Friday, May 31, 2013

pig blue butt + our current livestock watering system

In order to prevent infection on the newly castrated hogs, we got what the locals refer to as "blue lotion", and it is definitely blue, almost purple actually. Its actual description is, "a topical stain to be applied to the hides of animals to provide an identifying mark." But apparently, it's the go-to standard for locals to use on freshly open wounds on livestock . Its contents include: crystal violet, tannic acid, benzyl alcohol, glycerine and isopropyl alcohol. I don't know, but the pigs seem to be faring just fine and are very much back to their rambunctious selves so it must be working whatever it is.

On Sunday, we drove to Saltville, Virginia to pick up two 330 gallon IBC totes to use as water holding tanks for the cows, pigs and chickens. They were originally listed on Craig for $75 per tank, so then Jay offered the lady $125 for both over the phone, and then she counter offered with $50 a piece. We weren't really sure what to make of that math, but we took her up on it. They were lovely people with a beautiful homestead deep in some lush green hills a couple hours away from us. Both tanks fit perfectly in 5-Spot, our little 5'x8' utility trailer.

The tanks' previous contents were salt for a potato chip factory in one and a food defoamer in the other. Interestingly enough, I emailed the company labeled on the latter tank on Monday morning (Memorial Day) asking what the tank's original contents were (the previous owners didn't know, and the film on the inside resembled corn starch), thinking they might get back to within a week or so. My hopes were not high that I would really get any response at all. A few hours later, one of their employees emailed me back with a precise description of what the tank was originally used for. He wrote:

"If that is the label on that tote, that material is a Food Grade, Kosher Certified, processing defoamer complying with F&DA CFR 21 173.340. Specific to Food Processing, secondary direct contact defoamer.

I see no reason dis-allowing you to utilize the tote as a water holding vessel for your stated application.

I suggest you rinse the tote, clean it with a mild soap surfactant and rinse, again.

I hope this satisfies your questions? The processing chemical, defoamer PC 9740 is essentially vegetable based oils and suspended silica."

In short, what a nice guy! If I ever need a food defoamer for whatever reason, I'm calling Process Chemical, Inc.

So, what we have going on here in the above pictures is the two tanks at the top of the pasture, a 2.4 hp gas-powered pump halfway down to the spring at the barn entrance (we tried using a 1/3 hp electric pump and had painful results pumping uphill), and hoses going to and from the pump between the tanks and the spring down by the chestnut tree. This same spring fills my BiL's holding tank to his cabin but is overflowing as long as we've been here (ten months now), so we figure that it should provide plenty of water for the livestock year-round. We figure that the two tanks should keep the livestock in plenty of water for at least two weeks once completely filled, so if we go through a dry spell, we will hopefully have plenty of drinking water for them without having to lug buckets from our own spring.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

pig castration

No, I won't regale you with pictures of our poor, little piggies getting their nuts chopped off today, but I will show you the sweet treat we brought them as a consolation dessert (leftover rice, garden greens, and the sauce from tonight's chicken dinner, an old bell pepper, and a shriveled clementine from the kitchen fruit basket).

Jay is a hillbilly through and through, but even he wasn't prepared for and a little disturbed by the procedure that took place today. Essentially, they make two cuts to remove each gonad, which pop out once freed from their protective enclosure. Ewwww!

I wasn't there to help because I had to work, but I was filled in on all the gory details once I returned home. The reason for the castration is to prevent boar taint in their meat. We were a little on the fence about doing this, but since we're rookies, we're trying to take in as much information as possible from the locals about how to raise meat animals. There are some locally accepted things that I just won't do (such as boxing a pig in and depriving it of light, fresh air and green pasture in an effort to fatten it up as much as possible before slaughter), but pig castration is something I'm willing to try because it is a relatively common procedure, and I felt that the animals wouldn't be adversely affected (we castrate our male dogs, after all).

