Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Piglets Arrive to Big Lick!

Good Day All! Today was an exciting day at the farm as we acquired our first batch of piglets. These are not the Tamworth pigs (the Tamworths are just now being born) but these are what we have decided to start with in the meantime.
These babies are three months old and are a cross between two different breeds of pig (a Hampshire and a Yorkshire) they are actually called "Blue Butts" as they have little blue patches on their bums! They went literally"hog wild" when they were placed in their new pasture. They were raised inside a barn on concrete floors and had never known the joys that only a pig could really appreciate! As soon as their cloven hooves hit the soil they were munching down all the grass and turning the sod clumps up in search of roots and worms. We did not get much done after they arrived as it was so fun to watch them racing from one end of their pen to the other. It's surprising how vocal pigs are. They were squealing, snorting and giving satisfied grunts to each other as their mouths were full of dirt.
We are thinking that within one month they will have this section of garden completely annihilated of any grass or roots so we will move them down to a fresh section of pasture to repeat the same process following behind them with new garden plantings. We are hopeful that within 4 months they will be ready for eating. Luckily they are not overly friendly and we must force ourselves not to tame them down, name them etc... it just makes it that much more difficult in the end!
Enjoy the photos and check back soon for more farm updates!

Be well!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Rototilling with pigs and machines!

Hi farm friends! Asinete and I have been very busy taking full advantage of the sunny weather to get our pig panels up and tilling in some of our cover crops to make room for snow peas, onions, spinach and next month potatoes.
I wanted to get a before and after shot of our pasture (before the pigs and after the pigs). Both of us were doing a bit of grumbling about how much work it would be to keep moving the pigs and the panels down the field in sections however I feel that in the long run the pigs will save us much more time by rooting the soil for us and in the process eating out the grass and roots (easier than us hand pulling them!) We are looking at raising a heritage breed of pig called the Tamworth. The Tamworth is one of the oldest breeds of porcine. The Tamworth originated in Ireland and was very popular for many years. Their populations dropped when it was discovered that they do not do well in factory farming methods of keeping pigs indoors and on concrete floors. The Tamworth prefers to be on open pasture and forage for much of its food~ sounds like a perfect match for what we need! We hope to start with one or two gilts (females) and when they get older and become sows breed them and help to increase their populations. We will set up a system where we keep the best offspring for breeding purposes and the ones which may not be suitable breeding stock will be sold as pork. I may become a vegetarian after this experiment- we'll see!
I will be posting photos in the next few days as we get our pigs out into their new field so keep an eye out!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Gearing up for a Great Season!

We have been busy Big Lickers here trying to get a head start on everything while the rain has been kept at bay for the time being. With the help of our great friend and neighbor Buck we have been able to install the wood stove inside our greenhouse (see Asinete above putting on the finishing touches and Buck and Eugene contemplating using a coffee can as the top of the stove pipe). Now that the wood stove is completed we will fire it up in a few weeks when our tiny tomatoes, eggplants and peppers (above) get bigger and need to be moved out of the protection of the hotframe that they are in now.
We also have been chipping tree trimmings and using the mulch to put around our baby peach trees like the red haven peach above. The mulch helps keep the weeds out and holds the moisture during the summer months... peach trees like lots of water!
In other exciting farm news we have decided to enlist the help of four pigs this spring to help us uproot our newly acquired pastures. We have made a hefty investment into hog panels and will section off our pasture in increments. The pigs love to dig up everything and turn up the soil finding the roots of the grass and eating them meaning less work for us in weeding later on! Also they will fertilize the ground with their rich manure as we will follow behind them planting gardens as they move down the next section. I think the pigs will turn out to be one of our most useful farm animals (certainly more than the geese which prevent even us from getting down to our greenhouse when they are testy). In summer we will be offering our pasture raised pork! Hopefully our next farm blog will contain photos of our new pigs hard at work tilling with their powerful snouts!

Be well!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Spring is Coming!

Good Day Everyone! We are trying to keep careful documentation through photos of the events on the farm. You can see from these photos how we prepare the seedling mix using coco peat (substitute for peat moss) peat moss works well too but unfortunately peat bogs are being destroyed to harvest it. Coco peat is a by product of the coconut shell (the hair).
We have two more bundles of fruit trees (apples and persimmons) that need to be planted, some of which are pictured here patiently waiting for us to get them planted- today!
Our sungold cherry tomatoes are the first seeds to sprout as you can see.. their long slumber is over.
Also for any of you interested to see some traditional dancing from Kiribati (Asinete's homeland) click on the following links. Beautiful place, beautiful people!
Be well!
Suzie & Asinete
links to Kiribati music/dancing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hd9PrYbGDQ

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sowing the Seeds of 2009!

Happy February Farm Friends! As you can see things at Big Lick are going ahead full steam. First off we wanted to introduce the newest member of the farm. That is "Tautia" (sounds like Tulsa) which means soldier in Asinete's language. He is a 9 week old yellow lab puppy. Asinete named him Tautia as when he grows larger the puppy will be the soldier patrolling the farm from any deer. At the farm he seems most interested in wanting to chase the chickens (a big no no) or else finding a nice pile of goose droppings to munch on (yuck!) and people always say how sweet puppy breath is! Our older golden retriever Kestrel is the perfect babysitter.
In the other pictures you can see the heating table that Asinete designed and did a great job on. This table is layered with sand, chicken wire and heating cables. The cables are tied down on the chicken wire to keep it in place. Then we put another layer of sand on top of the cables and on that put our seed trays that need that extra bottom heat (peppers, eggplant and tomatoes). In the background you can see as I started the first few seed trays to go on the inside of the heating table. Today I started Mucho Nacho peppers, sweet cluster tomatoes, green zebra tomatoes, black beauty eggplant, sungold cherry tomatoes, ancho peppers, and black krim tomatoes. This is just the beginning as tomorrow we can start going full force with seed sowing. Seed sowing is one of my favorite parts of farming. Every step from mixing together the seedling mix (coco peat, vermiculite, cottonseed meal, kelp meal, fish bone meal, lime, and blood meal). All of these mixed together make for a nutritionally complete environment for a seed to flourish in!
We spent Saturday planting 44 fruit trees on our back pasture. We planted 4 varieties of peaches for a total of 42 trees. We stuck with 3 old time favorites which are Suncrest, Rio Oso Gem, and Red Haven as well as the Frost peach trees which are said to be resistant to peach leaf curl. Sadly I was not able to get pictures of us planting the trees as both of our hands were covered in mud! In the next two days we will plant the remaining 23 trees. These include some great apple varieties as well as some persimmon trees (hachiya and fuyu). Nothing more beautiful to me than a persimmon tree in the fall... the naked trees strewn with bright orange fruits.
Our next project is to get the wood stove connected into our greenhouse for heating the entire structure. That's the thing with farming.. there's always something new to learn!
The hour is late now for this farmer as the dawdling days of winter seem to be over.
Be well!
Suzie, Asinete, Tautia and Kestrel