Plowing with Pigs is Here!

by: EJ on 02/27/2013
Posted in: Sustainable Living

Plowing with Pigs and Other Creative, Low-Budget Homesteading Solutions, by Oscar H. Will III and Karen K. Will, is now off press.  This dynamic homesteading duo runs Prairie Turnip Farm in Osage County, Kansas.  Oscar Will is editor-in-chief of Grit Magazine, and is a farmer, scientist, and author, known for seeking and implementing creative farmstead solutions.  Karen Will is editor of the beautiful Heirloom Gardener magazine.  Between the two of them, they raise alfalfa sprouts, hay, beef cattle, free-range poultry (meat and eggs), native perennial plants, trees, cut flowers and vegetables.  By using rotational grazing and humane husbandry practices with their livestock, they claim to have, "some off the happiest four-legged creatures in Osage County."  And on top of all this, they have time to write!  Oscar writes a regular blog at Grit online, The Daily Commute.  Karen blogs at My Home Farm and for Mother Earth News at the Common Fare.



In chapter 1, Free Range Fowl, the Wills say, "Chickens are an end-of-the-day" entertainment that rivals the best Broadway show or blockbuster movie".  I can certainly relate.  I don't have chickens, but I do have ducks.  I have subjected my city friends to bouts of duck watching much to their amusement.  The racoons in our area are very active in the spring and I can't let my ducks roam unsupervised from about February to June.  I often let the ducks out and take my coffee and bowl of porridge into the yard on morning duck duty.  When my friend from the city visited, I invited her to join me.  At first she was bemused but soon understood the appeal as the ducks dove, quacked, did barrel rolls and basically put on the cutest show ever.  And then there are the ducklings. I set up chairs beside the duck pen containing newly hatched duckings as entertainment for my visiting sister and her husband.  Ah, country life. 



But what about the pigs?  In Chapter Two, the Wills cover all thing porcine, including plowing with pigs.  Pigs root for their food, pushing their nose into the ground and digging it up.  Pigs are so efficient at this task that in past, agriculturalists recommended ringing or cutting the cartilage around a pig's nose to prevent it from ruining grazing pastures.  Fortunately, modern animal husbandry  tends more toward permaculture beliefs - understanding the animals' natural tendencies and putting these to work for you. The Wills explain that a pig's inclination to root can be turned to homesteader's advantage.  Pigs, they say are "self-contained, land-plowing units that can turn sod and rid the soil of grubs, roots, rhizomes like no combination of machines and pesticide sprays so far invented".  A group of five adult pigs can plow half an acre in a couple of months.



Years ago, I worked with farmers in rural Australia.  Some small homesteaders were just beginning to move into the area.  Often, the seasoned farmers whose families had lived generations on the land were quite skeptical of the newbies.  Farming is a complicated business, particularly when animal husbandry is involved.  It is all very well to be entranced by the cuteness of a baby animal but the realities of animal care include shelter, containment, feeding, disease and medication and veterinarian attention. There is plenty to learn and the Wills give you a good introductory overview.  Other chapters in Plowing with Pigs cover fences, tools you need and ones you can make yourself, crops and harvesting.



If homesteading plays a part in your future plans or dreams, Plowing with Pigs is the book for you.


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