Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Meet Gus and Victoria (or Shari and Trooper or Starbright and Sunshine or whatever)

In keeping with the urban homesteading momentum we've got goin' on around here, we just got us some pigs. American Guinea Hogs to be exact. We found the perfect breeding pair at Cascade Meadows Farm, out past Sandy. They've also provided the Oregon Zoo with a mama and baby American Guinea Hog. Kirk and Jason were just about the nicest farmers, folks, I've ever met. When we arrived on Saturday at the Farm, it was shearing time for the Icelandic Sheep. Despite what I'm sure was a hectic day, Kirk and Jason spent almost two hours with us. They showed us around the farm and introduced us to their herds of Dexter cattle, Icelandic sheep, Americana chickens and of course, American Guinea Hogs.
We brought home a female and a male hog. I decided I liked the names Gus and Victoria; Josh and Jason agreed. Stella demanded they be named Starbright and Sunshine, which I guess is cool because they do kinda look like My Little Ponies. And of course, Nik, always the joker, wanted the names Trooper and Shari. Shari being short for Sheriff and Trooper short for State Trooper. I refuse to explain his idiosyncrasies.

Despite Nik's juvenile tendencies, we're all really excited to breed and harvest our own meat. We've eaten the chickens and turkeys we've raised and we're ready to take it a step further with a larger animal. This breed of hog was our first choice for this, our venture into true Homesteading. The American Guinea Hog stays small and is a true forager, making the meat more tasty and healthy. They eat everything edible, including meats and dairy and veggies and fruits and just about anything a human could eat. They turn our waste into delicious meat. The consummate recyclers!
In addition to great tasting meat and a healthier waste system for us, their humans, there's only 200 Guinea Pigs left in the United States. They're listed as critical on the Conservation Priority list of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. I've added some resources at the end of this page because I'd like to urge you to look into them as they're amazing animals.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


It's recently been brought to my attention that there's no photo's of me here, on the blog. Which of course is completely logical because my eye is usually glued to the little eye peeky hole in the camera. Regardless, to prove my existence and waylay any naysayers to my authenticity, I've decided to post a photo of myself along with Nik, Stella, Josh and Jason taken this past February at the Charcoal Kilns in Death Vally National Park.
On a side note, just yesterday we counted our eggs and came up with a whooping 101 eggs! First time ever that we've tallied that many!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sailing and our first week of schooling

We began school this week, just like public schoolers. We got off to a great start! The kids have all new curriculum this year and we've already begun our unit for the fall; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Since I began the Master Recyclers program at the beginning of September, we all though it'd be great to bring the kids along on my journey to know more about waste, consumption and recycling. We'll also be discussing global warming, climate change and the greenhouse effect. So far, the kids are extremely intrigued and really excited about some of the field trips we're planning for this unit.
On Monday the kids, Nik and I went sailing with our friend Ike. Unbeknownst to me, it was not only a wonderful ride, it was a great way to open the conversation on waste. We put in at Meldrum Bar and traversed our way to Ross Island. Along the way we encountered floating beer cans, plastic bottles and bags as well as some pretty foul smelling river banks. The rape of Ross Island was enough to make quiet any argument the boys may have had about steering the boat. Unfortunately there was little wind and we ended up puttering up and down powered by the little gas motor. All in all, a wonderful first week of school!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Finally, our new Goat Tractor!!!

After two years of desire, a year of failures and then another six months of planning, Penelope, Arwen, Big Mama and Maybelle finally have a comfortable new home! Sunday morning found us up early and shopping for lumber at the local lumber store. I'd much rather have scavenged construction materials from Craigslist, Freecycle or local construction sights, but my wonderful Mom offered to purchase all the materials new. And since we were unexpectedly scheduled to have the Tractor done before the first of September, we were left with few options.
That said, we began the actual building of the Tractor after hours of debate and price checking, in wonderful spirits and under the direction of the Lord of Construction, Aaron Reick. In addition to being an engineering student and a building guru, Aaron also happens to be the kids' Godfather. Despite personal constraints, Aaron not only designed and spearheaded our project, he worked and directed us for 12 hours on Sunday. What a guy!
I love this photo of Aaron, to the right. He spent much of Sunday in this pose. Kindly listening to our uniformed advice before respectfully teaching us how things are really done. Such patience! In addition to Aaron's assistance, Luke Russel and Mike Bird also lent their strong backs and nimble hands to our project. Without each of them, we'd never have been able to finish this project. Hero's I tell ya!
Mike and Jenny are our neighbors to the East and their kids Bryson and Carson also threw in their effort. Jason, Josh, Bryson and Carson nailed together the header over the doorway as well as offered us hours of entertainment.

At this point the Tractor is structurally finished. We're planning on painting this weekend and I'd like to find some corrugated metal roofing and a gutter on Craigslist to finish the roof. Then we'll pack bark chips and straw on the ground as a floor for the goats. After it's all finished we will re-fence the East side of the Habitat and fix up the coop. Then we'll be done for the year! I just can't wait to head back to the Habitat and see everyone happy and safe and warm in their specific homes. I'm thinking we'll try to plan a "Habitat Warming Party" sometime in September, so mark your calenders!