Each summer since 2012, we have invited Dave’s family up for a pig roast. All but the the aged, pregnant, infant or wimpy camp out. The eight cousins all 9 and younger enjoy getting filthy, shooting arrows and guns and eating all the desserts Grandmom brings. The adults get hungrier and hungrier as the pig roasts. Dave did a great job bringing the pig to a perfect golden brown with crispy skin.
The ash trees in our part of NY are dying.
Emerald Ash Borers (EAB) have been killing them. Since the unintentional introduction of the Emerald Ash Borers from Asia in 1990’s, the infestation has spread rapidly. Many foresters believe that a total irradication of the North American ash species may result. During our first summer on the farm we noticed several dead ash trees in the hedgerows. In the years since the problem has become worse. Wherever we drive in our area, we see standing dead ash trees.
The adults eat some of the leaves, but the main harm to the tree comes from the larvae.
The adult borers drill through the tree and deposit their eggs in the living xylem layer between the bark and last-year’s growth ring. Once hatched, the larvae begin to eat their way all over the tree while being sheltered by the bark. For the tree this is disastrous because the entire vascular system is disrupted. But from the purely aesthetic view, the patterns left as the larvae tunnel along are often striking.
According to the NY DEC’s tree survey, ash makes up 10% of our tree population. Not every ash tree in our area is dead, but the disease seems to be hitting hardest at the middle half of the ash population. The very oldest, largest trees seem to die more slowly, and the very young trees also seem resistant. Perhaps the young trees aren’t as appealing to the bugs.
So for now, we trim out the dead and dying trees. We don’t cut down healthy ash, since we want to give them a fighting chance. Maybe here and there we’ll find a tree that has more resistance to the bugs. But all the dead trees get chopped up for firewood. Ash is a little stringy and thus splitting isn’t as easy as other species, but it puts out a middlin’ amount of heat – about 20% less than red oak but 25% more than pine. It is the wood we have on hand, so that’s what we’ve been burning.
Spring is here, and we are all happy to be outside more. Everything seems to be about preparation this week. Preparing to send the animals out to pasture, preparing the garden for early crops, gathering the needed fencing and feed and equipment. Our ducks got held up in the mail again and only five were living when they arrived. Allie is their caregiver this year, and she is diligently keeping the last two alive. We put our two older groups of cattle together without any excitement, and we have been keeping our eyes on the pastures to see when they will be able to handle the herds.
Yesterday Dave went to an auction to buy some heifers he had previewed a few weeks ago. Three of these ladies are due to give birth in June. One is a stocker for meat. They came off the truck at a run and covered in dried mud. Our herd greeted them with bellows from another pasture, and the pigs were quick to get to know the new girls. We will let them get familiar with the place for another week before introducing the other cattle. Once they have learned to get along, the whole herd will begin their warm weather pasture rotation. This brings our cattle number up to 14 and hopefully by the end of August we will have 5 additional calves.
To determine if a pig is ready for slaughter or to gain an idea of how quickly it is growing, we need to know its weight. The thought of wrestling a pig onto a scale or somehow scooping it up in a sling is humorous, but the method we use is simple. We take its girth and length measurements with a fabric tape. Using these calculations, we can find out about how much the pig weighs.
Dave measures and I record. Recently I took my camera out with me for the amusing scene. We throw food out for them and attempt to get the tape around one or another as they all jostle for the grain. Rarely do we get the measurement on the first try.
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.