Here comes the sun … and it’s really not alright …

This summer really has been the mother of all summers… as hot as any summer I can remember while growing up near the foothills of northern California.  Grass that was lush and green in the spring is now as brown as that summer CA grass I grew up around.

But this is the Great Northwest… famous for its misty cool summers that make you yearn for that endless summer… and as green as a fresh college graduate… all year round.

A couple weeks ago I was coming across Eastern WA and it was 114 degrees near Ritzville… one hundred and fourteen degrees!!  That’s Las Vegas weather.  Phoenix heat… both places I want no part of in July.

Hogs don’t like the heat either… in fact, they like it lots less than we do because they can’t sweat like their human associates do.   And Berkshires are yes… black… so they absorb all that beautiful sunlight in ways we would never understand.  That’s great in January but a real problem in July.

So, what is a Heritage Hog Farmer to do…

Out in the open we put up those 10×12 tarps you can get at Costco in a two pack for about 20 bucks.  And we make sure Plenty of cool water is available… if you use plastic drums and nipple waterers like we do… you shouldn’t rest easy if the drum is full… that water gets Hot in those things while in the direct summer sunlight.  Keep them cool with fresh stuff daily.  Get out there with a hose in the afternoons and water your porcine friends down liberally.  And it’s fun watching these rascals roll and play around in the water pretty much like we did as kids in the sprinklers and shooting down lawn water slides.

So, as the woods and grasslands burn from California to Montana, and even in the perennially soggy Olympics this year!…  we’re scrambling to keep our Berks cool enough to survive this unprecedented brutal onslaught of sun and heat.

But as they say daily on Fox News … or maybe it was a Senator from Oklahoma … or both… our earth isn’t warming up folks… the oil industry says it isn’t so, so therefore it isn’t so.

Or at least, it isn’t our fault.

Enjoy your hogs.  Scratch their ears.  Love them and they’ll love you back.

Cheers,

Randy
August, 2015

You know you’re living too close to town if …

One of my heroes – Edward Abbey – coined a phrase back when that I have carried with me always… Cactus Ed said “if you can’t pee off your front porch you’re living too close to town”.

 

Well… I have this skin issue for which sun does wonders.  Recently our little farm was blessed with a sunny day, so I thought this was the perfect time to get to work on that new hog pen I had been procrastinating on for a long time…  And in the process I could get some much needed sun.

 

Well… The location of the new hog sanctuary was a ways from the house…  and I forgot my cutoffs.  So, being too lazy to go back to the house…  I decided just to strip down to my boxer shorts and boots…  and get to fence building.  And I had the pleasure to go about my duties with no disturbance or peeping neighbors in any way!

 

So, in the spirit of my hero Ed… I’m going to add another good example of living this backcountry life… Which is…  If you can’t build fence on a sunny day in your boxer shorts and boots… You’re just living too darn close to town.

 

Cheers…

 

Randy

 

Spring 2015

Spring !

Well, looks like Spring is actually springing out there… and Mother Nature is banging its drums again… so it’s time to spread some seed around and grow up what we really need.

Happy Easter everybody.  I hope you’re all enjoying your families, Mother Nature… and your pigs!

Spring

 

Go out and scratch their ears, say “Hello” … they like holidays too!

All the best on this special day.

Randy

This Mud Thing


One thing about this Heritage Farming business is mud.  Mud caked tight between our tire treads.  Mud on the grass, mud in the barn, mud over the top of our boots, mud on the laundry room floor.  Mud in our hair, mud under our fingernails, mud in our eyes, ears, and nose.  Mud that has taken every glove, both left and right, that we own.  Mud on the driveway, mud down our little country road.

Mud in the trailer, mud outside the trailer, hell, mud all over the trailer.  We have mud in holes, mud on mounds, mud making its rounds all over our farm.  Mud on the hogs, of course, and the pigs.  Mud in the garden, mud on the gravel… mud, mud, mud.  As Dawn would say… who has this special penchant for finding pun in words… ‘we’re tough mudders’…

Ok, you get the picture.

