Chapter 36- boyfriend

2011

Promoting workshops was on the agenda. We’d already set up our website events calendar, now we needed to get people to sign up for the classes. There were workshops scheduled for pig butchery, beer brewing with cheese curds, artisan bread and homemade butter, multiple soap making classes, a permaculture workshop, a kimchi class, Cheesemaker’s Workshops, and even though it was early summer, we were also taking reservations for our Thanksgiving Turkeys with a turkey harvesting class included. It was an ambitious calendar of events! I already knew from my little bit of dabbling in classes that no one wants to take classes in the summer, they are too busy being on vacation and whatever else normal people do in the summer months, but that didn’t stop us from trying. We posted schedules at all the natural food stores and an urban-farm specialty boutique, and surprisingly, Craigslist posts in the ‘”farm and garden” section brought us many email inquiries and even some actual reservations from complete strangers. I received an email from someone who was already using the term “Goat School” for their on-farm workshop, they asked us to respect that they had used it first and would prefer for us to not use it as well. So, whatever- we weren’t going to challenge that. I changed the title to “Goats 101.” Any workshop related to goats was very popular, and so we scheduled many more goat themed workshops for that fall.

Lance arrived in the back of a pickup truck, snuggled in straw under the topper. He was a gorgeous tamworth boar, about 9 months old, with a golden-red color and simply stunning light amber colored eyes. We were not sure how the heck we’d get him out of there safely, as it was 4 feet off the ground. The farmer who’d brought him surveyed our situation and said he could back his truck down the hill to where the boar pen was set up, and with the help of an impromptu ramp made of a sheet of OSB supported underneath with 2×4’s, he’d said he’d be able to kind of pull and slide Lance out. We admired this new and fairly expensive pig, happily noting his extremely gentle nature as the crazy scheme actually worked, and then there he was in the pen -Rosie’s new boyfriend. We wanted to keep Lance separated from Rosie at first, because we didn’t know if they’d fight or what, and we figured she would let us know when she was in heat and really ready to hang out with her new boytoy. Immediately, he spotted her and started making the craziest sounds, half Harley Davidson rumble, half rhythmically grunting gorilla. Rosie came over to investigate and Instantly we could see the size difference; she was nearly double him! Lance earnestly began belting out these sweet nothings right into her face. Pig love songs. She listened for a while, and then walked away. Poor Lance. The farmer assured where there is a will, there’s a way and this young boar would not have any issues getting the job “done” once Rosie went into heat. Not that we could get the boar back up into the truck and send him back. We had to trust the man’s counsel. Lance certainly had the most giant testicles I’d ever seen, they were oddly stuck on his backside, bulbous like a baboon butt.

The 8 young pigs we were raising were doing well out in their paddock, which we laboriously moved about once a week. It consisted of 8 sixteen foot long hog panels, which were wired together into kind of a big bracelet shape. T-posts were pounded in every 8 feet for support, and then wired onto the panels. When we’d move the pigs, all 16 posts were pulled up and out, the paddock with the pigs in it’s contiguous “bracelet” shape, was carefully dragged, wiggled and fanagled over to the next spot we wanted the pigs to dig up. All the posts were pounded in and wired back onto the panels. We were just about sold out on the 8 pigs, so our pig breeding plan was that Rosie would have her first litter of piglets in October and those we would raise over the winter and they’d become our pork foundation for 2012.

Around this time we had our very first experience with a predator. We had not had any trouble before, due to (we thought) our 2 dogs’ protection of the farm. Our chunky little broiler chicks were being brooded in the separate side of the goat shed for a week or two before we could move them outside to their chicken tractor. The first morning we were confused as it looked like a few chicks had been trampled and smothered. We hadn’t seen what a predator could do, so we had no reason to suspect that. Then the next morning, there were 6 more casualties. I looked closer at the poor dead chicks and saw evidence of a bite to the throat of each. That matched what a weasel is known for – bloodsucking. We decided that even though they may not be feathered enough to be outside in their chicken tractor, we had to get those poor remaining chicks out of the den of the beast. Tarps were wrapped over and around the PVC pipe and chicken wire contraption, and a heat lamp strung up in the center. We camped in our tent next to them that first night, having nightmares of weasels chasing baby chicks. Andrew built a predator box trap which we baited, but sadly it didn’t catch anything. We had two nights of peace, but then it got pretty cold over night and even though they had a heat lamp, all the chicks piled on top of each other and ended up suffocating 6 of their siblings. I was so sad and so exasperated! We were making so many tragic mistakes and enduring some very frustrating consequences.

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3 thoughts on “Chapter 36- boyfriend

  1. Ah, yes, broilers…they’ve been a learning curve for us too. We lost half to pneumonia one season because we couldn’t believe the brooder wasn’t warm enough – the thermometer “had” to be wrong – except it clearly wasn’t. Weasels are tough – they’re so wily and so destructive.

    Love the picture conjured up of the young boar being unloaded, and of Rosie’s reception of him :).

    Funny you should express the laboriousness of your pig pen…I was thinking of doing it that way exactly, last year, but after the first three T posts I pounded in, the consequential mashed thumb and bad attitude that came with that and the thought of going through that weekly for the rest of the season I was convinced to come up with a different plan. I went to electric, a plan which sort of worked, but which needs tweaking for this year.

    As the story builds, I’m really getting how daunting it must have been, going through this huge learning curve, and all these challenges and set backs, dwindling resources etc. The huge amount of energy you guys were throwing at the farm to make it work – I mean, did you ever sleep? But some good stuff is clearly happening – most of the piglets are spoken for, you’ve got tons of garden planted, the goat classes are proving successful…there’s a loyal customer base building. This is exciting stuff!

    1. thank you for reading and for your most wonderful, supportive commiseration! In these days, we were SUCH idealists without hardly a lick of knowledge, learning as we went. If we hadn’t been so optimistic and bold, I doubt we’d have made it through those extremely tough years. The stories just get crazier. But I can assure you we are still at it (with a bit more sense these days!) I’, pretty excited to get this project linked up to the current day, that’s my goal!

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