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we're making a mini earth sheltered house for pigs

 
                    
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Inspired by Sepp Holtzer of course.  This set of photos shows the progress of two people, one day, no powered machines to move stuff around.  Well....other than the giant machine that created the huge pile of dirt in which we're making the thing. 

The pile of dirt in which its situated isn't supposed to be there forever, so neither is this pig house.  We know it's small, we needed something for two pigs to live in at night this summer and this winter.  We plan to construct a much larger version of this next summer in a more permanent location.  This is a practice run on a small scale. 

I'll update this as we move along towards completion.  We plan to cover it with a tarp while it rains this spring, but then not cover it with the tougher plastic, dry leaves, and dirt until probably September.  We need to let the whole thing dry out during our long hot arid summer.

I was gonna sow the thing with clover when we're as done as we're going to get this spring.  Good idea? 
 
                            
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Location: Cholula, Mexico
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Wow! The forest you're in is beautiful! The earth shelter looks like it will soon become a nice, cool home for some happy pigs  Congratulations!
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Marina, that looks like an excellent idea.  Especially where you get so hot in the summer, it will give the pigs a cool place to go mid-day.  Are you putting any plastic over it, though?  I think I would -- it will keep things drier inside in the winter when it rains so much.

Kathleen
 
                          
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Good for you, Marina, and good for your pigs! They'll have a great house.
 
                    
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Thanks guys!  Worked on it some more yesterday, then decided we needed a not-so-physical job for a couple of days....much more dirt/rocks to move til the sides are totally buried.  And we're going to cheat and use a friend's tractor when it comes time to bury the top. 

Yes, Kathleen, we're going to plastic the top of it ala wofati (kinda mostly, you get the idea) but not til after our long summer of no rain at all.  The dirt is really wet right now.  Wet dirt isn't nearly as good an insulator as dry dirt, so we want to let it dry out and THEN protect it from more moisture. 

I think the pigs are going to be pretty little when we get them (in a month!!!) and so they'll just live in here for the first little bit, with a yard out front of it.  Then we'll start rotating them around the field in electric fence enclosures (with a roll-able shade structure).  We want them to sleep in this every night though.  We think we can train them to follow us....probably with the aid of a home-made rope harness at first? 
 
paul wheaton
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Do you have soil touching wood on the sides and top?

I would have suggested making it taller - so you can get in there and clean it easier if you needed to.  Plus, it could then change its purpose over time.  Some years it could be a animal shelter and some years it could be a root cellar.



 
                    
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Yes, there is soil touching cedar/fir poles on all four sides.  And here's why:  It's temporary!  The pile of dirt is a by-products of a different project and needs to go back into a hole later, when we build our 'real house' in that general location.  It's supposed to have a lifespan of less than 5 years, probably more like 2 or 3 years. 

We could have made it taller, but considering that it is temporary we didn't feel like moving an extra 15 yards of dirt for another foot of head space.  It's not that deep, and the roof angles up towards the front.  It's totally possible to clean it out (specially at my lowly height), but definitely not ideal, not what we'll do for a permanent structure. 
 
Alison Thomas
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Wow Marina, it's lovely.  Miles bnicer than the corrugated tin that our two lil pigs have got!  Ours seem quite happy in it though thanks goodness.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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If it's 5 years, you might want other species mixed in with the clover. Maybe orchardgrass?
 
                    
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it looks just lovely, Sepp would like it.  My own two pigs just have to do without.  We  put up a couple of cattle panel hoops, covered them with a big tarp and stacked some strawbales inside. It was fast, easy and cheap and something we could accomplish, like in half an hr.  The straw will be used as mulch this summer, we are moving the pigs to a location where they can work on improving a pond and also have access to woods and acorns. So far they have been in the gardens to hopefully eradicate a problem with 'millions' of huge grubs.
 
                    
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That's a fantastic quick way to provide insulated living space for pigs, Elfriede! 

We want to make a big version of this so thought we'd practice with a little one.  And that pig pile of dirt was just sitting there.....wanting to have a shelter in it....haha.  It was a lot of work.  Nice to hear about "quick and dirty" ways of getting the job done also. 

Joel, I'm sure there will be other species making their home in the pile.  I think clover is the only thing I'll bother to seed.  The vetch is already sprouting all over it, of course. 
 
paul wheaton
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Not quite done.......There's a tarp over the roof, a door, and the pigs nestle into the straw in there and are quite happy at night.  We haven't had a chance to get a neighbor's tractor over here yet, but SOON it will be buried!  New pictures when it's all the way done. 

Putting up a video of the pigs following us from the shelter to their new pasture.....linkage soon. 
 
paul wheaton
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John Polk
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Nice looking set up.  I like it.
 
T. Pierce
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i enjoyed that video.  very cool idea and could easily be tweaked to make a permanent  structure.
 
                  
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Marina an idea to get pigs to follow you. Use the same white bucket to feed them out of every day. Then when leading them carry said white bucket (and yes having several of the same type bucket works) and they should follow you like you are the pied piper. Our mother sow used to follow us anywhere we wanted to take her with simply the use of that white empty bucket.
 
Brice Moss
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This, along with a lot of other stuff on raising pigs, is discussed in podcast 022 now available here:
http://www.richsoil.com/permaculture/211-podcast-022-pauls-pigs/
 
                                  
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Marina an idea to get pigs to follow you. Use the same white bucket to feed them out of every day. Then when leading them carry said white bucket (and yes having several of the same type bucket works) and they should follow you like you are the pied piper. Our mother sow used to follow us anywhere we wanted to take her with simply the use of that white empty bucket.


I started this thread over a year ago, before we got the piglets. It's been an interesting and mostly fun experience to raise them.  We had them in electric poultry netting for awhile, and would lead them to their daily pen and back to the shelter at night by walking with their food and calling them.  Then, they started getting out of the pen so they could eat dropped apples, and we saw they didn't go anywhere and were perfectly happy to go back to their house at night so we let them stay free.  Haven't had any problems.  I think having a safe house at night is what has kept our predation rate at zero (fingers crossed). 

Now, our pigs follow us whenever we go anywhere carrying any bucket, just in case there's something edible in there (so I can see the advantage of having a specific bucket that they KNOW is food, that's a good tip!).  They come when we call.  They go away when we tell them to "go on."  The free range thing really made us interact with them a lot, similar to dogs.  It also means we don't have any control over their movements during the day, because they are constantly on the move for new food sources.  And they find them - even if it's something you don't want to feed them.  They also knock over absolutely everything - empty planters, buckets, bowls, wheelbarrows, just to make sure they don't have something tasty in there.  It can be annoying.  I'm looking forward to fences that work, as I think rotational grazing is best for the land

We've actually just built a pen around the house, so that we have the option of free range, but we can lock them up when we need to also.  Like recently when we invited friends over for a cow butchering party.  You can't tell a pig to go away when there's tons of meat everywhere. 
 
paul wheaton
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today's feeble attempt to support the empire
The stocking stuffer game for all your Permaculture companions
http://www.FoodForestCardGame.com
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