The pigs are a bit worn out, and I'm worried sick about infection, but I'm pretty sure that they will be fine tomorrow, especially if I bring them more delicious leftover goodies to ensure we get back in their good graces.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

state of the garden: may 26, 2013

It's been a lot of fun so far figuring out what has worked so far in our garden. I feel like I've planted practically everything under the sun as this is somewhat of a trial spring/summer garden for us since we've never gardened in this climate before.

(Apologies in advance for bogging down your bandwidth with a multitude of pictures.)

Second lettuce planting. I had originally made seed tapes during winter that were a fail, for the most part
-- the tapes wouldn't stay anchored and the germination was very spotty so this bed was direct seeded instead.

L to R: Bronze Arrow looseleaf, Winter Density butterhead, Forellenschluss romaine,
Schweitzer's Mescher bibb, and Rouge d'Hiver romaine. All these have been thinned as they get more crowded
as well as cut-and-come-agained, which has kept us in daily lettuce pickings for weeks straight.

This is the seed tape lettuce, which looks good now but filled in very slowly
and frustratingly and is a method that I won't repeat.

Ching Chang bok choy on the left and two types of beets on the right: Golden and Chioggia.
I picked 2/3 of the bok choy yesterday to make pesto, so this bed looks a lot more barren now. 

I knew that oilseed radishes were a fall crop, but I had enough on hand to try seeding a spring crop
and see what happens. Plus, this way it chokes out the weeds in this bare spot and makes for an easy experiment.

Tondo Scuro di Piacenza summer squash.

Tennessee Red Valencia peanuts (green) and more Rouge d'Hiver romaine lettuce
(as a weed suppressing companion crop).

Front left: Rossa di Treviso Precoce radicchio; back left: Cour di Bue and Red Acre cabbages; upper right:
Benning's Green Tint Scallop, Gray Zucchini, and Lemon squashes; top left: more radicchio and cabbage.

Left: Michihili cabbage; right: Ebenezer, Stuttgarter, Texas Early Grano
and Whethersfield onions (onion plantings extend way beyond the picture).

L to R: Catskill Long Island Improved Brussels sprouts; Winter Bloomsdale spinach;
De Cicco and Early Purple Sprouting broccolis; Sugar Ann, Little Marvel and Desiree Dwarf Blauwschokkers peas;
more (somewhat) failed seed tape lettuce; and Jacob's Cattle, Snow Cap, Lanco Edamame and Dean's Purple beans.
Note: I mistakenly seeded the Brussels sprouts much too early, but we'll just have to see what happens.

Desiree Dwarf Blauwschokkers pea flowers.

Beans interplanted with another round of lettuces. The idea is to see whether
the lettuces shaded by the beans withstand rising temperatures better than the non-shaded ones.


Highly disappointed in the germination rate of the Red Giant mustard greens,
but maybe it just wasn't warm enough yet for them. 

The saddest looking bed yet, but by mid-summer, this SHOULD be overflowing:
marigolds, nasturtiums, Swiss chard, mustard greens, and cucumbers.
Upper L to R: marigolds and a hodgepodge of flower starts, nasturtiums, Danvers carrots;
Lower row: Chocolate Stripes, Great White, Dad's Sunset, Green Zebra,
and Egg Yolk tomatoes (I had an Eva Purple Ball tomato, but it bit the dust). 

Artichokes, chives, oregano, and more (slug-eaten) beans.

Berry patch: black raspberries and strawberries, with a few volunteer kale,
lettuce and artichoke plants thrown in for good measure.


Nekkie cat.

Blackberries, red raspberries and over-wintered broccoli that flowered but never produced any edibles.

Ornamental grass.

Clyde Dog.

Red Salvia.

That's not all of it, but whew! for today.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

when in doubt, make pesto

I was debating what to do with the rapidly flowering bok choy and turned to my go-to recipe for utilizing a shitload of leafy greens at once. Honestly, it doesn't matter if you're using bok choy, kale, chard, beet greens or whatever, pesto is ALWAYS a winner (and beats the pants off of any stir-fry in my book).

