Saturday, May 18, 2013

Operation Pig Tractor

Since moving back to the farm in February, Patt and I have been debating, with either of us waffling from PBA to OSA (Petroleum Based Agriculture and Old Solar Agriculture) off and on. We land on the OSA side when the weather is cool, the rain is regular, and we aren't coming down with some kind of disease from some of the city folk we have to mingle with from time to time. (Just kidding city folk!) We are tempted by the PBA when the weather is hot, dry, the ground is compacted, and through some series of events, the weeds grow thicker and taller, and faster than we can pull them out.

Today we put our emergency response plan into place today. Facing 90 degree weather and high humidity for the next week or so and a garden that is out of control -

We went to Defcon 4 and put Operation Pig Tractor into play.

The first stage of Pig Tractor starts with a single tpost marking one corner of the new bed space. It is set about 2 feet away from our asparagus beds- this was by design as you will see. eventually this 2 ft gap will be heavily mulched and become a walkway between our established beds and our new asparagus bed which will be planted next spring.

Step two involved releasing our pigs, Squeal and Grunt, into our corner pasture where they have been in a semi-mobile pen, which is the subject of a prior post. The following video shows their reaction to this new freedom.

They both were running around all crazy like Jon Pinette at a Chinese Buffet.

Once their mobile pen was dismantled we moved it into the garden. The key here is to protect the beds we already have established while routing the pigs around them into their new pen.

These were protected by a chute we built.

This routed them between the asparagus bed along the future walk way. They entered through a gap we left in the pen. Once inside we closed the gap with a small piece of scrap cattle panel to make a gate.

Here are Squeal and Grunt in their new temporary home - a 32x50 foot rectangle that will be mowed, tilled, and fertilized, by them and then laid out in at least 3 50 foot rows and planted in tomatoes and cow peas by us. This fall, when the weather cools off again, I'll dig three new asparagus beds to be ready for planting in the Spring of 2014 - if ever we live that long.

This is OSA. Old Solar Agriculture. The slow way. The hard way, yes, but no petroleum was used in the construction of the pen or in the mowing, tilling, or planting that will come. When this spot is completely rooted up, we will open the back corner of the pen to allow them access to the back half of our over-grown garden which will be fenced off from the planted portion, by swinging the panels into place.

Now, getting the pigs into the pen was not uneventful. Once the pen was built and the chute put into place, we still had to get them from bottom corner pasture into the garden. Ronny and I planned it out to the minute detail. Patt would keep their attention with a bucket of feed and attempt to lure them into the garden gate and the opening of the chute, while Ronny and I with an intricate moving wall of cattle panels, gates, and hay bales would keep them from escaping into the large pasture. On this 90 degree day, we did not want to chase pigs. As it turns out, the pigs did escape, but eventually, after Ronny and I stopped panicking, the pigs found Patt with the feed and we slowly coaxed them into the chute by calmly standing in their way if the went the wrong direction, not pressing them too closely, and, in essence, convincing the pigs that going into the chute was their idea, and it was a good one.

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