Backward Ideas About Backyard Farming

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Starting your own backyard farm or suburban homestead can be fun and rewarding. You can have fresh eggs, fruits and vegetables that come straight from your own backyard, raise bees, and develop your own personal food oasis.

If you want a backyard farm you may have put it on the back burner for a number of reasons. You may feel it’s not possible where you live or that buying all the supplies and gear necessary will break the bank. You may just feel that you don’t have enough room. These backyard farming ideas will ease your mind!

Really, Your Backyard Is Fine

One of the larger concerns most people have about backyard farming is the size of their yard. They wonder if it’s actually possible to grow enough food to make back yard farming worth the effort. The answer is, “Yes!” More and more people are becoming creative about how to grow a huge amount of food in a small space. Planning an edible landscape is doable for most people, as detailed in this article.

Going Vertical

Finding space to farm a larger crop could be as simple as putting your fences to work for you. Rather than growing a decorative ivy, choose a fruit bearing vine. There are many types of vine plants that produce food and could use your fence to grow on. Grapes vines are a good example of this. They also look decorative.

Grow strawberries in raised planters that look similar to gutters. Then grow a plant that thrives in shade beneath them. This increases the amount of food you can grow as well as your variety in produce. Also consider using hanging planters for plants such as tomatoes or peppers.

There are many vertical planters on the market, and some of them are quite budget-friendly, like this one. The Garden Tower is an innovative planter that also provides an area for composting, but it’s quite a bit more expensive, and, of course, there are many other designs between these two options.

Indoor Plants/ Outdoor Plants

Backyard homesteading isn’t just confined to the great outdoors. You can also grow indoor plants for homesteading purposes. Choose miniature fruit trees, herbs or edible flowers for indoors. Even something like a tabletop grow kit, like this one, can allow anyone to grow  herbs, lettuce and other greens, and small vegetables and is suitable for apartment life.

Save outdoor garden space for larger plants, such as pumpkin or watermelon.

Compost And Neighbors

The sweet smell of compost does not need to drive your neighbors insane. Make sure that during the summer you water your compost down. This will help in the break down process of your compost and helps keep the smell where it belongs.

You can even ask your neighbors to contribute to the compost heap. Grass clippings and raked up leaves are a welcome addition to your decomposing plant pile. Offer to take your neighbors leave and clipping off their hands. As an added bonus you could even offer to rake up the  leaves yourself.

By the way, the tumbler style of composter is one that I do not recommend. Go for something simple and inexpensive like this one. It’s small enough to fit just about anywhere.

Backyard Farming Ideas with Animals

When you think of a farm you don’t just think of plants. You think of chickens, cows, pigs and other livestock. While some of these animals won’t be ideal for being raised in a back yard, other will fit in just fine.

What Animal And Where

You may be thinking that while a garden is possible, animals just aren’t. You live too close to or in a city and they don’t allow animal husbandry. If you feel this way but haven’t check with your local government, you may want to make sure. Read through your town and/or neighborhood Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs).

Some cities allow raising chickens, and more and more are jumping on the backyard chickens movement. Others allow you to raise other types of animals as well. Check to see what you local government allows as well as what type of permits and living conditions ( for the animals ) are required.

Bees are a very simple way to expand your backyard farm, and, once established, a hive or two are very easy to care for. In my neighborhood’s HOA documents, bees are not specified in their list of restrictions.

Mini May Not Stay Mini

There are many animals that, if normal size you would never try to cram into your back yard. A breeder putting mini in front of the name of an animal doesn’t always change that. You still need to check to see what an adult mini animal will grow into.

Miniature goats and pigs may start out small, but could grow to still be too big to fit in your backyard.

Considering Sound

You don’t need a rooster to have chickens. The only reason to have a rooster would be to fertilize your eggs to produce more chickens. If you are just trying to produce your own eggs, all you need are the chickens.

Roosters are noisy, and while some people like the idea of  waking up to the crow of a rooster, other people loathe the idea. Chickens are about  as noisy as a barking dog. Geese and ducks are another option some suburban farmers choose — just spend some time around them to determine if the noise will cause problems with the neighbors.

Things You Don’t Need To Buy

Like many projects, there are new and improved tools, shelters and planting boxes that advertisers will insist are a must. Most of them are not. Some of them may save a little time and effort, but you could save plenty of money making your own.

Animal Shelters

While you can buy a chicken coop online, you can also make one. It would be less expensive. You could also build pens for your goats and other livestock. There are plenty of free plans online to guide you through the process. Here are a few places to look.

http://www.freechickencoopplans.com/

http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/build-a-pigpen-zmaz76ndztak.aspx

http://sanktoor.com/goat-house-plans/

Extra Special Gardening Tools

People were growing crops thousands of years ago. They did it without the new and improved plow. They walked around with a stick poking holes in the ground, putting seeds into them, and covering them up. While it’s nice to have some of the newer items to farm ( weed eater and edgers are our friends), you don’t need much more than what they used thousand of years ago.

