Spring finds… and Pickle Tuna Pasta Salad! Yum!

Ah, what a beautifully freezing cold, crazy windy spring day. NOT!

Luckily today was my “day off” and when all was said and done, I was able to get in a little retail therapy and cook a delicious spring meal. 

Although temps are in the low 20’s today and the winds are whistling over 30 mph, I still had lots of chores to do outside today. 

The chickens and goats are completely stir crazy at this point. The temps vary day to day. 50 one day and 5 the next… I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only one dreaming of warmer sunny days. Collecting sap in high winds and below freezing temps just isn’t fun. It’s heavy, it’s cold. It’s booooo!!

Anyway- we have well over 50 gallons of sap and for our little Homestead, that is a great start!!!!

We should start to boil in a week or two! Bottles and yearly supplies came in today!

Michaels was EXTREMELY kind to me today. Crazy sales and I was able to forget about the winter warlock and mosey my way though the store and take advantage of killer spring sales. 
My house is now Easter ready. Score!! 

Can’t wait to cook Easter dinner again this year! 

Anyway- after spending my fair share of time on Pinterest the other night I decided to make summer rolls or spring rolls-whatever you like to call them- and the most delicious pickle and tuna pasta salad. 

I had seen a photo of tuna casserole and I immediately thought!!!! Tuna! Pasta Salad! Summer! Pickles! 

Boom. 

This stuff is so light and yummy and I finally got to use up more of my homemade pickles and sweet relish from our garden last year. 

Here’s how I did it- 


Pickle Tuna Pasta Salad|

serves a crowd

35 minute cook time—1 hour (more is better) chill time

  • 1-2 ribs of celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 a red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 c dill pickles, chopped
  • 1/4 white onion, grated 
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 cans, white albacore tuna, in water-drained
  • A pinch of garlic powder 
  • 3-4 c mini penne pasta, cooked drained and rinsed with cold water

Sauce-

  • 3/4 c plain Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 c mayo
  • 2 tbsp dill pickle juice
  • 1/4 c sweet pickle relish 
  • A few dashes of worchesteshire sauce 
  • 1 tsp of Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • A good pinch of salt and pepper 
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese

First get your pasta cooking and then make your sauce–

Next- chop up the veggies and dill. Drain the tuna and add all of it to your mixing bowl.

Toss in the cooked and cooled pasta and the dressing. Stir it completely and refrigerate for at least two hours! Over night is best. 

I love this stuff and could probably eat it everyday!

This Pickle Tuna Salad was perfect with yummy crab and avocado rolls. 

Come on summer. My kitchen is ready for you!!

The Best Crab Cakes-EVER

So these are amazing! Seriously. Everyone should make this recipe. Everyone. Period. Exclamation Point.

We’ve been battling a late winter storm here in New England. Wind gusts over 50 mph and 18″ of snow. 

We went from 50 degree weather and hardly any snow left to speak of to this…

Gross. Not my cup of tea. 

We have plans to breed our goats this spring and are looking at a late summer kidding. Piglets will be born soon and a good number of our seedlings have sprouted! I’m ready to plant the next few batches. 

Needless to say the snow and winds can stop any time now and I once again can’t help but cook foods that remind me of summer.

It gets me thru. 

I need my fresh and light foods. And maybe a margarita or two.

That helps too. 

I should preface the rest of this post by saying that there are a lot of ingredients in these decadent crab cakes, but the mixture is so delicious I’ve used it for crab cakes one night, and in crab melts the day after AND in cheesy crab stuffed mushrooms. Depending on how many you’re serving this recipe does make enough to do double or even triple duty. 

In my book that’s a total money and time saver and completely worth the effort!!

The Best Crab Cakes-Ever|

  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 1/2 a red bell pepper, minced
  • 1 stalk of celery, minced
  • 2 cups of oyster crackers, crushed
  • 8 oz, lump crab meat (fresh no imitation meat)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp old bay seasoning 
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp mayo
  • 1-2 sunflower oil, or canola oil
  • A good pinch of salt and pepper 
  • 1/2 of a good cheese blend. I used asiago, Parmesan and cheddar. (Use your favorite)

Start by mincing your veggies! Sauté them in butter over medium high heat until the onions are translucent. 

