Monday, September 1, 2014

Crazy Ideas

I spend so much of my time cooped up these days.

As much as I love being able to stay home with my little boy, my mind definitely craves stimulation from time to time. So while Ian sleeps or nurses or plays nearby, I spend my time hatching crazy ideas.

At my parents' farm there is a pond up on a hill. Well, it WAS a pond, that is.

This sounds like the beginning of a book. [and indeed it may be...]

When I moved to that place with my family at 19 years old, the pond held water. However, it was full of algae and sludge. So I had the poorly-researched idea to toss in some crayfish to eat up the particulates. Not sure what I was thinking.  Needless to say they were NOT impressed with their new location, and made deep burrows in the pond be to escape the shallow water. Now this is just a theory, but I believe they were responsible for breaking the seal. Because it wasn't long after that that the pond stopped holding water.

Regardless of whether those uncooperative arthropods were responsible, the pond still, to this day, does not hold water, and has become overgrown with grass and sedges.

I read a blip, I believe, in one of Joel Salatin's books about using pigs to seal a pond. Their instinctive wallowing behavior is great for wrecking or building the environment. It's just a matter of harnessing it. So that got my wheels turning.

I'm a big believer in outlines. It's one of the easiest ways for me to string my thoughts into a coherent form.

While this has been attempted before, there is VERY little information out there. So this is what I've come up with so far.....


PRIMARY GOAL: To seal the pond up on the hill for use as water storage, gravity fed water harvest, and to create a wetland habitat.

SECONDARY GOALS: To grow out two pigs for pork – one for the freezer and one for profit.


Step One: To grade roadway so area can be accessed by vehicle.

        Vehicle access will be necessary to prepare pond for sealing, set up pig habitat, and for daily care of the pigs. This can be accomplished by backhoe.

Step Two: Set up pig habitat.

        Fencing is of great importance for protection of the pigs from predators, and to keep them from escaping. Our fencing options are:

·        Portable electric netting
o   Pros:
§  Simple installation
§  Can easily be taken down to be set aside for other uses (poultry, sheep, goats etc.)
§  Pigs can be trained to respect their boundries
o   Cons:
§  If the electricity fails, the pigs could escape easily
·        T-posts with electric wire
o   Pros:
§  Posts could be left behind for future use to fencing livestock out of pond
o   Cons:
§  Stringing individual wires would be more costly* and time consuming
§  Would afford very little protection from escape or predators when off
·        Permanent posts, stock panels, and one strand of wire
o   Pros:
§  Would afford more protection from predators and escape if power was off
o   Cons:
§  More costly & time consuming to build


        Shelter could be made very simply and inexpensively.


·        Pallet shelter:

o   Pros:
§  Minimal cost with readily available materials
§  Sturdy
o   Cons:
§  Would be very heavy and difficult to move
·        Stock panel ark - constructed from stock panels, tarp, and wooden skids

o   Pros:
§  Simple construction
§  Light and easy to move
§  Could have many other uses: poultry run, garden arbor, sheep shelter
o   Cons:
§  Not as sturdy
§  Would need to be anchored down to protect in high winds
§  More costly to build

FEEDER can be a rubber pan or homemade trough. A trough may work a little better to keep the pigs’ feet out of their food, and higher sides will be useful for feeding things with a higher water content.

        The simplest option would be a large rubber pan. However this would quickly get upturned by the pigs, leaving them without clean water to drink. A better system would be a large secured bucket or barrel with a valve.

STEP THREE: Acquire the pigs.

        The breed selected won’t be of great importance, but light-skinned breeds may not do well in the area, since it is in full sun.

        A heritage breed or cross would have a stronger foraging instinct, and a better overall flavor.

        The larger the better, as they will be able to cover more ground. Larger breeds may be a little more difficult to handle and process.

        The age at purchase will depend on availability and price. Younger pigs will be less expensive, but will be more delicate. Older pigs will be hardier but more expensive. Younger pigs will need to be started in a more sheltered area close to the house before moved on range.

STEP FOUR: Grow them out to free range size.

        This step will depend on the age at purchase. It may be wise to set up a temporary shelter with the electric netting to monitor them more closely for a week or two. Mainly to make sure they have learned to respect the electric fence, and to iron out any problems.

STEP FIVE: Move them to the pond.

STEP SIX: Daily care and maintenance.

        Pigs will need to be fed and watered at least once daily, and possibly checked on twice per day.

        Diet: The base of the diet can either be an organic pig grower ration, sprouted barely fodder, or fermented grain. The rest of the diet can be composed of kitchen and garden scraps.

        Wallow: This is the most important aspect of their daily care, aside from food and water. The pond bed will need to be hosed down daily to encourage wallowing behavior. This would probably best be accomplished in sections, so they can more concentrate their efforts. Large barrels with hoses would be the best way to haul water to the pond.

STEP SIX: Harvest pigs!

        If we decide that there are enough of us to eat two pigs, we could process both.

        It would be simpler to take them to a processor, but of course this would cost more. Besides the fact that it would be less humane for the pigs, after all the work of raising them organically.

        We have the tools to process them ourselves, but that may be a bit too much work for two pigs, especially considering it would be our first attempt. We may end up just selling one of them as “meat on the hoof,” preferably to a fellow homesteader.

This is still a work in progress, but I think it could work.

All I've managed to find is that it really takes more than just two pigs, even for a small pond. But perhaps I could use a mini-scale intensive rotation around the pond bed, to help concentrate their efforts.

This project would really necessitate us living at the farm. (Or next door, if that situation still works out. Still waiting to hear back from the home owners.)

Things like this are a way to keep me busy. And really, just to keep me sane.

Brought to you by Crap Shoot Photography............[see previous post]

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