But we are human beings – supposedly at the pinnacle of animal ‘intelligence’.  We have overcome everything, you know… impenetrable forests, swift rivers, deserts, brutal cold, intense heat, droughts, monsoon’s, floods… our manifest destiny.  So, we should be able to overcome this ‘mud thing’…

…this ‘mud thing’ could be easily rectified if we owned a section of land with pastures as far as the eyes can see… or if I decided to put all of our acres ‘under hogs’… but I won’t.  So our ‘dry lots’ (a midwestern term for hog pens… a total misnomer in the Pacific Northwest) are sprinkled around habitat islands… soon we’ll be planting pastures in an area where we can give young pigs a ‘fresh start’ on vitamin/mineral rich grass.

Amy on her front porch

In these ‘dry lots’ hog huts work best on wooden decks with a front porch… where in theory anyway these hooved mammals can ‘knock the mud off their feet’ prior to entering their domiciles.  And this actually works most of the time.  Boards that make up these ‘hut decks’ are spaced the width of a horseshoe… the thing that was at hand first when I was looking for a spacer for such work… these gaps allow any water that gets in the huts to drain away.  I’ve also found that heavy bark works well in high traffic areas, particularly for the younger pigs.  But this stuff needs to be used judiciously because it’s a bit pricey.

So… if you’re lucky enough to own a big farm with lots of pastures/wooded areas (that the hogs will plow with a unique level of determination if kept in an area too long), this ‘mud thing’ can be minimized.  If you’re like the rest of us scratching out an operation on a moderately sized piece of ground, you’ll need to be careful not to ‘nuke’ the landscape by letting hogs run willy nilly across the countryside.

Key words/tools of the trade:  Muck boots (tall).  Rubber fishing gloves.  Heavy duty raingear… pants will look like they’ve been through a paper shredder over time… thanks to those hog panels that are never cut flush with the upper horizontal wire.  Head lamps (Fenix … as bright as car headlights).  A tough beanie that can be changed out to a simple baseball cap when the sweat gets started in earnest.  And enough Grit to make Rooster Cogburn proud.

And as Mr. Cogburn so aptly said: “watch yourself sister!  Everything in these woods either will bite ya, stab ya, or stick ya!”…  And I’ll add … sink ya if you keep the hogs in one place too long.

The Devil Wind Returns….

In an earlier blog I mentioned that the name ‘Enumclaw’ was a Salish term for ‘Devil Winds’… well, I was thinking about our Salish friends again recently and how their description of this region could not possibly have been better.

Yes, those devil winds returned this week in earnest.  The east winds started stirring in the wee hours on a Tuesday morning and were coming on in their full glory by sun up on that day.  And they blew and they blew and they blew until finally, by the grace of the Almighty himself/herself, they stopped on Thursday afternoon.  Weatherman said theyʼd be around 40 mph with gusts around 60…

Well… The last big dose of the devil wind came a few years ago which snapped a tree and crushed a camper on its way to impaling our house… very impressive.  That was a 100 mph gust, they said, which also took our windward neighbor’s roofing materials and sent them over to us… thank you very much.

This week’s resurrection of the Enumclaw hurricane took down several very big cedars, Doug firs, maples, and alders on our property, flattened a couple fences, toppled a very stout carport/shelter with my John Deere in it (I conjured up a bout of courage and snaked it out of there with just a broken tail light!), and killed my wife’s car… I mean, I’m sure it’s dead…  A branch from the very big big-leafed maple that dropped on it impaled the Prius like a dagger… went through the engine compartment and all the way to the ground.  Even if the car somehow had vampire tendencies… it would be dead.

