Today was the day! Our assigned piglets are 8 weeks old and were ready for pickup. So we saddled up the truck with some crates, and headed up. Of course, today we were having another deluge of rain, with chances of street flooding. At least the temps are nice and cool, so we didn’t have to worry about the piglets overheating on the way home, which made things a little easier.
This year our piggies came from a purebred Red Wattle litter. Needless to say, they are cuter than cute. 2 barrows and a gilt. (Barrows are castrated males and a gilt is a female who has never been bred or farrowed). They have a lot of green stuff to eat and a nice piggie hut, so hopefully they will be happy here. It always feels like just one more thing to organize, but once they are here, we enjoy them immensely. Great animals with wonderful personalities. The Red Wattles are supposed to be very docile and gentle in nature, and if our last year’s pigs are anything to judge by, I would agree (they were crossbred Red Wattles). I hope they settle in well. They are in a nicely shaded area which is good, since tomorrow the heat and humidity are due back into the area. Ugh!
I had every intention of writing this post a few weeks ago. Our piggie girls, Brunhilde and Greta Garbo, have been our favorite pigs of all time. Just having two pigs changes their socialization, and I think that they are more interested in human interaction when there are only two. But I also think that these girls were particularly friendly. They always begged for back and neck scratches, and even when they got really large, they retained their playful and friendly mannerisms. They didn’t use their size to push us around, which frequently happens when there are more pigs in a group, I think. Maybe it’s a little bit of the gang mentality!
Our two girls are crossbred pigs, Red Wattle/Large Black and Red Wattle/Berkshire. They are both entertaining and delightful. Not just laid back and playful, but friendly as well. We have moved them around and the paddock they spent the last month in is the back winter paddock. About three weeks ago I came home from work and pulled down to the house at the bottom of the driveway. My husband was out with a visiting friend for the day and I was getting home and looking forward to putting my feet up for ten quiet minutes before even thinking about chores or dinner. But as you can guess, Brunhilde and Greta had a different idea! I pulled down to the house (about 300 feet past the paddock area), got out of the car to grab my stuff, and who met me at the back door, but the frolicking piggie girls! We had a short discussion with lots of back and neck scratches and pats, and they hung out behind the house while I got into my chore clothes and met them at the back door again. As I headed up the driveway to the paddock area, I found that the girls were right at my side, snorting and chortling at me. They didn’t even need a grain inducement to go into the paddock, where I found the panel whose baling twine had rotted and broken. They love to itch their sides on the galvanized panels, and if there is some rotted or old twine, it just pops open.
Brunhilde and Greta had one last toot this past Friday. I am certainly glad that I was not home when the livestock transporter came for them. They were extremely entertaining and lovely girls. The memory of their happy days is a good one. They will be feeding three families very nicely over the coming year, and we are extremely thankful.
At least one day out of the weekend was sunny and clear. The breezes yesterday moved just enough to keep the black flies mostly at bay (except for John, who seems to be a blackfly magnet). We always have a list of farm work that needs doing longer than what we ever have time for, but we got as much cranked out yesterday that we could. Right now that involves getting cattle panels (16′ long galvanized wire fences that are 52″high) out of the mud and the grass that’s grown up around them out so that we can clean the paddocks of the mud and poo from the year. Which of course means that we have to set up different areas for the animals first! We got our unbred ewe group into a self-contained area behind their paddock, and they were in heaven! Today we will try and get a few more panels out of the way so that John can get in with the tractor.
And our piggies landed last weekend. They are as cute as can be. And so it begins!
I have been feeling as though we are living through a second mud season this year. We have had so much rain and so many warm days and nights, doing chores means doing battle! It’s about this time of year that John usually gets to cleaning out the paddocks, but a whole host of things have pushed that back a little. We are replacing our “temporary” set of back steps with the real thing, which is quite the relief. John and a friend have been working on that so the paddocks remain a mess for now. When the nights start getting consistently cooler the ground will firm up, but when we keep getting 2-3″ of rain in a day or two, it just doesn’t seem right.
In the midst of all this muddy fun, Jim and Pam of Hatchtown Farm decided to get a whole piggie out of their freezer to make some room. And they invited a whole bunch of nice people over to share in their pig roast this past Sunday! I think the plan had been to have most of the afternoon outside near the big roaster, but (what a surprise) it was raining again, or at least cold, damp, and about to rain again. (It did start to rain late in the afternoon, so I was very glad the party was moved inside). There was a lot of wonderful food and it was very good to see some of our farmer friends socially. They were able to borrow or rent an oil drum roaster, and the pork was delicious. Everything was delicious… I should have taken a photo of the groaning table! Getting out of the house for such a pleasant afternoon is such a nice change from slogging through the mud and working at all of those things on the “to do” list.
