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“You got a good scald on that …”

October 8, 2008

Lipsmackin good

Around here that means the food tastes good, but the saying comes from scalding hogs before butchering.  The temperature has to be just right to do the job.  I told my daughter last weekend that she got a good scald on the pear crisp she had made, and she looked at me like, well, I won’t elaborate too much, but you can picture the look, she’s from planet coolness, and I’m the old fogey.  She ain’t never caught a rabbit, and she has never seen a hog scalded.  (She also doesn’t really know about Elvis.)

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It’s that time of year, when people who consider bacon a food group, start seeing meat cutting charts when they look at their hogs.  Besides the fact that the feed is getting more and more cost prohibitive.

We raise a few pigs a year, to round out our cash flow a little, and to use up surplus food we can’t eat.  They are great for using up extra milk, and for all those strange things that lurk in freezers, or all my canning projects that looked so good in the canning book, but that no one will touch.  I’ll take that back, they like naturally fermented foods, but pickles of any sort made with vinegar aren’t really “relished” by the pigs.  Note to self: don’t throw the neighbors gift of sweet pickles in the pig trough before said neighbor comes over and sees pickles in the swill. :O

We eat one pig a year, almost.  But, as with most livestock, you shouldn’t raise just one.  Animals are very social, and prefer company of their own kind.  Who doesn’t?  Besides the thought of eating a sad pig, makes me sad.  I think it would affect the bacon… .  On the accounting side, you can sell the extra pig(s) and it will pay for the upkeep and processing costs of yours.  Even if you break even cash-wise, you will have meat that you raised and you know exactly how it has been treated and fed. 

For us pasturing pigs doesn’t work, our soil is too wet, most of the year, and our pasture is too important to us. Pigs are hard on ground, and if they are left too long, the ground is ruined for a long time for productive pasture.  If you are buying pastured pork and someone tells you that the pigs exist on grass, they are lying.  A young pig of good butchering size is growing and can’t put on much weight on greens alone.  A breeding age pig can get a good portion of their nutrients from sod, or good pasture.  But, most pork that is for sale, is from a 6 month old pig, and it has been eating grain of some type.  It’s great if you can find someone who pastures their hogs full time, but it won’t happen on my farm.  We did buy weaners from a free range operation for a few years, and the pigs were truly free ranging.  The feeding area was in bad shape, but the pastures looked OK, since the pigs really spent most of their time in the woods.  Interesting operation, just not for us.  It’s common to see pigs being kept in mud or dirt yards, and when the area gets too impacted, just move to the next spot.   But I don’t think after seeing that free range operation, where the pigs had a choice, being in mud is really how the pigs want it, it’s just what works for the humans.  Just because everybody does it that way doesn’t mean it is the right way to keep pigs.  On a diversified farm, you shouldn’t let any one type of animal ruin it for the next species.  So that means:  go lightly, with everything. 

 Our pigs are a sideline, not a centerpiece enterprise, so they have to fit in where they blend best with our ideals and realities.  With all that being said, we bring the greens to the pigs, and we house them in the feeding shed where our cattle spend the winter.  This provides them with shade, but the area is open on the sides, dry, and airy.  Housing the pigs after the cattle, helps break up the parasite cycle, because livestock parasites are species specific. 

One practice we do not subscribe to, is feeding garbage to our pigs.  By garbage I mean the processed food, baked goods, or rotten pastuerized milk from our local food bank.  We wouldn’t want to eat it, so we don’t feed it to our pigs.  Spoiled fruit or vegetables, or sour milk from our farm is a different story.  We have a custom grain mix made for the pigs, that is very similar to our chicken feed, and it contains the Fertrell minerals that we like to use.  The pigs have this feed free choice, and we bring weeds and bolted vegetables to them by the wheelbarrow load.  They love it.  These past few weeks they have been enjoying windfall and damaged fruit.

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In our area the abattoir situation is less than desirable, the processors that are close are either doing butchering as a sideline, or at the larger places, you can’t be sure you are really getting your actual animal back in those neat little packages.  So we have to haul our stock 45 minutes to get to a reputable meat handler.  The worst thing is, they are getting close to retirement age, and are sitting on prime real estate.  As with any old time skill, each generation loses a little in translation, and as butcher shops get fewer and farther between the quality goes down.  I dread the day when these people close up shop.  Don’t even get me started on mishaps on animals we have had processed… .

