Pig Rules OK!

When you think of pigs you often think of cute little piglets, jumping around and playfully squealing as they snuffle at your feet but the thing about pigs is that they grow, and grow and simply keep growing. The pork and bacon that we eat come from pigs that are only 6-8 months old and weigh just 90kg, but, the pigs that we will have on the farm will be the mummies and the daddies of these little babies. Mummy and Daddy Pigs are BIG animals and can weigh more than 300kg, imagine that stepping on your foot (I can tell you that it hurts) and so its important to be careful around the pigs and to treat them with respect. With this in mind I have just found an excellent blog from an American hog farm (that’s what they call pigs stateside) with a short list of rules for safe handling of pigs and I thought it would be useful for anyone who comes to visit us on the farm. Read and be prepared, you have been warned……

Pig, Farm

This is our neighbours pig, probably about 150kg, just a little-un.

1. Don’t get between a big animal and a hard place.
2. Watch your feet, beware of hooves, tusks and tails.
3. Don’t try to break up a boar fight.
4. Be wary around the boars when they’re after a lady in heat. It’s not polite, and rather dangerous, to interrupt sparking folk.
5. Be very careful of a sow and her piglets. If piglets start screaming the sow, and other pigs, may rush to their defense. Even a sow that is normally very docile may get aggressive in this situation.
6. Greet a pig fist out fingers curled down and in. This is like touching noses which is a proper, polite piggy hello.
7. Most importantly, don’t mess around with pigs you don’t know. They can get aggressive, like any animal, if they feel threatened, especially by someone they don’t know.

These rules of conduct can be applied to many species.

As an interesting aside, the pigs perceive us as being far bigger than we actually are. They see us as a 2 dimensional silhouette and assume we have a proportional mass. To them height in particular, but also width, implies a corresponding length and thus total size. If you want to appear small to a pig, and many other animals, crouch down and you’re less threatening. Similarly, if you want to be very big and intimidating, stand up tall and spread your arms up and outward – this is called looming. It is very handy for moving animals around and backing them off if need be. If you are only 5’8″ a pig will think you are about 4,000 lbs because he never realizes there’s not more of you behind the silhouette. He has a pig-centric mentality that says everybody is proportionally long as they are tall at the shoulder.

Thanks to http://sugarmtnfarm.com/ for the blog.

Ruminations on ruminators

The countdown to the farm has started and so have the sleepless nights. With so much to think about I am guessing that my recent sleeplessness will last for a good few weeks to come. Its not so much worry about the crazy journey we are about to undertake but rather the sheer volume of learning that I have ahead of me. I am sure that no one who reads this blog thinks that a farmers life is easy, its full of hard work, long hours and so on. But have you also considered the massive amount of knowledge that goes into farming, a farmer needs to be a chemist, a vet, a soothsayer, a meteorologist, a tradesman, a geologist, a botanist and the list goes on.


So as I try to learn all that I need to know, and stay awake thinking about all the things that I don’t yet know, I have been reading books and listening to blogs about farming. What I have learnt is that in america there has been a resurgence of people going back to the land and doing exactly what we are doing, so many in fact that they have been given the title of ‘the beginning farmers’. And one beginning farmer has an excellent podcast and blog that has been very useful for my planning.

The first thing I have to do on the farm is prepare it for animals, if we were in an office this would be the equivalent of setting out desks, arranging the water cooler and buying the headed paper. But on a farm its a lot more complicated because mistakes really can cost lives, as well as money, and the equipment I need is extensive (having recently moved to NZ from Australia I don’t even have a hammer). So I turned to The Beginning Farmer Show for some advice and this is a summary of his ‘four great things’ to think about when it comes to purchasing items to help you use your time, energy, and money more wisely:

  1. Buy Nothing and Learn Lots! (buy as little as possible and the slowly figure out what I need).
  2. Buy Equipment That Will Save You Money! 
  3. Buy Equipment That Improves the Life of Your Livestock! 
  4. Buy Equipment That Saves You Time!
So with these simple rules in mind I am about to embrace the world of the Freegan. Sourcing all kinds of materials, tools and even food for the animals from places that no longer need them. Since leaving work in February I have been trying to live as frugally as possible and it has really struck me how little we actually need, how much waste we produce and how I would buy things I didn’t even use. I am not trying to preach to anyone, if anything I am chastising myself for all the money I have wasted in the past and actually I’m looking forward to being more innovative and social in my pursuit of the Freegan lifestyle.
So with that in mind I have made a list of all the things I need and it will be fun seeing just how many I can source for free or make for less than just buying new:

– Pig Ark (Shelter). I am going to need a few of these and I have found some really easy plans for them so job number one is to buy the materials and make 3 or 4 of them. For that I will need wood, electric jigsaw, a hammer and patience.

