I am sure people know that life at the farm does not stop for holidays, not even around Christmas. We do not expect to take the day off ... we just hope it does not get more complicated than usual ... that's all. Next year we are definitely putting the "easy Christmas at the farm pretty please" on our letter to Santa. To briefly explain the situation, we offer you a multi-day snapshot into the myriad workings of Agricola Farm…the most sophisticated and smoothly run operations this side of the lake.
Christmas looms and still no presents purchased for our daughter. We are in the middle of a crazy day spent between doctors’ appointments and rushed bank appointments - but we are only few feet from a toy store - we peer steely-eyed at each other and make the quick decision to park in the lot and attempt a mad dash for toddler loot... the phone rings… the pigs are out.
We make a B-line for the farm and arrive on the scene of the crime. There are flashing police lights, 20 cars in the middle of the road, and 4 or 5 people attempting to corral our 11 adult pigs, who at the moment are undecided on their general plan of escape.
Ale gets out of the car, grabs the bag of feed in the back and the pigs start running towards her. It is a relief, maybe this time it will be an easy capture! Alas, after they arrive to Ale, and her food, they keep going ... They were not interested in food (no surprise there, they were fed few hours earlier). The other major problem: the road to the barn was completely iced over. Place yourself in the shoes of a pig: you are 220 to 300 pound, carefully balanced on top of 4 tiny feet that have zero traction on ice and your feet get really cold
really fast. Would you consider going down a 20% ice slope to go back to the barn, when outside it is sunny and friendly people are all around you yelling things that are not quite clear but seem to be important? Exactly.
We tried all our tricks: food, water, bucket over the head. Charles, in his nice office clothes, was directing the efforts and educating the kind people that stopped to help on how to be "urgent but gentle" when approaching the pigs. At one point Ale grabbed one of the smaller ones by the tail and ear and things were going okay - until the pig decided he did not like that at all so Ale was left hanging on to the tail while the pig ran down the icy road. After a few yards riding behind the pig someone kindly mentioned "hey, you can let go, it is not a ski lift." A few bruises and indelicate falls later all 11 pigs were back in the barn. Our heroes (that would be the farmers, dear reader, not the pigs!) Ale and Charles were exhausted and relieved. The policeman was disappointed he did not get to bring home a fresh ham.
In the winter in Vermont, water is often the farmer’s biggest challenge. And indeed, the hydrant at the main barn was frozen in the morning. This meant an extra 1 hr of chores to get the water to the pigs.
The hydrant, the water tank, AND the 4X4 we use to carry feed and water were all frozen. Not too shocking given the balmy temperature -9F. But that did not discourage our Holiday spirits. We still opened the presents with
Eva and then Ale bundled up to do chores. Everything was white but not slippery like a few days ago when the pigs escaped. We filled the buckets, one by one and carried them to the barns. A number of people slowed down to wish us Merry Christmas - that was nice ... it made the whole chores-from-hell experience a lot more bearable. Thanks Williston.
Adopt a Tree in VT
Our Adopt a Tree initiative is going well! We have given out 30 trees for adoption in less than 1 week. We have many many to go so tell your friends, family, colleagues, strangers on the bus, anyone you know likes tree, anyone who likes sugar, anyone who likes Vermont! We are super excited about our sugarwork operation and can hardly wait to get started so help us out and get some good maple syrup. By the way, today we saw in a retail store that 1/2 gallon of industry-made maple syrup was priced at $32.50 - so our $35 for adopting a tree is truly a bargain! Join the others and contact ale (email@example.com) to reserve your tree.
We have been on a Blog break for a while. Time to come back.
SO SO SO much has happened!
The main change - the most visible one - is that all our animals are in the barn (I should say barns). We were going to keep the sheep out in the pasture, and they would have been very happy out there, but the truth is that our pasture did not have enough grass for them this year. Next year we will have time to seed it and organize the rotations so that we can maximize the grass production - this year we are just glad we have found a farm that works for us in a community that loves us. We have new piggies (as you may know from our Facebook updates). The 10 readheads are all happy and growing in our barn. Soon we will open up a larger pen for them and we will give them access to the front yard but I doubt that with this weather they will venture outside their cozy mound of hay. The ewes are all happy and (hopefully) pregnant. The ram found a way to sneak into the ewes pen (and also to sneak out in the evening ... weird ram!!) so we have no idea what day exactly the ewes were "serviced." We will run a "guess the lambing date" game - the game is less fun that it sounds since we need to be there at lambing to make sure ewes and lambs are okay and if we do not know the date that means a lot of long cold sleepless nights.
We are facing a major dilemma ... the Farm Service Agency (FSA) does NOT want the Siple family to lease us the land for more than 1 year at a time. This makes our job as livestock farmers close to impossible. This limitation is very unfortunate and makes absolutely no sense to us or the Siples. The Siples want us on their farm for EVER, and we want to be there for EVER but FSA (main lender for the Siple Farm) does not seem to think this is a good idea so we are actually forced to keep our eyes open for other properties. How sad. We will let everyone know if we find something different - so far all the animals are cozily anchored down in the barns on South Rd and we are not planning to move them :)
ANd here to finish with some good memories of the season so far - here is a picture of our chickens on the pasture few months back - what a wonderful place we live in!