Gettin’ Guinea With It

American Guinea Hogs that is.  As many of you know I have been wanting pigs for awhile.  The breeds that I have been looking at were Mangalitsa, American Guinea Hog, and Idaho Pasture Pigs.  I ended up learning more about the AGHs at the Mother Earth News Fair and finding a breeder near me that could get me two boars and two gilts that are from different litters.  I am going to buy them registered, so that I can sell breeding stock if there is a demand for it.


The plan is to keep the friendlier of the two boars, and butcher the other for bacon.  Mmmm…. bacon.  And other pork of course.  One of the main reasons I decided on the AGH was that they pasture well, are a lard pig, and are significantly smaller than other even heritage hogs.  An AGH boar will top out around 300 lbs, give or take, where many other breeds could be 600-800 lbs.  The downside is that they get to butcher weight slower, but the taste is said to make up for it.  They are included on the slowfoodusa ark of taste.  I have put a deposit down on them and will be able to pick them up sometime in the next few weeks.

In the meantime I have listed most of our sheep and Oreo for sale.  In fact, I will be calling someone back about Oreo later today.  Selling her quickly would pay for the pigs, and make the pasture last significantly longer.

I am still trying to spend more time on the YouTube channel, and if you haven’t checked it out, please do.  Homestead Dad YouTube.  I am hoping the videos continue to get better and more polished, but it is obviously a work in progress.

Always moving forward.  Until next time.

Posted in Cattle, DIY, Family, Farming, homesteading, kids, Outdoors, pigs, sheep, YouTube | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Swan Lake, and Logging Miles

This past weekend we were, as usual, busy.  HB1 had a swim meet Saturday morning, at which he set personal records in the 50 and 200 Freestyle.  As soon as he got home we left to meet my mom to drop off our dog, she was watching him for the weekend.

We then left for the Sparta Rodeo to help my sister in law and brother in law any way we could with that.  Sparta was having their annual Sparta Town and Country Days so my bil and sil decided to add another rodeo for this past Saturday.  The difference is that it isn’t a big camping week and the only people camping were the rodeo people, and us family and friends who were helping work at the rodeo.  We set up our camper when we got there, had a bite to eat, and then got to work.  If you happened to be there, I was the guy selling 50/50 tickets.


The next morning we packed up the camper, and headed for Mass.  After Mass we headed back to my parents’ cottage to spend the afternoon there enjoying the lake and visiting with my grandma.

While we were eating lunch, my dad noticed a cygnet by itself.  There has only been one pair of swans on the lake this year.  They started with two cygnets but were down to one.  It was still young enough that it was all fluff and no feathers.  After talking to a friend who lived down the lake, we determined that the parents were on the other side of the lake and I would get in a kayak and try to escort the cygnet back to it’s parents.  The cygnet was already tired, and it was quite a paddle to get to the other end of the lake.  Fortunately we had a strong wind at our backs.  When the swan parents finally came into sight, they continued to move further away from the cygnet and I.  Apparently there had been a boater on the lake that had gotten far too close to the swans and they were keeping their distance.  About that time, my dad and HB2 had come down with the motor boat and was able to position himself in front of the swans so they wouldn’t go further away.  It was rewarding seeing the swan parents finally see their cygnet and swim rapidly towards him and take their positions in front of and behind it.

Rather than paddle against the wind all the way back to my parents, we brought myself and the kayak on board and powered back.  We then spent the afternoon swimming in the lake before eating a light dinner, packing back up, and heading home.

It was an extremely busy weekend, filled with fun activities, and lots of driving, but it was all worth it.  We are very fortunate that our kids are good travelers.

Until next time.

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Release the Kraken

Daily chore of letting out the chickens. 

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Finally Getting Wet, and a Change in Plans?

I have joked with several people this summer that someone needs to turn off the force field around our city.  There has been rain both 10 miles north and 10 miles south of us, often simultaneously, but we have missed the rain.  Finally the last couple days we have started getting some rain.  The grass is starting to green up, to the point where the pastures that are on an off rotation are starting to show growth.

My current plan for rotating the cows and sheep has been a week plus on a section, and then rotate them.  I have four sections, as it is set up now, so each section would have about a month to rest.  After having listened to Joel Salatin I might try to move them more often to smaller sections, which should result in longer rest time for each section.  I think my hesitance in doing that is my current lack of time, so less moving is less work for me.  Joel’s experience was that the more you move them, the better the pasture becomes, so you actually make more money by moving them more often, to the tune of $100 an hour for moving them.  The sheep seem to be ignoring the temporary fence at this point.  I don’t know if they have enough wool to insulate them from the fence, or if it’s something else.  It doesn’t matter much as they don’t eat much in comparison to Oreo.  If I had only cows, it would be much easier as I could do it with one electric strand much higher than I am trying to do now with the sheep involved.

