Posts Tagged ‘Berkshire hogs’

Today we say good-bye to our 4 piggies. They’ve been good company.

I’m way behind on photo posting; here’s what’s been happening at Stone’s Throw Farm (below).

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Pigging Out

PigClusterEvery year since 2010, we’ve raised a few pigs at Stone’s Throw Farm. This year we’re going back to our original number:  four. These pigs came from my grandpa, Tom Conover, of Holstein, IA. We just happened to get all gilts (females) this year, so they are “the girls.” They came to us about 25-30 pounds, so they’re pretty cute. Farm members who would like to meet the piggies in person are more than welcome to visit.


It’s fun for me to see how happy these piggies are to be out on sod, rooting around, running over to see if I’ve got treats for them, and enjoying each other’s company. Of course, they’re not quite as happy when it’s 37 degrees and windy, but my dad takes very good care of them and has their little hut stuffed with straw, so they just pile up in there and snore the chilly days away.

I caught most of a “Fresh Air” show on NPR recently (by accident!) about pigs, and you should really check it out if you’re curious about pigs at all. Barry Estabrook, author of Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat, was the guest and says,

Pigs and humans, culturally, we’ve evolved together. Pigs have helped us, we’ve helped pigs, it’s what Temple Grandin calls ‘the ancient contract,’ and our part of that contract is to do our bit well and pigs’ part of that contract is to provide us with food.”

I have to say that despite that contract, butchering day is really difficult for me. That’s part of the reason we’re down to 4 pigs!

Check out a couple videos of our piggies below:  the first two were taken when they first arrived on the trailer, and the other one after they landed in their outdoor pen. They were pretty skittish at first but have already warmed up to people considerably.

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It’s been a busy few weeks at Stone’s Throw Farm, and we’ve even had a little company. One of our farm members, Guy, and his friend and mentor, Roy, set up two bee hives last weekend, which will be great for our pollinator-dependent crops and the general health of the farm. Guy and Roy checked on the bees this weekend and said they’re doing great; the queens are laying eggs and everything was as it should be. Then farm members Alisa and Don visited yesterday to see the piggies, which are now set up in a pen just north of the orchard. The pigs were happy on the trailer but seem very glad to be on the ground. This is the first they’ve encountered dirt, but they know what to do — dig! Alisa and Don also took a stroll with Elden and me on our little trail through the woods, where we currently have a carpet of what they helpfully identified as Spring Beauty wildflowers. They also pointed out a Jack-in-the-Pulpit growing right on the path.

My dad, Craig, has been taking care of the pigs and inhaling gas fumes non-stop while preparing the fields for planting with the tractor. He also seeded some oats and field peas that we hope the pigs can forage on later this season. My mom, Jean, has been faithfully watering our pots and trays in the hoophouses, pulling masses of chickweed and other enemies out of the field, and getting her perennial and flower beds in order. Elden has been out on the weekends getting his welder set up, improving the pig feeder roof, cutting firewood, and so forth. I transplanted the onions and then a ton of Brassicas — cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Napa cabbage, and Pac choi — as well as our first round of beets and lettuce. I finally was able to seed radishes and salad turnips, greens mix, lettuce mix, spinach, and snap peas, too. Most of these beds will be a weedy mess in short order since the soggy conditions didn’t give us a chance to kill the weeds before planting, but the weeding work will keep us out of trouble this summer.

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Cute PiggyThe pigs are here! I’ve posted some videos below, so you can “meet” them, too.

Unfortunately I was not able to set up a pig pen before my parents arrived with the pigs, because the ground is so soggy. The place where the pen will be is dry enough, but getting to it with the tractor is a little tricky. Anyway, the pigs are doing just fine in the trailer for now, which we parked at the end of the driveway where it’s protected from the wind. My dad set up a more enclosed area in the front of the trailer and hooked up a couple of heat bulbs for their nighttime comfort, since it’s been near 32 degrees the last few nights. Their food and water is in the rear of the trailer, and my dad cut an opening in the plywood that divides the two areas so the pigs can go through.

The piggies are a little smaller than we usually have them at this point — I think they’re in the 25 pound range — but that’s fine with me as they’re very cute at this stage!

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I tried to get some “big picture” views of the fields for those of you who can’t visit the farm, and some photos of our flowers, which are peaking at the moment.

Speaking of fun, the pigs do enjoy their big pen — they really have room to bounce around if they feel like it, which they often do around 8 pm or so. This year’s pigs seem to prefer their oats to field peas, though my mom pointed out that since we’ve been giving them some snap pea vines with overly-mature peas on them, the field peas might simply pale in comparison. They’ve received a few worm-eaten tomatoes from the hoophouse and mouse-chewed cucumbers from the field, and they gave me the pig equivalent of a thumbs up on both of those treats, not surprisingly. They also really seemed to enjoy the bottom leaves from the rainbow chard plants.


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Stone’s Throw Farm Pastured Pork is for sale now! The first four hogs will be ready on August 7, so order now and throw some pork chops on the grill in less than a month. All the details and the order form are online here. Anyone is welcome to order pork at this point.

Our neighbors, Adam and Jackie, have some pretty awesome masses of wildflowers blooming right along our property line right now, and our own driveway ditches are bursting with birdsfoot trefoil. It’s nice to have some other colors to go with all the green.

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Fans of our piggies have probably been disappointed in the lack of videos this season — sorry about that! Rest assured they’ve been going about their business as usual. My parents opened up some new pasture for them on Monday, and the pigs seemed thrilled. The first video shows them bounding over from the old side (muddy) to the new grass. If they’re up and about, they usually come running when they see me and I’ve learned from experience that they can knock a person over in their excitement, especially when they get bigger. It’s kind of like someone throwing a 100-pound sack of grain (or two, later on) at your shins. We have a couple of wire and steel gates on the east end of the pen, and it’s a much safer bet to lean over those gates to scratch their backs.

The second video is a closer look at their piggy faces. These are purebred Berkshires, and my dad could tell you all about their genetics and meat quality (excellent!), but on a less technical note, I think the Berks’ shorter snouts are much cuter than long pig snouts.

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The first 10 seconds of this video are of the lens cap (this is new-to-us technology!), but hang in there. Pigs will climb up pretty willingly, but they do NOT want to jump down. As you can see, with a little encouragement, they all survived the transition from truck to ground. In case you’re wondering, they didn’t ride all the way from Iowa in the open back of a pickup — they had already transitioned from trailer to truck. 

The piggies put their noses to the ground right away. I imagine their brains processing the new environment in this way:  “Ooh, what’s that smell; ooh, what’s that smell; ooh . . . .” 

Pigs:  gotta love ’em.

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I expected to be spreading compost in the fields right about now, not shoveling snow, but there’s no way around it — no matter what the calendar says, it’s still winter here. This weather will shorten our already short growing season and condense our ordinarily rushed spring schedule into what I can only imagine will be a frenzy of field prepping, seeding and transplanting when we finally can work the soil. (Right now, I’d just like to be able to SEE the soil.) I’m already anticipating a delay in our first share delivery in June, but Stone’s Throw Farm members will still get a full season of produce. I’m hoping the seedlings in the greenhouse will see some much-needed sun today, and the snow will end eventually!


Look at these big piggies! And notice that there’s NOT a foot of snow on the ground where they are . . . sigh.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALook at how the piglets have grown! My mom made a new video of them for us while the sow was outside eating and getting some exercise.

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