Carport shelter

Carport shelter

But thankfully… all our animals survived.  Cadillac, our beautiful boy we got from Brice Conover in Iowa laid on the frozen mound of straw totally hut-less.  We use these heavy plastic calf huts and his just wasn’t anchored properly.  Fortunately a wooded border stopped the thing or it might be providing refugia for fish in the Puget Sound as we speak…

A nice group of five feeder pigs also went hut-less for the same reason.  But the tarp we had over an adjacent area for some chickens fortunately partially blew into their pen and provided them some shelter.  Not to worry… the chickens huddled into one of those igloo dog houses we use for pigs… and call them ‘pig-loos’ of course…

This little unit was anchored to a wooden deck like many of our huts are and rode out the winds like a rock on the prairie.  Several ‘dry lots’… an industry term that is a totally inappropriate in this wet country… were littered with windfall trees, limbs, empty waterers, trash cans, drum lids, empty feed sacks, pieces of tarps, buckets… you name it… all of which only became amusement items for these hardy Berkshires…

Unlike Cadillac and the fabulous five, all the other hogs/pigs still had their huts and just stayed in them… I’m sure quite thankful for their wonderful masters who provided them such luxurious beds of clean straw to lounge in.  Only during feeding time would they venture out… but warily.   When the winds stopped, they were groping about the windfall like kids at Christmas time…

One of the cedars that snapped came to a resting place about 80 feet, I estimate, from its source.  So, I do think we had some gusts quite a bit north of that 60 mph number provided by our trusty weatherman.  The power was out for 2.5 days, and with it the water. Fortunately we had some barrels full of this essential stuff that Zack enjoyed carrying out to the animals two buckets at a time.  He’s in the work out faze of his college baseball program anyway…

Just when I think I understand just how tough these Berkshires are, something happens which gives me a whole other layer of respect for their grit.  Berks can take it … and so can we ‘Heritage Hog Farmers’.   Mother Nature – we’re still here… hoof in hand… and will be ready for whatever adversity you have in store for us next time.

Love your pigs.  Hang with them all you can.  Talk to them and scratch their ears.

Cheers,

Randy
November, 2014

So … you want to be a Heritage Hog Farmer?

Over the years Iʼve had the pleasure to help many folks get started with hog raising in general and Heritage Berkshires in particular.  Lots of these people were brand new to the hog world… wide-eyed and excited to be setting out on a fulfilling journey with a small group of these black and white, tough and resourceful rascals… just as we were when we took the Berkshire plunge.

Kazuno

So Iʼve fielded lots of questions, from rudimentary inquisitions… how much space do they need, what kind of shelters should they have, fencing strategies, etc…. to more detailed inquiries… what sort of rations should these guys have at various stages of their life cycles, maintaining genetic diversity in the breeding herd, line-breeding, and the like.

But one thing Iʼm not sure Iʼve consistently conveyed to these nice people, which would start with a question, is… are you sure you are really prepared to be a ʻHeritage Hog Farmerʼ?

The term used here – ʻHeritage Hog Farmerʼ is mine, so Iʼll provide its definition.  Lots of people will have their own descriptions about this sort of thing.  This is mine and mine alone.  In the description of this moniker – Heritage Hog Farmer (HHF), you will find some of the aspects I think you will require to be successful at this endeavor… a tough job that will require your attention every day:

A Heritage Hog Farmer is a gritty tenacious person who raises Heritage Hogs in the conditions they were meant to be raised in… outdoors.  Major hog barns like you would typically see in the midwest are absent on this farm.  Hogs use all manner of huts and shelters and have access to pasture/woods to run and root around in and be themselves. Farrowing crates will not found on a Heritage Hog Farm.  Momma pigs will have ample space to have and nurse their young.

A Heritage Hog Farmer is prepared to see some of his/her land turned itʼs head… but has additional places to rotate animals in/out of so the hog areas can heal up a bit.  Hopefully enough land remains to help the operation blend into its natural surroundings…  I enjoy seeing the deer/turkeys/songbirds/etc./etc. myself, and hope you do as well.  A HHF takes care of animal waste appropriately… uses it as a resource (garden) and doesnʼt let his/her operation become a nuisance to neighbors (or regulators!).

A HHF doesnʼt feed antibiotics to his/her pigs… but many, like myself, will not hesitate to use these available medications if an animal is sick.  A HHF can endure all manner of weather, like his/her pigs can, and has a good background in First Aid… he/she doesnʼt mind being a poster boy/girl for the Band Aide Corporation and preferably lives somewhat near a medical facility… this old boy has needed that twice… once for trying to sever a leg with a chain saw, and another for putting a 3/8” drill bit through my hand.

