Tag Archives: pork

My Hog Scholarship: The First One

It’s true what they say, ‘it takes a village to raise a child”. Growing up, I was surrounded by people who helped me build my knowledge and skill set. However, I did not realize it at the time. When my Grandpa Brown gave me my first bucket calf, I had no idea that would be the start of my ranching legacy. When my Grandpa Halsey would take me out to his garden and spend time with me, I had no idea it would foster a lifelong passion for growing plants. When my Mom chauffeured me to endless 4-H community and project meetings, I had no idea I would end up as the AgHag.

Papa and me spending time in his garden. One of my fondest memories.

Papa and me spending time in his garden. One of my fondest memories.

While I was busy as a child learning from my elders and putting that knowledge to use in 4-H and on the ranch, my Mom was busy investing my 4-H and bucket calf checks in a savings account. By the time I was 18, due to family and friends supporting me, I not only had a good foundation to the education I was going to receive in college, I could pay for it without struggling.
The ability to not worry about finances while attending university was a massive gift. I was able to focus on learning, I was able to join clubs that furthered my education and network, I was able to make friends and have the blissful experience of being a college kid. This molded me into who and what I am now. My world and my point of view was altered for the better and greater good.

This hog helped me pay for college.

This hog helped me pay for college.

When I think about my youth and young adulthood, I realize how lucky and privileged I was to grow up in this world surrounded by the people I did. Sadly, most of the “old timers” have died. But they left a legacy. In me. It’s now my turn to offer that same support to the children in my world. It’s what they showed me to do.
That’s why I am excited to have a couple little “programs” here on the ranch that help me corrupt the next generation, just like I was. I’ve worked hard to expand and improve my hog operation since Adult 4-H days, and I am now at the point where I can afford to give a few piglets away to kids to raise, donate finished pork to local non-profits and generally do Good Things. This makes me about 100 kinds of happy and makes me feel like my hard work is paying off.

Very new Ian meeting his piglet!

Very new Ian meeting his piglet! He was totally helping me out this day!

I have just completed my first round of the “scholarship program” with my hogs and Baby Ian. Ian and this litter of pigs were born on the same day, his Parents have also supported my meat business for years, so it was totally meant to be that Ian was the first of my friend’s kids to do this.
When Ian was born I gave him a piglet to “raise”. The deal was, he’d pay for his pig’s feed and when it was time for the hog to be slaughtered his Parents would “buy” the pig from him to eat. That money is to be put into an account for college or trade school. I figure I’m killing two birds with one stone, I expose kids to agriculture very young and they get a little seed money for their future. It’s a win/win.

Ian enjoying a first taste of his pork. Kid, I'm pretty sure I make that same face.

Ian enjoying a first taste of his pork. Kid, I’m pretty sure I make that same face.

This situation worked out perfectly. Ian got his meat back just as he started solid foods! So he is able to eat his own pork he helped raise. This program was so fun to do I cannot wait for my next litter! As of right now I have scholarship recipients for the next couple of litters. If I have anything to do with it, in about 18 years we are going to have several new ag majors joining our ranks!

This brings me so much joy right here.

This brings me so much joy right here.

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Wordless Wednesday: Zucchini is Good 

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UMAi Dry – Lomo Part I

One of the perks of having a blog is sometimes companies contact you to review a product. I’m pretty picky about what products I’ll review, it generally has to fit into the wine, meat or boots categories. Back in May I was contacted by the UMAi Dry company. I had never heard of them before, but once I lurked them a whisper, I got super excited. This was right up my alley.

My UMAi charcuterie kit.

My UMAi charcuterie kit.

You see, ever since I’ve gotten into heritage pork, I’ve developed an intense interest in charcuterie. I really want to make some superior pork products. You know, like super fancy iberian ham that I can’t afford. But I have a healthy fear of listeria and other food born illnesses. That’s why I’ve been rather hesitant to dip my toes into the cured meat party.

My loin before and after the cure was applied.

My loin before and after the cure was applied.

UMAi Dry sent me a kit with everything I needed (except the meat) to make my own charcuterie. I started with Lomo because it took the least amount of time to cure. I figured I would work my way up to prosciutto and bresaola as my confidence grew.

My cure mixture.

My cure mixture.