Stir in the garlic powder, old bay and salt  and pepper, cooking for a minute longer.

Transfer the veggies into a mixing bowl and refrigerate for a few minutes to cool down before adding your other ingredients. 

Next crush up your crackers!

When your veggies have cooled, stir in your egg, crab, crackers and cheese. 

At this point you could make stuffed mushrooms OR add in your mayo!!

In a non stick skillet heat your sunflower oil. 

Form your Crab Cakes in 1/4 c measurements. Form them into balls and place in the hot oil, flattening the tops with your spatula to your desired thickness. 

Cook for 1-2 minutes per side until each side is dark golden brown and the center is warm but still creamy. 

I like to top these with a siracha mayo– just a tbsp or two of mayo mixed well with a tsp of hot sauce. 

Serve immediately!! They are seriously the Best Crab cakes I’ve ever had!

Eat these with a delicious Chicken Saltimbocca (I’ll post that recipe later)


Or be sure and try this delicious crab mixture in Cheesy Crab Stuffed Mushrooms!

Farm Fresh! Asiago Breakfast Bowls

Lazy Sunday mornings are the best. 

I slept in today and woke up to two hungry kids! I was quick to pawn off some of my chores and offered up a delicious breakfast as a reward. 

My girls bundled up and headed down to the barn. The goats need a little bit of coaxing to go outside on cold days. These two definitely don’t like the freezing temperatures. 

They do however, LOVE walking around with my daughters! 

Seriously, how cute is that?!

The chickens are happy! Fresh eggs for breakfast!

I had some bacon thawed in the fridge and some asiago cheese left over from last nights Cobb salad wraps so I decided to get a little creative with our Sunday morning breakfast. 

Bread bowls with our fresh eggs, our own bacon and nutty asiago cheese… wow, delicious!! 

Here’s how I made them-

Asiago Breakfast Bowls|

Cook time: 1 hour

Serves 4

  • Two bread boules, store bought or homemade 
  • 1/4 lb of bacon
  • 3 eggs 
  • 1/4 c of milk
  • 1/2 c of freshly grated asiago cheese
  • A pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 350.

Fry up your bacon!

Whisk up three eggs with a quarter cup of milk, salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. 

Set that aside for a minute and slice your two bread boules in half, leaving you with 4 bowls. 

Hollow out the centers and save the insides for another day. I usually toss them in the food processor and make breadcrumbs. 

Crumble up your cooked bacon and whisk the bacon bits into the egg and milk mixture. 

Pour the mixture into your bread bowls evenly and top with freshly grated asiago cheese. I added a bit of chopped parsley to the tops for color.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until the eggs are set and the cheese is melted.

To make this breakfast even more hearty and delicious I fried up a fresh egg for the top of each breakfast bowl. That runny yolk on top of all that hot melted cheese and bacon sent this breakfast over the top!

Happy Sunday! My kids devoured this meal. I will definitely be making these again!

Excuses, Excuses… & Chicken Tortellini Soup

So… it’s been quite some time since I’ve written a new blog post. An embarrassing, long amount of time. 

I could go on and on with excuse after excuse but instead I will leave you with one. The only one that really matters…. Homesteading takes a lot of work. 

Since I’ve last written, we have raised and processed Jumbo Cornish Hens. We have raised, processed and sold 8 Tamworth/ Yorkshire pigs. We have added 20 new laying hens (and lost a few to Mother Nature). We have purchased our two beautiful Nigerian Dwarf goats, Lizzie and Kikki! Who are just the best and almost ready for breeding. And we (my husband and two amazing friends) built an entirely new barn. 

I know…. documenting all of our progress  probably would have been the way to go instead of taking a near 10 month hiatus. 

But the work got the best of me. I loved every minute of it. Don’t get me wrong. I reveled in the work. There’s nothing more satisfying than waking up on beautiful sunny morning and taking care of all our animals. Spending hours in my garden and reaping all we sow at the end of each and every day. 

