Sunday, August 11, 2013

Running of the Pigs

August Farm Update!

This last week has been a busy one here in the Shire.  We've had a lot of changes with the animals, and some nice developments in the garden.

Firstly, we are all finished with the Cornish-X meat chickens.  Thank goodness.  The birds get to be a bit of a chore after dragging their large pen on a daily basis for almost 2 months, in addition to the water and feed hauling for them.  We had a shareholder help us with processing and they brought the family and were a huge help in taking care of the 70 birds.  As always on the Shire nothing can go too easily, and the large bucket plucker that was brought for the chore, which we were looking forward to for speeding up the process, was not quite up to the chore. The motor didn't have enough torque so we ended up having to pluck chickens one at a time with a drill attachment.  So to those of you who got an unexpected look at a chicken processing operation, we're sorry, we expected to be done earlier.  We do still have some chickens available for purchase, they are frozen at this point, but still delicious and are priced at $3.50/lb.

We also said goodbye to our rooster Priscilla on the chicken processing day. Much as we want to breed our own Easter Eggers with Priscilla, his aggression toward us made it no longer worth the effort. He often stalked us when we'd enter the chicken run or go inside the coop to collect eggs and refill feed and water. Too many times we were charged and winged, and he was just starting to develop his spurs. We gave him a few months, hoping he'd settle down, but it didn't like that was going to happen. That and he crowed constantly, regardless of sunrise and sunset. So now Priscilla is in our freezer, waiting for the next chicken pot pie. Bye bye Priscilla! 

Secondly, we have been arranging Rosie to be bred so that we will have a calf in spring and finally have our grass-powered-milk-machine (also known as a cow) up and running.  We originally were thinking to have her Artificially Inseminated, or AI'd, but due to costs involved and a fortunate find of a local Dexter Cattle raiser, will be sending Rosie on a 6 week sexcation at Shamrock Acres Dexter Cattle  where she will be bred to their dexter bull.   We chose to breed her back to a Dexter bull to produce a smaller more efficient calf.  Rosie a Jersey Cow, is capable of producing 3-5 gallons a day or more, which is more than we need, and will supplement our hog feed next year substantially.  Jersey steers are also notoriously slow growing which makes it hard for a small farm like ourselves to feed out a beef calf.  Dexters are dual purpose breeds, for milk and meat, and are known for having the best feed efficiency. So, whether we have a boy or girl calf next spring we feel a dexter makes a lot more sense as it will not require the same feed inputs as a jersey steer, or overwhelm us with too much milk.

We've also had lots of adventures with the pigs.   We have had some minor injuries as the pigs found a overly effective scratching post in their pasture, and scraped up a couple of their backs.  We had to clean up the cuts, and apply a coating of disinfectant spray, called blu-kote.  The pigs are doing much better but have big purple spots, or as we've been calling them Purple Pork-a-Dots, on their backs from the spray.

Purple Pork-A-Dot
The second part of our adventure in pigs this week has been moving them across the whole property to a new pasture.  This spring we decided to experiment and plant a small patch of wheat and barley.  The good news is they grew well, but the weed's grew as well or better.   Next year we will have the land prepped better and utilize the tractor more to take care of those weeds, and have much better results.  As a result of the weed overgrowth though we decided to just feed the crop to the pigs directly rather than harvesting it ourselves.  The problem is the grain field is in the exact opposite corner of the farm as the pigs.

So we set up an electric wire pig highway from one side of the farm to the other.   This involved taking down their old pastures to get the step in posts, and about 1200' of wire.  To make sure the pigs were properly motivated to move pastures, we only gave them some garden scraps for dinner.  Then in the morning we opened up the pig run and coaxed the hungry pigs to follow us all the way to their new pasture by shaking the feed bucket at them.  It didn't go perfectly, with the pigs able to turn around they occasionally backtracked, but eventually they found themselves in the new pasture and have since gone to work tearing up that field and eating the grains.

Finally we have some good developments in the garden.  This last week was one of our best shares yet, including a nice bag of green beans and lemon cucumbers, which are both favorites of ours.   Next week it's looking like we will have our first peppers in shares!  And we have found our first red cherry tomatoes and a few roma's turning red so should be coming in the next few weeks!  We even found a few pumpkins turning orange!

Beaver Dam Peppers

Poblano Peppers

Roma Tomato
New England Pie Pumpkin

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