Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pigs-A One Sided Love Story

In the course of my farming time I have worked for two farms that kept pigs.  In Arkansas, at the Heifer Ranch there were lots of pigs in all kinds of situations. Some of them lived on concrete, some of them on mud and some on pasture.  They would get very excited when it was time to feed them and it sometimes felt to me a little like I was going to be eaten by them.  (I had a co-worker who dared not go in with them for fear of this fate.) The pigs who were living outside seemed to have a knack for getting out of the places that they were supposed to be and I have one distinct memory of hiking through the woods in search of a missing pig.

Pigs at the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas
At Caretaker Farm in Williamstown, MA the pigs play an integral role in the system of the farm.  They turn compost, which is really awesome.  In order to get them to turn the large piles of materials corn is drilled into the material twice a day when they are being fed.  This means that the pigs are VERY excited when you arrive because you come bearing corn.  And corn is to a pig as candy is to a five year old.  They cry if they don't get it.

In both of these situations the pigs were always VERY happy to see a human because they associated humans with food.  And in both of these situations, I was not entirely excited about pigs for one reason or another.  Maybe it was their over-enthusiasm that got me.  I suspect it was the overwhelming feeling that if I didn't give them their dinner that I would be overpowered by them and they would make me their dinner.  Given this backstory you can imagine how excited I was when pigs became a part of our farm plan here at Groundworks Farm.  

We decided to do our pigs outside on pasture, let them give in to their animal instincts and plow around, stir up dirt for us, get muddy.  Before the pigs arrived we built an area for them where they would be able to get inside the barn for warmth as well as go outside and get fresh air, food and water.  Later in the spring they will move around pasture and eat grass.  For now they are digging up bits of grass from under the snow.

Groundworks Farm pigs finding some grass to snack on
The other thing about our system is a awesome feeder that Kevin made.  It is made entirely out of things that we had lying around as well as a 55 gallon drum that we found on the side of the road with a "free" sign on it.  Inside the 55 gallon drum is a pyramid made out of plywood that forces the grain to fall down into the main feeder area out of the holes cut in the drum at the bottom.  This can hold about 300 pounds of grain.  Right now that means that the feeder only needs to be filled about once a week.

Consequentially, the pigs do not run right up to you when you enter their pen, although they are coming around.  I am trying to get in the habit of giving them a rub so that they will not be adverse to  humans.  Strangely though, with the loss of complete excitement about being seen by them, all of a sudden, I am in love with the pigs.  This has never happened to me before.  I find them cuter, but they are not so sure about me.  I hang around in their pen, trying to get them to like me, or at least not be so adverse to my presence.

And so it seems to be the case that for me and pigs; it is destined to be a one-sided love story.

I walk away as the pigs happily feast

Groundwork Farm Pasture-raised Pork will be available for purchase starting in June 2011.  For more information on purchasing our pork and other meat products click here!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Pigs Have Arrived

As many of you who keep an eye on our facebook page know, the piglets have arrived at Groundworks Farm.  We had a fun adventure getting them here from the place where they were born in Vergennes, Vermont.  First step was to fill our trailer with hay so that the pigs would not make too big of a mess, then after taking a twice over look at their home-to-be we started the truck and headed north.

Kevin makes a happy travel home for the pigs.
When we got to their home it was all hands on board and everything went way more smoothly than I ever expected, simply a process of passing the pigs from person to person and putting them in the trailer and they seemed to love it in there with all the hay.  It went so quickly and smoothly I forgot to take any pictures of this step.

Then the pigs went for a road trip with us, compete with stops where I would get out and make sure they were all still in there!  We drove them the hour home and got the trailer backed up to the barn.  The next step was for Kevin and I to grab the pigs one by one and walk them down the stairs, across the barn and set them down in their area we had prepared for them.  Things had been so smooth at the first farm, with 5 adults helping out, I was nervous if we could replicate that.

The first couple trips went really well, but on the third try things got a little more exciting.  Kevin grabbed one and headed downstairs.  I got in the trailer, grabbed a pig, and another one went darting toward freedom.  I set the pig in my arms back in the trailer, closed the doors and went searching for the escapee.

Escapee #2
Under the trailer, where nobody could reach him seemed to be his prefered location, until I went to grab him.  That was when he went toward the road!  Kevin had made it back to get another pig and we were able to lure the pig into the barn and catch him, a crisis averted!  When we got him downstairs though, we discovered that another one we had already brought down was also out, happily eating reminents of grain off the floor of the barn.  This was less dramatic as he seemed to have merely escaped an easily patchable gap in the sleeping quarters and her wanted back in with his friends.

Unearthing Grass for Snack

Since then we have not had much drama with the pigs and they seem to be very much enjoying their new home and we are pumped that we have them here!

