Monday, June 28, 2010


Just over a week ago, Jonathan and I went up to Windy Acres Farm in Orlinda, TN and picked up the newest resident of Ecotone. Lila is a four month old 3/4 Dutch Belted and 1/4 Milking Shorthorn calf, and will produce roughly 2-3 gallons of milk a day when she's mature.
Lila came to live with us for two reasons, the first of which is to move ahead of the chickens and pigs in the pasture rotation, eating the tall grass down for the critters to follow. The second reason, of course, is to provide milk and other sources of protein to the humans and other animals on the farm. Since arriving at Ecotone, Lila has stayed in the backyard, hiding behind the dove aviary during the heat of the day, and venturing out only in the evenings to graze and provide the occasional "Mooooo".

Monday, June 21, 2010


Speaking of eating free, I'm happy to report that we're now participating in the Food Reclamation Project, a program organized through Hands On Nashville. Vendors at the Nashville Farmer's Market support the project by donating their "less-than-prime" produce (read: flawed, mostly superficially, thrown away due to our fickle industrial food aesthetic) to a group of volunteers who further sort it into human-grade quality and not. The former is then delivered to local feeding agencies and homeless shelters, while the lesser quality foodstuffs are reincorporated into the local agro-ecology.
Until recently, most of this food was directed to local community gardens for composting, which is one great way to remove organic material from the waste stream and put it back into the food cycle. Now, however, we are coordinating with the project to pick up this busted, bruised, and slightly moldy (but sometimes astonishingly perfect!) food two days a week for the Ecotone sounder. Last week, I could barely fit it all in my truck!
As you may know, pigs are remarkably similar to human in digestive anatomy. With single chamber stomachs they are omnivores, and are well-known for eating most anything and everything you put in front of them. This, of course, doesn't mean that they should or would eat those things, if given a wide variety from which to choose; but it is why they are traditionally considered unclean to eat. But it's also exactly why pigs were domesticated: because of their remarkable ability to turn all or most agricultural by-products into edible animal protein. Whether it was compost from the garden, whey from the dairy animals, or scraps from the kitchen, pigs are a crucial part of the feeding ecology for many smallholders and householders - that is, those subsistence agriculturists comprising three-quarters of the world's population.
In this sense, I've been thinking about how this project in general, and the pigs roles in particular, are good examples of gleaning, an ancient set of practices associated with the common rights to gather the remainder left in a field after harvest. Needless to say, all the pigs at Ecotone are happy to oblige in this role, and sometime in the future - after we've helped turn that so-called waste into protein - we'll return it to the project in the form of food.

Radical Agrarianism 3

Wendell Berry now appears ready to go to jail in civil disobedience against the proposed national animal identification program (NAIS). You can hear him here.

Eat free or die!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Working the Piglets

Last Thursday, Ben from Pleasant View Mill came down to the farm and taught Jonathan, Jennifer, and I how to "work" hogs, which includes ear notching (for ID), worming (only as necessary), and, of course, castration. We worked the 8 piglets from Sadie's litter, of which there was one female and seven males. We castrated all but two of the biggest males, and so have one gilt, two boars, and five barrows for sale out of that litter.
We also tried, unsuccessfully, to convince Ruby to let us do the same with her litter. As I was sealing her in the farrowing hut to gather the piglets without being killed by an angry sow, she jumped out over the top, screaming like a dinosaur the whole time! Needless to say, it was sort of scary, both because she was clearly upset, and I was afraid of her hurting herself. Once out, however, she barked loudly, calling her piglets together, and off they went into the bush for a full day and a half before I saw them again. We plan to try again in a few days. Of the six piglets in this litter, I know from observation that there are at least two gilts, maybe three, and we'll castrate at least one of the males.
If you're interested in getting a piglet out of this litter, please do consider sending a deposit soon, as they're going fast! For feeders, please send $50 per hog as a deposit, with the remaining $50 due at pick-up. For breeders, please sent $100 per hog as a deposit, with the remaining due at pick-up. The prices for breeder quality stock are $250 for gilts, and $350 for boars. I am interested in trading piglets for unrelated stock as well.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Egg Count 6

The May egg count stands at 238 dozen, or 2,856 eggs, which is just under 8 dozen per day. The number of hens in Flock #1 has dropped slightly this month, and the heat seems to have slowed them down. Instead of the hens laying all the eggs before early afternoon, they appear to be breaking up into two groups, one finishing before late morning and the other beginning in the late afternoon. Because Flock #2 has yet to start laying, I don't have any firm numbers on the feed to egg ratio this month. Here are some photos my friend Scott took during his recent visit to Nashville and the farm.