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DECs map of Emerald Ash Borer knows sites and danger zones

DEC's map of Emerald Ash Borer knows sites and danger zones

The Emerald Ash Borer has officially been found in NY state.  This is an invasive exotic, species that lays their eggs in the ash tree and the subsequent larva eat and destroy the trees as the insects grow and develop.  The area this insect was found is approximately 10 miles (as a bug flies) from our farm.   This is devastating news to us.  Not only because it is never good to have an invasive species take over, but because we have many mature ash trees on our property.  So now we are in the position of having to research and learn what we as landowners of forested land with ash should do given that we are in the quarantined area.

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We have taken some time off from the computer and have been spending much more time outside working, all apologies for being lax with the blog.  Things we’ve done or are working on are selling the vast majority of our stock.  We have kept back a few GOS and some of the Tamworths and we have sold most of the goats.  Its been tough because its hard to decide to size down and emotions sometime come into play. We decided earlier this summer to downsize to free up more time to improve infrastructure.  We have dug lines and assisted the electrician in putting in electric to the land. Even the pigs and dog’s joined in.

The pigs helped to backfill some of the trench...

the trench... around 500' of it

Currently, as I type, I’m waiting on the electrical inspector to co

me out and approve the work.Then we will have electric to run some permanent lines and for general comfort issues.

We are still getting quotes on wells so we don’t have to haul water daily allowing us to set up automatic waterers.  The sawmilling has been slow becuase we have not had the tractor freed up from the backhoe attachment and its harder to manuver small paths with the extra stuff on a tractor, plus you can’t really skid logs well with it on.  So as soon as the electrical inspection clears we will be cutting more wood.

I’ve spent the past few evenings reading Michal Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma which is an interesting read.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in food and agriculture.

We haven’t had the opportunity to see Food Inc. due to the limited distribution however it seems to be along the same vein as the Omnivore’s diemma and something which we hope will be at a theater near us rather soon.

The pigs that we have kept are growing nicely.  We’ve been moving the adult pigs weekly as that had been sufficient given the lower numbers and dry ground.  Now that the rain is back I anticipate our weekend we be spent setting up new paddocks and moving everyone again as the wet ground makes for easy rooting and isn’t able to stand up to pigs as well as the dry.  Whenever I ead back out I’ll try to get a picture of this same view today to show how much it has been trampled since the rains started.

Port-a-huts on pasture..

Port-a-huts on pasture..

Thanks to some nice weather, we finally got all of the pigs up to the new land.  Its been a long time coming.  5 months of wintertime kept us away.  They loaded on the trailer in less that 5 minutes.  They unloaded well.  The only hiccup was that we had to make a chute out of 1 strand of electric wire (not electrified) which ran 400′ and around a corner to their new paddock.  They moved fairly well however, one section was damp and they decided to have a brief wallow before walking the last 100′ to their home.  I was stuck pushing Charles (the young old spot) up the hill as he was taking his time and rooting and wallowing the whole way.  It was suprisingly un-stressful and it went quite smoothly.  They are now all settled in and loving it.

I love the grass...

I love the grass...

While watching them appreciate their new abode, I was able to get a few pictures of everyone.  I have a wonderful video of Newton (the red pig which is a tamworth boar) walking up to Ian and looking at him then laying down.  Newtown loves a good scratch on his belly and every time he sees Ian he knows he either gets food or a scratch.  If Ian doesn’t have a bucket Newton knows that means the scratching will commence so Newton gets ready by laying down.  If I can figure out whats up with the problem attaching video I’ll put it up sometime.

Most likely due to the nice weather, this weekend was the first time the piglets came out of their huts.  It is also the weekend when we got all of the piglets that we have castrated.  The castration on this batch seemed harder.  I’m thinking it was because the boys were stronger.  It is, however, amazing how quickly they get up an go after being castrated.  I think if I were a male and I had my testicles taken out, I would be so uncomfortable I wouldn’t be moving for a couple of days.  They mustn’t have felt that way because they were out wandering around within an hour.  The first hour was spent in the hut probably afraid to come out again for fear of what they would lose this time.

