Fall is here by the vibrant colors outside and the leaves blowing all around. One would not know it though if you looked at what people were wearing because of the temperature. Near 80s all weekend long at the farm. I did chores at 530am on Saturday in shorts and a tee shirt and I was still too hot.
Sean in the sap house
It is April and the sap is still running. Last year we were all cleaned up by now and had made 13 gallons of maple syrup. This year? We are still boiling down the sap. As I type this from the sap house this is the fifth straight day of boiling to date we have boiled an estimated 18-22 gallons of syrup and I do not see an end in sight. The weather has been beneficial for the sap to run. This is easily our best year ever.
Red Wattle/Large Black cross
We have a 2 week old litter of piglets. Wattles (our Red Wattle sow) gave birth to 14 piglets all are doing well. 6 of the piglets carried the mother’s trait of wattles hanging down off from their chin. As far as I know Red Wattle are the only pig known to have this trait. Piglet sales have been through the roof this year. Last week I fielded between 15-30 phone calls just for live piglets. We usually set aside a number of piglets for sale and keep the rest to raise for the freezer and to sell by the package. On the flip side grain has gone up by $100 a ton from last fall (almost at $500 a ton). So in an experiment we are feeding baleage to the pigs as an alternative to an all grain diet. (pigs still get grain as well as vegetables. They just are not on an all grain diet which would cost us more to raise them). The baleage has up to 14% protein in it. We are also feeding whole barley as a feed to the pigs. (it is just not for beer anymore) As you can see here in the picture the pigs and sheep eat side by side from the feeder. All the pigs have access to the outside in the winter. The temperature this winter got as low as -40. The pigs still went outside to feed and at night they “pig piled” on top of each other to get warm. We have had 4 litters of pigs since December.
Cali with her lambs
We have had 4 sets of twins born this spring. Lambing is complete for the spring. It is awesome to see them out jumping and playing in the paddock. Even on a couple of rocks the lambs play king on the mountain trying to be the last one standing.
Joining a new farmer’s market in southern Maine
Recently we joined a new farmer’s market in Windham starting in May. The Lake Region Farmer’s market is based out of Windham. I will be working Saturdays from May-October at this market. Here is their website. http://www.farmersmarketonline.com/fm/LakesRegionFarmersMarket.html
At the end of January we were blessed with 5 newborn lambs with two sets of twins. None of our ewes needed intervention during lambing (a Katahdin trait) even though we did have a breech birth. All 5 lambs were healthy at birth (one was born in a snow bank with the temperature around 10 degrees). We tried having lambs early so they would be bigger when the fall came around. We chose our best three mothers Jersey, Big Mama, and Speckles. These three had at least twins the prior two years and all were extraordinary good mothers. So we decided to try breeding them early and having them lamb out in the coldest month of the year. So far so good and its February 14th when I am writing this.
It is an heart warming sight watching lambs play. the energy, the hopping, and the jumping that they do is funny and lively. Usually right around dusk is when the lambs display they skills. Last year when we had newborns in the pasture in April, we had numerous cars parked beside the road to see the lambs. We even had one lady get out of her car and start talking to the lambs in sheep language. (baaaa) My wife and I were out mending fences and heard this person talking to the lambs. She was laughing and talking to the sheep. We joked that we should have charged admission or a “laughing fee”. The rest of the ewes will lamb out in the month of March. Hopefully we will be able to start to see patches of grass with the snow melt. I am not holding my breath however.
Leena with her piglets
Our piglets are selling out fast. We have sold all of the ones we had set aside fro our first two litters and we have started a waiting list for Bella and Wattles (our two Red Wattles) who are due to “pig out” at the end of February. If you think you would want one of these piglets please call early or email early as the waiting list is beginning to look like my kids Christmas list, long.
With all of this snow and being the middle of February I have started to lay out out garden and grain maps. Our garden is going to be drastically smaller this year and I will attempt to grow some barley to feed to the animals. Barley is not well known to be a feed for livestock, its known for beer making however barley is high in nutrients and I have read it is almost as high as corn for energy and it is higher than corn for protein. In the area of the Pacific Northwest where the climate allows decent barley growing is where they use barley to finish pigs and cows. Well I am crazy enough to try this as well.
I remember when I was a kid we had to do that dreadful job in the fall, splitting firewood. I remember loathing that job with my parents, On Sunday afternoons we would split enough wood for the winter. Usually around 10-15 cords. (for those who do not know 1 cord of wood equals 128 cubic feet.