To avoid spending an excess of money on tools and supplies you may end up not using, make a list of so-called “must haves”, ask gardening and farming friends for their opinions, and then just wait to see if these are things that you, personally, will find useful. If the tool doesn’t save you time and/or money, then it’s likely not worth the investment.

 

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Why Every Rural Homestead Should Have a Pig

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This article was originally published on notsomodern.com

I’ll admit, I had my reservations about raising pigs. Being a country girl from rural Ohio, I’ve grown up around hog farms. My uncle was a hog farmer for most of my life. My brother even raised a couple hogs for 4-H one year. The only things I really cared to know about pigs were that they destroyed everything and smelled horrible, even if they are rather tasty. So it really came as a surprise to me more than anyone when I agreed to raise a couple for meat. It wasn’t long before I also decided to breed them, but that’s a story for another time.

So after a lifetime of swearing off pig farming, why the sudden change of heart? It was mostly economical. We want to raise most, if not all, of our own food. We need to fill the freezer. Pigs were the easiest and most cost effective way to achieve that end. I highly recommend raising pigs for meat to anyone with the means and here’s why.

Space Requirements

While cattle require acreage, pigs can be raised in a much smaller space, which makes them ideal for homesteaders operating on smaller acreage. We live on a 5 acre wooded lot with very little grazing available. To raise a cow, we would need to spend a lot of money on hay and grain. Pigs on the other hand only require 20 square feet per finished hog (less space for weanlings and growers). Granted, I have found that more space equals less smell, so I prefer closer to 50 square feet per pig, but it’s still much less space than I would need for a cow. Many homesteaders also prefer to pasture raise their pigs. Just keep in mind that the larger the space, the more calories the pigs will burn, so they will grow at a slower rate and need to consume more feed. It’s up to you to determine the balance that’s right for you.

Initial Cost

Here in Central Florida, a weaned calf (I don’t recommend bottle babies) will cost about $600-800. A yearling will cost closer to $1,200. If you have the acreage, you can finish them on grass with very little additional investment until it’s time to take them to the butcher. If not, you also have to factor in the cost of hay and grain for at least 6 months to finish them. It adds up quickly. On the other hand, decent quality 8 week old piglets are $60-80. You’ll have to buy grain, but a well bred meat pig should be ready to butcher around 6-7 months old, so you’ll only be feeding it for 4-5 months. It will also eat considerably less than a cow. It takes approximately 650-750 lbs of commercial pig feed to get a 50 lb feeder pig to a butcher weight of 250 lbs. I pay about $12 for a 50 lb bag of 17% hog grower feed, so that equals $156 – $180 in feed costs per pig.

Healthy as a Hog

Forget horses, pigs are the true masters when it comes to health and resiliency. In my three years of raising pigs, I can count on one hand the times any of them have been sick. In fact, none of them have been sick since I’ve started vaccinating. Even those times when they have been sick, I’ve been able to treat them on my own, and they’ve made a full recovery. I did have one issue with a piglet with a hernia, but that was genetic and not much I could have done about it. Now that I know what to look for, I know not to castrate male piglets with hernias. Even with that piglet, the vet didn’t expect him to survive the next two days, and now he’s a 250+ lb hog ready to go to the butcher. Seriously, they are very resilient animals.

Rapid Growth

The average steer is butchered at 18 months old. If you’re raising a weaned calf, that means you’ll be waiting a year before you can fill your freezer. A well bred meat pig will be ready around 6-7 months old. If you buy an 8 week old piglet and free feed it (access to grain 24/7), then you can have a freezer full of pork chops, bacon, and sausage in as little as 4 months. Raise a piglet every 6 months and you’ll have more pork than you know what to do with, believe me.

Final Yield

Granted, when you butcher a cow, you’re usually getting back 400-500 pounds of beef. It’s usually more than the average person can fit in their freezer, so you end up selling some of it to friends and family members. However, all of that beef only accounts for about a third of the cow’s live weight. Cows have an average dressing ratio of 62%, that means that a 1,200 lb steer may only have a hanging weight of 744 lb. That’s just with the organs removed, much more weight is lost when the head, skin, extra bones and fat are trimmed off. That’s not to say that you can’t get those things back from the butcher (I highly recommend getting the bones and fat back), but they’re generally considered waste.