When these little baconators are tiny and cute, it is easy to catch and carry them, and put them where you want.  Now they are bigger and not so cute.   Since we are hauling them, and not butchering on site, we have a little bit of handling to do.  It’s not the same as putting out a little food, and getting them in the crosshairs.

When I found these pictures in a box of “stuff”, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I have no idea who this man is.  Most likely a neighboring farmer, because  I know two of the people in the next picture.  I found the photos together, they are mounted the same and look to be the same time frame.//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>
I’m assuming the picture was taken just before the pigs were shot, or stuck.  They are eating and appear calm.

That’s my Dad in the middle and my uncle to the right.  My Dad was born in 1898, and my uncle in 1901, so this is probably from the early 1920’s.  There is not one thing written on either of these photos.  So I can only guess about whose pigs these are.

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“Jamay, is that you?  Mom said I’m coming to your freezer house.

All summer long, the pigs have been on a self feeder where they can help themselves whenever they feel like it.  It cuts down on daily chores, and helps them grow without being stressed out by being hungry.  When Della freshened, I started feeding them twice a day, even if it was just milk, just so I could condition them to the idea of regular feeding times, and the idea that I was in fact feeding them.  Also that they could eat out of something besides their metal feeder. 

So at the beginning of the week, we opened up their pen, and backed in the stock trailer.  We positioned the ubiquitous hog panels so the pigs couldn’t get out, but could get in the trailer.  Then we put their trough in the trailer and put out the bait.  To catch pigs, milk works real good.  These guys walked right up the ramp and went right in, and fell to eating.  This is a hassle feeding them for several days in the trailer, but not near as frustrating as trying to load recalcitrant pigs, with a pig headed recalcitrant DH, because usually I’m the one who ends up upside down in you-know-what.  And believe me that is not good.  We all want to remain as calm as can be…  Stress free animal handling is best for everyone.

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These guys are hams, literally.  In the trailer, out of the trailer, canter around doing flying changes.  These pigs are funny.  Today, they knocked off the ramp, (it’s makeshift, not part of the trailer) but as soon as I went in the side door with more feed, and rotten pears, they jumped in the trailer.  I was getting a little nervous about their bacon tummies getting scratched, or bruised.  But, they raced back out just in time for a picture from outside the trailer.  Tomorrow will be their last day here, so they will get a feast and some Aconite in their water for stress for their drive to Iceland.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. October 9, 2008 12:12 am

    Awe. Poor piggies…but I LOVE bacon, too. And ribs. Don’t know if we’ll ever “do” pigs ourselves, but we’d sure go in on one/some if someone else did the raising of it/them.

  2. October 9, 2008 5:32 am

    Thanks for this, Nita. We’re getting our half this weekend.

    What kinds have you raised? You don’t breed them, I assume…have you before? How about butchering? Obviously you saw it done growing up: is there any way you would do it yourself if your butcher really does retire? How about smoking: have you guys done that? Inquiring minds!!

    We have a decent (multigenerational) butcher nearby, but they never assume I want the whole half of the hog, which I do. I had to clarify that I wanted the jowls and the feet, thanks.

  3. October 9, 2008 6:53 am

    I’ve been looking for a local source of quality raised pigs. I would also love the whole half, all that goodness can be used. The problem is I can’t find a local processor that will process bacon without nitrates, I want old style salt cured smoked bacon – YUM YUM. I may end up learning to do it myself.

    I grew up with a dad that hunted so seeing animals being “dressed” always fascinted us a kids. We loved watching dad peel the skins off the rabbits & squirrels. I really appreciate that I’ve had that experience, makes me appreciate the food I eat and seek out good quality, humanely raised & treated food.

    Great job you guys!