Each year we continue on this homesteading adventure, I grow a little smarter. I grow a little more patient. And now that we are in the winter lull, I have the urge to write again. 

I’m in the kitchen more but my thoughts  seem to be constantly surrounding our spring time plans. New fences, new animals, new crops. The list goes on.

Winter might be slow, but it’s exciting to plan for the months ahead. 

I’ve been trying out a whole bunch of new recipes lately. Some I will end up sharing. Some I will end up forgetting about. On purpose… they can’t all be winners!

But last night I wanted something familiar. Something comforting and warm. A nor’easter was moving in, and I had a feeling my daughters would be home from school today. Mom was right! Snow day! 

So I wanted something that I knew would be good for lunch the next day too. 

Chicken tortellini soup was the answer! 

When I was kid, chicken tortellini soup was a reward of sorts for me. A local restaurant we used to frequent (and I still do to this day) made the best chicken tortellini soup! I loved the stuff so much that if I would receive good grades on my report card that is what I wanted as a reward. Soup. 

Once a foodie, always a foodie. 

Anyway, I made this version in the slow cooker and cooked the tortellini separately just before serving. I wanted that cheesy but crisp bite and was afraid they’d get too mushy in the crock. 

This is stuff just gives me the warm and fuzzies. I highly recommend it!!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortellini Soup|

Serves 6

Cook time 8 hours

You’ll need:

  • 1-1.5lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 carrots chopped 
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3/4 c green beans, cut into bite size pieces
  • 3 c chicken broth
  • 2 c water
  • 1 chicken bullion cube
  • A pinch of dried thyme and oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 3/4 lb fresh tortellini 
  • 1/2 c Parmesan, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil or Italian dressing 
  • Chopped fresh basil for garnish

Putting it together was so easy! 

Chop all your veggies. 

Place your chicken breasts in the middle of your slow cooker. Add your vegetables, salt and pepper, dried herbs and chicken bullion. 

Pour in your chicken broth and water. Set your slow cooker to low and cook for 8 hours. 

At the 7.5 hour mark remove the chicken and shred. Add the shredded meat back into the soup and in a separate pot, cook the tortellini according to the package directions. Meanwhile, add the Parmesan cheese to the soup and give it a good stir. 

After the tortellini is cooked, strain and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil or your favorite Italian dressing for extra flavor.

Ladle the hot soup into your serving bowls and top with tortellini, extra Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. 

My whole family loved it! Especially me! A+

Pigs 2016| their first few days at home…

  
They’re here!!!

It’s funny how things just seem to work out sometimes. Just as I was telling my friends and family that I’m hoarding my last 2lbs of bacon from this past fall (we started with 17lbs), I got the call over the weekend that our piggies were weaned and ready to come home with us! 

Not only was I feeling stingy with the bacon and ham, my husband, James had just reminded me that he was hoping to get the pigs earlier in the season as they will yield a larger pig come November. 

We got last years batch mid to late April.

The stars must have been aligned because we got our pigs exactly when we had hoped we would! 

It’s been a busy month on the homestead. The ground is thawing, the snow is gone. Chores that had been put to a winters rest are awake and smelly and need tending to. 

That might have sounded weird, but I’m not kidding. Have you ever had the task of cleaning the chicken coop after a long winter? 

Chicken poop becomes almost, cement like over time. When it all starts to thaw, it is one smelly, heavy, awful job!! Make sure you wear a mask! Not only because of the stench! That stuff is toxic! 

    
 
We’ve also been hard at work maple sugaring! We are so fortunate on our small three acre homestead to have several mature maple trees! We don’t run a huge operation but we have consistently been blessed with about 40 gallons of sap each year! 

After all is said and done, we have a gallon of dark, rich, New Hampshire maple syrup! 

Plenty to keep for our family and give to our friends and family that help us on boil day! 

    
 
Back to my pigs! This weekend was truly lovely outside. Warm for March in New Hampshire, sunny and beautiful. I got the message that our first 6 piglets were ready mid morning. With Easter being the next day and house full coming for Sunday dinner I wasn’t sure we could take them right away. 

