Winter on the Farm 2013-2014
|Fortunately for us, our neighbor has kindly plowed our driveway all winter.|
|Cabin-Fever crazed Farmer Don|
To supplement our wood supply, Farmer Don has chopped down a couple of dead pine trees in the forested part of our property, or as we refer to it, Mirkwood. Pine burns fast so it makes great kindling for getting a fire started. With all the chainsawing, wood chopping, bale throwing, and bucket slinging these farmers have gotten more than a little winter-crazed. We're all getting cabin fever waiting for spring, this time last year we had green growing grass!
As for water, our waterline out to the barn is not below the frost line, so that got turned off and drained some months ago. We had wanted to redig it last year, but hadn't the time at the end of the season. So, we've been getting our water to the animals the old-fashioned way. With five gallon buckets, a lot of them. Chopping wood, hauling hay and straw, and carrying full buckets every day has made for some very in shape farmers!
The farm after a two day ice storm. Try carrying buckets of water across that!
Many people in our area lost power for days or even weeks after the ice storms and polar vortexes. We have been very fortunate and have not experienced any power loss. In some ways it may have been a good thing that we didn't re-dig the irrigation to the barn for winter use. A farm we follow in NY, called Chicken Thistle Farm, had their irrigation in their barn freeze and burst, flooding their barn. They are closer to the Lakes than us, but their pipe was 50" deep, and the frost line in our area is around 42".
In the Greenhouse
Our new greenhouse has survived the wild winter weather quite well. We had a huge wind and rain storm in the fall that unrolled the plastic from one of the roll-up sides, but besides that we have't had any issues!
|We started shallots, celery, onions and perennial herbs|
in a growing tent inside the house.
In the Chicken Coop
|A snow bank outside of the chicken coop looking out on the pig and cow pastures|
|New heated waterer for the winter|
In the Pig Pen
Even with the wild weather we've been having, we're glad to report that our "Farrowing E-Hut" we built for Arya has proven a great shelter for her this winter. During the worst parts of the winter we'd find her hidden under a pile of straw she'd somehow burrowed into, happily snoring away until breakfast time. After eating, she'd clamber back in and snuggle herself back into her nest of straw.
Though she's had a lonely winter by herself in the pasture, she is now on vacation at a friend's farm in Ionia, MI. Farmer Figgins moved Arya all by herself, the hardest part was getting the ball into the hitch, while getting the pig in the trailer ended up being the easiest part! By offering her some warm scrambled eggs right off the stove and putting the bowl right under her nose, she followed the bowl and walked over the turned off and dropped down electric fence line and followed her nose up and into the livestock trailer.
|Our sow Arya with ears perky and upright, |
starting her heat cycle
Farmer Figgins delivered Arya right as she was coming into standing heat. She spent the week with a dozen 4 month old pigs while periodically being moved to a separate stall with a Hampshire boar named Bud. Try as he might, Bud could not get any action with Arya and they spent their time fighting. Arya is currently out of heat, but she's staying on her vacation until she comes into heat again (usually every 18-24 days) and stands for the boar.
A sow or gilt will show she is coming into heat when her back end becomes red and swollen, sometimes having a watery discharge. They become more vocal and restless, and will mount other pigs and sometimes be aggressive. Standing heat lasts from 1-3 days, generally shorter for gilts, and is when the mating or artificial insemination should occur for best results. There may be a sticky discharge, she'll be more vocal, have a poor appetite, act attracted to the handler, and most importantly stand rigid if mounted or pushed down on the back. By "attracted to the handler", we do not mean oh-la-la-la, bat-my-eyelashes attracted. We mean--a very excited pig nosing you hard in the thighs and legs, biting sleeves or pant legs or errant fingers until she is distracted by food. The easiest way to tell if a gilt or sow is in heat is to approach her from behind and press down on her back, where a boar would if he was mounting her. If she becomes rigid and stands still for this, she's in standing heat. Congratulations, now you know more than you ever wanted to know about pig reproduction!
|Snowy pasture at sunrise|
How has our electric fence system held up through the winter? We did end up having to switch to a regular electric fence charger this winter, we were not getting enough sunlight with the solar electric charger to charge the fence. Arya learned that quick and started going underneath the bottom line to another pasture to wait for her breakfasts some mornings. But once the charge was restored, she quickly stopped doing it.
After the ice storms we did find that the electric fence wire became weighed down with the ice. An easy trick for de-icing these wires is to follow the pasture line with the wire inside one of the step-in post clips. Angle it just right and pull it along as you walk the fence line and it will knock all that ice off!
The other thing is that at some point the snow will fall above your lowest fence line, and you will have to raise it. Or, you can shovel underneath the wire. If you have a small winter pasture area this isn't too much of a chore. But it is another winter chore you have to do. Welcome to winter!
In regards to fencing, we'd like to move to a more permanent fencing system. Bottom line, permanent fence posts offer stability and less maintenance in the winter, but step in posts and movable paddocks gives you flexibility to move and try new areas, but greater management issues--such as deicing, moving the lines, and shoveling snow that has piled too high. We've found that temporary, movable fencing is great to use while you are studying the land, getting to know it and how you are going to use it, and while you are deciding on what the best permanent pasture set-up could be.
In the Barn
|Pippin is starting to munch on hay when it's meal time for Rosie!|
|Pippin is almost two months old now, and he's almost outgrown his first halter!|
|In no time we'll be doing some castration!|
|The new compost pile which is half buried in snow all the way to the window.|