  4. Judi In PA permalink
    October 9, 2008 7:21 am

    Hey Nita…cool post as always, and I learned something again. And get this? This is the sad part as I have lived on “hog” farm since 1974 when our milking barn burnt down and my dad decided he wasn’t going back in the dairy business. Thought he would try pigs on the large scale. He didn’t do bad for a while but the market always flucuated too much. At one point, we had a couple hundred hogs on the farm, but still nothing like those big, smelly operations with thousands of hogs. When my husband and I took over, we scaled down the number of pigs…they were only bringing 9 cents a pound and that was in 1994! So, we thought we would do only beef and just keep a few hogs for our family. Okay, we were young and extremely dumb and did not realize how long it takes for the beef to be ready for market, how much feed they consume and our 160 acre could not produce the all the feed we needed for all the cattle we would need to provide the income we thought we needed! So, today, we are back in the hog business, with about 50 to 60 head, a scaled down beef operation, meat goats, dairy goats, meat chickens, turkeys, eggs and we are even back in a small dairy operation. You nailed it when you spoke of a diversified operation. It seems to be the only thing that works for us. What I learned today? I have been harping on my husband that we need to pasture our pigs, blah,blah blah…that poor man. The ideas that I get in my head and he has to listen to all of them. Although, I’m fairly ceratin that he tunes me out 3/4 of the time! Anyway, after re-thinking your words, maybe we shouldn’t. I never gave much thought into the “ruining it for the next species.” But oh, so true. Thanks, Nita, for straightening my hat on my crooked head and I’m sure my husband thanks you too!
    Thanks for the laughs, especially about your daughter…too funny!

  5. Judi In PA permalink
    October 9, 2008 7:25 am

    Forgot to mention that I absolutely love those old photos. Now, those photos are from planet coolness. And I can’t wait to use that expression on my preteen son!

  6. October 9, 2008 8:08 am

    She doesn’t know about Elvis? For shame!

    I always enjoyed pig antics, even the human kind:)

  7. thecottonwife permalink
    October 9, 2008 10:17 am

    Your blog is incredible. Really.

    Why are you not published in a book? I would (in a heartbeat) buy your book about simple country living and how to do things.

  8. October 9, 2008 5:51 pm

    We go through a pig in parts over six to nine months. I have access to a guy who raises them on pasture and whey with the occasional block of cheese or tub of peanut butter.

    We do our own hams and bacon. I think if people knew that it was as easy as it is, a lot more would. Not as easy as supermarket bacon, but not hard. And it doesn;t come with the tax on your soul.

    We’re looking at doing some pigs next year, when we have more pasture fenced. That pasture could also use some “conditioning”…


  9. October 10, 2008 12:10 am

    Oh gee, I saw a picture of your piglets and immediately thought of the movie “Babe”. *sniffle* And, of course, we had pork chops for dinner tonight. *sniffle* I wonder if your doggies would appreciate having a sheep pig, or rather in your case a cow pig, helping out on the homestead. 🙂 Love the old photos, even without captions, they tell a story. Hope all of you and your critters stay warm tonight!

  10. October 10, 2008 6:03 am

    Great old pics! I love to go to my grandparents’ house and dig through searching for old gems like you have!

  11. October 10, 2008 6:50 pm

    All I can say is that I am HOG wild over this post. We have considered hogs but we would probably just make a pet of it. lol We’re bad for stuff like that. I love all the old pics, keep ’em coming.


  12. October 11, 2008 11:52 pm

    LatigoLiz, aw come on, that bacon has to come from somewhere. Just like chicks, they are cute when they are little, but at this stage, they just look like bacon and ham to me.

    El, we just been getting hybrid Blue Butts lately, like a CornishX pig, so to speak. I want them to grow uniformly and within our summer and early fall season.

    My brother used to keep Tamworths and they were great pigs, and our neighbor swore by Durocs, so just like with anything else, each breed has it’s attributes. The neighbor with the Durocs did semi-pasture, with A-Frame huts for the sows, so they wouldn’t lay on the babies and those pigs spent most of the time foraging in the woods, and didn’t really have much access to his pasture. But, he provided full feed and the ranging was supplemental.

    A smokehouse is on our list of wants, and we have tried doing our own bacon with mixed results. We have butchered beef, deer, rabbits, and poultry, but never done more than helped with the pigs. We have seen them skinned which saves the scalding part, so that takes alot of the work out of butchering right there. A pig would be much easier than a beef, so it doesn’t seem daunting to me. But, since these are being sold, they have to go to an inspected plant, alive. So at this point, it is easy to send ours along with the others.

    We’ve lucked out with this butcher, we always are able to get the feet etc, and I can get our customers lard and tallow if they don’t want it, that way I know what is in my lard, and I can get enough for soapmaking. 🙂

    Susy, thanks for stopping by, if you order a half a pig from a producer, you should be able to have the butcher just make the belly into fresh side pork. Don’t have it sliced and then your can cure it at home. Our butcher will package the side pork in approx. 2# packages, and that way you can perfect your technique on a smaller quantity, instead of the whole slab of side pork.

