"It appears by an article, published in the New York Farmer, that Mr. Wm. Canfield of Schodac, Rensselaer County, N.Y., owns an orchard, wholly grafted with sweet apples, in which he has kept hogs most of the season, where the grass and a little whey were sufficient to promote their growth.
About the time when hogs always manifest a disrelish for grass, the worm-eaten apples began to fall, sufficiently matured to become eatable. As they advanced in size and ripeness, they became more and more agreeable, and more nutritious, until the hogs began to fatten rapidly on no other food. The trees were therefore shaken or beaten with light poles, so as to throw down a due quantity of the most ripened fruit. This process was continued until the whole herd was become sufficiently fattened. Then Indian corn was given in about half the common quantity, for about one week, and full feeding of it another week. This brought them to the butchering, and the pork was not inferior to that which is fattened in a more expensive manner. One full grown tree, or two inferior ones were found sufficient for a hog, weighing to a hundred and fifty pounds.
In another publication, a writer states as follows: ‘I have tested by ten years’ experience, the value of apples as food for animals. I keep five or six hogs in my orchard upon nothing but apples and a little swill; and have uniformly found them to grow and gain flesh faster than hogs fed upon any thing else except grain. On the first of Nov. they are very decent pork; after which I feed them about six weeks on grain before I kill them and I believe I have as fat hogs, and as good pork as my neighbors, who give to their hogs, double the quantity of grain that I do to mine.’
Not only are apples of use in feeding hogs, but hogs are useful in preserving apples from the curculio, or the worm that injures and destroys a very large portion of our fruit. When swine are permitted to go at large in orchards they devour the fruit as it falls, together with the curculios in the maggot or larva state, which may be contained in such fruit. If no wormy fruit was ever suffered to lie on the ground, we should soon extirpate this pernicious insect."
[Maine Farmer's Almanac]
New England farms of 1849 were still largely focused on subsistence, not business, and practically every farm in that region had an apple orchard. What I like about this particular excerpt is the simple practicality of letting hogs feed themselves on the apples in the orchard. No apples are wasted. Money is saved. And the hogs are helping control insects without spraying any poisons. (If you click the "curculio" link in the excerpt above you will see what curculio damage on apples looks like.)
Another nice thing about this idea is that apples are a perennial crop. No annual plowing and planting is required, and the mature trees will provide a crop for many years to come.
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In the next installment of Agrarian Nation we will look at an almanac essay from 1851 titled: What Can Be Done On One Acre of Ground. It so happens that a LOT can be accomplished on just an acre.
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