James and I discussed and agreed that housework and cooking could wait. You never want to get last pick when choosing your pigs or any animal. You run the chance of buying runts. That might sound bad, but you need to try and get what you pay for. Especially when people are paying you in the long run. We want the best possible product for our buyers and our family. Livestock can be so unpredictable. With that in mind try and control the things you can. Pick sturdy, healthy looking animals. After that, it’s in fates hands.

Even if you feed them the best grains or produce out there, you never know what could happen when it comes to livestock. We try the best we can… In reality things happen and sometimes you need thick skin on a farm or homestead. 

So game time decision–James and I were off! We cleaned the extra large dog crate and filled it with hay for transport.  

 I went to our local grain store and picked up more hay for bedding, pig and sow grain and checked on our chicken order! 30 more babies coming in two weeks!!

James worked diligently to repair and rerun parts of the electric fence. We opt to keep the piglets in the pen with a wooden barrier and a well marked electric line, labeled with orange tape to hold the pigs in the pen till they learn the electric fence is their true boundary.  

 
When they’re older, we remove those “learner lines” and they are free to roam!

These guys are a bit younger than the pigs we got last April. 7 weeks to be exact. Their mother is an older sow and gave everything she’s got to her babies. It was more healthy for the sow to wean the piglets early and let her regain the weight and nutrients she’s lost in the nursing process.

   

These guys and girl (yup only one girl for now) are seriously so cute!!

So, being the pig mommy that I am, I have to admit I’m a little worried about our falling temperatures outdoors…we may have had a nice weekend but man!!! It is cold and rainy today. 

In general, I know that they have a good sturdy roof over their heads… 3 walls and I covered the main opening with burlap to shield them from rain and wind… 

 
They just lay there all cuddled tight and nesteled in the hay… They’re fine. This is what they do. 

Yet I’m still in the kitchen standing in my raincoat cooking them brown rice for a meal to keep them warm. 

 This post is to reassure any of you out there with livestock to trust your instincts. 

Raising pigs or chickens is not hard. But it will challenge you to trust yourself and trust that nature is simply nature. 

What a rewarding experience this will be! I’m so excited for our round two piggies!!! 

Hopefully they learn that I’m a nice human soon!  

 
Although the piggy conga line is pretty darn cute!

Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf with Mozzerella, Ranch Dipping Sauce

  
Well! my girls are back to laying in full force! 

This photo is just this weeks supply so far!!! 

I get so excited when winter slows down and I notice an egg or two pop up (or should I say, out) each morning. The lull always seems to take too long. 

Hens–especially fully matured hens don’t like to lay eggs during the cold winter months!

It was 72 and sunny yesterday! Crazy warm for a March afternoon in New Hampshire. 

My chickens were so happy about the temps and sang the day away. I like to call it the “the egg making song”.  

 Low and behold, I awoke this morning to a whole coop full of fresh eggs!

I was grateful and of course spoiled them with a delightful lunch of blueberries, lettuce and sweet potato.  

 Being a chicken mother is very important work you know? (I’m such a dork)

Anyway… With all the eggs in our basket, I’ve been trying to incorporate them in as many dishes and treats as I can. 

As much as I like breakfast for dinner, breads and cookies… I got a little sick of the same ol’ routine this week. 

I saw a recipe for meatloaf a few days prior and thought… Meatloaf!! That needs eggs! I’ll make meatloaf. 

Then I thought….more ketchup? Ugh!

More beef and bread? Ugh!

And so I went with something that applies to my fussy palette… Buffalo Chicken!!! 

Mmm one of my favorites!

This meatloaf absolutely has that yummy buffalo sauce flavor but isn’t too spicy. My kids will eat it and love it! I’m sure yours will too. That is… If you have kids?

Anyway! Here we go:

Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf with Mozzerella, Ranch Dipping Sauce|

1 hour + 30 minutes, serves 4-6

  • 1-1.5 lbs of ground chicken
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 c Panko bread crumbs 
  • 3/4 c herbed stuffing mix (I use PF)
  • 3/4 c white cheddar cheese
  • 1 packet of ranch dressing mix, divided–3tbsp and 1tbsp
  • 2tsp Olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped fine
  • 1/2 a sweet onion, chopped fine
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced or grated
  • 4 tbsp buffalo hot sauce, divided–3tbsp and 1tbsp
  • 3 tbsp ketchup 
  • 2/3 c sour cream
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated mozzerella (or bagged if that’s what you have)
  • Salt and pepper

First, let me say that my kids don’t love the idea of blue cheese. The traditional buffalo dipping sauce doesn’t always bode well here.

