I'm not really very fond of summer - the heat, the humidity, the extra long days. The hogs don't like it a lot either. They rise early and go work out in the pasture, sleep in the afternoon in a cool spot, hit the wallow later in the day, go out to forage in the cooler late part of the day, get fed, go back to sleep. The Hog Days of Summer. But the greenness of the paddocks, the lushness of growth and the variety of fodder is mind blowing, and I quite delight in it. And I'm seeing lots of varieties of this plant all over the place.
Huge squash and pumpkin plants, loaded with fruits. The sows have already figured out that there is treasure beneath the canopy of scratchy leaves and harvest their own quite efficiently. We have all sorts of pumpkins, patty pan squash (which I have never been able to grow well in the garden), gourds, even bizarre squash crosses. All are delicious in the hogs' eyes. They like to wait until the fruits are kind of seedy, which works well for me. You see, I didn't plant any of these. They were free, resulting from a great haul I made last autumn.
This is the pickup load of squash, pumpkins and gourds I got from a garden center last fall, right after Hallowe'en. The feeder hogs and the sows loved them! They got generous portions every day for almost 3 weeks. They would have been pitched in a dumpster if I hadn't hauled them off. And since a hog can only digest about 20% of the seeds it eats, the rest come out the other end in a pre-packaged, pre-fertilized seed bomb, which the hogs are kind enough to deposit in any place they wander. The seeds slept through the winter and spring, but wakened with vigor once the weather heated up.
The big, broad, sprawling leaves shade the rest of the ground, giving the clover and alfalfa a cooler spot to grow. The cowpeas and lima beans are getting a leg up and adding their nitrogen-fixing contribution to the hog manure that allows these cucurbits to really grow strong. This is very exciting to me, as we make a point of letting forages go to seed just so the hogs can eat them and distribute the seed bombs. It adds to the tilth and sows seeds all in one swoop! In time, we will have to sow very little seed, benefiting from an endless loop of nutrition for the hogs.
Look at these patty pans - some weigh over 3 pounds when I pick them for the sows and the hogs, and I might pick 5 from one bush, and five more days later. Really big, really seedy, and so delicious to the hogs. They come running when I start lobbing these over the fence. If I sang while I did it, this would be their version of the ice cream truck, a tasty treat in the middle of the summer time blues. And their joy lightens my sweat-soaked spirits as well. Guess we're both enjoying the squash loop. PS they are busy sowing seeds for next summer. Lots and lots of them.
Merry Schepers lives on a farm with her heritage pigs in Nixa, MO.