Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mulefoot has landed...

When we were telling the kids about the boar that was soon to arrive, my son Jude asked me "is he going to fall in love with a girl pig?". I said that he may be a little young now, but later will probably "fall in love". He then responded "so he is a kid pig?"... and the name kind of stuck. Kid Pig is a registered Mulefoot boar. This is very rare heritage breed from the states. There have been efforts in recent years to bring awareness of this breed, in order to create a market demand that will save it from extinction. Read about how these guys placed number one in a blind taste test against 7 other heritage breeds as well as the commercial piggies: . We are so happy with this little guy, but his reception was marked with sadness, as the sow we were bringing home with him was lost during transport. Kid pig is so docile and is more like the family puppy than anything else. He follows us around the farm asking for a scratch and company. I was very pleased upon getting him out of the truck that he refused the store feed, and went right to eating frozen pasture, blackberry bushes, and rooting around for who knows what. This industrious attitude as well as his thick fur and un-cloven hooves make him an excellent fit for our climate and farm.

Friday, December 25, 2009

It's Christmas!

The kids opened their presents (99% from grandmas) then we had our eggs and toast. I ran to the farm to check on the girls. It was after 10AM and most of them were still snoozing. When they got up out of the berm that they dig to sleep in, it was steaming with heat. I guess when you give them enough space and let them be pigs, they figure out how to get by pretty good. I couldn't believe they ate all the extra alfalfa I gave them...apparently it gave them cotton mouth as they emptied the extra trough of water I gave them as well. I hung up the hoses to drain but somehow they still froze solid and I had to go back to the bucket system. Unfortunately I fenced in the hose bib yesterday thinking I was off the bucket system, I was able to fill the buckets cutting a small section of hose (that remained unfrozen). When carrying the water I managed to fill up the trough as well as my boot for a chilly little wake up :) . We noticed a while back three of the girls came in a little skinny - the supplier thought they were at the bottom of the pecking order and weren't allowed by the other sows to eat as much. When I saw that the skinny girls were chasing around some of the others who were more stout, I realized that they aren't at the bottom of the pack, so was suspecting worms were making them skinny. Since they have been at crying rock I have been pouring the feed the length of their receiving pen. This leaves no way for them to fight, and everyone gets a fair share. Well today I notices the skinniest one seemed to thicken up a little, you no longer see those bony ribs. Maybe it was feed after all. Regardless all of them should be doing very well with ample feed and the natural wormer that will be starting soon. On the drive home down river road, I could see all of Mt Rainier clearly in my rear view, and the Olympics in the foreground -absolutely beautiful. Got home in time for lunch and building Lego Star Wars sets. Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Day 11 Farming: Christmas Eve Thursday 12.24.2009

Drove around looking for a feed store open on Christmas eve. Settled on Del's. Picked up enough supplies to get us through the Holiday week including new fencing pliers. This time of year the valley is often very foggy in the morning. As I pulled into the farm the fog lifted for a beautiful sunny morning while I fed and watered the girls, and finished the fencing around kid pig's receiving corral. Gave the girls an extra half bale of alfalfa so they could have their own little Christmas party. I am having a real difficult time telling who is the dominant sow because they all are so bossy. I called it a day early to get ready for having the family over for the holiday.

Day 10 Farming: Wednesday 12.23.2009

Today farming meant me, Teresa, and the kids laying in a truck bed full of hay, having lunch together while the sun peaked out for a moment. Then after that agrarian dream was over Teresa and I hung 15o feet of fencing. Watering today with a hose was soooo much nicer than the bucket system, plus the sows really like to drink from the hose. This is how one of the girls got the name Slurpee. We have not named them all yet but we are getting there. Besides Slurpee, there is Silly, Gerbil, Hamster, Sweetie Pie, Tiger Pig, and Kid Pig. I can't find my fencing pliers for the life of me. Chances are a 6 year old was using them to harvest blackberry bushes for Tiger Pig, and they are laying in the middle of a field only to become archaeological fodder for some future generation. I tried to cut my fence with tin snips, I am too much of a sissy. Fence Pliers where are you? Oh - and Green Beast woke up from her hibernation today. My cousin Donny kindly pointed out the reserve fuel tank selector, after which she fired right up. I am relieved and majorly blushing all in one little switch. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.

