Pig Pasture, version 5ish

Wondering what’s going on at Cast Iron? We’re working on a new pasture rotation system!

(I didn’t include all the gates, but they’re there!)

When it’s complete, we’ll have spring and summer pigs rotating through 8 (9, including a week in the loading pasture) pastures with a central hub for food, water, and napping in the shade. The sheep will go through first, for a day or so, to take the juicy green tips off the grass, then the pigs for about 2 weeks, and then either chickens (or TURKEYS!!) to add their nutrient and disrupt the life cycles of any pest insects that remain. And then, blessed rest for the pasture, to allow the incorporation of nutrients, and the growth of green, green grass.

The pastures will include elements of silvopasture. We’ll have sweet chestnuts for pigs to forage in the fall, in a decade when the trees are producing. The front pastures will have a row of raspberries, which makes sense for anyone that has grown raspberries.. Pigs, sheep, and poultry can make sure the raspberry canes stay in their appropriate place, and gleefully gobble up any damaged berries that we pick. We’re going to trial a few small trees in with the raspberries, to see if we can add diversity to the space without causing the raspberries to suffer. We’ll irrigate the pastures with well water, to make sure that we’re growing grass even through the dry summer – we want to make sure the critters all have a lovely sweet pasture to live on, and that we sequester as much carbon as possible in the grass roots.

It will take us a little bit to get the whole system up and running, but we’ve got a good start!

Our winter pig system is already up and running – we’re looking forward to including those last little pasture divisions, so that we always have something for the pigs to look forward to, and some pasture that is resting. We keep our winter pigs on the well-drained edge of the sandy slope, because while pigs are very clean and tidy creatures if dry space is available to them, they also love to dig and the nature of pasturing pigs during our wet, wet winters causes a lot of mud. We like to keep our winter pigs in a barn beside the sheep, so that they can benefit from the hay that the sheep throw around (profligate wastrels!), and are close to electricity so we can run their water barrel de-icer. The winter pig pasture will have the whole summer to recover, and we are excited to plant some corn and squash in there for them to play with next fall.

Our current pigs are on grass, too, but we are looking forward to a simpler system, that allows the pasture even more rest and has a consistent, easy rotation. Farming, for us at Cast Iron, is always chasing the next best, clever, shiny system, and we expect to learn a lot about what goes well (and what doesn’t!) in this new one.

We’ve got a little bit of pork still available, and more coming in a couple of weeks. Check out what’s currently available here (hint: it’s sausages!!)

Easter Ham

Its a ham!

Easter is coming, and thoughts turn to ham. Actually, I think about ham a lot. We love ham, and tend to cook it with an eye towards a few meals: roasted ham, then leftover roasted ham, ham bits as part of an egg scramble, then ham soup. We have two primary ham-chefs, here at the farm, and recently I asked them for their favourite recipes.

Chef #1, and the most likely to make ham: Christiana! She uses her family recipe, and it’s simple, reliable, and so very good. She will often substitute jam for the fruit juice.

Johnson Family Ham

Chef #2 is Jeremy, who enjoys cooking big cuts of meat, and bringing us all to slow-roasted flavour-town for dinner. Last time he made ham, he used this recipe for inspiration.

Once we’ve feasted on ham, it’s time for the leftover-artists to take their turn!

Chef #3 is Erin, who doesn’t tend to cook a whole ham, but loves using leftovers. Last time she used ham, she used a ham bone to make broth, and then added the broth and remaining ham to cooked black beans, with onion, garlic, crushed tomatoes, salsa verde, peppers, and a mix of cumin, coriander, oregano and bay. This makes a thick smokey bean dish, inspired by flavours far to the south of Canada, that is lovely on rice bowls or in burritos.

Chef#4 is Tony, who makes a killer split pea and ham soup. This one is a staple here, and can be made with a ham hock, leftover ham bone, or whatever bits and pieces of smoked meat is hanging around needing to be used.

Quebec Pea Soup

Caveat: at Cast Iron Farm, we generally use recipes as inspiration, not flavour prison. These are some good starting places, so take the recipe that calls to you, and adjust as you like.

Share what works, because I’d love to hear! (Due to excessive spam, I’ve disabled comments, but you can always email us, or participate in the discussion on Facebook!)

