I mentioned this before, but I live at Waupoos Family Farm in Catholic Community. One of the best parts of living in community, is being able to rely on the skill and energy of others. Marc-André is a dad who lives next door and is a master of anything to do with wood (kitchens, staircases, shelves …). We get up to all sorts of shenanigans on the farm. It's a bit of problem. I'm prone to crazy ideas and he's never one to back down from a challenge.
I threw down the concept of a “Pig Tractor” and he didn’t blink before saying “Let’s do it.”
Pigs are terrific rooters. They love to get down and dirty. Their powerful snouts have done in many a fence. And if you leave them in a pen, within a week or two, they'll have the dirt tilled to near garden quality.
Queue "The Pig Tractor".
It's a concept in homesteading where you let the pigs till the fields for you.
So how does Pig Tractor work?
It's pretty simple, really. As the pigs root through the field and dig up roots, grass and minerals from the soil, they turn the earth and break it down, fertilizing as they go. And the pigs get a lot of minerals from the soil and more exercise then they would from just eating feed.
And because we have a bunch of old apple trees on the property, they get lots of extra tasty treats.
The big Mr. in the back is a boar we found for free on a farmer's Facebook group. He was supposed to get friendly with the ladies but all he managed to impregnate was an old barrel. But that's a story for another day - but a story that no one who witnessed it will ever forget (lets just say smell is the sense that sticks most in your memory). He did make his way into our freezer eventually - all 900 lbs of him.
Anyways - back to the pig tractor. Once they have the soil tilled, we hook the pen up to the tractor and pull it along for them to work on another square of field. In order to help the pen move, we stuck 4" PVC pipe around the base at a couple different spots to let it roll along. Without a tractor I wouldn't see how you could do one the size we have but the tractor pulls it no problem with the extra rollers underneath. The main problem was making it strong enough to keep the pigs from busting out (again, don't underestimate the strength of a pig!) We had to keep upping the size of lumber and amount of screws used. We got there eventually and got them penned in.
The watering system is a drip method from a 500 gallon tank into a trough that we could pull along with the pen. About every 4 days we needed to refill it. But it is nice because they always have fresh water and the excess gives them a little mud bath wherever their pen is moved.
It took a lot of tweaking and figuring, but once we got the hang of it, it is pretty efficient. We managed to get about 120 feet of top quality garden dug in one season with the help of 5 pigs and a boar.
By fall, we were ready to put in the garlic.
And it seems to be doing very well. Scapes are coming soon.