Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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The Pig-o-Tiller

We've worked hard to get an electric fence up around the smallest part of the barnyard so our little piglets can get some fresh air and sunshine.  Many of our customers who stopped by last Saturday enjoyed seeing them run around;  they're very playful at this age! Besides providing an outdoor space for the sows & piglets, we also had another reason to get them out in this particular space.  This part of the barnyard isn't grazed very heavily, so weeds have started to choke out the plants that the livestock find tastier and more nutritious.  A pasture without maintenance will become simply a place for the animals to exercise, but not much of a source of food if the plants that are best for that species are overgrazed or taken over by weeds.  So it's time to re-seed this patch of pasture.  We plan on using just a general hay mix- grasses, clover, legumes and other plants that appeal to pretty much all of our critters.  However, with the weeds thoroughly covering the ground, we have to prep the soil to give the seeds the best possible chance to grow and thrive.  While we do have a very high quality rototiller which we use in the garden every spring for that purpose,  that wasn't the route we wanted to take.  Round bales of hay were fed in this spot for years, and every spring I pull up yards and yards of orange baler twine.  It would quickly wrap around the tines of the tiller and cause major problems.  Besides, we try to use it as little as possible,  both to keep it in great shape for years to come and because we try not to use too much mechanized equipment.  This particular area is also too small and rocky to use the horses to plow it up.  Enter the pig-o-tillers!  Hogs have a natural instinct to root- they use their extremely strong snouts to dig into the dirt and then lift up.  This way they discover all sorts of piggie delicacies like grubs and roots. In the process, they expose the bare dirt and uproot whatever is growing on the surface. Two sows and 18 piglets can do a lot of work or damage, depending on your point of view. They can cause a huge mess if you don't want the ground completely uprooted, but  this is just what we're looking for to plant! So the pigs get exercise and some extra food at no cost to us, and they get to entertain themselves by doing what pigs naturally want to do.  And we get the pasture reseeded with just minimal time and work on our part.  It's what we like to think of as a win-win situation!
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