Summer growth

Piglets, chicks, flowers – all growing like crazy.  I may not be saying much on the blog, but there is stuff happening here.

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An hour after they arrived, 6 July. Abut 6 weeks old.

The piglets arrived two weeks ago, they’re around 8 weeks now. Their mama is a Large Black, called Olivia and the boar is a Berkshire.  They are sturdy, energetic little things, growing fast.  They also move as a unit, like a well trained platoon. It’s easy to think of them as the Three Musketeers, except that being pigs, they’re all over the concept of “all for one” and not at all interested in the more altruistic ideal of “one for all”.

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3 Musketeers, aged 8 weeks.

While they respect electric fence to a point, it apparently has to be an electric fence worthy of their respect, and ours was not up to snuff when they came.  To be fair they came a week earlier than expected, and we had to really scramble to get the fence set up in time, but I was aware that there wasn’t much of a charge on the line, and vowed to troubleshoot it at the earliest opportunity.  I was not prepared for their robustness or their confidence.  The pigs we’ve had the previous two years were far more timid in their early days.  I think this trio has the advantage that they were born on a farm very near here, and they are siblings, so that they have always done everything together, and have moreover been doing that in a wooded acreage with a pond at one end, where, as I learned later, they also considered the electric fence to be more of a guideline than an actual rule.

So long story longer, they got out on Friday, five days after we got them.  I was at work when I got the call:  “The pigs got out”.  Fortunately this isn’t our first experience with pigs, and even more fortunately, pigs are highly food motivated.  Turns out their bid for freedom was more to do with the fact that one of the kids had opened the gate to come in with dinner, and the pigs simply pushed through in their eagerness to ambush her.  We have a wire across the gate entrance to discourage this kind of behaviour, so that we humans can deliver dinner without becoming part of it, and the piglets, being quite small, and the fence not giving much charge, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that this particular scenario would happen.  In normal circumstances, I’d have been home in an hour, and able to roll up my sleeves and start troubleshooting the fence but that night I was meant to be in town after work to meet hubby to sign some papers with him (new car).  I whipped home from work, sussed the situation with the pigs, and decided I’d go to town to sign the papers quickly then come home again (quick is relative – that would have been about 90 minutes minimum), rather than staying in town to have dinner with hubby as originally planned.  While we were in our meeting, the girls texted to say “pigs are safe in fort knocks, stay for dinner”. They’re French Immersion kids, hence the creative English spelling, but the gist of it was clear from the picture they attached.  The pigs were indeed contained in a version of Fort Knox – with boards at pig height all the way around their paddock, so that they couldn’t push through the hog wire fence that is behind the electric most of the way around. We had dinner.

That weekend, we did some troubleshooting and ended up sinking a second grounding rod (earthing rod for those in the Antipodes), bought a new extension cord, and ultimately have also recently purchased a new energizer – I gasped slightly at the price, but it’s a Sta-fix, which have to be special ordered here, as we don’t have a dealer.  The feed store had ordered it for someone who changed their mind, and it was just sitting there the day I went in to get a new one.  It seems like it was meant to be for me, and though it’s more powerful than I really need right now, there are plans to take electric fence out to the fields for chickens and sheep, and this charger is good enough for that.  Sta-fix is a brand out of NZ, who are the world leaders in electric fence.   According to the instructions that come with it, it will keep in pigs, sheep, cattle, goats, bulls and kangaroos. Can’t wait to get the kangaroos.

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Mama Hen and family, 3 days old

Mama Hen hatched nine chicks from a clutch of 12 eggs a month ago, and she’s still got all nine, so we’re very impressed.  We’re not quite sure if it’s 4 pullets and 5 roosters, or 3 and 6, but we’ll find out eventually.  The eggs were from different hens, hence the different colours of chicks.  At this point we’re working on integrating Mama and the brood with the rest of the flock – the roosters are proving pretty contemptuous of the chicks and pretty vicious towards Mama, so I’m trying to do it gradually.  Mama herself however is keen to get back into the hen house, so I hope things smooth out soon.

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Mama hen and family, 6 weeks old

On the topic of chicks, we have 140 broiler chicks coming in a few weeks, and hopefully one good thing about this sweltering heat wave we’re in will be that brooding them will be a snap, though I’ll need it to cool off a couple of weeks later when they go out on pasture.