Life of a pig at Cast Iron Farm

Our pigs live happy, outside lives from the moment they come to us. Our aim is to have pigs able to express their whole piggy nature: they have earth to dig, friends to play with, sunshine to bask in, and a warm place to sleep.

We get our piglets primarily from a small breeder in Cedar, who has her pigs on a large green pasture with access to a pond. Babies are born in a barn, to keep them warm and safe, and are kept with their mother until we pick them up at about 7 or 8 weeks old. The mother is free to move around as she pleases within the barn, unlike in big commercial operations. The piglets are a Berkshire Hereford cross, which we find make lovely pork – not too fat, not too lean. When these piglets are not available, we have a list of small breeders that we check with to make sure that we have our piglet needs taken care of: all these breeders have strong, healthy pigs that live outside.

When we bring our piglets home, we find that the best housing for them is the canopy of a pickup truck stuffed with a couple of bales of hay. The piglets love nesting in the hay when they’re sleepy, and when they want to play they run in through the side window of the canopy, and out the front, around and around. So cute! We give them primarily kibble when they’re younger, and as they get bigger we transition them to grocery store seconds: bruised fruit, with bread soaked in milk or yoghurt are favourites! We feed them apples from our trees in the fall, and they eat some of our hay in the winter and spring.

Our piglets grow to market size in about 3-4 months. As they get too big for their baby house, we move their sleeping spot into our barn, where they have nice clean hay to nestle into. We transition them to new pasture once or twice while they’re with us, and they are always so happy to have something new to explore. We flatten and mulch over areas that the pigs have left as soon as we can manage, so that soil is left bare for the least amount of time possible (given the limits of a 24 hour day filled with competing priorities!). We are currently working on planting chestnut and pecan trees around some areas that will be in permanent rotation as pig pastures. These trees will provide shade, nuts for people and pigs, and help to hydrate the air during hot summers by bringing water up through their roots and out their leaves. Plus, carbon sequestration! Trees are magic.

When it’s time for the pigs to leave us, we work to keep things as easy as possible. We transport them in a trailer that they have gotten used to sleeping in, so everything is familiar. We close them in the night before, so there is no concern about stressing a pig trying to figure out how to load him when he doesn’t want to go. In the morning, when the pigs would usually still be sleeping, we drive them for less than half an hour to a small, friendly abattoir in Metchosin, where they are met with a calm barn, and the sounds of some other pigs quietly socializing. Pigs are curious, and usually leave the trailer quickly to see what is going on. The staff assure me that everything is quick, calm, and professional, and that the pigs have just one surprising moment at the end.

Running a small farm is a labour of love, and we started pasturing pigs because we learned too much about grocery store pork to feel comfortable feeding it to our families. I am very happy with the evolution of our pig systems, and feel that the world is a better place due to the work we’re doing.

I hope that you can taste the sky, earth, and sun of Sooke when you try our pork, because it’s all in there.

How to feed the people (without making anyone sick?!?)

Hello, lovelies!

We are making a trial opening for free contactless deliveries to our Sooke neighbours, but how does that work? Easy – we take your order, pack it up using gloves, and on the day that we are to deliver you forward us payment through e-transfer. We are happy to deliver within Sooke in our electric vehicle (The Aphid, which is LURID GREEN!)

We currently have eggs, and a wide selection of pork products. Bacon, sausage, ham.. much deliciousness.

Is there any other way we can help feed you? Let us know! The best way to contact us is through facebook and email – our phone is currently experiencing difficulties.

Thanks again (and always) for supporting your local farmers.

Apple Cider!!!

Hey – were you one of the lucky people that got our apple cider last year? This year’s pressing has arrived, and is SO GOOD. We use heritage apples that produce a juice that is tart, sweet, and full of flavour. As usual, we have our apples pressed in a VIHA-certified facility, and our 5 litre boxes are shelf-stable for 6 months (or 3 weeks in your fridge after opening).

$20 for the first box, and $15 for every box after that. For orders, contact us on Facebook, via email, by phone: 250-642-5445, or come to our regular farmstand on Saturday mornings between 10 and noon <3

(for the record, pork roast cooked in diluted apple juice is AMAZING!)

Handprint vs Footprint

You’ve probably heard about an ecological footprint, but have you thought about your handprint? If you focus on your footprint, the best you can get is zero, meaning that you take up no space at all (impossible, and no fun!). If you focus on making your handprint bigger than your footprint, the world is better for you having been in it. What are you doing, to make your handprint bigger than your footprint?

