The Little Piglet Who Could

I was going to write about watching Blossom make a nest and then give birth to seven eight piglets last Tuesday evening. 

But this morning, an event happened that amazed me! The day started out normally (though I slept in a bit). As I went down to feed the pigs I loudly yelled “Sooo-ey” to call them to eat. Since everyone was there besides Blossom, (who’d nested way back in the woods with her piglets) it was moot but I was trying to entice Blossom to come down. After I finished up, I decided to fix up another pig hut for my other sow, Sue, who is looking like she will give birth in the next week or two. As I was working, I noticed Sue had come back and Dozer, the Big Papa, was sniffing her. Thinking she might be in the early stages of labor I watched… and realized it was Blossom, not Sue.

Blossom is the black pig in front of Sue, the other black pig in the background 

I quickly locked Blossom into the pen I’d set up for her, with some food to keep her happy. I set out for the nest she’d created 200 yards into the woods. Once up there, I discovered eight piglets; I’d only counted seven each of the other times I’d visited, but black piglets snuggled up to a black mama makes it very hard to count how many.

I was able to capture five piglets; four girls and a boy. I tied up my jacket’s arms and hood to make a bag to carry them home and made note of where at least two other piglets were hiding and set off to return them to their mama. After getting the piglets settled in, I started back only to hear some of the older pigs grunting in their “something is upsetting me” way.

Then I spied The Little Piglet Who Could. She was running down the hill toward the pig huts and making a her little piglet “I need my Mama” noise. After watching her tiny form maneuvering through the woods and mud, I started videoing as she got close (see below). This tiny 3.5 day old piglet ran all the way from the nest 1/8 mile away, through woods she’d never seen, following her mama’s scent (or something) to get to safety!

After settling The Little Piglet Who Could in with mama and her sisters and brother, I returned to find the last two piglets (girls) and brought them home. What a day! And what a big week! I’ve now seen piglets born in person and witnessed the most amazing feat by a tiny piglet!

If you want to see piglets being born, I managed to video five of the births! I hope you enjoy them; it was amazing!

2019 egg roundup!

2.620 eggs😮 Our hens graced us with 2,620 eggs last year!!!

2,032 duck eggs were laid by around 18 ducks (numbers fluctuated throughout the year). That’s over 178 eggs per duck! Our chickens laid 588 eggs from, on average, 6 hens. That comes to 98 eggs on average per bird! To be fair to the chickens, their numbers were more variable this year as we had some new chicks coming online, a few older hens, and quite a few losses to foxes. Also, the chickens seem less inclined to lay where they are supposed to! The new duck coop is going to provide housing for the chickens as well. Chickens enjoy height and ducks enjoy floor space, so there’s room for both.

February/March is the time of year when the ducks start laying in earnest. Their peak laying month in 2019 was May, whereas it was March in 2018 and April in 2017. Likely the peak laying times are a combination of weather and how old the ducks present are. Younger ducks lay more!  At this point they are beginning to show signs of a slight increase in production with the daily egg average going from ~2 to ~3 eggs per day (from all 18 ducks).  Chickens seem to start laying in earnest a little later. In 2018 their peak laying month was June. Last year it was October, but that is because 5 new chicks started laying in the fall! Before the chicks, June and April were the next top laying months.

Eggs and bacon… what a wonderful combination!

One of my favorite breakfasts is easy to make, and it’s very, very local. I love scrambled eggs and bacon. It’s not an everyday breakfast around here but it’s great for special occasions or on those mornings when I ‘m in the mood for something hearty!

My first step is to make the bacon. Lately I’ve been using the oven to cook the bacon; it cooks up crispier and I can easily fit all my bacon on the tray, leaving extra bacon in the fridge for other recipes. After it’s baked, I drain the bacon and put about a tablespoon or two of bacon grease in a skillet and add scrambled eggs (eggs, herbs, salt, milk, and a bit of parmesan or romano cheese). While they’re cooking I often make a bowl of mixed veggies. They add to the yummy flavors and a serving of veggies is perfect with such a heavy breakfast! By the time the eggs are cooked, the bacon is cool and the whole meal is plated up. I pour the mostly-cooled bacon grease into a glass jar (jelly jars are best) and I keep it to use with various recipes (Alfredo sauce is great with a roux made of flour and bacon grease). Hammi is always happy with a spot of bacon grease on his food too! I love that in about 20 minutes, I get a lovely breakfast as well as bacon grease and cooked bacon to use in many other meals!

But I digress. What I really mean to say is that you have an opportunity to have your own tasty bacon to add to the eggs you already buy! We often have custom pork and lamb available for you! 

