Posts Tagged ‘my family’

The new 2011 Stone’s Throw Farm Pastured Pork ordering info is available now. Farm members, please reserve your whole or half hog by May 4th. Depending on how many orders I get, I might open it up to other community members, too.

The pigs in question are growing extremely fast, and I’d like to bring them up here as soon as the weather warms up a bit. My mom shot this video of the pigs in their pen outside the farrowing house (they still sleep inside). It’s a toss-up whether it’s more entertaining to watch the pigs or listen to my mom “toodle-oot” to them — thanks, Mom!

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The Easter bunny came early at Stone’s Throw Farm this year, but he didn’t bring candy. He brought salvaged lumber, fence posts, tin, a pig hut and feeder, and a space heater for the greenhouse. OK, the bunny — or bunnies — that I’m referring to are my parents. They brought their truck and trailer up from Iowa this past weekend with a load of supplies for the farm. Having passed on the trip last weekend due in part to rain in the forecast, they were a bit disappointed by the wind, cold, and snow we received this weekend, but they survived.

Some of the stuff they brought from their farm, but quite a bit of it was from my grandpa’s place. My parents helped him take out a bunch of fencing last fall, and he also donated an old set of bleachers that they used to set up for farm sales. The bleacher lumber turned out to be Douglas fir, so we might save some of that for a higher purpose. My dad painstakingly removed all the iron from the wood before bringing it to us (with a little help from my mom). Thanks, guys.

We whiled away the hours by stacking the lumber, fixing the deer fence, setting up a pig pen, seeding beets in plug trays, refreshing my memory on plow hydraulics, and modifying the two-row cultivator so I can cultivate the pathways between beds with it. I’d say it was a productive weekend!

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A tornado hit my home town this weekend, but didn’t affect my parents’ farm. Supposedly there were no serious injuries, so that’s a relief, but I feel bad for the townies.

My parents reported that the piglets are doing well. They’re taking the sow back to my grandpa’s farm today, where she’ll be in the company of other pigs and probably have another litter later this year. Happy trails, Longtail!

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At first glance, the piglet near the bottom right with the face pressed up against the wall looks like his or her nose is out of joint, but it’s just the colors on its face. This photo was taken by my mom last Friday shortly after the piggies received their vaccination shots (they weren’t feeling too peppy, she said). The littlest one in front is the runt. My dad said the runt always runs up to him oinking when he goes in the farrowing house, and he scratches her back.

My dad weaned the piglets on Saturday and put the orphans and the other litter together. He weighed the biggest orphan, which is the biggest overall pig, and said he weighed 25 pounds! That’s a lot of milk replacer. The pig, which is a boar (male), is the “kingpin” pig, according to my dad, and bullies the other piggies. Interestingly, the second largest orphan is second in command. I suppose they had to be strong to survive.

My dad said he penned the sow in the barn after the weaning because it was the only place he thought he’d be able to hold her, since she’d try to get back to her babies. She lifted two gates right off their hinges in the barn and made her way out to the bull yard, which she certainly could have escaped from if my dad hadn’t found her. I talked to him on Tuesday, though, and he said she had settled down and was doing fine. Apparently it was mayhem whenever those 11 big piglets tried to nurse, so it had to happen.

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Elden and I visited the piglets in Iowa this past weekend. Here’s the 2nd litter of piglets that still have their mother. When their mother is let outside, the piglets take advantage of the extra space in their pen to run around.

There are 3 orphans penned by themselves (the 4th orphan is with the other litter), and my parents let them out of their pen to feed them. Here, the piglets are very excited about their upcoming dinner.

The orphans eating dinner — despite the fact that there’s always plenty, their instinct seems to be to eat as much as possible as quickly as possible.

These piglets want out of their pen, too!

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I just talked to my parents and my mom said the little orphaned piglets were getting so fat my dad actually cut back a little on the amount of milk replacer he’s giving them. That’s saying something, because my dad loves to feed animals. My mom said she’s been playing with the orphans to try to make up for their lost mommy a bit, and they’re quite tame. If the weather cooperates, I’ll be able to give a first-hand report of the piglets’ progress this coming weekend.

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I’m happy to report that there are 16 wiggly piglets on the ground at my parents’ farm. Unfortunately, I also have sad news about the sow they called Bobtail:  she didn’t make it through the birthing process. It sounds like she just didn’t have good “birthin’ hips” and her piglets were a little bigger than normal. She had 5 healthy piglets and then was unable to deliver the rest, even with help. Despite 3 housecalls from the local veterinarian and a determined and sleep-depriving effort from my parents to save the mother pig, she eventually died. 

