The tractor was in the shop and the self-propelled rototiller had just come to a grinding halt. It was the end of the gardening season, there were literally piles of organic matter to incorporate into the garden for next year, and winter was quickly approaching. What to do??? Pigs!
Fortunately, there is an organic pastured pork operation just down the road. Lisa and I loaded up nine Berkshire weaners in a stock trailer and set them loose on the garden. The results were amazing. The bales of straw we wanted to incorporate disappeared in a few days. Once the bales were gone the pigs set to weeding. Countless hours have been spent pulling quack grass (our gardening nemesis) with little to no success but we may have come across its kryptonite. You guessed it. Pigs!!
I watched in awe as the pigs pulled the plant out of the ground, hooked their snouts under the rhizomes and pulled. I smiled gleefully as the pigs ripped out meters of roots and gobbled them up. A rototiller would have cut the rhizomes into small pieces and exacerbated the problem. Instead, they were disappearing and being turned into, well, pork.
Winter hasn’t stopped these four-legged rototillers. The pigs get their snouts below the frost and rip up chunks of soil. I’m really curious to see the difference they make to the future gardens.
For the past week, the temperature hasn’t risen above -30. Did the Berkshires mind? Not one bit. Before the polar vortex arrived, we put extra straw by their shelter and let them arrange it how they saw fit. The pigs did a swell job because even on the coldest night (-38) steam and contented snorts were billowing from within the nest of straw they built.
As much as I enjoy having the pigs around, some of them have reached the age (and size) where they will reach a higher state of enlightenment. Coming later in January, The Homestead is proud to offer certified organic, free-range pork from happy pigs. Berkshires are a heritage breed and grow slower than conventional pigs, which results in well marbled, nutritious, and flavourful pork.