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In early December 2012, we brought four pigs home, not really fully prepared for what it meant to add livestock to the farm. In those three years, I have done things I never imagined I would from being present at the birth and death of a pig to eating an animal I helped raise. Last week, we bade farewell to the last six pigs. We don’t regret the adventure and learned a lot about ourselves and our relationship to animals, but we are ready for a break from the responsibility.
Whereas chickens and other fowl can survive without daily attention, pigs demand it. They were contented behind the electric fence until their stomachs growled and then they came looking for dinner. We’ve had a few barnyard buddies who hung out under the porch of the cottage and came out to steal the turkey food or get a ru. I think my favorite story is coming home late on a summer evening to see the barn yard littered with half eaten watermelons. That could mean only one thing: Biscuit, our first boar, was out. Sure enough, he had busted through the chain link and made his way through a pile of melons, a piggy favorite. We pushed him back in, knowing, he wasn’t secure and headed to bed. We woke to a ruckus in the middle of the night to discover Biscuit wandering around in search of more melons. I coaxed him back to his pen, made a more secure barrier and watched as he headed into his pen, stretched out, sighed contentedly and feel asleep.
With the pigs gone, Bob may be able to travel for more than a day or two. We have also turned our attention to the house. We pulled up the carpets in most of the front of the house to reveal the hard wood floors. Bob covered the hole in the wood paneled den in the back of the house and it has become our family room for the winter. We haven’t had to use the wood burning stove very much with the warm weather, but we’re ready when winter really does come. The stove warms the den and the kitchen and makes a cozy living area for us.
We are taking advantage of the sun porch to raise lettuces and I have sprouts and herbs in the kitchen window. We have some greens and broccoli down front. Freshly picked broccoli, lightly steamed with butter and lemon, is one of the joys of farm living. And the hens continue to provide eggs…just enough for the two of us. We’ll keep gardening but will also use the dollars we save to support other farmers, knowing how hard it is to produce sustainable food in all its various forms whether on hoof or nest or vine. You will pay more probably, but you will do so knowing that your dollars are going right back into your community, literally, and ensuring an ongoing source for fresh food for you and your neighbors.
I harvested a little honey this year. The hives appear strong and are full as we head into winter, but the supers had very little honey. I did not feed them very much last year and wonder if their stores were too low. I’m going to feed them on January 1. I am also considering adding two more hives to the apiary.
Bob has done a great job clearing much of the acreage but there is still some wilderness that is home, along with our barn yard, to wildlife. We usually see wild turkeys and this year, we provided sanctuary to at least one fox. We’ve protected the chickens a bit better because we don’t have the heart to get rid of him. We can live in balance. Bob caught some video of him in the pasture.
The most fun this fall has been with our two Royal Palm turkeys. They are both toms who like to jump the fence into the back yard and eat the sunflower seeds. They wander along the back porch and have, at least once, been in the front hall as we leave the doors open for the dogs in the warm weather. They don’t have names…I call them collectively “gentlemen” and they greet me in the morning and gobble at trains and sirens. Endlessly amusing. They are a daily reminder of our somewhat odd life: I forget sometimes that not everyone looks our their laundry room window to see two turkeys roosting on the wash line.
It is a good life. and we are looking forward to the journey ahead. We hope you had a wonderful holiday and wish you a magical new year!