Hogs are a great animal to have on the homestead. Young hogs are referred to as pigs, and babies are called piglets. We usually raise one or two pigs a year because they are so useful to us. They provide natural pork, fertilizer for the compost piles, and even some manpower--or pigpower in this case. Homesteaders of long ago knew all this, and so they used their hogs wisely. They didn't have the benefit of the modern machinery we know today, so when they needed to clear an overgrown area, break up the soil, or even pack down a seeping pond, they'd just send in the hogs. The hogs would do what they do best--root around. Hogs love to eat grubs, roots, and other treats hidden deep in the soil, and they will stop at nothing to find them. This can be disastrous if they decide to root for grubs in the garden, but it can really come in handy in the right situation. Using an animal's natural instincts to get my work done is right up my alley, and they're always happy to lend a helping hand--or hoof. Cloven hoof in this case. Actually, their snouts are the most helpful part of their anatomy. They use them like shovels to dig out their snacks. I've gotten distracted again, haven't I? Back to my story...This past winter I put a piglet in a moveable "chicken tractor", and I used her to clear a large area full of grass clumps and compacted soil. I just moved her around every so often, gave her some supplemental feed, and made sure she had plenty of water. By springtime the grass was cleared, the soil was turned over, and the grubs were gone. It sure saved me a lot of work, and it gave her something useful to do all winter. I love it when a plan comes together!
One of the rarest breed of chickens on the homestead is the Isbar (ice-bar). This breed hails from Sweden and was developed in the 1950's by a catholic monk. They've only been available in the United States since 2011. The birds are a smaller breed, but larger than a bantam. The most coveted feather color is called "blue", which is in reality a shade of slate-gray. Our birds are Blue and Splash (white with large gray specks). They love to free-range and are quiet birds, although sometimes a bit skittish. The hens lay a beautiful green egg, and on my farm, are very broody. They seem to have a special bond with their chicks, too. I've often found their offspring nesting right along with the mother even after maturity. Our Isbar flock is small right now, but that won't be the case for long if the broody mothers keep on hatching chicks. We'd like to eventually make some fertile eggs available to other rare-breed chicken lovers, too. That's further down the road for us, but right now we simply enjoy having this very rare breed roaming around the barnyard.
I love farm animals. There are plenty of good reasons for this: they provide food, income, fertilizer, pest and weed control...they can even till my garden for me! But what I really love is having odd farm animals just wandering around. I like to just sit and watch them happily scratch, root, or strut about--doing whatever comes natural to them. Sometimes it gets a little crazy, but they're such a big part of the homestead equation, I can't imagine not having them.