Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Snow Day

The kids are away and I end up with a snow day. I guess that is just how it works out sometimes. Got up, went out and took care of the animals this morning at 4:30 am. We already had about an inch of snow but still planned on going in to work, that is until I went back inside and turned on the news. All the schools are closed in the DC metropolitan area and they are calling for a nasty mix of snow/rain/ice etc. Email the people I was to meet with today to tell them I am not coming in and climb back into bed. Wake up at a very reasonable 8 am, and start my day again. Shoveled out the driveway and was beginning to think I made the wrong decision since we only have between an 1 ½ and 2 inches of snow, only to find out the all the surrounding counties have implemented snow emergency plans -- meaning no one on the roads without snow tires or chains. Guess I made the correct decision.

Here are some pictures -- decided to go black and white since it is overcast and the colors didn't show up well anyway.

Bella hanging out in her stall.

Inside one of the high tunnels before I cleaned off the snow.

Maya having some water. She is doing well but unfortunately only two of the piglets made it. I don't think Maya had enough conditioning to support them all so she culled down the numbers.

The barnyard gang hanging out on a snowy day.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Winter Piglets

Just a quick post so Danielle and the kids, who are on a road trip, and anyone else who is interested can see the new piglets.

So far we have 3 boys and a girl. Unfortunately, two other pigs didn't make it. One pig must have wandered off and succumbed to the cold while the other was stillborn.

We would not have planned for a liter at this time of the year but Big Boy jumping the fence changed things.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cold Morning Chores

Due to the combination of the Martin Luther King Holiday and Inauguration Day I had an extra long weekend.  Actually I was off on Friday as well due to my 9/80 schedule so it was a relaxing 5 days around the farm.  I try to do all the farm chores when I am off work since Danielle does them during the week, especially during the winter months since I leave the house before sun up and don't get home until 5 PM.

We have been experiencing quite a cold snap lately which made the morning chores particularly brisk.  I am not complaining, since I realize many other parts of the country are below zero in actual temperature and -30° F or more with wind chill, but 5° F for Maryland is damn cold.

When it is this cold Buddy grabs his morning breakfast, in this case a meaty bone from the previous nights pork roast, and retires to the relative warmth of his straw filled dog house.

I tend to give all the animals larger portions of feed to help them stay warm. Danielle also put new straw in all of their shelters at the start of the cold snap.

One of the biggest problems is keeping water available to everyone. We have an electric de-icer in Bella's water trough adjacent to the barn. We have not however found a good way to keep the other animals waters from freezing solid. This leads to twice a day hauling of water from the barn to the animal paddocks, luckily only 50 yards or so. The ice then is broken out of their buckets and the fresh water poured in. The pigs manage to drink or spill all of their water before it freezes so in their case it is just a matter of retreiving their trough from wherever they dragged it to and filling it.

Here is an obligatory self portrait of me all bundled up for the morning chores. In addition to my pajamas from the night before I have on a turtle neck, waffle insulated hoodie, hat and insulated coveralls. While I managed to stay relatively warm it was still great to come in by the warm wood stove when I was finished.

Hope everyone is staying warm.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Holiday ReCap

The Holiday Season was hectic as usual (in a good way) as one can surmise from my lack of posting.  The kids really seemed excited by this years bounty, which was heavy on Lego's. We never seem to be able to get enough of those.

Christmas day was beautiful and we all went for a walk in the pastures to enjoy the sunny weather.

Our Tom Turkey was also strutting his stuff in the afternoon sun.

We were lucky enough to have beautiful weather again on New Year's Day and went for a short hike on the Appalachian Trail up towards Annapolis Rocks with some friends who were in visiting.  Seeing all the boulders got the kids (and adults) excited to start climbing again.

Hope everyone had a safe and happy Holiday Season!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fun on the Potomac

We had some great weather this past weekend so the kids and I went down to the Potomac river to do some fishing. The kids like the idea of fishing, and are always amped and convinced that they will catch a fish, but 15 minutes or so into the process and they get bored.

