December 7, 2013
It makes me wonder where the saying , “quit hogging the covers”, comes from. In the photo, two piglets are cuddled down, but seven of their siblings are under the straw right next to them. Are these two hot? Or where they sleeping when the others stole the covers?
We currently have two litters of nine. The moms and babies are doing well. Today, I cleaned the pens and quite a bit of the nests. I just remove the wet and soiled stuff. I do not take it all. I then add chopped straw. The short straw is best for the moms with newborn babies, because the babies can become entangled in long straw or hay.
The mothers usually chew the bedding into short pieces as they wait for the birth of their young. After the babies are born, they don’t have a lot of time it seems. I help them out with the short, chopped straw…. it’s better for both of us!
If a small baby gets tangled up, he can get stuck out by himself where the lack of body heat will kill him on a cold night. Another problem can be when mom wants to lay down. She grunts to the wee ones and they know to get out-of-the-way. She lays down and slowly rolls onto her side to offer supper to the babies…. a tangled piglet becomes very flat as the life gets squeezed out of him…. it is much nicer to use short straw, at least when they are tiny.
The mothers take the fresh, dry straw and line the nest, then they sort of fluff it along the edges. The babies become experts in burrowing down and covering up. It is amazing how the whole process works.
I am thankful for my crop of speltz. It not only provides all the grain for my draft horses, but all the straw we need too! I do buy some of the chopped straw, right off the thrashing machine, from an Amish friend. I only need enough of that for farrowing time…all the rest is grown here.
That straw is the anchor of our compost pile. The carbon it provides locks up the nitrogen in the animal manure. It is returned to the farm’s topsoil, ready for the plants to use. It’s funny that we call it “bedding” because the animals lay down in it…but the babies cover up with it…kind of like a big yellow quilt…and we all know how much warmth and love a quilt provides !
Filed under: December 2013 | Tags: piglets, pregnant moms, sows, teats, warm straw
December 6, 2013
The mom in this picture had her piglets last night. She has been waddling around for almost a week. I take it very slow and easy when moving her. She took it all in stride, waiting patiently for the arrival of her babies. The table was set for fourteen and she had nine, so there is plenty to choose from…although the unused ones will dry up.
Sows are selected when they are small gilts (little girl pigs) One of the criteria is for her to have fourteen teats. I have had a sow give birth to fourteen once, but she only raised thirteen…I called them the “dirty dozen”, after all they were a “baker’s dozen”.
A cold winter blast is expected to hit us in the next few days. I am glad to have had both litters born this last week, when we were enjoying temperatures in the fifties. The nests the sows built are large, warm and dry. The youngsters are doing well. It’s funny how they know to burrow down and cover up with the straw.
I think to break it down to the simplest terms most homes and moms are the same. Moms busy themselves making sure the house is neat and tidy. They protect us from cold and damp. Our beds are cozy and warm and nothing in this world turns a house into a home faster than a …set table and warm food
Filed under: December 2013
Yesterday, we waited here for a few more riders to get on the sled. The horses stood quiet while the gang piled on. I was pleased with the horses and their patience. The riders had no idea how much training went into horses such as these, but they sure like the results
Our deer gun season starts tomorrow. Many folks are getting prepared. It is a ritual that has been around for generations. We will all take part, if for no other reason than history. It’s just part of our lifestyle…and oh man, does that venison taste good!
The holiday season has officially started. People are scurrying about buying gifts and hiding presents. It is this time of year that I dig deep in my memories, for there is much treasure hidden there. Candies, cookies and even gifts, handmade and homemade take me to a simpler time when many of my loved ones were here. I would dwell there in my memory longer, but then, many of my now favorite people, weren’t born yet!
Go ahead, look to your memories to revel in the past. Pause to think about the future and all the good things to come, but dwell in the day-to-day. Each day is a gift, that is why we call it the present
Friends, I will look for you in my memories. I will greet you in the present… and if you are a stranger to me … it’s only because we haven’t met yet
November 30, 2013
Today, we celebrated Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful time. After dinner I hitched the horses and took everyone for a sled ride. It was crisp and cool, but everyone had a very warm heart
I am reminded of Thanksgivings long ago, when I was a boy. I couldn’t wait to go to my gramma and grampa’s house. It was a wonderful place with animals, great food, big draft horses and my grandparents lived there! Oh how I loved that place.
