Meanwhile, Back on the Farm

I keep meaning to write about the farm but a combination of our slow progress towards getting anything done and my obsessions with politics and macroeconomics have been preventing that. So here’s some quick updates:

Sasha has been making little mounds in the garden, and in the middle of each she placed a blackberry bush, which at this point is just a little stick. Also, she put some broccoli along with the berry bushes on three of the mounds. Our timing was, as usual, lousy. Immediately after putting these in a storm blow through. It dumped some rain in Norfolk but here in Suffolk all we got was wind and tornado watches. Small mound (about 4ft diam with stick poking out the top.

But none of the little sticks blew over, and it happens to be raining now, so I expect most of these will survive.

By Sasha’s command, I’ve been digging trenches for potatoes.

Me, with shovel

In the the trenches we drop potato pieces, each of which is about a 1 inch cube containing at least one eye.

Trenches, about 8 inches wide and deep, and 3 feet apart

We had Bill dig a basement for our smoker. I’ll describe this in more detail as it progresses.

Square hole, about 16x24 inches, and 8 inches deep
And Sasha’s been growing tomatoes, peppers, and ground cherries in the oven.

2 Trays of tomato starts in the oven

We keep them in the oven at night and put them outside in a tiny plastic greenhouse in the morning. For four days we kept the light on in the oven at night, for warmth, but now that the seedlings have grown a bit we stopped doing that and will soon stop taking them in at night. And of course, they’ll soon be planted.

More on the Rat (Piglet)

When we (by ‘we’ I mean Sasha) decided to take the piglet in, we were afraid that he would have to be bottle fed, but fortunately he immediately took to slurping up formula from a bowl. The formula was a multi-animal milk replacer that we got from Farmer’s Feed and Seed.

The problem was, we couldn’t get him off the formula to start eating solid food, which would be a requirement for putting him back out with the other pigs. We figured it would only be a week or so before he started eating but with a bowl of pig food handy he’d scream for hours demanding milk.

So Sasha asked the world of Homestead Hogs what to do, and got this reply from Jerry:

Oh… another piglet with a well trained “Mom”.

Give him some hog food top dressed with milk replacer (clean water available also)…

I flat out guarantee, he will NOT starve to death with that bowl of food in there … He may (WILL) bitch loudly about mom changing his feed program, but he will figure it out as soon as he gets hungry enough.

Question is can you handle it? He will be screaming bloody murder….

The person who first said “Squealing like a stuck pig” didn’t just pick an animal at random. Lots of animals scream when they’re upset but I don’t think any other animal in the world screams like pig. The piglet (who we named “Kauai” at the request of Sasha’s sister) makes horrific blood curdling squeals and can keep it up until he’s satisfied.

But Jerry’s advice seems to be working. Kauai finally started eating pig food today.

image

On another note, cleaning up after a piglet is a whole lot of work. I heard that you can train a pig to a litter box but we quickly decided that he had to go out. Good thing it’s been so warm lately.

There’s a rat in our house.

image

Actually it’s a little piglet.  It’s one of our American Guinea Hogs. None of its siblings made it and the mother wasn’t likely to be able to care for this one so Sasha took him in.  We don’t know how long he’s staying.  We have another mother with piglets that we might try to give him to but if that doesn’t work out he’ll stay with us until he can eat regular feed.

Problematic Pigs and Parasites

The pigs gave me double heartache during a week that Sasha was away visiting relatives. First, they started getting out of their large pen, and second, I saw that they had parasites. The parasites are large white worms (that’s what they’re called as well as an apt description). Discovering them is an unpleasant experience.

My wife and I tend to jump into farming adventures with both feet and then figure out what we did wrong after something bad happens (actually, she jumps with all four of our feet). In this case, we could have prevented the parasites by moving the pigs around, which is something we always intended to do but haven’t gotten around to yet.

I don’t eat pork due to some connection I feel with my ancestors, although the rest of the family does. When I describe the many reasons I don’t like raising pigs, Sasha accuses me of justifying my irrational repulsion of pig-meat (but I do like the smell of bacon). I think my reasons against raising pigs are valid.

Although many people say that pigs aren’t really piggish, I disagree. I provide them with clean water and they still drink from the mud puddle that they shit in, and that’s why they’re prone to hideous parasites. They’re filthy and brutish, and ( I acknowledge the irony of saying this) their a lot like humans. Their body chemistry is close to ours: They eat similar food to ours and their shit looks and smells like our shit, which means any disease that they develop is likely to be dangerous to us.

But Sasha loves the other white meat, and is actually following a higher calling than her affection for sausage. She’s experimenting with methods that people can use to raise food on a low budget, and wants to spread the word that people can learn to survive by interacting with the land, rather than trying to amass wealth and depending on others to feed them. If an old New Yorker and the daughter of mathematician can do this, than so can others.

I treated the pigs with horse medicine hidden in Twinkies and am working on training them to stay in the confines of an electric wire. What I’ve done so far is run the wire near the bottom of the fence that they have been burrowing under. Once they learn to respect the wire, we can move them around more easily, like we do with the goats.

I’ll let you know how it all goes.

Sus Destructivus

We’ve been very lax about the fact that our three little pigs can get out of the pen by squeezing under the fence. They’ve been harmless until today when they tore up the front lawn. Luckily, we don’t really have a front lawn because we haven’t finished the house, but the mess they made will make one hell of a sloppy mud puddle the next time it rains. One of the reasons we’ve been so lax is Sasha loves them. They really are cute. But it’s time to take care of that fence.