Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gee, but it's been a very long time since I've posted anything here. So much has happened, it's hard to remember it all or to know where to start.

My eye has healed almost completely, so no worries there. I was lucky.

The weather has turned nicer, and the pigs are outside now in the piggie palace. They LOVE being outside, and immediately started eating grass. The Palace is constructed with hog panels as walls, with a hot wire along the perimeter inside, to train them to electric so that they can be put out onto pastures eventually with just electric wires holding them in their temporary paddocks. That electric wire is HOT. Just ask my sister.

Got the barn cleaned out. There is a long, deep channel of missing concrete in the floor, that I want to try and get filled with concrete again before I put anything else in the barn. I had it pretty well cleaned out, but of course the chickens got into the barn and scratched up all the straw I had piled neatly, and had kicked it all mostly right into the crack again. One of our hens, Billie, is setting on a clutch of eggs. This is the first batch of eggs we've tried to hatch, so we don't know how things will come out, regarding the fertility of the roosters, or the mothering ability of Billie, etc. I sure do hope it works, there is something so sweet and cute about seeing a newly hatched clutch of fluffy peeps scurrying around a clucking mama, and seeing all the neat color combinations you get in a mixed flock like ours.

We went to an auction and I picked up an older hog feeder for a good price. It needs some work, but I think it's worth it because new ones are very hard to find unless you are willing to pay crazy too much money for them.

Now that the fence is finished and the alfalfa is growing, it sure is tempting to start cow shopping. I still need a few other pieces of equipment for cows, like a bale feeder, a water tank, wagon, etc., but I've been keeping my eye out for them.

We are still planning on building a hoop barn this year, but we may have had a change of mind as to where exactly to place it. Still mulling over the options. I did talk to a neighbor who has a quarry and he gave us a nice quote on the crushed limerock we'll need for the base. He also dropped off a load of the stuff for Karen to use in her perennial garden for the pathways. Our farmhand Jason has really been invaluable in helping us with projects like these. He did nearly all the work of digging out the base of the paths and then moving all the screenings into the garden. Last year we planted asparagus and rhubarb, herbs, strawberries and lots of pretty flowers in this garden, and it is really starting to come in nicely.

We planted a redbud and a magnolia tree in the front yard, a fig tree next to the potting shed, a climibng rose and a clematis next to the trellis at the perennial garden...Karen also planted a currant bush and lots of other stuff; I dont even know where she put them all!

Last weekend was spent in Chicago for some friends of Karens' wedding. Heather and Jay are really nice folks, and they have purchased pork from us in the past. They hired a very cool caterer for their reception dinner, and asked him to feature our pork! Karen made a special delivery to Chicago with 4 whole shoulders (that is about 88 lbs. of pork) so he could do his magic with them. The pork was lovely, and it sure felt good to have our pork appreciated like that. I felt a very personal attachment to this pork, since this was from our Berks, and I had literally spent hours with these pigs taking care of them and rubbing and petting them and making sure they had everything they needed. It mattered a lot to me that this was a fitting tribute to their quality.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Don't worry Mom, I can still see.

Last evening we were getting ready for a nice weekend evening outside. I was preparing the bonfire area for a nice evening fire, and was about to get the coals going for a barbecue of home grown chicken on the grill.

One of the dried up old branches I wanted to put on the fire pile was too long, so I whacked it against a stump to break it up. Honestly, since Kate was standing just behind me, I actually said "Watch your eyes" and then gave her (the branch, not Kate)a good whack. In that same instant I got belted right in the eye - HARD by a chunk of stick that shot right back at me. There was a long weird moment of silence as I bent over, holding my eye in my hand. Kate didn't ask if I was okay, cuz she was still standing there with her eyes squeezed shut!!

Blood was coming out, it felt like there might be a piece of wood in there, so I decided it was best to go to the emergency room. It was a very reluctant decision as I knew it would ruin our fun evening plans, and I didn't want to do that. Oh, well.
Long story short, I got it checked out and luckily I just suffered a very bad scratch (or many, actually) on my eyeball. It actually looks worse today than in that picture because it has swollen shut. It hurts a lot, but I'll live. I was told the eye heals quicker than any other part of the body.
Glad I have insurance.

Post One Hundred!

Sunny, Warm, 68 degrees
Woo hoo, a hundred posts!
The weather has turned nicer with milder temps and less wind..... Although, when my bff Kate arrived for a weekend visit, she brought snow with her as she always does. Last time, she made it snow in May, and once, she made it snow in September. Since she has moved to California, she always says she misses snow and hopes to see some when she is back visiting, And then it snows. I have to find a way to stop her from this madness.
The big project this weekend with an extra set of hands on deck was to get the hog hut flipped back over on it's base. After much contemplation, ideas involving pulleys, levers, coolers, hay bales and support posts were all bandied about. In the end, my idea to just lift and flip it with the tractor loader is what we went with, and it worked pretty well, considering all the things that could have gone wrong.

