New Life

It’s been a while.

Our busy season has begun.  Pigs came 2 weeks ago, broiler chicks came today, layer chicks come next month.


Youngest daughter, back from her building project in Nepal (the picture was taken during the Holi festival in Bandipur), is graduating from high school at the end of this month, and all those years of school activities, volunteering, meetings, etc will be done.  Her?  Yes, she’s pretty pumped about being finished with school, despite being academically inclined.  New involvements will no doubt arise, but I’m not going to borrow trouble just yet.  And yes, we have the dress (gorgeous), the shoes, the hair appointment, the tickets for the ceremony, the dinner/dance and the dry aftergrad…if we’ve forgotten something, don’t burst my bubble now, I don’t have time.


Eldest daughter turned 21 in April, and we somehow got a family garden tea into her crazy schedule to celebrate.  Halfway through her teaching degree, she has a job this summer preparing and leading 6 summer camps at our church with a small team of other interns.  Her favourite appears to be the Hero Camp in August, complete with jungle climbing, lazer mazes, a visit from superheroes and more.  I’m frankly envious.  In the middle of all that, she is heading down to the Dominican Republic as part of a team going to work on a construction project in a small village.  In July, in tropical heat.  Not envious of that.

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The pigs were born April 10th, so they are exactly 2 months old today.  In the pictures they may look big to you, but they’re still below my knees – and probably weigh around 50 lb or 20 kg each. While officially they are named B, L, and T, they have become collectively known as the Trio of Trouble.  They go everywhere together and are curious beyond caution.

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The broiler chicks, 156 of them, arrived by Canada Post this morning, having left Edmonton, AB two days ago after they hatched.  The local sorting station called me around 0730 and they were under the heat lamps by 820, thirsty and hungry and ready to explore their new world.

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I went out to do a couple of errands after the chicks were settled and returned two hours later to discover the heat lamps had thrown the breaker and they were without heat :(.  There is a freezer that’s operating in there right now, which I’d forgotten about, and can’t unplug immediately, so the chicks are down to 2 heat lamps and my afternoon project will be transferring the contents of the freezer to one of our other freezers so I can unplug the one in the brooder building.

And that’s what’s up around here.  No veg garden this year, something had to give and I decided that would the thing.  Hay Guy came and chisel plowed it for me a while back, but I’ve since decided not to get it tilled – I am already stretched to capacity and don’t need the guilt of that garden going to thistles again this year.  I’m surrounded by some fabulous veggie farmers here, and can buy more, better veg and fruit from any of them.  Totally not letting the no garden thing bug me – not at all.


Happy as a pig in…mud

The pigs normally spend a lot of time in their shelter on hot days, but I was out working on the fence for their next bit of pasture, and they are curious beings, so were out “with” me. Though they technically have names, I can’t really tell them apart anymore, especially when they’re covered in mud. Much like the declining energy one expends on baby records after the first child, I have not been keeping track on the calendar of how old these piglet are – but working it out from the purchasing info, they are at 12 weeks, or three months. They look about on track for growth to me, which certainly adds up with the voraciousness of their appetites, which increased a couple of weeks ago. If you look closely in a couple of the photos, you can see they are a little sunburnt behind the ears – probably the one place they haven’t managed to get mud.

These pigs are bred to be raised indoors, but seem to have pretty good pasturing instincts judging from their rooting ability and their clear enthusiasm for eating grass. They are quite different from last year’s pigs, which has surprised me a little even though I should have expected it. For instance, last year’s pigs were meticulous about their bathroom corner. These pigs use all the corners. Last year’s pigs never even considered bashing their water bucket around, let alone trying to turn it over. These pigs have managed it a few times, despite it being hooked to the corner, and wedged in with paving stones. These pigs also routinely turn their feed bowls over, which happened about twice last year. On the other hand, these pigs are less pushy, more amenable to tummy rubs, and more respectful of the electric fence.

