Sunday, September 30, 2018

Why Cook Pig Food?

Why cook pig food? This question was raised on a permaculture forum. I felt that I wanted to reply. In addition, "L" emailed that he/she noticed the slop the pigs were eating in my last photo, and asked what it was made of. So in response to the questions, ...........

Cooking pig food is something I do. But why, you ask? Why not just pour the pellets into the feed hopper as is? First of all, I don't use commercial pig pellets in this farm, nor much in the way of commercial feed. Thus I need to take a few steps in preparing the pig food. 

Some foods I don't cook. Foods that the pigs like "as is" include many fresh fruits, old bread, milk that is beginning to turn bad, stale cereal, leftovers from my own meals, stale beer and other drinks. And haycubes, which I soak in water but don't cook. (I don't buy these, but am given a bag or two occasionally because they got touched with mold and were no longer safe to feed to horses.) But other things I do indeed cook for a variety of reasons. 

#1- cooked food is more digestible. It's a known fact in the hog industry that heat treated feed is somewhat more digestible, resulting in faster and greater weight gain. Some cattle feedlots also steam treat their grains to improve and shorten finishing time for their cattle. Thus cooking pig feed = better weight gain. 

#2- cooked food is often more palatable.  There are foods that my pigs turn down when raw, but readily eat when cooked. I find the exact same situation with myself. While I don't like raw onions, I adore cooked ones. So cooking means that the pigs waste less. In fact, there isn't much they won't eat once it's cooked.

#3- cooking kills bacteria and fungi growing on the food. While food grown on my own farm appears to be "clean" from the various food poisoning forms of E. coli (etc), outside foods might be contaminated. Thus cooking off-farm food sources will help prevent introducing dangerous organisms into my own farm livestock. It's not a 100% guaranteed protection, but it helps (sort of like washing your hands to prevent bringing diseases and parasite eggs to your dinner plate). 

#4- cooking prevents bringing in diseases and parasites that could be transmitted to humans, which could sometimes be found in off-farm waste foods. I often collect waste foods. It comes from local restaurants, stores, and friends. I don't know how that food was previously handled. Dropped on the floor? Contaminated by commercial meat liquids? Coughed or spit in? Food half eaten by unknown persons, that is, scrapings off restaurant plates? Were those people sick? I can't naively assume that everyone is disease and parasite free, thus I cook slop to prevent passing these problems onto my pigs. So anything that has the potential to carry a problem gets cooked. 

On this farm, I use a wood fired rocket stove to cook livestock food. If I only have a little stuff to cook, I'll use a large soup pot. But for larger volumes I use an old jumbo pot big enough to fit a large Thanksgiving Day turkey. In fact, that's exactly what I'm using -- discarded turkey fryer pots. I've acquired several over the years. They're perfect for the task. 

Most foods heading to become Mom's Famous Slop & Glop get ground up before cooking. It makes cooking time shorter, plus the pigs clean it up better (that is, less waste). Ground up food makes mixing the slop with the haycubes easier. When I first started out making slop for a few chickens, then later, one pig, I used a blender. I'd cook the foods first then blenderize it. But that became time and labor consuming as the number of chickens (and pigs) increased. So I switched to using a garbage disposal which I set up in my outdoor processing area. The disposal discharges out to a strainer set atop a five gallon bucket. Crude but it does the job. I keep thinking I should make an easier system to use, but it's not high on my priority list. 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Surprise On The Road

Living in a rural farming/ranching area, surprises in the roadway sometimes happen. It could be a stray dog, feral cat, turkeys or peacocks, stray livestock. I've come upon domestic goats, sheep, alpacas, and cattle in addition to feral goats, mouflon, and pigs. No livestock owner wants their stock to be in the road, but it happens. Today I came upon this......

Not knowing who owned them, I called the police. My top concern was that they would wander onto the main highway and cause an accident. They were about a half mile from the highway and were heading that direction. Failing to be able to get around them and thus drive them back up the mountain and into some neighbor's pasture for safety, I helplessly stood guard to prevent a vehicle from coming down the mountain, thus hitting or spooking them further down to road. They continued to head for the highway and I can only hope that the police arrived in time to block the end of the road. Guess I'll hear the neighborhood gossip tomorrow as to what finally happened. 

