Catching Up!

6 04 2010

It has been a stressful winter here at the farm. We have suffered loss and tragedy, but we are striving to move forward carrying blessings in our hearts for all the goodness that remains with us.

A rundown of the events from November through December: Our beautiful silver Leicester ram, Raven, died defending his younger counterpart from coyotes early one morning in November. Arlo survived without a scratch and has been busy ever since breeding all our ewes.

In early December fire destroyed our pig barn/office/shop building along with Pinkie and Penny our two oldest (and favorite) sows and their piglets. Our brand-new payloader was also destroyed having been parked next to the barn for the night. All were a total loss, but by far the most horrendous was our sows. Contrary to initial reports (newspaper and rumor mill) the cause of the fire was not the heat lamp that we had over the piglets but was instead a section of un-conduited wire running inside the cavity under the loft on the western end of the barn. It was most likely rodents chewing through the wire that caused it to burn.

It is sometimes hard to explain how much we love, respect and honor our breeding stock. There are a lot of tough choices that go into deciding to keep an animal and pass on their genetics because we raise their offspring for meat. The decision to keep an animal means that they have a combination of traits, one of the most important being gentle and trusting personalities (if they trust you they won’t be stressed and scared and will be better mommas). Because we raise meat animals we aren’t allowed to form attachments until so many tests have been passed that when we finally decide to keep them, we lavish those few with as much love and attention as most folks do their in-home pets. Even with those animals that we are raising for harvest- we treat them with respect, we go to lengths to provide them with the highest quality care- and then, to lose our two oldest, most beloved sows to a fire. It is our job to protect them and we let them down. Raven, Pinkie & Penny all died in fear, desperately hoping we would save them, and we had a hard time reconciling ourselves to that.

But in the face of all of that- nobody else was hurt and that was the only barn we lost, it could have been so much more unimaginably worse.

Tulip, Lily & Jake, along with all the growing hogs were still out on pasture and the two girls needed a place to give birth in just a few short weeks which meant clearing out space in the hay shed and building pens strong enough to hold them. Everyone else needed water and feed during an unusually cold winter. Arlo rose to the challenge of breeding 20 ewes while still only 8 months old. We needed to build strong, heavy and ‘hot’ fence for the sheep to keep the coyotes from deciding they were tasty enough to try eating them again  and get the barn ready for them to be run in every night.

Sheep are in their winter paddock next to Cooper Barn with constant access to the outdoors and we’ve found that even on some of the coldest nights, as long as there is no wind, the girls prefer to be outside and sleeping in the snow. We really need to get some good pictures of them happily munching away on their hay and covered with an inch of snow.

Lambs started arriving on the very last day of March! Our first two were an incredibly small pair of lambs (we keep calling them ‘the kittens’ since they are about the size of 3 month old kittens). They were so small we called our vet, Yoanna Maitre to come out and check the ewe for a possible third lamb, but they were it. They were a little weak at first and so small that it was hard for them to reach their momma’s milk, so we gave them a little assistance for the first couple of days, but now they are thriving and looking forward to when they are big enough to go out on pasture with their younger half siblings (we’re a little concerned that a hawk will come along and take them away).

 

We have hired two apprentices, Susan & Tony Wood, who arrived on April 1st with their three pups. And we’re so excited to have them- we’ve been struggling these last few weeks to keep up and so they came just in the nick of time.

Brochures for the 2010 CSA are available- it has sign-ups for both Veggie and Meat CSA (you don’t have to sign up for both!) and I’ve also managed to put them up on the site. We’re expanding again so tell friends and neighbors who might be interested to check us out.

The ACRES Education Program got some funding to cover additional CSA shares to be distributed to needy families by the West Cummington Church (also devastatingly destroyed by fire this winter!) and through the Hinsdale Food Pantry. Whoo hoo! More food for those in need- we love it! Farm tours for local schools have ramped up this year and we’re really enjoying all the delighted faces of the kids that visit the farm.

Veggie News: The end of the growing season wrapped up beautifully last November, with raised beds going into the larger greenhouse and being planted with winter greens which we have been harvesting since January. And now we’re back to spring planting- starting transplants again in the greenhouse, getting geared up to spread compost and amendments on all the fields and plant the first of the peas and potatoes. The amazingly warm weather we’ve had in the last few weeks has pushed up the greening and brought a rather quick and decided end to our sugaring season. Another crappy year for maple syrup, so don’t be surprised when prices go through the roof again this year.

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3 responses

11 04 2010
Hilltown Families

Got 5 loads of great dirt and composted delivered from HBF yesterday, and LOVE IT! It’s beautiful! Looking forward to growing great veggies this summer. Thanks Jesse!

20 04 2010
Marjorie Bannish

Desiree et. al.,
I’m thrilled at your energy and offerings, particularly the eggs and organic meat ! (This, of course, in addition to the yummy and large selection of FRESH VEGGIES !!)

Thank you, too, for sharing your winter tragedies….. I, too, mourn your losses of these dear four-leggeds. Thanks for your depth of caring. After all, the plant and animal life (their energies/ spirits) is what we dare to intake to feed OUR own tissue/being!!! Such a worthy endeavor, yours. thanks again.

16 09 2010
Julie Size

I keep coming back to your blog to see if you have updated it. I sure hope you had a better summer. We too breed sheep and worry about the coyote’s. Sorry for your loss.

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