Posts Tagged ‘pastured pigs’

Everything is lush and green right now here … it rained yesterday morning and it’s currently raining with more in the forecast, so it might get a little soggy again. At least I don’t have to irrigate, and the lettuce is happy!

The pigs like puddles, and apparently it’s fun to run back and forth through the old hay ring that my dad rigged up to provide shade for them (see below).

Our builder finished up the porch on Friday (thanks, Steve), but Elden is now putting up the ceiling in there, so it’s still a construction zone.

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I took these photos yesterday evening, but we all got so much done today that they’re outdated already! At the bottom is a video of the piggies for the pig lovers out there.

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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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Bean Time

It’s that time of year at Stone’s Throw Farm: farm members are getting a lot of green beans in their CSA shares, and some are starting to come out to pick their own beans for preserving. My nephews were here visiting my parents again recently, and Franklin (almost 6) helped me pick beans one day. All he needed was a “measuring stick bean” to help him determine if each bean was big enough to pick. Apparently he told my dad that next year, he’ll be able to pick all of the beans for me. In the meantime, I’m thankful that one of our farm members is a massage therapist!

Most of my time is spent picking cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, and so forth; my mom helps with picking and does a whole lot of weighing and bagging on harvest days (thanks, Mom). My dad takes care of the pigs and the field work so the show can go on.

The recent rains really got some veggies going, and today’s sun should agree with most everything. Too much of a good thing can be a downer, though; Sunday night we got over 2 inches of rain at the farm, and didn’t need a drop of it! The pigs are probably happy that they have a regular pond in their pen now, so that part is positive. They’re getting more damaged produce now (I know the beets in the second video look good from a distance, but trust me . . .), which they also enjoy.

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Finally, we got some nice weather. We also got a gift of some hoof-in-the-bucket-type milk from my favorite dairy goat farmer — I figured the pigs would love it, and they didn’t disappoint me. In the 2nd clip, I started taping before I got to the pen because usually they’re excited to see me, and then done bouncing around by the time I get the camera out.

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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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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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As if I wasn’t already convinced that CSA members are some of the best people on this earth, the Duluth News Tribune reports today that our across-the-road neighbors, Rick and Karola Dalen at Northern Harvest Farm, got some help from their CSA members in financing the balloon payment on their farm loan.

The DNT also points out that there’s still time to join a CSA! We still have 2 shares left at Stone’s Throw Farm, and WhatDoYouHavewe’ll have info on how to order our pastured pork soon.

Time is running out before the first leafy greens of summer are delivered, but there still are openings for additional members at some of the 15 Community Supported Agriculture farms in the Northland.

Community Supported Agriculture connects farmers with eaters to form a sustainable system for local food production and consumption. Most of the farms are organic and use far fewer chemicals to produce their food. They also are local, meaning less energy is used and less pollution expended to harvest the crop and bring it to consumers.

Members benefit by having direct access to fresh local food on a regular basis. And they also may gain a connection to the land and the source of their food.

The farmers gain by having a set income, no matter what the weather or market conditions bring. Members share in the rewards of a bountiful harvest but also share in the risk of farming.” – Duluth News Tribune

Thanks to John Myers and the rest of the staff at the DNT for bringing all this to the attention of their readers, and to Rick & Karola for sharing their story.

PigClusterLuckyPigAnd now, a couple more pictures of our currently-muddy piggies (they were so clean for a while! But, they do love to root in the mud). As Elden said this weekend, “When did the pigs get big?”

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