Friday, April 5, 2013

Send in the Reinforcements!

Early in spring, we labor primarily in the greenhouses, where a few swipes of a hoe are all it takes to prepare the soil. That's the joy of the permanent raised bed system we created. Swaths of soil alternate with the strips of grass where we walk and drive. Thick mulch blanketing the planting beds insures that the earthworms and other mini soil movers deep in the dirt have plenty of fluffy organic matter to aerate. Since we keep our heavy feet and the equipment tires in the grass, we refrain from needless soil compaction and the veggies get the benefit of loose, rich soil in which to set their roots.

In the pasture, however, it's another story. To work that soil, we bring in the real digging experts:


Piglets -- and the hogs they'll become over the next six months -- are incredible earth movers. They seem to take no greater joy than rooting about in the perennial weeds that are a legacy of our land's long history of corn and hay harvests. By using electric fence to keep them focused on one plot at a time and moving them frequently, we give the pigs plenty of self-serve salad and tubers to supplement their diet of organic whole and milled grains and they give us weed eradication. They leave behind fresh manure, which we til into the soil before seeding such crops as buckwheat, peas and oats, and winter wheat to further aerate the soil with their roots. And then the following year, we plant potatoes -- or tomatoes, corn, cabbage, kale, tomatillos, or any of the dozens of other veggies we harvest each summer.

But at the moment, we're talking piglets:


Aren't they super cute? That dark skin and hair is no accident. The farmer who raises them knows we need heavy pigmentation for critters who will spend a full summer in the sun -- so much better than pharmaceuticals for killing germs and promoting health -- so he makes sure we get the pick of his darkest colored litters. A white pig with a sunburn is a deeply unhappy creature. And can you imagine putting sunscreen on a hog? Talk about catching a greased pig! 

When their job on the farm is done, the pigs will weigh about 300 pounds -- the perfect size for a butcher to transform into bacon, chops, ham, roasts, and sausage. There's no mistaking the flavor and texture of pastured pork for "the other white meat." For details on how to fill your freezer with this delicious product, e-mail us: treegatefarm [at] gmail [dot] com!

1 comment:

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