Hog Wallow

20130828-IMG_0703The heat has returned to the South this week with heat indexes around 100.  I really can’t complain as it has been a very decent summer by southern standards, and we’ve often been cooler and less humid than what my family has been experiencing in Iowa.  Pigs don’t have sweat glands so it’s up to us to help them stay cool.  My pigs are in a very well shaded pen and they have a glorious wallow they lay in to cool off.  They were pretty smart in making their wallow, they started rooting around by their water trough, making a deep, two-tiered circular area, and then tipped their water  trough over into it.    Hint, hint mom, we need a wallow!

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So…when we recently got a duck “pond” I placed  it right outside of the pig pen.

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Every few days I empty the duck pond (you wouldn’t believe how nasty and stinky they get it in short order), and this water flows right down into the hog wallow.  This keeps their wallow full of lovely mud with not much effort on my part and the pigs don’t dump their water trough anymore.  Do you see the duck on the diving board?  The pool is a little taller than I wanted and they were struggling to get in, so we set up a plywood ramp for them and they actually use it!

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Happy ducks, happy pigs!

Eggs!

20130827-IMG_0691So, I am finally back in eggs!  My 11 Delaware hens are in their 3rd year of laying and are only giving about 2-3 eggs a day between them; however, my 14 pullets (Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons and New Hampshire Reds) started laying and are quickly picking up the slack.  I think pullet eggs are so cute–little mini size eggs.   But even more exciting is that my duck has started laying eggs!  I find them randomly dropped around the yard, so I guess she hasn’t set up house in a nest yet, but at least she’s leaving them where I can see them.  In the photo the duck “pullet” eggs are up top, then a regular chicken egg, then 2 chicken pullet eggs, so you can see even the first duck eggs are as big as a chicken egg and I expect they’ll get bigger as she gets into the swing of things.  We’d never had duck eggs before, but they taste pretty much the same as chicken eggs.  I wanted to know the nutritional differences between chicken and duck eggs, and after doing a little research I found that duck eggs:

Have a larger yolk to white ratio.

Slightly higher protein, vitamins and minerals.

Slightly higher saturated fat.

About double the cholesterol.

 Duck eggs have less water content than chicken eggs so must be cooked more gently; overcooking will make them rubbery.  Duck eggs are prized by bakers, who say their cakes rise higher and taste better due to the higher fat content in duck eggs.

I don’t bake many cakes, but that is definitely on my agenda for the weekend so I can test this theory!

Cinnamon Soap

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We’ve been busy making soap to increase our inventory before Christmas orders start coming in.  I never thought to make a cinnamon soap until a neighbor asked us to make a custom order of it for her.  It smells wonderful!  It’s the perfect soap to have in your bathroom in the fall and winter.  We added a little cinnamon powder to gently exfoliate and warm your skin, so nice to come inside and shower with after you’ve been out in the cold doing morning chores or a sweet way to start your day before going to work.

Horses

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Goldie’s giving Cosmo a good scratch on the hip.  My horses have really been enjoying the unusually cool summer we’re having.  In fact, all of my animals have been quite comfortable this summer.  I hate to see them standing around just sweating and miserable during our typically hot and humid summers.  Not so this year.  Now as we slide closer to the end of summer, I wonder what winter will bring this year, unusual cold and snow?

Lemon Cucumbers

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These little gems are my new favorite cucumber.  Every year I try growing a few new things in my garden, and this year decided to try lemon cucumbers after sampling some at a farmer’s market last year.  They are incredibly productive and just a little bit sweeter than other cucumbers.  The skin has little bristles that are easily rubbed off.  I love their crispness and delicate flavor.  I’ve used them in gazpacho, but the best way is to treat them very minimally and let their flavor really shine.  I made a salad of sliced tomatoes, green pepper, onion and sliced cucumbers, tossed with a simple balsamic vinaigrette, a few herbs and some crumbled chevre that was a deliciously refreshing dinner along with some homemade peasant bread.

What’s New

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It seems I’m not a very consistent blogger, and it’s not that I don’t enjoy it, there just aren’t enough hours in the day!  I have all the animals to care for–goats, chickens, horses, dogs, cats, and now pigs (more on that later), the garden to keep up with, cheese and soap to make, riding lessons and my new obsession with learning dressage, working on my photography and soap sales, and my “real” job as a medical transcriptionist for 25 hours per week.  But, all the baby goats are gone, the does’ production is starting to slow down, and we have the pigs to help keep up with the milk, so I’m finding a little more time now.

Last week we got 3 pigs, 2 for us and one for our daughter and soon to be son-in-law.  They are a Yorkshire cross and all 3 are females.  They’ve been busy rooting around, and I am very tempted to make their pen a garden when they’re gone.  They’re better than any tiller and fertilize as they go!  They’re drinking all the extra goat milk I give them and kitchen scraps.  Seems like a good arrangement so far.  They should be ready for processing in December.

The garden is doing better than it ever has this year, thanks to our unusually lovely summer here in Tennessee.  The humidity and temperatures have been very tolerable, almost reminding me of summers in Iowa, and the rain has been coming when we need it.  I’ve actually gotten enough zucchini to freeze this year and the squash bugs never did find it!  They haven’t killed my butternut squash either.  Beans, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, potatoes are all doing very well.  And now it’s time to start my fall garden, which I’ll be doing this weekend.