Archives for category: Critters

In may last post I shared that I was a bit nervous (ok, straight up scared) about roasting a pig for friends and Family!  We share lots of bounty off the farm, but this is the first time undertaking such a large cooking effort.

New Year’s day did indeed start in the dark, and it was very cold (mid twenties).

Pre-dawn Fires

Pre-dawn Fires

It did not start smoothly – it tool took a few tries to get the beast fastened to the spit well enough. We both thought it a good idea to add some spice and cut up apples to the cavity and stitch it back up. I am not sure if this is a good or bad idea.  It may have cooked faster if the cavity was left open, and the goods on the inside discolored the inside of the ribs.  Still good and yummy but not the most attractive.

It did not come with any means of securing the feet, and the beast has a balance point so that each time the the beast turned, at the top of the cycle it would flop and twist slightly over the tipping point to climb back up the other side of the loop.  This means one side cooked faster than the other, but we took care of that in the end by manually stalling the cooler side for longer each cycle for about 40 minutes.  It was a bit creepy too, since the two ends did not turn in unison. My husbands solution for floppy ears also a bit creepy, but very functional and likely better than burned ears and eyeballs (that could have been icky!).  We kept the campfire roaring and took coals from it to the cooking fire as needed to keep the internal temp climbing.  Having a meat thermometer is critical.

Once the hide split and it was a self basting roast.  I added my biggest dutch oven to the center of the coal pile to act a s a basin to catch the drippings and those were used to baste the whole thing.  The best way to season a cast iron pot – high heat and pure lard!  That dutch oven is now nonstick in the extreme.

open fire cookin'

Company arrived mid day and after a couple our hours socializing around a campfire it was time to feast!  All agree it is delicious and everyone takes some home.  This was my first chance to try cooked skin, and I do not like it.  One of our guests has been to many a pig roast and he made the comment that this hog had a thicker hide than the others he has cooked.  I am going to give that credit to the heritage breed – hardy pigs these are.  I also feel better about pour butchery method to skin them first.

With the warmest temp of the day hitting the low forties no one wanted to stay past dark, even with a roaring campfire. No blaming my guests on that note.  I call this a major success, but will admit that I am not looking forward to doing it again anytime soon.  It is a ton of work, and hosting in general can be a bit stressful.  I will say this is a very efficient way to feed a large group of people, and it is indeed delicious!

Even the dogs got to enjoy a bit.

Down Dog

Down Dog


hen taste test


Once the rains come and the weeds start the hens get fodder delivered.  They cannot free range as the hawks here eat them and the LGD that lives in the pasture with the pigs is not so down with including poultry in her responsibility.  A bit of exercise and yard tending for me, good food for the birds, who then give me eggs. Totally fair trade.

I know I am a red neck.  I was willing to roust myself and my son out of bed to go skunk hunting after one sprayed on the other side of the barn from campsite #1 Thankfully none of the dogs was a direct hit recipient, just the area about 100 ft away – ick!

My boy is a really good shot!

#tincanliving – campers don’t close up tight enough to prevent the detection of skunk stench

Some pig stories from the last week…

#1 Pigs on the loose…..2 gilts are in the orchard with our livestock guardian dog and they followed her through the two roll up doors in my husband’s shop and all the way up to my back yard, where Bryn the dog presented them to me outside my kitchen window.

#2  Lame goat – this is a pig story too!  3 weeks a ago we found a piglet down in the pasture, some kind of shoulder lameness that has improved quite well since he was moved to a smaller space.  Our doe came up  lame , so she joined the 3 legged pig and now I have 2 gimps in recovery 🙂

and #3  A vineyard in the neighborhood has invited me to glean grapes after the pickers have been through the plots so today I spent 2 hours or so filling a garbage can with grapes to feed over the next week.  They manage to eat the grapes and leave the stems.  Merlot fed pork! 

Last night an evening stroll turned into high homestead drama as we encountered 2 skunks!

Usually here on the homestead we let the wild beasts alone, unless they behave as vermin.  In this case these skunks have been harassing the hens and raiding the garden making the transition from wild beast to vermin. 

