By Juliet Garcia-Gonzales
I have many beautiful memories of my family's corn field. Since I was a child, this was the field that grew rows and rows of maiz concho, sometimes blue corn, a variety of root vegetables, alberjon, and lots of beautiful calabazas. On occasion, my father would let the land rest for a while, and take the efforts to a different field. One year, my dad allowed our neighbors horses to graze the field to eat up what was left after a harvest. As a result, the horses brought in seeds of noxious weeds in their manure, and the takeover of the weeds in that field began. I remember looking at the field one season and seeing just a few plants, then from one year to the next it seemed as if they had spread like wildfire. Looking for a solution, and talking about it amongst friends, it was recommended that we try raising some pigs. A few years ago we decided it was worth a try, but the attempt ended in tragedy when the neighbor's dogs got into the pen and killed both our pigs. It was clear we needed a better fence, so in small increments of time, when this precious time was allowed, my husband Edward, along with our sons Ignacio and Augustine, would go out and work on replacing or reinforcing the fence that surrounds the field.
This past May we were able to invest and currently have 3 healthy pigs that keep us busy. Early on, Edward decided to use the frame of an old trampoline, wheels from an old lawn mower tractor and some other material he has acquired to build a move-able "pig tractor", much like the chicken tractors that are popular now. The pigs are now able to be corralled and get moved as needed. They graze a portion of the field for a few days, and then the "tractor" is moved to another plot. We will continue this technique until they have grazed the whole field or until it freezes. Of course Edward is always building and refining his pig tractor design, and we are all fascinated by the pigs, and their ability to root up an area in a really short time, turning it all around, and leaving it fertilized in the same process.
So far the pigs have uprooted and eaten all of the weeds where they have grazed. Our goal is really to have them root out the milk thistle and bind weed in particular. We are happy with the results but we won't know until next year how it affects the bind weed and thistle. But an added benefit is that it's also been easier to keep the pigs fed because they are happy to just graze in their area for days. So it has cut down on daily feeding time. We are excited to see the impact of the fertilizer and their grazing on our garden next year, and will be happy to share the results and information!