Pig, Ark, Shelter

Each sow needs one of these to give birth in. I plan to have at least 8 Sows

– Tractor (with a loader). Oh yes a big red tractor, every boys dream until about the age of ten when they turn to Ferrari instead.
– Live stock Trailer. Actually I firstly need to get a tow bar fitted on my car and then learn how to drive with a trailor on the back (especially when going in reverse).
– Ride On Lawn Mower (and petrol strimmer). This is not really a farm purchase but if I don’t get one the 1.5 acres around the house will soon look like a jungle.
– Post Hole Digger. The farm is quite well fenced but I will need to put alot of fence in to make smaller paddocks, I am not looking forward to this as its costly and HARD work.
– Plow, Disk, Harrow, Seeder, Baler. All of these are needed if I am going to start growing crops to feed the animals (and the pigs…)
– Spade, Shovel, Rake, Branch cutters, Axe, Pickaxe, Sledgehammer, Hay Rake and a hundred other hand tools
– Chainsaw. Just so I can scare the neighbours.

Infact the only farm ‘tool’ I have at the moment is a green Land Rover Defender, which comes with the house, whilst it makes me look the part I am not sure its going to help me make money.

OK, I am off to pretend to sleep and ruminate some more.

Take a pre farm tour

A few people have asked to see more photos of the farm and I also thought it would be a good idea to show some images of what it looks like now before I get my hands on it. They are not great photos as I only took them as an aide memoir but i think it gives a feel of the place.

Of course it looks idilic at the moment but I am afraid it will have to get worse before its gets better. Apart form the 1 acre around the house the rest of the land has to pay its way. Once the livestock and planing begins I suspect the farm will start to look less appealing but at the same time more like a working farm and, if we want to be in this for the longterm, then it needs to bring us a return on the investment.

Those fields are my offices and the livestock my staff. The stream my water cooler and the forest my filing cabinet. The planning has started and my next post will outline my mad musings on what I need to do to turn this land into the farm ‘Woody’s @ North Manakau.’

Be a part of it…

As I mentioned in my last post I have been humbled by the responses and comments to my posts and blogs about the move. But I have also been impressed with the amount of ideas that have been suggested for the farm. From vineyard to nut orchard and even a very innovative water powered pig on a spit, they are all great ideas.

Now this is an idea under serious consideration.

Now this is an idea under serious consideration.

I love the idea that Woody’s @ North Manakau is a collaborative journey between us and our friends, family and basically anyone (hopefully one day our customers are also included). So I thought I would make the request for ideas official. If you have an idea or have always wanted to try something but don’t have enough land at home then why not make a suggestion.

We want a farm that is diverse, informative, enjoyable and local. Apart from the free range pigs I am planning to smoke and cure meat, breed goats and chickens and sell eggs, have tours and educational visits, arrange cookery lessons (don’t worry I will not be the cook) and have farm lunches by the stream. Hopefully one day we might also have a ‘glamping’ site in the woods at the end of the block for you all to come and stay. But I am sure these are just some of the things we will end up doing.

So what are you waiting for, whatever you are thinking right now, however wacky and zany, just drop me a line and lets see if the idea sticks to the ideas board in my head. As I said before; from little things, big things grow.

Now I have to go and start packing, its only two weeks to the big move….

Idiot or Inspiration

A good friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that my career change was an inspiration, it made me wonder how giving up a well respected job with great pay could be considered as inspirational, and too whom? I have been planning my move to the land for almost three years now and at no point did I ever think that it would be seen as an inspiration or that anyone would even think it was a good idea. If anything I have been embarrassed when I have ventured to tell people that I intended to become a pig farmer, often making a joke of it in meetings. An inspiration was, and is, the last thing I think that I am.

If you have ever dramatically changed your career you will know a little of what a massive shock it is for me to go from managing an office to becoming a free range pig farmer. It is even more of an shock for everyone around me, the term ‘pig farmer’ alone strikes fear into the hearts of any parent, parent in law or family member and whilst everyone is very polite I cant help but think that they all believe I’m having a mid-life crisis.