A HHF can work in a mucky/miry environment with good humor (and a good pair of muck boots!).  A HHF has serviceable skills in carpentry, fence building, farm equipment operation, snow plowing, plumbing, chain saw operation, power tool operation, painting, roofing, and etc.  A HHF can obtain an adequate understanding of what rations pigs need, and can obtain the necessary feeds/vitamins/minerals/protein supplements the animals require.  A HHF can do some math to get these feed constituents mixed (and often ground) to the proper proportions the pigs need at different life cycle intervals.

So, in short, a Heritage Hog Farmer can take it. Just like the Heritage Hogs can.  Weʼve all heard the old adage about how pet owners and their pets tend to look alike… well, Iʼm not going to admit that I look or act like a hog… but Iʼm out there with them a lot.  Every day.  And both hog and man in this case know the drill.  I know what I expect from them and I know what to expect from myself now to help make it all happen in this challenging profession.  You will need to as well.

Love your hogs.
Scratch their ears daily.
If you take care of them, theyʼll take care of you.
And if you take care of the land, it will also return the favor.

All the best,

Randy
Wildlife Biologist
Heritage Hog Herdsman
Wilderness Farms

October, 2014

Donʼt Fence Me In…

This is an old song, actually written by a poet/engineer with the Montana Department of Highways (Robert Fletcher) who sold the song to Cole Porter for a whopping $250.

Mr. Porter re-worked it a bit:

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above
Don’t fence me in!
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don’t fence me in!

Let me be by myself in the evenin’ breeze
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever, but I ask you please
Don’t fence me in!

Just turn me loose
Let me straddle my old saddle
Underneath the Western skies

On my Cayuse
Let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise

I want to ride to the ridge where the West commences
And gaze at the moon till I lose my senses
And I can’t look at hobbles and I can’t stand fences
Don’t fence me in!

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above
Don’t fence me in!
Let me ride through the wide country that I love
Don’t fence me in!

Let me be by myself in the evenin’ breeze
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever but I ask you please
Don’t fence me in!

Just turn me loose
Let me straddle my old saddle
Underneath the Western skies
Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo

On my Cayuse
Let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise
Ba, ba, ba, ba, ba

I want to ride to the ridge where the West commences
And gaze at the moon ’til I lose my senses
I can’t look at hobbles and I can’t stand fences
Don’t fence me in!

No, Papa, don’t you fence me in!

Robert Fletcher and Cole Porter, 1934
———————————————-

Well, the thing with hogs is… unfortunately… you have to fence them in… these days anyway.  I visited old Andy Jackson’s Hermitage on one of my jaunts to Tennessee a couple years back and was amazed to learn how pigs were left free to roam the sizable compound.

Perhaps if we had such a spread carved from the wilderness, devoid of neighbors we could get away with this – they should always come back at feeding time anyways… right?  But I can’t imagine that we would enjoy much success with this strategy and these rascal Berkshires… we actually have a sow aptly named “Miss Jay’s Rascal”… and what a complete rascal she is… and her pigs and her pigs’ pigs.  Rascals one and all…

I think itʼs a game that they play with me… ʻletʼs see who can upend old Randyʼs latest addition to our domain firstʼ… huts, water barrels, hog panels, gates, inferior fencing… you name it.  And of course old Randy himself if he holds onto the feed bucket too long or makes the errant move to try to infiltrate a group with one or two too many large feeder pigs in it.  But you know, we love our Berks!

Fencing
Fencing

So… fencing is a must.  Good fencing is rudimentary.  And the kind of fence that would be a detriment to a D4 caterpillar is much preferred if one hopes to contain our porcine friends over the long run.  Because really thatʼs what these guys are… a herd of D4 caterpillars that are plenty motivated to remove all obstacles in their path… and well below their path actually.

Now Iʼve been building some manner of fence every day for the past three years… well, it seems like every day anyway.  I donʼt think there is a spot anywhere on my body that hasnʼt felt the magical touch of my hammer.  Not to mention the 3/8 drill bit I put through my hand one hot August day… and had to pull it back out!  Canʼt remember if I put the drill in reverse or not… thankfully Zack was nearby to take the old guy to town to get fixed up.

