Summer is fleeting, jam-packed with a myriad of activities. One of our current endeavors is the raising of hogs, and we got three beautiful Duroc Hampshire gilts.
Of course we named them, and because we do all of our baking with lard (only a small exaggeration), we named them after our favorite desserts: Oreo, Red Velvet Whoopie Pie, and Spottie Ottie Dopalicious Angelfood Cake.
When we got them at the end of May, they were around 50 pounds each, or a little bigger than our pup, Evoo.
Needless to say, small piglets don't stay small. With an incredible ability to metabolize fats, protein, and carbohydrates into sheer body mass, they have quadrupled in size in the past few weeks. Though some may argue, we don't feel like this has affected their cuteness factor in the least.
As those who have raised pigs before well know, pigs are incredibly social and intelligent creatures; their intelligence ranks somewhere below dolphins and cats, but certainly higher than chickens and emus. They each have their own distinct personality: sassy class clown, pretty princess, and sweet chillaxer. They get a lot of love, attention, acorns, and belly rubs. This may be the only hand-massaged pork bellies around!
Chores are much less arduous with a crew of helpers; Miss E oversees tasks with her usual dedication. Beware any voles that cross her path! And, as always, Evoo is at our heals making sure no one is left behind.
We look forward to feeding our piggies apple pomace and harvest leftovers. We have some wild squash growing in our compost pile, and our friends are collecting slop from around their communities. These critters don't lack for tasty treats!
In mid-November, these lovely ladies will head off to the slaughterhouse. We have gained insight into the process involved with raising your own food, and we know that much love and nurturing has gone into taking care of these beings. With the bittersweet realization that our relationship with them is fleeting, we rest easier with the knowledge that our pigs will have only had the one bad day.
On a lighter note, here's a glimpse of their daily routine. Every day they joyfully get a bath...a mud bath, but a bath, nonetheless. Always the prankster, Oreo loves to splatter onlookers while shouting, "Cannonball!"
When Kenny Crandell exclaims that "The dishes are done, man" in Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, we completely identify with his glee and satisfaction at accomplishing the task at hand. On December 24, we were able to exclaim, "The cidery is done, man!" After six months of destruction, rebuilding, and finishing touches, the build-out of our ciderhouse is complete, with all appropriate licenses in hand. Hip hip hooray! We'd love to share a few highlights:
For us, this project had many facets. With the generous help of our friends, many of the tasks were successfully completed. The ell, the home of our cidery, was a rough space that needed a complete overhaul: new floor (thank you Issac Osterhaut and Cat DeSimone), new studs and framing (thank you to the ever handy Mike Anderson and Spencer Dudley for your experience and assistance with this), new heat pump (via Goggin Energy), insulation, walls, paint, plumbing, hybrid water heater, 3-bay and hand-washing sinks, and doors. We were even able to get our deer fence up around the orchard before winter set in! Dr Liz, our intelligent, methodical, and steadfast friend, helped decipher the gate directions (and possibly kept our marriage off the rocks!). An unseasonably warm December with its 50-degree days filled with sunshine bolstered our spirits and allowed the concrete to set!
All in all, a bounty of good fortune and friends helped us find fruition in the undertakings of our year. Thank you all!
And now we are moving on to bigger and better things. Like crafting cider. Throwing parties. Planting more apple trees. Creating a tasting room. Bottling and selling our product in restaurants and stores. Celebrating with family and friends. As always, we are downright bubbling about the possibilities that lie ahead!
Look for more details soon about our upcoming Spring Open House! Cheers!
We wanted to give everyone an update about what's been going on around here the past week.
First, we started demolition of the cidery floor by exposing the subflooring; this meant that we needed to rip up a layer of plywood. We made quick work of this task thanks to the youthful vigor of Collin Cunning, Galen’s brother, who was visiting for a couple of days.
We also had our contractor out for appraisals and are planning to move forward with shoring up the floor next week (barrels of cider are heavy!).
Additionally, it’s apple feeding time! Our neighbors have generously donated horse manure; that, combined with some free gypsum board found on Craigslist, will make for a nutritious meal come springtime for young apple trees.
Finally, we have been enjoying our new puppy Evoo; she loves to chew on sticks, wrestle with her stuffed cow, and lick feet.
Can’t wait until Miss E the kitty cat, who has been quite skeptical about the recent addition, realizes she has a new buddy to play with.
That’s all for now. We’ve got 18 days left in order to meet our campaign goal. We’d love your support (money is great and sharing our story with others is fantastic!).
--Stacey & Galen
P.S. If you haven't checked out our fundraising site, we'd really love it if you did!http://kck.st/1Cj1Fat
In May, we had our first planting par-tay...it was a success! Here's what we accomplished in three days:
Thank you to the following for coming to help, generously donating plants, and checking out what we've got going on:
We feel extremely blessed to have supportive family and friends in our lives. We look forward to next year's planting par-tay!
From an early age, Galen has shown an affinity towards apples (he even claimed that he liked apples the best in his Dr. Seuss book at age 4!). He remembers scrambling up trees and collecting apples for his dad, who would then turn them into a bit of cider in the basement. He recollects using apples as projectiles, whipping little green apples at his brother; rarely evading the welts in the back from the small rock-like spheres hurled back in retaliation. He recalls his favorite snack of apple slices with peanut butter, the apples cut a particular way (side note: find out how your man's mom cut his snacks and he'll be yours forever!), and his dad's infamous apple pancakes. All the while, he was unaware those memories were to lead him down this path we are now currently treading.
Little did he know that, many years later, these experiences would lead to his current day passion for apples. Through years, he has come to love the nuances of such a a seemingly simple food. Gleaning knowledge about how to care for trees, how to create new trees, and how critical apples are to Maine's heritage has really been a delight for him recently. He's even passed on this love of apples to me, a city girl from Southern California who cannot recall seeing an apple tree until touring the Washington countryside searching for wine. We visited several lovely little wineries tucked among the orchards of the northwest.
Today, Galen's passion for apples has led to his desire to carry on a New England tradition by crafting small-batch hard cider. We have recently purchased a 230-year old farmhouse, complete with field and barn. These last two items will be headquarters for Belstar's endeavors. Galen has decided to fill the field with 125 heritage apple trees to help fill the need for cider-specific fruit. The barn will be my domain, where I can welcome in those who have traveled from near and far to sample our fine heritage cider.
The best part is the future holds unlimited potential for more apple memories. Whether it's encountering a field of millions of bees working for the benefit of all or the pure joy of using a woodchipper to grind the apples for pressing (it had never been used for anything but!), we know that there will be many more memories and experiences. With this hardy little fruit, we will encounter joys and sorrows, ups and downs along this road of life in the years to come, No matter the occasion, we look forward to sharing them with you; our friends, family, and those soon to be acquainted. We look forward to the apple memories we will make in the future!
...to the Belstar Orchards Blog. We will use this space to gather our thoughts, provide tidbits and tips, and let you know what's going on, with the hopes of bonding and strengthening our community: those who enjoy good food and drink, good friends, and good times. We heartily encourage feedback and comments.