Thursday, October 23, 2008

Did the Swedes consider leaves?

The deep bedding system that gives pigs cozy warm bedding, lots of fun stuff to root in, composts to provide heat and later feed the garden, and keeps em healthy and not so stinky in their winter homes- involves DEEP straw. It's been hard to find straw.
Straw and hay prices are crazy high for lots of reasons, not the least of which is the flooding in our area. We got a truckload a month or so ago, but haven't been able to find more. Keep looking, but no luck. So when we forged ahead and got our pigs, Red had a brilliant idea. It's autumn, and what better use for the leaves! She's been picking up the bags from Madison neighborhoods and they've all been clean and dry so far. We're stashing them in the hay mow along with the remaining straw. They think it's plenty fun. And it's pretty ;)

They have gotten over any of their initial shock at relocating and are really loving our attention. I think they like the scratches as much as the root vegetables and apple treats.

Red:> Heh heh. Yup, I am loading up on as much/many leaves as possible while they are still a commodity. Technically, they are carbonaceous meterial, and any and all carbon materials help in absorbing semi -solid and liquid wastes and turning them into beautiful compost eventually.

The deep bedding system accomplishes several things that we feel help bring pur piggies back to a normal balance: it absorbs their wastes, as mentioned above. It provides a softer, warmer environment to walk in, play in, snuggle up in. They like it. And it provides an outlet for their curiosity, playfulness, and general need for rooting and scavenging. Just like us, when a pig is mentally happy, cheerfully exploring and discovering new tasty things in it's environment, it is a more balanced, happy pig, and it is a more contended, healthier pig.

I love spending time with my animals. Karen has to come fetch me from the barn at night, cuz I'm usually just standing in there with them, hanging out, watching, giving ear scratches, listening, smiling, sniffing, feeding, talking to my pigs. Looking at them critically, playfully, happily. I just can't believe how lucky I am to have pigs again. Large livestock. The kind I can offer to other people to feed their families with. I can love them, and handle them right, and then I can participate in the sacro-sanct tradition of sending them to market. My hope is that old timers who might happen to get a good look at them along the way might say something flattering like "Nothing wrong with them". Then I know I did good. I did it right.

As for the title - Karen knows I've got Swedish blood in me. And my ancestors loved nothing more than getting by on less. Making something out of nothing. Hence the leaves. I think my grandpa would have been proud. Or, perhaps, he would have simply thought "Of course." So I go out and pick up more leaves.
Tomorrow we will get them trained to the fencing so we can get them out on pasture! I (Karen) can't wait to see them run about. At the same time, a pig yawning is just the cutest thing ever. I have recently done all this lecturing and presenting on oxytocin, the 'love hormone'. I think we ooze a little oxy over these pigs. We're all acting a little ridiculous. I call Red during the day to tell her pig stories. Can you really take us seriously as farmers?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ok- so now we're really farming

Last night 6 porcine wonders arrived at Prairie Fire Farm. I had been in Chicago, celebrating Jeanette & Tanya as they get ready for a new baby this winter, and was able to come home a couple of hours after the pigs. I guess one escaped during the loading in and our new neighbor Larry arrived just in time to help. Birkleigh was excited to jump right in with the excited pigs and perhaps contributed a bit to the chaos. Red worked so hard to get the barn ready for the deep bedding system that will keep them warm this winter and on Saturday we went to her old farm to salvage some gates and supplies (thank you Kathy). Thanks to another neighbor, Curt, who lent us his pickup and flat bed trailer.... and our new friend Julia who thought to call us when she heard someone was looking to sell some feeders.... and my friends in Chicago planning to find room in their freezers for the end result. The arrival of the hogs is exactly what I hope farming to be. A connection to community. I could not be feeling more grateful as I have this last week. Can't wait to get to know these piggies!