Thanks to the animal husbandry experiences of my youth, I basically build fortresses.  Hog fortresses.  Heritage Berkshire fortresses.  And the rascals are at bay.

You see, I grew up on a little farm/ranch in northern California and like Noah himself, I think we had about two of everything. Certainly a few too many of everything.  Now my Pop, God love him, he didnʼt like to spend money on anything, especially fencing.  So young Randy cut his teeth on a dead run… chasing one form of Noahʼs creatures or another… and had to suffer the embarrassment many times of chasing a steer through a neighbors garden, geese off the county road, pigs off the other neighbors beautiful pastures.  My older brothers were grown up and gone, so it was typically just me and the lone prairie… on a dead run.

So, these days I pay particular attention to the fences. Now, Iʼm just a dirtball biologist, not a carpenter, so just about everything I build is a bit, shall we say, whimsical, but they hold these black/white rascals… after all, Iʼm getting too old for those dead runs through the woods.

Hot Wire Energizer
Hot Wire Energizer

You know the old saying… If you talk to 30 different farmers about a subject, you’ll get 30 different answers… with conviction!  So, these are just My ways to go about putting up fence to contain hogs.  If you have better ideas… by all means use them!  But if you think you can just put up a couple strands of loose hot wire to hold these wonderful creatures weʼre so blessed to share space on the landscape with… please at the very least have a good perimeter fence!  Unless you owe the neighbors some favors…

Corner and gate bracing is key.  Strong livestock gates are a must.  Only use Red Brand field wire (please send endorsement money to the address in the contact section of this site… you see, weʼre small farmers and really could use it!)… the way itʼs wound is far superior to anything else Iʼve used.  You can get ahold of it and stretch it good and tight.

 
Hotwire in and out

Hot wire is a must.  Along the bottom of the fence, and since we live on a landscape with plenty of predators (it is Wilderness Farms after all), we also run a strand about 18 inches off the ground along the outside of the pens.  This keeps all creatures great and small out of trouble.  

Hog and cattle panels are great, but very expensive.  But hog panels are essential to have around to build quick enclosures for young pigs.

We have a post pounder to use with our tractor to drive the wooden posts for braces.  You can rent these things as well.  By all means be careful using these contraptions.  Donʼt go at post pounding with something else on your mind.

 

Cedar Sticks

Smooth horse wire works well for bracing wire and you can use pieces of lumber, or as we do here, cut up stout cedar limbs for winders to tighten the wire.  Use heavy 10 inch nails to fasten the horizontal blunt brace posts. Stretch the 4 ft Red Brand field wire between brace posts and use 6 ft metal T posts every 8 ft in between.  Attach the hot wire, turn it on and youʼre ready to sleep well at night with a reasonable assurance that you can be sparred those midnight dead runs…

Enjoy your hogs.  Scratch their ears.  Talk to them.  They have quite the vocabulary themselves!  Hogs are special.
 

Cheers,
Randy

Getting Real at Wilderness Farms

I’m just now reading about Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his latest grab of the company behind the ‘Oculus Rift’- a virtual reality headset that allows one to “enter a completely immersive computer generated environment” he says.   Ah, the questions…

Now, Iʼve endured and even supported all this video game mambo jambo with my kids, but have often worried about the what seems to me to be more than ample time they have spent in their rooms wailing away at zombies, foreign nationals, and the KGB …  vs being outside or reading or doing just about anything thatʼs actually real … you know, really participating in real life.

Iʼve also been dragged into in the growing onslaught of ʻsocial mediaʼ, kicking and screaming I should add … mainly when we were more heavily involved with the music scene because all the mentors and publicists said we must use the social sites to promote what we were doing … but this sort of thing could not possibly be more ʻnot meʼ.  You may find this a bit surprising if youʼve endured some of my blogs, but the last thing I am is a ʻchattyʼ person … that feels that it is absolutely necessary to share with the world my every thought, predicament, and ambition.  Nor do I want the world to know where I am and what Iʼm doing 24/7.  What’s wrong with me?  Perhaps only old relics like me like their privacy …

So, back to Zuckerberg and his growing Facebook empire … what kind of person wants to “enter a completely immersive computer generated environment”?  What’s wrong with the actual environment all around us? 

