Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Farming: A summary

Life on a small holding can be dirty, exhausting, exhilarating, but never dull. Farming is the cheeps of newly hatched chicks, watching the antics of baby piglets, eating that first tomato of the summer. It is sweating under the hot sun fixing a section of fence, carrying feed buckets in the pouring rain, shoveling mountains of manure. It is quietly milking a cow on a cool summer morning. It is burying a piglet that didn't quite make it; worrying about mastitis, injuries and parasites. It is the sweet smell of hay in a newly filled barn, the sweat of horses. It is chasing piglets through muddy pastures and cows through the vegetable garden. Sheer insanity most of the time, but we wouldn't trade it for anything.

This summer has been a busy one, too busy to be sitting inside writing blogs. The days, though long, are never long enough to do all that needs doing. This spring we hatched 21 gorgeous fluffy chicks from our laying hens- the father is Mildred- the hen that became a rooster.They are now a pretty little flock of hens (the little roosters are in the freezer.)

In July, the hottest day of the year, Winnie had 12 piglets, and Priscilla had 5. They were wonderful babies, all up and about on the first day- then the second day the skies opened and Winnie's babies nearly drowned as she had decided to have them outside in a nice little nest in the mud. Louise nearly drowned herself getting them moved to the beautiful new farrowing hut that was waiting, empty. Consequently, the runt died, and a few days later, Winnie sat on 2 more. This is normal for pigs, apparently, but still very upsetting for us. The next litters are going to be born in the barn!

We decided this summer that we would ride our horses more, and we did, riding nearly every day for at least 1 hour, getting up early to ride on those really hot days. On August 17th I started riding Darn Tootin' for the first time. He is 3 1/2 now and looks pretty good so I thought I should just start him slowly. All went amazingly well, with Jim's help. 2 weeks later I took DT to the Oxford Exhibition. He is quite the little horse, not bothered by anything. We even took a 3rd place in the Paper Towel Command class. Touche did very well in the Ex too; he is growing into a superb horse.

Now autumn is here and we have to face the reality that winter is soon to follow. The hay is in, and the wood stacked, the garden harvested ( mostly) and the turkeys and chickens processed and sold. We have kept 2 of the piglets to raise for meat, Gerald and Bernard. They are growing fast. Ethelred is now out with the 2 girls to father the next litter, which should be born in February. Buttercup is bred again and Moremeet, the calf, is getting big. The nights are getting cold and soon we will have to carry buckets instead of running the hose. Ah, winter.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Chicks Galore

We have hatched out 21 chicks from our laying hens. Beautiful little critters. Americuanas and some mixes from our Buff Orpingtons. They are growing well and very perky. We have been adding buttermilk to their water at John's suggestion to avoid giving them medicated food. It seems to work well.

We also have 87 meat king chicks. They are not as pretty. They start out cute and fuzzy but after a week or 2 they are sort of gross. They become fat and soft. They are basically meat producing machines and after 6-8 weeks will have reached their marketable size. Kind of creepy. We have tried to raise some of the heritage breeds but they take so long to get to a reasonable size

Friday, 26 June 2009

Pork bellies

Ethelred, our baby boar, is growing in leaps and bounds. Being a boy and being so little, we have had to keep him separate from the larger girls. Therefore, he is very lonely and although he started out being kind of suspicious and standoffish, he now seeks attention and when I tickle his side, he rolls over and lets me scratch his belly. He lies there, with his eyes closed, in ecstasy. I think it is a good thing that he is so tame as one day in the not too distant future, he will be a great big creature, all tusks and fangs- so the fact that he will roll over and even let you examine his fangs is definitely good.

Chicks are hatching today. We put over 20 eggs from the Americaunas and the Buff orpingtons into the incubator 3 weeks ago and today is
the big day. 4 so far and many more eggs pipped and starting to show signs of life. I love little chicks. Something about their combination energy and cuddliness. They love to snuggle under your hand- instinct, I know, but it is still sweet. I can hear one making lots of noise in the incubator now, but you are not meant to open it too often to remove them, so I may have to resist the tempation of taking it out.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

The trouble with gardens

Gardening, like farming, is at the mercy of mother nature and something even more unpredictable, perhaps fate.Each spring the gardener begins, full of hope and visions of the season to come. And as time goes by, reality sets in, in the form of too much rain, too little rain, too hot, too cold, too many damned cucumber beetles. And then, that perfect garden that was to produce a veritable bounty of vegetables becomes just another burden, with weeds popping up with admirable vigour.

Very poor germination of the corn, onions and peas this year. Old seeds, maybe? Cucumber beetles consumed 5 of the cucumber and squash plants within a day of planting out. Where to they hide? What would they eat if we didn't plant cucumbers?

Rain today. Needed it as things were looking rather parched, though it will wash off the Rotenone and give the beetles another go at my little plants.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Manure Spreading

Moved a mountain of cow manure today using our ATV and mini manure spreader. Still have nearly a year's worth to go and all the horse stuff.

Garden mostly planted. No rain for a few weeks and everything is parched but it forecasts rain for the next few days.

Cow was in heat on Wednesday. Must keep track as we plan to breed her next cycle. Pigs are getting large; due in a couple of weeks. We have made 2 lovely farrowing houses for them so I hope they are happy to use them and don't decide to have their babies in the woods.

Ethelred, the young boar is getting to be very friendly and rolls over to let me pet his belly. I am getting quite attached to him and am not sure that I want to send him to John's to live.

Turkeys now 2 weeks old and looking healthy. We have been using John's technique of putting buttermilk in the water and it seems to work. Meat king chicks come next week and we will try that with them.

Touche has had a nasty stone bruise for the past week or so, putting him out of commission. Louise has been riding Follie instead. We have bought a huge truck so we can haul the horseS around to various events.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Spring is coming

Finally there is some hope that spring will come soon. Of course, technically, it is now spring, but since when has the calendar had any effect on the weather here in the Maritimes? Seems we are due for a snow storm tomorrow. But the sun is shining for longer each day and the pussywillows are out and the yard is getting muddy, so it must be nearly spring.

Our two lovely piggies are off visiting a rather ugly large Duroc boar at the moment. He has to be one of the most un-handsome pigs I have ever seen but the girls seem to like him. They will be home soon and then we await the arrival of the babies. We are a bit late, as they will be born in July but that is just how it happened.

We are finally able to ride our horses again without the risk of broken limbs due to slipping on the endless ice. Both Bars and Touche were a little more feisty than usual, though with Touche that manifests itself as breaking out into a trot without being asked. Bars, on the other hand, was finding the big wide world a bit scary, but he has settled down now.

This weekend we are off to a team penning clinic. I have wanted to try team penning ever since discovering the sport, but the opportunity hasn't come up until now. Team penning involves teams of 3 horses and a bunch of cattle. The cattle have numbers painted on their sides and each team is given a number. If you get #4, you have to try to get the 3 cattle with #4 on their sides out of the herd and into a small pen at the top of the arena. Very fast paced and exciting. I am not sure how excited Touche will get as it takes a lot to get him going, but Bars will probably enjoy it.

Monday, 9 March 2009

The Girls

Here are our 2 lovely pigs. Winnifred, the red one, is a purebred Tamworth. Prucilla, the spotty one, is some sort of mixed breed we got from an intensive farming operation. Note the stubby tail. They dock pigs tails in commercial pig operations so they don't chew on eachother's tails. Very primitive! Winnie and Scilly are our breeding stock and are due to go visit the boar any day now.