Cast Iron Dahl

The best thing about dahl, besides the Extreme Inexpensiveness of the ingredients, is that it can accept So Many Leftovers. Leftover broth, leftover meat bits.. leftover Random Veggies..

Here is the basic recipe, alter at will!

Cast Iron Dahl

  • 2 c lentils
  • ginger, garlic, onion
  • 6 c water or broth
  • chopped tomato, or tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin seed
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • juice of half a lemon

Fry ginger, garlic, onion in butter. Add lentils, tomato, and water or broth. Cook in a pressure cooker for 7 mins, or on the stove until lentils are soft.

While lentils are cooking, gently fry cumin, fennel, mustard seed until you can smell the spices.

Once the lentils are cooked, add the spices, and remaining ingredients. Add fresh chopped cilantro. If you want a creamier dahl, add some coconut milk.


Introducing.. the CAST IRON MEGAPACK!!

We are trying something new!

We have heard from a number of people that, while they adore being able to order large quantities of locally grown, juicy pork, they would very much like to know how much their order will cost before they commit. I get that! When we sell sides, we can tell you if it will be a smaller side or a larger side, but we can’t tell you exactly how much the side will weigh, and thus how much it will cost. Sides are wonderful, because you get everything cut exactly the way you like it (1 huge ham? four tiny hams? No hams at all, and extra ground? Your choice!), but they come with a certain degree of uncertainty.

With the Cast Iron MEGAPACK, your cost is fixed, and we aim to include about an extra $100 in pork, compared to buying it piece by piece. It’s like a side, but unless you catch us at just the right time in our process, there is much less flexibility in how it is cut. For most people, though, that’s just fine 🙂

Want to save yourself trips to the grocery store? Invest in a MEGAPACK, and enjoy a freezer full of pork!

Guernsey Bean Jar recipe

At Cast Iron Farm, we love to collect recipes for Things To Do With Odd Bits. Trotters are the foot and ankle part of a pig, and are is full of gelatin, collagen, and might possibly be the fountain of youth (or so this article claims).. and are also one of the things people ask us about most often when we have it listed on our sale board (what is a TROTTER?!?). There isn’t much meat on a trotter, but with a pressure-cooker or slow-cooker, all the delicious goodness gets transferred into the cooking liquid. Anyone with joint issues should definitely be eating more trotter broth!

This recipe comes highly recommended by one of our wonderful trotter-loving farm-supporters (thanks, Fiona!). Do you have a favourite recipe for trotters or hocks?

Guernsey Bean Jar

  • 1 pigs trotter or shin of beef
  • 200 g (1 cup) haricot beans
  • 200 g (1 cup) butter/lima beans
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves of garlic (optional)
  • 1 litre beef stock or water
  • Salt & pepper


  • Soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water.
  • Drain and rinse the beans the following morning, then load them and all the other ingredients in the slow cooker/crock pot.
  • Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or high for 5-6 hours or until the beans are soft.
  • Switch off the slow cooker and remove the trotter and/or shin of beef. Remove the meat from both, discarding the bones, skin or gristle.
  • Pop the meat back in with the beans, stirring well and check seasoning adding more salt & pepper as necessary.
  • Serve with crusty bread and butter.

Pulled Pork


One of our favourite things to eat is pulled pork, made in our pressure cooker.  Here’s Erin’s highly variable recipe for Cast Iron Pulled Pork.

Take 1 large pork butt roast.  It doesn’t matter if it’s still frozen, or perhaps it does, but Erin has no idea because it’s always still frozen.

Put the roast in the pressure cooker with some variation on these ingredients:
– broth
– fried onions and/or garlic
– half a bottle of BBQ sauce
– molasses (not very much)
– garam masala, fried in a bit of coconut oil
– tomato sauce
– water to bring the level of liquid up to almost cover.

Pressure on high cook for half an hour.  Open the cooker and cut the pork up into chunks (maybe a couple of inches?) so it cooks faster.

Pressure cook for another half an hour.

Take pork out, skim the fat off the cooking sauce as much as possible.  Mix about half and half cooking sauce with barbeque sauce to make the pulled pork the right consistency.  Heat it all up together, and pull the pork apart into pieces in the warmed sauce.

Enjoy, either on rice, or on toasted buns, with cole slaw (or crunchy raw cabbage) on the side.