As I have shown quite clearly before, the woman who calls herself “Charles” has initiated conversations with Al as much as the other way around. If he was so terrible, why doesn’t she ignore him? She always responds. They banter.
But the thing about the bacon isn’t a joke. It’s not a “code word.” It’s real.
We have a cow.
I think maybe I’ve mentioned that before.
Anyway, she produces way more milk than we can use in the house, and that’s putting it mildly. At peak, she gives us 6 gallons of milk a day.
A calf drinks 1 gallon daily. Right now, we have 3 calves. That takes care of three of those gallons. We’ll get a fourth as soon as we have a pen free.
That’s still not enough stomachs to absorb all that milk. I generally take the excess in the house, put it in the milk fridge for a couple of days, skim off the cream for butter, and toss the skim milk on the blueberry bushes. It’s a waste. We know that.
So we always have a pig.
We used to get two pigs.
But two pigs is one pig too many. We did this because people told us that they eat better if they are in competition with another pig. And that is true. They battle for dominance and behave, well, like pigs.
However, it’s not cost-effective for us to have two pigs.
We feed the pig, in addition to the pig ration you see in the bowl there, our excess milk.
When you bottle-feed a calf, you absolutely must have a half-gallon of milk every morning and evening for the calf. You can’t waver from that, even if you have to go the store and buy milk. For a young calf, that is his life-blood, his sole diet.
A pig is different. She can drink a whole lot of milk, a little milk, or none. So a pig serves as a buffer animal for us. If we have a lot of milk left over, she gets it. If I decide to serve chowder and make pudding and do a batch of cheese, she gets nothing but pig ration.
For one pig, milk comprises about half her diet. That cuts our feed bill in half. The last pig we raised ate through about 4 100-pound sacks of pig ration during her time with us.
If we have two pigs, that doesn’t rise to 8 sacks. It rises to about 12. That’s because we don’t have a double supply of milk.
So it’s far cheaper for us to raise one pig than two. Furthermore, we can’t eat one pig a year, much less two. Yet we need to have one pig every year to drink the milk.
And that’s where Al Wilson entered the picture.
He raises lambs. He doesn’t raise pigs at all. Raising pigs would cost him more than it does me because he doesn’t have milk.
So we barter.
Here’s our pig from last year.
When that pig got to a decent weight and the weather was nice and chilly, we took the pig to the slaughterhouse and they did the deed and then hung it in their cooler for a day or two. We got our half, which is our usual procedure, brought it home and cut and vacuum-sealed it.
In addition, we cut the belly into rectangles and cured it. We then smoked it. [Cold-smoked. Dave built the smoker. I do the curing and the hanging. We share monitoring the smoker. I do all the vacuum-sealing.]
Here’s the bacon after smoking.
And from a prior year, here’s what it looks like.
After we’d taken care of our half, we loaded up the other half and drove to Al Wilson’s farm and spent a lovely day with him and his wife and Lisa Luthi (who came down just for the socializing and ended up working). We cut up Al’s half and got the bacon into the cooler with the cure on it. (It has to sit for a week like that.)
In return, Al gave us something we really need badly: an all-weather frost-proof waterer for our cattle. It’s too large for his sheep, something he didn’t realize when he bought it. But it’s perfect for our guys.
This year, we’re going to barter for lamb.
And here’s the piglet.
That was three weeks or so ago. She’s about twice that size now. She’s currently living in a stall in the barn, but getting ready to make the big move into the pig pen. She is drinking as much milk as one of the calves, which is simply astonishing.
“Bacon” is a code word for. . . bacon.
This is real “homesteading.”
Where is the Naugler piglet? Where are the Naugler chickies? What is it that Joe does all day? Where is the “homesteading”?