Well the good news is that I am not having a mid life crisis and that I am not being irresponsible. I am honoured that I might be an inspiration but in reality I am just following the path less travelled. I now feel embarrassment when I tell trades people and the staff at Farmlands that I used to be a manager of a consumer electronics company, I feel like a ‘fraud’ farmer. But as much as I worry about wether or not I can truly become a farmer I am also really excited about the challenge, about the food we will create and the life we will have.

This is a much better view than HK harbour.

This is a much better view than HK harbour.

So to all those worriers and supporters alike let me say this. If your life is not exciting you, if you are not getting challenged and don’t feel passionate about your work, if money is not the reason why you are happy… try something else. Better still, get the family on a plane and get over to Woody’s @ North Manakau and come and help me to build a sustainable farm that we can all enjoy. You might find you like it and you want to buy your own!

Izzy and Jean on the move!

My gorgeous partner, Claire, runs an online store and posted this on her blog the other day. I for one cant wait to see the house when its finished, although it looks like I will be outside ‘doing the farming’ most of the time. You can subscribe to her blog here if you want: http://izzyandjean.co.nz/blogs/weekly-blog


Posted on October 03, 2013 by claire ongley | 0 Comments

It’s been an exciting week at our house. After some tense negotiations, we have just bought ourselves a farm. It’s located an hour out of Wellington, just near Otaki. We will be farming pigs (free range of course!) and experimenting with a few other farming-related ventures on the side.

Until now, I have been a city dweller – the bigger the better. I’ve lived in New York, Barcelona and Sydney, and always loved the buzz and excitement of the big city. But now the call of the wild has lured me in. Isn’t it funny how your priorities can change….drastically. These days I can think of nothing better than getting out of the hustle, and getting back to the land. Mind you, I won’t be getting my fingernails too dirty. My partner Daniel will be doing most of the farming, and I will be running Izzy and Jean Co.

And then of course, there’s the house. This will be the first house that I have ever owned, and at 38, I am itching to get in there and start making it my own. The many hours browsing magazines and Pinterest, and the years of collecting bits and pieces, has left me armed with a mountain of stuff and ideas. Here are some of my dreams and inspirations for the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room of our new humble abode.

I long for a timber kitchen table with white painted legs. This one is the ultimate.

via Pinterest.

A nook for our coats and gumboots. I love this coat rack made from a vintage sign.

via Designmom.com.

Simple luxury in the bathroom. Beautiful patterned tiles on the floor and oh, what a bathtub.

via deardesigner.co.uk.

Subway tiles for the kitchen and timber benchtops. Glorious.

via fazyluckers.com.

Mismatched industrial lampshades and chairs will look perfect at our timber farm table.

From Elle Decoration UK via Pinterest.

White in the bedroom for rest and relaxation. If only I could find a vintage bench seat like this one.

via Designinspiration.net.

A relaxed living room with cushions, rugs and check out that lampshade!

In search of the perfect rug… This is a gorgeous example of a Moroccan kilim. Check out Izzy and Jean Co.’s kilim rugs before I nab one to go in my new living room.

Our farm.

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If you would like to get in touch, you can email us at info@izzyandjean.co.nz.

From little things, big things grow.

Many months had passed since I wrote the preface on 1.11.11 and whilst things never happen as fast as I would like, they were definitely happening. I continued to work in the corporate world but my ‘secret’ life was picking up pace. A number of months later I went on a one day pig farming course up near Windsor, the point of this was to see wether a pig farm really was the way ahead for me. I had no doubts, it was a success. Having not been scared by a 250kg sow (female breeding pig) standing on my foot, the search for the farm moved forward, slowly….


Its been nearly three years since that first post from high in the sky. On the 1.11.13 Claire and I will be moving to Manakau and the farm. It has been a dream in the making for many years and now its almost here. I have to admit I am a little scared because we have lots of land but only a short amount of time to get it making money. I’m not short of ideas (feel free to provide any of your own ideas in the comments below), I have always been good at the ideas but the execution will be tricky because I have a lot to learn although at last count I have four books on pig keeping, three on sustainability on a smallholding and another three on building farm building (not to mention the many books on cooking, curing and cheese making.)

I have never really been into blogs, I don’t expect anyone else to be either. I have two reasons for writing this blog, this blog exists because 1) ALL of my friends and family live overseas and I’d like them to know what I get up too and 2) a cathartic exercise designed to help me to remember the mistakes I make on the way and to overcome any embarrassment I might have as a beginning farmer by broadcasting my failures to the world. I suppose its also a vain attempt at getting some free advice too.

Thanks for reading and lets got on with the farming…