Awwww…..spring on a working ranch. It’s a busy time. Hence my absence from this blog (so sorry!). But I promise I will make it up to you. I have some exciting news!
As I may or may not shared here, I kept one of the gilts (that is a young female pig) that I was going to eat this year. M (the pig) was special from the beginning. First off, she is pretty, she is half red wattle, and half old spot – a wonderful mixture of heritage hog breeds. You guys know how I feel about crossbreeds (hybrid vigor is our friend).
When I got her home she immediately established dominance over the rest of the pigs. She went up to any piglet pen-mates that looked at her funny, and pushed them. She was the head hog after that. Something I respected.
As she grew it became more and more apparent that M was indeed a special hog. She was sweet and gentle to the people that would visit this winter. She always met me at her trough at feeding times. She absolutely loved to be forked, scratched and walked around the ranch. And would often hold conversations with me when we hung out (come on, you’d hang out with your pigs if you had them too).
When I finally started thinking about keeping a sow, my pig expert friends offered advice such as “look for evenly spaced nipples”, “know her mom”, “a good attitude counts”, and “make sure she has at least 14 teats”. M fulfilled all these requirements. I decided to keep her and use her for my foundation sow.
Now this meant I’d either have to get a boar or artificially inseminate (AI) her. I know I’m not ready for a boar yet, and I do have a really awesome, supportive veterinarian! He helped me find some semen and came over and AI’ed M last month. While he was here, he also taught me how to AI a hog. It was easier than I had expected.
Unfortunately M didn’t take last month. I can’t say I am surprised though, it was rather a stressful day, as the pigs next to her had their “appointment”. Just like people, stress doesn’t help with conception rates. However, this month I did it again. I bought York semen from CSU Chico. I am an Agriculture alumni, so I do love to support them, and that is where a lot of my swine knowledge comes from in the first place.
I was able to AI M three different times this heat. I’m so proud of myself that I was able to learn this skill and perform it without fear, all by myself. The last session felt really good, so I have super high hopes! A pig’s gestation time is three months, three weeks and three days and her heat is every 21 days, so I will know soon if I am gonna be a Daddy!
I am enjoying and learning so much from my hog endeavor. It has become a great source of pride and confidence for me. When I started years ago I never really planned on loving it this much and certainly didn’t think that I would ever have a sow or AI! I’m excited to see where this chapter takes me!
Check out these other hog farmers:
Bones are a big deal in my household. They are never thrown away, ever! I use them in broths and soups. They add so much flavor and texture it’d be such a waste not to use them. I feel very strongly about food waste. Somewhere, a farmer or rancher worked hard to raise that food on your plate, it’s an insult to everyone involved to flippantly waste it.
I had a lovely ham bone left over from a ham dinner I had this week. Ham bones are great because there are about 100 delicious soups you can make with them. After much agonizing I decided this bone would be a lovely split pea soup. This is an easy and fairly cheap recipe to make, enjoy!
Ham Bone Split Pea Soup
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 1 large potato, peeled and chopped
- 1 meaty ham bone (Table Mountain Ranch pork is preferred)
- 1 pound split peas
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 quart chicken broth
In a large pot, over medium heat, add bone, broth and peas. If the broth doesn’t cover the bone – add water until the bones is covered by liquid.
Bring to a boil. Meanwhile add onions to a frying pan and saute until translucent. Add smashed garlic and stir to mix. Add onions, potato, and carrots to your pot. Simmer, stirring occasionally for two hours or until the soup is thick and the peas have no form left. Mix in thyme. Remove bone (you might have to pick some meat off it), any unsavory meat pieces and bay leaves before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you have leftovers you migghhhtt need to add a whisper more water when reheating because this soup does have a tendency to thicken.
I don’t watch much TV. I especially don’t watch reality TV. My reality is enough for me! However, it has come to my attention that a popular reality TV dating show is featuring a farmer. I know this because I have seen multiple blog posts about what it is to date or marry a farmer. This is great, most of us need all the dating advice we can get. But it’s been just a whisper one-sided. Where are the blog posts about what it is like to date or marry a woman farmer or rancher? Since I am a woman rancher and I usually date non-farmers or ranchers, this is a topic I am especially familiar with, so I give you my list of advice.
1. Don’t be intimidated by us. Yes, we have an unique skill set, work ethic and a can-do attitude that can be daunting but there is nothing sexy about a man who is scared or threatened by a woman who is self-sufficient.
