An escape-proof pig pen

I raised pigs in the past and had great success. (Giving pork away since I had too much) I was traveling a lot for work and the babies would get out and root up the neighbors yard while I was gone and my wife couldn’t keep them contained so I got rid of them. I want to make a concrete floor block knee wall pen for them separated so I can separate the male and female when I need to. Any suggestions? I would make a “pool” in the floor for them to keep cool. It will be covered also. How big for one pig (male) and a mother with babies. I would keep a few babies and sell any excess when they are old enough. Any suggestions?

Kevin Sakuta
Jesup, Georgia

I’d like to see adult pigs to have at least a 12×12-foot pen for each. A sow and babies could share this pen if it had a corner blocked off for a creep-away-from-mom area to avoid crushing and let them begin to eat solid food on their own. You could make your block walls only a block high with posts set in the concrete floor, up through blocks, set in the concrete to keep them from rooting under and use boards or stock panels for the fencing. Pigs are very strong animals who love to root; it’s their nature.

I don’t think I’d make a pool for them as it tends to get real messy real fast. Instead, spray the pigs down or spray the concrete on hot days and make sure they have plenty of shade. — Jackie

Canning fast-food chicken

I have recently made a deal with a fast food chicken restaurant. At the end of the day, they will put all unsold fried and broiled chicken in freezer bags and save them in the freezer for me to pick up the next day. I have been de-breading the chicken, cutting it up into pieces, and canning it.

I thaw it out in the fridge, keep everything sanitized, and pressure can the chicken. I make the stock from the bones of the chickens. I’ve pressured canned about 14 pints and 6 quarts so far.

My question: Is this a safe practice? (It sure is good and I can’t beat the price – free.)

Kathryn Turner
Blanchard, Oklahoma

Good for you, Kathy! Free is my favorite price. Yes, this is fine. If you’d eat there, the chicken is okay for you to hold in the freezer, thaw, and can up. — Jackie

Grafted vegetables

I was looking at my 2013 seed catalogs today and notice the ads for the “grafted vegetable plants.” In theory it sounds good but I wonder what you think. The price is pretty high, too, and don’t know if the benefits would be worth the cost.

Katherine Jordahl
Fergus Falls, Minnesota

Sorry (seed companies), but I really don’t think grafted vegetable plants are worth the price to homesteaders. The photos of ungrafted vs. grafted plants are really misleading. None of my ungrafted tomato plants look at all like those shown! I’d think I was doing something wrong! As mine are super productive, I can’t see any reason to pay that much for grafted plants. In a commercial situation…maybe. A big maybe. They’re still expensive. — Jackie


  1. My hubby got several grafted tomato plants a couple of years ago. They were expensive but he wanted to try them. Guess what? Don’t believe the ads cause they don’t produce half as many tomatoes. Although the flavor of the ones we did get was good, it wasn’t worth the price. Start heirlooms inside in the early spring and go with them and skip the grafted ones.

  2. When I was still full time farming I used to raise pigs for the family. I always used electric fencing (a low impedance charger with electric fence twine). You need to use a temporary barrier until they are trained which takes about a day. I KEPT THESE PIGS IN A SMALL BRUSH LOT AND NEVER CHASED PIGS. You may have to occasionally remove debris from the fence but a low impedance charger will not short out.
    copper Center, Alaska

  3. Grafted plants were developed for commercial greenhouse use, where they seem to do well. I had high hopes for grafted plants in my garden because of my difficult growing conditions. When I got them the graft had not completely healed over, so the top was flopping around and I had to tape the stems to two sticks. The graft did heal and the stem was strong, but the plants never did grow to more than 18 -24 inches or produce any food. I’ve read that this happens but have not seen any explanations of why. But to be fair, I did see several plants in my area not in a greenhouse that grew and produced just like the pictures. The plants cost $10 each and if they had lived up to the claims for extended season food production under adverse conditions would have been worth it. It was an interesting and expensive experiment, but I won’t buy them again until more is known about how and why they produce outside of a greenhouse. The money would have been better spent on another high tunnel. I agree with Jackie. I can’t see any reason to pay that much for a grafted plant either. You might look into grafting your own – it might be easier to do than trees. My plants looked like they had notch grafts but I bet you can find vegetable grafting instructions on the Internet. I think you’ll get more food for less money if you build tunnels or windbreaks, buy seeds and follow Jackie’s seed starting instructions in past issues of BWH. Just remember if you transplant young plants to prick them out with a fork and pick them up by the leaves, not the stem. Young stems crush very easily and often you can’t see that they are crushed until the plant fails to grow.

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