Pigs have an average dressing ratio of 74%, so a 280 lb hog may have a hanging weight of 207 lb. They have much less bone than a cow, so you don’t lose as much weight with the finished cuts. On average, you can expect to get about 50% of the live weight back in finished cuts. That’s 140 lbs of pork on a hog you may have fed for 5 months and only paid $80 for vs. the steer you paid $800, fed for a year, and got back 400 lb of beef. I’ll let you do the math.

I also like to get the extra bones and fat back from the butcher. I render my own lard and use it in almost all of my cooking. I use it to replace a lot of vegetable oils in savory dishes. I use it as the fat to saute my vegetables in. I also use it to season my cast iron pans. The bones I can use for stock and bone broth. Also, ask your butcher if they use the jowels and ham hocks. Some butchers may grind them into the sausage, or you can get them back to cure and smoke yourself for use in bean soup. In the book Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, the author uses almost the entire hog, including the blood and intestine. If you’re interested in curing and smoking your own hams, sausages, and bacon, I highly recommend that book.

Little Goes to Waste

I don’t know about you, but I hate throwing away food. We survive on leftovers, and I generally try to use up all of our leftovers before they go bad, but sometimes even the best of intentions die in the back of my fridge. This is where I love having pigs. Even if the food has started to mold, I’m able to feed it to my pigs (scary science experiments excluded). There really isn’t much they can’t eat. When we had problems with a fox killing our turkeys, I threw the turkey carcasses to the pigs. We’ve also thrown them old baked goods and rotten vegetables from the local grocery store. I know some people who make their pig’s entire diet out of scraps, although I don’t really recommend it. Scraps should be treated as more than a supplement. First of all, pigs are omnivores and need a balanced diet of proteins, fats and vegetables. It’s difficult to know if they are getting that balance with scraps. Second of all, they tend to grow more slowly on scraps and may not reach their full growth potential. You’ll spend less on feed, but you’ll probably have to house them for a longer period of time and end up with less pork in return. I prefer to have a higher turn over so I can make room for the next batch of piglets. Plus, if I have to pay the butcher, I’d like to get my money’s worth.

Another unexpected benefit to feeding rotten vegetables to pigs is the volunteer vegetable plants. All of the tomato plants in my garden this year have come from pig manure. We also have a papaya tree because we fed papaya to the pigs. However, compost the manure before you try using it on your garden (I dig the volunteers out of the compost pile). Hubby tried fertilizing the onions with pig manure one year, and the onions were crowded out by volunteer tomato plants. I’ve joked that I’m going to feed my vegetable seeds to the pigs one year because they seem to get the best germination rate.

If you’re looking for a way to be more self sufficient, and you have the space for pigs, I highly recommend them. They don’t have the health issues that a lot of meat animals may experience, making them very easy for beginners to raise. One pig can provide approximately 140 lbs of pork, easily filling the freezer and providing your family with enough pork for several months. The meat also preserves well through curing and smoking, which is why they were a favorite animal of pioneers and homesteaders when our country was first founded. They can also help you with composting, turning your leftovers and rotten vegetables into valuable manure. After all, how many other animals can turn tomatoes into bacon?

Source : www.notsomodern.com

About the author : Bonnie was raised in a small farming village in central Ohio where she was active in 4-H and FFA. She grew up surrounded by a large family who taught her how to can, garden and cook from scratch. Now living in Florida and raising two outrageous kids, Bonnie is running the family farm where they raise chickens, ducks, goats, pigs and horses. She also enjoys teaching her kids how to live off of the land, appreciate God’s creation, and live a simpler life.

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Town’s Ban On Livestock Endangers Her Miniature Pig Pet

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Town's Ban On Livestock Endangers Her Pot Belly Pig Pet

Image source: Change.org

 

A Tennessee woman is asking the public for help in keeping her beloved miniature pot belly pig, Maple, in her own home.

The woman, Courtney Profitt, might have to send Maple away because a neighbor in Columbia, Tennessee, complained to animal control.

Maple is illegal under a zoning ordinance that bans the ownership of livestock within 1,000 feet of another house. Under most town and city ordinances all pigs, including miniature pot bellies, are considered swine or livestock.

“A lot of those laws, I don’t want to say they are outdated, but they were put in place before these pigs got popular,” Profitt told The Columbia Daily Herald. “It’s not a huge deal, but they specifically use in the amendment here in Columbia the word, ‘swine,’ which describes livestock … but these aren’t classified as livestock. They’re pets, and they won’t get huge and she’s not going to be eaten when she’s fully grown.”

Profitt started a petition on Change.org to pressure the Columbia city council to change the zoning ordinance. As of now, Maple is living at a friend’s house outside the city limits.

Maple is the size of a puppy. When fully grown she will be 12-18 inches tall and 70-125 pounds – about the size of a large dog that already is legal in the town, the newspaper reported.

