Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Three Little Piggies - Week 1

Basically, so far, so good. Everybody seems to be in good health and good spirits, and no one has tried to make a break for it yet, which is maybe the best news of all. The hotwire that Bill ran around the pen - maybe 6 inches off of the ground - seems to be more than enough to stem their curiosity of what lies beyond. The piglets aren't the only ones figuring out what hotwire is about, our puppy Penny seems to have learned the hard way that the pig pen is no place for a 7-pound morsel such as she. She's fine, but let out quite a yip upon encountering the wire.

As for feeding the pigs - that has been going well so far too. We went spelunking in the depths of our chest freezer for the freezer burned, forgotten and out-of-date items that have a way of accumulating in there. In just 7 days, the little porkers have cleaned us out of old bread, last years frozen goat milk, 3 1/2 year-old fruit (apparently `09 was a bumper year for blueberries) and some incredibly freezer burned fish. All mixed with a generous scoop or two of the leftover kid milk replacer powder that was leftover from this rocky kidding season that we've just come through. The pigs relish this mish-mash of half-frozen leftovers, and clean their trough of every last speck, every single time.


We do have a bag of Pig Chow that we've been mixing in with their slops now and then. At $13.99 per 50 pound bag though, we probably won't be feeding much if any more of it once that first bag is gone. Our goat milk and bakery outlet haul will make up the larger part of the piggies' diet, which will also be supplemented with garden gleanings and rejects, kitchen scraps, odd or elderly hard-boiled chicken eggs, and, if we get lucky, more imperfect produce generously given by our local grocery store.

We're really trying to keep the costs of our grass-to-bacon experiment as low as possible, so far, we've fed the pigs - our freezer gleanings (free), half a bag of kid milk replacer, which would have been wasted after having been opened to feed a baby buckling who didn't make it (about $8.00 worth), kitchen scraps (free), and about 1/2 of a 50-lb bag of pig chow ($7.00 worth), which brings our total feed cost so far, to $15.00, or roughly seventy-five cents per day, per pig.

Billy is picking up a new load of critter bread from the bakery outlet as we speak ($25.00), and we're presently trying to make a plan for starting to wean the goat kids, freeing the mamas' milk supply for our use in the kitchen and in soapmaking, and for sharing generously with our porcine pals. I'll be keeping a close watch on every penny spent on this piggy project, in order to determine just how much a pound of non-antibiotic saturated, happily wallowing, well-fed pork really costs.

We anticipate that our portly Three will be ready for harvest around late August/early September, but their size and weight will be the final deciding factor on just when Bacon Makin' happens, exactly. I look forward to the final crunching of numbers and cost/value analysis almost as much as I look forward to that first rack of ribs hitting the barbecue. This is food nerd nirvana. :)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Setting Goals for Farm Income - Phase 1

In the past few years I've read dozens of books about how to sustainably, efficiently and effectively make money from your backyard garden/small urban farm. I always walk away from those books all charged up about how we're going to run our farmstand, and what all we can offer up for sale there. Then crazy things like last May's car accident happen, and we suffer a big ol' setback. Not this year - I'm determined.

Someday, it'd be lovely if this farm alone provided us with enough income so that Bill could retire from his real job and work here at home instead, side by side with the new and improved me, milking goats, weeding the garden and picking apples. I'm not really sure exactly what it would take to make that happen though.

If you're a fan of the show The Fabulous Beekman Boys, then you'll know that they have been working toward a similar goal as us. Somehow or other, they arrived at the conclusion that they'd have to sell a million dollars worth of food/soaps/farm tchotchkes in order to offset Josh's nine-to-five income and allow him to work on the farm full time. I'd love to know how they came up with that number, and I'd like to figure out exactly what our magic number is, but I don't have the faintest idea how to work that out.

Instead, because I really need to set an attainable goal for myself after this past year of missed opportunities and failure, I'm starting low - $5 per day.

Even before we get our farmstand up and running, I figure that I can produce at least $5 worth of salable product each day with my knitting. A single dishcloth goes for $4, and I can easily turn one out per day. A pair of bike helmet earmuffs can also be done in about a day, and sells for $15, covering me for three days if I should somehow fall behind. It is an extremely small goal, but, when regarded in the context of a full calender year, gives me over $1800 worth of knitted inventory to offer at my bazaars and online. Assuming that 50% of that is profit, I can make us $900 doing something that I thoroughly enjoy and that relaxes me. Pretty cool!

And so, that is what I've committed myself to so far. When I have a clearer idea of how much honey and wax that our beehives will give us, how much produce we can grow and sell, and how much soap we can produce with our goats milk and homegrown botanicals, I will set production and income goals for those areas as well. But for now - small, teensy, microscopic potatoes are all that I can honestly commit to. Every successful business has to start somewhere, right?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Turning Grass into Bacon - A Work in Progress

Step one - Find a little piece of land that is very green, to call your own.

Step two - Procure Goats that will happily eat your grass


Step three - Milk Goats 

Step four - Share your goat milk (upcycled grass) and bakery outlet bounty (wheat = grass) with your three little piggies.

What $20 will get you at the bakery outlet.

Three little pigs, Baykin, Porkchop (Choppy) and Prosciutto (Shootie)

With a lot of nutritious slops, some hiney scratchin' and a few months time, these little 30 pound "weaners" will end up as 250 pound "finishers". At which point I'll be switching their diet from primarily protein-intensive goat milk, bread and kitchen scraps to a diet that is comprised mainly of windfall and foraged apples and pears. At least, that's the game plan as it stands now.

By the time the girls head back to school in the Fall, the verdict should be in on whether or not all of this pig wranglin' and raisin' was worth the trouble. Stay tuned...