The reality of farm life: it ain’t all sunshine and roses

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that we are still relatively new at this farming/homesteading thing-only a couple of years.  Most of the time, we are blessed with happy and healthy animals.  But, as with everything else in life, it’s not always that way.

Enter in Wilbur, one of our barrows.  Wilbur was one of the piglets we brought home late last year and raised to full weight.  He was a happy and healthy pig…until he wasn’t.  When we fed the animals on Sunday morning, he wouldn’t get up to eat.  By the time we came home from church on Sunday, he seemed worse and died within minutes of us arriving home.  Maybe he was waiting until we got there to say bye?  Yeah, I’m not quite that sentimental, but it did all happen really fast.  My immediate fear was the PEDv going around, but he didn’t display any clinical symptoms..and frankly, the way we farm and the few people who are invited onto our land mean that we have pretty strict biosecurity procedures naturally.  Upon further research, I found that it’s not terribly uncommon for pigs to die without obvious physical symptoms and the only way to confirm cause of death is with an autopsy.  Seems a little too CSI for us, but I’m sure that makes perfect sense to a “monoculture” farmer with thousands of pigs to protect.  We immediately moved him from their yard and took him a good distance away from all livestock for disposal.  Some have asked why we didn’t just butcher him and sell/eat the meat.  There are so many reasons why we wouldn’t do that.  One is that for a pig to be butchered commercially (ya know-not by your uncle Fred behind the garage), the butcher or his/her agent has to witness the killing.  Two is because we didn’t know or even suspect what killed him, we did not feel good about selling (or even giving) that meat to anyone.  We may not know everything there is to know about raising pigs, but we know our own values and we will never sell meat we wouldn’t feed to our own Blueberry girl, so with his death, it’s a total loss.

As to the future, our remaining gilts/barrows seem to be doing just fine.  They do not love the high heat, but do love the baths I’m giving them every day.  We have made some tentative plans around what we want our future to be with raising pigs and I think it’s the right decision.  We have been thoroughly (and I mean thoroughly!!!) enjoying the hand cured/smoked bacon, amazing chops, delicious steaks, and incredible sausage from these Berkshire piggies, and for that, we are grateful.  If it’s up to us, we will never, ever go back to what we now recognize as inferior quality pork from the local mega mart.

Until next time, happy homesteading Blueberry Acres Fans!

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Trying to work on a little garden planning….

I promise this is not an advertisement for Burpee...

I promise this is not an advertisement for Burpee…

 

We’re doing some garden planning here on Blueberry Acres Farm.  We have used Seed Savers many times in the past for our seed needs (and they have some great varieties) but for some reason, we haven’t yet ordered any from them this year.  I think it’s been the craziness of the last couple of months-we’re just a bit behind with our garden planning.  So, we’re just rolling for now with these organic seeds hoping that at least we will get our soil started.  We have been composting in preparation for getting our garden beds ready.  We’re trying to keep it as organic as possible.  To that end, I had read recently about a farmer/gardener that was using a small tunnel and wrapping it in tulle (that was fun trying to explain tulle to Sheldon) to keep pests out.  Seems like a pain, but after losing many crops to the dreaded squash bug, I’m open to anything that doesn’t involve me buying deet by the truckload-yuck!  Anyone ever experiment with this method?

We have decided to do 4-6 large/raised garden beds (mostly because we’re finding rock is a major component of the soil here) with a variety of plants.  While I don’t have all of the beds planned out, I would like to take advantage of companion planting as much as possible.  I would like to have a Three Sisters garden bed and I’m considering focusing on lasagna style gardening.

I’m also enjoying the geeky appeal of Mother Earth News’ Garden Planner.  It has handy tips, planting schedules as well as companion planting information.  However, if I really want to show my garden geekiness, I would show you my multi-tabbed Excel spreadsheet with it’s myriad of garden plans, but we don’t know each other that well yet!

Happy planting!