2. Working in agriculture is often a dirty, bloody, dusty, muddy, smelly job. Sometimes we like to be pretty and knock the poo off, take us out occasionally so we can wear our town boots and smell nice. Of course not during planting, harvest, calving or shipping season though.
3. We can castrate with our teeth. Enough said.
4. Our prefered topics of conversation will make you uncomfortable or grossed out for a while. Don’t worry, you’ll get used it and eventually like it. Example dinner topic at my house: “did you see that abscess on that cow finally popped?!? What was the scrotal circumference on the new bull?’
5. Don’t “little lady” us on our ranch. By that I mean don’t treat us any differently than you a man doing our job. Not only is it incredibly insulting, it can get someone hurt. We know our job and how to safely do it. You do not.
6. We cuss like well-educated sailors. It’s a result of being “little ladied”. For example, if it comes between dropping an “F” bomb to get your attention, or watching you get mucked-out by a mad mama cow because you were trying to do my job, I’ll let loose a string of expletives that would make a trucker blush.
7. The farm and animals will always come first. Often, our ranch is the work of generations of our family’s blood, sweat and tears – we know this is a legacy that we cannot lose. Respect that, even offer to lend a hand (even if you just bring us dinner to the tractor or field). Bonus points if it’s during our busy season.
8. Sometimes we won’t be able to take that romantic getaway or attend that wedding with you or even go on that date, our schedules are not like our non-farming counterparts. The animals don’t care if you have plans and the harvest can’t wait. Give us lots of notice for events and forgive us if we cancel on you – our whole season’s work might be in jeopardy.
9. A clean house may not always be our top priority, but we can cook better than your Mom, probably your Grandma too. And, extra bonus? Our deep freezers often contain more beef, pork, lamb and wild game than you ever imagined!
10. We can hunt and fish. And own excellent places to do that. We also clean and gut our own game, yours too, if you compliment us enough.
11. We are damn handy to have around. Most of us possess a plethora of skills honed over our lifetime of manual labor on the ranch. Need some welding done? Maybe some plumbing? Have some heavy equipment you need operated? Maybe your pet needs some vaccinations? Let us know, we’ll take care of it.
12. We are confident and fearless. We rarely take shit from anyone. If you make us mad, you will know about it. We work with animals and equipment that are much larger than you and not as reasonable, everyday, all day.
13. We can breed, plant, assist with birth, raise, harvest and slaughter our own food. We are connected to agriculture in almost a spiritual way. If you spend any amount of time with us, you will learn more about agriculture than you ever thought possible and start to love it as much as us.
14. If you love us, you will love our life. It just comes with the territory. Farming and ranching is not always easy, pretty, fun or comfortable, but it is one of the most rewarding ways of life ever. If you are lucky enough to date a farmher or rancher, told on tight, we are worth it.
Don’t believe me? Here is some more advice!
One of the many benefits of living in California is the citrus!!!! Because of this I have a collections of dwarf citrus trees in my front yard. I have several Meyer lemon trees because they are my favorite. Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and mandarin or orange. They are sweeter than your average lemon and have a thinner skin. One of my favorite things to do with these lemons is make lemonade.
6 to 7 Meyer lemons (about one cup of juice, although I prefer one cup running over)
3/4 cup vanilla sugar*
5 cups water, divided
Bring one cup of water and sugar to a boil to make a simple syrup. Remove from heat and cool. Squeeze lemons, making sure to remove the seeds.
Add cooled simple syrup, lemon juice, and water into a pitcher and mix well. Serve over ice and with a lemon slice.
*Vanilla sugar is just sugar that I keep in a jar with a few gutted vanilla beans. It’s lovely for pastries, drinks and baked goods. It has a slight vanilla flavor that really compliments most things. You could add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the lemonade if you are using plain sugar. But I highly recommend getting a jar of vanilla sugar going for your pantry.
I thought this would be an appropriate time to post a picture of some my Dad’s family. This is a rare picture that has lots of information on the back. The top says “Little Brown’s Dec. 1956″ then a list of names and birth dates. I know by the background is was taken in the Family house on Stampfli Lane.
From left to right:
James E. (Jim)
Fletcher L. (Larry)
It’s also noted on the picture that “ALL have BLUE eyes”. It’s funny because the Brown family blue eyes are totally a thing. I have them, my Dad obviously has them, my Grandfather had them as well, but past that point I don’t know. All the pictures past my Grandfather are in black and white.
I think it is worth noting my Dad is the last surviving Brown brother.