What am I doing?

Thoughts while moving hog fencing.

This week I began to rotate my two four-month-old piglets through the cow pasture. The cows had been moved out of this pasture the week before, so it is now available for the pigs.

In this rotation I am moving them daily. I use two hundred-foot hog nets to make a paddock. Moving these nets to make new paddocks each day takes about 15 minutes.

I walk the piglets out of their pen at the barn mid-morning, and bring them back at 4pm for dinner. For six hours each day they chew on the grass and root for worms, grubs, and who knows what else. They literally roll back the grass with their snouts looking for delicacies.

This process requires attention and effort on my part. It requires more than just dumping a bucket of food in their pen, checking their water and walking away.

I moved their nets this afternoon in the brisk winter air, observed the “damage” they had done to the pasture, and asked myself

What am I doing?

Most immediately I am pulling up short white polls attached to electric netting, gathering them in my arms, and resetting them on fresh grass. But why?

Providing the piglets with fresh pasture each day gives them a clean, healthy environment and supplemental nutrition. Moving them daily using small paddocks distributes their fertility (aka urine and manure) throughout the pasture and limits the destruction they do to each area.

I look at the pasture they are tearing up, walk around using my boots to replace the clumps of grass they have displaced and ask myself

What am I doing?

Well, I think I am improving the soil. The work the pigs do could be considered destructive, but what if we thought of it as disturbance. Sort of like aerating the soil. I am inputting my time and labor by rotating the piglets daily, but they are also working for me by just being pigs.

Will this intensive rotational grazing be destructive or beneficial to our pasture? I don’t know. I won’t really know until later this spring. I will observe what grows in the areas the pigs have worked. Has it improved or declined? Do the areas they disturbed look barren or healthy.

We will see.

I will trust. And wait. And try.

Rendering Lard

And more Hope.

A few years ago, if someone told me I should render lard I would have told them they were nuts. A few weeks ago, when I realized I needed to render my own lard, I thought it would be hard to do.

I have since learned that rendering lard is easy to do and makes sense under some circumstances.

Let’s back up a little…

At a Christmas party last year, I met a new friend who raises and milks goats. We discussed our various interests and I mentioned that I would like to try making soap with goat’s milk. She said she loves milking the goats but has too much going on right now to make soap. She then offered to give me the goat’s milk she had stored in her freezer.


So, I set about researching how to make goat’s milk soap and quickly learned that another key ingredient is fat, usually in the form of lard. Hmmm, where do I get lard…

Soon after that I was working with the farmer I purchased our pigs from and mentioned my desire to make soap and lack of lard. She had a freezer full of lard and was happy to give me some.


Now MY freezer is filled with goat’s milk and pig fat. All I need is time to learn.

This is where rendering lard comes in. It is the first step in making my own soap.

Rendering lard?

Basically, you are cooking pork fat until it is liquid. Then scooping out the liquid and straining it until only solids (cracklins) remain.

It is like saving your bacon grease to be used for something else.

It was super easy.

The hardest part of rendering lard was the length of time involved. It is an all-day process that requires you to stir the lard in a crock pot about every 30 minutes. I was not able to finish in one day. I turned the crockpot off and left it on the counter overnight to finish the next day. No problem.

These instructions from Melissa K. Norris at Pioneering Today were easy to follow. How to Render Lard and Why You Should (melissaknorris.com)

I need lard for soap right now, but I have another reason for trying my hand at this.

We currently have two pigs that we are raising to breed. That means we will have lots of pork in our future and much of pork is fat. So, I will have a lot of lard in my future. It is important to me to use all our resources. If managed well, nothing goes to waste. Rendering lard and learning to use it in soaps, cooking, and baking is part of this process.


They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength,

they will soar as with eagles’ wings;

They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.

Isaiah 40:31 (NAB St. Joseph Ed.)

Hope arrived at our house six days ago (see previous post). She was about six days old and not able to stand on her own. Since that time, she has worked diligently to get herself on her feet. She has grown stronger each day, fallen often, and improved immensely. She summons her energy, taps into her instinct, and keeps trying. And in between her Herculean efforts she rests.

It has been such a lesson to watch this little lamb try so hard. To watch her muscles strain and fail. To see her tail flit back and forth at her little triumphs. It has made me ponder the will of those who overcome immense physical challenges. The fortitude required. The getting up each day to try again.

It is truly humbling to watch. So exciting. Such an honor.

We are grateful for this lamb called Hope and remember that our Hope is in the Lord.

This is Hope

She was born the morning of January 27th. Her busy farmer mom, Faith, found her that afternoon alone and unable to stand. Faith did her best for Hope. Dashing home during the day for feedings, giving as much as she could. Hope needed more.

After seeing on Facebook that this little lamb had not improved and Faith just didn’t have the time, I offered to take her in. Faith enthusiastically agreed and dropped her off in a cardboard box with lamb formula and a nipple for feedings. I asked if she had a name. No.

“She is Hope,” I declare.

At six days old, Hope is still not standing on her own. This is a bit scary for us because we don’t know if there is something physical that is preventing her from standing and walking. She lays in her basket with her hind legs off to one side not able to get them under her. But she is alert, curious, and determined. Up to now, she has spent most of her time on her own because her farmer mom was working away from the farm. Now she will have a small family and large dog looking after her, providing physical therapy and encouragement. Let’s hope that’s all that she needs.

We introduce Hope to our guardian dog, Magnus. He needs a proper introduction to know that she his now his little lamb to guard and protect. Magnus practically pushes me out of the way as he gets to work cleaning her up. For once I am thankful for this dog’s fascination with poop. Magnus’ licking and nosing gives Hope some of the stimulation and physicality she has been missing. We are off to a good start.

It is a warm, sunny day (the high 40’s is warm in the middle of winter) so we sit outside with her on the grass. She sniff’s and nibbles the grass around her. We position Hope’s hind legs so that they are tucked under her body instead of off to one side, lifting her up now and then so she gets the idea of what to do.

At this age, orphaned lamb’s get a bottle about every 4 hours. We need to open her jaw gently to get the nipple in and she messily slurps from the side of her mouth. But that is something so we will take it.

Hope naps and rests between her attempts to move herself about and our physical therapy with her. By the end of the day she is able to brace herself against the side of the basket and get either her front legs or back legs in a standing position.  But not both.

She has worked up an appetite and tackles her evening bottles with the quick feeding burst lambs are known for. This is progress.

We bring her basket upstairs and she sleeps next to my bed so I can hear her if she cries. It’s like having a baby all over again. Except this one sleeps better than any of mine. Hope sleeps on and off through the night but is quiet and content until a little before 5am. “Meeeh, meeeh.” Hope is ready for breakfast.

As I am warming her bottle, Hope works to get herself into an almost standing position. And I notice that she is now able to get her hind legs tucked under her on her own. This is great!

Today, she holds her head a little higher and she seems to recognize us. She works throughout the day to stand on her own. This little lamb is determined to figure it out. We will help and encourage along the way.

An act of charity has brought this lamb to our homestead. We are thankful to Faith for letting us take this on.

You may remember at the beginning of this year I wrote about asking God to help with acquiring the livestock we need for our farm.

Now, we have HOPE.