It survived it's flip and roll pretty well, actually. I built it to withstand hogs rubbing and chewing on it so I overbuilt it and used braces, screws and glue all over the place. I do need to replace th big 2X6 that goes across the front, and I'll need to either bend those brackets back or replace them. A few other patches here and there, and it'll be ready for hogs again!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

She huffed, puffed, and blew my house over

Sunny, windy, 56

Yesterday as mentioned, my sister Connie came out and helped with the wood. My sis and I have spent many many hours cutting wood ever since we were girls. We spent a good portion of our summers helping our dad and sometimes our brother cut wood for the fireplace. Our summer cottage had no heat, and no electricity until I was 7. We got "running water" inside when my grandpa installed a pitcher-pump on the kitchen sink when I was a kid. This was our father's house when he was a boy. His mother, our grandmother, was born in a logging camp. We still have the miniature cant hook the blacksmith made her as a gift. It is a precious momento. Cutting wood is simply part of our heritage.

Yesterday I was out in the field running the chainsaw, cutting up more of the wood that had to come down for the fence. Connie walked up, pulled her gloves on, and started grabbing branches and tossing them in the back of the truck. We immediately fell into a familiar rhythm, not needing to talk or even really look at eachother, concentrating on the work at hand and knowing what the other would do before she did it.

When the truck was full, I cut off the saw and we drove over to unload at the huge brush pile. The wind was so high, all we had to do was lift the biggest branches straight up into the air, and the wind would loft them onto the top of the pile. We remarked on how high the wind gusts were, must have been some 50-60 mph. While we were there, I heard a scratchy, metallic noise, which caught my attention. It sounded out of place. I looked around, and much to my horror, I saw my great big pig hut lying upside down on top of my brand new fence!! The screechy noise was the metal roof scratching against the fence wire as it rocked and pitched in the wind. No Way!

It had flipped up and over, right onto the one day old fence! The posts held fast, but the weight of the hut crushed down the woven wire.
I brought up the tractor and tried lifting it by the 2X6 cross brace. Once lifted, I backed up hoping to drag the house off the wire. Unkown to me, the wire was actually hooked around a screw in the metal roof. As I pulled back, the fence held onto the house, and the result was a snapping sound as my main cross member broke in half. Sigh. This is what it looked like.

After about an hour or more of Connie and I crawling under the house and trying to remove two sheet metal screws in a 6 inch space, encased in very tight wire squares while having dirt constantly blown into our eyes, we got the screws out, and we were actually able to simply lift the house up and slide it off using spare fence posts as rollers under it. There it sits right now. It's still too windy to even attempt to right it. Besides that, I am not at all sure how to get her back up again without destroying it. All I can do is come up with a plan, and hope for the best.

Today I straightened and re-attached that section of fence as best as I could. I think it will do to hold pigs and cows in. Went around the perimeter of the pasture and picked up some old junk in one corner. Put up two bluebird houses, cleaned the barn, changed the flat tire on the trailer, mounted the hitch wiring harness on the truck, took the tractor chains up to the barn mow and cleaned up the garage, and took Dottie for a walk up to the top of the hill. It was a beautiful spring day! We had a nice showwer all night last night, and the grass suddenly turned bright green over night. It really glowed against the bright blue sky.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Partly sunny, warm, 79 degrees
The weather has been beautiful yesterday and today. Very warm, though breezy. Yesterday while the guys continued working on the fence, which is making great progress, Karen and I rented a rototiller and tilled the garden. Their is a cold front coming, and it's supposed to rain tonight or tomorrow, so we're hoping to get the peas and beans and onion sets in the ground before that comes.

I have been running back and forth a lot between here and Janesville & Stoughton getting supplies for the fence work. This morning I left early and made what I hope to be my last run for this project! Most of the wire has been stretched and stapled at this point. Just a few more lines of that to run, then put on the gates, and it's done. Well, their work is done, I still need to run a strand of barb wire at the bottom all the way around, otherwise pigs will simply dig under the fence. I don't know how well received the news that we are going to be putting pigs out there is by the neighbors. This is an area where even most dairies have gone to confinement for the cattle in the barns. We will be the only pastured hog raisers in our area that I am aware of.

Haven't had as much opportunity to cut up the wood in the pasture as I had planned, but I am about to get to that after I finish writing this. My sis is coming out for the day to help around the place.

Yesterday I noticed a flat on the trailer, need to deal with that one of these days before I really need it. But it reminded me of how far we've come in the last year. Whenever I have needed to haul stuff, and that has been plenty! lately, I am able to jump in my truck, and back her right up to the trailer or the stock trailer and get it done. A year ago, we didn't have a truck, or a trailer, and it made these little trips and projects much, much more difficult if not impossible. It sure is nice to have stuff. Like the ramps we got to unload the wood stove out of the back of the pickup. They were indispensible in loading and unloading the rototiller as well. Yep, it's good to have stuff.

This warm weather is welcome by the baby pigs as much as by us. I've been able to turn their heat lamp off, and they are really growing! They are really good at eating hay - here is a picture of one little guy half buried in a pile of it, looking for oats, wheat heads, and whatever else it is a pig can find to munch on.