Change is a funny and contradictory concept for me. Perhaps this is true of all of us or perhaps it is just me. In any case, my fickle side craves change…as in, “I wonder what it would be like to live in New Zealand for a year…” or “maybe we should try adding a few more animal groups to our grazing plan this year.” Despite these passing thoughts, my slightly obsessive, orderly self resists change as though it is a contagious disease…as in, “I am NEVER leaving Corinth, VT again!” or “we CANNOT increase ANY of our animal numbers until we reach 100% success with what we have!” And yet, regardless of my unresolved feelings on change, spring on our farm is a time brimming with change: new life, new systems and a new outlook on the season ahead.
New life on the farm is undeniably a wonderful and joyous occasion. Since our last correspondence, one of our four sows has farrowed. The first litter of piglets, while given an extreme start with the frigid temperatures we saw a few weeks ago, seem to have overcome the worst of their early battles and are snuffling about with their mama. We hope that our remaining three sows, all of whom are bred, will farrow within the next month. In addition to our pigs, our ewes continue to demand our regular attention. Six of the nine ewes that we bred last fall have lambed. Each mama has lambed, no matter our frequent checks, on her own with healthy, vigorous lambs in each case. Eben has selected a bear theme for our naming scheme this year: Panda and Black Bear (twins), Polar Bear, Grizzley, Kodiak, and Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (twins) are now bright spots in our daily routine and perfect examples of change on the farm.
New systems on the farm, ahhhhh new systems on the farm. What can I say? Every year we try something new. From a new chick brooder, a necessity as we continue to increase the number of chicks we brood in each batch of broilers, to a new grazing rotation, another necessity that we constantly tweak based on the health of each pasture and the ability of different animal groups to thrive on said pasture, new systems are a must for us. We try to record what works and what does NOT work each year in order to keep on top of such changes, however many times we are forced to fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants as well. Sometimes a system we thought was simply genius upon its implementation turns out to be a dismal failure. Alas, more change.
As we enter our 2014 grazing season, we are, despite my moments of hesitation and indecision, making changes like crazy around the farm. We are also, and perhaps most importantly, feeling quite optimistic about our upcoming season. The addition of a sizable, fenced pasture of decent quality grass to our preexisting pastures, will enable us to add mature animals to both our beef herd and our flock of sheep. We have also decided to hire a farm worker for the summer. A college student at Gabe’s alma mater, this young woman will bring dedication, demonstrated through years of hard work on a local vegetable farm, and a passion for livestock, demonstrated through her home and college life, to our farm this season. Many changes, both exciting and intimidating in the works.
And, finally, before I sign off for the month, we have one more, VERY large change coming up this season. If you happen to notice me slowing down, or growing rather round, as the months pass, do not worry! It is simply Baby Zoerheide #3, due to arrive October 10th! Our most thrilling change to date!