deep winter-spring 2014

can’t sleep

It’s 1:30am and I’ve been lying in bed for over 2 hours. Figured I might as well get up and work on writing. Suddenly we have a boat load of exciting things going on. Later this morning, I am going to a free beekeeping class, then out to lunch at my favorite Indian restaurant, doing some errands and then picking up our pork on the way back home. I hope I have enough room in the coolers and the car for 3 pigs’ worth of pork!

Meanwhile, I’ve been plugging away at my manuscript like a fiend. I chose to focus first on the “how-to” angle. “The New Farmer’s Guide” is what I’m calling it. I’ll be releasing excerpts here on my blog pretty soon I think. Learning to become a farmer is something I am passionate about, and now have quite a bit to say on the topic. Hopefully very helpful things! Part of what kept me awake tonight is this writing that won’t leave my brain, more and more ideas come spewing forth, and a mid-afternoon dousing with 32 oz of cowgirl coffee.

The piglets we’re probably getting next week, as soon as the frigid blast takes a bit of a break, are on my mind as well as we need to prepare their welcome home snuggly pen in the hoophouse, and also line up their organic feed. We’re trying to figure out which used $500 to $850 gravity box to buy and get our local feed mill on board with sourcing the poultry nutri-balancer we want them to use, so we can buy the ducks’ feed in bulk and not be lugging around so many 50lb bags all the time.

There’s the Seaside Donkey Project on Kickstarter that I just found out about, this girl has utter charmed the crap out of me with her story, and I can’t decide if I want to watch the film she makes or get the book she’s writing or both. Before I wanted to become a farmer I had a secret desire to be a gypsy and actually planned out a solo horseback riding trip across Minnesota, even going so far as to buy a rather wild horse. Needless to say, that didn’t happen, but this project has me reminiscing.

What else is bumping around in the ole’ noggin? Brooding ducklings, thinking about the fact that 3 of the stores we sell to are opening second or third locations in the next year or so, also possibly growing seed oil pumpkins for our neighbors’ pumpkin oil business, establishing our countour berms and starting our Food Forest installations, grafting apples and taking grape cuttings, and an on-farm store, a Whole Farm CSA, goose nest configurations, getting our water tested for our egg inspection, wanting to keep up the daily walks I’ve been aspiring to, trying summer turkeys again this year, wondering why I can’t stop picking at the factory farm meat scab, and a whole bunch of other stuff. I’m gonna go work on my manuscript now and maybe brew some coffee.

goat article

YESSSSSSSSSSSSS- Just got word that Small Farmer Journal is running my article I wrote about “Goat lessons” in the Spring Issue! Much of it I took from my own blogging over the past years. Woot woot!

piglets! Feb 2013

When Andrew and I were first hooking up in 2010, a sunny mid-March afternoon was coined “Pig Day.” We set up a pen in my janky little hoophouse and went to pick up piglets. We weren’t officially farming together yet, but the intensity btween us was certainly leading us in that direction. We picked up 2 piglets, Roxy and Matilda, and brought them home to my little farm. Our love affair was strengthened that day; and our love affair with pigs began. Andrew wrote a story of that day, called “Two Pigs and True Love,” which was published in the Greenhorn’s book 50 Dispatches from the New Farmer’s Movement.

Raising pigs is wonderful, but we’ve had some ups and downs. The 3rd and larger group of 8 piglets we raised in 2011 was more than we’d ever attempted. They didn’t gain weight like we planned, they got out of their paddocks frequently, and we were trying to keep them on fresh ground in one of the dumbest methods ever- moving their hog paneled circle paddocks across the soon-to-be garden space. The idea was good, the execution of the plan was a nightmare. I lost much of my hearing that year, pounding in fence posts over, and over and over again.

We took a one year break from raising pigs in 2012 to figure out how to do it better, so we could raise amazing pork without losing our minds and our money.Then we got the 3 glorious pigs from a really great farmer last spring, and these 3 were an absolute joy. We’d figured a few operational things out, and they thrived and grew like monsters.They were respectfully harvested last month, and we were starting to think about getting more piglets.