Which leads me to my newest pondering.  Shetland sheep were my introduction to livestock.  They were a perfect first animal.  They are small and relatively easy to handle, aren’t prone to escaping, are easy birthers, and are good mothers.  We have gone from one sheep to now having twelve sheep in the course of about three years.  I am thinking that I might sell all but a couple sheep and concentrate on some mini breed cows and heritage pigs.  At the fair there was an exhibitor who has Mini Jersey milking cows.  Their farm is currently milking their cows once a day and feeding a quart of grain a day.  From that one milking they get 1.5-2 gallons.  That sounds like a much more manageable amount of milk than even 3-4 gallons a day.  There are a couple ways I could do this, but most involve selling Oreo and getting a full sized Jersey cow and artificially inseminating her with a Mini Jersey bull.  I need to sit on this for a bit before moving forward with it though.

With regards to heritage pigs, for a long time I have been looking at the American Guinea Hog so I was excited that there was going to be a presentation on them at the Fair, as well as a booth.  I spoke with one of the women at the Guinea Hog booth at length, and everything she had to say just reinforced my desire to have some.  They are what I consider to be the perfect Homestead Hog, at least for me.  They are a smaller pig, so easier to handle and easier for youth to handle.  They are known for the docility and being good mothers.  They are a lard hog, so rendering lard for cooking will be possible.  Lastly, their meat is held in high regard, alongside that of the Mangalitsa (my other preferred breed).


Only time will tell…

 

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Concerted Effort on YouTube Channel

After meeting the Wranglerstar family and picking their brain on YouTube, I am going to make a concerted effort to create more videos and make more content.  Hopefully as I move forward the quality will get better and better, only time will tell.

Here’s a few of my newest videos.

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Mother Earth News Fair, I Met the WranglerStars!

This past weekend HB1 and HB2 joined me on a quick weekend trip to WI for the Mother Earth News Fair.  I had never been to one before, but I love the magazine and website so I pre-ordered tickets months ago thinking that the whole family would go.  As we got to planning out the summer, we realized that it might not work for the whole family to go.  I initially thought we could incorporate the Fair with our annual summer trip to visit family in WI but that wasn’t going to work.  Family is available on the weekends, and the Fair was on the weekend.  So it was decided I would go, and if the older boys could behave themselves and take care of their chores leading up to the weekend they could come with me.

We left Friday afternoon and got into WI around 9:30 local time.  We were staying with my grandma so after visiting for a bit, we hit the hay preparing for the next day.  My grandma’s house is only 20 minutes away from the Fair location so we left around 8:15 wanting to get there a little early and get our bearings.

After waiting a few minutes for the gates to open we made our way to the main stage where Joel Salatin was going to be talking about Salad Bar Beef, about which he wrote a book.  I have read most of the book, but I really wanted to hear him talk.  One point that he made that stuck with me was moving the animals every day gives you an opportunity every day to observe the animals and see how they are doing.  He initially started talking about large numbers of cows, but then took it down to a Homesteader level of cows and acreage.  I may have to start moving the cows more on smaller sections of grass.  We will see, the thing we have going for us is I already see the animals every day, they are right outside my bedroom window.

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After Joel’s talk I was walking around some of the exhibitors’ booths, and who do I see walking down the path towards me, but the entire Wranglerstar family, of YouTube fame.  I normally try not to make a big deal around famous people so as I was walking by I just said, “hey, I love your YouTube channel” and planned on continuing walking.  The whole family stopped and said thanks and struck up a conversation.  I got a Wranglerstar pencil, and we talked for probably five or ten minutes.  I actually ended up talking with them for about a half and hour or more over the course of the weekend, and my boys ended up running around the Fair with Jack.  The word I would use for the whole Wranglerstar family is genuine.  What you see is what you get, they are an honest to goodness genuinely nice family who go out of their way to make everyone they are talking to feel as important as anyone else in the world.

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On to the fair in general.  I had a great time.  There were multiple talks at every time period that I wanted to attend.  So much so, that I am trying to figure out how I can go to another one.  There were exhibitors who brought different breeds of animals, the most interesting to me were the American Guinea Hogs, miniature Jersey cows, and Idaho Pasture Pigs.  There were also tractor manufacturers with test drives, natural products, geodesic domes (we ordered a kit so a blog/video will be coming shortly), food products, walk behind tractors, alternative energy, Chinese greenhouses, aquaponics, charcuterie and on and on.  It was a ton of fun.

