Learning about Electricity

Learning about Electricity

I strung the wire along the wall of the piglets barn. It was only one wall. The back one. Two large barn nails were used to affix two plastic insulators to the opposite ends of the wall. The electric fencing wire was strung between the two. At first, the young piglets couldn’t help but be in the way. They mouthed and chewed the wire with great curiosity. They have to check out everything, like little kids.

 

A pile of muffins was placed in the middle of the barn. This would distract the piglets long enough to get the wire energized and working without them in the way. They began munching away and contented themselves to the delicious treats. I, meanwhile, slipped outside and around the barn. The switch was flipped and the red light began blinking. The fence was now energized and hot.

 

I grabbed a bucket and went back into the barn. Flipping it over just inside the door I sat down on it and got comfortable. Shortly thereafter the muffins were gone. Just like young children, it was time to investigate things. One by one they slowly approached the back wall to reinvestigate the wire and knobs. Some would even touch it briefly. Not long enough to shock them though. The wait was short lived. Finally, a young female set her moist wet nose tight to the wire. The splintering crack from the arc of electricity was almost as loud as her squeal.

 

The silence had been broken. One by one the piglets became even more interested in the wire. I suspect they wondered what made their friends jump so hard. One by one they each become a little smarter, and a little stronger. One small step towards greater things.

Piglets in the barn heritage farm maine learning about electricity fencing

Piglets in the barn  doing piglets things

Automatic Hog Feeders

Automatic Hog Feeders

 

We recently built a new automatic hog feeder for our pigs at Heritage Farm. When piglets are just starting out they have high demands for food. You really can’t feed them too much. The same thing happens when people have babies. The young infants need food, and lots of it to develop correctly. They can’t handle going long periods in the same fashion that adults can. Pigs are no different.

Automatic Pig Feeder test run at heritage farm maine

Automatic Pig Feeder Test Run 

We started with an old pickup truck bed. The frame is metal, but the decking is old hemlock boards. We screwed on some 4×4 pressure treated skids under the frame. Then the entire perimeter on top of the deck had 4×4 studs screwed down. This was meant to serve as a rim for our “bowl”.

 

With the bowl built, for the automatic hog feeder, it was time to add some braces. The food containers for this project are made out of 4- 55 gallon barrels. So we used a bunch of old cedar poles to construct a knee wall all along the perimeter. This would keep all four barrels from getting knocked out of the “bowl”. The knee wall is only about 3ft high, which makes taking the barrels out for cleaning easy.

 

The depth of our perimeter base “lip” that forms the bowl was 4”. So we measure about 3” up from the bottom of each barrel. This would be the topmost line, and below this we cut out notches for food to flow. All four barrels had notches cut out of them along the bottoms, about ¼ of the circumference of each barrel.

Automatic Hog Feeder Heritage Farm Maine Feed Pigs in Bulk

Automatic Hog Feeder holding 1400lbs of Feed

Finally, the barrels were lowered into the cradle created by the knee wall. Then they were filled with grain. We estimate that the barrels, fully loaded, hold about 1400lbs of grain. We could put corn, wheat, barley, acorns, gummy bears, or anything we wanted in there. Our purpose though is to feed a balanced ration that the hogs can free choice eat as they need. This automatic hog feeder works awesome. We use it until the pigs are within a month or two of going to market. At that time we remove the barrels and clean them up and begin limit feeding.

 

Limit feeding is a good idea after the initial crazy growth stage slows down. If allowed to continue to use the automatic feeder, the pigs would get super fat and lazy. The automatic hog feeder allows our animals to capitalize on peak growth phases, ensuring they get a full compliment of nutrients, and reduces some of our workload in the process. It works fantastic, and if you would like more detailed instructions for building your own hog feeder send Heritage Farm and email and let us know.  

Spring Time is Mud Time

Spring Time is Mud Time

 

It seems that Spring is upon us early here this year at Heritage Farm Maine. It’s only two weeks into March and already the temps have regularly been over freezing. Most years there is still several feet of snow on the ground. Often there’s still as much as three feet of ice on the lakes to drill through when you sneak out to go ice fishing. Not this year though. I do believe it’s a record year for warmth on our neck of the woods.

 

So what about the animals? Well, the only critters rolling along the farm this time of year are our pastured hogs. They still live out in the woods. They return to their little barn at night, and spend the days exploring. The areas around the feeder and waterer however get a lot of use. Pigs get a hard time for all the damage they do with their nose. What isn’t often mentioned is the extensive damage that they’re pointed feet do. Their little hoofs make constant holes in the ground. Several hogs, over the same piece of land, multiple times a day, creates a quick mess of ground.
So this time of year we watch them come out of the woods smiling and covered in mud. It’s everywhere this time of year. There’s no new growth yet of grasses. No sods or pastures. Just woodland litter and mud. They seem to love it. Even if it is a mess for a bit.

