Winter update - 2021
Lambs – while some lamb left the farm, right now new baby lambs are popping right and left (although they are arriving 2 months earlier than expected). Right now we have 5 (from 3 of the 40 ewes) but it already feels a better lambing season than last year. In 2020 we experienced very out-of-the-world lambing difficulties that caused us to lose several of our old-time favorite ewes – we even called seasoned shepherds in the area and when we described the situation they all scratched their heads because… certain things are just not supposed to happen (mostly in terms of weird positioning of the lambs at lambing time). I feel this year we are at a better start already with the ewes doing their own things and showing the lovely maternal instincts that Icelandic have.
Ducks and chickens – mating has started for the ducks! We have now a nice pool where they can go do what ducks do (and do better in the water) and we have a lovely egg nesting station where they like to hide their eggs. In 2 weeks we will fire up the good ‘ol incubator (dated approximately WWII) and the entire house will be vibrating at the notes of its powerful engine that keeps the eggs at the right temperature - with the small inconvenience of keeping all the farmers awake for the next 28 days for ducks then 21 for chickens and then repeat. So… yeah, no one will be able to sleep for the next 4 months so be weary of very twitching farmers – but who cares… at the end we will have ducklings and baby chicks. It is almost like going thought a “group” gestational period where we (farmers) are the expecting fathers. We may be exhausted and ready to jump at each other throat for the lack of sleep but the moment we hear the first little *cheep cheep* everyone gets big lovey dovey eyes, we all gather around the incubator as one of us reaches inside and a beautiful, perfect, super confused, fluffy chick emerges at the end of a dog tennis launcher – yes you heard me – we use the tennis ball launcher to harvest the chicks from the humongous incubator (here is a link in case you are not familiar with this device: https://petlifetoday.com/best-dog-ball-launchers/). After few seconds of intense oxytocin secretion, we will need to place the little guy back in his new world to keep him warm and by the time the incubator door closes again, we are back at each other’s throat – until someone else says “hey should we check on the chicks again?” WARNING: do not check on chicks a lot or the other eggs will not hatch.
Pigs and Chickens. The best part of winter is the symbiotic relationship between chickens and pigs. There is something extremely satisfying in seeing two species getting along well and chickens and pigs are masters of that. In the morning, you can always count of a few chickens dozing off on top of a pile of pigs. The chicks keeping their feet warm and the pigs enjoying the new down comforter. The best part though is when you have individual chickens that decide they had enough of the other poultry and adopt a group of pigs as their new group. We have 2 right now. One is a hen that I think has as main motivation the fact that she occupies the warmest, driest, and safest nesting spot in the barn, which happens to be inside the pen of 8 little piglets. She was there first, to tell you the truth, and did not look ecstatic when we introduced her to her new roommates. It took two weeks of determined pecking at the little inquisitive noses before the piglets learned to just cohabit with her. Now, things are comfortable and the other day I even saw her pecking some food from the head of a sleeping piglet. The other “immigrant” chicken is taking on the role of a pig in all aspects. Sleeps with the pigs and even takes her place at the feeding trough. When you look at the cute pink noses all in line to eat at the through, the shiny red crop on top of the hen’s black head makes you do a double take whether what you are seeing is indeed happening. But the pigs seem to not have such concerns and treat her as one of the group, which includes occasional siblings disagreements in terms of sharing food and sleeping spots.
GUSTAVO IS LEAVING! (Gustavo is our boar) He will join Bread and Butter Farm on February 26th. They have promised to look after him for at least other 3 years. He will be incredibly missed at the farm, not just from us but I am sure by the girls as well. We are preparing a special basket for him so that farmer Brandon, at Bread and Butter can offer him his special treats once he gets there. We are putting in the basket Yolo popcorns, tortillas from VT tortilla CO. frozen chicken eggs, tomatoes and, of course, a bucket of ice cream from Cookies' Love On the positive side, we have just welcomed Filippo (PIppo for his friends - see Pippo's picture below), our new young boar. He is not quite ready to meet the girls yet. He first needs to grow quite a bit, since he is only few months old. And in the meantime? Well, meet Dr. Ale, our new BS (Boar Substitute). Yes, I will be doing artificial insemination, and I will use all the modern techniques for insemination, including the very informative video from the Netherlands on how to mount a sow to make sure she has a large litter. We may sell tickets to watch this event AH!