Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Girl Gone Wild & Other Short Farm Stories

It has been eventful around here, as it always is, really. The pigs like to keep it real. Crops are rotating, animals are rotating. Market has begun and we're ready for upcoming transitions.
Photo by Emily

Girl Gone Wild

When raising piglets we aim to wean them at the age of 6-8 weeks. At six weeks everyone was looking good and the time was opportune. We want to do this so the mom's can recover, as it gets harder on them as the piglets grow, as well as to get piglets ready for sale. Suzy and Elsa had already begun to self-wean, as they were nursing less. So, grab the new trailer, mom's hopped in and we were good to go! They moved across the farm for observation for a few days, before moving to the orchard. That evenings air was full of squeals on either end of the farm - babes looking for milk and mom's missing their babies - it wrenches at the heartstrings a bit for 2-3 days.

Morning came around, time for chores and what did John find?! Vera, our elder sow and amazing mother, had magically appeared back with the youth. Begin weaning attempt number two! Plan A was to load her in the trailer, as we had the day prior. (We also had a plan B & C.) Set up the trailer, open the doors, all the piglets piled in while Vera watched, so we proceeded to plan D - walk Vera back to the other pasture. John led with the feed bucket and I trailed to encourage movement. In the end we reunited Vera with the other ladies, but it was a very lazy, zigzag sort of walk over there. Vera found some grass and alfalfa to snack on along the way, she did not like the smell of my mint. A video of the event would have been pretty funny.

Crops Rotating

It's a time of transition as we dig in to harvesting summer crops, as well as planting fall crops. The peas are beginning to wane, as they are lovers of springs cool and struggle with summer's heat. Garlic scapes will be gone this week - we will look forward to seeing them, along with strawberries, again next spring. Summer squash and cucumbers begin coming into abundance, the first tomato is showing an early blush and green peppers are bulking on their plants. Green beans will begin this week. Fall beets and carrots are seeded. Fall broccoli and cabbage will go in the ground this week. Winter squash, stars of fall bounty, are blooming heavily with promise of a good crop. Garlic and shallots are drying down and harvest will begin soon. Early potatoes are being dug.

Elsa dining on fallen apples.

Animals Rotating

The past weekend was a rotation weekend, with each of our three groups of pigs moving to fresh grass. The sows have moved out to the orchard, for a couple weeks, to take a well-deserved vacation. They are napping in the shade of apple trees, cleaning up the dropped apples, which serves as organic pest management for us. 

Girls at the orchard.
Cleaning up dropped apples is important for
breaking the pest cycle and reducing pests in the orchard system.
The piglets transitioned to their next pasture, which also offers them greater shade for this time of year. Sir Renfred shifted to his next block of pasture, soon we will see about trialing integrating him with the young feeder pigs to have some company. Renfred hit the electric fence the morning we moved him - poor buddy, I heard him yelp and a few minutes later went to check on him. He had gone through the fence (their natural instinct is to run forward, we train them to go backwards) and wandered around the house, then over to the pig barn. I grabbed a corn cob, stuck it in front of his nose, talked to him and walked him back home. We are grateful that we have such a wonderful pig!

Sir Renfred in the tall forage of his new pasture.

More Weekend Shenanigans

Farmers' Market started up for us on Saturday. Peas, cabbage, carrots, beets, garlic scapes, greens, wax beans, herbs, summer squash and celery filled our tables. The new location at Target is very nice, we are thrilled about the 'upgrade'. We will have much of that same produce again this Saturday. 
The jeep is always a bit like a clown car when we head to market -
we sure can fit a lot in there! (Not taken while driving Mom.
Market rolled right into a lunch and farm tour back at the homestead. Alternative Roots was one stop along the way for a field day on Prairies, Pollinators and Production, hosted by the Minnesota Master Naturalist program, UMN Extension and the MN DNR. Local chef at Lola - An American Bistro, and CSA member, Lacey Leuth put together a wonderful lunch featuring locally sourced foods, some from our farm. John, a Master Naturalist himself, led the tour of our farm, talking about how bees are important for us and how we work to create habitat for native bees.

Locally sourced picnic lunch on the farm.
Spring onions for the lunch.
Box o' beets for the lunch.


We begin saying farewell to piglets, as they move off to their new farms. A handful will remain with us to grow out for pork. We are coming up on an exciting (slightly scary !?! lol) human transition - the farm teen is getting ready for her drivers test!! Eek! Speaking of the farm teen, she took charge of the camera the other day and here are some of the results below, as well as the piglet photo above...

Tall pasture grasses and Brooke wheel hoeing in the vegetable field.
John weeding the 100 young apple trees in the nursery bed. Pasture on the right,
vegetable field to the left, native prairie behind.

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