    I agree seeing animals dressed is fascinating. Plus when you look inside, you get to assess the health of the animal too. The first time I saw a pig liver, I was surprised to see the “pigskin” pattern on the liver skin.

    Judi (do I have to type PA), take what I say with a grain of salt, pasturing pigs in your area may be a good thing. We have no native nuts around here, so it is either pasture, or deep rain forest-like conifer forest, and about 100″ of rain a year. Not real conducive to acorn mast if you know what I mean.

    I want to know how you get your husband to listen to you 25% of the time ?? What is your secret?

    When I found that picture of my Dad butchering those pigs, I could not believe my eyes. My Mom was a terrible housekeeper, so when company was coming, she would literally get a box and swipe of the table or the piano or whatever needed uncluttering. So I have multitudes of the these boxes, where the contents have no rhyme or reason. But, she kept everything, so I have to look at each piece of ephemera. But, I have found some interesting blogging material to be sure!

    Linda, Elvis is to my daughter what Lawrence Welk is to us. A1 AN A2!

    Jenn, thanks, I’m enjoying learning the peanut business on your blog too.

    MMP, you will like your pigs, they are fun to raise if they have enough to eat, otherwise they can be bad piggies, and very pig headed!

    I could eat bacon everyday, but I feel better making the bacon from one pig last a year. That way it is a treat, and like you say there is no tax on our souls.

    That’s great you have a great guy to get your pork from – it is important to know how your pigs have been kept, they are so sensitive and easily stressed out.

    Paula, I mean “Pork Tamale Pie Lips”, I love the movie Babe, but I couldn’t see keeping a pig for a pet. But, they are similar to dogs, they bark at strangers, and play with each other like dogs.

    I don’t think the cows would appreciate the pigs near them. When we first got sheep, we put them in a pasture in their ElectroNet, and the cows were in the woods, so they didn’t see them arrive. The next morning when we went to check on the sheep, we wondered why the cattle hadn’t come to water, and we looked, and they were in the woods peering out, wide-eyed at the sheep! They would not come out and walk past the sheep to get to their trough. It was hillarious. They finally came out tentatively when we begged them, but they quickly walked past the sheep and drank their water and scurried back to the safety of the woods. They would not forgive me if I showed up with a pig. 😉

    Warrem, Hi thanks for stopping by. It is fun to look at the old photos. We take so many now, then it was a big deal just to take the pictures!

    Chris, thanks – just think of all that juicy ham, and bacon and chops, and don’t get just one – that way you won’t get too attached – I hope.

  13. October 13, 2008 8:00 am

    Pigs are another thing I do think about raising, but wonder about whether or not we have the room, whether they will break out, will they attract a cougar, will I be able to do ‘the job’ when the time comes (we DON”T have any slaughterhouse within a 500 km radius) and so on. Have you got photos of your stye that you can post? More ideas on how a small operation could manage them?

    Love learning from the ‘horses mouth’…HDR

  14. October 14, 2008 10:56 pm

    Howling Duck, pigs do attact cougars when they are small. They are pretty easy to dress, it’s nice to leave the skin on for hams etc., but you can skin them too and that really makes it easier.

    We don’t have permanent housing for the pigs, we just build pens out of 16′ hog panels. Very cheap and portable. Sometimes they are outside turning our compost piles, and this year they were housed inside a shed where we winter the cows. All temporary and very inexpensive. The feed is the biggest expense – because growing pigs need grain, unless you have an unlimited supply of food scraps, milk, whey, etc. I like to feed a good feed free choice and supplement with garden and orchard spoils, that way I can make sure there are no growth checks and they are steadily gaining. I try to time our pig time with the milk cow’s lactation so the pigs can utilize the extra milk. Other than that, they need protection from the sun and rain, and a dry place to bed down at all times. Pigs are hard on wet ground, so summer time is the best for us on the west coast for raising pigs.

    I did a post on called Avoiding Choretime Burnout that showed our water system for the pigs and maybe a picture of their pen this summer. Type that post title in the Search box in my sidebar and it should take you to the post.

  15. October 16, 2008 3:56 am

    Our two go in first week of November and will be happy to see them go (never thought I would say something like that and the way I bawled over our first raised pig…eee). We finally have them confined (knock on wood), but one of the two was a real pain in the a$$. We are doing something similar (open trailer with occasional food) with hopes they will hop right in and go to town (wishful thinking, most likely LOL).

    Great post as always!

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