Browsing Tag



16 Natural Alternatives to Herbicide Use

November 9, 2015

How to weed without chemicals

As I sat in a building and watched someone spray a herbicide outside the window, apart from the immediate sense of disappointment, the first thing I noticed was that they weren’t wearing any protection. Judging by the way they were emptying the liquid into the spray bottle, quite possibly they hadn’t paid any heed to the recommended dilution either. I asked if it was Roundup® and whether they had a mask and gloves. The response was “yep it is”, and “ah sure”

It set me wondering. How much do people know about herbicides (often lumped in the same group as pesticides), and in particular the popular Roundup®. Why are people still using it despite all the warnings?

Do they believe that if it’s sitting on shelves in DIY and garden centres, or if they ignore the dilution instructions that it’s safe to use? There’s a vast amount of information available about why we should be concerned about excessive herbicide use and quite possibly an equal amount of reports claiming it’s safe.

I’ve re-written this article several times in trying to narrow my own thoughts and help you choose alternatives. If you want to skip the reasons and head straight to the 16 alternatives below, just scroll down to the list. If you can think of any more, please leave them in the comments. However, I’m beginning this post with some background on Monsanto, the company that make Roundup® and one who recorded profits for the quarter ended 28th February 2015 of $1.43 billion.


Do you remember DDT? It was one of the first, and most widely used pesticides that came onto the market after World War II and was heralded as the answer to farmers dreams as it wiped out pests across acres of farmland. It was banned in the US 40 years ago, yet it took until 2001 before it was banned worldwide by the Stockholm Convention for Agricultural use for Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Many people living in Ireland remember DDT being dusted in beds and even on themselves as they grew up, to rid homes. However, long after the pesticide has ceased to be available, residues continue to show up in food and human blood supplies (hence its persistent pollutant ban). Its health implications are alarming with pages of research undertaken about its harmful effects. One report I came across indicated that “girls exposed to DDT before puberty are 5 times more likely to develop breast cancer in middle age, according to the President’s Cancer Panel” and I’m now wondering if this is why breast cancer rates are high and growing.

Rachel Carson

Yet in the early sixties, a courageous American scientist by the name of Rachel Carson highlighted the dangers of DDT in her book Silent Spring, alerting people to the terrible consequences of the overuse of insecticides, which triggered the establishment of the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Why was she so courageous? Because this woman went up against the incredibly powerful and wealthy pesticide industries who did their utmost to professionally discredit her, and are still trying to do so. Although banned for agricultural use, DDT is still being used in affected countries to fight malaria.

What’s the big deal about Roundup®

Why am I bringing the story of DDT up now in relationship to the weedkiller Roundup®? Because it’s impossible not to see parallels once you start looking.

DDT was a product of Monsanto who, in the 1970s, brought a new herbicide to market called Roundup® which contains among others, the chemical glyphosate. This chemical in particular is being linked to many of our current day health and neurological diseases and groups around the globe are now fighting a similar battle as Rachel Carson once did, trying to have it removed from shelves and food chains. It took forty years before DDT was banned for agricultural use worldwide. Do we have to wait another 40 years for Roundup® to go, when it’s already been linked to new worries?

How is Roundup® used?

Apart from killing weeds in urban and city gardens, the biggest users of the world’s most popular herbicide are farmers as they try to find ways to control the weeds around their crops. As a result of its extensive use, Roundup® is impossible to avoid as residues are contained throughout our food chain. It’s sprayed on fields before seeds are sown, on or around plants as they grow, and again to kill of the top growth before harvest. The sprayed grains are fed to our animals which we then consume, we wear cotton clothes sprayed with Roundup® and we eat fruit and vegetables regularly doused with it.

Friends of the Earth undertook a study and found Roundup® residues in the urine of 44% of people tested from 18 European countries but it’s used by 160 countries – great news for Monsanto and their stockholders, but a horror story for our soils.

Although their second quarter sales in 2015 for pesticides and herbicides dropped 14%, Monsanto’s productivity agricultural sales still managed to reach $1 billion.

