Tuesday 20 March 2012

Firing Up the Pigs

While it may seem that I support the use of combustion engines on the modern homestead,
I would like to make it clear that my intention is to eliminate them whenever I can.
Some equipment does an awful lot of work and makes this lifestyle possible in an age where cash money is more valuable than food.

Now that the ground is opening up, many people are getting out or renting roto-tillers to freshen up the sleeping soil.  That is because those people do not have pigs.
Keeping pigs for meat was never our primary intention.
It is, without a doubt, an exceptional by-product.  Fresh organic pork is wonderful to have on hand and in abundance.
But, we would not normally eat so much meat.  Meat has always been a treat and not a staple.
The first purpose for which we chose the pigs was, and is, to clear land.

They have done an admirable job of clearing what will be a small pasture for a dairy cow.
Make no mistake, they are incredible at turning and digging and rooting and fertilizing the earth.
Now that the garden has been freed of snow, it was time to test out the pigs in there.
Our garden is already fenced in to keep the chickens out.
Chickens are great for a garden as long as they are supervised.
Left to their own devices, they will destroy a garden.
The fence is fairly short and while our birds do fly well, they are heavy enough to avoid flying whenever possible.
I figured the fence would contain the pigs well as long as they were happy inside.
I hoped that the fresh ground would keep them interested for quite a while.
The first trick was to move them from their yard into the garden enclosure.
No fancy tricks here, just a bucket of food and some expert piggy calling.

It was easy going at first.
The problem at this time of year (as unseasonable as it is) is that there are so many enticing smells everywhere.
Like a house dog at the park, it was difficult to keep the pigs focused on the food bucket.
Off they went, meandering here and there.  
They have lots of room in their yard, but it's still nice to see them moving freely around the yard.

But, the smell of their usual food is distracting enough when put close to the nose.
They can't resist following the bucket, so into the garden they went, one and then the next.

Here you can see what the garden soil looks like.
It is still full of the previous season's vegetation.
The soil is compacted and weedy.
There are root systems and grubs.
Pigs love roots and grubs.
Once they started to smell around the place, they got to work.

The most obvious advantage that a pig has over a mechanized cultivator is that a pig really requires no operator.  They are fully automatic.
If you have ever run a large garden tiller, it's a lot of physical work to manage the machine.
Not so with the pigs.
Let them into the garden and move on to another job.
They even do some fertilizing while they're in there.

Go piggers go!

You just turn your back for a while and when you look again, the garden has been tilled.
The depth of till is about as deep as a tiller would go and maybe a little deeper depending on the ground.
A tiller doesn't compost vegetation while it works either.

Just so you know, this is a raised bed garden.
The soil is not from this spot.  The soil came from a pocket of earth about 100 meters over.
This site is strictly rock and sand underneath, which makes the garden well drained.
We intend to continue to build this soil with input from compost and manure.

The pigs only took a few hours to dig the soil up.
I'll leave them in for a few days to allow them the chance to eat up all the vegetation and the grubs.
They'll leave it all behind them, so to speak, so there will be no loss.
The manure won't be aged, but there won't be a whole lot of it either.
It should dilute nicely into the soil.

Once the pigs are out, the chickens will take over.
They are already eager to get in there and pick up where the pigs left off.
The chickens will finish off the smaller bits and the remaining insects.
I've asked them to please rake it while they're in there.
They're great birds, I'm sure they'll oblige me.

Tired piggies!
You did some great work.

1 comment:

  1. We are so excited for pigs!!! Here is just one more example of why :)