The Great Pig Escape; or How I lost A Lens Cap,
also Soil Blocks
Sometimes things do not go according to plan here on the homestead. This week we experienced on of those things with our pigs. However, we also managed to make soil blocks for starting seeds in and made a significant mulch pile.
Soil Blocks for Seedlings
Soil Blocks are quite literally blocks of dirt used for starting seeds. They date back 2,000 years to ancient cultures in Europe and Central America. The idea is simple enough, compress some dirt into a block, insert a seed, add water. Then watch it grow.
We decided to try soil blocks this year for two reasons. First, we are sick of buying things to start our seeds in, it gets expensive quickly. Second, soil blocks are better for young plants. The reason soil blocks are better for plats comes down to root development and transplant shock.
In a plastic, or any other rigid sided container, when plant roots reach the edge of the dirt they wrap around and form thick webs of roots around the dirt/container edge quickly becoming root bound. Root bound plants tend not to do very well unless the root clog is broken up, which can contribute to transplant shock.
In a soil block the roots get air trimmed, i.e., when the roots hit the edge of the block they simply stop growing. Now when the plants move into the garden the roots can continue to grow undisturbed. Consequently, there is less transplant shock on your plants.
So this year we thought we would try it soil blocks to see if they could help us reach our gardening goals for the year.
Creating a Mulch Pile
Every winter we cut down trees to make our firewood. The result is a great deal of firewood, and a great deal of tree limbs that are too thin and/or gnarled to cut up and stack. In the past we have built massive piles of branches and burned them. This year we got our hands on a wood chipper which is a game changer.
With the wood chipper we no longer build up massive piles of branches to burn. Instead we build massive piles of branches, that then gradually get fed into the wood chipper. Next year I plan on feeding the branches into the chipper as I trim them off the trees instead of making piles. (I am hoping it will be more efficient that way).
So this last week I started in on the largest branch pile we have from this years tree harvest. In the end it made a significant pile of wood chips that we can use as mulch for our gardening plans this year. We are so excited for the gardens this year.
The Great Pig Escape, i.e., How I Lost A Lens Cap
We have pigs, 7 Mangalitsa pigs to be precise. Most of the time they are low maintenance and easy to work with. They live in an electric fence, which they respect, and most days only require a few minutes of attention to bring them food and water.
At the moment 5 of them are sealing a pond we recently dug in the garden for irrigation purposes. The pen that holds them is a decent size square. Two sides being electric and two sides mesh fencing backed by barbwire (for the neighbors cows). Well this past Friday we had some pretty good rain. When it gets nice and wet the pigs go nuts tearing up grass and anything else that grows. They made quick work of everything in that garden pen.
With all the grass out of the way the piglets discovered a small gap between the fence and the dirt, maybe an inch of space. They also discovered that the fence in that corner is not pulled tightly. So there I am out in the yard working. For some reason, I’m calling it divine intervention, I decided to take a break from wood chipping to get some pictures of the pigs for a future post.
As I walk up to the pen I watch two piglets lift up the fence with their noses and run into the cow field. I had the camera and lens cap in my hands. Quickly as I could I ran out of the garden. Then, as I recall, put the lens cap and camera on a nearby hay bale. The lens cap was never seen again.
How the Pigs Got Home
By the time I got back to the pig pen with some feed, all 4 piglets were out. As I walked up I watched our mature sow slip under the fence as well. The next hour was a circus. I put down feed and lured everyone back in, holding the fence up to help the sow in. Then trying to quickly put in t-posts and run electric fencing around the back two sides of the pen. Watching the piglets slip back out into the pasture, running to get more feed to lure them back again.
Thankfully our pigs have learned that me plus a bucket usually means food and they come running. After the hour of running around in a panicked rush, the fence was complete. This time electric fencing held the pigs on all 4 sides. We have not had a problem since.