It works out well since where we go is adjacent to the C&O Canal so there is a lot for them to explore. They climbed under and on top of the old aqueduct and generally enjoyed exploring the river in the warm sunshine.

Emily found a nice size crawdad. We brought it home and put it into our small decorative pond, unfortunately it did not make it. I think it was on its last legs so to speak which is why she was able to catch it so easily.

Of course river fun always leads to going in deeper

and deeper.

Which leads to wet clothes and water filled boots.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

5 Tons of Hay

We got 10 round bales of hay delivered this past weekend. Probably more than we need for the winter but this way we will not have to try to find some when it is least available.

The kids had fun jumping from bale to bale until we got them all put up on pallets under tarps.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Butchering Pigs

Another skill I have been learning since moving to the farm is butchering of our livestock. While we take our full size hogs to a local USDA certified butcher to process I have been culling some of our pigs as sucklings and weaners, since we have more pork out in the field than we need if we allowed them all to go to market weight.

I previously butchered two of our piglets, in both cases by bringing them in from pasture to a small pen besides the barn before dispatching them. I only needed to carry the first one a couple hundred feet, from one side of the barn to the other, and since he only weighed 32 lbs this was not much of a problem. The second was after we had already moved them out onto the back pasture, and it was a tiring and humorous (after the fact) struggle to drag that 75 lbs pig up to the barn.

Since our pigs are significantly bigger now I needed a different plan. The best way would probably have been to setup an electrified run between the pigs and the barn, sort the pig we wanted into the run then coax him up to the pen. I decided not to do this since the pigs are currently a couple hundred yards from the barn and running that much fencing just to move one pig seemed ridiculous.

I decided that I would just drop him in place when I fed the pigs their breakfast. This may sound crass but it turns out that this is how a lot of small scale farmers do things and as I will tell you below his fellow pigs did not seem to care in the least. I selected out our smallest male pig and before feeding them while they were greeting me at the hog panel marked his head with a sharpie. This way when they were going crazy running from food bowl to food bowl to make sure they weren't missing out on something better I would not mistakenly kill the wrong pig. The cull went surprisingly well. I just tossed their food bowls in as normal, grabbed my .22 rifle and walked up to the unlucky pig and with one shot between the eyes he was down. The other pigs did not get spooked by the gun shot nor seemed upset by their fallen comrade. I then grabbed the pig by his hind legs and dragged him out of the pig pen and into the small trailer behind our tractor and took him back to the house. He was hard to get into the trailer and I estimate that he weighed well over 100 lbs.

Here is the pig hanging while I scrape the hair off.

The gambrel and hoist I picked up last deer season made it easy to get the pig hung at a convenient working height. I gutted and quartered the pig that day and put it in the fridge to chill and age.

Here is a front quarter ready to go in the fridge.

Yesterday I began the actual butchering process. To date I have been pulling the tenderloin and cutting off the hams and shoulders into convenient sizes, but have not done much in the way of real butchering. By that I mean cutting the meat into "cuts" that resemble what one would see in a grocery store. I downloaded some cut sheets from a cool website on barbecuing, so that I had something to work from. I ended up using a hacksaw to cut off the baby back ribs and to make some pork chops from one of the front quarters. This is a case were having the proper tools would be a huge help. I know that real butchers have a band saw to make these cuts and to say I was envious would be an understatement. The hack saw did an adequate job, I used it on Sunday to split the carcass in two, but it was difficult to hold the carcas and cut at the same time. It probably would have been easier if I had partially frozen the carcas to stiffen it some. After cutting the chops from the one quarter I just decided to make a bone in loin roast from the other. When all was said and done we had two fresh hams, two shoulders a couple racks of ribs as well as loin roasts and a bunch of chops in the freezer. Of course two thick chops did not make it to the freezer as they were needed for quality control purposes and were grilled up last night.