Pork, it’s what’s for dinner… and breakfast… and supper… and snacks… yeah, we’re going to be eating pork for a while. Today I picked up our pig from the butcher and spent a few hours rearranging and organizing the freezer. We still have a lot of pork left from the other pigs, so now the freezer is stuffed full of pork. That’s definitely not a bad thing; in fact, it’s a really good thing. It’s just kind of hard to gauge how much food you will actually get when you grow your own, especially when first starting out homesteading. We’ve made plenty of mistakes in that area, so I thought I’d tell about the mistakes we’ve made and what we plan to do differently.
The first year we put out 75 tomato plants. Yeah, 75… what were we thinking?? Well, we just wanted to be sure we had enough because we wanted to make enough different kinds of sauces, ketchup, salsa, and can enough tomatoes to last a year. It takes a lot of tomatoes to do all that. At the time we were planning out the garden, we had no idea the amount we’d need, or the amount each plant would produce. Let’s just say I canned more than enough for the year and had tomatoes left over… lots of them. So the next year we put out I think around 50-some. We planned on less than that but Mom and I kept going back and getting a few more, just to make sure there would be enough. And enough there was… still got all the tomatoes canned I wanted and had way more than we needed left over. Last year we decided to put out 40 plants. Oh my, it was so hard to not put out more because it seemed like such a small amount compared to what we had the previous years. Actually, that number was about right. I didn’t get as much canned last year as I did the previous years, but it wasn’t due to not having enough tomatoes. Timing was off and they came on during times when we were busy with activities and I just didn’t get a chance to do as much canning. I still managed to get enough canned to last most of the winter. Next year, I think we’ll aim for 40 plants again.
The first year we got our goats we milked two goats. One goat provides more than enough milk for our family, so we were almost swimming in milk. We sold some of the extra milk, which worked out ok. Eventually, it got to be way too time consuming to milk both goats, plus we really didn’t have a good set up to efficiently handle the milk. Last year I decided to milk just one and it worked out so much better. We sold one of the milking goats this year, so we’ll continue to milk just one.
Having too large of a flock of laying chickens is another problem we’ve had. Our flock just keeps increasing each year. In fact, at one point we’ve had so many we couldn’t even count them all and come out with the same number twice. Of course, that may have more to do with our ability to count moving chickens than the number of chickens we have. 😕 It’s actually worked out to have the extra chickens because we’ve been able to sell eggs, which off sets the cost of feeding them. Space wise, we’re almost maxed out. Next year we’ve decided we aren’t getting any more layers, with the exception of the few we’ll get for the kids to show at the fair. Brooke has a small flock of a rare breed of chickens she’s planning on breeding and hatching, otherwise we aren’t hatching any others. If it works out, there are a few people interested in buying some from her and we’ll probably keep just a few. Instead of getting our usual amount of layers next spring, we’re going to get meat birds. We’ll get a flock early in the spring and butcher them before summer and get another flock in the fall to butcher right before winter. That way we’ll increase our meat supply and not our flock of layers.
So that brings us to the pork. Summer before last we were offered a really good deal on a pig, so we got it. Then last fall, we found another good deal on a couple of pigs and decided to get them. This time last fall, we picked up our first pig from the butcher, and then had the other two pigs butchered in the spring. A month later, we took Brooke to buy a pig for the fair. Miley spotted a really cute small one that she liked, one thing lead to another and we ended up being offered a deal on a pig for her. Unable to refuse, we got it. Miley wasn’t old enough to be in 4H yet, but we got it so she’d have one of her own to take care of. Besides that, having pigs around is handy because they can drink the extra milk and eat the extra produce from the garden instead of having it go to waste. Brooke sold her pig at the fair, and we just now got the last one butchered. We ended up with four pigs between last year and this year. We’re definitely good on pork for a while. We’ve decided that we’re not going to get a pig to butcher next year, but the kids may get some for 4H. Instead, this spring we’d like to try to get a calf to raise for beef, if the budget allows.
There’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to knowing how much to grow to fit the family’s needs. Our goal for next year is to try to cut back and be more conscious about growing just what we need. Not only will it cut back on waste but it will also cut back on costs, which will help the budget.
Although we’ve gone a little over board on growing our own food…
it’s a good feeling to have a freezer stocked full of meat we’ve grown ourselves.