The world is all gates,
strings of tension
waiting to be strung.
Let me show you a few of the gates we have constructed.
Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate.
A gardener and general outdoor enthusiast in New Jersey gave us a box of garlic bulbils he collected from his patch.
So Dave tilled a strip six feet wide by 80 feet a few weeks ago, and Harry and I planted at least a thousand bulbils.
We knew a storm was on the way, and we were just able to get the bed covered in mulch before the blanket of snow.
We welcomed it with a bit of slipping and sliding on the icy pond.
…to the greenhouse. Last week, we put the finishing touches on the pigs’ winter quarters.
We spread hay in their yard,
installed gates and whey troughs,
put up chicken roosts
and nest boxes.
Persuading the pigs to walk up the hill to the new yard took some effort, but they are happy to be inside,
and enjoying the convenience of whey right outside their front door.
We are happy to announce the beginning of our own beef herd with our first purchase of two Angus heifers.
A heifer is a female bovine who has not yet given birth to a calf.
The two heifers have been bred to this bull, and we are looking forward to meeting their calves in August of 2014.
Meet Professor Sprout
Two steers–castrated males–joined us this spring.
Darth is Angus
and Chewy is a cross between a Belted Galloway and an Angus.
We have, of course, already been raising dairy bull calves that we have gotten from the dairies around us.
The two we brought home last winter will be with us for another year.
Han Solo is a Brown Swiss
and Boba Fett is a Holstein.
So far this season we have only purchased one dairy calf–another Brown Swiss named Dumbledore.
As you have probably guessed, the kids get to name most of the animals.
The flurry of harvesting is nearly over.
The garden has browned and crumpled,
the winter kale has stopped growing,
and the tail end of the harvest is in the kitchen waiting to be put away.
The last of the apples are landing in baskets
and boxes, and pies, and crisps, and sauce, and jelly and dehydrated slices.
The pantry is full.
We are ready for the season of stews and slow roasts, warm bread and pies.
Not long after Dave pulled into a produce wholesaler to pick up our weekly load of mushy produce, a man approached offering a tractor trailer load of veggies. The trucker’s reefer had malfunctioned on his trip up from Georgia and his whole load had been frozen: he needed to find a place to dump it.
He arrived at our place around 8:00pm that night. With our backhoe and some chains, we pulled off each pallet, stacked high with boxes of veggies. It wasn’t that simple, of course. It took close to three hours.
The next morning, this is the scene that greeted us.
And it took all morning to dump,
break down and stack up each box.
We took a break to inspect the temperature log we found.
It showed that the trailer dipped down to 23 degrees F just hours after loading.
In the end, we had an impressive pile.
It would be a waste of time and energy to get it to the pigs way out in the pasture,
so we decided to build a lane and lure the pigs up to their winter quarters for the feast.
It proved to be much easier to scoop and dump here.
We anticipate they will have access to this place for two weeks
while they gorge themselves.
During that evening of work when the trucker and his wife helped us to unload the hundreds of boxes, we found tucked away at the very front a pallet stacked high with boxes of watermelon. We headed straight for the kitchen to get a knife and together broke open the delicious melon. The next morning we enjoyed another one. And the next.
Well, wouldn’t you?
Our lives require this day.
We can hide it and make it seem shameful,
or we can accept our place in the interconnectedness of living things.
To separate ourselves from this day would be to dishonor the lives we need,
degrade the animals we tend
and diminish us as persons and farmers.
We stand by, claiming responsibility for the lives we trade for our own.
It is the completion of the work that has nourished our minds, hearts and bodies throughout the year.
The work itself is good. The animals we raise are healthy.
The sacrifice we make is necessary.
The food we enjoy is pure.
The energy it provides fuels the good work we achieve.
There is no shame here.
There is hope, thanksgiving,
As Hannah Coulter puts it, “This is our life. This is our giving of thanks.”
The 6 foot wide strip garden we put in this summer is about finished producing.
We have some late tomatoes still coming on, the popcorn and sunflowers are drying on their stalks, and the coriander seeds are maturing.
This past week a chicken got run over on the road. The considerate man got out of his dump truck to tell us about it. Turns out he was removing manure from a neighbor’s winter cow barn.
We ended up getting three loads of very rich dirt to spread over the garden.
We have also been harvesting buckets and buckets of apples.
In our side yard and in the hedgerows between the fields, we have many apple trees.
So plentiful is the harvest
that not only have we put up applesauce, apples and dehydrated slices for ourselves,
we have gathered many pounds of them to share with our pigs.
The kids have enjoyed playing in the fields while we pick.
With the first frosts behind us,
we are making the transition from summer routines to winter preparation.
We are butchering lambs,
pigs and cattle this month,
wrapping up our food processing and building the winter pig housing.
The first year, we built a hoop house in our garden area, but I failed to get a picture of it.
The second year, Dave built a dugout.
This year, we are constructing a green house.
Dave laid out the concrete blocks as a base.
We attempted to raise the ribs with a crane,
but decided it would be better to raise the sides by hand and install the peak from atop a ladder.
Finishing included lots of details–braces
and duct tape (to cover sharp edges and bolts)
and some plywood.
We never lacked for help.
We will line the bottom with a thick layer of wood chips.
The pigs will have access to a big yard that will also work as a sorting pen.
Though we appreciated these guys doing what they can,
we are waiting for the next lucky visitors (Nancy and Jason?) to come by
so we can get a few hands to help us cover the entire structure with our green house tarp.
It might be worth your while.
Donning our veterinary hats today, we wrestled an uncooperative piglet (actually, there are no cooperative piglets) into a manageable position and applied what we hope to be a healing bandage. The piglet’s intestines had begun to bulge in the belly button area, so we pushed them back in and placed the rounded half of a tennis ball into the area and duct taped it. By the time the piglet rubs off the tape, we hope that the problem will be resolved.
Immediately after being returned to the herd, this guy went back to eating. He didn’t show any signs of discomfort. A few other pigs sniffed his new fancy plastic belt, but then lost interest.
Hernias are heritable traits so we don’t want to keep affected pigs as breeders. This pig came from another farm. None of our homeborn piglets have exhibited this trait, but it is a problem that we watch for.
Here is more from Dave:
The earliest book Google has on record for hernias in pigs is from 1847, ambitiously titled “The Pig: a Treatise on the Breeds, Management, Feeding, and Medical Treatment, of Swine; with Directions for Salting Pork, and Curing Bacons and Hams.” There William Youatt states “There is little doubt but that umbilical and congenital hernia are of frequent occurrence among swine but as yet the attention devoted to the diseases of these animals has been so slight that we dare not venture positively to assert the fact.”
By the 1870s, the veterinary books recommend using a small piece of wood laid across the hernia and tied around the pig to restrain the hernia. Some spark of genius must have occurred in the intervening 140 years where someone discovered yet another use for duct tape. Apparently the duct tape method is now pretty much ubiquitous. Although I can’t find out when it was first documented.