Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Piggies Moving Up in the World

Christmas was wonderful with lots of great food, (many thanks to daughter-in-law, Chef Tab, who made us a scrumptious breakfast) special time with family, and gifts that were extremely thoughtful and generous. 

But as happens every year, December 26th comes along and farm work beckons. Pigs needed bigger housing. 

Our current crop of feeder pigs are now four months old and growing unlike weeds. Weeds tend to grow UP while these little porkers are growing WIDE, as intended.

They are a group of five Red Wattle crosses we purchased outside of Springfield, Illinois back in September. The cost was fabulous at just $20 each since full Red Wattle feeders can easily run $100 per head. This group was a bit underweight and we were prepared to lose the smallest one, but still we were willing to take the chance since the price was good. 

We got them home, put them on organic ground grain and raw milk from our lovely cow Liz. Within two weeks these babies were thriving. Even the smallest one rapidly gained ground. He is in fact now, our second largest, the gray hog in the picture above. We attribute this positive growth and robust health to a few things: lots of room outside in the fresh air to run and dig, organic feed (free of GMO grains, antibiotics or hormones), deep bedding for warmth and comfort, and raw milk for protein. 

Today we moved our larger Hog Condo into the pigs lot, as they are outgrowing their original petite hutch seen above to the left. Keith used our Kubota tractor and heavy chains for the task. This larger home has been used as a farrowing hut for our full grown sows back in the days when we had our "farrow to finish" operation on our old farm. One sow and her litter would get this larger condo, thus the "Maternity Ward" labeling. Now we just buy feeder pigs at 6-8 weeks, in both the spring and the fall, and raise them for our own meat and meat for a few family members. 

You can see that this larger hutch has had some serious use over the years. Just after I took this picture Keith boarded up the holes on the side and added a large piece of plywood along the bottom to keep winter drafts out. The hogs never seem to mind that the wood is a mixed variety and recycled. 

 In a few days, after this group gets used to the upgraded digs, we'll fence off the area around their old place, clean up that area, pull out posts and store everything until the next group comes in this spring. We like to move each group of pigs to different areas of the farm so as not to spread any possible parasites from one group  to another. They also do an excellent job of tilling and fertilizing the earth of any new site, and getting it ready for whatever crop we might put in that area after they move on.  

Soon we'll contact the locker and make a processing date for these five, probably end of March. This is a good thing, because we are almost out of pork chops and bacon. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

A Couple of Day Trippers

 She was a day tripper, a Sunday driver yea
Took me so long to find out, and I found out

                                                                                        -The Beatles  1965

Just like Paul, Ringo, John and George, Keith and I are big into Day Tripping. Our lifestyle no longer allows us to go away for weeks at a time so we settle for the shorter, less expensive day trips. This past weekend we stayed OVERNIGHT at Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois. It was for us, a big hairy deal. It was also our pre-planned Christmas present to each other. 

We did chores early Sunday morning and made it up north by noon. Our son Jason did the evening chores for us and we did them late Monday morning when we got back. The cows milking schedule was off a bit but she's very accommodating. We don't call her "Laid Back Liz" for nothing.

The lodge itself has been around since the early 1900s and has a beautiful open lounge area with huge fireplaces and a rustic log interior. Decorated nicely for Christmas it boosted my soul to see all the lights, ribbons, packages etc...I was hoping for snow on our trip, this area is gorgeous with the white stuff, but no such luck 

There was however, a rare sighting of the sun when we arrived and the weather was super mild, in the high 40's. Perfect for a two mile hike in the hundreds of wooded acres up there, just as the sun was setting. Paths were a tad muddy but nothing as deep and sloppy as the cow path at home. 

We were both amazed at how much plant life was still thriving in late December and how colorful the area was. Of course we've been living in fog and deep clouds the last few weeks so any sliver of light was basically blinding to us. Mushrooms were crazy abundant on the fallen tree limbs and shaped like blossoms. 

During the hike I convinced Keith to pose for our very first selfie together. It took me a bit to make him understand he'd have to get close to me for it to work. 

It took a bit but we were finally successful in capturing a decent enough shot. I wanted to try for a few more reminding Keith how one never knows when one might keel over dead, (my years a hospice nurse totally warped me) and how the gks would appreciate having more pics of us, but he lost interest and wandered off. 

And kept wandering off.  

He came back after I put the smart phone away.

Monday, December 10, 2018

This Blogger Should Be Flogged

I should be publicly flogged and have my blogging license revoked. I'm so all over the road lately. I blog every couple of days and then not for over two weeks. I read other blogs but forget to comment. I comment in public when no one has asked my opinion. I'm full of excuses for this errant behavior, but I have not a single good reason. 

The sun wasn't even in my eyes. Too cloudy and foggy for that.
At least when the fog freezes, as it did this morning,  we are graced with some botanical art. 

Our early winter continues, even though it's a good two weeks before the calendar officially deems it so. Temps at night are usually in the teens. A few days have been warm enough to turn the frozen ground into soppy wet divots which then freeze and threaten to snap this homesteaders delicate ankles whilst doing evening chores. 

The good news is, my ankles are far from delicate, and the evening fires we build in the rocket mass heater feel that much better when the air outside is cold and damp. Still, I hate that it gets dark so early when I haven't yet cleaned up the garden debris, let alone put a few garden chairs away.  We take the high road on this and tell folks we purposely leave the garden littered with last summers' vines, seed heads, rogue weeds  and collapsed kelp, all in the name of feeding birds and providing shelter for wee critters. But the truth is, we haven't made it a priority.

I still have a bag of fifty  tulip bulbs hanging in my mudroom waiting to be planted. Perhaps when it thaws in February I'll get those in the ground. Just in time for a 2020 bloom. 

Anyone else out there way behind in their Fall work while busy dealing with the Early Winter of Our Discontent?