Sunday, November 29, 2009

Like Lambs To....

The pigs left today in an operation that went a little too smoothly. Their transportation, a large pickup pulling a small livestock trailer, backed up to the fence, let down it's tailgate, and within five minutes the three pigs walked up the ramp and in, the scent of slops luring them forward. The driver, Frank Herrick, raises pigs himself and has a little pig exhibition at the Blue Hill Fair. I didn't know this when I'd arranged the pick-up, and I was pleased to see that the guy doing the delivery was someone who appreciates pigs. He was thoroughly impressed by the pen I'd provided. Can't get any better than that, he thought. Without taking measurements I'd guessed that the largest pig weighed something over 200 pounds. His more educated guess put him closer to three hundred pounds, on the verge of too big, in his opinion. Anything bigger, he said, and they're just putting on fat. He knew from looking at them that they'd come from Feed and Seed. I was under the impression that the guy who supplies the Feed and Seed piglets raised them himself. Frank said they might have come from Canada. Although, he'd heard that there might have been trouble getting pigs from Canada this past spring and that my pigs may have come from the Buckeye State. Next year's pigs, if there are any, will come from Frank. He doesn't raise the pink variety. His are black with brown spots; I think he called them Tamworths.

Will there be pigs next year? That's an open question. After my first season of pig raising, I'm not sure. There's the question of eating what is clearly an intelligent animal. They're social, friendly and smart. More or less the same description one might have for the family dog. This is an issue for me but not the most compelling. There is the issue of cost: How much did I spend to produce a pound of pork. I know that the cost of the piglets themselves ($240 total) and the bill to feed them (something around $700) is a significant sum, but I'm not going to lose money on the deal; that's clear. I'll most likely end up with something less than 600 pounds of pork. If I sold it all at the reasonable price of $3.50/lb, that's $2100. There are processing fees I'm not considering here, but the total cost is not as significant as what I spent the money on. While it's true that my pigs owe some unknowable number of their pounds to eating whatever they could forage from the land, it's also true that they consumed roughly three quarters of a ton of commercial pig food. (Add to that hundreds of pounds of restaurant and home food waste and wild apples.) On the vast oak estates in Spain, home of the famous cured hams, a pig typically roams four acres of forage. That's a stunningly different way to raise a pig than what happens on your average American pig farm. We've got four acres of oak trees. I'm thinking that I could double the space I have now, and buy half the commercial food and see what happens. I'd rather have three smaller pigs with less outside input. My three (they never got names) are due to be slaughtered tomorrow morning. Hopefully, they'll never see it coming.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The First Third

I'm finished siding the south face of the house. One down two to go. I'm not really sure how I'm going to finish the siding directly above the porch on the west side. I may have to buy something that clamps to the seams so I have some way to stretch a board across the roof as a platform for a ladder. Working on the house two or three days a week makes for slow progress, but I seem to be settling into my new schedule. I told the insurance company today that it's reasonable to assume that I'd be done with the siding in six weeks.

I went running today for the first time in a year. (And what little running I did on Block Island while I was unemployed was the first running I'd done in years.) Just like riding a bike. Building a house must have a sufficient amount of cross-training what with climbing ladders and general lugging stuff around. On my short tour of the neighborhood I climbed a hill on a dirt road about a half mile away and got a nice view of the house in the distance. I'll try to get a picture from this vantage and post it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Too blue

Beginning the siding

Stairwell lights, off

More siding

Stairwell lights, on

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Slowing Down

Michelle and I sat down one evening and made a list of all our monthly expenses and compared the sum to our sole source of income at the moment. We were pleasantly surprised to find a small surplus. Then we added up all the debt we have accumulated over the last six or so weeks since our well of funds ran dry and we started using our line of credit. Though we have not reached the limit of our line of credit, a little short of a year from now we will come close. Ikea and HSBC both offered us credit cards with 0% for a year. Our total debt to those four accounts amounts to about $17,000, free money for a year, after which we will just add that debt to our line of credit. The implications of this almost come as a relief. We can't spend any more significant amounts of money on the house any time soon. There are countless little things I can do which don't cost much, and after the exterior is finished I'll concentrate on those. A limitation of options is, at this point, a relief. We have a warm, dry house with a wonderful kitchen and a more than adequate bathroom. It's time to slow down.