Callywood Pigs! (Part I)

Hey everyone, Farmer B here.  We are quickly approaching processing day for our first ever round of pigs here at the farm, so it seemed like a good a time as any to start back at the beginning or our little porcine experiment and fill you in on everything related to our foray into pork.

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One of our Ossabaw Island Hogs,                      3 months old

This first part of this hog history will focus on the rationale behind raising pigs here at Callywoods and the initial construction.  Part II will touch on the type of pigs we raise, Ossabaw Island Hogs, our daily routines, and what we have learned through the process.  Part III will get to the meat of the matter: processing, consumption, and looking into the future as we take our next steps into the second generation of Callywood pork production.

A couple years ago, after many discussions about our progression in livestock beyond our lovely egg-laying flock, we decided that raising pigs for meat was the best choice for us.  We originally thought it would be dairy goats, as we crave fresh, local milk, but several factors occurred to us that made us change direction towards the other white meat:

  • We don’t have much proper pasture land.  Yes, goats aren’t exactly grazers like cows or sheep, but it didn’t seem ideal to have goats living on dirt (ie, mud)
  • Goats are a handful, require substantial fencing, and daily (if not twice daily) milking when kept as regular dairy animals.  This livestock conversation coincided with the then pending arrival of Farm Baby, and the huge time commitment with dairy goats didn’t exactly seem to jive with our soon to be changing energy & sleep patterns
  • We had recently discovered a fantastic local source of raw milk in the neighborhood, Harmony Diary and no longer had as urgent a need of milk source.  (Sidenote: we are fortunate enough in SC to be able to legally buy raw milk from local sources, a “luxury” that not all states afford their citizens…more on that in a future post)
  • We love pork!  It’s probably our favorite meat:  pulled pork, grilled tenderloin, carnitas, homemade sausage, smoked bacon…

We selected the location on the farm for our pigs between two small creeks where a section of land was naturally bounded in creating a small peninsula that we affectionately call the “Pig Pen” for short.  Yep, that’s the kind of clever stuff that keeps us going around here.  I opted for electric fencing.  It has worked wonderfully.  More on the details of our adventure of “training” the pigs to the electric fence in the next part of this discussion, but suffice to say that after a very rocky start to pig fencing, we haven’t had a single issue of note.  Our pigs are happy and healthy in their electric enclosure.  I use a DC powered charger run off a deep cycle marine battery.  It lasts 3-4 weeks on a charge depending on how often the pigs decide to bury the lowest of the 4 lines in mud while rooting.

Fence Charger & Battery by creek

For housing, I utilized a tradition “pig ark” design that is more popular in Europe, especially in the UK.  A separate floor and roof section make for easy cleaning and somewhat easier moving when need be.

Arc & Base

The roof fits directly over the floor for a seamless pig house!

The roof fits directly over the floor for a seamless pig house!

This particular 6’x8′ design is said to be ideal for 3-4 adult hogs or a mother and her litter of piglets.  So far I have no reason to disagree with that.  Our 3 adult pigs have plenty of room in the ark with ample wiggle room.

Base in Arc Side view

I used heavy duty flashing for the roof material with waterproof screws/washers to keep things high and dry.  It’s not as ideal as galvanized or aluminum would have been, but that’s very difficult and expensive to have set to this specific of a curved roofline, so I did what we do best around the farm and improvised!

Waterproof stain on exterior wood surfaces

Here is the final look at the Pig Ark in its home in the Pig Pen, surrounded by the electric fence (notice how wonderfully low profile and aesthetically simple the electric fence is).  You can see one small creek in the foreground and can picture the other creek behind coming from the pond dam in the background.

Finished Arc in Yard

All that’s left is to supply our new pig home with little porkers!  Stay tuned for Part II in this discussion when we learn about Ossabaw Island Hogs, bring our new piglets home, see them promptly escape and then return after a very stressful week on the farm, learn about their routine, and even see the pigs teach their naive farmers a thing or two along the way.

Chicken Update

We have chickens. Some might say we have a lot of chickens. Right now, we have 48 chickens. No joke. 17 hens (egg-producing aged chickens, well one’s a rooster). 18 “toddlers” (mostly pullets: pre-egg-laying aged chickens, but some will be roosters) and 13 baby chicks (all future egg layers). What are we going to do with all these chickens?!?!?

