Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Meet Ruby and Garnett

These two lovely and sweet pigs are Ruby and Garnet, they are about nine and a half months old right now and they are gilts, which means that they have never giving birth to a litter of piglets before. But that’s all about to chance. These two ladies are pregnant and should be farrowing (giving birth in pig jargon) within the next two weeks! We have spent the time since the piglets moved to the woods preparing the lower level of the barn for their arrival, which mainly involves raking out and scooping out all the old hay, some of which had been trampled down hard by the 14 piglets, especially in the areas that they and chosen as their bathroom. Pigs choose one area of their enclosures to go to the bathroom, it keeps the rest nice and clean and makes it pretty easy for us to do a cleanup from time to time.
With all the old hay out and the chickens pecking through the exposed layers to eat any bugs and to loosen up the hay so that it can dry out, we set up a farrowing area made out of old shipping pallets and gave them a nice thick layer of fresh hay to make their homes in. We will double check it this morning and then walk the girls from their current den in the woods to their new one in the barn. It’s a beautiful day and I think it will be really nice to take these ladies for a walk.  It’ll also be nice to have them close to the farmhouse, because when pigs get pregnant, they get really mellow and gentle and love to have company, so I am planning on spending  a good amount of time with them. This is also important because I want them to feel safe around me so when I aid in the deliveries, they will be calm and relaxed. 
We aren’t sure how many piglets we will have once the girls give birth, but the average is about 10 per pig, so we will have close to 20 tiny piggies running around here in a few weeks, and for those of you considering  a visit, I think that 20 painfully cute piglets is a pretty darn good selling point...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

On Wind and Chickens

In a previous post I commented that chickens remind me of dinosaurs. They are jointed the same way and move like tiny, feathered versions of the villainous and ferocious velociraptor. What I also found out this morning, on my way up to the farm house, is that they loath snow and wind. We had a bit of a winter storm overnight. I was rocking in my camper and there was quite a bit of snow when I awoke, much of which was being violently blown around. As I pass the chicken coops I see Big Boy, one of the rooster, and another chicken doing their best to brace themselves against the wind and trying to keep the snow from between their toes, doing that goofy foot shaky thing cats also do when they get wet paws. There are few things more pathetic than a chicken trying to battle the wind, with all its feathers facing the wrong direction, a look of desperation in it’s eyes and an air of “you’ve got to be kidding me!” about  it. A wet cat or a child who has just dropped his ice-cream on the street come to mind. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Apparently I am a Carpenter

So it’s been a hell of a week since my last post, and I feel that I am bit overdue with an update, so here we are...
I have been working on a number of projects this week, most of them involving some form of carpentry, which is not a foreign skill to me (thanks dad!!) but is nevertheless one that I am not very experienced at. The first major projects that I completed over the last week was building hangers so that we can suspend the chicken feeders and waters at just the right height. Chickens tend to make a mess while they eat, but if the feeder is hung at a height that coincides with the height at which the chickens neck meets it’s body, they eat neatly and without mess, Emily Post would be proud. 
We have, as of a few days ago, started seeding some plants so that we can have hearty plants that will be ready for transplant as soon as the last frost is gone. But to do this, we needed to build a rack of sorts, from which we can suspend lights. So that was project number two, and on one of the cooler mornings, I spent a couple hours hanging the lights so that they are only an inch from the tiny Laconita Kale and early Jersey Cabbage seedlings that will hopefully yield some early produce. I see some lacto fermented cabbage in my future...
The explanation of project number three needs to be prefaced with an exciting story about piglet wrangling, yes, you read that correctly, piglet wrangling. Our group of piglets have been living in the barn since they were born in mid december, and on sunday was their day to make the big move out to the woods. This had to happen for a number of reasons, mainly because they are now big enough to go outside, and were getting a bit bored indoors. The second reason is that Ruby and Garnett are pregnant and will be giving birth sometime mid-march, and we need to clean the barn out, put down fresh bedding for the girls and set of two farrowing area’s for them. Important reasons.
What does “piglet wrangling” entail anyhow? Well, its pretty simple in concept; you catch the piglet, put it into a large dog kennel with two of its siblings, drive it out to the new pen, which has already been set up with a new den, water, food and an electric fence, open the kennel and voila, successful wrangle. It turns out, however, that its not quite that simple. Piglets are fast! They are strong! They scream bloody murder and there is not much to grab onto, and considering they weigh between 40 and 60 pounds, it’s exhausting. 
A quick summation of the technique: you pick out a piglet, try to corner it or chase it down, lunge out and try to grab one of it’s back legs, if successful, grab the other leg and pick up the piglet so its dangling  head down. It will kick a bit, but it’s calmest a piglet will be when picked up. If the piglet is larger, say near the 60 pound mark, holler at your partner to grab the front legs, at this point the piglet will scream louder than you can imagine, not to mention start to release pheromones that make it smell really odd. Two more compatriots will be at the kennel, one working the door, the other holding back the piglet(s) inside. If you are lucky, you can shove the piglet inside and slam the door without one of the others escaping. We weren’t always so lucky. 