The man who we’d bought the 3 beauties from had two small, unexpected litters of piglets born in December, the result of his boar getting out and in with the sows. We’d recently inquired about when his piglets would be available, and he told us well, he had these 9 babies who’d be ready to go at the end of January. Oh boy. Last weekend was too cold, so he asked us to wait a week. Who’s to argue with the pig man?

We just came back from our 2014 “Pig Day,” with the 9 little piglets snuggled in groups of three in our brooder tubs in the back of the Subaru. We had set up a pen in the hoophouse for them, with a deeply bedded hay bale lined snuggly sleeping area. They are doing great, rooting in the dirt, eating, drinking and frolicking. We’re in pig heaven. The pig man just texted to see if they were settling in ok. What a caring guy.

Meanwhile, I wanted to say i am making major progress on my project of “blogging a book!” I’ve published 16 Chapters so far, and have been able to keep up the goal of at last 2 chapters going onto the blog per day. Today, though, I’m off my routine, going to get piglets and all….it’s been a grand day. We’re having pork chops, kraut and potatoes for dinner.

remembering, and pigs

Working on my book project has been pretty intense stuff, reviving memories and experiences. I’ve come to the point in my story (end of 2010) where it’s getting almost “too close for comfort.” I had plenty of time to reflect on my beginnings, but as I begin to write about just 3 years ago- it’s still almost too fresh. I don’t know if I can properly reflect, maybe I’m shifting towards documentation at this point? And is that fitting, with the feel? I don’t know.

Today I went and picked up our seed order, over $300 worth of baby plants to be. It felt amazing to see all the various bags of seeds and imagine all the produce we’ll hopefully be able to grow from them this spring, summer and fall. We got a few pounds of various root crop seeds to grow especially for our pigs. I don’t think I’ve told you that we now have 16 piglets in our hoophouse! With all the media over this terrible diarrhea virus killing piglets born in factory farm facilities, and the increased interest in humanely raised pork, we’re hedging our bets in our delicious future of pastured, happy pigs.

It’s a total delight to go out and play with piglets, and as soon as the snow melts, they’ll be moving out to our pine forest in a giant 2 acre paddock. We plan to do some experimenting with electric fence with pigs this year too, so we can let them have at portions of the wild gully that covers nearly a quarter of our land. It’s gonna be a pig year!

I got together with my Dad today too, after quite some time. He’s an interesting one, and we haven’t ever been too close. It’s always felt like our relationship has been an obligatory thing on both of our ends. Even though I know he appreciates what I’m doing, he’s been literally quite distant and unable to make the 2 hour drive out to visit as his age has advanced. We had coffee at Burger King (his choice!) and caught up a bit.

My Dad is very religious and listens to sermons on the radio for over 2 hours every morning. We got to talking about why we had moved from South Dakota when I was a young girl. I’d always assumed it was because of lack of jobs, but he told me it was really spurred by a disagreement over doctrine between him and his pastor father. I asked about to explain this, as religion is fairly fascinating to me. He couldn’t and wouldn’t, saying some stories he would take to his grave. But he couldn’t help himself from getting into current religious concerns, and said something about abortion and how when he looked around in church and saw families with a son and a daughter, he knew what was going on. I said “what?” “Oh, you know.”  I had to get into this—— “you can’t just trust that God gave those families those 2 kids?” He said that he’d had 4 daughters, so how could those families have had exactly one of each? Oh, for “heaven’s” sake, my Dad is nuts! What kind of an accusation! Uggg, judgmental Christians, exactly why I left the cloud of crazy 18 years ago.

Regardless of his religious perspectives and finger pointing at equalized-distribution-of-sibling-gender families in his own church, it was nice to just hang out with my Dad for a little bit. He is who he is, a quirky, bull-headed and slightly irrational person. I can relate, I guess.

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Winter has been quite a doozey this season, huh? Everything is well here for us on the farm, but we’ve had some close calls with roofs and hoophouses nearly caving in with all the ice and snow. Restlessness and cabin-fever are hitting hard, but having all this snow to shovel helps keep us distracted. Won’t we all appreciate spring’s arrival so much more this year!

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