They're thinking..."Oh my god, not her again."

They're thinking..."Oh my god, not her again."

In addition to moving the pigs, we also got the some of the goats up to the new land as well.  They seemed settled in and are liking all of the browse.

We're loving the new scenery...

We're loving the new scenery...

Moving the housing for all of the animals proved to be difficult as the trailers that we have do not fit some of the housing that we had built prior to getting the new land.  We ended up having to use the handy, but very redneck looking truck cap housing for the boars.  The goats got the A-frame since the large goat house would not fit onto anything.   This means we have a wonderfully large dog house that we need to revamp.

The dug spring

The dug spring. Notice the old pipes in the bottom left hand corner.

In other good news, we found why we have a nasty wet section in one of the fields.  There is an old dug spring at the bottom of the hill.  I plan to check the rate of flow this week to get an idea if it will be worthwhile working on it to use for livetock water.  I’m thinking it will be worthwhile by the looks of things.

Where the spring runs out into field

Where the spring runs out into field

We also got the chance to start some plowing.  We got an older john deer 3 bottom plow from the spring consignment auction last year.  It works very well but now we need more implements.

My future veg garden.

My future veg garden.

The only nasty thing to happen this weekend was when one of my goats sucked my finger into her mouth and then bit it.  It happened so quickly I didn’t even get a chance to react.  it hurt like heck but its better now.  It just feels like I whomped it with a hammer.

Nasty Goat Bite

Nasty Goat Bite

Whats more to say… Ian got it stuck driving where he shouldn’t.  Thank god for good family and good neighbors.

Can you spot the front tires?

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Things have been busy here at the farm as is typical at any farm most any time of the year.  We’ve had our goats kid, we have been working on the ground getting ready for planting, the pigs have started to farrow.  On top of this we have had a few mishaps and some around the home appliance malfunctions and this is on top of the never ending cold that I seem to have.  (since end of Feb beginning of March and its not giving up)

With pigs on the mind lately I thought I’d show a few pictures I was able to get of the Tamworth’s and Old Spots to help those who may be farrowing pigs for the first time get a visual of of signs of farrowing.  Emily, the more yellow of the Tamworth’s farrowed the morning that these pictures were taken.  You can see that her teats have dropped and that her vulva is quite swollen.  Compare this to Fran (more red of the Tamworths) Fran is also swollen.  Fran farrowed two days after these picture was taken.  Petunia the Gloucestershire Old Spot, also posed for this indelicate photograph.  Her vulva is not puffy at all.  She has some time to go before she farrows as there is no milk letdown in her teats and she is not poofy yet.

Emily's vulva the day she farrowed

Emily's vulva the day she farrowed

Fran's Vulva two day's prior to farrowing.

Fran's Vulva two day's prior to farrowing.

Another view of Fran's vulva

Another view of Fran's vulva

Petunia is not due to farrow for a few weeks.  Notice the marked lack of swelling.

Petunia is not due to farrow for a few weeks. Notice the marked lack of swelling.

So far we have had two litters both Tamworth X GOS.  The one was a terrible litter of 5, yet all  were born and are still alive.  This mother will get to wean them and have one more go before she is off to slaughter because its not economical to keep her if she is only going to farrow a few at a time.  Plus she is just awkward with the piglets laying the wrong way for them to get to the teats.  She does however have a good length and structure.

The other litter was 1 stillborn, 1 crush, and 9 alive.  This is not bad and she is good mother wise, very attentive and yet friendly with us.  She is a bit shorter in body length but the numbers for her make the difference for us.  She has thrown good sized piglets and tends to be able to raise them well.  I’m excited to see how these TamX GOS grow out as these will be our first litters of crosses.

This is the tiny but healthy litter, only two gilts out of the 5.

This is the tiny but healthy litter, only two gilts out of the 5

This post is a followup to a comment:

A fair price is a tough thing to peg down. For us a fair price would be covering our expenses, paying us for our labor, and not gouging the customer. Unfortunately, consumers have grown comfortable with artificially low priced goods. We all want cheap. The problem is we don’t fully recognize the actual costs of cheap. Across the US the prices will vary. Right near us there are no large CFAO’s putting downward pressure on local pork. Nor is there a lot of competition in the pastured pork arena (yet.) However we have the difficulty of living in an economically depressed area. We’re in the “rust belt” We have high unemployment, and even now working hours at factories and in manufacturing and even some service sectors are being cut.  Layoffs are happening in many industries. Because of this we’ve had to re-think our prices. Right now we are re-budgeting to try to come up with new prices that can accommodate all the costs, infrastructure, taxes, electric, fencing, housing, we have feed, seed, breeding stock, vet costs, straw, hay, gas to and from the processors and to get supplies. When everything adds up it is VERY difficult to make any profit in pork.

This is part of the problem. Profits are hard to come by and many farmers are happy to break even and not give themselves pay. We were guilty of this at times and we’ve had to step back and smack ourselves. Our biggest competitor is the grocery store.  There is no way we can compete with those prices.  I wouldn’t say they undersell farmers because I honestly don’t believe the quality is there.  WHen you take like for like they are probably charging too much for the quality of some of the meat they are selling.  However, getting consumers to recognize this is part of the battle.  I’m hoping that the HBO special on pigs will drive more business our way once people can get a face to the food and see where it comes from.

Part of our key is marketing.  Marketing to consumers is all about sharing our excitement and our true affection and belief in the product. We are willing to let people come and see the animals for themselves. They are able to recognize the humane treatment. They see the animals express natural behaviors. They can see the vigor in the pigs and see the food they eat. This helps. We constantly explain away the stereotypes of pigs: they are dirty, pig farms stink. None of this is true if treated and raised properly. This ability to talk one-on-one with the end consumer is key.  Ian and I truly live, eat and breath pig here.  We are converting people one pork chop at a time.

The land prior to pigs

The land prior to pigs

Less than 24 hours of pigs on the ground

Less than 24 hours of pigs on the ground

Pigs on the land two full days

Pigs on the land two full days

Ian hating the mud...

Ian hating the mud...

Saturday the pigs arrived at the pasture land from our woods down the road.  Since then it has rained and rained and rained.  Today we had a break in the rain because it turned to snow.  It is supposed to rain Tuesday and Wednesday as well.  The animals and I are sooo not looking forward to it.  I guess its easy to forget how much mud hinders daily life on a farm.  I know I was sick of the snow and cold but overall having it cold and dry and frozen is easier on all of us than having wet and cold and mud.

Because of the mud I added more straw to the huts tonight as I wanted to make sure that the girls were able to keep cozy and dry.  Prior to getting the port-a-huts we always had huts with floors.  These proved to be terribly difficult to move and sanitize hence the port-a-huts.  However, when it comes to mud nothing beats a floor.  I figure we’ll need to add a bale every other day if the rain keeps up.  That way the ground builds up a straw pack keeping everything upabove the mud level.  I’ve recently bought  straw at 4.95 a bale because we needed it (hay just isn’t as good for bedding when its muddy plus the pigs eat a lot of it, leaving them with less bedding)  With the straw they are much less likely to eat it and it holds up better in the wet than does hay.  Luckily I found a man selling hay for $2 a bale.  I told him I’d take all he has.  This weekend we are getting the 50 bales he has figuring the money will be well spent.

We still don’t have a clue when the pigs will definately farrow.  Tomorrow is the full moon.  The girls are due anytime after the 12th.  I know I saw a boar mount each of the tamworths the day that they were put together.  I also saw one of the old spots breeding as late as January 18th.  This means that the piglets could start coming as early as the 12th by the math and then as late as April 13th.  Its always a waiting game this time of year.

Speaking of waiting, the goats are bagging up real well.  I still have two weeks until the scheduled kidding date for Riley one of the LaMancha does.  She will be a first freshener and is  due the 21st.  She has an udder that really impreses me.  This is my first time with dairy goats but I think she is looking huge.  Her ligaments are still really strong so I don’t expect her to kid soon.   I just don’t know how much larger an udder can get on a goat.  If it keeps going, in two weeks time it will be weigh as much as her!!!  Rileys udder 2 weeks to scheduled due date

Side view of the LaMancha udder 2 weeks till due date

Side view of the LaMancha udder 2 weeks till due date

Well we got the ladies up to their new land yesterday.  I was silly and forgot to put the memory card in the camera so i didn’t get any pictures at all.  Overall it was pretty easy.  The girls loaded well and we had no problems separating them out.  The main fiasco’s of the day were having the truck slide into the drainage ditch while backing the truck and trailer up to the entrance to their old house and then up to the land getting the truck stuck in the mud and needing to fire up the tractor to pull the truck and trailer up to the pigs new plot.  Once we got everyone moved Ian and I spent and hour or so laying in the port-a-hut watching the girls and giving them scratches as they wandered past.

So far they have been up there 16 hours and counting.  All I can say is that they are mighty happy and rooting away.

Notice the foreground where the fence stops the pigs.  They have rooted a lot in 16 hours.

Notice the foreground where the fence stops the pigs. They have rooted a lot in 16 hours.

This morning when we went to check on the ladies at around 7am it was in the 40’s. When we arrived to check on them after their first night at the land, we found that Fran and Emily were not sleeping in the huts but had chosen to lay beside the large hay bale.  The weather has been considerably nicer than it has been all 2009.  We even hit the mid 60’s yesterday.  They must have wanted to appreciate the view of the night sky and the good weather before more snow and cold nights come again.

As you can see from the picture the pigs were pretty active.  In the short amount of time that they have been there they have made a definite impact on the ground having rooted quite a bit already.  That being said, even our footprint could be seen where we walked.  We figure that given their quick work, we may be moving them on in the next week or two.  We’ll have to play it by ear to determine how much is just enough and not too much.  We want them to turn it, not compact it.

We are also trying to balance out a couple of other things.  A: We don’t want the manure to be too “hot” and kill any plants.  B: We want to make sure that everything has enough time to break down enough to reduce concerns for pathogens.  From what I have found:
PART 205—NATIONAL ORGANIC PROGRAM

Section 205.203

(1) Raw animal manure, which must be composted unless it is:

(i) Applied to land used for a crop not intended for human consumption;

(ii) Incorporated into the soil not less than 120 days prior to the harvest of a product whose edible portion has direct contact with the soil surface or soil particles; or

(iii) Incorporated into the soil not less than 90 days prior to the harvest of a product whose edible portion does not have direct contact with the soil surface or soil particles;

We’ve already discussed not using this area for our root crops but rather for some of the corn and pumpkin production.  This way we can test two plots to see if there is difference between having the pigs tilling and manuring or not and how this affects the productivity of the corn and pumpkin.  Either way we will be well within the harvest timelines for the application of the fresh manure.

Also speaking of manure, we have also discussed that its nearly time to clean out the winter chicken housing.  Now that the weather is warmer they don’t need the deep litter composting down in the coop to provide the extra heat.  This will be a task for one of the upcoming weekends.

This weekend, specifically today, we are finishing up the new automatic water dispensors.   We found a supplier of all kinds of food grade tubs in Falconer NY.  We chose two large metal tubs with re-sealable lids.  These are going on a trailer that can be hauled back and forth so we can fill it up here and then take it to the pigs.  I’ll get some pictures of this as Ian progresses and we’ll post more about it sometime later.

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