Buying in bulk is a great way to save money while getting the best quality meat possible. Bulk means not only is the price per pound less than retail cuts, it also means you can make choices you can’t make buying retail. You can pick your favorite sausage flavors, buy thicker or thinner cuts of meat; whatever your preference, have your sausages made into patties because that’s the only way your four-year-old will eat it, and you can ask for the bones and leaf lard if you’re inclined!

To purchase in bulk, just follow the instructions above
Email me or visit our online store to place a deposit (choose local pick-up for your shipping method). I will contact you with further details.

Winter pig area preparations

Pigs are very hardy but they still need shelter and warmth during the winter. One of the pig huts I have needed some changes before winter arrived. It’s made with a cattle panel frame, which is great but doesn’t hold up well to heavy or wet snow. Earlier this year I’d added some T-posts to help hold up the roof but apparently some pig thought it was in the way and the already-bent post became more bent, so a new, straight post was needed. Next, the back end of the hut was open fo allow breezes in the summer. Last year I just covered it with a tarp but pigs find tarps are great fun to play with and they’d ripped it apart last year. I wanted to keep the tarp as long as the tarp could last so with help I sandwiched it between two sets of pallets. It works great!

Finally, the area I’ve been using for the piglet’s feeding time is needed for the sheep, so I decided to create a  “creep area for them to eat in. A creep feeder is designed so the smaller piglets can get into an area where bigger pigs can’t. I just created it this morning so I haven’t tested it yet but I have high hopes it will work! I basically created a box out of panels, with one side raised so little pigs could get in. It has a gate I can ope to enter to feed.

See the pictures below for both before pictures of the pig hut and after pictures of the pig hut and the creep feeder. All the huts need is more straw to fill them and as it gets colder, I usually find things like old comforters to suspend from the ceiling to block the wind (let me know if you have anything thats stained but still in good shape and I’ll pick it up)! They do destroy it eventually but I haven’t found much else that works as a temporary windblock; in the summer I like it to be open and breezy!

A day in our farming life

“It was a beautiful, bright autumn day, with air like cider and a sky so blue you could drown in it.” ~Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
This quote describes today perfectly! The sky is cerulean and the air is crisp with lingering warmth from the sun. It’s gorgeous outside and even inside, as I bask in a ray of noon-time sun.

Each day as a farmer is full of repetition and disruption. The two ends of the day are nearly a complete duplication as the chores don’t change much, but the activities during the day are always different.

My day generally starts sometime between 6-7:30 am. Usually I’m able to wake up without an alarm (this is totally awesome). After getting dressed, I start preparing feed for the chickens and ducks, which I keep in the house (for now). The feed is drained since it’s soaking in water and then I mix it with minerals, kelp, and fish meal for protein. I often put the food out for them early but don’t unlock their coops until 8:30/9, when Hammi the farm dog has had plenty of time to run and play, and hopefully scare off any lingering foxes.

Next, Hammi and I move on to the pigs. I prepare the food the night before, so I grab the buckets.. so many buckets… I can’t tell you how much feed exactly as it changes often but my back can tell you how much it weighs! The pigs learn quickly to separate themselves into their feeding areas. I try to lock adults into their own pens so there aren’t any squabbles. Teen pigs and piglets eat in groups. The little guys share feed troughs but later graduate  to their own feed pans.

As  the pigs eat, I go back up the hill to the feed room and prepare the afternoon feeding. Sometimes I have to refill my soaking bucket with new feed and water. I generally refill the it every 2-2.5 days, when they’ve gone through about ~80 lbs of grain. The drained pig feed is put into their buckets and mixed with pig minerals, kelp, and fish meal. This is also the time to add anything else needed. For instance, my boar has been limping and since he’s not keen on me examining his foot, I’ve been adding my CEEG tincture mix (link in this email) in case there’s an infection and turmeric to help with inflammation. As soon as I started adding these he began to limp less and now the limp is nearly gone after two weeks.

I return to the pigs to let them out of their pens and to make sure they’ve got clean water. Finally I go home to let the chickens and ducks out and to collect eggs. Hammi is locked in at this point so he doesn’t “retrieve” the birds for me.

Now it’s time to start the middle of my day. Sometimes I spend the day with my kids, like when we go to our homeschool co-op. If it’s nice or there is a pressing matter, I spend the day on farm chores, like fixing fences, updating pig huts, or sometimes even working on the new coop! Other days I work on creating batches of our Botanical products, and still other days I work on finances and paperwork. Once in a while I even clean my house…

The evening chore time changes drastically with the season. In the summer, I often forget to come inside until after 8. Right now I try to finish up feeding the pigs again by 6:30. In winter they’re fed at 4:30 pm! They’re ready to snuggle into their straw nests by then, and I’m ready to return to the woodstove’s warmth!

I enjoy the balance between routine and random. I love predictability but a prosaic life would bore me. Unexpected events and tasks get my brain working but I would not relish a life of uncertainty. Usually, I feel like my life is the right mix of both!