With an oink oink here and an oink oink there, here we grow!
Pastured pork is our newest foray, and unlike broiler chickens, or geese, this one is here to stay.
We've just picked up 2015's pork- 10 delicious hogs are now in the freezers, partitioned out into ham, bacon, pork chops and sausage.
We've got our three Berkshire/GOC/Hampshire sows: JLo, Houdina, and Lucy, and our upstanding Berkshire boar, Quasimodo established in their farrowing kingdom, and a new set of 20 feeder piglets ready to go out on pasture this spring.
Our decision to raise pork comes from our desire to be as well rounded a farm eco-system as possible, and there is so many things on a small farm a pig can eat that go to waste otherwise. They are also quick to finish- taking about 1/3 of the time of a grass finished beef and 3 months less than a grass finished lamb. Throughout the summer and fall, our first batch of 10 pigs were rotated through a series of pastures within the orchards and also through pastures where the sheep had been overwintered, and they plowed up and ate tons of grubs and bugs, weeds, roots and even... grass. They love clover and alfalfa and will dig the whole plant up and eat it. I also fed them dropped fruit of all kinds from our orchard- apricots, pears, plums, crab apples (which even the chickens don't like) persimmons, quince. They also did a great job taking care of any overripe melons in my summer melon experiment. And when I was done with the melons, I fenced it in with electric net and turned the hogs out to root out all the remaining melon plants, melons, sunflowers, amaranth and sorghum I had inter-planted. They dug up the sunflower stalks and ate the roots. They even made some inroads on the bindweed and bermuda grass rhizomes, but I would have had to irrigate the field fairly well before turning them in for it to have had a lasting effect. Right before slaughter, they were eating acorns and pecans and black walnuts along with pomegranates and olive pomace from our olive oil milling.
Pigs are fun to have on the farm! They are playful and enjoy getting their bellies scratched.
In other news, our 100% solar irrigated field is finally taking off. The frost has knocked back some of the alfalfa germination, but the wheat nurse crop is coming up well with the rains. In our other field where no irrigation is available, we have seeded the last of our dryland pasture mix, as well as our traditional oat/wheat/barley/vetch hay planted on our parent's rented ground. It was a bit nerve wracking there for a while with too little rain to actually support the crop, but enough moisture to germinate, then wilt it. With last weekend's storm, we should now be in good shape, until mid January 2016. Hopeful (with lots of fencing work) we can have all the animals out on pasture this year for the majority of the growing season.
Even with the drought, more regulations and less irrigation water available than ever before for farming in California, we continue to grow our business. 2015 has been a year where we look back and recognize that we have been direct selling quality grass fed meats since 2010 and have been farming together as a family for 7 years. We hired our first employees this year and continue to welcome the occasional HelpX and WWWOOF visitor to our farm. We also continue to perfect the products we produce and pride ourselves on our innovative use of a carcass to give modern urban customers the cuts and portions they are looking for. Our partnerships with Manas Meats here in the Capay Valley and Roundman's Smokehouse in Ft. Bragg ensure that our quality pasture raised and grass fed meat is enhanced by artisan smoking and sausage making, with a strong emphasis on traditional recipes and natural curing methods without the use of added nitrates. If you haven't tried our pork bacon, sausage, summer sausage, sliced ham, pastrami or our innovative beef bacon, please do.