Hence, the mozzerella ranch. I only add the cheese for texture similar to a blue cheese dressing, however it really just tastes like ranch with an extra kick! 

Mix 3tbsp of the ranch seasoning, with the sour cream and mozzerella. Chill and use when ready.  

 Next- cook your celery and onions over medium heat, in a good glug of olive oil. 

Season with salt and pepper.

Grate in your garlic once the onions are starting to become translucent.  

 Once the garlic is in, only cook for about 30 more seconds. 

In a large bowl… Add your ground chicken, bread crumbs and stuffing, 1tbsp of ranch seasoning, 2 eggs, the cooked veggies, 3tbsp of hot sauce, cheese, salt and pepper. 

 Mix completely and shape into a free form loaf. 

Turn the loaf onto a sheet tray lined with parchment paper and sprayed with non stick cooking spray.  

 
Next, mix your ketchup and the 1 remaining tbsp of hot sauce.

Spread it all over the top of your meatloaf.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes and allow to cool for 5 more minutes when done, before cutting. 

  This meatloaf is so flavorful and has a kick that will satisfy grown up tastebuds and kids alike! 
Here on the homestead, we raise broiler chickens and laying hens. We grow our veggies and bake breads…. This is a perfect example of the many many yard to table meals I prepare for my family! 

Minus the hot sauce!! (I don’t know Franks secret)

Please give this a try! I just know your family will love it!! 

    
 

Homestead Essentials 

 

threeacrehomestead

 
This is our barn. 

The barn that houses so many of the essential tools we need to build our homestead and maintain what we’ve started.
Haste makes waste… This is one of the many lessons my grandfather has taught my husband and I. 

We find ourselves repeating this mantra often on the homestead. With so much to do day in and day out, it would seem easier to take a short cut every once and a while. 

You can’t rush things on a homestead. It’s important to do it right the first time so whatever project you may be working on is sure to last and last and in the end save you time. 

You can’t be hasty on the homestead. Things have a way of coming back to bite you when you rush.

There’s some beauty in that too…The time you take can not only teach you a lesson in patience but will teach you an appreciation for every mundane task you have as well.

For example… I can’t tell you how many times I would wake James up in the middle of the night saying “hunny I forgot to close the chicken coop!!!” 

 
I would rush rush rush to get all of my afternoon chores done so I could cook my family a meal and perhaps enjoy that rewarding glass of wine at the end of my day. 

James got sick of the haste and sick of getting out of bed at midnight to go close the dang coop. Trust me, don’t poke the bear is another manta in this house… He does whatever we need without hesitation but he does it, well…grumpily?

Is grumpily a word? My computer is not auto correcting me so I’m assuming it’s a suitable word here. And certainly is fitting for the bear protecting my hens at midnight. 

So when he finally had enough, he took his time and built this pulley system. 

 Brilliant! With just a few things we had around the stead, he made it so we can easily open and close the coop from inside our barn. 

No more going outdoors at midnight and the pulley is so easy it’s become a natural part of my evening routine. I rarely forget it now! 

There are so many wonderful, essential tools to have on your homestead. I’ve listed just a few of my favorites that have helped us out tremendously and has given us more time to conquer the next chore on the list!

1. The Kindling Cracker 

 This tool has been a life saver for me! 

Although we work to build a self sufficient lifestyle, James still travels quite a bit for his career away from the homestead, leaving me to do much of the farm work by myself. 

Funny enough, I actually bought this as one of his Christmas gifts this past year but it has served me most well because of the ease and safety it provides.

Chopping wood and kindling is not an easy task. We heat the majority of our house with 2 wood stoves. We actually have 4 fireplaces in this old house but I’m pretty sure it would be a full time job to run them all at once! 

