December 15, 2010 piggus pileus

you’ve never really seen a pig pile like this.  they scatter when i approach, so the photo isn’t representative, but believe me, fifty pigs of a rainbow variety of sizes and colors and personalities, lying one on top of another and trying to keep warm, is a memorable site to walk on in the woods.  it’s a good ol’ fashion pig pile. 

they have really been utilizing the hay we put out, and it seems to be making a big difference.  the newest piglets, and the new mama, have established their own side nest, and over the last few days we have added several feet of insulation surrounding them.  as you can see in the video yesterday, mama uses her nose and some grunts to keep the piglets in the warm zone she (we) created.

and then there’s this guy.  do you see him?  which one of these is not like the other one…

this runty little tamworth piglet, who is most likely between six to nine weeks older than our newborns, is holing up in the nest as well.  he’s smart i guess, and found himself a pretty cushy little spot. 

he’s a little weak, and has a minor cough, which i’m hoping is not something the piglet’s can catch.  the forecast claims tonight is the last viciously cold night (for now), so hopefully everyone will bounce back stronger and warmer on the other end.

December 12, 2010

when it’s nine am, twenty eight degrees, and you’re in your backyard sawing down twenty-five foot bamboo shafts to build a floating pig shelter in the woods—you’ll be smiling too.  raising animals on pasture, or in the hog’s sake, on woodlot, means to have the ability to adapt to completely unexpected scenarios—constantly!—and to react to them through the most efficient, smartest, and cheapest (ideally $zero) manner possible.  over the next two days we are expected to have the coldest weather this region has experienced in over one hundred and fifty years (this early in the season).  considering the small size, and young age, of many of pch’s residents—including our surprise newborns—we have decided to take a little preemptive action and provide some quick hay nests for the herd to nestle into. 

using the bamboo from my backyard as a frame, and some scrap metal we found on the property as a roof, we used simple metal wire to attach the metal to the bamboo, and the bamboo to the tree.  This is over in the sow pen, where the animals are many hundreds of pounds and can definitely handle any condition jah earth has to throw.  the makeshift roof was added simply to keep the hay underneath a little dryer and provide some respite from the forecasted freezing rain.  although the hogs don’t need this to survive, survival of these animals is not our only goal—their comfort is of paramount importance.  stressed animals—stress of any kind—retards weight gains, inhibits sexual productivity, and wastes our money. 

over in general population, where we have about thirty very young piglets—including some that are just a few days old—we wanted to build something that will help and hold in some warmth.  the floating bamboo is great since it doesn’t allow the huge sows to destroy our creation, but it’s open walls do nothing for heat.  bales of hay, stacked two high, were used to create a wind-breaking wall for the new mama and her babies to hunker into.  within a few days the hay fort will most likely be totally destroyed, but at least it will bridge us through these next few nights of extreme temperatures. 

in other parts of the country, producers who raise hogs year round outside most likely have large, very stout huts for the hogs to take shelter in.  our hogs, however, due to georgia’s usually mild winter, survive year round with absolutely no structure or housing in sight.  just pigs in the woods.  that’s it and that’s all.

and here’s a shot of my bro, in for the weekend, falling for the oldest trick in the book.  i told him if he dropped trow and shat in the woods the pigs would consider him one of their own.  classic. 

October 12, 2010 kitchen staff, farm staff

after several weeks without taking a day off, i found myself a bit burnt, and extremely tired.  rookie mistake, i know.  scheduling days off, after years of strictly knowing five on-two off, is a skill yet to be breached, but newly on my radar.  with no fuel in the tank, and a short, but important list of tasks, i looked elsewhere to find my motivation. 

luckily, it was everywhere.

with hundreds of plants to get in the ground—some for the restaurant to use in the coming months, and some to be over wintered—a few gents from the farm255 kitchen came out to lend a hand and get dirty.  over wintering is exactly what it sounds like—putting plants in the ground now to establish root structure, and allowing them to go dormant over the winter, so they’ll have that head start come the spring flush. 

these plants are babies, and are to be treated like such.  a wide range of factors could cause these plants to die in the coming week. 

another wave of inspiration came from a group of uga students who came out to lend a hand on sunday.  they were taking part in a global work day (over seven thousand gatherings held in almost two hundred countries) organized by, with a theme revolving around sustainable solutions. 

the event was held on ten/ten/oh ten, and it was exciting to be a part of.  although it was a sunday morning work day at the end of a long month, i had a smile on my face and was thankful for so many things.  first off, i was farming, which is a personal miracle in itself.  but second, to be able to host this work party of young students eager to be a part of what i am now entrenched in was both inspirational and encouraging.

feels good to be a part of something so good. 

October 08, 2010

woah, boys.  easy now.

while attempting to introduce our two new bulls to the herd (located several fence lines, over the hill, and halfway to grandma’s away), a lapse in one section of our temporary alley allowed the transferees to undermine the plans.  one second they were in the alley, and the next second they were in full trot, in tandem, towards the farthest possible location they could find—the tree line, three hundred yards away. 

son of a.

i can’t quite describe what these moments are like.  not panicky, as you might guess.  and compared to other moments, not really much urgency either.  there’s just nothing you can do, besides wait and see what they do.  no amount of sprinting, screaming, or freaking will solve your problems now.

after quickly eliminating our options, we landed on the idea of grabbing our trucks, and slowly herding them down the pasture and towards either a) the alley we had them in, or b) the same overnight holding pen they were in last night.  either one will do at this point. 

and it almost worked, too.  after two three quarter way successful efforts, and a whole lot of sprinting, jogging, zigging, and cornering on my end, john ivy politely pointed out that i-between me and the bulls—was the only one getting tired.  at that moment, i wished i could have traded all the power under my hood,  for one real horse.

so we gave up.  the two bulls, at last sighting, were napping in the woodline on the far end of their pasture.  we closed off every exit except the one that leads to their holding pen from last night. 

like a middle aged man luring school kids into his van with candy and balloons, we laced the holding paddock with a mound of sea kelp, a pile of alfalfa snacks, and the only access to water this side of seven thousand volts.  the hope is they will enter, spend the night, and we can try this again in a day or two.

this is where we stand.  to be continued.


p.s.  to me, the live action commentary to start the clip is hilarious in retrospect.  at that moment i knew nothing.  an hour and a half later i was red in the face, and defeated for the day.