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Her petition has 100,000 signatures.

“Miniature pigs are becoming more and more popular,” it reads. “They are clean, loving, highly intelligent, and really no different than a dog or cat. My mini pig, Maple, fits that description perfectly. Maple is the size of a small dog. She has the best personality, always playful, and has never caused a problem. My city, like many across the country, has ordinances that have not kept up with our changing understanding and relationship with animals like mini pigs.”

Ordinances meant to “prevent people from having livestock in the middle of a neighborhood” are being used to target pets, the petition reads.

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“I’m asking the city of Columbia, Tennessee to change its ordinance on pigs. Maple is not livestock — she is a beloved member of my family.”

Profitt is far from alone. A Mississippi man, Otis Lundy, almost lost his pet pig, Patrick, just as Lundy was about to be deployed to Iraq with the US Air Force.

Lundy had kept Patrick for years before a local ordinance banned pigs in town, The Clarion-Ledger reported. After news stories about the confiscation appeared, Moss Point, Mississippi, Mayor Billy Broomfield gave Lundy permission to keep his pet.

Elsewhere, Diane Hines of Hamilton, Ontario, started a similar petition to keep her pet pig, Sheldon, at home.

“This isn’t a farm pig,” Hines told The Hamilton Spectator. “I know some people assume mini-pigs are dirty and disgusting, but that’s not true. They’re wonderful.”

Like Profitt, Hines faces the loss of her pet because a neighbor complained to a code enforcement officer.

“I think the mini-pig is misunderstood,” Hines said.

Hines, too, will have to go before the city council to get permission to keep her pet.

“But I would still like to make the case that the bylaw should be changed, regardless,” Hines said. “Maybe I get to keep Sheldon, which would be great. But that doesn’t help anyone else. And truly, these are really wonderful, loving pets.”

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Here’s How To Make Lard, The Easy Way

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Here's How To Make Lard, The Easy WayGrowing up on the farm we made lard in an iron kettle over an open fire. That’s the old-fashioned way to melt pig fat. You had to watch it constantly and keep the fire hot. Too hot and you would scorch the lard, too cool and the fat wouldn’t melt.

I make much smaller quantities today, and it’s simple and easy thanks to my good old crock pot.

Where Find Lard

If you are not on a farm, you can find lard at many butcher shops or small processing plants. Of course, you can also have the butcher save the fat from your own pig if you have one slaughtered and packaged. Ask them to separate the leaf lard from the rest, as you will want to render it by itself. (Render is the proper name for melting pig fat)

Leaf lard is the highest-grade fat from around the kidneys and the inside of the loins. It is used mainly for baking, as it has little or no pork flavor.

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The rest of your lard will be from the fatback and trimmings that the butcher has left over when cutting and packaging your pork.

How to Make it

Here's How To Make Lard, The Easy WayStart out by cutting all the fat into similar-size chunks. This will help ensure the fat all melts down at about the same rate and aids in stirring the fat as it renders down.

Put about half of a cup of water in your crock pot or slow cooker. This keeps the fat from scorching until enough of it melts to replace the water. The water will evaporate off by the time you are done.

Turn the crock pot on medium to high, add the chunked-up fat to the water, and place the lid on top. You can expect it to take around eight hours if you get your crock pot just hot enough to melt the fat and not much hotter. Getting the temperature too high can result in scorching or burning the fat, which gives it a burnt taste and dark color – not what you want!

Stir the fat occasionally as it renders, which will help you determine if it’s getting too hot and aid in breaking up the small bits of meat, etc. that will not melt.

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When the lard is about done, you will notice that it has stopped melting and you have only smaller brown pieces much like curds. If the skin were left on the pig, this would be cracklings. Growing up on the farm, we always left the skin on the pig so it meant straining the lard and pressing these cracklings in a lard press.

Here's How To Make Lard, The Easy Way

Lard, prior to it cooling.

Almost all pigs today are skinned, so what you have left after the fat renders completely can be strained off and fed to the birds, chickens or thrown away.

I use a small strainer that fits a quart Mason jar and cut a small piece of cheesecloth to fit the bottom of the strainer. This ensures nice, clean lard, although if you do have a bit of material get through, it will settle out if you let the lard solidify at room temperature.

Once the lard has rendered down, simply pour through the strainer into clean containers and allow to cool. I prefer to use glass jars. Once the lard is cooled down, refrigerate it. You should freeze it if you are going to keep it for the long-term.

This method of making lard is easy and can be completed while doing other things. Just make sure to check it often in the beginning to make sure it’s not getting too hot.

All that’s left is to enjoy your lard for cooking some delicious food and baked goods!

What advice would you add for making lard? Share your tips in the section below:

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