Saturday, June 30, 2012

Washed Pigs

The rain washed most of the usual mud off the piggies, so I took the opportunity to take a few pictures of them.  (We were soooo happy about the nice long rain we got last week, although at the end there it was getting a little boring).

Star and Black-ear have really grown tremendously.  I hadn't seen them in a little while, because they've been moved down the wooded pig line to a fresh paddock which is away from the main area.  Ethan's been feeding them, as it requires carrying a heavy bucket of soaked oats, barley, corn, peas and sour milk all the way up there.

Ethan was out of town last week, and I was feeding them, and as they made a very punctual appearance when they saw the bucket, and I got a few pictures.  They are huge.  It's hard to believe the tiny piglets we brought back last winter are the same big pigs.

The ugly piggies are looking better, too.  This has been a rough year for these pigs.  They were ugly, small and runty when we first got them, and after a few days we lost two of them (the first time we have ever lost a pig, other than from having them escape), from what we discovered was the porcine coricovirus, which the guy we bought them from called "travelling sickness."   It's something nearly all pigs have and isn't a problem unless they are stressed for some reason, like being moved to a new home.  About a week after all that, I realized when they came over to eat that they were crawling with lice, seemingly overnight.  Really, it's been kind of a nightmare with these pigs--we have never had problems with pigs before in the four years we've raised them.

We got some diatomacious earth as soon as possible, which I sprinkled generously around their pen and all over them daily for a couple of weeks.  When the lice seemed to have disappeared, we let them out into the larger paddock along the wooded pig-grazing line, and I haven't seen a single louse on them since.

Although it's been quite the rehabilitative struggle this year, they have filled out a lot since they've been here.  They look so much huskier and healthier than they did when they got here.  They still aren't very pretty, but at least they are looking sleeker and fatter.  The little ones were so skinny and runty when we first got them.  They love being in the big wooded paddock.  Like the pink piggies, we hardly see them except for when they expect their dinner.  Otherwise they are cooling off in their wallow or foraging.

The bad news is that one of the pigs--the brown one in the background--appears to be pregnant.  We only just noticed this last week.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Summer Sloth

Just like last year, as soon as it's gotten really hot and humid, lethargy sets in.  I keep thinking about doing a new post, but it's so hard to get anything done when it's 92 degrees out.  I've gone into summer hibernation.  I'll admit I was kind of driven to even write this.  Mirin is gone all weekend at the Firefly Gathering, learning to make weapons he's really not old enough to be in possession of (it was the grandparents' idea).  Rose was a little too young to go, so while Mirin is having the time of his life, Rose and I are completely sick of each other's company.  I am so thankful I have two children in normal circumstances.  I can now understand/sympathize with the single-child families who send their children to childcare programs as soon as they are walking and talking, even if they don't need childcare.  It really is hard to talk to/entertain someone every waking minute of their lives.  A few minutes on the computer is as much of a break as I could hope for.

Of course things have been happening, completely unrecorded, however.  The baby goats are getting big and fat.  They look about twice as tall as they were when they were born.  May's baby is the fattest.  They run around while I do the milking and jump on top of the old decrepit wagon.  Ethan says they look like they have Pogo sticks attached to their feet.  To me, they look like a cyclone of legs and ears.  

The wagon is the same one I used to lug three buckets of feed and water up to the chickens and goats, back when Rose was a baby strapped to my back and I had to move the 400-lb hell-on-little-wheels coop over the grass and cactus all by myself each day.  I had to remove the wheels before it was moved, or the chickens would get out and be eaten over night, and I carried a crow bar around to hoist the edges up until I was strong enough to lift it with my hands.  If it didn't have wheels on it, it couldn't be moved without a large combustion engine.  Somewhere, there's a crow bar out in the pastures still.  Ethan rarely went out, so it was mostly me and the two little kids sweating among the blackberry thorns and the cactus, pulling the wagon with flat tires (Ethan mistakenly bought the one with inflatable tires).  I'm glad the wagon has a new use now.

 We've been getting the nicest melons lately.  Mirin is the official melon-picker, because he's much better than I am at telling if they are ripe or not.  We even got a Delice de la Table melon this year, although I think my favorites were the Eden's Gem, Charantais and Sakata's Sweet.  We didn't get much out of the Golden Jenny melons, which have been so reliable in past years, but I think that had more to do with a bad location than the melons.

We also got a ton of tomatillos this year, and a few lemon squash.  I did something wrong with the summer squash, and it was all I could do to keep them from curling up and dying before we got a few squash out of them.  I think squash skips years.  We've only had a really good summer squash year every other year.  They have different plagues that come through and kill them.  One year it was powdery mildew, after two weeks of solid rain.  Then we had a good year.  Then it was stem borers and Ethan's incompetence.  I was in California that spring, and he planted them in a place where even the bahia grass struggles to survive.  Last year was a good squash year, and low and behold, this year the dreaded squash bug has reared it's ugly head and dispatched our dreams of buttery squash, squash cooked in milk and baked zucchini.  But at least we've gotten a bunch of sweet and hot peppers, for the first time, so it kind of makes up for it.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Baby Goat Bliss

Here is the picture of May's baby, June Bug, as promised.  May is the goat who just will not stay in a fence. She is almost always out (and eating things like my flowers and banana trees).  We chase her back in whenever we see her out, but she's never in for longer than five minutes.  So of course she wandered way off to have her baby.  We found her and June Bug hiding in an oak thicket, right in the middle of the paddock the cows were supposed to be moved to that day, so we had to move them, which proved to be traumatic on all counts.
May has mostly been staying inside the fence now, and she's actually a much better mother than Nougat.  Maybe this has something to do with only having one kid, but she's always by her baby, smelling her and cleaning her off.  June Bug proved to be very sharp and learned to nurse faster than either of Nougat's babies.  May watches her like a hawk, and when I was sitting with her after the birth to help the baby get it's share of colostrum as soon as possible, she was smelling the breeze and listening to any little sound.  She reminded me of a deer.
Nougat, on the other hand....
Had her babies on an enormous cactus.  I still have cactus spines all over from trying to help them out of it.  I never see her really wash her babies like May does, and the first day I came out she left them very quickly to see if I had a treat for her.  The babies were crying, and one ran over and she kicked it out of the way.  She's usually laying about 20 feet away from them when we get there.  She responds to them when they cry and likes to know where they are, but she's not really careful with them.
It's so interesting watching the animals parenting.  They never, ever act aggressively towards their babies, as humans do with corporal punishment.  And they respond to their crying--something that is unusual in modern human parenting.
If you think of it in terms of people, Nougat is the closest to what is fashionable in modern parenting--the separation, limits, boundaries, sleeping away from your babies.  May is more of an attachment parent, I suppose.  I hope June Bug doesn't end up hopelessly spoiled and over-attached.  The reality is, though, that Nature doesn't bother with philosophical reasoning.  It's obvious that in the wild, May's baby would have a significantly higher chance of survival.

 PS:  I saw our mail lady again (it's been someone else delivering the mail lately), and she told me that the buck we had them all bred to just died a few days ago.  She said he just got thinner and thinner and finally got really sick and died.  She tried wormers and antibiotics, but nothing helped.  It sounded just like what happened to Ellie!  I really wonder if that was what she died from.  Our other goats seem completely fine and healthy, and the babies are doing great, thankfully.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

May also kidded!  She only had one kid, and it has white ears too, but the white spot on her head is smaller, only a star.  I keep forgetting to take my camera out to take pictures, so I can't show you (maybe tomorrow), but I do have a few photos of the fruits of the garden that I can go on and on about (I love talking about my garden).  We have gotten some melons already!  I really like the gold baby melons.  They are small but very sweet.  We got our first Eden's Gem melon and I think a Charantais.

The tomatillos are still doing well, and we actually got some peppers this year.  The first ones were the Czec black hot peppers, but they were fairly mild.  And it was a relief to get some cucumbers and summer squash.  I was afraid we wouldn't get anything this year.

Strangely, this year we have had less of a succession of harvests.  Last year there was a definite seasonal timing for all of the different vegetables, with the squash and cucumbers being first, then the beans, then tomatoes, then melons and pumpkins, and lastly the okra, a few peppers (it was a bad year) and the eggplant.  This year all at once everything's ready--except the beans, which were a failure for some reason.  I think it's because it has been so hot this year.  We had an exceptionally warm spring.

The weeds are also noticing this.  It's really gotten out of hand.  I can hardly see the garden for the weeds.  Some of the weeds are pretty, like the Spanish needle and the re-seeded zinnias, cosmos and sunflowers, but others are just weedy like the awful nutsedge and sandspurs that came it with a bale of old hay I had used as mulch the first year.  They are mostly growing between the rows, but some things--not to mention the Mayo Indian and Golden Amaranths I planted last year--have been serious pests.  Who would have known that the two tiny packages of amaranth seeds would lead to such an invasion?

The sunflowers, as lovely as they are, are also causing problems.  They are blocking the sprinklers and shading out the melons.  They are so bright and pretty, I haven't had the heart or the energy to cut them down.  It looks like it's going to be a serious job, anyway, like I might have to borrow Ethan's ax.  They are massive.  There is one in the back of the garden whose stem appears to be four inches at chest height.  They are no longer sunflowers--they are sun trees.

Friday, June 1, 2012

New Goats

We did lose Ellie after all.  She was so weak after having the babies, I think it was just too much for her, and she was having a lot of trouble breathing.  We are still thinking it over and trying to figure out what happened.  I think she had pneumonia.  Was this the same coughing illness she had in January and didn't recover from?  The immune system is naturally suppressed towards the end of pregnancy--was that what made her so ill again?  We're not sure.  The babies were born too early, certainly.  It has been very sad.  She was our first goat, first farm animal really, other than chickens, and she was such a dear.

Nougat had twin girls the day before yesterday.  I've been so anxious about them, but they all three seem healthy.  These are Nougat's first babies, but she's been doing really well with them and has accepted them both.  After the whole thing with Chocolate and May, I was worried, especially as when I got there one was already standing and the other was laying down still, and Nougat was very quick to desert them to see if I had a treat for her.

But they both seem to be fine--so far.  I feel like I should add that after how things have been turning out.  They are so cute.  They look a lot like the buck.  They have slightly blue eyes, which Ethan wasn't happy about.  He looks down on people who keep blue-eyed goats, but I pointed out that we were keeping them for their milking abilities, not for how cute they are.
I love that kids are so friendly.  Calves are always so stand-offish until they get older.  Soon after I got there and helped them get their colostrum they were climbing in my lap.

May is also due soon.  Her udder gets larger every day.  This will be her first birth/lactation, too, so I hope everything goes as well with her.  This is the first year we are milking animals who have never been milked before.  Sometimes it all seems like too much--worrying about the babies, loosing dear old Ellie and all the kicking at the milking stand.  But there is also so much to be thankful for.  It's so nice to have baby goats again.  They are already starting to be playful and shake their ears around.  And soon there will be fresh chevre.