I have noticed that, often, people will show the beginning of the process of installing a new system, but not the whole thing. I’m hoping to give you a couple of mid-process snapshots, and then eventually a retrospective, talking about how it’s working and how it changed from our initial plan.
You may remember from a previous post that we are working on a solid pig rotation system. (Here! https://castironfarm.ca/2023/03/21/pig-pasture-version-5ish/). We are aiming for something is a little less haphazard than we have been doing. We keep our pigs on grass, and previously the pasture location has been more determined by where we want to get blackberries removed, or where is easy to move pigs next, instead of in a solid system that is easily repeatable. Now that there are no more blackberries in our closer fields, we decided to put the pigs in a nice holding pattern, so that when we have work for them, we can move them out, but they’re also ok to stay put.
In our initial design, we planned to have our pastures done partly with permanent fence, and partly with electrics, but we decided instead to do the whole back in electric fence and to transition to permanent fence if it became necessary. Let’s hope that was a good idea! So far, it means that the sheep can access the pig field because they aren’t at all bothered by electric fencing.
We are mid-construction with the house, and the pigs are quite cozy in a truck canopy until they get access to their new digs. Their old house, is literally “digs” – they dig themselves a nest under the canopy, we give them hay for bedding, and when I go out into the field when it’s dark, I can hear them softly snoring in their earth-sheltered home.
These pigs have been delighted to welcome our ram in to eat with them. Initially I was concerned, because the pigs seemed to be trying to taste poor Miguel, but they quickly sorted out who had which armaments, and now they eat together. Pigs get bored, if things are always the same, and the ram gives them something new to think about. He is kicking our white tape electric fencing, though, on his way through, so we may have to fence him out if the pigs decide he’s giving them a good escape route.
We are overseeding and watering our old pig pastures, with the idea that each set of pigs will go through each pasture once or twice, with a couple of months of recovery time in between visits. We aim for not much bare soil, but the pigs have different goals, and love sticking their noses in the ground and seeing what they find there.
We are seeding our pastures with a mix of grasses, including sheep pasture mix, winter rye, buckwheat, clover, field peas, and vetch. As the seed grows, we are also finding volunteer tomatoes and squash, planted by the pigs!
Closer to finished! Open for ventilation on top, and oriented so that pigs get the morning sun but are sheltered from the south and west sun. Buy some pork, help us buy metal for the roof? We love scavenging material, and are really pleased to say that we have recycled, refurbished, or found everything that was used for this shelter except for the fasteners (probably even some of them!), but we have not yet succeeded in finding a way to do that with roofing metal.
So! So far, we have learned (again) that projects often take a little longer than we planned them to. We learned that overseeding pig pasture works great, except that buckwheat looks a little like bindweed (and caused me a tiny panic). We have learned that mill offcuts are great for animal shelter walls, if we rip the edges so they’re more straight. We learned that pigs and rams don’t mind eating together (the pigs get a lot of veggies, and that’s what the ram is after) but that the ewes and lambs are (understandably) too nervous to share a dish with pigs.
All learning, all good. We’ll have sides available in 6ish weeks, so we’re taking orders for large and/or special things now. We’ll have all the usual things available in a couple of weeks. Got any questions? Send us an email: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.