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Farming for Fun and Profit: a farmer’s winter thoughts

Mangalitsa pigs in the winter

It’s been a while since we’ve posted, but the farm continues to be busy.  The winter is quieter, more of a maintenance time, a reflective time.  So, is farming worth it?  Is it for fun, or for profit?  Hopefully the answer is “both.” Mark talks in this video about what we’ve learned about marketing and what it takes to raise Mangalitsas for both fun and profit.

Mark’s been making videos and you can check them out on our Baker’s Green Acres YouTube channel.

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Homestead Hog Harvest

Keith moving beyond organic 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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Soup for Supper: Using fresh veggies and thoughts on eating

“Fresh” is the definition of summer when it comes to food!  Seasonal eating is a very healthy way to live as it keeps you eating fresh food, helps you tune in to what nature is doing around you, and encourages you to contribute to the local economy.  We’ve always encouraged folks to eat fresh and local, even your meats.  There is a lot to be said for the known and unknown dynamics of “biosphere eating.”  But there’s also things to know about how the rhythm of the day affects your body and how to eat in accord with it.  Jill shares here how she’s preparing some fresh veggies for the soup for dinner and some philosophy on living with the daily and seasonal rhythms of nature.

Want to make bone broth?  Here’s a video with instructions:  Stir fry and Bone Broth

Here are some thoughts on winter gardening: Winter Gardening

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Building a BBQ: turning a lemon into a hog roaster

GMO free Mangalitsa pork on the BBQ grill

Great ideas don’t always work as planned on the homestead.  Mark’s biochar building learning curve produced a failed burner, but left him with raw materials for a new BBQ!  We’ve BBQ’d our share of hogs on the roll around grill he made almost 20 years ago at our Montana farm, and he’s ready to up the game.  The plans include being able to cold smoke meats for ourselves, so there are more than just BBQ possibilities here.  But, here’s Mark to tell you about it himself:

You can BBQ a Baker’s Mangalitsa pig!  Contact us to reserve your roasting hog, and we’ll give you a call to set up the details.  We’ll need to know the date, location, and number of people/size of hog.  We can not UPS whole hog carcasses, but delivery may be available if you are within a reasonable distance.  Of course, there’s nothing like the story of your hog if you pick it up at the farm!  Have roaster, will travel!