I was able to watch some videos before I actually started the curing process. Their website had plenty of resources. Which made me feel pretty confident about what I was about to do and definitely took much of my hesitation about this away. I went to my local butcher shop, and bought my pork loin. Next time I will use my own pork, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t screw this up before I do that.

After my loin cured for two weeks and then in it's coat of paprika.

After my loin cured for two weeks and then in it’s coat of paprika.

Once the pork was purchased, it was as easy as mixing all the ingredients together, rubbing it on the meat and leaving it alone. No intense math, no fancy equipment I can’t afford, nothing scary at all! To quote the great Tom Petty “the waiting is the hardest part.”

My Lomo in the special curing bag included in the kit.

My Lomo in the special curing bag included in the kit.

In three weeks my Lomo will be done. I’m already planning the wine and cheese-board that will accompany my cured pork product. In the meantime I’m going to start my prosciutto and bresaola! I’ll keep you all updated on how things go!

My Lomo resting in my refrigerator for four weeks.

My Lomo resting in my refrigerator for four weeks.

I’ve had fun with this kit. I’ve already learned a lot about charcuterie, and can’t wait to get more involved. This kit is perfect for someone like me, someone that has an intense interest in cured meats, but is just a little too timid to jump right in. My next blog will cover the taste of my lomo and my full review of this UMAi Dry product.

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Artificial Insemination: The Swine Version

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).

M as a piglet last Fall

M as a piglet last Fall

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).

She is population with visitors!

She is popular with visitors!

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.

AI'ing is pretty simple, actually.

AI’ing is pretty simple, actually.

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.

She loves hog walks!

She loves hog walks!

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!

Yes, the pipette used looks like a pig penis. And yes I did laugh like a 12 year old boy when I saw that.

Yes, the pipette used looks like a pig penis. And yes I did laugh like a 12 year old boy when I saw that.

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!

We were having a chat.

We were having a chat.

Check out these other hog farmers:

The Foodie Farmer: Pigs of Different Colors 

3 Kids and lots of pigs: Farmer Fridays – It can be a stressful time for the momma 

ChrisChinn: There is No Health Insurance for Pigs 

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Recipe: Ham Bone Split Pea Soup

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.

So good on a rainy day!

So good on a rainy day!

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
  • water
Yum......ham bone!

Yum……ham bone!

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.

I love how this soup changes from brothy to thick!

I love how this soup changes from brothy to thick!

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.

 

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I’ve Gone Hog Wild

My dream of being a real pig farmer is slowly coming true. Tomorrow I get to pick up my second load of hogs to finish, for a grand total of 18. As many of my longtime readers know, raising hogs has been quite the journey.

My new pig pen is two pens like this.

My new pig pen is two pens like this.

I had to ease my Parents into the idea of raising hogs again. I did it as a child in 4-H for many, many years. I was too petite to raise steer, I wouldn’t be caught dead with a lamb or goat, so hogs it was! I have many fond memories of raising and showing my hogs and the sense of pride I had providing meat for my family, still makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

I built these pens by throwing brunch! I invited my friends to come build fence as I plied them with booze. If you look on the right you'll notice our measuring is just a WHISPER off after brunch. LOL

I built these pens by throwing brunch! I invited my friends to come build fence as I plied them with booze. If you look on the right you’ll notice our measuring is just a WHISPER off after brunch. LOL

As a child, my Dad raised hogs. Back then, the ranch was more of a farm, complete with dairy cows and grain crops. The leftover milk from the dairy would be combined with the grain from the fields for the hog feed. My Dad swears the pork was different back then, and I believed him. I knew the key to raising hogs again would be producing a pork product that was like Dad remembered.

See the deer in the pipe? Know what else these old, junked pipes would be good for? Yep! A pig house!

See the deer in the pipe? Know what else these old, junked pipes would be good for? Yep! A pig house!

I knew that if I raised heritage hogs, and tweaked their diet just a whisper, I could create some pork like my Dad remembered. I managed to convince my Parents into letting me get a couple heritage hogs, just to see. Well, that turned into five hogs and Adult 4-H. And that turned into me quitting my full-time job in town and ten hogs. Now we are here.

Heritage red wattle hogs eating cookies out of the new feeder my family built.