I pulled approximately 1/3 of the bok choy bed and left the remaining plants to finish bolting so that I can save the seeds for next year (I could have pulled more but feared that the remaining, larger plants would be bitter -- they really weren't after I did a taste test). I ended up with 5 cups of bok choy leaves after I removed them from the main stalk and quickly blanched them in boiling water (then submerged them in an ice bath to halt the cooking process). This resulted in 6 cups of pesto after mixing all the following ingredients together. I usually use 1 cup of pesto per 1 pound package of penne pasta.

Recipe rundown:
- 2.5 C. blanched, packed bok choy
- 1 C. grated parmesan cheese
- 3/4 C. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 C. pine nuts
- 1/4 C. apple cider vinegar
- 1 T. chopped, packed fresh garlic
- freshly ground sea salt, to taste

Traditionally, you don't use vinegar in pesto, but I've found that the vinegar helps cut the little bit of bitterness that sometimes comes through when using leafy greens instead of the usual basil. Throw everything together in a food processor. Mix with your favorite pasta cooked al dente. Freeze the rest.

Friday, May 24, 2013

greenery harvest

Bok choy, chinese cabbage, (a handful of) snap peas and lettuce! (The last of which isn't pictured because we've been eating that non-stop for the past two weeks and is old news.) That's what we're harvesting right now, most of which is going into stir-frys. The bok choy and chinese cabbage have started bolting already -- before their estimated maturity even. The chinese cabbage isn't even headed yet, so I'm a bit disappointed that it's flowering already -- I'm thinking that these two crops might need to be reseeded as a fall harvest instead?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

brown cow and black cow

We're told that we won't see these cows' heads for at least a month. The Johnson Grass is taller than the cows themselves and is the first thing they went for. They should also graze on the multiflora rose and other weeds eventually. On our way to pasture renovation!

(In case you're just now joining our adventures, these are the neighbors' cows that we agreed to pasture in our field in exchange for bush hogging and some other trade-offs; namely, that we get to watch and enjoy the sight of cows without having to do any of the work.)

The piggies tentatively watched the unloading, and the puppies barked wildly in confusion from the confines of their run while Clyde was locked up in the house. We're hoping that the dogs don't run straight into the electric fence once they spot the cows during their usual rounds tomorrow morning.

Also, both cows are preggos, so we'll get to have baby cows in about a month! Can you tell I'm excited by the number of exclamation points in this post?!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

battening down the hatches

No, we're not getting flooded, but the temps are rapidly increasing around these parts, and it's important to keep the beasts (aka, dogs and cat) cool and hydrated. As much as I love having a bright and airy home with lots of windows open and breezes flowing through, when it gets hot, closing up the house is the easiest way to keep everyone cool without A/C. We average at least ten degrees cooler inside by closing the windows and drawing the curtains. Then, when the temperature drops after the sun goes down, we open up the house, and all is right with the world.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Sunday is a day of rest, as Clyde and Moosie so elegantly demonstrate.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

the pigs are in the barn, yippee!

Today, we corralled the pigs into the little co-op utility trailer and towed them up to the barn with Polly. They were quite pleased with their new accommodations and immediately started rooting around. They also very quickly learned the boundaries of the electric fence. We watched them for about an hour and enjoyed some cervezas in the meantime.

The chickens were intrigued by all the commotion. Interestingly, chicken feathers are apparently excellent insulators because they don't get shocked -- unless they touch the wire with the un-feathered parts of their heads or their feet.

Then Moosie decided to test the fence and spent the rest of the excursion far, far away from that scary white wire. (We checked on them a few hours later and brought Tally up -- she also quickly learned that wet puppy noses and electric wire do not mix -- yipe!)

Clyde might have a second career as barn dog in addition to porch dog (but has yet to test the wire).