Roundup® Ready Seeds

Apart from pesticides and herbicides, a huge part of Monsanto’s business is in seeds. They develop and own the patents on genetically engineered seeds, known as Roundup Ready, which produce plants such as corn, cotton and soybeans that resist the herbicides sprayed in the fields around them.

Within the space of 15 years in the US alone, Roundup®’s use grew from less than 11 million pounds in weight to almost 300 million pounds. And yet this quick fix solution to protect fields from weeds seems to have backfired as the weeds are evolving to be resistant to glyphosate and are growing back stronger and thicker than ever.  So with nature being what she is, strains of super weeds have evolved, resulting in farmers having to apply increasingly more Roundup™ or turn to stronger weed killers.

Roundup® Acts on Plant Enzymes

Representatives try to reassure us that glyphosate, the active ingredient contained within Roundup®, acts on an enzyme that exists only in plants and not mammals, so we don’t have to worry, yet as its use dramatically increases, so too do human diseases. Coincidence, or something more worrying? Whilst research has to be undertaken on the active ingredients on glyphosate, it doesn’t on the inert ingredients. Nor does it have to be carried out on how chemicals react when they meet different ones, or as far as I’m aware, the accumulation or cocktail effect.

Personally we’d rather not take the risk with our own family’s health. There are many things in this day and age that are considered harmful, including smoking, drinking, eating sugar and eating meat, but we can choose whether we want to do those.

The use of Roundup® is so pervasive, it’s impossible to avoid, unless we switch wholly to organic which can be difficult for financially strapped families, though the Holistic Life blog has a post on how we can try. Roundup® use on conventional food is the number one reason we grow our own food here at Greenside Up.

Nature is Complex

Nature is complex and constantly evolves, and I’d suggest an area that scientists will never fully understand in our lifetimes. Can scientists, hands on hearts, swear that the herbicides and pesticides or GMO’s they’ve created won’t harm us, our animals, or the soil and microorganisms they land upon?

There are alternatives. They might take a bit more effort, but they are effective. If you’d like to ditch the chemicals and switch to organic methods of weed control, here are 16 ideas to get you started.

16 Natural Alternatives to Using Herbicide

1. Garden Design

When you’re planning your garden, consider keeping it as low maintenance as possible. Look at the problem areas and think of alternatives. Use gravel under fruit areas, plant shrubs that will cover the soil, or pave pathways. Anything you can plan now to make your garden as low maintenance in the future will pay dividends.

2. Mulching

Mulches can have a double benefit depending upon the type. Well rotted compost, leafmould and animal manures spread on top of soil will not only feed it, but also suppress weeds – a double bonus. You can find a more detailed post about mulching here.

3. Ground Cover

It’s recommended to keep our soil covered to prevent soil erosion and maintain nutrients. Mulches can do this but so too can sowing a green manure that can be cut and dropped, or cut and dug in again. It will feed the soil and if your timings are right, will prevent weeds coming through. In flowerbeds and borders, choose ground hugging plants to grow between shrubs and perennials and try not to leave space between plants, which will attract weeds.

4. Crop Rotation

Crop rotation is one of the fundamental systems of soil management. It not only helps to prevent pests and diseases building up in the soil, it also helps to prevent weeds. Some crops such as the Brassica – cabbage and kale – will suppress weeds as their large leaves grow and they prevent light reaching the soil and subsequent weed germination. Others like alliums, leave lots of space for weeds to accumulate. Moving them around each year will disrupt weed life cycles.

Covering the soil over winter, or preparing it in the spring a few weeks before sowing will allow the weeds to germinate and offers the opportunity to remove them easily before the new crops are sown. With careful crop rotation it’s possible to almost completely eradicate weeds, as can be found in the example on a farm here.

5. Good Soil Management

Good soil management is a combination of 2, 3 and 4 above, along with adding an annual dose of well-rotted manure or garden compost. As you manage your soil each year and learn to understand it better, the weeds will become less troublesome.

6. Biological Control

Whilst I’m familiar with biological controls for pests in the form of nematodes, I was intrigued to find they’re being used successfully along waterways here in Ireland, as well as by exasperated farmers in the US who are trying to move away from the GM/Roundup cycle they’ve found themselves. You can read more about biological weed control here.

