasses, trees, and waters, are part of our lives.  They are a collective to be collaborated with, not brought into submission.  That’s been our approach to how we raise our food, be it squash or chicken, apples or pigs.  #IntegrityMatters.

Farming with the season is part of that integrity.  As we transition from summer to fall, we move out of chicken season and into pig season.  Chicken is a “cooling meat.”  It’s light and doesn’t tax a digestive system that is getting plenty of nourishment from the abundent veggies of summer. Grass fed poultry is full of the  nutrients of grass and contain a balance of Omega-3’s and 6’s as well as lots of vitamins A and E.  They aren’t so high in the vitamins so plentiful in the rich, dark veggies summer provides us.  As the grasses get frosted and the natural grains ripen, the grazing animals come ready for harvest.  The nutrition in the grasses goes to the roots, the animals harvest the grains, and the cold drives the animals’ fat into the muscles in preparation for winter.  The dry grasses help to dry out the fat, making it more storable and dense, Rrich with the stored nutrients of summer.  Fall and early winter are the time for harvesting these animals.  Historically, the flies were gone and the pastures done for the season at animal harvest time.  The crisp chill of fall would cool the carcasses of the pigs and cows so they could be processed.  This would be winter meat.  The rich red meat would help provide the iron and other vitamins and minerals lacking in the veggies of winter.  The seasons worked together and the farmer collaborated to make the most of what nature offered.

Now is the time to get your whole or half hog spoken for.  We are planning for our fall harvest as we look at the frost on the fields in the mornings and break out the sweatshirts and vests in the mornings and evenings.  We don’t have to worry about flies so much thanks to the wonders of refrigeration and fly spray, but it’s time to start thinking of hog harvest.

The Homestead Hog Harvest class is coming up in November.  There is still room for you!  This is a great weekend to experience the magic that happens when hogs are harvested with integrity and care–and you can take that skill set home with you!  From field to freezer, you can harvest a hog, or at least have the experience of doing it.  PLUS, you get to take some fabulous Mangalitsa pork home with you.

Integrity matters.  Know your farmer.  Anyone can farm!

Check out these articles for more farm philosophy:

Hay and Philosophy

Pasture (Grass) plus Chickens: goodness to share