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HB2 using a solar death ray to make a smore

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Ben, the purveyor of http://www.300mpg.org and owner of this solar death ray.

Not only was the Fair fun, but I got to spend some “guy” time with the older boys.  In the car, at the Fair, and at my grandma’s.  Time one on one, or one on two doesn’t happen all the time, and many times when it does it is busy time.  So this laid back time was great.

If you have ever considered going to a Mother Earth News Fair, do it.  If you haven’t considered it, do.  It was a ton of fun, there were talks for everyone, and a ton of community building was going on.

Talk to you later…

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Free Amazon Prime Trial – Do It!!!

Everyone knows about Amazon Prime and how you get free prime two day shipping on many items but recently I have been using their other services even more.

The most recent addition that we use almost every day is Amazon Music.  We stream it over my phone and into the car radio.  They have many different stations, but the ones we have been listening to have been Top Christian and Praise and Worship.  Not only that, but they make stations out of your favorite bands and play that bands’ songs as well as other bands who sound/play similarly so my other favorite station is the Big Daddy Weave station.  I will admit to having listened to the Kenny Loggins station on occasion.

I also use the Prime video on my phone.  Most of you know that we don’t have cable/satellite so being able to watch some videos on my phone, or streamed through my phone to the television is nice.  They have a pretty extensive library of movies and shows.

Amazon Prime day is July 12th and they are going to have some amazing deals on that day.  They will also have deals leading up to the big day, so if you have any interest, now is a great time to try it out.

If you’re interested in a free 30 day trial, please use this link.  It is my affiliate link and gets me a couple dollars, while costing you nothing.  Thanks and enjoy.

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Been Gone, Need Rain

Last week HSB#1 and I went on a church middle school youth group trip to Georgia. It was amazing, the kids had so much fun and the sacraments and grace abounded. I’ll post a video when I can. 

In the meantime we need rain. We got a third of an inch early Friday morning, but before that nothing for weeks. The neighbor cut the hay, but we won’t get any more cuttings if we don’t get some more rain.

Until next time. 

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Never Again

I desperately need to get my garden plants in the ground.  They are outgrowing their small pots, or already have.  Other things have taken priority, until now.  The biggest problem getting this done is that the three point rototiller is behind a lot of things in the barn that would need to be moved.  Many, many things.  So I figured, “it’s going to be a small garden this year, I’ll just use the walk behind tiller.”  Bad decision.

The walk behind hasn’t been used in quite awhile.  It started up pretty easily, but didn’t run quite as smoothly as I had hoped.  Either way, I took it to the garden area.

I had cut the grass/weeds down with the three point mower.  They had been between knee and waist height when they were cut.  I hadn’t raked the clippings, which proved to be a mistake.  I think the biggest thing was that a substantial amount of grass had grown in that area since last year, and the roots were quite thick.  The walk behind didn’t want to chop them up on the first pass.  It either wanted to bog down and stall, or catch on some of the roots and try to run away from me.

By the time I finished, I had made three passes with the tiller and raked it as many times.  Also working against me was that the dew point was off the charts and it was hot, I was a walking pool of sweat by the time I was done.  Did I mention the horse flies that were biting me through my shirt?  I started calling them death flies, it was pretty ridiculous.

In the end, I got an area done that I think will be big enough for what I plan to do this year.  I didn’t get a chance to get plants in the ground as I had a meeting at church, but I hope to plant everything tomorrow between rain drops (yeah for rain).

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I am going to hurt the next couple days, it truly was a whole body workout.  Next year, the three point tiller will be out and available.  Oh yeah, I remembered I need to till another small area to plant my root stocks, joy!

 

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Coyote Attack!

Yesterday evening, HSB#1 went out to close up the chickens, he re-entered the house telling me to come quick.  One of the Buff Orpingtons was bleeding on her back.  I figured it was just the hens pecking on each other, but when I got out there I found her with a gashed up back.  The only thing I can think it that it was a coyote.  Earlier in the day, during a party I saw a coyote run across the corner of our property, but it looked like it was heading across the street away from our animals.  Apparently not.

We moved her to a pen by herself and will keep her there under observation for awhile.  Chickens tend to peck at anything that looks different, so if we put her in with the rest of the chickens they would probably keep pecking at her and make it worse.  So for the time being she is going to be in her own hen suite resting up, and hopefully healing nicely.

Time to call the trapper.

Posted in Chickens, DIY, Family, Farming, homesteading, hunting, kids, Preparation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments