Wednesday, July 28, 2010

There here!

Thyme went off into the woods early this morning and had 6 baby piglets.

3 gilts and 3 boars

Luckily for one litte piglet a childs eyes spotted it about 75' from it's mother off in the woods.   How it got separated we'll never know but it was reunited with it's mama. 

Less than an hour old.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Trusting the process

Blue hubbard squash patch

For the first time ever I tried to grow blue hubbard squash.   We love winter squash and usually grow butternuts but this year I wanted to grow those huge 20 - 40  pounders too.  In early May I made a big mound that had been enriched with lots of compost, rich with aged goat and chicken  manure.   I watered dutifully and waited for the seedlings to pop their little heads from the soil.  After the seeds germinated  they grew like weeds with these huge beautiful leaves.   And they continued to grew until they over an took area, far larger than I hd anticipated.   But that was ok....I wanted those huge squash and it evidently takes a huge area to produce them.    

In the meantime, I had to wait on the butternuts to go in because we had a tree coming down that needed to be felled right where they were going.   The tree man wasn't able to get here for a month so the butternuts were way behind the hubbards going in.     The butternut came up and they too and did very well as they always do.    Lots and lots of flowers on both.  Then I got the little baby fruits on the hubbard.    They would get no bigger than a ping pong ball and turn yellow and shrivel up.   I wondered if there were enough bee's around and if they were getting pollinated.    I still watered, nurtured and waited.    Then  the butternuts started getting little baby squashes too.   But those were being pollinated because they were going on to be squashes.  Hummm....Still I watered and watched. 


Butternut squash

We walked through daily and squashed all the squash bugs we could find. We turned leaves over for eggs and smooshed them too.   Still, I thought maybe there are no squashes because it's a bigger plant and  it was going to take longer.    I went and looked in the Johnny seed catalog to see what it said about growing blue hubbard.   I only had the current catalog and the seeds had been from the year before but had not been planted until this year.   Johnny's catalog said  "Sorry, no seed available this year".    Ok...they must have had a crop failure and that would have been the same seed I'm not getting to fruit and I'm not going to get any squashes from these plants either this year. 

 I was disappointed.   I considered pulling the whole thing out because I could use that area for pea's instead of wasting it on this massive vine that wasn't going to do anything.   But I didn't.    And then we saw a fruit that didn't turn yellow.   Yay...we were going to get at least one.   But there were even more.  It's got at least a half dozen squashes!

Blue Hubbard squash

So why do I do this to myself every time I grow something new?   It starts out so optimistic but somewhere along the line I forget to trust the process.  I think I and my influence is more important than it is and that I hold the key to life and death for this plant.   I forget that nature isn't quite that fragile and that if I am doing things even half way right nature will take care of the rest.    I just need to remember to relax and trust the process.   Oh, if I could just remember this next time.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Any time now

Thyme looks as if she's about to touch the ground her belly is getting so big.

We've spent the past 2 days hauling cattle panels and goat panels through the woods to give the pigs and goats new wooded area's to browse and root.  Exhausting work with temperatures in the high 90's and low 100's.   What was I think when I decided to do this project now? 

Anyway, it's an area that's never been open to the animals and rarely have we even walked in that area.  We had to snake our way through the tree's, over downed wood and poison ivy carrying them one by one and then holding them up till we could get them attatched to the one before.  I'm sure in the next few weeks we'll have at least a few spots of poison ivy on us.   I think we went through a bag full of banana flavored popsicles in the process trying to cool off.  We have a rule to never venture into the woods without our Wellie's on because we have on occasion spotted copperheads back there so that added rubber -to -the- knee's only made us even hotter.

Cattle panels for anyone not familiar with them are 16' long pieces of metal fencing 4' tall.   The goat panels are the same but much heavier because for goats the holes are 4" x 4" and the cattle panels have 6" holes meaning less wire.    They are great for temporary fencing that is fairly easily moved.   In grassy area's it's not too bad a job but hauling them through thick wooded area's is a job.  We had enough to do about an acre.  We used both the types of panels together to make one big area the pigs and goats can share.  The baby pigs can get through either fencing easily right now but have no intention of being away from their momma so aren't going to go anywhere.   When they start to deplete it we'll move it again to new ground.  It keeps the worm load down on both goats and pigs and keeps them in fresh greens while allowing the previous area to recuperated before it's destroyed.    