The Kindling Cracker is so easy to use and takes the danger out of chopping wood. Check out a demonstration video here, just don’t mind the intense music in the background… Makes me giggle! 
 
2. The 5 Gallon Bucket 

 It may sound simple but having a good supply of 5 gallon buckets on the stead is absolutely essential!

I use them to bring extra water to the pigs and chickens. 

I plant herbs like mint, or other invasive plants, in the buckets to separate them from the rest of the garden.

They are helpful for storing different grains or shells the chickens will need for extra calcium. 

We use them during the slaughter process for any “extra parts” that will need to be taken away and disposed of. 

We use them to carry kindling to the indoor wood box.

They are perfect when the fruit trees are ready to harvest, and even great when collecting sap during maple sugaring season.

I could probably go on but you get the idea…These are a huge must have on any homestead.

3. Zip Ties 

 Anotjer simple yet essential tool.

We use these things more often than you can imagine… They are perfect for holding together a simple garden border to keep foragers away… 

 OR perfect for when a fence or protective netting may fall because of the weather or playful animals having a little too much fun.  

 They really are a smart thing to have on hand!
 
4. Good Boots 
 Proper foot wear may sound like a reach for this list but it is hands down one of my top essentials on any farm or homestead. 

We spend all day on our feet. Whether we are slopping pigs, weeding the garden or cleaning the coop- a bad shoe can ruin your day in an instant. Investing in good boots that will stand up to weather and wear is so important. 

   
5. Mason Jars 

 My ‘all things canning’ post will come at a later date but any homesteader should have a surplus of these jars on hand at all times!

I use them day in and day out. 

Aside from the typical canning process, we use them to store bacon grease, homemade vinegars, soaps, even refrigerator pickles and dilly beans.

They are so versatile and something I use almost everyday! Even all our drinking glasses are old Mason jars that I never bothered to buy new lids for! 

 Stock up! You won’t be sorry! 

 
6. Egg Cartons 

 This is pretty specific to those who raise chickens but I just can’t get enough. 

I never refuse old egg cartons from family and friends, and trust me… I end up using every last one!

If you have laying hens, don’t be scared to ask people to save their empties for you! Just be a good homesteader and give them back a full one to say thank you! 

7. The Food Saver 

 I know this may be a more hefty investment, but it is well worth it! We were able to process a large amount of our own meat and vacuum seal veggies that aren’t always can worthy.

There’s nothing better than fresh summer veggies in the dead of winter!  

 
8. 10 Gallon Drums 

   Similar to the 5 gallon bucket- perfect for grain storage and collecting rain water!

Research getting food safe drums to be sure no harmful chemicals within the drums will get into your feed or water supply. 

9. Food Scale

 
Lastly, and certainly not least is our food scale. This is such an important tool when canning and packaging meat. Even if we aren’t selling our product, it helps us to ration and label all that we preserve. 

It’s much easier to reach into the freezer and quickly read a tag that says 1lb ground venison, or 3lb pork roast, rather than guess the weight and have a recipe that’s too heavy or rather lacking what we should have thawed. 

I would reccomend a food scale to every homesteader out there. It truly eliminates waste and makes for a cleaner and more accurate product. 

So that’s my list of essentials for now! 

Make some of these investments- they will save you time and money in the end….

Mind Your P’s & Q’s

 Pigs and common Questions about raising them|

Believe it or not a couple years back when we first began our homesteading adventures, I would have never dreamt of raising pigs for meat. 

I was scared of their smell. I was scared of slaughtering them. And for whatever reason that scene from Animal Farm always really stuck with me. 

 
Photo credit deviantart.com

As time went on I became pretty decent in the garden. I learned to can a large portion of our harvest and my hens were laying a couple dozen each week. I realized it was time to expand my horizons, and so the discussion began between James and I. What would be a realistic next step? 

Our dreams of raising a dairy cow or two just seemed too large of an undertaking at the time.

James is a hunter and I admit, having a freezer full of venison for the winter, along with our fresh and canned vegetables made for a rewarding season. It seemed that raising our own meat would be the next step toward true homesteading and self sustainability. 