The second sow delivered 11 big healthy piglets last night with no problems, my mom reported this morning. They put the littlest piglet from the first batch in with the new babies and are feeding the other four piglets from the first litter milk replacer. At least they have a heat lamp, plenty of bedding, and each other for comfort.

Here are my parents showing my nephew, Franklin, the piglets. It sounds like he wasn’t sure what to make of them and definitely didn’t like the noisy propane heater in the farrowing house! The piglets and the Longtail sow are in farrowing crates for now. The crates give the piglets room to move around without being in danger of getting accidentally crushed by the big sow, yet they can still snuggle right up next to their momma. The sow is let out of the crate several times a day to eat and drink, relieve herself, and get some exercise.

Elden and I plan to meet the piglets in person later this month.

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The Pig Bug

I’ve been reading Coop by Michael Perry (it’s not as good as Truck or Population: 485, but it’s okay) and his descriptions of the two pigs he raised are making me miss my summer 2010 piggies.

They are absolutely single-minded in their dedication to destroying what I had built, but they are just so playful about it all. Absolutely vandalous creatures, but gleeful in their depredations.”

I also enjoyed Perry’s description of the pigs running:

. . . [O]ftentimes Cocklebur gets so worked up she stampedes herself in tight stiff-legged circles, her chunky body teeter-tottering fore and aft.”


My mom — who has perhaps raised too many pigs in her lifetime to delight in their antics quite as much as I do — seems to have nevertheless caught enough of my newfound pig enthusiasm to want to farrow a couple of litters for me herself. She and my dad got a couple of really nice bred gilts (pregnant females, for those of you not up on the hog lingo) from my grandpa recently. Here they are chewing on ground ear corn in my parents’ barn. It’s not actually snowing in the barn — the camera’s flash just picked up the dust in the air.

My dad fashioned a little hut for them, which helps to trap the gilts’ body heat and keep them warm in the big, uninsulated barn. I didn’t get a photo of the gilts in the hut, but when they finished eating they got right in it and settled down side by side with their noses pointed toward the hut door. They looked snug.

While we were visiting my parents this past week, Elden and I helped clean out the old farrowing house (a building set up for pig birthing) where my parents will house the gilts closer to their due dates — toward the end of February. Even though it’s probably been 15 years since my parents had any hogs on the farm, the teeth cutter, ear notcher, and piglet scale are still hanging in the farrowing house, and the propane space heater fired right up after my dad dusted it off. I can’t wait for piglets!

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Work and play

Elden and I enjoyed visits from his dad and stepmom (George and Annette) and my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew (Christine, David, Franklin) this past weekend. George helped us wrestle a bit with the Quonset building and Franklin checked out the steering wheel on the tractor and truck for me. Thank goodness for Playfront Park! And for David for taking these photos. I failed to get even one shot of George and Annette, but we won’t soon forget their visit all the way from Sequim, WA, on the smooth-as-a-rollercoaster train.

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My parents, Jean and Craig, shown here loading one of the last boxes of green tomatoes into the van on Saturday (and fighting over how to hold it? Okay, okay, it was a posed shot.), arrived Wednesday evening and endured two days of “cold” rain before finally getting a sunny day on Saturday. I put “cold” in quotation marks because it’s all relative and I’m very aware that it will soon be much colder than 50 degrees. It was certainly cold weather in which to be working outside when your coveralls are soaked through, however, which happened to my parents on Thursday. I was at work at the Food Farm and they were hard at work at Stone’s Throw Farm when it started raining for real. I could say something about rain gear being available, but I won’t!

We harvested about 200 pounds of green tomatoes, I’m guessing. Nice big San Marzano Romas — a shame they didn’t have time to ripen. It was worth a shot, I guess, but I’ll be trying some other varieties next year. My dad wanted to harvest all the green tomatoes, even the one with “blem-o’s,” — as my parents kept referring to bad spots, or blemishes — but I wouldn’t let him. I’d rather have them rot right there in the field than in boxes in the hoophouse!

I’m glad we at least had one nice day together, and it was great to have their help getting ready for the first frost Saturday night. My mom picked the last of the basil for me (it is now pesto in the freezer) and my dad helped me create an action plan for replacing the starter on the tractor, which burned up Saturday afternoon — quite timely, considering I wouldn’t have had a clue what was wrong if he hadn’t been there. We also pulled the squash and melon plants and the black plastic mulch that was covering those beds, so that’s a good job done.

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