Nine acres is a lot of acres. I mean, obviously not as many as 20 or 100 acres, but still, for new farmers and land managers, nine feels like a lot to steward well. One of our conversations early on was, if Cairns Farm became a private park, how would we go about managing the property? Choices are fairly limited: a) we could use chemicals, b) we could use human power, and/or c) we could use animals.
Breaking down the pros and cons:
CHEMICALS are very effective. We’d be able to take care of a LOT of our rampant weed problem using them. But chemicals are less earth-friendly than other methods, and, to exacerbate that issue, one of Jeff and Kim’s young kids has life-threatening allergies, making wide-spread use of chemicals even more risky than they are for the non-fragile population, and, therefore, something we’d like to avoid. We may resort to chemicals in a few remote locations on the property, but not yet. We decided we need to try other options first.
HUMAN POWER is probably least effective for ground control unless we’re talking power tools and machinery. When we bought Cairns Farm, we hired a tree service to brush mow blackberry brambles and take out all nut trees due to the aforementioned life-threatening allergies. They cleared more land than we anticipated, so we have quite a bit of planting to do, but we also have a clearer canvas now and a head start on keeping it maintained. Honestly, though, we’re not planning to hand-pull all the weeds that will try to resurface or mow acres and acres of lawn, so we knew fairly early we’d need to set our sights on…
ANIMAL POWER! Specifically, animals that will eat ground cover (like sheep) without completely unearthing and destroying it, and animals that will tackle blackberries and brush (like goats.) Kim has been our Main Researcher finding suitable breeds for our farm, and she discovered another “mowing” animal… American Guinea Hogs.
American Guinea Hogs are a breed unique to the United States. Nearly extinct by the 1990s, they’ve seen a resurgence in recent years because they’re small and docile enough for new farmers (why, hello!), and they’re not very interested in rooting (aka, destroying ground cover by digging it up instead of eating just the vegetation above the ground.)
Plus, they make BACON.
Thus began our search for American Guinea Hogs.
Imagine our pig joy when we heard friends, due to a move to a property less conducive for swine, needed to rehome their breeding pair of American Guinea Hogs and drove of piglets. For FREE.
A passel of pigs? YES, PLEASE.
And so, along with my dad (thanks, Papa), we threw two large dog crates in our kayak trailer, and zipped south to scoop ‘em up.
Free tip, Future Pig Farmers: a kayak trailer is not an animal trailer, and dog crates are not pig crates, bless our hearts. #NewFarmers #RookieMistake
So we only picked up the four-month-old piglets and went back a few days later for Pearl and Hamlet, their mommy and daddy.
In conclusion, all six piggies are in residence at Cairns Farm now.
And we and the chickens are keeping a close eye on them.
So far, so good!
Next step = goats.
Wish us luck.