Saturday, February 06, 2010

Farm Update

Other than the Great Owl Massacre I have not reported much from the farm in awhile so I thought I would remedy that now, seeing as I am not sleeping anyway.

It has actually been a rather slow winter seeing as the cattle herd is small. If it were not for the hens and their shed needing to be cleaned every 10 days to two weeks I probably would not really be a lot of help this winter. The last two winters have required quite a bit of snow blowing but this year we have not yet had to break out the blower. It has even been warm enough to use the tractor on some days. Just yesterday I spent 4 hours in the tractor doing some chores and clearing some snow. This is the first snow that has been moved so far this winter. Rather disconcerting considering the extreme droughts over the last two summers. If we do not get at least half again what we have now OR some decent spring rains (which we haven't seen as long as I have been back, at least 5 years) it could be a very bad year. I have actually started looking at farmland for sale in Ontario. If precipitation does not pick up here in the next two years, it may be time to consider relocating. I will likely be writing about this subject more soon.

For now though, my focus has been on reacquainting myself with the important details of working with animals on a daily basis. I have kind of a weakness with maintaining attention to reoccurring details over the long-term so it is important that I find ways to deal with this now. On the path I am choosing, one cannot just decide at the drop of a hat that a few days away from work is needed.

Getting back to the Great Owl Massacre for a moment, I thought I'd share a couple more pictures. Don't worry, none of them will be of the pile of carcasses that I drove over to a stand of brush for the ravens, crows and coyotes to deal with.

This is the original screen. In all honesty, I kind of see this as my fault since the screen was not able to be properly mounted in the window so it was just kind of jammed in place at the top. I didn't think of the possibility of some bird of prey tearing through the screen but a weasel could have easily climbed through so I should have just made the end fix then...and saved the slaughter. Ah well, live and learn.

This is the gate that I closed after the horse was out, so to speak:

This window should now be predator-proof. As soon as we get above freezing for a couple of days, I have to re-work the rear exit holes as they are not so secure currently. Happily, the ladies started laying again the very next day. It was a bit of a trickle for a couple of days but, to some surprise, they were pretty much back to their same rate within a week. I think they are currently giving about 5 or 6 dozen a day. Not bad for what I think is 75-85 birds.

Back in October, we added these four female weaner pigs to our menagerie. I meant to introduce them back then when I took this picture, but I did not get around to it until now. This is the first time in over 10 years that pigs have run about on our farm, and they have been missed greatly. These girls are intended to be meat but I suspect we may keep one or two to be bred. They are also the first pigs that I ever remember being fed hay in the winter. In the past I only remember feeding them "slop", a mixture of water, milk, kitchen scraps, fish oil, and a dash of apple cider vinegar (my dad's utility supplement for animals and people, long story), all mixed with ground barley. Thanks to the learning I have done recently, however, both the pigs and hens are being treated like the grazers they are and having their winter diets supplemented with hay. Both are loving it. Here is what the girls looked like as of mid-January:

They are growing quite impressively I must say. They are confined in a pen but it is of decent size and there is a thick layer of straw and hay at the "living" end (where they do all but crap) that they have taken to rooting deeply into, revealing and assisting in the compost activity happening about a foot down. Come spring I am considering setting up a temporary pen over in a spot that I would like to remake into a market garden plot. Then, when pig-breeding time comes, this will hopefully be the spot that we will use for one year. This will let the sows and their piglets work the space up for us a bit as well as add some good fertilizer.

I was going to talk about the worm bins some as well, but I think I will leave that for another post of its own. Until then...

Peace and comfort to all.


Aimee said...

those are some good lookin' pigs. I was surprised, when I first got a pig, to see him eating grass right alongside the ponies. He also munches on hay now and then. But then again, he will eat eggs if he finds them, and I've even seen him dig up mice and moles and eat them alive!

They are omnivores, for sure. Good luck with your pork! ANd the weather.... sigh.

MoonRaven said...

Thanks for sharing a little of your life. It's so different from my urban situation. It sounds difficult but satisfying.

Anonymous said...

I tried some of your suggested sites and the links are wrong:

Cute pigs! Our chickens also love hay.

Jerry said...

Thanks for pointing that out EJ. I thought I had fixed them all but I guess not.

They should be good now.

Jerry said...

Aimee, I've never seen them get mice or anything like that but I certainly know they are omnivores...just like their bear cousins.

You're welcome MoonRaven.

Jerry said...

oh I forgot to add, EJ, I started feeding the hens hay most days too. The yolks have started to turn a deeper yellow again, like in summer. It was one of those bulb over the head blinking on moments.