7. Organic Weedkillers

I tried Irish Organic Weedkiller for the first time this year as we’ve put down a gravel drive and it did a great job on the stray dandelions and scutch grass. It’s a vinegar based product and if you’re reading this outside Ireland, look out for similar products in your own countries or simply try dosing the weeds with distilled vinegar.

8. Flame Guns

Flame guns (a small gas cylinder on the end of a rod) are great for spot weeding pervasive perennials and annual weeds and are another example of a technique that can be used on paths and driveways.

9. Hard Work & Hand Weeding

Hand weeding or hoeing weeds, roots and all, is one of the best ways of weed removal but it can be time-consuming and at times, hard work digging them out. Many people find hand weeding therapeutic and the trick is to do it little and often. An hour or so once a week is far easier than a full day once a month. If you don’t have time to keep on top of the weeds, consider employing someone to help. Gardeners for general maintenance can often by found advertising in local papers and ads in news agents and will welcome the opportunity to get stuck in for a couple of hours each week.

10. Strimming

If you’re worried about how untidy your road fronts or garden edgings are looking, invest in or hire a strimmer. If you strim before the weeds flower and the seed heads set, you’ll keep knocking them down and prevent the problem escalating. Yes, you will have to keep doing it, but you’ll have to keep spraying with weed killers too as they don’t eradicate the problem for ever.

11. Power Washing

Again, invest in or hire a power washer to remove moss and weeds from Tarmac or paved drives. Power washing is a great way of cleaning up, without adding chemicals to your frontage.

12. Livestock

If you’ve a large area that you want to cultivate later on, or are having trouble keeping on top of a lawn, consider getting some sheep, a goat or pigs. Whether for pets, or for the freezer, goats are fantastic at tackling brambles, sheep will keep the grass and weeds nibbled down, and pigs will not only eat the weeds, they’ll turn the soil over ready for future planting.

13. Weed identification

Learn weed life cycles. If you begin to understand the weeds in your garden, whether it’s the roots, the seeds or both that cause the problems, you can address them. Some annuals like Hairy Bittercress burst their seeds into the air, covering everything around them, whilst Docks root deeply and new plants will grow from them if you snap their roots.

14. Make Fertiliser

Nettles make a fantastic natural fertiliser that your plants and vegetables will love you for. Here’s an archive post with the recipe.

15. Eat the Weeds

Many weeds are edible and once you’ve correctly identified them, can be used in the kitchen. Hairy Bittercress and chickweed can be added to salads, as can dandelion leaves or their flowers made into honey. Red clover can be steeped in water for a hot tea, plantain can be sautéed with garlic and sorrel added to stir fries. Buy a wildflower identification book or borrow one from a library and familiarise yourself with this additional bounty.

16. Learn to Love Weeds

The clue was in number 15… the majority of weeds can be found in wildflower books and many have herbal properties. Some are beautiful, most are listed in herbal preparation books whilst pollinators and bees love weeds. To them they’re just another food source – just look at a Ragwort flower in late summer.

Moving On

If you’d like to learn more about switching to organic methods head to the Organic Trust or IOFGA in Ireland or the Soil Association or Garden Organic in the UK for more information; or search for similar bodies in your own country. Above all try moving away from herbicides and to a more natural approach to weed control. Your garden and everything within it will love you for it.


Note: whilst every effort has been made to link to cited papers and reputable news sources which are highlighted throughout this post, the author cannot take responsibility for the content contained within the links.

Food & Drink, Lifestyle

From Pig to Pork ~ Part 2

December 27, 2013

The last month of being a pig ‘farmer’ was an emotional roller coaster ride as far as our eating habits were concerned. Having reared our first two free range pigs for the table this year we questioned every piece of meat we bought or cooked and whether we should be eating it at all.

Free Range Pork Back RashersOur ten-year old summed the experience up for us “oh Mum I do wish I could be vegetarian as I so love animals and don’t want to eat them, but they taste soooo good!”

It’s just as well she was thinking that way as we now have a freezer full of pork, over 120 kilo of it to be precise, from rashers to belly, hams to chops, that are set to last us for the next year!