Now I can understand the need for a break from reality from time to time … but being a farmer, I rarely get one … except with an occasional movie, good book, or Zackʼs baseball games – which are very ʻrealʼ for him, and all of us.  Zack works hard at his game every day; a game that actually takes place outside on a real field with real players, real coaches, and here in western Washington … real rain.

Maybe, to give all of us a diversion from the daily grind, Iʼll gather up my little Berkshire family and weʼll go to Hawaii or Disneyland for the holidays … mmm … if Broadway, Bridger, Backwhen, Cathy, Mato, Joan, Norma Jean, Jett, Shiloh, Amy, Miss Pig and Suzie took on Disneyland – that would certainly be a break from reality … and for a lot of people and pigs!  And a good story … “Wilderness Farms goes to the Magical Kingdom” …  But the escapade would probably be reduced to fodder for another video game where our beloved Berks would be dispatched like zombies …

Our little farm is a real farm.  You can actually scratch the ears of our Berkshires and get a kind and thankful response.  You can carry buckets of water and grow real muscles … which is great for our baseball fanatic son Zack, who is, what can I say … ʻfarmer strongʼ. You can toss feed to all manner of pigs and hogs and finally quiet the masses … a calming silence you just have to experience to appreciate. You can build fences in ways that fit in with the farm landscape … giving plenty of consideration to the black-tail deer and red-headed woodpeckers.  And now that spring is here … you can hear multiple frog choirs going off … competing with the hog harmonies at supper time.  When it rains it gets muddy … trees can come down when the wind blows … and when the sun finally appears hogs and man just stand in it and take it in with a level of thankfulness that canʼt be surpassed here on the farm.

A farm life is an adventurous life.  When you think youʼve seen everything something new happens.  Itʼs hard.  Itʼs fun.  Itʼs rewarding.  Weʼre always tired.  We can rejoice every day in the progress weʼve made and fret about all that still needs to be done.  Itʼs actual reality.

Thatʼs it for now … now Iʼm going to post this on Facebook.

A Day with the Chickens …

Itʼs been rough around here the last couple months with consistent, relentless rain … but what should one expect in Western WA … right?  I think itʼs possible that our Berkshires will start quacking like ducks any day now. Remember, this is an outside operation … we have none of those fancy hog barns the industry uses in their concentration camps.

Farrowing season is upon us … Miss Pig and Cathy have had litters recently and Shiloh delivered a nice group of 11 on her first try! Suzie, Mato and Norma Jean will be farrowing in the next month, with Joan, Jett and Amy litters later this spring.

We still have a ways to go to get ʻdry lotsʼ set up back in the wooded areas so we can get the animals off the pasture areas to allow us to get these systems established.

Thereʼs a lot of clean up to do as well … parts of the farm were logged a few years back and thereʼs much debris to deal with and wood to mill up with our little chain saw mill.  At least weʼre not bored!

Now ʻdaylight savings timeʼ is here, and the days are getting longer thereʼs more time to get it all done … just keep the coffee and energy drinks coming, please.

Anyway, yesterday was a beautiful sunny day here, finally, and I spent the day building a new feeder pen in our garden area where we also have our chickens … they were still celebrating the arrival of their new cinder block/tarp shelter we put up for them this past weekend … we salvaged the roof frame from one of those cheap shelters we bought at Costco that the wonderful SE wind we get here from time to time so readily reduced to pasture abbatis … the same SouthEaster that snapped the top off a big cedar that bounced off a camper and impaled itself in the house like an arrow here a few years back … after all this place was coined ʻEnumclawʼ … a Salish description having to do with evil spirits and thundering winds.