Day 9 Farming: Tuesday 12.22.2009

Yesterday I picked up a livestock rack for the truck. This is in anticipation of bring home the Mule foot hogs we purchased. Thankfully the Green Beast made it to Maple Valley and back without trouble. And now with a Red stock rack on the back, the Green Beast is even beastlier. Today was an ice on the windshield morning. I headed out to the farm early and started fabricating a ramp to cross from a trailer to the livestock rack. The barn owl was there again to greet me (scare the crap out of me). The former owner of the farm came by and gave an update on the well (still not going to be working for a while), and was able to answer some of the mysteries of the property that I had recently run into. Finished the ramp just in time to hop on the road to Bellevue to intercept the Mule foot pair. Everything was great until... going down hwy 167 the Green Beast decided to go into hibernation. uuuuhg. pulled over to the side of the road and fiddled about trying to restart her until the battery was about dead. Called the tow truck, and broke the news to the Mule foot folks. They agreed to keep them on their farm until I get transport arranged. I hitched a ride with the tow truck back to the farm and while waiting for Teresa and the kids to come rescue me - I decided to clear out the brush away from the shed where the Mule foots will stay... and low and behold under some brush was a fully functional hose bib right there in the shed! No more lugging 5 gallon buckets of water for this clown!

Day 8 Farming: Monday 12.21.2009

This is officially week two of the farm! Started the day off on the computer, getting contacts for alfalfa, organic feeds, vets, etc. Got to the farm kind of late, around 9:50AM - found that the girls like to sleep in on their Christmas vacation. Fed and watered and then on the road for errands. Somewhere along the line I went to sleep a city boy and woke up a shaggy haired man who enjoys window shopping for galvanized feed bins. I am sure there is a name for this condition - but don't tell me, I am enjoying it too much. Found allot of resources in Sumner - Feed Store, Bank, Hardware etc... This place is actually pretty centralized and you don't have to go too far out of town for anything really, and that is a good thing. I realized something today - There is a hardware store with an espresso stand in front of it, and there is a hardware store with a freewill pot of coffee in the back. Guess which one has a selection more applicable to the local and better customer service? You guessed it - the coffee pot store. I believe this also applies to banks.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Day 7 Farming: Sunday 12.20.2009

Took it easy today. After Church, we and some friends headed out to the farm. Fed and watered the girls, mended some fence, re-reinforced the gate, and added some more ties to the fence posts. Closed up shop around 4PM. It's fun having the rug rats there swinging on gates and what not.

Day 6 Farming: Saturday 12.19.2009

Picked up 60 fence posts before meeting some friends out at the farm. Bought a pitchfork as well and am feeling pretty agricultural about it. Tossed some alfalfa to the girls just to make it official. Reinforced the gate with some latches salvaged on farm. The girls were leaning up against it and broke the latches I bought at the farm store. The girls think they are more petite than they really are and I just don't have the heart to tell them. The highlight of the day was sitting on a bail of alfalfa for a coffee break watching the rain and listening to the sound on the metal roof of the barn. After some other chores I was getting ready to call it a day around dinner time when an emergency erupted. One of the girls decided to scratch her rump on the front fence to take care of a hard to reach itch, well she must have made it look good because all 13 of her friends came rushing over to scratch their rumps on the fence as well, I had about 4000lbs of pork pressing on my poor little fence, and I could see it bulging and crying out for mercy! I quickly grabbed my post driver and a the posts I was going to run fence with, and started pounding in posts like mad. Seems I caught it in time, the fence remains, and itches are relieved. Sheesh.

Day 5 Farming: Friday 12.18.2009

Showed up a little later today, and found the girls still sleeping in at 9AM. One was still keeping watch, but it was a different one this time. To reward her team spirit, I handed her a hearty bag of kitchen scraps. The rest did not catch on until they heard me open a bag of feed. Carried 20 gallons of water from the house to the trough, and then ran home to meet the contractor who is bidding on repairing our broken pipe damaged apartment. Soon after Me and Jason headed up to Redmond to retrieve the Crying Rock flagship, known as "The Green Beast". It is a 1979 f150 spangled in not one but two shades of green! The truck even made it all the way home, and it felt good to drive. Picked up Teresa and the Kids and took a night visit to the Farm. I left the lights on for everyone to get a good look at the pigs, and apparently we were having such a good time that we looked long enough to drain the battery. The neighbors gave us a jump, and all the way home, dad got to explain how car batteries die, with Jude reassuring me that he would remind me never to leave the lights on. We got home just in time to finish the Christmas story in Luke, and pas out. I gazed out the window at "green beast" and felt relieved that I would never have to load to rolls of Field fence into the trunk of my car again. Rest in peace little blue beast, long live Green Beast.

