Yesterday we said goodbye to half of our pig breeding project. Lance, the 10 month old Tamworth boar, most likely didn’t get the job done as we’d hoped. His girlfriend Rosie was nearly double his size, despite the fact that she was merely two months older. She’s a mixed breed pig, and he was a purebred. Hybrid vigor is no joke.
After some serious number crunching, we realized we will never be able to pay our bills raising up pigs as we have been, even if we did have success with breeding and raising our own piglets. The average hog eats around 800 lbs of grain to the size of 250 lbs. Pretty good conversion, but with certified organic grain prices, this makes it nearly impossible to make even a small profit. Which, if you are actually trying to make a living, is an absolute necessity.
I used to think that if we had 20 different aspects of our farm each bringing in a couple hundred bucks profit, we could make it. But after this season, I learned that might be true, but we’ll lose our minds doing it. You can have alot going on if you are ambitious, but not 20 different “main things” to manage. Profit vs. expenses is a hard number to be truthful about. The thing is you must be spending your time doing things you enjoy and things that help you make your way. We adore pigs, we love raising them, but we’ll be scaling back a bit next year. They are an essential tool for us as well, with their pig-a-tilling work. Pigs that get to be outdoors all the time, rooting in the soil, living great pig lives, make some of the best meat you have ever eaten. We’ll always raise a few pigs, but it will be for self sufficiency and a few lucky customers.
Lance spent the last month eating apples, clover and weeds, organic oats and corn. He was next to his love, Rosie, but we separated them when we saw her humping HIM a month ago and knew she had not gotten pregnant. His last moments were incredibly peaceful and serene. The harvester, our local butcher named Mike, is incredibly calm with the animals and the farmers. One shot and Lance was down. A cut to the jugular, and his life energy flowed out into the soil.
After a few minutes passed, Andrew and Mike hoisted the body up to the pavilion and Mike began skinning and gutting. I collected the heart, liver and head. We were incredibly worried about “boar taint” which can just be in a boar pig’s meat. A piss smell and taste. Mike said we should take a chunk and fry it up. I did so, and praise the pig gods, it tasted lovely. Sweet, clean and wonderful. An animal not stressed by transport before death has supremely better meat anyways, but this on-farm, comfort zone safe harvest meant we had the best chance for Lance to become delicious pork for our own use.
One way we CAN make a profit is by holding on-farm workshops. This summer it was hit or miss, but the fall classes have had great signups and attendance. We have a pig butchery course on Sunday, and are very excited abut it. Lance went to the butcher’s walk-in cooler to chill until Sunday morning. We’ll retrieve the halves and bring them to our farm to demonstrate real live pork butchery for our audience. We’re also making bratwurst from scratch, with authentic casings we cleaned from Lance’s intestines. Andrew and I are really good at that, let me tell you! The trick is knitting needles……
There’s a frost threat tonight, and it made a crab all day. Just ask my husband. Frost means summer is ending, and winter is coming. I hate winter…….but I also love it. Maybe I hate the IDEA of it more than what actually happens. In the Midwest, cold is a force to be reckoned with for half of the year. I don’t honestly know how we can get anything done in this region with such a short growing season. But we try and have some successes. Tonight, we said adieu to our first garden on our new land, just in case the frost comes.
However, we won’t go down without a fight. Andrew and I hauled the large sections of plastic from the hoophouse cover, which came undone from our hoophouse this spring. A whole other story, as I had just planted tomatoes in there, and the next day the spring gusts blew away our expensive plastic covering! Anyhow, back to our field garden: we identified the plants that won’t handle a frost, and which ones were most precious, and covered the long rows of them tonight. Peppers, basil, tomatoes and beans were our nominees. As work finished up, we sadly passed the beautiful okra blossoms about to open tomorrow, but we only had so much plastic to cover plants with, and okra is not so prolific in the region. Damn it fall frosts! Tomorrow’s forecast calls for sunny 65 and the next day 70. Go figure.
Andrew walks slow and I walk fast. I passed him on the path saying, don’t you want some of the delicious pork and lentil stew waiting for us? He took his time enjoying the gorgeous sunset aftermath, and I hustled to the house to serve dinner. Made from chunks of meat and fat scraped one of our pigs hides, gleaning style, with lentils, kale, rice, a ripe tomato, an onion, head of garlic and pork roast juices I saved in the freezer, the aroma wafted from our home. We gorged and were satisfied with our work in the garden.
Some people get kinda freaked out about eggs from ducks. “You mean a DUCK laid that egg?” I can see their mind scanning through images of chickens in a picturesque farm yard, and a duck….doing what? Ducks are not familiar. Chicken eggs are the norm, and chickens, well, people can handle the idea of eating eggs they lay, because, well, that’s normal. Anything different than usual can be a challenge for some. I just adore the unusual and I like pushing peoples’ buttons with their food comfort zone. It’s only in their best interest as far as I’m concerned. Duck eggs come from ducks, and duck eggs are just more delicious!
This summer I was doing a duck egg demo at a co-op, frying up duck eggs in loive oil with kale and garlic. A young lady and her boyfriend came up to see what the snack was. She nearly passed out when I told her these were eggs from our lady ducks and pointed to a picture of them. “Oh I can’t see what they look like!” She put her hand over her mouth and walked quickly away. Her boyfriend was intrigued at my description of them, and perhaps delighted to gross out his girlfriend, he took a sample and said it was pretty good. He walked away to find her and brag. 15 minutes passed and I served more samples out, happily chatting about our ducks, what they eat, how they behave and why we love them and their eggs. Generally, once over the hump of “this is different” the response is astounding. You really haven’t had an EGG until you’ve had one our lady ducks’ eggs. Many people describe them as rich, amazing, so different. The young couple came back. “She wants to try them” said the triumphant boyfriend. I’m not a egg pusher, but I felt rather proud as I handed her a sample. She walked away with it, so she could eat privately. And she came back to tell me she did love it! They bought a 6 pack, and a new food revolution began in their lives.
Many people who are drawn to the idea of duck eggs, especially after tasting them, are people who I’d describe as decadent. They love rich, full flavors and seek that certain mouth-feel. Fat Free is not in their refrigerator. They know good food is medicine, healthy fats are important for metabolism and body function, and that freshly produced local, organic foods just taste better.
The protein is different in duck eggs than in chicken eggs. We serve many families with kids who can’t have chicken eggs, and they are so glad to now have something nutritious to serve their children. Eggs are superfood for growing kids, and duck eggs even more so. In baking, duck eggs add fat and protein to poof and moisten cake batter into heavenly proportions.
We’re so proud to be introducing our duck eggs to so many.The first duck egg I ever had was laid by my very first duck 5 years ago. This egg absolutely blew my mind. Sooooooo unlike anything I had ever tasted before, a deluxe egg beyond belief. Rich, creamy, luscious, tender but firm; the taste reflected the life of the duck, and the texture was a mirror of her stature.
The moral of the story is, if you start farming, you have to be passionate about your product! You really have to love it, otherwise, why should anyone?