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Pigs and comfrey.

The last time I wrote to you it was in defense of inexpensive pork. A lot has happened since then but pigs may be a good place to start again.

First let me tell you a story. When I lived in Colorado I knew someone who worked for the state experimental station. We were talking about comfrey one day when he happened to mention that some years ago he had tried an experiment of his own with a pig involving comfrey and jerusalem artichokes. He had purchased a 40 pound gilt. He also bought one 100 pound bag of corn. Slowly he changed the pig's diet to |chokes and comfrey from corn. He raised that pig to 300 pounds in six months on nothing but 'chokes, comfrey and that first 100 pounds of corn. He said he was very pleased with the texture and flavor of the pork, but not having tasted it myself, I reserve judgment.

Comfrey was easy to start

Several years ago I started a comfrey patch on our place. I took no particular care in doing so. I was given a bag of roots which I cut into sections several inches long and planted about three feet apart in long rows in a grassy field used for nothing else. I did not prepare the field. I simply lifted a small section of sod, put the root in the earth about six inches deep and shook the dirt from the sod on top. The comfrey all came up and thrived and this year I began cutting it.

Nothing remarkable happened to stock fed earlier last summer with the comfrey, but there really wasn't much of it to go around yet, either. This year should be better. However, late last summer I bought two little pigs. I shouldn't have purchased them at all because my cow was dry so I had no surplus milk and the garden was almost gone. Besides that, these little pigs did not look good at all. They were thin and scruffy looking. The breeder apologized for them and said he was sure they needed worming. Please learn from me, it's almost always best to pay more and get healthy animals than to risk trying to make "bargains" get healthy.

But since I impulsively bought these guys anyway, I had to do what I could. I wormed them. It took three wormings to get them worm-free. I treated them with antibiotic twice for scouring. They still looked bad and after a couple of weeks I thought I might even lose them. Then my husband started cutting the comfrey one more time. I was going to leave those last leaves but we thought we would try feeding them to the pigs.

Well, after feeding a large bundle of comfrey daily for about three weeks, the results were almost amazing. The pigs looked good! Since then there is no more comfrey available but the pigs still look great and are growing well. It's almost as if the comfrey took the place of milk in their diet.

In a year or two I hope to be able to produce most of the feed for at least our summer pigs and I will let you know what happens with the comfrey-'choke diet.

Now, on to dogs: the Rottweiller

Occasionally I see people asking about breeds of dogs for the homestead. I have to say that for an all-around devoted, trainable, intelligent, protective companion, I prefer the Rottweiller. These dogs have currently gained a bad reputation but so did some other breeds when they became popular and were being badly bred and handled. If you go to a breeder, not a pet shop, and get a pup bred from dogs with proven dispositions and then handle and train your pup well, you will end up with a reliable and trustworthy helpmate willing to do almost anything to please you.

What has to be remembered is that any breed of large dog must be carefully handled and trained. And no amount of training can overcome bad breeding. Read and talk to people before getting a dog. The local 4-H dog training leader can often be a source of good practical information.

Another digression: Our experience

Because so many people have been asking about different parts of the country, I would like to digress a minute and give a bit of our history.

We have been on this particular place for almost five years now. It is 12 acres, an old house, barn and other outbuildings. We paid $15,000 for it. The bank in a local small town had repossessed the place and since this is largely a farming community and the place was not big enough to support a farm living, we were able to get it easily and cheaply.

There has been a lot of work to do. Cleaning up is major on these places because so often previous inhabitants just dumped the trash in piles around the place. Repairs have been a constant until just lately. Thank goodness for low interest home improvement loans that have enabled us to reside and insulate the place. We heat with wood and raise most of our food so our living costs are not too high.

There are other places like this around us. It saddens me to see farm homes that protected and sheltered families for many years now windowless and falling into ruin. Taxes are so high here for anyone trying to rent a house to others that when a farmer buys a place because he wants the surrounding land the house is often just abandoned.

It is not easy to make a living in an area like this. We just did everything and anything we could until we got established. If necessary, we would do it again. My husband spread manure for a local dairyman for a while. I have worked at the school as a substitute aide. The list goes on and is another letter an by itself.

What I am leading to is a piece of advice that is contrary to what you often hear. This I know. If we had tried to live in the city and work and save to one day be where we are now, we would never get here. The wages we could make would be too small and the cost of living too high to allow us to save what other people recommend before starting out.

Not only have we come within five years of having this place paid o we have been able to purchase a beautiful 40 acres nearby that will also be paid off in five years. And we have the accumulated 15 years' experience of renting or buying in the country that we could have only gotten from books in the city. If you've tried it you know that books can only give you so much.

Our plan now is to build on the 40 ourselves. We will build over a period of several years an earth-sheltered pole construction home that is self-sustaining and it will be our "retirement" home for after the children are grown.

There is so much more I would love to share but trying to cram it all into one letter won't work. I do have a few questions myself. I would like to have a computer to write on but will have a 12-volt system when we move. Is there a way to adapt a computer? Or is there a computer designed for a 12-volt system? Can anyone help?

And if anyone has built pole structures underground in this area and has information to share about preserving the poles or waterproofing the structure I would far rather learn from your experience than the hard way.

My husband asked me to tell you that if you intend to clean a deep bedded barn with a chain saw as suggested in a previous letter, only do so if you are certain that there is nothing in the bedding but straw and manure. He feels that even a piece of baling twine may cause situations that could lead to injury.
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Author:Connell, Steve; Connell, Kathy
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:Chicken litter at Malabar Farm.
Next Article:Tips for good-tasting goat milk.

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