Chapter 35- pig day & goat school

Pig Day 2011 was scheduled, and two of our pork customers were planning to come out and participate. It was not going to be like the first pig harvest, with 8 people, and we ourselves were not getting any of the pork. We had decided to not harvest Rosie, even though she was going to be our pork supply, because she was such a magnificent specimen that we had to try giving her a chance at a pig breeding project. The man we’d been talking to about boars had offered to deliver one of his young Tamworths to us, he really liked our story and wanted to help us out in our pig breeding venture. The boar’s arrival would happen a couple days after we harvested the other 2 pigs.

The day before our butcher arrived, we had moved the two pigs to be harvested into a separate pen with delicious, fresh turf. Squeak and Penny’s tails twirled with pleasure as they rooted happily on their last day. They were monstrously beautiful and abundant pigs. We put Rosie into a separate paddock  a good distance away. Our customers arrived late, after their 2 pigs had been instantly and humanely killed. They said they had some miscommunication on carpooling, but I think they were nervous about witnessing the actual taking of life. We were too. As we watched Mike gut and skin the pigs, we were all in awe of our butcher; his skills and the  professional job he did. After our customers had absorbed the rather intense scene, we got to work scraping the hides to collect the extra fat, packaged up the organs and cleaned intestines for sausage casings. I felt sad we were not going to be eating any of this delicious pork, or grinding our own sausage to fill those casings. As the day advanced into a chilly late afternoon, we had chores to do and so we called it good. The customers left with their bowls full fat scrapings. The hides, mostly  cleaned off their subcutaneous fat layer, were gorgeous and I wanted to try tanning them, but we didn’t really know where to start. They had to be scraped spick and span clean, but we were tired and thoroughly chilled. We stretched the hides out on the top of the horse trailer to start air drying. As I did the evening milking, I watched one of the dogs parading down a path with a pig foot in his mouth.

Our neighbor who was going to cut and bale our hay field told us we needed to get it a bit more ready for haying. There were many scraggly weedy tree saplings sprouting across the 7 acre flat area, as well as medium sized dirt lumps sticking up in the air, created by industrious ants. Both needed to be cleared to make the ground as level as possible so the blades on the hay mower wouldn’t get clogged or unnecessarily dulled. He told us that he would be cutting hay all around the area and wasn’t exactly sure when our field would be cut, but it would be likely happen in late June. We were just grateful he was willing and able to do it with equipment he already owned. He told us he would prefer to take half the crop as payment, which sounded perfect for us.

With pruning shears in one hand and a sharp hoe in the other, we set out to prep the hayfield. The anthills were surprisingly numerous, and we hacked at them with hoes and dug them out with shovels. Angry big black ants sometimes swarmed out, but some of the hills seemed abandoned.  Andrew had the idea to bring the big old tractor out to the field to knock down the ant mounds with a plow. The sight of Andrew astride his Grandpa’s tractor was exhilarating- and it made me want to have a tractor of my own to ride on. I sprinted ahead of the tractor and spotted the mounds for Andrew, shearing off weed trees at their base while Andrew plowed down the anthills. Soon I was exhausted, but our hayfield was looking more properly groomed.

After a Mother’s Day Soapmaking class that failed to happen due to a lack of signups, “Goat School” was the next workshop set to run on the farm. People LOVE goats. I had planned an intensive yet casual couple of hours with hands-on goat instruction in care and maintenance, some basic cheesemaking, and possibly incorporating soap making too. Only 5 people had mailed in payment ahead of time to reserve their spots, but that kept the class more intimate and it was still something for the bottom line. On-farm classes were lucrative, even if we had a rather small turnout – they cost us almost nothing to put on, and so they were nearly pure profit, unlike most of our other farm endeavors. The attendees and I hung out with the goats, I showed them how to do hoof trimming, we went through hands-on milking instruction, and I talked about fencing goats, explaining all of our trials and tribulations, and also discussed my rather unusual philosophy of survival of the fittest, in regards to modern dairy goat breeds usually needing chemical wormers, vaccines and other preventative measures to keep them healthy. I firmly believed in the hybrid vigor of mixed breed goats and was intent on working my herd into a naturally robust dual-purpose meat and milk provider.

We had set our wedding date for July 5th, but meanwhile our dwindling personal finances were kept separate. I was officially broke and accidentally bounced 2 checks, one to one of our feed suppliers, how embarrassing. Being independent from a day job was heavenly, but I was starting to understand that we just couldn’t “make it” financially doing such small scale farming. After 3 months of freedom from a timeclock, I felt like it might be time to get a paying job, that maybe we should both have part time jobs to help make the farm work. But I resisted! We had to make this work, and jobs just got in the way! Instead, I focused on a “Try harder and have some faith!” kind of attitude and set up more classes through the co-ops, as well as duck egg demos and obsessed over every penny being spent.

 

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