Day 4 Farming: Thursday 12.17.2009

Started Early (6AM), wanted to catch the girls early in the morning and make sure everything was all right. To my surprise, they did not share my concern and chose to sleep in. They dug their shallow berms and snuggled up together in groups of three and four. The one sow I suspect to be a little older was standing guard while the others dreamed of endless fields of clover. To reward her for her steadfast diligence I handed her a pumpkin that she quickly crunched like an apple. At the sound, I saw a sleeping pig ear stand up at attention and soon the rest of the girls clumsily and sleepily jumped up letting me know that they too would like a pumpkin. I poured the rest of the squash along out, and they went nuts. Per Teresa's instructions, I informed the girls that the pumpkins are from "Mama". I figured out a system where I poured the feed all along the length of the fence. This way there is a ton of room and none of the girls can boss any others away from their fair share. By 10AM it was time to head up to Redmond to look at a truck. I had a feeling this was the one, it had an extended cab to squeeze kids and pigs and equipment into. Talked the seller down to 800$ which was all of my Microsoft stock plus 100$, so I am no longer a Microsoft hundredair. Gave cash for the title and will pick up the truck tomorrow after I convince someone to pool up there and drive my car back.

Day 3 Farming: Wednesday 12.16.2009

I got up and headed over to the farm at 4am today to attempt to hang this fence before these hogs roll in from Lewis county. I really wanted to see the sunrise, and was watching out pretty close. Turns out I was watching the city slowly turn on its lights while the sun was rising on the hill in back of me. The old barn owl greeted me again today (i.e. scared the crap out of me). It started raining pretty hard, but it seems to be warm enough. Hung 300ft of field fencing around the perimeter of the loafing shed and a small outside space. Gosh a roll of that stuff must weigh 200lbs! I felt pretty beat up, but it was a satisfying feeling to get it done just before the girls arrived. I ran to the feed store and got some feed and a water trough to hold us over. I found an old steel gate in some brambles just behind the shed, I dug it out and fixed it to the shed, it fit perfect! Not a moment later the truck showed up with the sows. It was an intimidating sound, I thought it may actually be a trailer full of idling Harley Davidsons, but the driver assured me they were my pigs. He backed it up to the shed, and I watched 14 mammoth chubbos queue up, pausing at the one foot drop as if they were looking off the high dive before spewing out into the shed. Immediately they commenced rooting and foraging finding all kinds of snacks in the ground that I didn't even know were there. The bunch is much more diverse than I remembered. Two of the girls are a little skinny, gonna have to address that. Discovered that there is no electric to the well. Good thing it is a friggin monsoon, I just stuck buckets under the downspout and fed the girls rainwater.

Day 2 Farming: Tuesday 12.15.2009

Today farming means sitting in front of a Lowe's eating a tuna sandwich. I am checking on field fence prices while waiting for a craigslister to meet me to see a flat bed that could potentially be the Crying Rock flagship. Come 5pm I am loading two rolls of fence into the coupe, that flatbed was like driving a submarine down the road. Now seeing my little car pop a wheelie with this fence in the back, makes me wonder if I should have got the flatbed anyway. Well no regrets, we got 14 sows coming early tomorrow, and I got to get this fence up before then.

Day 1 Farming: Monday 12.14.2009

We purchased 14 sows with agreement to have delivered by a certain date, due to negotiations and delays with the property I have had to bump that date for several weeks now. The seller was getting frustrated and I was starting to wonder if I was going to loose the pigs and the $, and have to start over before I start...But today I we got the green light to start on the property. As soon as the title company opened up I ran over and picked up the keys to the property.
As soon as I got there I walked the fence line, and viewed the pastures. Grass appears to be mostly rye grass and is 70-80% green. Never noticed before but there is a pretty healthy dandelion population. This is good because the taproot goes down to the clay layer pulling up subsurface minerals that the grass does not, and the pigs will root them up for lunch all day. The trees on the hillside of the property dropped their fall leaves on a path about 25 ft wide down the backside of the property (creating another mineral belt). Snapped some pictures of field and creek, and paced off some future fence lines. I decided that the loafing shed is the proper place to receive the hogs before putting them out on pasture. I am glad for the delays in retrospect, since things are starting to thaw out now, it will be easier to receive the hogs. This place is gorgeous - what a miracle!