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.

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