My last blog post finished as we dropped our two saddlebacks to the abattoir on the Thursday morning. On the Saturday I took myself off to O’Gorman Meats in Castledermot, Co Kildare to discuss cuts and ask if there was any possibility that Mr G could either help with the butchering or watch it being done. It was a complete surprise to walk through the doors and instantly recognise the butcher behind the counter. Unbeknown to us, our daughter’s friend’s father managers the shop. What a relief! Several people had asked us how we could be sure we’d be getting our own pigs back. When I said hello to Brendan I instantly knew we would be.

O'Gormans Farm Shop in AthyO’Gorman’s is a bright, clean and efficiently run establishment and it came as no surprise to see trophies in a cabinet proclaiming that they’d just won Best Rural Butcher Shop and Best Overall Butcher Shop 2013/12014 by the Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland. The let downs of butchers a few weeks ago turned into delight as I could see for myself the pride the staff felt for their workplace and the efficiency with which they carried out their trade.

Although insurance, health and safety etc prevented Mr G from having a go at butchering our pigs himself, Brendan was happy to allow him to watch and talk about the different processes and cuts. He phoned the following Wednesday letting me know that one of our pigs would be butchered that afternoon and Mr G headed off to watch.

Mr G was impressed how quickly the work was carried out. He mentioned how sharp the knives were (put all of ours to shame!) and how he was happy to leave the butchering to the experts. A short while later he arrived home with two very heavy bags of meat that had been divided, weighed and individually packed into family sized bags for us.

Eight days later I took another call from O’Gorman’s, letting me know the cured pig was ready too.

We chose to have one pig for pork and one for bacon, giving us a mixture of cuts. There’s a few pieces in there I’ve never cooked such as the collar and streaky joints so I’ll be scouring the internet for some ideas – where’s a good Pork cook book when you need one?!

Pork Chops

4 chops = 2.5kg

Bar the kidneys, we left all the offal with O’Gorman’s though did bring one pig’s head home as well as the feet and trotters for my adventurous friend Elaine to make Brawn with. I tasted a slither and am sure if it had been enclosed in pastry and I’d been told it was a pork pie I’d have demolished it but the slither sadly stuck in my throat as I thought of the images she’d emailed me of the cooking process.

So was it worth rearing our own pigs? In answer to some of the questions asked:

  • Yes! Although it was a bit of a drain on resources during the six months or so of rearing them due to the fact that we weren’t allowed to feed them out of date food or vegetable waste from shops and had to buy grain. I did however, grow a couple of beds of beans for the pigs to help with their protein intake and we fed them weeds and grubs from the garden too. Overall it was definitely cost-effective to rear our own pigs.
  • The taste from free range pigs that have led a longer than usual life than factory farmed pigs is far superior to anything you’ll have tasted before. Really, there’s no comparison.
  • There’s no shrinkage or milky, liquid floating around in the frying pan with the bacon.
  • The meat is fattier than the factory farmed pork we had been used to but that gives it a lot more flavour and the best pork crackling eaten in our house for years.
  • Pigs were by far the easiest animals we’ve ever had the pleasure of rearing and were no trouble at all, though we were summer farmers and it would have been quite a different experience heading out to feed them during this current storm!

Would we do it again? Quite likely yes once the ground has recovered. We’re also discussing the possibility of rearing chickens for the freezer on the lawn that was once used for soccer and has now become just a weekly mowing chore.

There’s something quite humbling about rearing your own meat and not taking the animal for granted that you’re about to eat. As carnivores we feel it’s important to remember that.

As we tucked in to our first home reared ham this Christmas it was with the knowledge that the animal that provided it for us had led a good life and not a factory farmed, mass-produced one.

If you’d like to try the recipe here it is, though it could be used at any time of the year and not just for Christmas… We asked our butcher to cut the joint to the size of our largest saucepan.

Honey & Mustard Glazed Ham

Honey & Mustard Glazed Ham

Honey & mustard a glazed ham recipe

3.5kg ham joint
Celery, carrots, onions, bay leaf
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp mustard powder
Whole Cloves
zest from one orange
2 tbsp honey

Soak the ham overnight in a saucepan filled with water to remove excess salt (though this wasn’t really necessary for our free range pork), drain the pan then fill again with fresh water until the joint is covered. Add the vegetables, pop on a lid and bring the water to the boil. Simmer the ham joint for 30 minutes per kilo with the lid left on but ajar, topping up with hot water as necessary.

