Homestead Roots Newsletter – 4/11/2024

I have my office window open this afternoon, as I look out the grass is greening up and the sun is shining in Wisconsin. What a beautiful start to spring! In the Barlow house we are starting to feel the pace quicken as we get into our busy season. We’ve got pigs coming soon, baby goats and ducks being born and of course a large garden business to manage. There are times where we question our sanity, like when we are drying off new baby goats at 11 pm, and then trying to hold the mouth of tiny baby goat to the teat of its mother. HAHA! Not that I speak from experience! I can’t quite explain it but there is just something special in this life that keeps us going. Maybe the magic will wear off someday, I hope not, we are having too much fun!

Baby Goats are Here!

Stormy and her first baby getting to know each other. 🙂

The arrival of baby goats to the homestead is ALWAYS a highlight. Despite the stress and late nights, seeing a baby born is really cool. As of this writing we have 3 kids on the ground, 2 boys and a girl. We have two does yet to kid. By the way, we will have goats for sale if you are interested! The first doe to give birth is a first timer, so we have had to help her learn the ropes a bit. That means holding her still while we help her baby nurse. Thankfully it does appear momma is getting the hang of things! Ingrid also stepped in to assist the birth as things were moving a little slower than we wanted. Our second doe is more experienced and delivered twins without any of us being aware. Ingrid just went out to the barn and there they were. All is going well with the twins and their momma. We will let the babies get their share of milk early on and then start milking the does. Espen spent most of the day Sunday building his own goat stanchion so that he can help Ingrid with the milking. It turned out great and I know Ingrid will love his help.

Baby ducks continue to hatch out as well. Elias has been selling hatching eggs and baby ducks. We still have a few if you are interested! He has another batch hatching out soon. Elias has started his own duck newsletter. If you have interest in joining his email list just reply to this email and we will get you added.

Next up in the world of babies is pigs! We are hopeful that we will have our baby pigs on the homestead very soon. The pigs will start their time here in the barn to acclimate to the farm. They then will go to their permanent pen outside. Young pigs can be susceptible to health concerns when exposed to drastic weather changes. Something we’ve learned the hard way. So we baby them early on as the weather normalizes and warms up. The pigs will spend about 7 months on our farm before we send them to the butcher.

Our next big project outside of the market garden is to get our homestead garden ready to go. We’ve got orchard trees that need to go in and permanent beds that need to be established. Before any of that happens we want to get a deer fence up as the deer caused issues last year. We hope to make some good strides on that this week. The homestead garden allows us to use our market garden space for our business while growing some of our homestead crops like potatoes, onions, winter squash, sweet potatoes, dried beans, etc.

Should You Raise Pigs?

Pigs are full of possibilities on the homestead!

After chickens and ducks the next animal we brought home to the homestead was pigs. Thinking back now we were a little crazy to jump into pigs so quickly! We had next to no infrastructure, at times we were forced to keep the pigs in our chicken coop because the temperatures were freezing outside. We are more prepared now! And with that said, pigs are a great early homestead animal because they don’t require a ton of infrastructure. HA!

You can keep pigs with a simple shelter and two lines of electric fence. Once they learn what how the fence works they are very respectable. Training the pigs on the electric fence is important, a little YouTube research can give you some tips. Pigs will eat just about anything, though we have found they don’t like citrus fruits, onions, raw potatoes and a few other things. We feed our pigs a daily ration of grain and then work really hard to get them a diversified diet of other items as well. That could be weeds and greens from the garden as well as produce that is spoiled from our local food banks and grocery stores.

We keep our pigs in a spoke and hub system. You can learn about it in this video ( I posted last year. It has worked great and we are looking forward to this being our first full year in the system. It allows us to keep the pigs moving so they don’t wear out the ground too much. We also hope to plant forage crops for them to consume as they work their way around our hub. As you know pigs are most often kept in confinement today. We want to give our pigs the best life they can live while they are with us. We are constantly working towards that goal.

In closing, pigs are relatively easy to keep. If you don’t have a warm place to keep them you should purchase piglets later in the year when it is warmer. Finding piglets can be a challenge, we have found them through word of mouth and Craigslist. Typically it takes 6-8 months to grow out a pig to 250-300 lbs. If you don’t have a way to transport your pigs to a butcher look for a slaughter operation that will come to you. We did it that way for several years and it works great! I love pigs because of the joy of keeping them and they provide a delicious and diverse final product for the freezer! If you have pig questions feel free to fire away, happy to help!

Our First Harvest is SOON!

The greens in the tunnel are doing great!

Things are looking amazing in the garden. We are planting outdoors and our high tunnel crops are thriving. The weather looks so good that I am tempted to throw some tomatoes in the ground early this year. We will see if I can pull the trigger. We did it one year prior and lost 90% of them after a late freeze. Pretty devastating to lose 300+ tomato plants.

We are planting more and more each day and working to be ready for our opening in early May. So far the systems we have worked to put in place to help us streamline our work and make it more efficient are working well. Still some kinks to work out but we are on our way.

Ingrid said at lunch time that she isn’t buying anymore salad from the store. This is always a big moment, as the garden starts to produce salad greens for our daily lunches. I can’t wait!

Living the Life You Want

Contentment can be a slippery idea to pin down. In some ways contentment is a good thing, in other ways being too content can be a detriment. Finding that balance in life is important. We don’t want to go through life constantly looking forward without enjoying what we have but if we settle in to a life that isn’t fulfilling or fruitful, then contentment can keep us from achieving our goals and finding success. For me the challenge has been finding contentment.

My first career was in local TV news as a meteorologist. That was a world of constant movement. You were always looking for what’s next. That seed was planted strong in me and was tough to break when I left the business. These days I can safely say I have found contentment (most of the time) in the life we live. With that contentment also comes new goals each year and big, fun, dreams that we are striving to achieve. I find that when my work slows down my brain goes into high gear thinking up new ideas and projects. This can be good! But can also drive all my loved ones a little crazy.  HA! What side of the contentment balancing act are you on? Or have you found the balance point?

Thank you as always for reading and for following along on this journey. As always I would love to hear from you. If you have questions or suggestions just reply to this email and I will be in touch.