One of the permaculture principles I appreciate is using animals’ natural tendencies to do what we normally accomplish with costly equipment and fuel. Don’t get me wrong, I own a tractor and don’t plan on selling it (unless I’m upgrading). I don’t plan on buying a plow though. That’s because pigs do a better job than I could with the tractor. Pigs are the perfect tillers.
Case in point…
Three pigs, none full grown, have done the below in less than 12 hours. Part of that time was spent sleeping.
The biggest pig, a gilt named Charlotte, hasn’t hit 100 lbs yet. The other two probably come in at 40 lbs each. Check out the big chunks of soil they’re turning in the pic above.
Weed control is another thing the pigs manage well. I’m trying to get rid of the toadwort (I think that’s what it is) that’s spreading. I have a habit of pulling it up whenever I see it on the land. I can’t keep up though. I don’t want to use herbicides either. With pigs, I can throw some feed around the weeds and the plants will be torn up or stomped into the ground.
Some plants (like comfrey) can proliferate when broken up. Pigs will take out even plants like that. They can get rid of crab grass if you have them work the ground long enough.
The soil I have is silty, sandy and has gravel in it. There isn’t much in the way of top soil. The pigs change the character of the soil greatly. They stomp organic material (leaves, pine needles, weeds, etc) into the ground if they haven’t eaten it. Of course, their manure and urine is beneficial as well.
I get excited thinking about what they’ll accomplish in our small orchard.
I forgot to include a couple pictures that emphasis the job that the pigs do for me.
First is a picture of a piece of ground next to the piglet pen…
And now a pic inside the piglet pen.
In the first pic, the ground is compacted even though it isn’t walked on regularly.
The second pic shows ground that isn’t compacted even though pigs have been on it for three months. Also, the ground in the pen has been fertilized, both by the pigs’ excrement and urine and by the feed and hay that they’ve walked into the soil.
Normally, I wouldn’t consider letting a piece of ground get chewed up so thoroughly. The soil is so poor that I judge it couldn’t be hurt more. The wife tried to grow an herb garden on this spot this last year. The plants came up about three inches and that was it. We’ll see how a garden does on the same spot this next growing season.