Groundwork Farm Pasture-raised Pork will be available for purchase starting in June 2011.  For more information on purchasing our pork and other meat products click here!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ordering Seeds

This is a very exciting time of year.  Quickly, winter is going to leave us and spring is creeping up on us.  There are important things that must happen.  We must make plans.  I have contemplated our crop plan over and over so much that I think I have exhausted the thing. The next step was to choose the varieties of crops.  I will admit I can get over enthusiastic while scanning through the different seed catalogs.  All of a sudden I want to grow every rare variety of every vegetable that there is out there and I must stop myself from choosing to grown an unreasonable number of different crops.

Taking Inventory

Still, even with my restraint, we are a diversified farm and we are committed to growing a variety of foods that people really want to eat.  Being a part of our CSA means a change in the way you eat.  All of a sudden every week you will have in front of you, not a question of what you want to cook, but how you want to cook the food that is available.  This is how you begin to truly eat seasonally.  

All of this begins with a few small boxes of seeds.  We select a variety of different seeds so that we will be able to eat food that we produce all year long.  We purchase storage varieties, that will take us past the short growing season here in Vermont.  We will grow tomatoes for canning and freezing, so that even in the dead of winter you can enjoy the harvest from your farm share.  We will also grow heirloom tomatoes which can be eaten straight off the vine in the middle of August.  All this variety takes planning and preparing and while I did stop myself from purchasing too many packets of purple carrots, Groundworks Farm will grown over 150 different plant varieties of vegetables, herbs and flowers in the 2011 season.

Mostly we are growing the basics.  Things that will be available every week of distribution are Lettuce, Beets and Carrots.  But we will throw in the occasional Kohlrabi, Asian Greens and one of my favorite things, Hakerai Turnips.  We hope that this makes eating your vegetables a bit more exciting.  Another perk to being part of a CSA is knowing your farmers.  We are here to grow food for you so if there are vegetables that you wish had been in the share in the past and you would like to see in your box, let us know. 

I have ordered the seeds for the 2011 season and the small boxes are arriving. The fact that these little packets will turn into thousands of pounds of vegetables that will feed hundreds of people never ceases to amaze me.

For more information on our Vegetable Farm Shares click here.  For a registration form to sign up for the 2011 season click here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pig Preperations

One of the most exciting topics here at Groundworks Farm seems to be the pigs.  When are they coming?  How may will there be?  When can we eat them?  These are questions that everyone seems to be asking.

Warm Sleeping Area

This week has had a lot of time dedicated to creating a happy home for our piglets.  First it involved creating a pen for them inside the barn where they will be able to get out of the cold.  Then we created an area, secured off with 2 fences for extra safety, where they can get outside.  Then it snowed 2 feet and we realized we needed more lines, just in case more snowstorms came and our pigs could not see any kind of barrier.


Kevin built a feeder and a waterer for them.  We tested everything out for a few days and it seems like everything is working very well.  The electric fence is powering through, even with the snow pressure and the feeder and waterers are awesome creations.  We bought some feed for them and now all we need is the pigs!

So keep your eyes out for some happy piglets on the farm!

The View for the Pigs
Groundwork Farm Pasture-raised Pork will be available for purchase starting in June 2011.  For more information on purchasing our pork and other meat products click here!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Our New Website

The website is up and running.  If you are looking for more information about Groundworks Farm please take a look at the new website which is full of great information on some good eating.

Glazed Duck Drummies

Have you every heard of a "Duck Drummy"?  We hadn't until we raised ducks and discovered some of the delicious ways that they can be eaten.  A Duck Drummy is the leg and thigh of a duck, sans skin.  Cooked well it is incredibly delicious.  Last night we enjoyed some from our ducks that were raised here at Groundworks Farm this fall and it was so good that I felt a need to share.  A great meal for a cold winter night.

Feeds 4 Hungry Folks
8 legs and thighs duck meat, skinned
1/4 cup Maple Syrup
1/4 cup Duck Fat
1/4 cup flour
1 cup tomato juice
salt and pepper to taste

1. Prepare the sauce by combining the Maple Syrup, Duck Fat and Flour in a large pot over medium heat.  Stir until mixture thickens.  Add a splash of water so it does not burn.
2. Place Duck Drummies in the pan and add tomato juice.  Cover and heat 25 minutes.
3. Remove over and flip drummies, making sure that they get enough exposure to the bottom of the pan.
4.  Cook until most of the liquid is gone and the drummies have a golden glaze to them.
5.  Serve immediately with just about anything.  The bottom of the pan is sure to become a dipping spot for some warm bread.


If you are interested in purchasing our pasture-raised duck or pasture-raised chickens you can give us a call at 802-310-4951 or 703-347-2448, e-mail us at or just stop by the farm.