Saturday, January 29, 2011

Piglets in the Sun (At Last!)

We've had three litters of American Guinea hog piglets born in the last two weeks, but I've been waiting (and waiting, and waiting!) to post about them until I could get some photos.

My camera does a terrible job at dimly lit indoor photos, so as long as the piglets stayed in their snug nests in the barn, all I could capture were photos of little black blurry things.  And with the weather featuring a lot of cold temperatures, chilling winds, and freezing rain in the past couple of weeks, the piglets and their moms seemed determined to stay inside until spring.

Now, with nicer weather and a little encouragement to the sows (namely, moving their food and water dishes outside, so they could no longer depend on me providing indoor room service), our pig families are finally starting to venture out into the sunshine.

Which means... PHOTO TIME!  :-)

They are mostly hanging out right next to the barn door because in addition to plentiful sunshine, there's a lovely soft, warm pile of waste wool leftover from sheep shearing.  I should have raked it up long before this, but the pigs enjoy napping on it so much, I decided to leave it until spring.  It's only going to be used to mulch the garden anyway, so there's no harm in waiting.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

First Soap Giveaway Winners

Yesterday, we reached TWO of the four "milestones" I'd set for my latest soap giveaway, so today I'm giving away two sets of hand-rolled Sheep's Milk Soap balls.

The winners are... (drum roll, please!)

(1)  Justine---You didn't leave an email address Justine, so I hope you're reading this!  Email me at to tell me your shipping address so that I can send you your soap.

(2)  Yarnabees.  I've already sent you an email, all I need now is your shipping address

Congratulations to our two winners!

There are still 2 more giveaways waiting to happen, so don't forget to enter.  All you have to do is comment on the giveaway's blog post for your chance to win.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Giveaway: Sheep's Milk Soap Balls

Time for a new giveaway, and this time it's something new:  handmade sheep's milk soap balls!

As many of you may know, thanks to the success of my Kickstarter soap making project, I've been able to start making all of our luscious sheep's milk soap right here on the farm instead of hiring an outside person to do it for me.  I'm currently in the process of building up inventory, which takes a while because after the soaps are made, they have to cure for a few weeks before they're ready to be sold.

I have a small amount of soap that is ready to go now (contact me directly if you'd like to buy some), and a much larger amount that will be ready in early February.

But meanwhile, I'm giving some away. 

I make all of my soap in small batches, and pour it into molds that hold about 6 lbs. of soap at a time.  Sometimes after filling the molds, I have a little bit of soap left over.  That soap gets made into old-fashioned, hand-rolled soap balls.

They are decorative as well as practical, and are made with the exact same natural ingredients as my regular bar soap:  olive oil, sheep's milk from my own flock of Icelandic sheep, water, lye, and essential oils.  They are very mild to your skin, and they smell great.

I'm going to give away four sets of three soap balls.  These giveaways will happen at four different "milestones":

1.  I'll give away one set of soap balls when our next batch of piglets are born.  That could take place any time in the next few days, so enter soon!  If you click the link above, you can also enter our "Guess A Piglet" contest for a chance to name one of the piglets when they are born.

2.  I'll give away another set of soap balls when the number of "Likers" for the farm's Facebook page reaches 1,100.  As I type this, we need only 12 new likers, so this could happen almost immediately.  Feel free to use the "Suggest to Friends" feature (right under the ram photo in the upper left corner of the page) to help speed things along!

3.  Getting 12 new likers for our fan page is too easy a goal.  Let's make you work for the next one!  I'll give away another set of soap balls if you can push our number all the way up to 1,200.  Recommend us to your friends, and don't forget to let them know that they can enter to win some soap balls too.

4.  See that column on the right hand side of this blog page?  The one with my photo and the blog archive and all that?  Right below the blog archive is a listing of this blog's followers, with an easy button to click to become a follower.  When the number of followers listed there reaches 100, I'll give away the last set of soap balls.  If you're not a follower, please consider becoming one.  And if you have friends who like to read about farming, nature, and hand crafting, encourage them to follow as well.  That way, you'll all be first in line to get the news when I announce my NEXT giveaway!  :-)

Okay, I've told you the "What" and the "When" of the giveaway.  Now you need to know the "How," as in "How do I enter to win these marvelous soap balls?"

It's easy as can be:  Just post a comment on this blog entry. 

Make sure to include some way of contacting you if you win---If you comment anonymously, I may not be able to reach you to tell you you're a winner.  Winners will be selected at random from among all the people to comment on this post.  I'll contact winners by email to get their shipping address, and the winning names will be announced on this blog.  One entry per person, please. 

Now, go win yourself some soap!  :-)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Guess the Piglets!

The waiting is killing me.  I have four pregnant Guinea hog sows, all supposedly due to farrow within the month, and no reliable due dates on any of them.  Clearly it's time for a game of "Guess the Piglets"!