Heritage red wattle hogs eating cookies out of the new feeder my family built.

When I started pestering my Parents about getting hogs again, I never thought I would get to where I am now and where I am thinking of going. I didn’t plan on enjoying hogs so much. I didn’t plan on the meat being so very different and very good. I have quickly accepted the fact that there is no going back now, I like pigs too much!

Yes, I stole the rats with horn's house to make an upcycled pig house! Ingenious and 'sustainable'.

Yes, I stole the rats with horn’s house to make an upcycled pig house! Ingenious and ‘sustainable’.

Since I have doubled in size every year (and don’t plan on stopping!), I needed a new pig pen. The old pen I was using was older than I am by several decades and was not doing a good job of keeping the pigs where they needed to be. This caused several problems when the pigs ate my Dad’s cable to his TV, and my Mom’s flower bed. However, moving my pen meant drilling a well since I did not have a dependable water source and that was just not something I could afford. But then something magical happened. 

In an effort to be 'sustainable' this pig feeder is made out of old boards from out barn that blew down!

In an effort to be ‘sustainable’ we made this pig feeder out of old boards from our barn that blew down!

The most important thing to me, as I grow, is to be “sustainable”. Yes, I know that is an ag buzz word, but for, me it means doing this project in a way that meets my needs the best way it can. It means, not getting a loan from the bank (I learned from my student loan!), it means recycling materials when I can (but not super old materials that break all the time, so I waste all my time fixing them), it means doing things just a whisper different (outside the box is good!).

Part of thinking outside the box is getting free labor from my friend's kids.

Part of thinking outside the box is getting free labor from my friend’s kids (Just kidding, kinda!).

I am so excited to have this opportunity to do my own thing. I love working and being with the cattle, but I love having some independence on the ranch. My Mom made sure to instill in me growing up two “rules”: 1) always have financial independence and 2) develop as many marketable skills as you can. I feel like my pig operation is fulfilling both those “rules” and providing food for my family and friends – it feels so good!

If you get a moment please check out these awesome “real pig farmers”. Remember every farmer does what they think is best for their land and pigs. I urge you to ask them questions – the why’s and how’s are so important!

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Wordless Wednesday: Oh Hey

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Happy as a Pig in….

MUD! What did you think I was gonna say?!

MUD! What did you think I was gonna say?!

It’s been a long time since I’ve done an update about the hogs. People are asking me about them and how they are doing. I am biased but I think they are doing really well. You remember that this year I doubled my hog herd – from 5 red wattles, to 8 red wattle and 2 hampshire hogs. I got the two hamp hogs as an experiment. I want to compare how a commercial hog and a heritage hog taste when they’ve been fed the same diet. But that is for another blog….

The most interesting pig in the world, sharks have a week dedicated to him.

The most interesting pig in the world, sharks have a week dedicated to him.

Let’s start with their diet. I cook all their food. I fire up my fire ring in my front yard, gather my ingredients and proceed to make hog slop that I have a had time NOT eating. Let me explain – I learned a lot from last year’s pigs. I learned that, just like my beef, what I feed them does influence the meat’s flavor. Remember that scene in Napoleon Dynamite where Napoleon drinks the milk at the FFA judging day and says “this tastes like the cow got into an onion patch,” well that’s true with meat too.

Pumpkins, almond parts, cookies, and rolled barely/corn.

Pumpkins, almond parts, cookies, and rolled barely/corn.

I feel like this year I’ve really dialed in my pig rations. The pigs love their food and scream and oink at me when they know I am cooking for them. This year, in addition to the corn/barley, pumpkins and organic almonds, I added day old cookies from The Cookie Shoppe!! The cookies make the cooking slop smell like baking cookings and it is glorious, hence the problem I’ve been having with wanting to eat the pig’s slop (I haven’t, yet).

My supplement "cooking" pot for the pigs.

My supplement “cooking” pot for the pigs.

The pigs are eating so much now, I usually cook twice a week. I’ve slowly been increasing the amount of almond meal they are getting. You see nut finished pork is a thing of beauty. When I introduced the almonds into their slop, I could literally SEE them growing.

10 pigs fighting for trough time. I would be lying if I didn't say, it is terrifying.

