"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

State of the Farm: Midwinter

Here's a long overdue update on the state of farm, after a long and delightful diversion into the wonders of Mexico, which I hope y'all enjoyed as much as I did. Well, you know, without actually being there.

The house: Not too bad. Everything is about the same as we left it, which is to say, in medium-poor repair and not as clean as I would like, but habitable. I did notice, upon entering the house for the first time in 3 weeks, the smell of mildew. I'm pretty sure the house always smells slightly of mildew during the winter months - and I've already ceased to notice it - but it was unpleasant that the first thing I noticed about getting home was that it smelled funky.

As I believe I may have mentioned (The Demon of Bad Smell (the Plumber as Hero)) we live in a sixty year old, owner built farmhouse in the wettest, windiest part of a wet, windy state. The house has issues - and will, unless and until it is razed to the ground. Faint unpleasant smells are par for the course in an old farmhouse on a working farm. Some people wouldn't live in an old farmhouse, and some people don't mind. I am the latter kind of people.

The Livestock: Once again, not too bad. The ponies are fine, shaggy in their winter coats and muddy about the ankles, but well fed and healthy. They were clearly happy to see me, running up the fence and putting their heads over to be scratched. The field shelter is in serious need of mucking out, but that's to be expected. The hard part is that there is so much mud right now that I can't get a wheelbarrow out there. I'll have to pitch poop into a pile to be picked up later.

The goats are also well- presumably all pregnant. There was a bit of drama in getting them bred this year (New To Farm Life: Unwelcome Drama in the Goat Breeding Business), and one of the girls was at my sister's house while we were gone getting bred to her Angora buck. My girl - Polly - is a Nubian, but there wasn't a Nubian buck available when I needed one, and I wanted her bred before I left. The kids will be designated as meat - unless someone wants them as pets, they are sure to be adorable - and I will still get to see what kind of mother Polly will be. I brought Polly home last night.

Edith, my Nubian/Boer cross, is limping a bit and I think she has hoof rot. Just as with mildew in the house, the climate around here ensures that all the goats will suffer a spot of hoof rot here and there in the wet season, no matter how carefully one trims. But usually it doesn't proceed as far as limping. I need to get her on the stand in the next couple of days and take a look.

Pigs. Ah, pigs. How I loathe pigs. I think we will be done with pigs after this pair, at least until we totally revamp the pig-corral situation. The two pigs seem to be exactly the same size as when we left. These girls have been slow growing, and I don't know why. Maybe it's the breed, I haven't raised these pigs before. They are a cross between a Large Black Hog and a Tamworth Sow. My book says these breeds are known for hardiness and foraging ability, but it doesn't say anything about weight gain. We have fenced them into a fairly large corral for the winter to keep them off the pasture. They have a space in the barn as well as an area approximately 30 x 20 to exercise in. That outside area is a knee-deep stew of cold mud. It's horrible. I am having a terrible time figuring out a way to keep their food and water out of the mud. Any container I put in there they flip over and drag away from the fence, even when I have securely tied it in three places. Even if they can't flip it, they put their feet in and fill up any container with mud. It is so gross I am in a constant state of deep disgust whenever I am out there. Ugh.

Chickens. The chickens are laying well, as far as I can tell. There were two nests up in the hayloft when we got back, each with some twenty eggs in it. Let's see... I have a dozen laying hens and we were gone for 18 days... that's approximately two eggs a day from a dozen hens, or 14 eggs a week, or 2 eggs per week per hen. Not bad for the absolute shortest days of the year. I don't, obviously, have a lamp out there. There is one hen who seems to have hurt her leg, but she is still getting around well enough that I can't catch her, so...

The Orchard: Late in the fall, I planted two hazelnut bushes that a friend gave me. They are both dead, apparently eaten by deer. Everything else looks fine. I want to plant two more apple trees in the spring. We lost three out of the four apples I planted two years ago - two to goats and one to the mower. This time I will buy the largest, well-grown trees I can find instead of mail-order two-foot high sticks.

All in all, I am pleased with the state of the place. As always, there is a gigantic heap of work to do. I love my children, but sometimes I think I would love them more if they were all strapping teenage boys with an excess of muscles and energy.


Anonymous said...

Hazels resprout very well- maybe you'll get a nice surprise come spring!

Rowan said...

You'll have one strapping teenage boy with an excess of muscles and energy soon. You know my boyfriend will just trip over himself to help you in any way possible.