Having cleared our land and built our house means that we did not have any already existing structures for our animals. We don’t have a brick and mortar barn, just the greenhouses, and our perimeter fencing is made up of t-posts and 52″ cattle panels (16′ long galvanized grids). So technically everything is movable, ready to be morphed into whatever we need it to be next.
Of course, that’s always easier said than done :*) Moving 16′ long flexible grids is something of a process, and I have the bruises to show for it! I stick my arm all the way through one of the square openings, grab onto it down lower, and lift it onto my shoulder and drag. I eventually get there in the end, after a lot of swearing and getting caught on tree roots and other things that jump into my path. It always drives me crazy, however, because if I want to get one animal group into a different area, it frequently necessitates getting a different group of animals moved first. So today I finally had the panels changed around to my liking, and I got most of the boys into the lower paddock.
(2 bucklings have so far eluded me, and I may need some help with them – one of them has enormous horns and knows how to use them!). As soon as they are out of that paddock, in go the piggies. Well, almost… first I have to run the electric inside that paddock and I don’t have a ground rod nearby. So the final hookup can’t come until John or JD pound one into this lovely, rocky ground. I don’t think I should take bets on how long it will take me to coordinate this!
Rhubarb the goat, that is. She had gone to live on a friend’s farm in Jefferson, a few towns over, early in the spring before she freshened. She had two beautiful kids. one a buck and the other a doe. Our friends have a young family and really enjoyed having her, but made the decision that milking goats was a little too confining for their lifestyle (ie, where are all the good farm sitters???). It really is a difficult thing to get away and to be flexible when you have to be around morning and night for milking. It’s been quite a challenge for us as well.
We really appreciated our friends calling us first when they decided to sell the goats. I was really happy to hear that Rhubarb might be able to come back to us. And she came back with her doeling, Baby Belle. Now we just have to work on Rhubarb’s milkstand manners (her sister SnowPea is much more laid back)! Whenever a goat is milked by a new person, especially in a new situation, the tendency is for them to try all their tricks. In this case, Rhubarb is very fond of kicking the bucket. We will have a meeting of the minds one of these days, but until then, her milk must continue to go into the plastic bucket for the pigs. They definitely are not complaining :*)
We have had a lot of inquiries about how some of the animals are coming along, especially Banjo the bottle goat. He is now over a month old and doing very well. He is down to two bottles/day, but he is eating up a storm at the hay feeder. I kept offering him that late night bottle, but this past week he only played with it when I went out, so I decided just to give him the two. He really is a sweet boy, and just follows us around while we do chores. I have to make sure to remember to get him back inside as we get so used to having him running about!
Then there are those adorable piggies! They are really growing like crazy. Not as friendly as some of the pigs we have had in the past, but they are getting used to us little by little.
And the real eye-popper is always the chickens. They just grow so fast you can almost see it happen. This breed of roaster acts so much more like egg-layers than the CornishX we usually get that I am totally amazed. They are active little foragers which hopefully will keep their legs strong so as they grow they won’t weaken and keel over dead as their body mass increases. Their feathers are popping out, and it’s lovely to see the range of buff and reddish coloration. The guinea keets are growing fast as well (boy are they fast little buggers!).
Well, Banjo-Bela bottle goat has been transitioned to the great outdoors. He is kind of an odd duck out there with the other goats as his mother doesn’t acknowledge him, but he is getting into the swing of things and plays with the other kids. The only thing that I don’t like is that he sleeps alone with no one to cuddle up with :*(
On another note, we have gotten this year’s piggies, and they are as cute as can be. 3 Berkshire crosses. It really is feeling like summer is right around the corner.
Yesterday was our first snow day of the school year. It was a great call as once the snow started it really came down. And then of course it was followed by torrential, windswept rains. Totally yucky by the end of the day.
I had finally picked up our smoked pork last Friday and we were forced to cook one of the hams over the weekend (held my feet to the fire and all… not!).
It was fantastic, some of the best pork we have raised yet. The breed cross is my personal favorite (Tamworth boar on Large Black Sows) and then they had all of that goat milk and whey, they couldn’t not be wonderful! Even though we have our hams cut in half, they are still pretty impressive hunks of meat and we ate from it all weekend and into the early part of this week. So yesterday my husband looked at me and begged for lima bean and ham soup. One of my all-time favorites as well. Trouble was, only a few dried limas were hiding in the pantry. So I dug through the containers and unearthed two different kinds of beans
that were grown locally in Jefferson, Maine, at Bluebird Hill Farm. Wild Goose beans and cannellini beans. The wild goose beans are small and multicolored, with little swirly markings on them. Then I found a handful of black beans, not locally grown, and decided to throw those in as well. It cuts down on the ‘locavore’ listing of this meal, but that’s o.k., it was awesome, and we have a huge pot of leftovers that will be welcome again tonight. To make it even better, a neighbor invited us over to share supper with them so we ended up having a small feast. Can’t beat that on a stormy night!
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!