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A community based education opportunity: the Homesteader’s Guild class

garden vegetables: Homesteader's Guild

Guild: “an association of people for mutual aid or the pursuit of a common goal.”

There are many ways to learn: a book, YouTube videos, weekend seminars, conferences, mentorships, college classes.  If you really want to know something there are two key components: experience, and community.  You need to use information in order to know it.  And when you learn something in a community of people with mutual aid, all pursuing a common goal, you’ll experience it in a whole new way.

This is the basic idea of the Homesteader’s Guild.  You’ll have lessons and opportunities to learn the skills needed to feed yourself from your own backyard (large as an 80 acre farm or small as a high rise patio).  You’ll also have a mentor who you can communicate with directly when you need help.  You’ll also have a community of like minded people for support, encouragement, and to bounce ideas and questions off of.  The goal of the Guild is to build a community of doers and learners who help each other achieve a common goal of being able to grow your own food to one degree or another.

The topics will all be farming related, with some topics set by the mentor, farmer Mark Baker, and some dictated by the needs of the group.

The format includes video instruction, live conference calls for Q&A, trouble shooting, and instruction, and a private facebook group forum for daily interaction and encouragement. All this means you can learn how to maximize the growing potential of your own piece of the earth without leaving your home.  You can learn and grow right where you are and discuss your particular situation in real time through this online community.

Join us today for this unique learning opportunity to begin getting back to your roots and growing your own sustenance.  Anyone Can Farm!  All you need is some elbow grease, a bit of guidance, and a community of support.  And you don’t even have to leave home!  PLUS, if you sign up for the class starting on September 1, 2018, you can save $200 simply by joining the class and giving us feedback at the end.  That simple.  Sign up today!

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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: