Archive for the ‘farming’ Category

Unrest

This little farm has different seasons, as all farms do.

There is summer with all its glory. Weeding the gardens, feeding the multitude of animals, canning, milking and the list goes as long as the days are and beyond.

Summer transitions into fall.  School starts, back to work, broilers and pigs head to freezer camp.  Gardens are harvested and readied for the deep sleep of winter.  Wood is cut and split.  And the grand push to ready the Christmas season is on. Soap and lotion are made for the numerous  sale events we attend. The house is cleared out and set up for the home show in November, no small feat that.  The family calls it “hell week” and rightly so. Christmas comes and goes and we settle into winter.

Most would think that things would calm down after all that.  But stock has been depleted and more must be made for coming shows.  I never have time for spring cleaning so I winter clean.   People love to take soap and cheese making classes during the doldrums so many are booked usually on the same day the girls come into heat so I must juggle goat sex and meeting people for their class without smelling of Stanky Buck.

The later part of winter, I mean like the month of March. I rest.  Chores are at a minimum with only the goats and chickens to be done.  Milking does not occur now as the girls are dried off to give their energy to growing kids that are due in April.  Life is slower and easier.

The longer days of Spring and five, maybe six piglets will be arriving this weekend. The first batch of broilers shortly after that.  I need to start the tomato and pepper seedlings, too. Did I say that I have the whole month of March off, I guess I lied.

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Last post covered how I am getting older and have decided to make some changes in where this little farm is going.  The process of change started last winter with a complete over haul of the mudroom.   Where there once was a brick hearth and wooden floors there is now laminate flooring.  The cabinetry and dated Z-brick walls were removed.  A  two bowl commercial sink that we got for $20 a few years ago was installed with some free standing stainless shelving.  A set of floor cabinets that my grandfather had made were covered with $15 lawn sale counter top. This was all in preparation of the change.

Two weeks ago, I had two different state inspectors come and do pre-inspections on the areas that we are “growing” into.  The first inspector arrived, walked into the mudroom and declared, “Well, you certainly have hobbled things together in an absolutely perfect way.”  I held in the urge to break out into a happy dance.  The home use kitchen application is filled out and pending a passing water test will be approved.  We then will be able to sell breads and pastries (not that I want to make pastries) jams, jellies and  cajeta.  Second inspector arrived.  The inspector for the creamery and dairy.  The home use kitchen area can double as a creamery. We just have to move the bathroom door, install a door between our actual kitchen and the creamery and hang a hand wash sink.  Do-able.  So happy husband is handy and willing to do these things for his crazy wife.  The dairy is the most labor intensive portion of the changes.  It will require plumbing to the barn for hot and cold water, sewer pipe, double bowl sink and an actual room built.  But once again, it is do-able with some time and quite a bit of money.  In a perfect world I would love to see all of this done by the end of the summer and you know what, I think we can do this.

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So folks it has been a while since my last post. Probably over a year.  A year of questions and maybe some answers as to where this little farm and this aging farmer is going in the future.

This little farm started as a way of life.  The husband and I grew up farming in one way or another.  He worked dairy all of his teen years and a bit more.  My mom and stepdad had a few cows because they were cheap and they could make have me milk every morning before school. I grew up gardening at home and with my grandparents, who I spent every possible weekend I could with.  It was where our food came from.  I believe in farming. I believe in good food.  I believed my children needed to know where food came from.  So we kept farming.  Starting with vegetables, actually no, we started the summer before we married with pigs.  Along with my mom and stepdad we raised two pigs for our soon to be separate households.  Vegetables came the following spring.  For the past 31 years we have farmed, even when Husband and I took a break from each other, I gardened. It is in my blood, my soul.

Then I decided that I wanted goats.  As one with a farmer’s soul I knew that they had to earn their keep if I had them.  I started with an Oberhasli in milk and two Nigerian Dwarf doelings.  I milked Maddie, the Oberhasli, and everyone hated the taste of the milk.  So I made soap and sold that.  People love goat milk soap.  But my family nor I would not drink the milk and you can only make so much soap when you start. So Maddie was sold and I bought  Nubians, the bitchy Miss Olive and her doeling Lilly. I bought a buck, the infamous James with the Giant Peaches and bred the Nigerian does.  Milk was flowing and we loved the milk, (still do) and I made soap and cheese and more cheese and more soap.  More decisions were made. The Nigerians are great little goats.  Emphasis on little, everything about them is little, including teat size and milk production.  So they were sold.  And things have remained pretty much the same.  But the big questions is where does this little farm and I go from here?

I have a day job.  I work in education, an amazing job for farmers. I mean, you get your summers off and that is when the down and dirty farming of gardens, hog and bird raising happens.  But I work in special education. I have chosen to work with the tough students. The ones that break your heart with their emotional and behavioral needs.  The ones that require a body that my almost 50 year old carcass can’t always bend to. I  I feel that I am not fulfilling the daily requirements of my needy job and that kills me.  But my family also needs insurance and over half of my paycheck goes toward that. So I have done the work that pays the insurance for almost 15 years but I want to be a farmer.  A Farmer, with a capital F.

So there are decisions that are being made that will change the face of the farm and myself.  Please stay tuned as I walk you through the process of change.

 

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It has been cold, terribly cold.  The snow squeaks under foot.  Your nostrils freeze together. It is booger freezing cold.

Anyone who has entered the goat barn and left the door open longer than it takes to get their butt through has heard me scream at them to shut the damn thing.  But, the girls are warm with their layers of hay.  James is snuggly in his little barn.  The pigs have grown very thick hairy coats and their house is filled to the brim with hay.  Their area actually steams when they are all pig piled in, ready for bed.  The eggs are freezing in the nests, so middle son (home for holiday break from college) is gathering frequently during the day.

Coffee is not cutting it when temps are 30° with the wind chill.  I am thinking this might be what I need before heading out to the barn…

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     Just kidding!

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  Well, 2013 is gone.  I could get all reminiscent and that sort of stuff, but that is not my style.  I am going to relive this past year in lessons learned.

     1. Never underestimate the jumping ability of a horny goat.

     2. Trust your gut.

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     3. Milking a first time freshening doe is a sport in and of itself.

     4. Potatoes do grow in hay, so do snakes.

     5. Birth is amazing, death sucks…unless it is potato bug or Japanese beetle then reverse it.

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     6. Tomato horn worms “glow” under a black light.

     7.  Old tractors always need new parts.

     8. Never plant your squash in a garden that slopes to the goat pasture.

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     9. Pigs do not see well in the dark and will follow a flashlight beam.

    10. Without my family’s help and support none of this would be possible.

May all your lessons in the next year be good.

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Here in the Central Maine we are experiencing an ice storm.  Ice storms can be nasty.  Everyone from here remembers the ICE STORM of ’98.  The storm as predicted started last night.  However, this morning was not near as slippery as yesterday morning.  The driveway, the path to the barn, was covered with a glass like sheet of ice.  The steps to every out building was coated with a treacherous layer.

The hog area is slightly sloped and in the excitement of impending slop two hogs went down.  Hooves slid and thud, down they went.  They are somewhat like Bumbles and bounced right back up.

In comparison, yesterday was a 2 pig down on the iciness scale where today was a 0 pig down.  But, I am betting the traveling is worse.

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BHF-7052

Sunny, Violet and Claus this spring.

Monday night was load the hog night.  They have to be at the processors first thing in the morning and we always try for the night before, just because we usually have shitty luck loading hogs.

Last time we loaded it was February with snow up to our…well it was deep and Drizella and Anastasia were not budging.  The trailer was backed up to their house and all they had to do was walk up the ramp and voila we would have been done.  But not the way it was to be.  Drizella came out the door and sauntered up the ramp like she was on a runway.  Anastasia  not so much.  FH had to climb into their house and with a large piece of plywood push Ana, mind you she was a big girl, with all of his might until she finally gave in and walked the plank so to say.

FH decided to put the trailer into the pig pasture a few days ahead of time to let them become acclimated with it.  He has done this before sometimes successfully, sometimes not.  This year was a piece of cake the trio of bacon walked right in.  The gate was shut, the truck hooked to the trailer and the pretrip check was made.  We had a flat tire on the trailer.  No problem, send youngest son to get the air tank and pump it up.   apparently, these pigs were smarter than the rest and their way of avoiding market was by eating the freaking valve stem.  They ate the thingy that you need to fill the tire with air.  The whole thing, not just the cap the whole thing.  So here we were with three large hogs in a trailer, hooked to a truck and a flat tire.  Thankfully we had a tire on the snowmobile trailer that would fit. (Mind you we never snowmobile, don’t even own a snowmobile but we have a trailer.)  Some days those random things that are around do come in useful.

FH uses the farm jack, in the very wet, sloppy, odorous pig shit to jack up the trailer, precarious as hell with the now disgruntled hogs inside, changes the tire and we were market/processor bound.  No more problems.

The hogs, Claus, Sunny and Violet on the rail weighed in at 240#, 222# and 214# respectively.  I suspect it was Claus that ate the valve stem.

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