I guess I can’t really say that these are our first homestead animals, because we’ve had the bees all summer! Which by the way, the bees produced so much more than I expected them to! We weren’t sure if they would be established enough to have enough honey to get them through the winter, and give us some as well. But we got around 4 pounds, and I am THRILLED!
If you don’t count the bees, our first homestead animals are PIGS! I am SO excited to have our own pigs. This past spring, we butchered 5 pigs at Chris’s parents house, and I knew I never wanted to go back to store bought pork. It feels wonderful to know exactly what’s in our pork! No sugar or nasty chemicals or preservatives.
This past year, we’ve really been digging deep and trying to figure out the best animal options for our property. We’re both very invested in learning more about permaculture, which is a step further than regenerative agriculture. We still want to move our animals in a pattern that gives them fresh grass and allows for healthy regrowth, but we’re also trying to be very considerate of what types of trees we’re planting, how they affect the animals, what’s best for them, and a lot more.
There is so much involved with permaculture… one of the important aspects being PLANNING. Chris is much more knowledgable about this topic than I am, but every day I learn more from him and the books we read! We want to make wise choices, including which animals we purchase, and not get animals willy-nilly, just because they’re fun or cute! Of course, I’m talking about myself here, Chris is rarely drawn in by cute and cuddly animals 😂
For example, I am just dying to have a Jersey cow. I would love to have a milk cow, and Jersey’s are just so beautiful. Currently, we are part of a herd share (with Creambrook Farm) where we get fresh raw milk on a weekly basis. We’re so thankful for this service, but of course we look forward to the day we can provide all our own food!
As much as I would love to own a Jersey, at this point it’s not a wise choice for us. When we have cows, we will only feed them grass (and supplement with hay in the winter when needed). But on our two acres (with around 1 acres usable for a cow… the rest is taken up by the house, barn, garden, driveway, pond, and front yard!), we just don’t have enough grass to sustain a cow. Of course, that makes me a little sad, but it’s just the way it is! Someday we hope to have hundreds of acres, but that’s not today, so we have to plan around what we have!
So instead of cows, we’re hoping to get sheep! This will allow us to have lots of milk! Apparently, sheep milk is very similar to cow milk, just with a different texture. If we absolutely hate it, it still makes AMAZING artisan cheese, and I’m so excited to learn more about that!
Of course, chickens are in the plan also! We actually were planning to get chickens this past spring, but ended up almost purchasing over 20 acres of land and decided to hold off! The Lord made it clear to us that we were not supposed to purchase the land, and we both feel complete peace about it. We are very happy at our current house, even if we can’t have cows yet 😉
Purely because of the time of year, we ended up with the piglets first! If we’re not able to get chickens soon, next spring almost definitely we’ll have them! In some ways it would be very nice to get chickens now-ish, because it would give the hens a few months to adjust and begin producing eggs in the spring. If we wait, it’ll probably be late summer before I’m able to get any eggs from them! But that’s fine too, I’m learning all about patience this year ☺️
So NOW we’re getting to the pigs! We knew that we’d be able to sustain some pigs on our property, and we knew that we wanted to raise our own pork. So it was a no-brainer! It may seem a little crazy to start off with pigs, but so far it’s been wonderful! Even though they escaped the day after we brought them home 😉
We were deciding between American Guinea Hogs and Kunekunes (pronounced coon-ee coon-ee). They are very similar to each other, both being great for a homestead, and staying fairly small (around 300 pounds). We don’t need a couple 1000-pound-pigs running around the farm!! While both breeds are known for not rooting and making holes in the grass as much as other breeds, the Kunekune pigs have a short, upturned nose, which make them the better choice of the two if you’re afraid they’re going to tear up your yard.
