It’s still February but things are changing – our friends with greenhouses are starting seeds, a couple days in the high 30s hastened our maple trees tapping, and we are looking around the corner to piglets and then lambs being born. February and March are often sited as the cruelest months. They get your hopes up for warmth, snowmelt and flowers and then dump two feet of snow and a wind chill of minus 20.
gilt – a young female pig who has not yet produced a litter
farrowing – the act of a pig producing a litter
piggy – a technical term referring to the body changes associated with the last stages of pig gestation.
The animals seem ready for spring. As the temperatures flirt with 40 degrees they begin to get frisky, smelling the grass not yet growing under the snow. We have been watching our gilts closely for signs that they are beginning to go into labor. Crescent, Gibbous, and Luna have been looking piggy for a couple weeks and we have just crossed the earliest possible date for their farrowing. It’s our first round of farrowing (previously we have been buying piglets that are 6 weeks old) and we are anxious that it all goes well. Pigs are amazing and prolific animals. They can have 14 piglets and farrow twice a year. While it’s not likely, our three ladies could produce an amazing 96 piglets this year. We are hoping for mid-sized litters of 8-10 healthy piglets or a total of 50-60. We are planning to raise to slaughter 20 piglets from each farrowing and sell the rest to other farmers and homesteaders for them to raise.
About a month after farrowing lambing will start – by then we will be deep into mud season.
Gabe and Hayley
Well we just got 10 inches of snow but the sows farrowed, we have boiled some sap and are expecting lambs next week. These are all signs that spring is around the corner.
Lately the season seems to be coming and going – cold then warm, snow then rain and now finally cold and snow. The worst effect is that the variability affects our conditioning. Sunday I went out to do chores and was planning on accomplishing a few outdoor tasks after chores. Shockingly it was 15 degrees with a light wind. The shock was too much and I had to pull out my holiday “get out of work free card” and went inside to brew beer.
Happy December All,
Up here in Corinth there have been moments of winter punctuated by the weather of March. Most of our fall work is finished – although Gabe is not so secretly hoping for a January freeze to get some more fence posts in. As the cold settles we have been inside working on our business plan and strategizing. One of the things are on mind is how we make our sausage – compared to the legislative process the details of our sausage making is uplifting.
Currently we are getting our sausage links made at the Mad River Food Hub by their chef/butcher Jacob. We really like Jacob, his boss Robin, and the facility. The Food Hub was created to serve the needs of small and growing farmers like ourselves. It is set up to help incubate businesses – give them a place to make their products until they are large enough to own or rent their own facility (if they are ever that big). Robin – who manages the place, owns the building and stewarded the creation set it up as an L3C (vs LLC or 501c3 for the tax buffs) which an innovative model that combines some elements of the non-profit world and the for profit world. Being an L3C and having a community minded mission are a couple of reasons that we are happy to work with them.
Honestly though it’s the incubator model that most excites us. In the long run having control over our product, being able to test our own recipes and saving money by doing the work ourselves are additional reasons to work with the food hub. For the last couple of batches of sausage Jacob has been doing all the work. We are planning in January to do it ourselves. This means that we can set aside a bit to try out new varieties of sausage – maybe a maple flavored breakfast with our own maple syrup? Our nephew River would like an apple flavored variety.
What kind of sausage would you like us to make? Let us know.
Enjoy the cold,
Hayley and Gabe
Happy November All,
We are well but still scurrying to finish all of our fall projects before snow blankets the farm. So much to do and so little time…
As I write, the boar, the ram, and the bull are all outdoors in their respective breeding groups. We have lucked out finding very well mannered male animals this year. The Tamworth boar is exceedingly calm – Eben always says hello to him at chore time. Our Romney ram, whose maturity and virility was in question, appears to have figured out the birds and the bees. And finally, our newest addition, a young Angus bull (who Gabe has named Angus King in deference to the political season) has joined our herd. We are hoping the Angus genetics will increase the growth rate of our future calves. The bull is peacefully sharing his new winter quarters with the remainder of the herd – here is where Gabe breathes a sigh of relief as cattle moving can be stressful. If all goes well, we should have March piglets, April lambs, and (late) August calves!
Another large project around the farm has been the construction of our new milk shed, which, by the time you are reading this, will house Jeannette our new milk cow. A 3-year-old Jersey, Jeannette comes to us from Blythedale Farm and is due to freshen on January 3. We are incredibly excited to welcome Jeannette to our farm and looking forward to morning and evening milking with the boys, fresh milk at all times, and all manner of homemade milk products from our own kitchen…butter, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream galore. If you are in the market for raw milk, we will have an abundance come early January. Let us know if you would like more information!
Wishing you all a healthy and happy Thanksgiving,
Hayley and Gabe
We love cows – all kinds – ornery, placid, opinionated, and gentle. They are an important part of our small farm. Thanks to a couple of gifts from Gabe’s Aunt and Uncle at Fitch Family Farm cows are the first animals we raised together before we were married. But cows grow slow, eat a lot of hay that we buy from our neighbors, command more respect and fencing than the rest of our animals, and are the most nerve-racking to load in a trailer. Cattle genetics are a little more finicky when it comes to a pasture/grass based system, most commercial breeds have been ruined by feedlot agriculture, and the older breeds grow very slowly (2 ½ to 3 years until slaughter).
We love our Highlander/ America Milking Devon crosses but they are slow to get to size and unless they we are breeding registered animals (and preserving the breed) I am not sure they make sense. So we are trying a few different things. We have bought an Angus yearling bull that we hope will breed the Highlanders and we are trying some Jersey steers.
The Jerseys are a milk breed that is not widely respected for its ability to grow meat. This means the price is right (the steers are free) but they are not likely to outperform our Highlanders in growth rate, specially on grass. I have heard a number of people rave about Jersey meat. We are looking forward to comparing the taste of Jersey, Highlander and Highlander/Angus. Of course we are going to have to wait a few years to do this. The upside of our Jersey steers is that they are the sweetest, calmest, and most affectionate calves we have ever had. Eben gives them pats every day and they love people. Definitely not in the ornery category.
If it wasn’t for the trees turning and the leaves blowing I am not sure I would know its fall. The warm weather has given me a false sense of hope that we can get everything finished in time for winter. I doubt we will get it all finished but here is a list of just the building projects:
-Milk house for our first dairy cow
-Cow shed for our growing herd
-Three farrowing huts (not really needed before spring but it would be nice to give the pigs a little more protection from the cold)