Tell me in the comments to this post which sow you think will farrow first and what on what date.  Anyone who is correct will be allowed to name one of the piglets!

Here are the contestants (all photos taken today):

Circe:  She was supposed to be due on December 31, but she seems to have gotten pregnant on the following cycle, not the one when I saw her bred.  Which would mean that her new due date should be about 3 weeks later, or sometime around January 21.  This will be her first litter.  She is fat and uncomfortable, and has some udder development.  She declined to get up for her photo shoot, opting instead for the "I'm so uncomfortable, look at my belly" angle.

Thyme:  One of the new sows.  We have no expected due date for her, but with the amount of udder development she has (almost dragging on the ground), she's clearly due fairly soon.  Her previous litter was born 7/28/10, and she was with the boar the entire time since then, so it would make sense that she would be due sometime this month.

Rosemary:  One of the new sows.  We have no expected due date for her.  Her udder development is almost as far along as Thyme's, so she's also likely to be due fairly soon.  Her previous litter was born 7/11/10, and she was with the boar the entire time since then, so it would make sense that she would be due sometime this month.

Cerridwen:  She is supposed to be due about February 1, but now that the date is nearly here she doesn't look far enough along to be due that soon.  She's the only one of the sows who is not fat and sluggish, but is instead quite active.  She has a little bit of a belly, but not really any noticeable udder development.  Maybe she's due on the next cycle, 3 weeks later?

Let's hear yours guesses!

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Soaps

I made about 50 lbs. of soap in the past few days, starting to build up inventory as I complete my transition into making my own soaps instead of hiring someone to do it for me.

I made 25 lbs. of my regular Amber-scented sheep's milk soap.  Then for a little variety, I made some unscented sheep's milk soap, and some pure castille soap.  All of my soaps are technically castille soap, since they are made with 100% olive oil, with sheep's milk and essential oils added.  But pure castille soap has only 3 ingredients:  olive oil, water, and lye.  All olive-oil based soaps are known to be exceptionally mild and gentle to the skin, although they don't make lots of lather.  Personally, I love how much softer and smoother my skin feels after using my sheep's milk soap.

Anyway, I was interested to see how the new varieties turned out.  I had suspected---but didn't know for sure---that without the dark-colored essential oils added, my sheep's milk soap would be an entirely different color.  And I was right.  The scented sheep's milk soap is a rich brown color, while the unscented version is a beautiful pale cream that is barely distinguishable from the one-shade-lighter pure castille.

Here's what they look like.  On the left is the amber-scented sheep's milk soap.  In the center is the unscented sheep's milk soap.  And on the right is the pure, unscented castille soap.

All these new soaps need at least a couple of weeks to cure, then they will be available for sale on my website and Etsy.

Happy New... Pigs!

We had not planned to increase our herd of Guinea hogs beyond the two breeding pair we already had.  But our waiting list of people wanting to buy piglets had grown to about a year and a half long.  So we decided to shop around and see if we could find a couple more adult sows to buy, to try to keep up with the demand.

We ended up getting lucky:  We found someone only an hour away from here who had two adult sows and an adult boar she was willing to sell to us for a very reasonable price.  None of the new pigs were too closely related to the bloodlines we already had.  And better yet, the two sows were already pregnant---and due to farrow probably within the month!

So, the coming of the new year brought three new Guinea hogs to the farm, and before another month is out we should have lots of new piglets.

Now to meet the newcomers.  This is the new boar, Basil.

This is Thyme:

And this is Rosemary:

We kept all the newcomers isolated for a while, but yesterday we rearranged everyone so that all the sows are together and all the boars are together.  This meant that all the pigs spent the afternoon squabbling, shoving, screeching, and biting, trying to determine who was going to be boss hog in each pen.

Our boar Magick was peaceful to start with, but once the others brought the battle to him, he established himself as king of the boar pen, after giving the new boar Basil several painful looking slashes along his sides.  I put some ointment on the cuts, and today poor Basil is acting very sore and submissive, but I think he's going to be just fine.

Here's Magick, looking very fierce:

In the sow pen, Cerridwen quickly established dominance by fighting dirty:  she went straight for the ear-biting.  After chomping on each of the other sows' ears until they screeched, she was undisputed queen of the sows.

Meanwhile:  Despite all of Circe's theatrics last week about how VERY pregnant and uncomfortable she was and how she was going to farrow ANY DAY NOW, she has still not had her piglets.  Apparently she got pregnant on the following cycle, not the time that I saw her bred.  The young boar Jack was still only just barely tall enough to do the job at that point, and I guess he needed another few weeks of growth to be able to get it right.  Which means that Circe should instead be due to farrow in about 2 weeks.

The two new sows look like they're due quite soon as well.  Cerridwen, who is supposedly due about February 1, does not look sufficiently far along to be due that soon.  So she may also end up farrowing later than I expected.

Either way, before much longer we're going to have a population explosion of piglets.  Just doing our part to help preserve this very rare, endangered breed!