We ended up purchasing three female American Guinea Hogs from a local farm, Cyrus Ridge Farm. In the future, we plan to try Kunekune pigs also, and see what works best for our family! The AGHs are all black, and the Kunekune has a variety of different colors. We were okay with either breed, but decided on the AGHs because it worked out perfectly that way! We’d been following Cyrus Ridge Farm on Instagram for a couple months, and when they posted about having three females left for sale, at a very reasonable price, we knew it was something we should jump on!
Pigs are not able to eat only grass (I believe their diet is 45% grass, but don’t quote me on that!), so we will be supplementing with local non-GMO soy free feed. If an animal needs to be fed feed, which pigs do, we feel confident that that is the best option we can give them!
Right now, we’re keeping the pigs in the barn for a couple reasons. First, it’s pretty chilly outside! Pigs can handle relatively cold temperatures, but when it dips down extra cold here, they need to be in the barn to stay warm. And second, they’re so small they can escape the hog pen!
The hog pen panels have smaller squares at the bottom, and they gradually get bigger until they reach the top. The day after we brought them home, we put them in the hog pen to eat some fresh grass and run around. As a side note, they seemed to really dislike it! They were raised on grass, so we know it’s not that they hated the grass itself. But they were running around and squealing like crazy! We think that they were happy in the barn on the wood chips because it was different to them, but once they got on the grass again, it was familiar and they were looking for their mama.
Chris and I went inside for about 15 minutes to work on the plumbing (it was a crazy week… we didn’t have working toilets for 3 days and had to sleep at my parents house!), and when I came out to check on the piglets, I saw that two had escaped! We spent the next half hour chasing them around (the first one was caught very easily, but the second one was VERY slippery 😂), but thankfully they stayed close to their sister who was left in the pen and didn’t run far at all.
We’re not 100% sure how they got out, but we have two theories… Since there was only one left in the pen, it’s possible that one would bite the fence and lift it up enough for the others to escape 😂 Or, they jumped out of one of the larger squares at the top of the hog fence. Chris had placed two cinderblocks inside and outside of the fence, since it was too tall for me to step over. The piggies may have hopped up on the cinderblock and been able to jump out! That was definitely my mistake, I shouldn’t have left that in there!
So we’re not entirely sure how the escape artists managed it, but for right now we’re letting them hang out in the barn. And they love it! We bring them fresh grass daily, and they get treats of acorns, clover, and squash + pumpkins from the garden! Surprisingly, they don’t like tomatoes. Which is a shame, because I have LOADS of them that I’d like them to eat 😂
Otherwise, they are great little garbage disposals! They take my potato peels, old soup, and other kitchen scraps and turn it into bacon. It’s definitely going to be difficult for me come butcher day. But I know that with homesteading, you have to deeply love and care for your animals, while also keeping in mind that some of them are food for your family. I’m not saying it’ll be easy, because I know it won’t be. I’m going to cry, a LOT. But wow, what an amazing thing that I can be appreciative of.
On to a brighter subject… are you dying to hear their names?? Many of you follow me on Instagram, which is a WAY better way to see our journey, so you’ll already know their names. I’m a horrible blogger now, but I can do Instagram! 😄 Part of the reason is that we don’t have internet at the house, so it just takes so much more time to create a blog post. But I can be thankful for that too, because it allows me more time for other things!
The first one we named is Little Debbie. She’s a tenacious little booger! We think she was the second piggy we were chasing around the barn for so long 😄 From there, I can’t remember which one came next, but we have Snickers and Honey Bun! Snickers is a sweetie who loves having her back and belly scratched, and Honey Bun is my FAVORITE. She’s the smallest, and loves me the most ☺️
They make the cutest little noises, especially when they’re eating clover. If you haven’t heard it, you have to watch my Instagram story highlight here!
This turned into a very long blog post, but I’m just excited about all the possibilities for our homestead! I hope you all are excited to follow along too ☺️ Here are some photos of the piglets when they were out in their pen, before The Great Piggy Escape of 2020 😄
And here’s the first pumpkin we gave them! We didn’t let them eat the whole thing at once, so their little tummies wouldn’t hurt 😄