How to Take an Ice Bath on the Farm

How to Take an Ice Bath on the Farm

I’ve been curious about how to take an ice bath for awhile. I’ve read several things online that talk about the health benefits of ice baths. One of the biggest health benefits of taking an ice bath that I’m drawn to is the aspect of reduced inflammation and recovery after hard and strenuous workouts. Working on the farm there are always hard projects showing up. Working hard is one thing, but if you’re not recovering, your not getting ahead.

I was filling up our pigs waterer one day in mid January. At Heritage Farm Maine the temperature on this day was in the 30’s with a nice stiff wind. The water tanks for the pigs have a heater that keeps the water just above freezing. The tanks were filled with water and ice from frozen buckets outside. I couldn’t help but think to myself , “You know, today would be a great opportunity to try out an ice bath finally.” And so I did.

How do you take an ice bath? Well, take a big container full of water and ice, and submerge yourself in it. There really isn’t much more to it than that the first time. I only stayed in for a minute this first time. The experience was rather enjoyable. It was not nearly as cold as I figured it would be. I’ve certainly tried cold showers in the past and they are much worse than a plunge in the drink. Our pigs were not impressed at all. But that’s just how we get it done on the farm. If you’re ever considering taking an ice bath, I recommend that you do it. Just try it. It’s not that bad. It certainly made me feel incredibly warm the rest of the day working outside, even though it was only in the low 30’s.

Do You Have Raw Honey?

Do You Have Raw Honey?

 

Yes! We actually get asked this question a lot. Probably second best question next to “Do you have honey for sale?” At Heritage Farm Maine, we often have honey available each year in the fall. It sells out really fast though. It’s rare for us to have any honey beyond the holidays.

Heritage Farm Maine Honeybees Flying Early in the Spring

Heritage Farm Maine Honeybees Flying Early in the Spring

When the honey supers are harvested in the Fall they are brought inside to be processed. When we process honey we begin with a hot knife to slice off the cappings from the honeycombs. This allows the honey to flow out of the frames. The frames are then placed inside our large extractor. The extractor spins the frames in a circular motion and essentially spins the honey right out of the honeycomb cells. All the honey, bit of wax, pollen, and sometimes bee parts settles to the bottom of out tank.

Maine Heritage Farm Straining the dead honeybees out of the raw honey

Maine Heritage Farm Straining the dead honeybees out of the raw honey

From the tank, the honey is poured through a coarse strainer. We do this primarily to remove large chunks of wax and any dead bees that may be in the honey. From here, we allow the honey to settle. Air bubbles in the honey can cause faster crystallization to occur after bottling, so we like the honey to settle overnight.

Heritage Farm Maine Bottling Our Delicious Raw Honey

Heritage Farm Maine Bottling Our Delicious Raw Honey

The next day we heat our honey slightly. Generally around 100F, just to make the bottling process go faster. The slight amount of heat seems to prevent the early onset of crystallization. The temperatures are still low enough that we have not worried about damage to honey, amino acids, enzymes, or other beneficial compounds that make honey simply amazing. The bees in the hives regularly get the hive temps up over 100F, so we’ve never felt our mild heating was any different from what the bees naturally do themselves.

Heritage Farm Maine Farm Manager Handling Raw Honey Quality Control

Heritage Farm Maine Farm Manager Handling Raw Honey Quality Control

So there it goes, right into bottles, and right onto spoons for eating. Our raw honey at Heritage Farm Maine is minimally processed and packaged. It’s simply raw awesome sweetness. From our bees to you.

It Almost Farmer’s Market Season!

It Almost Farmer’s Market Season!

 

This year, 2016, Heritage Farm Maine will be attending the Hampden Farmers Market. We will be set up at the Town Hall parking lot, on Fridays, from 2-6. While we have attended day markets and events in the past, this will be our first full season market. We’re super excited to see everyone this year!

 

So what are we taking to market with us? Well, primarily it will be pork and chickens. Our pasture raised broilers will not be ready until mid summer though. So for the first part of market it will be mostly our woodland and pastured pork cuts. Interested in something specific? Let us know! We’ll bring it long.

 

Also, we may from time to time have some delicious raw honey for sale, Maine maple syrup, and seasonally available mushrooms. We have a small supply of Reishi and Chaga powders available for making teas as well.
Stop in and say Hi! We look forward to seeing you there.

