Enough of the doom and gloom....lets get happy!!! Trying to bring the joy back to our little farm is easier said than done sometimes but I can honestly say there has been much more if it lately. When we made the decision to downsize....or should I say, I finally agreed with my husband that we needed to reorganize and simplify our farm, I felt a big weight lifted off my shoulders.
My first real taste of that was having 5 pigs go off to the butcher. Pigs that had been kept through a hard, long winter, now off to fill families freezers. Our first taste of freedom from this pig burden we had created. We have plans to sell 3 sows here soon and 1 more to go off for sausage. That one hurts a little. A sow kept from my favorite pig, Luna. Our best momma and somehow she had a terrible mother for a daughter. Maybe, I shouldn't say terrible. Just not careful. She had 2 litters with us and was always very clumsy and not attentive to squealing babies that she was laying on. Now that her 3 remaining piglets are 4 weeks old, she nurses and cares for them as well as any other piglet that wants to nurse on her. Very frustrating and heartbreaking. Her sister Claire will be staying with us as long as she has a good sized litter. This last winter she only had 3 piglets, which her sister then laid on. So many tears were shed, holy moly....But then she took on her sisters remaining 2 piglets and Percy, our house piglet who's mom was going through a terrible bought of pneumonia. She was a fantastic, attentive, and careful just like her momma! So many pigs and so many circumstances. Hard to keep it all straight, sorry! The point being here is that we have a game plan. We are getting things done. Piglets are also starting to leave for their new homes and things are moving along for getting the pigs organized.
Now for the fun bits! Our newest livestock guardian dog, Mor'Du, another Anatolian Shepherd, has of course won our hearts. He is a love bug and is proving to be such a smart boy. We put him in with Ayla, our oldest and best LGD, so that she can train him. She has trained our 2 others and does a great job at keeping the youngsters in line. We were a little unsure of exactly how we wanted to set the 2 of them up together. Our goat fencing doesn't keep little puppies in since it is 4 to 5 strands of hotwire that they can duck under until they are big enough. We have our sheep in the portable electric netting but our sheep had never been with dogs. And our 2 oldest ewes have horns. Our best option was to put Ayla and Mor'Du in with them and see how it went. Ayla immediately tried to win the sheep over with her submission and licks to the face. They were unsure at first but they all get on amazingly well! I am always shocked when I see Mouse and Merida, the 2 older ewes, letting Mor'Du lick their faces and try to cuddle up with them. It makes my heart so happy to see it! It makes me love these dogs and these sheep even more. They have become such a peaceful and happy part of the farm.
We have had lots of surprise babies born on the farm recently. Or hatched I should say. We had a hen come out of nowhere with 11 chicks! She is a fierce mom too. 300lb pigs respect her and the dogs fear her. Our Ancona ducks also came out of the blackberry bushes with 2 different batches of ducklings totaling 20! There are some lovely markings and colours in the group too. Once they are old enough to tell male from female I will be offering them up for sale. They are great layers, foragers, and fantastic moms apparently.
Fair is just around the corner so the kiddos are getting their animals ready and we are planning for our busiest year yet at the Skagit County Fair. Jaelyn is entering 3 chickens and 3 ducks. JW is entering 3 chickens, 3 ducks and 2 lambs. One of the lambs he will be auctioning off at auction and the other lamb he will be showing. Iris, our bottle lamb and first sheep we purchased, will be the lamb he shows. Billy Bob Joe is his Suffolk wether that will be going to auction. He has worked really hard with his sheep and we have all learned a lot from this first time experience. I have faith in him that he will do well even if our lambs don't. I am already proud of what he has done!
Once fair is done, we will anxiously be awaiting the arrival of our first Jersey calf to be born on the farm! Tilly is due the end of August and I am so excited yet very nervous! I have a lot of prepping to do and really need to organize things so that we are set up for success with this. Having a milk cow will be a whole new venture. We have wanted this for at least 5 years and now that it is almost happening, I am questioning my sanity! But the thought of fresh milk, cheese, cream, butter, etc, etc, brings so much joy just thinking about that we have to try it! Plus, have you ever loved or snuggled up to a Jersey? Those big brown eyes just melt your heart! We love our Tilly girl.
As I am typing this I realize it doesn't really sound much like downsizing! Haha! But reorganizing is really the best word. We want our farm to be our happy place not something we are a slave to. And all this little changes and new additions can make it that when done correctly. We may have to change some more as we figure out what works and what doesn't but that is all part of it. Part of this farm adventure! I will be sure to share all of our summer adventures with their outcomes. It is bound to be exciting I'm sure!