Keeping livestock adequately confined can be difficult, but it's the responsibility of every livestock owner. And it's always a nightmare when they break out. On my own farm I check the condition of my fences daily, looking for weak or damaged spots. Even so, I've had livestock escape, usually because a fence section was brought down by a fallen tree or weakened due to acid rain. Most of my stock is behind double fencing, which helps a lot to keep them in my own property. So if I notice that the pigs have escaped, they are still behind the second fence that completely surrounds the farm perimeter. 

Pig Update

Not all that long ago we had 7 little piggies running around here. Well, they're not so little anymore. Plus their numbers now are down to 4. As the piglets are growing in size, so is their ability to pack in the food. These four pigs now eat three times as much as the 7 use to, and I'm ready to up the daily fare by another bucketful. 

A neighbor asked me the other day why one would "harvest" a piglet when it was still small. Why not allow them to grow larger, say to 200 lbs. There can be a few reasons that I can think of off the top of my head.
...a small pig is needed to fit the barbecue unit for a roasted spit pig. 
...a whole piglet is being prepared for a special luau, thus it needs to fit whatever space it is being allowed. 
...a home slaughter/butcher can only physically handle a small sized pig.'s freezer only has space for a small pig.
...or in my case, when you run out of food. I only have a limited amount of feed available, so rather than starve 7 piglets, I keep the number of piglets that I have food for, and the others have to go one way or the other. (Two were sold as breeders and one went into the freezer to provide food for Adam). 

I'm at my max for producing pig food without buying commercial pig chow. Boy! can these critters eat! Luckily they eat just about everything that is considered garden waste, plus plenty of grass. As you can see in the photo, the pig pastures consist of two grassed pens about 150' by 100' or maybe a bit larger. They rotate between the pens to prevent the pigs from totally destroying the areas. This time of year the grass is growing really fast, fast enough to keep up with the pigs appetites. 

Just this week I was given four bags of haycubes that were touched with mold, so these are being added to the pig food menu. This will help extend the time before another piglet will need to leave the pack. 

Above, this was their first taste of slop with 25% soaked haycubes added. They resoundingly approved, cleaning up three troughs of it before lunchtime, grunting as they gobbled. Greedy little guys. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Adding More Pineapples

This is pineapple season, so as I'm harvesting pineapples for home use, as gifts, or to trade, I'm getting a lot of pineapple tops. These tops are how I primarily start new plants. Around here, tips don't get discarded. No way! They get replanted to start more plants. Oh, eventually I'll have as many pineapples as I can handle, but I'm not near that limit yet.  

So since that last time I listed a tally, I've added 41 new pineapple plants to the tally, all of them scattered about the farm rather than in organized beds. And more tops are waiting for garden space to open up. 

When I can't get right away to planting a top, I will clean up the bottom (pull lower leaves off the stem) and place it in water. I'll use whatever small jar I have handy for this task. After a week or so, the tops start pushing roots, so it gets critical to plant them asap. A few of these tops have been sitting in water for over a week, so this weekend they need to get into the ground for their best chance of growing well.

I grow both the golden and the white varieties, though I have a strong preference to the white. But at this stage of the game, I'm not throwing away any golden tops. They'll get planted too as I open up space for them. Whenever I finally have a glut of pineapple plants, I plan to gradually discard the golden ones. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

More Fun With Noodles

Noodles got all jazzed up for his Sunday visit with Loki and Luna at the Ka Lae Coffee shop. 

That's Loki in the background, a big tan mastiff like looking dog that is always mistaken for a Tosa Ainu by the Japanese tourists. The Japanese and Chinese tourists always want a photo of themselves with Loki, though all are very careful not to get close to him. Little do they know that Loki is completely friendly, totally unlike the Tosa that they mistake him for. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Yard Art Mini Pond Retired

Remember the mini pond I had made using a tree stump, placing it upside down and concreting a pond atop it? It has graced my front yard for quite a while now, serving as yard art and mosquito catcher (there were several guppies living in the pond). Well, it's finally reached the end of its life.

The base that was cemented into the ground finally rotted away. It could no longer hold the pond stable. It swayed this way and that. Time to remove it before it totally collapsed. Using an o'o bar, it was fairly simple to pop it out of the ground, 

Using a sledgehammer and o'o bar, I removed the concrete. 

