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

8 thoughts on “Summer growth

  1. Great to hear the farm is marching on and that you’ve worked out a way to manage it with your new full-time gig. Hope the job is going well too.
    I love the pig story – I’m amused [now] reading other peoples stories of pig antics but I may not be so amused when we have our own escape artists!
    The heat down on our farm has been almost unbearable (in the 90’s). I have to hose myself down regularly while watering the fruit and nut trees and of course none of them are big enough .to provide any shade.

    • I am loving the new job, though it’s a much busier, larger branch, And yes, I think I’ve adjusted to the work hours and found ways and periods in the day to get things done at home. It’s very much a “hold things together” kind of feeling however, and I am looking forward to cooler days when I can get more done outside on my days off. The day I went to visit the pigs a few weeks ago and confirm my order, the lady I was buying them from had been mucking out horse stalls and was so hot and dusty that she’d been dumping the horse’s water buckets over herself when she went to refill them – when we met her she was soaked with bits of hay stuck to her all over – she also looked way cooler and more cheerful than I felt that day!

  2. Love the update. The three musketeers looks wonderful (am I allowed to say delicious?) as do Mama and her chicks, and the flower garden is a work of art. Sweetpeas are some of my favourite flowers but I have mixed results with them, mainly because when the acid goes on timewise I always prioritise the food – a bit like your pigs 🙂
    Thanks for the earthing rod clarification; we glowed with pride over our national ability with electric fencing – then read the bit about kangaroos…hmmm. Interesting.
    Things have surely been happening at Sailor’s Small Farm = thanks for the update. It’s great to hear the new job is panning out well.

    • Thanks! It’s the first time in years we’ve managed to get sweet peas planted in anything like the right time frame, and I’m loving the scent – just as the honeysuckle finally gives up, perfect timing.

      NZ continues to be at the forefront of electric fence technology, mainly because NZ has never stopped grazing their dairy and beef herds. As you probably know, dry feed lots are the norm for beef finishing and dairies in North America, and cattle are mostly fed sileage and grain. That is changing, but those who graze their beef and dairy are definitely still considered “alternative” farmers. Electric fence makes rotational grazing possible in a way that it wasn’t in previous decades, and NZ got onto that early because they had to – growing grain is more expensive than managing pasture.

  3. Looking great. Ah, to have young people who are self motivated and moderately handy around the house! Très bien!

    I do have a feeling we might be seeing the heat as a new normal and thinking of ways to work with it. Citrus? Certainly persimmons, almonds perhaps?

    • I agree with you about the new normal, and I’ve been following L’s thinking on shade for the chicken runs. Citrus is getting easier to grow here every year – there’s a guy down the road from me with meyer lemons and mandarins. And figs used to be fragile here, but seem to be in everyone’s backyards now.

  4. Bill says:

    Great looking pigs and chicks! I’m sure you’re loving having new critters on the farm.
    It’s been boiling hot here too, making it difficult to keep pace with the weeds. Melanie is here now and she’s been a real gift. We’re enjoying her company and she is a maniacal weeder! 🙂

    • Thanks! Seems like all over this continent, we’re either getting deluged or scorched, no happy medium. Global weirding in action. We only met Melanie for a few brief hours, but I got the impression of a very positive spirit, and a ton of energy. She kept in touch with my travelling daughter as well, and was super helpful with some tips for travelling light and managing without a common language.

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