Once cooked, remove the ham from the water and place on one side to cool. Turn oven on to 200ºC and line a baking tin with tin foil.

Place the ham into the baking tin. Remove the outer skin from the joint but leave a good layer of fat which can be scored with a sharp knife in diamond shapes. Place a whole clove in the centre of each diamond shape.

Mix the mustard powder, honey, orange zest and brown sugar together then brush it all over the ham joint (heat the mix slightly if it isn’t runny enough to brush on). Pop the ham into the oven uncovered and cook for 20 mins, keeping an eye on it to make sure the glaze doesn’t burn.


The pigs & our bumpy road to self sufficiency

November 6, 2013

Saddleback PigsDo you ever stand back and wonder how on earth you ended up in the place you are in?

When Mr G and I packed our bags, sold our town house, left our jobs, all our friends and family and almost all of our worldly goods to move to rural Ireland we thought we knew what we were doing. We’d talked, we’d dreamt, we’d planned but it wasn’t until a couple of months after arrival that the enormity of what we’d done, what we’d left behind, really struck me. If we’d known what lay ahead would we have taken those steps, would we have ever been brave enough to make such momentous life changes and embark on this long and bumpy road to self sufficiency?

I’ve written a post before about our dreams of becoming self-sufficient and how the reality has differed from those early ideals. Little did we know when we stepped onto Irish soil over fifteen years ago that it would take us until now to finally own livestock and embark upon the challenges involved with rearing our own pigs. But despite the delays, the twists and turns, we never gave up on our initial hopes.

And now we’ve done it! Towards the end of our first pig rearing adventure, everything seemed to conspire against us but at last our two saddlebacks have made their final journey and thankfully, all my worries aside, it was relatively stress free.

drinkingThe Journey

I wrote a post expressing my mixed feelings about rearing pigs for the table the night before we were expecting to take them to the abattoir. Little did I know then that our plans would run adrift and it would be almost a month later before we finally loaded the pigs into the trailer.

During that month it rained, and it poured and then it rained some more. What had been an idyllic, dry, woodland for the pigs all summer long, filling their lives full of dappled sunny shade, soon became a soaking wet quagmire of a muddy mess. During the last week of that extended month our boars decided to chew the rope that tied the makeshift bridge together, resulting in feeding time becoming a chore to be argued over and dreaded in case of slippage or falls. Then, because they were growing daily and there was the very real worry that our pigs would become too large for the abattoir equipment, we had to ration their diet. Just like the male species in the human world, the pig variety doesn’t like being put on a diet either, not one little bit. During the last few weeks the harsh reality of autumn/winter farming began to rear it’s head and a new respect for ‘real’ farmers grew.

Empty copseSo, between transport problems and an abattoir/butcher letting us down, it was three weeks after writing that worrisome blog post that we headed outside at half past seven one cool Wednesday morning to load the boys into our neighbours trailer. We don’t own a trailer or a car with a tow hitch – there’s another lesson learnt in our big list of life lessons! Don’t get livestock if you can’t, at the very least, tow them yourself anywhere! Two 100 kg pigs will not fit into the back of a Primera estate, really they won’t.

Anyway, back to the morning in question, two hours later the pigs were still running around the woods and we had to wave our neighbour goodbye without them.

Actually that’s not quite true. Two hours later they had put themselves very stubbornly back to bed and were not coming out for love nor apples. During those couple of hours the largest pig learnt that my geraniums were quite tasty, my wide-eyed daughters learnt that their mother can single-handedly push a very large pig back into its run if it dares to escape into her garden, and Mr G learnt that you can’t bare back ride a freaked out pig, even if it is by accident. We both learnt that we were going to have to be a bit more canny if we were ever to load two happy, free range pigs into a trailer and we would have to learnt it fast.

clapper boardTake two, a week later.