Chickens tilling and fertilizing floor of greenhouse

Answer: Put them to work! Here they are tilling and fertilizing the floor of the new greenhouse before we closed it up. We have been super busy around here gearing up for the county we live in to launch it’s first legit farmer’s market. In order to sell anything, we have to have proper licensure and things all in order. In the next few weeks, you might see some changes around here and we get with the program and get “branded” and launch our product line! Really exciting stuff and progress.

So yea, back to the chickens. We will be selling free-range, pastured eggs. We currently sell eggs to a few loyal customers, but are so excited to branch out and be part of our local agro-community. We have already enjoyed meeting some new people and have learned so much in this process, from how to think and talk about our vision and what Callywood Farms really stands for to all the state’s laws and policies for selling eggs.

Our plan right now is to be able to offer eggs. We will be adding about half of the new chicks to the existing egg laying flock. Farmer B has designed and built a great chicken tractor. It’s very simple. For those that aren’t familiar with a chicken tractor, the idea is that the chickens are placed in a moveable caged area. The “tractor” is then placed out in the pasture for the chickens to graze and eat in a certain area. Once the chickens have mowed that spot (and left behind all their wonderful…er…crap) then you just move the tractor to the next spot (it’s on wheels). These chickens will exclusively live in the tractor. Once they are about 4 months old and full grown and looking good, well then, it’s time for harvesting or moving into the chicken palace to become an egg-layer. We plan to harvest all of the chickens destined for our dinner table ourselves this year. We are hoping for a total of 22-26 layers, which leaves a good 10 for dinner.

Chickens in the tractor

Chickens in the tractor

This is all a trial run. If all goes well, we hope to have a couple more tractors built and next year, we might be able to offer free-range, pastured chickens on the market too. We will also be able to offer any vegetables from the farm at our stand, however, we are still figuring all that out and not sure how much excess we will really have to sell.

Wish us luck at our first farmer’s market this weekend!

Remembering

I have a terrible memory. My sister can recall memories from our childhood that I just smile and nod as she recounts the details, wishing that I could remember things like she did.

As I was driving away from our new house the other evening (we have this beautiful 1/4 mile dirt road driveway lined with fruit trees and horses on both sides), I had this overwhelming desire to remember the moment. It was an ordinary moment, but it was filled with such intense emotions that I wanted to capture it here

We had just finished a 3 hour painting session in the master bedroom of the new place. It looked like this…

I know it’s difficult to see, but that my friends, is baby blue sponge painted walls. With a blue and white country pattern print VALANCE. That is what you call that, right?
If I had lots of money, I would also rip up the carpet, but let’s be honest, if I had lots of money, I wouldn’t be renovating a single wide 🙂 So, we painted the walls white. Like white white. The color is actually called “Moon Rise”. The true sign on a re-design, re-model expert is when she picks colors based of names…OH, that’s me!
So back to the whole remembering thing. So, we had just finished a 3 hour paint session. We were covered in paint and sweat (no AC yet folks). We did a bit of poking around the garden and were spent. I hopped in the Jeep to head back to the lakehouse and on the drive out (pics below of our driveway) is when the rush of feelings hit me. 

REMEMBER THIS MOMENT. Remember the feeling of working so hard for something you want. Remember the sweat and paint stains, but most of all remember the feeling of total fulfillment. Remember the feeling of your heart feeling like it’s overflowing with happiness. Happiness for what is to come, the future, but also the moment of realizing you made the right decision in moving back in with the rents to accomplish this next step 🙂
Alright, enough cheesiness. I promise more pics of the new place and some recipes soon. We’ve been cooking!

Thought for the day

Thought for the day (adapted from an Adam Carolla metaphor…obviously from BJ)

Learning and living on the farm will be like a big gin rummy game. Start with the hand that is dealt to you and then slowly add and keep the things that are working, productive, and bring you joy, all the while not being afraid to discard things that don’t fit in with the greater mission or don’t work out the way you envisioned.  Your hand will always evolve into something better and will most certainly not ever end up how it started or how you could have foreseen, but a healthy dose of risk-taking combined with an intelligent, informed game plan will ensure that both the process and result will always be rewarding.

We know how to play some mean gin rummy, so this whole farm thing should be easy-peasy…according to Adam Carolla…

 If this is our Queen of Spades…

This is clearly the Ace! Hopefully, in the next few weeks we will have some updates about the King…chickens and goats!