Both were caught red handed, as it were.  My husband retrieved a shotgun and dispatched them both!  Neither one considered us a threat until that last minute. 

Every 2-3 years we seem to get an “outbreak” where they seem to be everywhere – and visiting the garden at dusk becomes a risk of an encounter with the little stink bombs.  After this we should have reclusive and nocturnal ones only.

Pigs were born on 8/1 and since then have grown, the males have been castrated, the litter weaned, and 3 breeding gilts separated.  We will keep a grower of our own and a breeding gilt to add to our pig herd.

I did not have much to do with the birthing, really just frequent head counts.  On castration day my husband helped catch, sort and crate the males, and move the sow.  We don’t have enough cross fencing yet and this event reinforced the need for it.  We have a local vet whose specialty is food and fiber species.  If you are a reader, with similar veterinary services needed, please check her out –     Mary Pride Clark DVM of Compassionate Veterinary Care.  We can manage most husbandry ourselves, but 7 piglets is a lot to castrate!  Because we had taken the time to catch and confine the little beasts first, the vet visit was extremely efficient with all work completed in 40 minutes.

The following week the litter was weaned.  Our sow was dropping weight and they had transitioned to grower ration so it became more efficient to feed them directly than feed her to produce milk to feed them.

Today is forecast to be near 100 degrees so as many pigs as possible were returned to wallow access.  Jack, our boar, is still on sow restriction and is the only one with a mister and a hose and we are home all day to squirt him down.  Next week Jack and Ghirlie will be back together and her next heat cycle is expected to result in the next litter hopefully timed for sale of next litter in March 2014.

This has been a learning experience for sure, and we are able to sell to our community to further the locavore and know my farmer movements.

Currently 6 growers and 2 breeding gilts for sale!

Bring on the harvest season……

This morning some our critters left the farm for a new home – 3 llamas have headed south, leaving pigs and goats remaining in the pasture.  While loading them into the trailer I suffered a knee injury – one of those where one step is fine and the next isn’t.  My knee just didn’t work right anymore so I was of no help after that.

Dr says it is a strained ligament and rest, keep weight off it, and it will heal… to do that when all the chores on the homestead require at a minimum walking somewhere?

Anything that limits physical motion is a multiplier for time and effort.  Be careful on the farm – I was blessed that so many people were with me when it happened and I could be helped off the ground, out of the catch pen.  I am  also fortunate not to be doing this alone, my family does help.

In the weeks to come I expect my knee to heal, but it will be vulnerable.  And pigs are knee height so I will not be doing the pig chores myself anytime soon!


Status update July 2013 – 2 surgeries are in my future, healing did not really happen as the true damage is torn ACL and torn meniscus.  Accepting that the summer will not be filled with preserving fruit and veggies as I cannot stand at the stove or counter for long enough to process the harvest.  Sad farmer……


Welcome BredSow to Twin Springs Homestead!  She is already bred and will be in quarantine for a bit before released out to the pasture to meet Gentleman Jack and the rest of the critters.  My son is her favorite person so far so he will get to name her.

My son accompanied me on an overnight road trip  up north to retrieve her, and he was quite helpful when it came to loading her into the trailer.

Her “pig” date is estimated to be in early June, but that is just a guess as the exact breeding dates are not known.  She is a Tamworth and we are looking forward to breeding her to Jack later in the year for some Large Black x Tamworth pigs for the freezer. This coming litter will be crosses with Berkshire or Red Wattle, or could be straight Tamworth…..yes there were that many options.

This is the next installment of  Pig / Pork Production.  Future installments will be piglets!

The goat herd will be graduated out to the pasture today.  The does and kids have been in the barn for a week getting proficient at being a kid and allowing me to observe how the does interact with each  other and each other’s kids.  Things are great and the forecast for this next week is daytime highs in the low 70’s and night time lows in the upper 40’s and low 50’s.  With the mild weather they can go live outside with the pig and llamas! 

Saturday morning I headed out to the barn to do morning chores, and was greeted with the bleeeeeets of baby goats.


These 2 blondes are super cute – couldn’t convince them to turn around so I could get a photo with their pink noses.

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