 The stump was dragged down to the hugelpit that I'm working in and added to the pile. The concrete will be saved to use as fill inside the rock wall being built along the driveway. 

I still wanted a little pond at this spot, so I recalled I had a plastic pond liner in the "farm graveyard", a spot where stuff gets saved for future use. Checking the little pond liner, it looked still good. Great! Instant pond! 

Noodles helped me dig the hole and move some rocks around. Of course it wasn't where I really needed them, but he thinks he's a good team member on this farm. 

With some well placed rocks and dirt, I leveled the pond in all directions. Next step : return the pond water, fish, and plants to the new pond (I saved everything in 5 gallon buckets) 

That's as far as I got today. Next I want to gather some rocks to go around the perimeter of the new pond. I'll show you that tomorrow or Wednesday, whichever I get to it. 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

On Farm Vaccination Info

After my little snit-fit yesterday, I got to thinking that I should explain some of the ins & outs about using vaccines. 

Vaccinations are a great help to avoid having to use antibiotics and to prevent animal deaths. That's probably the number one reason farmers use vaccines. Pet owners vaccinate their pets primarily because they have been told it's the proper thing to do, plus they don't want to risk having their pets die. It's only after an unvaccinated pet gets sick that they learn about how expensive the veterinary treatment can be, plus learn that their pet might still die anyway. 

Most farmers/ranchers do their own vaccinations. As for pet owners, that depends upon the region that they live. Most urbanites and suburbanites have veterinarians vaccinate the pet. Rural, remote, and economically depressed regions see more owner vaccination vs veterinary administered vaccinations. Personally, as long as the user gets educated about vaccines and vaccinations, plus is willing to assume the risks, I see no reason why they shouldn't be allowed to do home vaccinations.   

Things to consider in order to effectively vaccinate at home........

First, it's imperative to use the correct vaccine. Vaccines are matched to the specific animal species and a specific disease. 

Owner needs to read label thoroughly to determine the correct method to inject the vaccine. And the correct amount of vaccine to use. If the vaccine is given incorrectly, the animal may get no protection, and even worse, become ill. The owner needs to learn the correct way to administer untranasal, subcutaneous, intramuscular, and/or intradermal injections. 

Care must be used to inject correctly and use the correct size needle and syringe. This also goes along with needing to know how to correctly restrain the animal so that the injection can be properly made. 

Injecting mechanisms and syringes & needle need to be sterile and properly cleaned. Leaving residual disinfecting solution behind could make the vaccine ineffective, besides causing site reactions and/or infections.

The time period between vaccination and slaughter needs to be determined and followed if the animal is destined for human food. 

Vaccines need to be transported and stored correctly, otherwise they are ineffective. 
If not already in liquid form, they need to be mixed (liquid part mixed with dry powder part) correctly and used within a specified time period. 

Not all vaccines for a particular disease work the same way. So in a vaccination series, using different brands for each vaccination may not be effective. Stick with the same brand and vaccine through a vaccination series. 

Mistakes I've seen made...
...transporting vaccine from the store in one's pocket. I've also seen vaccines sitting on the dashboard of the pickup truck. I've seen people leave the vaccine sitting out on a countertop for hours before using it. 
...freezing the vaccine 
...using outdated vaccine 
...reconstituting the vaccine too far ahead of time. 
...using cat vaccine in a dog
...mixing two vaccines together in the same syringe. 
...injecting SQ (subcutaneous, that is, under the skin) a vaccine meant to be given IM (into a muscle) 
...using too small of a needle
...injecting in the wrong location, which applies mostly to livestock that will be slaughtered. 
...not having the animal restrained while attempting to vaccinate 
...vaccinating an ill or debilitated animal
...not vaccinating according to the correct schedule. 
...using a dirty syringe & needle, or one that was incorrectly resterilized 
...administering the vaccine via the wrong method. I've seen vaccines designed for intramuscular injection bring given "sub-q" (that is, SQ or subcutaneous.)