I read and read, and read some more… I mean, I really did my homework people! I had so many questions but when push came to shove we just lept in… Figured it out- and now I can’t imagine a spring that I won’t be raising pigs. 

I can honestly say that it was one the the most rewarding experiences of my life from start to finish. It was emotional at times, but I learned that it should be. Quality of life for any animal is what makes the difference. Whether they be a household pet, or livestock that you raise to feed your family- providing a happy and healthy life will produce a wonderful product, and give you peace of mind and heart. 

Saying goodbye in sacrifice or illness is inevitable on the homestead, and  will always really hit you in the feels. 

But let’s get back to the rewarding part shall we??

I can remember writing down question after question about raising the pigs before we picked them up for the first time. I was a little embarrassed to even ask fellow farmers because I felt like I should already know the answers. WRONG!

You never know everything there is know until you experience it first hand and even then, nature will probably throw a curve ball at you. It’s just natures way. 

So if you’re considering raising pigs to feed your family or sell for profit on your small farm, I’ve compiled a list of commonly asked questions before you get started.

Q: how much space do you need to raise pigs?

A: our entire homestead sits on just three acres and the pigs barely seemed to take up any room at all. Our pigs had a simple 8×4 shelter, equipped with hay for bedding to keep warm, and a 30×60 double fence. I call it a double fence because it really is. The inner fence being an electric fence that is solar powered.  Pigs can be escape artists so it was important to us to run the electric fence first. Two feet around the perimeter of the electric fence, my husband and I built a wooden fence for extra stability and to keep our free range children, chickens and dogs from any shocking encounters.   

  
We only had four pigs this past year and this was more than enough room for them. They will dig up the earth and eat all of the grass and roots. Make sure they have a pasture like this to root up and keep busy.  

 
Q: can you only raise 1 or 2 pigs?

A: two is better. There is a sense of safety in numbers plus having a cuddle buddy will help them to stay warm at night. They love to lay on one another and one little baby alone would be sad to say the least. 

 
Whether they are approaching slaughter weight or still young, they WILL fight over food a bit, however in my experience- if you give them plenty they learn to figure it out on their own.  

 
Q: what is the cost of a piglet?

A: it will vary depending on your location but I would bet $100.00 to $150.00 for a wormed,  35lb piglet is pretty accurate. 

Q: how old will the pig be before it is fully grown and ready for slaughter?

A: pigs are ready for slaughter once they reach the 250 lb  to 275 lb mark. There are different measuring techniques out there for you to research but for us… Our 35 lb babies from April were fully grown and ready by October 25th-November 1st.

Q: what vaccinations will they need?

A: they should come to you wormed and at least have been given an iron shot. It’s important not to introduce too much into their system as it will change the quality of the meat. Pigs are not immune to infections such as pneumonia. If you notice your pig is not interested in their food or seems sleepy and withdrawn they may be sick. In most cases penicillin can be administered to help. Call a veterinarian or a fellow homesteader at first suspicion of illness. 
Q: what should we feed our pigs and how much per day?

A: pigs need a constant supply of water. Make sure you have a system in place that is easy to access so you aren’t hauling buckets of water to them all day, everyday. Pigs love to roll around in water and mud to keep cool and protect from bugs and pests, so havering a watering system is key!!

We fed our pigs all natural pig and sow grain. This will range anywhere from $10.00-$15.00 per 50 lb bag. Go for the good stuff. You are what you eat as they say!

Pigs will eat around 6-8 lbs of grain per day. I got into the habit of splitting it up into two feelings per day. Morning and night. I was also fortunate enough to supplement with old fruit and vegetable scraps from my local grocer. I highly recommend researching your options for this as well. Your pigs will love you! 

 
Speaking of love…

Q: how can I avoid becoming attached to my pigs?

A: you can’t….

These guys and girls will steal your heart.  

   
Try not to name them, that’s my best advice. Give them a good life and take heart, not every pig is so lucky. 

All in all these animals are a delight to raise and they provide a surprising  amount of meat. One 250 lb pig gave us 170 lbs of lovely organic pork for our family. It is well worth the effort…. And the feels.