Obviously I was under the influence of this all too infrequent sunny day, but as I was building a floor for the new hog hut, it dawned on me that these birds that were quietly clucking about were actually pretty cool … and understand that we love our Berkshire hogs here, but there is absolutely no way I would be able to do this work in such a peaceful purposeful manner if I were surrounded by any manner of hogs.  Hogs would be at my boots like they were apple sort-outs … they would be trying to remove the bottom threads from my jeans … the tools I had staged with appropriate juxtaposition would cause extreme fascination with our porcine friends … is there anything more fun than playing Randyʼs tool toss? Other than maybe Randyʼs tool ʻhide and seekʼ … perhaps an ʻIndiana Jonesʼ of the 22nd Century will discover archaeological wonders here that these hogs have so joyfully buried.  Iʼd bet a good set of fence pliers would be worth at least a hundred bucks in the 22nd.

So, I enjoyed hanging with the chickens.  Our flock consists of mainly the Light Brahma variety, with a few Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks that have been with us for many years.  When we got the Brahmas … a beautiful large heritage species … we got a ʻmixed runʼ, meaning both sexes were present in about equal numbers. We did this with the thought that we would select the best rooster and put the rest in the freezer … well, ʻbutcher dayʼ has come and gone now many times and several of the big boys remain.  Whatʼs amazing about this is these guys arenʼt beating themselves into submission … which is my experience when thereʼs more than one rooster in the hen house … certainly thereʼs occasional disputes and brief ʻtalon-i-cuffsʼ but these altercations are far from the lethal ones I would expect.  So, we have several roosters competing with Greg and Barbaraʼs peacocks down the road for the pole position on the neighborhood soundwave … but the Stellarʼs Jays readily mock them as a reminder to all of us that these domestics are truly out of place here in the foothills of the Cascades.

Weʼll do all we can to reconcile these differences.

The Enumclaw Plan – Part One … “The Destination”

I was reared professionally in the food industry … as a young biologist/production manager for a large food processing cooperative many years ago now.  Here we were ruthlessly trained in the ʻmanagement artsʼ by learning the finer points of management:  Planning, Organizing, Leading, and Controlling.

Therefore, I wouldnt know how to do anything without a plan – a roadmap that defines where we want to end up on our journey, what routes we want to take to get there, where the landslides/potholes/dead-end roads are to be avoided, etc., etc.  I like to draw plans up backwards … starting with The Destination’ first.

So, The Destination’ here at our little Enumclaw Heritage Hog Farm is to raise healthy, happy heritage Berkshire hogs entirely outside, on pasture and in the woods, to provide quality meat products and breeding stock for folks in the Great Pacific Northwest.  We want to, as much as possible, integrate this operation with landscape values/wildlife habitats here on our little hog farm, and perform all facets of this business as environmentally sustainable as we can.

This approach really isn’t at all different from the crusade Ive marched along with throughout my career as a wildlife biologist – which is basically this:  we have an economic priority in this country.  This is just the way it is.  We need to find ways to integrate what we do to support ourselves with our vastly impacted landscape if we want to continue to enjoy landscape values in this country outside of public lands.

When you look at all the economic entities out there, agriculture arguably has the greatest potential to integrate what it does with the landscape (but when mismanaged, can really screw things up).  So, my career crusade has revolved around exemplifying the environmental potential of agriculture.  And now we get to do it for ourselves!!

You have to be able to take some arrows as a crusader, and I certainly have my scars.  In the middle of our crusade within the California food processing industry an Executive VP said to me, during a meeting involving a large group of colleagues, that all this environmental mambo jambo “was just a bunch of bunk” … among the milder forms of ordinance Iʼve taken.

Back then it was difficult to find room within the big business mindset for anything other than the bottom line … and anything ‘environmentalconjured up only visions of regulatory agents with badges who were out to change your business, cost you money, or worse’.  Its very heart warming today to see so many folks/businesses really place a priority on such critical aspects as environmental sustainability, landscape values, and the like.  And there are many, many of these people here in the Pacific Northwest.

Part Two of The Enumclaw Plan’ will start mapping out the journey our little Heritage Hog Farm will take to reach ‘Our Destination’ and will be coming soon …

Randy – January, 2014