Archive for July, 2012

I like the pigs this week. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that they are Mitt, Ron, Rick and  Newt. Jacob calls Mitt “the obvious frontrunner.” It’s true: somehow he is about 50% bigger than the other three. Jacob says he has seen Mitt napping in the feeder. It makes sense: he usually has the first and last bite, and I can see his long body fitting perfectly inside the cradle of their half-barrel trough. Usually I’m scared of the pigs, disgusted by their appetites, or mad that they’ve smeared poop across my calves. But this week things are changing.

I find it satisfying to watch them drink fresh, clear water out of their new ten-gallon bucket. They are the only animals we have who seem to drink water sensibly: the dog splashes most of it on the floor, the birds peck at it, the cat smacks at it with his Velcro tongue, the cows drink as if they have to siphon it through a straw. The pigs muscle over to the bucket and drink. You can hear them swallow, and sometimes I swear I can hear that same sigh of relief that we let out when our thirst has finally been quenched. Yesterday Mitt watched me out of the corner of his eye while I watched him drink.

The pigs will literally eat anything. Along with their grain, they’ve had waste milk, stale bread, cabbage leaves, whole basil plants, pickled green beans, sweet potato salad, samosas, and bushel baskets of garden scraps and veggies that don’t make the cut for the market. They move through the piles like vacuum cleaners, methodically absorbing every little morsel. Last weekend I watched Newt find a chunk of kohlrabi and steal it away for himself, carving into it with his bottom teeth, chopping and grunting, all the while glancing over his shoulder.

When we got home from the farmer’s market on Friday they were out. They’d somehow dug under the fence, and we drove up the driveway to find them standing outside the barn, faces buried in the buckets we use to sprout their corn and squash seeds. They went without their routine supper that night, and when I went to feed them Saturday morning they were still full. As the rest of them dutifully lined up at the trough, Ron opted to lie in the shade for a morning nap. I have never seen something like this at meal time.

Jacob keeps trying to convince me to spend more time scratching the pigs. He likes to egg me on as I watch them apprehensively from the other side of the fence: “Go on, get in there and give Mitt some love.” Lately I’ll give in and laugh as Mitt arches his back, pushing into my hand. His “fur” is wiry gold and thin, and my fingertips are instantly covered in a film of dust and dry skin. Jacob will scratch and scratch and pat their butts, showing me, “here’s the pork chops, shoulder roast, and all along here is the bacon.”

We set up a new fence on Saturday and moved them out onto a much larger pasture. Now they have grass reaching feet above their heads, a field of wild mint, and the shade of an apple tree. I haven’t seen them do too much exploring, though. They like to stick together, and they don’t like to stray too far from the barn, where cabbage leaves could arrive at any time.

Waking up from a slumber beneath the apple tree.

A good scratch against the fence                                                                 A good scratch against the fence.

Certain there must be lunch service today.

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The Barnyard

Here’s a few shots from last Friday’s market, where we finally had lots of colors to display! Jacob with kohlrabi, kale, salad greens, basil, parsley, thyme, hot peppers, bell peppers, garlic, eggs, red, yellow and orange carrots, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, zucchini, cabbage and broccoli:

Today we finally have rain. It started last night, with a storm that brought a third of a tree onto the corner of our shed. Rain came racing through, nearly horizontal, and the wind made trees look like rubber bands. We huddled at the window and watched, with Blueberry Sonker in the oven, and I wondered if the tomatoes and peas would be flattened. I wondered what the cows would be doing with no roof to hunker beneath. This morning I found out: as I spread butter on my toast I looked up and there they were, grazing outside the window. They willingly followed Jacob back out to the pasture, where he discovered that two trees had come down over their fence. They must have been spooked; maybe they spent the whole night wandering. The cows weren’t the only ones feeling restless: when I went out to feed the chicks, a handful of them hopped out, and unfortunately had no interest in the breakfast that I had to offer them. I spent the next half an hour chasing them in circles, sweating and feeling like an ogre. I didn’t find it amusing.

I don’t have much grace when it comes to the animals. Our broodiest hen hisses at me when I look at her; she lifts a wing to let Jacob reach under her and take all of her eggs. When the pigs smell me coming, they scream and stand up, front legs hanging over the half-wall that we climb over to get to their feeder. They practically knock me down before I can empty their bucket of food, and they are about one quarter of the size they’ll be in another five months. When Jacob feeds them, they greet him cordially and step aside, waiting patiently while he serves them their supper. He scratches them and they smile up at him, thankful and polite.

When we moved the chicks onto fresh grass last Saturday, we sat for a minute watching them explore their new territory. It was their first encounter with the fence, and we soon realized that they are still just small enough to step right underneath it, unfazed. Each time I’d try to persuade them back through, they’d dodge me and flutter away; it seemed that all Jacob had to do was ask and they would lope back in. One bird evaded him. Each time Jacob would try to herd it one way, the chick would go the opposite. In and out of the fence, into the tall grass and over for a look at the pigs. But Jacob is never to be discouraged and almost never brought to frustration. He waited for the little chick to grow eager enough to be with the others, and as it headed back to the coop, he gently scooped it up and gave it a kiss.

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 Finally! A few quick snapshots to get you filled in.

The Farmhouse

Big barn and pig pasture

Our view of Laraway to the East

Gardens! Greens, Broccoli, Radishes, Flowers, Peppers

Corn and Squash Garden

Bachelor Buttons

Onions, Leeks and Shallots

Cherry Tomatoes just barely getting started!

The door to the chicken coop…

Our view of Mt. Mansfield to the South

The Pond.

Ishmael and Ophelia, with plenty to eat.

 More to come…

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