Occasionally an animal can have an adverse reaction to a vaccine. It doesn't happen often, but it can. Most reactions are not life threatening (hives, lethargy, fever, swelling at injection site, limping, etc), but rarely they can be. Thus most breeders and farmer/ranchers who do their own vaccinations keep epinephrine on hand to treat anaphylaxis, a life threatening reaction. In the 29 years I worked in veterinary medicine, I only witnessed 2 cases of anaphylaxis initiated by vaccines. So it doesn't occur very often. But when it does, you had better have epinephrine handy. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Response to the Anti-vaxers

"T", and others, sent short scathing remarks about my practice to vaccinate my animals. First of all "T" et al, I've heard all those parroted remarks before. Secondly, they don't even begin the challenge my opinions based upon my own experiences, observations, and education. For me, science trumps heresay and woo-woo every time. Your anti-vax remarks don't even come close to the real facts. 

Vaccines are used to avoid serious health problems caused by viruses and bacteria. In many cases, those problems are serious enough to result in death. Vaccines help protect against the "preventable", although no vaccine is 100% effective for every individual. 

As a livestock owner/steward, I feel it is my responsibility to care for my animals in a sensible way. That includes protecting them from easily avoidable death. Thus in addition to other good husbandry practices, I take further steps. I confine them in such a way to prevent them from being taken by hunters or hit by cars. I use pasture and pen fencing that deters stray dogs from entering and killing. I remove toxic flora and fauna from the farm, such as fireweed and cane toads. I maintain a deworming program to prevent death due to internal parasites. I take measures to prevent death due to flystrike. And........ I vaccinate against diseases that occur in my area.

I'm not going to get into an argument here with the anti-vaxers. That's just like arguing that the world is round with the flat-earthers. So no matter what I say, the anti-vaxers won't consider it. 

I use vaccine because I can afford to, because I have my animals best interest in mind. I don't vaccine against things that are not a problem in my region.....thus I'm not "vaccine-crazy". If you don't want to vaccinate your own animal, then learn to accept the consequences. Keep in mind, it will totally be 100% your own fault that they got sick. In my career I've literally seen several hundreds of unvaccinated dogs and cats die from preventable diseases including  parvovirus, distemper, leukemia, rabies, Lyme disease, leptospirosis.  Preventable by correct vaccination. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Dog Vaccination Day

As a part of our overall plan to be somewhat self reliant, I vaccinate our own dogs and cats. Adam's pup, Spotz, is due for his final vaccine of the puppy series, and it's close enough on the calendar to include Noodles & Crusty. The rest of the crew will be vaccinated at Christmas, the normal time that we do all once a year tasks. 

Around here, all the farmer/ranchers do their own vaccinations. And many pet owners also do their own. It's a combination of necessity (that is, lack of affordable veterinary services) and lack of extra non-essential cash to spend in having someone else do it for you. 

Now that Spotz is finished his puppy series, Adam will soon be able to start taking him out in public with less worry of Spotz getting parvovirus. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Crazy Sock Additions

Being able to have fun and smile is delightful. My silly sock collection is part of that. I had recently announced that my sock collection was shrinking due to attrition. Finding weird socks locally is an impossibility, so I seldom have the opportunity to get replacements. 

Well would you believe it!?!  A pack of socks showed up at my gate.....courtesy of a good friend. They're not as silly as some, but they are indeed loud! Love the colors.  

Thanks "S" for the surprise. I'm really happy to add them to the sock drawer. Thanks again. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Farm Update

Not so chatty on the blog lately, but I've been busy with community life and working on the farm. One day was dedicated to a local spay/neuter clinic. Another to training a group of new flock keepers how to do the basic husbandry with their sheep and demonstrating castrating, deworming, shearing, and hoof trimming. Yet another day devoted to getting ready for another possible hurricane, though this one actually passed us by. 

Around the farm, work is a constant. The grass grows and begs to be mowed. Garden beds demand weeding and mulching (mulch material is a by-product of the grass mowing. It's so nifty to be able to "stack" the chores.) Pineapples need picking and tops need replanting. Lilikoi is starting to come in. More banana  bunches are ready. And so on, and so on. 

For those who are counting, I've just added 14 inividual pineapples to the tally. I also planted 4 more banana trees. Plus 6 more pipinola scattered about under some trees. 