It seemed every year, back then, it was cold and snowy. The wood fire heated the house while gramma’s great cooking filled our bellies. Once the meal was finished, grampa would have to go do chores. I begged to go along. Every once in a while, I was allowed to go, it was awesome!
I have many great memories of my grampa Rice. Almost every one of those memories involve horses or some other farm animal and of course, making maple syrup. I do miss him so very much.
Today, it dawned on me, that I am grampa Rice. I saw magic in the eyes of my grandchildren today. It was heart-warming as I saw memories dance in the eyes of the little ones. Our great grand children were here today too, out newest, a baby girl, rode in the sled while sucking a bottle. I doubt that she will remember today, but I vow to be her grampa Rice as long as I live … and even long after, in her memory.
We hitched three horses just for fun. The bells echoed across the farm as the harness bells chimed. The snow made everything clean and the sun blessed our day, shining brightly, in the afternoon sky. The little boys held the ends of the reins and had a big time.
The youngsters were not the only ones with magic in their eyes for I too had a certain shine in mine. I spoke to the horses and guided them around our farm and I could feel my grampa, my great grampa and my dad riding along with us. We made magic and we made memories and I am real sure that my grampa Rice would be proud!
Filed under: November 2013 | Tags: harvest, old methods of farming, Thanksgiving
November 28, 2013
The harvest is complete. The cows and sows have gleaned the corn off this field. The field now rests until spring. We celebrate Thanksgiving enjoying the fruits of our labor. A meal shared by family and friends is a great way to celebrate the harvest!
On this farm, we think outside of the box. I try to keep my options open and my ideas fresh. I am wise enough to not reinvent the wheel, but rather, search out the old methods of farming and use them for my own good.
Using animals to harvest crops, especially corn, has been done for decades. I used it this year due to the pitiful crop that grew in spite of the weather and weed pressure. The animals fed themselves for six weeks. They will spend winter on this field to deposit their manure, eat a little more fodder and get excercise.
The sows will share in this field once their babies are weaned. They will root around in the soil with the boar. Breeding will take place and the cycle will repeat itself. Spring will come and the field will be pushed into service, gestating sows will pasture in a different field and next year’s crop will grow.
November 27, 2013
The horses enjoyed a day just romping and playing. The ground was frozen. They made no tracks with their big hooves. It seemed they could tell a storm was coming, but they had several hours of pure fun in spite of it.
Many folks are about to enjoy a short work week. In a day, they will gather with family and friends and share a meal of Thanksgiving. Some will enjoy a nice four day break from work. Many will head to the stores to start their Christmas shopping. I celebrate will all those folks
I would also like to take a minute to say thanks to the folks who will be at work that day. Men and women like police and firemen. The people who keep the stores open and even the parades happening. I salute those folks… Take a minute as you say “thanks” to remember the men and women in service to our country and the doctors and nurses who give care.
I will say thanks as well to the folks whose jobs require them to work through holidays, weekends and stormy nights. Men who run the trains, factory workers and airline pilots are but a few who will toil as others spend time in celebration of Thanksgiving …. but every one of them is just as thankful as the rest of us.
Enjoy a meal, treasure your time off from work and if you get one …. enjoy that short week!
November 24, 2013
At this time of the year, lots of folks are counting down the days. Some are counting down to the end of the year. Youngsters are counting down the remaining days until Christmas. Around here, we are counting down the days until the baby pigs come.
The cold weather makes this job a little tricky, but our moms are experienced. They will have no problem managing their babies. They will build big, soft, deep nests. The nests will cradle the babies and along with mom’s body heat, will keep them warm.
The sow in the photo is in an eight foot by eight foot pen. She is a big girl, but still has plenty of room. She also gets “playtime” twice a day. She gets to exercise and walk around. She soon gets tired of the whole exercise thing and walks back to her pen. Or perhaps I should say “waddle”, because she is at the end stage of her pregnancy…. you ladies know what I mean
I spend a little extra time petting and talking to my gals. They seem to appreciate a scratch behind the ear or a good brushing of their backs. All this bonding goes a long way when its time to handle thier babies. They tolerate me much better, knowing that I won’t hurt Their young. I should probably rub their feet …but then that’s going a bit too far
In any case, the time of year for counting days is upon us. Especially here at the farm… I’m doing all that I can to make sure there is indeed “room at the Inn”.