The trailer arrived the day before the new scheduled date to the abattoir. Having learnt our lesson, during the previous week Mr G had built a corral, we held back on their food for a day so the pigs were hungry prior to loading, and we weren’t under time pressures. It still took three hours to entice them into the box as well as an adrenaline spiked panicky phone call to the ever patient and helpful Alfie & Margaret of Oldfarm, the experts at free range pig loading. There wasn’t much they could do for us over in Tipperary but their experience and sympathy for our plight was calming and reassuring and ensured we didn’t give up in despair.

Oh the joys of loading free range pigs who have the space to run around… We now know exactly why they’re more expensive than factory farmed pigs 😉

exitIn the end, a pile of apples, a shake of the feed bucket and Mr G walking along blocking their retreat with a pallet, saw both pigs loaded and us sighing with huge relief. They settled down for the night in the trailer, nestled in a cozy bed of straw. We drank a glass of wine in front of the fire, calm in the knowledge that we wouldn’t be repeating the escapades of the previous week.

At 8.00am the following morning, our jovial, cattle farming neighbour arrived once more (I sometimes wonder what our farming neighbours must think about our novice pig farming attempts) and he and I headed off to a recommended, family run abattoir, 20 miles away.

The killing

I was a little apprehensive on the journey. I wanted to witness the killing to make sure it was quick and kind but had been told that the public weren’t allowed to watch, viewing was only for the vet and the workers.

As I walked around the small, quiet yard to the back of the clean sheds, looking to see where we should park the trailer and unload, I came upon two pens. Inside one were half a dozen or so smaller pink pigs awaiting their fate. I hadn’t known what to expect to be honest but they didn’t seem overly stressed. They weren’t crowded, they were all healthy looking and running around inquisitively. At the back behind a low screen was a man in a long apron. Although my view was restricted, I could tell that he was herding a pig along a narrow walkway then shocking it with electric paddles directly to its head. Once shocked and on the ground, a chain was attached to the pigs hind leg, it was hoisted up, moved around the corner and from his actions, I could guess that it’s throat had been cut quickly, within a few seconds of the initial shock.

Strangely I was relieved. I’d heard all sorts of tales about the killing in recent weeks, each more horrifying than the last and having reared and cared for our pigs for many months, it was hugely important to us that their last minutes weren’t of terror and that the stories weren’t true. I felt as reassured as I could be under the circumstances. We’d expended a lot of time, money and emotional energy into this decision to rear our own meat for our table and at least I’d now seen with my own eyes that their end would be quick and efficient. My friendly farmer reversed his trailer back to the pens, we unloaded and ushered the two pigs into an empty one, closed the ramp and quietly walked away.

Part two coming soon…. (note, part 2 is here now)


Pigs – Do You Think They Know?

September 25, 2013

pigcloseup“Do you think the pigs know they’re going for slaughter?”

It’s a question several people have asked me since our young pigs were delivered. With the wisdom of those who know everything, others have casually mentioned:

“they know what’s in store for them you know”

Well how can they know, unless pigs can read our minds?? How can they possibly know that they won’t be living long, happy lives routing around in our little copse, but instead will be taken on a hair-raising journey in the back of a bumpy trailer, before being dispatched to pig heaven in the next day or so (or to be more precise, our freezer).

Saddleback pigs in April

Saddleback pigs in April

After our cute little saddleback piglets arrived here ready to roam outside back in April I thought I’d be writing several posts sharing tales of their escapades and antics. I hadn’t expected that being a Pig Herder (my official Department of Agriculture name) would be so uneventful!

Saddleback PigsOver the years we’ve cared for rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, chickens, dogs, cats, ducks, pet rats, kittens and horses but I can honestly say of all of those, our pigs have been the easiest to mind. They’ve been such good-natured, amusing animals, they’ve been a pleasure to look after.

Continue Reading…


Our Saddleback Pigs from Oldfarm Settle In

April 30, 2013

Warning: This post is about pigs that will be reared for food. 

Free Range SaddlebacksOver the coming months I’m hoping to share a few posts of our two Saddleback pigs (who will remain nameless) that will be living their lives with us, outdoors, in a free range environment surrounded by cattle from the neighbouring farm. They will be fed GM free grain and vegetables from the garden before they reach the appropriate weight and we arrange to have them butchered.