By the way, it's lilikoi and pineapple season once again. The lilikoi are a bit later this year than last year, perhaps due to the wet weather. And they aren't as abundant. The pineapples are right on time. Yum! We've harvested about 2 dozen so far, with half the crowns being replanted into my gardens, the other half going to Adam. I've only managed to get 4 ripe pineapples into the freezer because we've been gobbling the pineapple up almost as fast as we are harvesting it. By the way, I grow predominately white pineapples. I've got some gold ones mixed in with the whites, but by far we prefer the whites. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Finishing touches

While repainting the white under the eaves, two things popped up. 1- One of the window frames was painted the same color as the background wall. 2- The door was missed. 

1- Fixing the window trim issue was a quickie. There was still some yellow paint left, so it became to color for the trim. 

Before ......


2- I can't believe that the door got overlooked. I guess I'm just use to seeing a white door, so my mind just blanked it out. But that was easily remedied too, though I am also out of yellow paint. 



With the white under the eaves refreshed, the entire exterior of the barn is newly painted. That should last a few years. But don't be surprised if I decide to jazz it up with a mural or some petroglyp stick figures. Then again, I could paint a few flowers around the base, since I really enjoy flowers. We'll see. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018


Boy, you guys are observant...... "E" just emailed me asking what was dangling from my wrist. 

Ok, working on the farm I don't wear jewelry, so you can rule that out. And I don't believe in talismans and lucky charms. It's not a mosquito repellent gadget. It's a whistle! 

When I first got Noodles, I would whistle to get his attention and train him to return to me. He responded really well. But as he grew bigger, he ranged further and further away. You see, he has a full 20 acres here to run around on. So sometimes he was out of range of my measly weak lip puckered whistle. Hubby suggested using a small but shrill whistle that is sold on Amazon. So we ordered a pack of four. I choose the black one to put on a ring and slip over my wristwatch band. 

Noodles is a big boy now, but I still use the whistle to call him. It's shrill, piercing, and carries a distance. 

Even if I didn't have Noodles, I like the idea of carrying a loud whistle on me at all times. I usually work alone, so if something were to happen where I couldn't walk back to get help, I could try to attract attention via the whistle. It has it's nice safety feature side to it. Yes, even if I don't have a farm dog, I'll keep wearing the whistle. It's small and I usually don't even notice that it's dangling from my wrist. 

I can hear it now.....why don't you just carry a cellphone? Yes, I already do that. The cellphone is almost glued to my hip. I carry it everywhere. But most of the farm isn't within cellphone range. Nada. Dead. Zip. So the whistle has its value. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Homemade Door Handle

"T" wrote to ask about the weird handle on the little shed that was just painted multi colors. "The door handle looks unusual. Could you tell me about it?" 

Yes, it's not from Home Depot. It's made from a small branch from one of my ohia trees. It's naturally shaped like that. 

I like using natural items from the farm. Many of my handles and towel racks are tree branches or bamboo. Besides being cool, I like the idea of my homestead providing for itself. Why spend cash for somecplastic & chrome handle from the hardware store? Heck, I can whittle my own for free. Two screws are all that is needed to attach the handle to the door. Simple. 

I grew up being taught to buy stuff at the store. Homemade was looked down on. I finally broke away from my brainwashing and now delight in handmade stuff, especially if I (or one of my friends) makes it. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Barn

The barn, being a larger building than the little shed, looked boring when it was painted identically. So with some artistic license, the walls got mixed up. It think it turned out pretty good. 

It's not quite done. I need to make a few minor changes. 

One of the neighbor's commented the other day that she liked my idea. She's in the process of repainting her restaurant in town and said she plans to go the bit on the silly route, using bolder colors and mixing things up. Good for her! Life's too short to be drab and boring. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Little Shed - Having Fun

For several weeks now I've been working on getting a couple of farm buildings painted. Finding a few dry hours has been difficult. But I'm getting there. 

Here's the little shed that's been painted. 

Yes, I'm having a bit of fun. Hubby came up with the idea, and we went from there. Each side is different. I'm working with three colors : yellow, red, black. So of the three sides, one is black with yellow trim, one is red with black trim, and one us yellow with red trim. The side with the door is just all mixed up. 

I wasn't sure how this was going to turn out, but truthfully, I love it! Looking over my right shoulder, I gazed over at the barn. Now what if.......? Yes, let's do the barn! 

I'll show you tomorrow how the barn is coming along.