Maine Heritage Farm Hampden Farmers Market pastured Pork Pastured chickens

 Farmers Market Time!

How much are your Pasture Raised Broilers?’

How much are your Pasture Raised Broilers?

 

Our meat chickens at Heritage Farm Maine are primarily the Freedom Ranger breed. We ask for pre orders for all of our birds, and raise enough each year to fulfill orders. We often raise a few extra, but supply is very limited.

 

Our birds are processed at a professional processing facility. They are whole birds that are properly chilled, vacuum sealed, frozen whole, and labeled. We do not offer individual cuts at this time.

 

Our pasture raised broilers are $4.15/lb. We ask for a $10 deposit for each bird you would like. The deposit count towards the final purchase price after we get the birds processed and weighed out. We only raise our chickens on lush pastures during the abundance of late spring, summer, and early fall.

 

If you’re interested in healthy pasture raised broilers then contact us today to be sure you get enough for you and your family.

Heritage Farm Maine Pastured Chicken Broilers Meat birds local

Heritage Farm Maine Pastured Chicken Broilers . Sooo Delicious!!!

FAQ: Where do you get your pigs butchered?

FAQ: Where do you get your pigs butchered?

 

As much as I would love to butcher our own pigs right on Heritage Farm soil, we can’t. The government has deemed it unsafe and unfit. I suppose we could, but the costs of infrastructure and equipment would be so high that we would be better off being butchers rather than farmers. So in the meantime we employ the services of our local butchers.

 

We have been using Maple Lane Farms in Charleston, Maine for our butchering needs for several years. They do an amazing job with our animals. They have a wonderful holding pen where our pigs can be segregated from other pigs while awaiting processing. Sometimes the timing is difficult, and we have to take the pigs there a day or two early. They feed and water our pigs for the last couple days and keep them as comfortable and stress free as possible until processing time.

 

Our pigs are killed quick and humane. The carcasses are aged for a week or two in a refrigerated room pending processing. I’ve walked the facilities and they keep a very clean, organized, and professional operation. The staff is always more than willing to work with us and have been very helpful over the years.

 

Our pork comes back frozen, vacuum sealed, and labeled with easy to read text. Even after a years it’s still easy to read what the contents and date are, and the vacuum packing almost always holds up. We get our bacons and hams smoked with nitrate and nitrite free cures, as well as get them sliced and packaged just how we like them. They have several flavors of ground pork sausage, or even just ground pork. All of the meat comes organized in large paper bags with an alpha-numerical system to ensure that all of the hogs gets returned to the same person and there are no mix ups.
We have been very happy with their service over the years. Heritage Farm Maine will continue to use Maple Lane Farms into the future.

What Do You Feed Broilers?

What Do You Feed Broilers?

The broilers at Heritage Farm Maine start out on a commercially prepared feed designed for chicks. Broilers, even our beloved Freedom Rangers, need a high octane diet to support their fast growth. We are currently feeding a broiler ration that is made locally in Detroit, Me. Our feed is free of antibiotics and growth hormones, but it is a GMO product. You won’t find many other farmers willing to admit that to you I bet. While Heritage Farm is constantly looking for alternatives, and will likely one day be able to switch to a full Organic feed, that’s not the case today. We just want you to know where we’re at.

The broilers are placed out on pasture between weeks 4 and 5 depending on weather conditions. From then on, a large percentage of their diet is bugs, clovers, grasses, forbs, and flowers. We supplement the feed with kelp chips harvested along the Maine coasts as well. This gives us peace of mind knowing that the birds have access to all trace minerals and vitamins to ensure healthy growth. We never give antibiotics or growth hormones to our birds. We raise healthy, happy, and strong chickens.

Loss on the Farm

Loss on the Farm

 

We seem to have had a loss on the farm recently. I was outside looking around for our ducks. We have two very beautiful white Pekins. They have been with us for over a year now. The Pekins are a hardy bird. They prefer to live in the woods, and come back to the farm to visit during the day. We also have four male Mallards. They are about half the size of the Pekins, but love the girls so much. It’s funny watching them try to love up on each other.

 

So after walking outside the other morning, I only found one lonely little Mallard. He was aimlessly following a couple chickens around the yard. For much of the day he would be found somewhat in the vicinity of a couple chickens, or under the old blue chevy pickup.

 

Alone.

 

Waiting.
I’ve been waiting with him now for several days. He and I both know, the others are not coming back. Wherever they are. And so goes the grind of the farm.

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