Saddleback Pigs ArriveToday’s the day we’ve been working towards for many years. Thanks to Alfie and Margaret for delivering them, our Oldfarm pigs arrived in the back of their trailer and were ushered out into their new woodland home.

Greenside Up SaddlebacksA long time ago Mr G and I shared dreams of becoming more self-sufficient in our food. We started with the vegetable garden, followed by the hens for their eggs (still working towards hens for the table) and at last the pigs.

drinkingsaddlebacksWe started this particular adventure earlier this year by attending a Oldfarm Pig Rearing course. When we returned home we cleared undergrowth and trees, built a house, installed fresh water, were given straw by our generous neighbour, sourced feed and then added heap loads  of electric fencing. The Department vet was called in to inspect the pigs new home and once the go ahead was given in terms of our herd number, we were able to discuss delivery.

Sideview of SaddlebackWe’re a little nervous about our new boars (mostly of them escaping into the vegetable patch!) The realities of rearing animals for their meat for the first time are starting to sink in for Mr G. Our children have mixed feelings but we do feel it important that they learn that food doesn’t come out of packets and the importance of good, healthy, wholesome food.

If I began to feel too attached to our new little guys, I’ll be watching this video clip from the Compassion of World Farming about intensively farmed pigs that I hope will act as a reminder about why we’re doing this.

At the moment our Saddleback pigs are four months old and we’ll be aiming to slaughter them at around nine or ten months old complete with their teeth, tails and testicles. Factory farmed pigs can be slaughtered from four months upwards and will never have seen the light of day.

For us now, the fun and realities of rearing animals for food is just beginning… I’ll keep you posted.

Speedy Saddleback Pig




Oldfarm pig rearing workshops and our latest venture!

March 25, 2013

When we moved here fifteen years ago it was with the intention of leading a more self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle. We wanted our children to know where their food originated from and to eat the best we could provide for them.

Grub's Up for the Old Farm pigs!

Grub’s Up for the Old Farm pigs (and just look at those hams)

Life often doesn’t quite go as we’d expect though does it… our original plans changed. The cost and time it took for house renovations seemed to go on and on and the small holding dream has at times seemed unachievable. When we sat down at the beginning of this year and talked about how we could improve our diet without the costs associated with buying organic meat but eat more ethically, we came up with a plan.

Oldfarm pigs tucking in!

Oldfarm piglets getting stuck in

Firstly we’d dramatically reduce our red meat intake and eat more fish. Secondly we’d only buy free range chickens and joint them rather than buy separate breasts or legs. Lastly (for this year) we’d book ourselves onto an Oldfarm pig rearing course and find out exactly what’s involved in rearing pigs for the table.

Oldfarm Saddlebacks

The course took place this weekend in Alfie and Margaret’s small holding in Tipperary. We covered everything from where to begin right through to breeding and slaughtering before heading outside with the group to meet and feed the Oldfarm pigs. If was such an enjoyable, informative and interesting day that we’ve put our names down for two piglets! Next week Mr G will be applying for a herd number as well as fencing and building an arc in preparation for the two new arrivals that will remain nameless!

Alfies pulled pork

Alfies pulled pork

The course included a delicious lunch made by Margaret of Chickpea and Sausage Hotpot and Deluxe Tomato and Sausage Pasta where we were able to taste the flavours of free range pork for ourselves (will never buy factory farmed pork again!). We were truly spoilt however when we were invited to stay for dinner and tasted the scrummy Pulled Pork cooked by Alfie in his Big Green Egg. Margaret accompanied it with a warm rice salad that I’m hoping she’ll add to her blog recipes soon!

Oldfarm pigsThe Oldfarm course is well worth taking if you want to rear pigs but if it’s not something you have the space or stomach for, we can definitely vouch for the pork they sell. The food we eat should be bona fide and flavoursome, Oldfarm’s are in abundance.

As corruption in the food industry is being unearthed daily, finding and supporting honest food producers that are passionate about where and how their animals are reared is vital wouldn’t you say? I’ll let you know how we get on with our own venture into the livestock world!