Master of the concept I am not. I actually despise the whole situation. You see, if we farrowed in the barn in crates this would be easy. But we don't. Our piglets are born outside. Well, at about 3 weeks they get pretty mobile. At 5 weeks they get brave. At 6 weeks, they are everywhere. It is time to wean and it is not easy to get them contained. Last year was our first at farrowing and weaning was interesting to say the least. It ended with me running the length of the fence with a piglet and momma chasing. Needless to say, we did not wean one of the little ones. This year plan B was concocted, but I have not had time to implement it. So, luck intervened. However, stupid human error prevented the easiest weaning ever. These piglets have taken to sleeping in the barn. Away from momma. This morning I went out to find them sleeping feet from the weaning pen. I slipped in, moved a couple of other feeder pigs, and opened the gate. All I had to do was go back around, open the door and they would run away from me into the pen. So far, so good. This is the error part: remember how the plan is to open the door and scare them. Well, if you do not close the door, it doesn't need to be opened. In my shock of finding them near the pen, I forgot to close the door and by the time I realized it, 2 had awaken and left. 3 more were on the way when I got around the barn and scared them back in. And just as planned, I had 5 of 7 caught. Now for the other 2. Well, they ran back to momma who was asleep. I walked in the field and grabbed one and got out before momma woke. I only got one, though. The other is still with her. For how long? Most likely until plan B is built.......
**Note: For all of you who are new...click on the September 2011 archive button on the right side and the first post titled, "Run, Dave, Run" will give you quite an amusing account of last year's weaning attempt.**
Today we harvested our turkeys. While there were only 13 of them (this was our first year, so we started small) they turned out very well. We were able to use all of our chicken processing equipment to process them with the exception of larger cones. Thanks to Jonathan of A&B Heating of Warren who fabricates all of our cones from galvanized sheet metal. The cones were perfect. The processing was a little more time consuming than the chickens, but the birds turned out great. We ranged from 11 pounds to 25 with a 16 pound average. I am very happy with the turn out and I hope that all of our customer will enjoy them this holiday season. I would like to thank all of our patrons and customers that support us throughout the year by buying our products. We strive to provide the best possible final product to our customers. Our chickens went very well this year. I also need to thank our fantastic help in processing. We have an extremely reliable and efficient group of people that come out to process the birds every 3 weeks. Without them, we would not be able to operate. We will be taking orders for next year's birds in the spring. As with this year, we will selling the birds by preorder only. We have some extras, but not always. The only way to ensure you get a bird is to let us know in advance. This process helps us with the ordering of our chicks. That way we are never stuck with birds we don't know what to do with. It also ensures we have your chickens ready when you want them. With this harvest, our meat birds are officially finished for the year. The cows move to the barn pasture tomorrow and the pigs are still outside. They will move to a new corn field to prep for next year. The layers are going to be moving closer to the hoop house rather directly. We are beginning to prepare for winter around the farm....it is probably closer than we think!
It has been a while since I have had a chance to write in this forum, but things have been pretty busy. The time change changes everything around here. With the farm as my second job, the time changing makes it a little hectic to get everything done before darkness arrives. The cows are moving closer to the house and their winter feeding station (the barn). The grasses are done growing and they will probably be here this coming week. We had our last calf of the season on Thursday morning. A nice looking bull. Our season in all was great. The fall calving worked out as I had hoped it would. Turning to a lowline angus bull made a tremendous difference in our calves. We had no calving problems this year. In about a month we will begin breeding for next year. The great part of an artificial program is know exactly when the cows will be calving and having complete control of the bulls used. Before breeding, I take a look at all of the EPD (the bulls stats) and choose ones that fit our program. I have focussed on Calving Ease (so I do not have to pull any out) and reduced Frame Scores (the height of the animal). I had hoped to finish picking our corn this weekend, but a break-down will be preventing that. Our corn picker is an old one, and old parts break. Hopefully we can get it fixed and finish this week. The weather is supposed to cooperate. However, this is Northwest PA and the weather could turn at any day and never look back. We also took the delivery of another 200 layers. This batch was Black Austrolorp. I am really looking forward to their production.
So I am aware of how far I've come since my roots of being a city girl when I was growing up. We used to get excited for the summertime when we could buy sweet corn in the market, shipped from who knows where to sit for days/weeks before it was sold. We would enjoy going to the Jersey shore and on our way there we would pick up corn from a stand on the side of the road and would do the same on the way back. We knew that was really good corn (better than the market)...I didn't realize though how good corn could really be until my husband started growing it. I'll never forget making one of my first meals for Dave when we were just dating and he refused to eat it because it was made with store-bought hamburger. It didn't make a difference to me back then. Now, I can't even look at hamburger from the store. Since when is hamburger light pink? Fast forward to last February (or March, can't remember exactly) when we did a presentation on local foods for the Jefferson DeFrees Center's Woman's Day. I had to buy hamburger from the store (*gasp*) and cook it up to show the difference in the fat levels, the color, and texture. The smell of that store-bought hamburger literally made me gag. I will, however, give it the benefit of the doubt as I was 5 months pregnant at the time.
This all leads me to this new uncertainty. I'm questioning how far I'm willing to go with this farming way of life. See we encompass many different aspects of farming, many of which was even my idea, like the laying hens and pigs. We started out with 20 laying hens a year and a half ago and now we'll have 400 laying by March. Needless to say we broke down and bought an egg washer; I am no longer it. A major aspect of farming not found on our farm is dairy. I have always been adament about no dairy. I wasn't ashamed to tell everyone that I'm to blame for not having dairy. I feel like it's this step in a direction where there's no turning back. We have a list of well over 25 people begging us to bring on dairy. Around person #21 I started going from, "Nope, sorry, no dairy," to "Well, I don't know?" What is wrong with me and my thinking? Am I ready to take the plunge? Perhaps it's the SIX gallons of milk we go through a week (and it's only going to get worse when our youngest can drink milk)? Or maybe it's the fact that like everything else we eat, I want to know what's really in my milk and that the milk I drink comes from humanely treated animals. If I bring on dairy will I then insist on making my own butter, cheese, YOGURT? When will this craziness end...I'm on the verge of panicking at this new revelation. Or is it really just no big deal? Am I crazy for perhaps wanting to add yet another dimension to our farm? Please don't be afraid to tell me what you think; I'm really on the fence about this whole thing.