Once inside their new home, the piglets immediately forgot about everything and headed off to explore their new den (project three) and to root their little nooses into the ground looking for tasty things to eat. They are super happy out there and its so fun to watch them, half buried in dry leaves, rooting away making satisfied grunting sounds..

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

To those of you who use the Metric System

For those of you living outside the US, and don’t quite understand our system of temperature measurement here, I realize you must have been confused when I wrote that 8 degrees is cold. Well, that’s 8 degrees Farenheit, or about negative 15 Celcius. Now that we are all clear, here’s a fun picture of me, all dressed up with nowhere to go....

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The First Test

Last night was the first true test of my camper as temperatures dropped down to about 8 degrees and we had winds gusting to near thirty five miles an hour! Finally some real winter. It did well, the wind wasn’t cutting through much, and in combination with the space heater, small electric radiator and the propane stove, it was positively toasty in there, plus the Wild Turkey was doing it’s job warming me up from the inside. I did wake up to ice in the sink, however, and a thermostat reading of about 29, but my bed was as cosy and warm as can be and I slept without any problems. The wind rocking the camper was almost soothing, like I was in a giant basinet... 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The move has been made!

Today is day five on the farm, and so far I am loving it! I am being bombarded with  information faster than I can process it all, but things are slowly starting to click, but what do I expect, it is only day 3 after all! It’s such a beautiful place and my trailer is on a spot with a view that people would give their left foot for. It’s snowing at the moment and it’s all white and pretty....
Things I have learnt thus far:
How to drive a diesel tractor. The tires on this thing are taller than I am, so you can imagine the size of this machine. It was quite daunting when Dan said “OK, hop on up!” But all’s well that end’s well...
When chickens run, they look like tiny velociraptors, no joke. Apparently when the paleontologist that consulted on Jurassic Park was asked what creature alive today was most like the raptor, he said: “the chicken.”  It makes for great entertainment, especially when they peck at you as you remove their eggs (they also seem to give me the evil eye when I do this) or all 50 of them chase you around at feeding time.
The giant boar still scares me a little, but that’s starting to settle down a bit, he’s 700 pounds of cranky pig with 3 inch tusks! I’m slowly starting to become his friend, mostly based on the fact that I feed him, but I think this will take a bit more than a few days....
On the other hand, the piglets are honestly the cutest things ever! They are sweet and funny and when they sleep, they all pile up on each other and it makes me want to snuggle up with them, and maybe that will indeed happen one day.
Carrie and Dan are amazing! They are kind and smart, as well as firm and detailed about everything. They are truly passionate farmers and are uniquely brilliant people, I already have a ton of respect for them, and know I will learn more than I can imagine at this time. They are planning on giving me a lot of responsibilities and I am very excited about that. 
We are currently planning out the garden fields. The seed orders are in and we are going to be growing some amazing produce. Our pepper and tomato seeds are already being started in a neighbor’s greenhouse and we are going to build four seed tables with lights here at the farm for all the other stuff. This is going to be a hell of a year....