We did it! Well, wifey will find out at a later date, but I’m getting things in place for us to raise a few heritage breed hogs this year.
So we are in year three of our new homesteading adventure and each year we find more ways to increase our food indpendence and confirm our thoughts on how much we abhor buying our food from the grocery store.
This is where I’ll take a moment and say that we will probably always buy stuff from a grocery store and I absolutely love our employee-owned store of choice…but the more I know about food and the more I have to pay to buy the kinds of things I want our family to eat, the more I want to produce on our own. Oh, sure, I still have a weakness for plenty…including things that won’t grow here, but I estimate we should eventually be able to produce 75-80% of what we eat on our own.
So to this point, we have been expanding our fruit, veggies and nut production. We still have a tremendously long way to go in many areas, but we are getting the fruit and nut trees going (with more planted each year) and we are continuing to set up gardens. But the biggest missing piece has been our meats.
My wife is a vegetarian and makes me take insects outside rather than killing them. She is the most gentle soul on the planet, but she has agreed to let me raise pigs to ensure the meat the rest of us consume is the healthiest it can be. This is a big step for her, but it’s important for me too.
Growing up, we didn’t ever produce much food. As I’ve mentioned, I remember having gardens, but they were generally a few fruits or veggies and we never raised our own meat. I’m nervous as hell. But I’m also excited as hell.
I want to learn how to raise animals. I want to experience the pain/challenge of feeding them one last time before processing. I’m not one to take an animal’s life flippantly. And I can already feel an appreciation and respect for them as we will raise them to feed our family.
We are going to get two, but likely three Tamworth hogs this spring. I’ve found a local supplier who will sell us some weaned piglets which we will then raise until fall harvesting.
That’s a big part of the attraction hogs have for me. Right now, I don’t want to breed them and have them year round. I want to spend six months giving them a good life, then have a freezer full of pork for my family.
In the long run, I do think I’d like to maybe raise them year round, but that’s quite a bit down the road and maybe I’ll discover I am a horrible pig farmer.
Pigs just make sense to me. We will put them in a training pen for a few weeks while they learn what the electric fence is and that my bringing a bucket means dinner. Eventually we will move them down into the woods and set up sections in the woods for them to forage/clean up.
I’ve been researching them for a year or so and get more and more excited as I continue to learn. I spoke with a local family who runs a growing CSA operation and they raise heritage pigs in their woods. The best part is, they said the pigs will go through and root up the invasive honeysuckle we have all over our woods. So not only will we be getting tasty meat, we will have a healthier, more natural property as an awesome by-product!
As a final bonus, I spoke with a local brewery who is willing to let us have some of their spent grains as a part of the feed we will provide. My intent is to encourage as much foraging as possible, but I will also provide these grains as well as other local proteins and goodies when in season.
I’m just excited to learn. I know there will be failures. And I hope my ignorance doesn’t do any lasting harm to the pigs or our property, but just as we have found with our gardens, I believe the satisfaction of producing our own will make it all worth while.
Well, I’ve got lots to research in the next two to three months. Anyone else out there raise hogs? The folks from the CSA are going to come out and help us design our pens and a million other things (water, location of final paddock for loading on to trailer, etc).
It’s another step in our journey and each one brings new fears and excitement!