Today we had everyone outside to split wood. The temperature was around 10 degrees. Too cold? Not at all. I was actually “working up a sweat”. What else am I going to do on a day when its 10 degrees? Not much. So we took a couple of hours to split enough wood for the wood stove in the living room for the week. Our primary heat source, our Outside Wood Boiler, does use wood but it does not require splitting of the wood. We only use the wood stove in the living room when it gets really cold, like this week. The weather report said temperatures are suppose to be -20 to -40 lows with high winds. (I have also taken extra precaution with the livestock stacking hay bales on the inside of the barn around them)
Our system was I cut the wood and the boys would haul it to mom who split
the wood with our old woodsplitter. Then the boys took the wood on their plastic sleds and piled it in the garage. The system worked great! (except I was too slow in getting wood to them my 11 year old exclaimed cause he wanted to be done with the job sooner rather than later)
While sawing the wood I noticed our sheep standing on top of the round baylege. I have never seen any of them do that before. Their is always a first time.
Usually I would have everything done in the fall, but that came at a price. I was so busy with the livestock, gardens, customers,the kids soccer that I did not cut up the wood and pile it up in October like I usually did. It would have taken alot of hours to do that. We are the least busy in the winter and it just makes too much sense for us to do a little now and then, then rather do it all at once. Besides it was a beautiful morning in the Sandy River Valley and what better way to spend it then cutting, hauling, and splitting fire wood with your family.
Yes. It was cold out this morning. The thermometer shown says close to zero and its snowing. Earlier at 5:30 am it said -18. Now that is cold. I hear even colder weather is coming next week. Oh well nothing we can do about it so might as get mentally ready and keep the wood stoves warm.
We are trying another experiment with the animals, I am putting our 9 week old piglets in with our sheep. Why? I want the sheep to teach the piglets to eat hay. “You are Crazy” someone said when I told them what I was doing. If I can get the piglets to eat hay, then grass, that would be another step towards sustainability in raising pigs. Grain costs money, grass is free. It has been done before with pigs so we are trying it. I don’t like being called a crazy farmer, I prefer the word lunatic. I like being A Lunatic Farmer.
We will see how it goes. They will have access to everything the sheep do. Hay, baylege and being able to go in and out of the barn. They huddle together in the old manure gutter in the barn. It is really neat to see them when I go out in the morning to let them out.
Large Black/Tamworth cross piglets in with the sheep
“All the flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of yesterday.”
Pastured Pork Chops
For those of you who don’t have a large freezer we have come up with something for you in mind. The Monthly Meat Club. Basically for 60$ a month you get to choose certain cuts of pork (click on the link below for details). Join up today and enjoy pastured pork! Delivery is free within 50 miles of VoterVale Farm (Avon, Maine)
Boris checking out the baylage
Huney and Magpie exploring
I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Years’ Holiday! We did and it was a great time for our family. ( No snow to slide on this year was the only drawback)
On New Years Day we decided to take advantage of the mild weather (near 50) and try to increase the size of our outside winter paddocks for the pigs. Why? Well one reason is so we can feed them baylage (a big round bale of hay). I can’t get one into the barn plus it’s easier to roll it out of the truck as they are heavy.
Now I was talking about this idea of feeding round bales to pigs at a Christmas gathering with a family member. You know how I like to bounce ideas off people and get their feed back in case I didn’t think of something. The majority of responses I got was what I expected. “That’s just weiahd” (pronounced weird but how some Mainers’ say the word around here. I too am guilty sometimes) Well I have been researching how pastured pigs have been fed baylage during the winter months instead of feeding them just grain. Grain is getting quite expensive (price went up again). I have read of a few farmer’s experiences on feeding them baylage and they have had good success. They estimate one pig will eat a bale and a half through the winter months. I pay $40 a bale. If the pigs eat it, it is a no brainer since grain costs $280 a ton (all local grain from a local farm and it is a mash). Purina pellets are $400 a ton. Our pigs go through a ton a month compared to 6 bales of hay a winter at $40 a bale. Pigs will go through a ton of grain a month.
So in yesterdays mild temps I and Angel set fence posts. It’s not easy driving fence posts in January. But I got my workout. We finished the paddock and unwrapped the baylage. The hay smelled sweet. It smelled good enough to eat. I don’t know if I’m just “weiahd” or what but the hay smelled like spent grains when home brewing. MMMMM good.
As soon as I unwrapped the bale, Boris, Wattles and Bella, the pigs, came out to investigate. They too were intrigued by the smell as they put their snouts into the hay and started chewing. They seemed to like it! It would seem I have “weiahd” pigs.