Saturday, February 20, 2016

Muck Day, Mud Day

What weather we are having! I thought I would dislike the melting snow, but it is actually kind of nice - the chickens can explore more and the drifted mountains in the pig pens are shrinking away from the top of the fence. Despite the 40 mph winds yesterday, it felt nice to work outside - the smell in the air was refreshing.

Chickens in the compost bin. Very efficient ladies adding nitrogen for us!
CSA customer Pat asked a couple days ago if we were ready for the mud. Likely the most dreaded season of the year, mud season is always an interesting part of spring. Two key tools for managing mud - rubber boots and straw.

Standing in a puddle. By the end of the day most puddles had soaked in.
My barnyard chore Friday was to muck out the barn (see the panorama below). With wet mud season ahead, a cleaning of the barn removed dirty straw and gives the pigs clean, dry straw to enjoy. The straw we remove is spread in the winter paddocks over muddy areas to help with the spring mess.

Removing straw in the barn with my pig "helpers." 
One month old piglets exploring the straw stacks.
 It was so gloriously nice outside that the piglets were very active!

Cutie patootie.
A view of part of the barnyard, below. Mucked out straw spread out. Adding organic matter to the beaten winter paddocks. Mud management for our porcine friends.

Barnyard panorama.
All in all the mud didn't end up being as bad yesterday as we thought it would be. The wind helped with the drying and puddles were soaking in. Perhaps this springs mud season will be more spread out!

A couple more piglet photos, for good measure. The piglets are fully weaned from the milk replacer and on feed. Here they are all lined up at the trough; however, some of them are sleeping and some of them are eating.

Piglets, eating and sleeping at their trough.
Little Salt kept coming over to see what I was up to. Our sweet orphan piglets are so friendly, since they have gotten so much extra time with us. Gotta love those ears. And that nose...and the eyelashes...

 Stay tuned! The season is gearing up, CSA sign up continues, supplies are rolling in and seed starting begins next week!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Love and Loss: Farming with Animals

This past weekend we said a teary goodbye to our matriarch sow, Vera. After complications during farrowing it was clear that she would not be able to be bred again, but we hoped for some recovery, so she could care for her last batch of piglets and live out her last days comfortably. Sadly, this was not the case and we did what we had to do. We gave her her few last treats, hugs and thanked her for her time with us. She was an amazing lady.

Vera at the orchard. 2015
She was one of our first breeding sows and had been with us for two years; we expected to have her for many more. While loss is part of having animals, this loss was felt a bit more deeply. John and Vera had a special bond, he could always read her so well and she really did like him best.

Vera and her brand new piglets. 2016
She raised her piglets to ten days old, giving everything she had to provide them with the best start they could have in this world. At about nine or ten days they can start digesting feed. Now they are drinking milk replacer and we are slowly introducing feed. Her memory lives on in these little nuggets.

Vera gave us memories, three litters of beautiful piglets and she added to our experience and taught us new skills. The best way we can honor her memory is by not letting her go to waste. So, we had our first on-farm butcher experience, as we processed her meat for our personal use. 

We move forward with this loss felt deeply, with more experience under our belts as farmers and humans and an ever-deepening respect for life.