This post (written by Margie) is to give you a different perspective on the farm. Growing up in the big city on the other side of the state, my husband must have seen a challenge and decided to reform me from a city girl to a country woman. He brought me to Tidioute when the weather was beautiful, the sky a deep shade of blue, the sounds of nature surrounding you. Of course he forgot to mention the many feet of snow that is considered a dusting around here, the BIG wildlife that do not always stay in the woods, and the ever popular and my personal favorite, "mud season." His plan worked, I fell in love and we moved up here. Looking back I can't believe how much my life has changed, all for the better. Though I love going back east and visiting my family that I miss so much, I never look forward to going back to the hectic way of life (and traffic). My outlook on the farm is often different from my husband's, as this is a new experience and obviously my upbringing was much different. For example, I thought all cows were black and white! So all of this brings me back to the present and recalling an event that happened on Saturday.
We decided it was time to wean the piglets (they are out on pasture), and of course we knew mom wouldn't be happy about it. It was a grab-and-go scenario in which we put them in a trailer (after Dave grabbed them and carried them for only about 3 feet) and we drove the trailer to the barn to put them in their temporary stall. After transporting 4 of them we decided mom was unhappy enough and we weren't going to push our luck. After lunch I was playing with our little guy and heard an AWFUL pig squeal. Thinking one of the two remaining piglets was in trouble, I told my precious little boy to get his boots on and that we had to see what was happening. I opened the mud room door and saw Dave running with a squealing 30 pound piglet the length of the pasture, desperately trying to hold on to the wiggling piglet while momma pig raced after him (he was thankfully on the other side of the fence from momma). Seeing the piglet was right next to the fence, Dave (deciding to seize the moment) thought it would be a perfect opportunity to grab the piglet and run. In that moment of insanity, he forgot he was about an acre away from the end of the pasture and then about an additional 75 feet away from the barn. Realizing this is a situation I did not want to be involved in (as I understand how I would react as a mother if someone was running off with my little one), I ushered our son back into the house, told him that daddy was going to have to fend for himself with this one and that we would listen (through the safety of the door) to hear what happened. In the end, Momma did stop once she reached the other side of the fence (like we were told she would), Dave got more than a workout trying to hold onto the piglet while being chased and thankfully decided never to do that again. Needless to say, 4 days later, there's still another piglet left to be moved from momma and, well, Dave decided to modify his plan for removing the last piglet. I'm sure we'll put the new and improved plan to use this weekend.
We are thankful to all who bought sweet corn from us this year. This was, without a doubt, our best corn season to date. We hope to be able to expand next year and get the seed in a little earlier. Perhaps we can get close to Fourth of July corn. We have been very impressed with the performance of Harris 1001 (the bicolor corn). It was very popular and super sweet. We will still plant some of the Silver King, but we will mostly carry Harris for the summer of 2012. Which was your favorite? Harris or Silver King? We would love to know. My vote goes to Harris. I loved its flavor and my wife loved its lack of silk.
Our chickens were laying about 10 eggs a day and then last week they went down to 5. We knew something was up, but we could not find where they were hiding them. Yesterday, we found it. In a patch of high grass beside the barn we found quite the nest filled with 22 eggs! They are interesting animals and always follow the leader. Unfortunately, after days of sitting out, we had to dispose of the eggs, but we are now back up to 14 eggs a day. It is always an adventure!
Today we received our last shipment of chicks from Moyers. We have had a great year with their chicks. They have been sending us very healthy chicks all year long. We have been very happy with their birds all around. The roasting birds gain weight very well and forage grass nicely and the layers are progressing daily. We are very excited for our layers to hit full production next summer.
This afternoon I spent moving the cattle to their new pasture. They move rather willingly now. Just a call and they are ready to go. With all of the animals on new ground, they should be content for the week. We will have to rotate the animals a little more quickly this round as the grass was late in growing back due to the dry July. We are looking forward to our breeding season beginning in November. We are going to push the calving season out a little by breeding so late, but we should have a much smaller calving window to keep an eye on the cattle. We have chosen to breed artificially this year to lowline angus, a smaller, more efficient angus. We are also in the process of purchasing a couple of lowline breeding animals to help our herd progress in the direction we are headed. We want to be able to produce high quality animals on grass, not grain. We do feed silage during the winter months, but the percentage of actual grain the animals are consuming is minimal, in my eyes, as silage contains the greens of the corn as well as the ears. We are certainly separate from the conventional process of graining a finished animal as our beef see no commercial grains at all. They get our grass, our hay, and our silage, all grown on our farm. Please feel free to give us your opinions...what is a "grain-fed" animal?
Yesterday we processed a batch of white broiler chickens. They went well and we sold out. We will have 3 more processing days through November. Today we will be putting the feeder pigs no the sweet corn patches to clean them up and hopefully moving the cattle to new grass so the current pasture can grow back before the hard freeze hits. We will also be weaning our new piglets soon as they are becoming more and more brazen in their adventures outside the fence
Yesterday we closed up our silo by doing one last pack with the tractor and covering the entire silo with a piece of 5 mil. plastic. To hold the plastic in place and keep the oxygen out we then cover it with 200 old tires. This is the most interesting part of the process. There is nothing like standing on the ground while your wife is throwing water-filled tires at you trying to see how far she can get it to splash. Another special thanks to Cousin Cindy for her help. She is a tried and true veteran when it comes to silo closing. Even our three year old got into the act after we lost some tires and he was soaked. They are never too young to get that first tire bath.
Saturday we started out a little wet, but dried up nicely allowing to harvest our corn silage that our cattle and pigs will dine on during the winter months. The corn is ready a little earlier than normal, but gave us a great crop. The ears were big and full and lots of green in the stalks. We filled our silo and are going to finish packing it tomorrow to close it up by covering it with plastic until late November. In the mean time, the silage will actually begin to ferment which is what keeps it from spoiling. The better we get it packed, the better it keeps. We will feed it daily until the spring, along with some hay to keep the girls in the barn happy.
Thank you to all who purchased sweet corn from us over the holiday weekend. We had a great turn out and some excellent corn. We sold out of the Harris 1001, but the Silver King is still going strong. We have a new patch ripe this weekend and one more coming on for next weekend. The West Hickory Fire Department sold out of chickens, corn, and potatoes at their annual event. We have run out of pigs to sell for this year. They are growing nicely and just about ready to be moved onto the sweet corn patch for clean up duty. We are looking forward to next year when we should have 5 pigs to farrow and more to sell! This weekend will be our silage harvest as long as the weather cooperates. It is generally a very busy time. We have modified our bunker silo this year, so we will see how it keeps.
We received 100 new laying hens as day old chicks today. They have adjusted nicely to their new home and were all cuddled under the heat lamps this evening. Mother and calf are both doing well after our tough delivery on Friday. We have started the calf on grain today and she is eating vigorously. Due to increased demand, we have also had to add a new order of white broilers to the list. They will be coming in on Sept. 20 and ready to process on Nov. 12. That will be the last processing date of the season for chickens. We plan to begin again next spring with the first processing around mid-May.