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

Day of rest

Sunday, yesterday, we actually had no rain – not even a threat of it.  It is amazing how lighter skies (we didn’t really get what you could call sunshine either) can lift the spirits.

After church, we wended our way to Ravenhill Herb Farm to pick up a couple of basil plants.  The basil plants were because the seed tray I planted up with basil a few weeks ago did absolutely nothing – and it turns out that’s because I never added the seeds.  I found the still sealed packet the other day. I had to laugh at myself, carefully nurturing this tray of nothing but soil for 3 weeks.   I must have got distracted…imagine, me, distracted.

Anyway.  Had a lovely half hour at Ravenhill, which has an amazing view, exploring the herb garden, the orchard, checking out the goats etc, all while sipping herb tea.  Very civilized.  AND ran into a good friend showing her relatives from the UK around.  On the way home from there, we drove past Three Oaks Farm, and picked up a couple more basil plants, and conversed briefly with the official farm greeter – part collie, part shepherd, I would say, and very welcoming.  Three Oaks Farm by the way is owned by Rachel Fisher, one of the co-authors of “All the Dirt“, a recently published book about what it takes to get started and grow in organic farming.  It is partly biographical, which I found fascinating, having known of these three farmers for years.  Because it is about their experiences, the books focus is very much on the region I live in, so if you want a glimpse of my corner of the world, go find this book.  Back to Sunday…

Once home we finally had a cup of coffee (I had two actually), sitting in the almost but not quite sun, and planned out our afternoon.  Random photographer and her sister were both, unfortunately, stuck most of the day inside; one writing an essay (misuse or shortage of potable water worldwide- it’s in French, I’m not sure) the other working on a geometry assignment (symmetry of different shapes).  The dog (above) chose to stick with those of us with outdoor plans.

Coffee morphed into a snacky, leftover sort of lunch, and then we got down to it.  He hoed and weeded the potatoes, set up a water barrel near the tiny veg garden for me (and filled it), harvested mint and made 2 jars of concentrated mint sauce to have with lamb over the winter, and cleared away a bunch of branched I’d pruned off a tree near the veg garden. Oh, and he got the pizza dough started in the bread machine.  I got the basil transplanted, weeded the veg garden, harvested our first lettuce for supper, transplanted some onions that had been waiting for a week, hacked thistles for an hour (the chickens were fascinated), collected eggs, hung out laundry and pruned the tree mentioned above.  The dog kept an eye on me, ate something disgusting and dug a really big hole – her idea of a perfect afternoon.

At some point we sat down for a break and had a race to see who could figure out potential yield on the potato crop first – he with his blackberry and google, me with my gardening books –  I won (of course).  Thank you Steve Solomon for your easy to find information.  Supper was homemade pizza and homegrown salad (the tomatoes were actually from a local hothouse).  And it was delicious. The geometry got handed in this morning, and the essay has amazing graphics to go with it.   Nice finish to our day of rest.