Their new pasture is one part of a bigger pasture which I intend to rotate them round, and they should be in the first bit by the weekend. Fence is set up, but I still have to figure out how to get water to them there, and though I’ve rigged it so they can go back to the barn for shade and shelter, it won’t be feasible for the next phase of the rotation, so fixing up some kind of shelter is moving up the priority list. With roughly close to zero carpentry skills this is starting to look more and more like a straw bales and plywood kind of set up, though back in the winter, it was going to be an A frame type hut on skids. Originally I didn’t want to go with straw because it’s actually not very plentiful here, and can be hard to get. However, I have about a dozen bales of pretty low quality stuff that I picked up fairly cheaply to use as spare pig bedding if I needed to keep them in the barn longer, and I will probably use that to build a shelter, banking on the fact that I can get better straw from a friend up the road when he starts harvesting grain in a month or two.


After what has felt like an endless week, the piglets are here.

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Work has been busy with an extra shift and extra hours, which really put a cramp in my pig preparation plans, but we made it work. And I mean we. W from Warlin Farms really handled the fencing and the bulk of the blackberry clearance for me, in addition to tilling my vegetable garden – a bonus. He also picked up the load of straw I purchased down the road, since I don’t have a truck. My older daughter and I had done some repair work on the stall door where the pigs will be living for a couple of weeks before they head out to pasture, and she also took care of preparing the bedding (straw).

There have been a few glitches getting ready for the little piggies.  The biggest turned out to be starter feed, which isn’t supplied by ANY of the feed stores in my area.  I ended up having to make a trip up-Island to Duncan to get 7 of the 19 bags they had left at the feed mill that supplies about half the feed dealers on the Island. I did that on Friday morning, managing the one hour trip each way (by ferry, fortunately – I could sip my coffee and admire the view while quietly stressing about too much to do instead of driving a twisty, steep highway full of aggressive drivers whilst simultaneously stressing about too much to do), the actual purchase and pick up, unloading the feed at home, and getting to work for noon, which I managed with seconds to spare.

Doing a last once over our preparations, when I got home from work after six that night, we realized our feed bowls were much too big for 5 week old piglets, and probably the water bucket as well.  Since I was supposed to pick up the piglets at 10 am in the morning, we decided to whip into the feed store on our way over there and buy a couple of smaller feed bowls – we’d use one for water.

I had to be at work at 10 this morning, which was also the time I had to pick up the pigs.  I have practically no vacation time left (I splurged it all on the NZ/Aus trip), and hubby and younger daughter were in Vancouver where she was competing in the provincial level of the Concours, so had arranged with my supervisor and my co-worker today that I would be arriving late to work this morning, making use of some time owing I had accrued.  Both were fine with this.  I really felt like I had things covered.

Then the farmer called at 730 am.  There had been a mudslide in Golden, closing the highway for a couple of hours, her husband and his friend were stuck the other side with the pigs, and would be later than planned, since there was no way they’d make the first ferry.  New pick up time was 1pm.  So much for my best laid plans.

I phoned my co-worker and we arranged that I’d start at 10, and use my lunch break with whatever extra time (in lieu) that I needed to get the pigs home and settled.  I went to the feed store on my way to work to get the smaller feed bowls and bucket, and headed to work.  And from there, the day flowed like it had been planned that way all along.

I dashed home at 1pm to change into jeans and a sweatshirt over my nice blouse, elder daughter joined me with the dog crate, and off we went.  There were a couple of other people there picking up pigs also, and we had to wait a little, but it was fun chatting and comparing notes.  Our two little gilts were loaded into the dog crate very quickly.  Back home, we backed up to the barn, unloaded the crate and carried it to the pig stall, prepped the water and feed bowls and then opened the door.

There was startled silence for a minute, and then a few cautious grunts.  It took a few more minutes before the smaller, feistier piglet ventured out.  Where one goes, the other will follow.  Within another minute or two, they’d found the food.  And then the water. They explored a little.  And ate.  And then peed in the food bowl.  Sigh.

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I think it’s called multi-tasking, standing in the food and the water simultaneously.   If only nutrients were absorbed through the feet!

I had to go back to work.  Farm layers off, good clothes back on, grabbed an apple and an energy bar and off I went.  Elder daughter and her friend kept an eye on the piglets all afternoon, and by the time I got home after 6pm, the piglets were quite calm and happy, no longer anxious and best of all, had established their “bathroom” corner – which was NOT the feed bowl.  When I checked on them a couple of minutes ago (1030pm), they were flaked out in the straw, not huddled, but close – snouts just touching.