10 pigs fighting for trough time. I would be lying if I didn’t say, it is terrifying.

Having 10 pigs has been a learning experience for me, it’s also been a tremendous amount of work. There is no way that I would have been able to raise these pigs if I would have had a job in town. I spend hours everyday caring for these hogs. Granted, I could be more efficient, by not cooking slop, using an automatic feeder, and using a commercial breed that would grow faster. But, it’s not about that for me. After a lifetime of raising our own meat, I’m a spoiled rotten meat snob. I want to grow and eat a product that no one else can. Simply, I want the best. Honestly, if you were in my position you’d feel the same way.

This is my favorite pig. He just looks happy.

This is my favorite pig. He just looks happy.

The pigs are so big now, they are starting to get scary. I have to be careful when I feed them to keep my hands out of their way. They get into a frenzy when it’s mealtime and they could care less if they are biting a pumpkin piece of biting off one of my fingers. Out of all the animals of the ranch, the pigs scare me. They are omnivores, and I have heard enough horror stories about pigs eating people to know this is serious business (also friends, remember when your baby daughter start dating, remind the date that your daughter’s Aunt Meg has pigs and to mind their manners).

We cleaned a barn out, the pigs got the old hay, and they thought they died and went to pig heaven.

We cleaned a barn out, the pigs got the old hay, and they thought they died and went to pig heaven.

A lot of 'pig of the mountain' was played.

A lot of ‘pig of the mountain’ was played.

I have been deeply pleased with the attention my pigs have been getting. More people are becoming aware of the difference between heritage and commercial hogs and the demand is increasing. In fact, my “List” for pigs surpassed the amount of pigs I got before I even got the piglets home. That definitely offset the anxiety I had investing almost all of my cash into my pork futures. I am a firm believer that you get what you pay for when it comes to livestock, and paying extra for heritage, healthy, female-farmer raised piglets was worth the money for me.

Have I mentioned how much they love hay? I have to replace their bedding hay often because they eat it! It probably doesn't help that I use Dad's meadow hay instead of straw!

Have I mentioned how much they love hay? I have to replace their bedding hay often because they eat it! It probably doesn’t help that I use Dad’s meadow hay instead of straw!

The pigs have it good, a custom diet, a mountain of hay to play in, and lots of space to have pig races. I’m getting ready to make the appointment for the two hamp hogs, they are almost finished. The red wattle hogs still have at least a month before they are bacon. Until then, it is good to be one of my pigs!

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Funeral Sandwiches

My Mom made me these sandwiches this past summer to take with me to the summer ranch. You see, my Dad is notorious for making us work all day, by his side, then when it comes to dinner, he expects us to cook it for everyone.  My Mom did her best to mitigate this for me by sending casseroles, sandwiches and other lovely and delicious pre-cooked food so I wouldn’t flip out when my Dad expected me to cook for the camp after doing the same work he did.

I LOVE King's products!  I'm sorry this is a crap picture! But it's all I had!

I LOVE King’s products! I’m sorry this is a crap picture! But it’s all I had!

This is one of the recipes I asked her to make again and again, because it was really easy and sooooooo gooooood. She assembled everything for me, I took it with me to the summer ranch, and popped it in the oven when we got hungry.

For the sauce.

For the sauce.

Funeral Sandwiches

1 package of Kings Hawaiian rolls
1 lb deli ham (thin sliced)
1 lb havarti cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Dash of onion soup mix

It already looks good!!

It already looks good!!

Slice the rolls in half, place in a 9x 13 dish. Fold the ham and cheese and place on top of your sliced rolls. Cover with the top half of your rolls.

MMMMMmmmm....sauce.

MMMMMmmmm….sauce.

Mix the sugar, butter, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and soup mix together until smooth. Cover your sandwiches with that awesome sauce.

It's hard not to eat one now.

It’s hard not to eat one now.

Cover tightly, refrigerate, and let marinade anywhere from 4-24 hours.

Sweet, sweet, cheesy, meaty, saucey goodness.

Sweet, sweet, cheesy, meaty, saucey goodness.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until they are crispy and melty to your liking. Enjoy!
P.S. You can also use turkey and swiss, beef and cheddar, I mean, go crazy!

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Wordless Wednesday: Oink

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