Goodness, I have so many introductions to make today! There's been a flurry of new arrivals this past week. Picking them up, getting their spaces ready, moving electric fencing, and playing them a little harmonica (but of course!) has all been the focus of our days.
(A head's up to those who would rather pass on today's post and not read about it...I am talking about animals we raise for meat here today. The last thing I would want to do is offend someone - I do try to make this place of mine on the internet feel comfortable for everyone who is here. But the reality is that this is what we are doing, and is a part of our life and our days on this farm...and that silence about it feels wrong too. I will try, as always, to share with thoughtfulness to all who are reading...but still speak our truth.)
Three little pigs! (That truck cap is our super classy, fancy-pants pig shelter, oh yes. But it works so well! And well, it is the perfect sitting spot for anyone who might be passing by and wants a little chat with these three pigs.) We've only raised pigs in pairs before, so this is our first time having three. How much harder can it be to add one more? (If you know the answer to that, don't tell us. Let us live in our naivete until we are chasing three of them at two hundred pounds each down the road or through the woods when they escape. Oh gosh. Now I'm nervous again.) We have found, after a few years at this, that one pig produces enough pork for our family of seven for about eight months. We've fallen into a nice rhythm of sharing the second pig with family and friends who are in search of humanely-raised, organically fed, pasture pork, but not in the position to raise their own. And so, this time, we make the leap to three in hopes of being able to say 'yes' to more who ask.
Having adjusted to their arrival, and been trained to the wire, these three are settling in quite nicely - doing their work of rooting overgrown pasture, and eating and growing and being sung to by little ones who take great pleasure in hanging out with the pigs.
And then, the Freedom Rangers arrived! Thirty-five fuzzy, yellow, tiny baby chicks, oh my! We switched to this heritage breed last year and were so pleased with the process and the results (over our experience with cornish cross the year prior). Last year, we raised sixty, which felt a little overwhelming when it came to processing them at once. So this year we'll raise two batches of thirty-five, staggered by about a month. (With some loss, and some sharing with friends, seventy seems to be the right number for a year for us.) They'll spend another week or so - just until it gets warmer - in the brooder, then move into the portable (Salatin-style) pen where they'll stay, rotating through the pasture for the next few months.
And last, we have a few new laying birds! Yes, yes...we did just add some, but I am sorry to say that while everyone else is healthy and strong and growing (so big, they are!), not a one of the buffs survived the first 48 hours. Most hatcheries have a guarantee on the first few days survival. And well, a credit to the hatchery is just too tempting. Adelaide and I used the opportunity to add another breed we've been admiring in the catalog - Dominiques. Not known exactly for their excellent egg productivity much to Papa's chagrin, but Adelaide and I think that 'prettiness' counts for a lot in the barnyard too.
Phew. So much going on around here these days! The new bees are coming very soon, turkeys to follow, and then we begin the search for Mr. Right Ram for our ladies. The farm is more active, full and alive than it's ever been on our watch. It is a good, full and satisfying feeling, the work of trying to raise some of our own food. After three years of raising - and butchering - some of our own livestock, I struggle to find the accurate words to describe how it feels. Grounding is all that I can come up with, but it falls short. I feel closer than I've ever felt in all my life to the Earth, and feel a deeper connection to animals than I've ever known. Humbled, most definitely. And absolutely connected to all of that, the food we raise, the food we eat has become so much more meaningful - not precious nor perfect - just...right. For us, anyway...and that's all I can ask for.