Goodness, it has been 2 months since I have posted last. I don't know about you but the reality that July is here is just boggling my mind! Spring has come and gone. Now our Bi-Polar Pacific Northwest Summer is here. And I don't mind it one bit. In the past 2 months there has been much reflection, family time, me time, successes, failures, happiness, and sorrow. Busy, busy, busy. Never ending busy. We have our garden growing, hay put up in the barn, chicks hatching, piglets running everywhere, a new livestock guardian puppy, and ruminant critters out enjoying the green grass. With all of that, I have realized a lot of pretty damn important things...
I know I have hit on this before, but in the this day and age of social media, people have constant access to you. My hatred for that has grown, despite the fact that I have met some very lovely people through it. The combination of helping people and their beloved pets at work, the vet clinic, and then coming home to have to deal with people with the farm has really burned me out. It has created that same cycle I fell into during my seasonal depression of just ignoring things. Not healthy at all. Ignoring it gives me relief and major anxiety all at the same time. I hate it! I wish I could just start over somehow but it doesn't quite work like that. I am currently trying to figure out how I go about cleaning up my mess of messages and emails. It seriously just makes me want to cry thinking about it...one of my silly, stupid things I suppose.
Pigs, oh pigs. How I love them and hate them right now. We have too many pigs, not enough time, and frankly, I'm embarrassed by our whole operation. My husband always says I am too hard on myself, but last night as I did chores, I looked at what I had created and just cried. Hard. To look at each animal as an individual, not just a pig, was making my heart hurt. The fact that it was raining and everything had become a wet muddy mess probably didn't help things. But all I could see was how I was failing them all. By having them all. Ruby, our Hereford/GOS sow looks terrible. I was able to move her in with a much smaller group of pigs luckily, but she has lost so much weight. Too much competition for food with the older sows and the fact that she will let any piglet nurse on her has taken a toll on her body. Not to mention there has been some misunderstanding with feeding amounts between myself and the hubby. I tend to feed too much, he tends to feed less. Add in the 20 something piglets we have right now. I think they look terrible. That is relative and I have seen much, MUCH worse piglets, they just aren't up to my standard. They are supposed to leave in a weeks time and I don't think they look good enough to go. They should have been wormed twice by now, the boys should have been castrated, they should be fat and happy! They are happy, they basically have the run of the farm at the moment, running around and eating grass to their hearts content. This week will be catch up and piglet round up. Time to make it right.
While I was out in the pig barn, Luna, my most beloved pig and first Gloucestershire Old Spot pig, must have sensed my heartache. She came up to me and gave me one of her pig hugs, as I call it. She stands next to my side and puts her head around to the front of my legs, gently leaning into me. The realization came to me then, I want to do as best by her as I possibly can. Which means greatly reducing our numbers. I want to be excited to go out and see my pigs, not dread it. I want to be proud when I look out to the barn not embarrassed. If someone would just come and take all the pigs that need to go in one fell swoop and be done with it, I would be happy. They could just have them. That is the point I have gotten to. I am tired of the feed bill, tired of all the hay we go through, tired of the mess, tired of their squealing at feeding time, tired of the time they take. And it's my own damn fault I'm so bloody tired. It doesn't mean I need to continue on this way though. This also doesn't mean I am done with pigs. I love them too much. But our original plan to downsize a little has become to downsize a lot. I am hoping that by fall we will only have 2 GOS sows and a boar. With the hopes of adding a new gilt and boar at some point this year for some genetic diversity. But my hopes is to have no more than 3 sows and a boar on our farm. Compared to our crazy 8 sows and a boar.
Deciding that I am only going to keep things on the farm that give me peace and joy is something I wish I had done a long time ago. Instead of trying to farm in a way that would give me popularity and some how make it big. Not sure what I was thinking there. I am sure some piglet customers will be disappointed but our Old Spots are calm, peaceful, easy in all aspects for us. So we need to focus on that. We will only breeding them for the foreseeable future. They are the breed I am passionate about. Everything else has been around to make other people happy. I need to farm in a way that makes ME happy! Not to mention my animals. Luna hates the other pigs. They genuinely stress her out. So I am wanting that peace for her as well.
Moving into Summer I have even more hope then I did at the start of Spring. There is a plan in place for the pigs which will make for an easier Fall and Winter. A plan that I hope will allow me to give the best to my animals and the best to potential customers. The end of Summer will bring on a whole new project of a family milk cow. Tilly is due the end of August and we can't wait! She could potentially help feed us and the whole farm! We are also gearing up for fair for our kiddos with the newest project for our son being his market lamb. I will have to write a whole other post about that and sheep. But thankfully the sheep, goats, and cows have been a bit of serenity here lately. Now to get our pigs on that same boat too.