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The flower bed is the work of our younger daughter, who has also been my right hand while I’ve been at work managing water for all the critters in the heat, and feeding pigs on the evenings that I work.  The trellis has been there for years, legacy from an old clematis that never did well on it, and has been gone for eons.  She built and filled the bed,raised all the flowers from seed and transplanted them – et, voila!  My grandmother and my father’s sister both had that sort of knack – making it look so easy, and having things come up so lushly.  That’s sweet peas in the far back, zinnias, cosmos and nasturtiums, with some calendula she rescued from the veg garden in the box to one side.  She’s got her sights set on developing a perennial bed next year.  My veg garden also looks quite lush right now, but not from my efforts – it’s mostly weeds.  There are veggies in there and we’ve done quite well with some things – quite a lot of basil for a couple of batches of pesto for example.

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Annual family pesto assembly line, we made 7 batches in the end.

Tomatoes and potatoes, cukes and pumpkins also look pretty good.  But my good intentions to do succession planting came to nothing and unless I get cracking right now to get some more seeds in, I won’t have much of a fall garden.  But it’s so darn hot out these days, that I just wilt out there, so about the only garden job I really get done on a regular basis involves standing in the garden at dusk with the hose, thinking about nothing in particular while I soak everything, including weeds, and if it’s been really hot, even myself.

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cooling off

You can’t take the country out of the kid…

Our eldest is close to the end of a month long trip in China, having the time of her life, exploring and experiencing a different culture.  Though she has enjoyed the classic Chinese icons like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace, her most effusive writing has been about more rural experiences.  Since this is in theory a farm blog, I thought I’d include excerpts from two emails.  The first one is about her stay in a ger in Mongolia, the second is about her stay in a small town called Hongkeng, where they were given a room in a toulu (one for tourists, with toilets – not always a given in China).  She sent pictures of the time in Mongolia ( didn’t include every picture), but I haven’t received any from Hongkeng; however Google images gives one an idea of what she’s seeing – I recommend dong a search for Hongkeng village and clicking “images”.  I’ve included her quotes verbatim, so please excuse spelling – she’s typing on her phone.


Some pics i took while waiting for the sun to rise so we could start herding the sheep etc. So they might be kinda blurry cause there was no light and i had numb fingers since it was super cold.  Some more pics of The home we stayed at, some of the herd we managed to round up by ourselves  (a bit pathetic as we found out later, compared to the roughly 300 sheep that the 1 local guy on his scooter rounded up in the same amount of time by himself that it took 7 of us to find the ones in the pic). Me all wrapped up in a scarf they gave me and ready to watch the sun rise. A pic of the sun rising  (can you see the wind turbines way waaaayyyy in the distance? It might be too blurry). And a pic of a hill marker- they use these as land marks so they can find their way through the vast almost never ending expanse that is the inner mongolian plains because they are nomadic and all of the inner mongolian countryside looks pretty much the same- like a huge sea of never ending grass and dusty dirt flowing on and on and on through rolling hills and rocky rolling sloppes and lumps and rises and massive flatish plains- so they put hill markers here and there both for navigation and for communication and so they can find each other when they move  (they can leave each other messages at these markers using the placement of piles of certain rocks, paintings, carvings, and flags or other scraps of cloth).

Hongkeng toulu village is amazing- so beautiful and so unique and peaceful. It looks like nowhere else on this earth! I’ll show you pictures when i get home- cause they’re all on my camera not on my phone.

And yes the room we are staying in in the toulu we are staying in does have some of its own unique quirks, but it is definitely not that bad. For one thing there is really good airconditioning and honestly that alone is enough to make me really love the room. Also it is super clean and actually looks fairly recently renovated. The beds are pretty comfy too! And yes there have also been a couple of bugs etc but only (so far and thank goodness) in the bathroom and the hallway outside our room- not in out actual sleeping area. And bugs are just part of being in the countryside.  And boy are we in the countryside! This whole village is an actual active farming village! Rice fields, bananas, taros, ducks, geese, chickens… and lots of other things! Sooooo cool! Mom you would love it here- the way the whole village farms the land as one and raises their own food and uses every square inch of good farm land… the young and the old, women and men, all work side by side… everyone works together but they just work slow and steadily- no hurry no stress- when they are tired they rest, when they are hot they move to the shade (and drink hot tea- yes you would totally fit right in)… they butcher their own meat too at each meal! If they are having chicken for dinner then when it is time to cook they just go outside (the chickens here just wonder freely around the village and surrounding farmland and jungle- they are seriously all over the place, especially around the toulus i think because they get food scraps there) and grab a chicken or two or 3 (however many they need) they bring it back into the courtyard and they can get it from clucking to cooking in about 3 mins flat! I got to watch one of our hosts do the whole process and i learned a trick or 2 that i will share with you when im home. I bet you never guessed i would learn this on my trip!!!