Last year we would take the goats for walks in the woods so they could eat the browse.   Or we would cut and bring it to them weaving the long branches into the fencing for them to eat.  It will be nice having them get their own this year.



Where Rosemary goes her babies follow.  We took these yesterday just before putting them in their new wooded area.  They are getting big fast.  It's cooler in the woods for them and they have a great wallow back there to laze the days away in when not out exploring and foraging.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Favorite things - Johnny Seeds

After spending the past week catching up on all the garden chores I sat down last night to put together an order of things I will  need soon.  I pulled out my stack of catalogs and immediately opened Johnny's first.   I am always drawn to Johnny's first.   I love Johnny Seeds.   I mostly love there catalog.   It has so much info on growing each seed / plant they offer,  it rivals many gardening books.   For vegetable gardening I've relied for 20 plus years on Crockett's Victory Garden's first edition.  It's served me well over the years.  But Johnny's catalog has so much great info in it I find myself going to it now instead of my old stand-by.  

If your not familiar with their catalog, it offers all kinds of veggies, fruits, herbs and flowers.  It also has green manures,  various cover crops and pasture mixes for different animals.   It has some great tools and all kinds of supplies.  

On the top of my shopping list is agribon row cover for this fall / winter.   I'm going to do some low tunnels for extended season growing.   I am also going to get the pipe bender to bend galvinized conduit pipe to hold the agribon and poly up.   After last years snowy winter I want to make sure my tunnels can stand up to the weight of a snow load.   Johnny's is located in Maine so they know snow.

The only other things I need are some seeds.  I'll get pea's to get in now, onion seeds to sow now for spring harvest and garlics.  I may try a few new lettuces too. 

Johnny's also has a number of video's on their website.  I watched the one on their pipe bender yesterday.  BTW... I am not compensated for this review.   I just really like them. 


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Almost wordless Wednesday

Hubbard Squash Flower

Cucumber teepee, Jalepeno's & tomato plant in mixed garden border bed

The day's pickin's

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My new power equipment

Powered by me that is.   Stll, it feels good to know it's going to start every time.  No trips for gas.  No regular visits for tune-ups.  And those little piggies LOVE to see me coming with that green bag!  And surprisingly, that mower really does a good job.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

And then there were 3

Nugget - Splash Orpington Rooster

It's been a rough year to be a chicken around here.  We started out with 8 chickens - 5 adults; a blue orp rooster, a buff orp hen, a blue orp hen, a lavendar orp hen and a Jersey Giant hen plus the 3 chicks we hatched in early spring.  We're now down to 3 of those and it's only July.  And one of those is injured so maybe it's closer to 2 1/2 ???
First the coop was left open one night - gone - my handsome rooster and one of the hens.  I never could keep straight which of my hens was blue and which was lavendar but one of them, Lilly,  was gone.  (Side note: Don't give the closing up of the coop at night as a chore to a kid with ADD.  Bad idea.)   Then on separate occasions 2 of the hatchlings got into the dog yard and that was that.   What the dogs didn't consume the pigs did later than night although the pigs have never gone after a live chick and don't kill for sport the way dogs will.  At least mine don't.

Sky - either a blue or lavendar Orpington

Next on the "oh no, my poor chickens"  list, one of my adult hens, either the blue or lavendar hen...which ever she is that survived the spring coop mayhem, got mauled - twice....not once mind you, but twice by a dog. She hadn't fully gotten over  the first attack and was nailed again. This time the dog dug into the chicken yard.  Sky's been in a crate now for 2 weeks and she's just starting to be able to stand again.  I thought for awhile,  I would have to finish what the dog started  but alas thankfully, she's on the mend.   The dog on the other hand is now in need of a new home.  I can forgive them for their instinctual behavior when the chickens are going to them but not so much when they are digging into the chickens yard.

Gwen - Jersey Giant

Then there's Gwen.   Gwen has been here the longest along with Bonnie, the buff orp. I got them in my first Murry McMurry order a few years back. Gwen being a Jersey Giant can not move fast. This is a breed of chicken I would never get again. She can't even get up a couple of steps without great difficulty.  And it takes her twice as long to get anywhere as it does the rest of the chickens.  Her body is just too big for those legs. I had read about this when getting them but didn't fully understand how that would translate to life in general.  Lets just say it's not an easy life being a Jersey Giant. They would make great meat birds but I only wanted layers.

Nugget, the lone survivor of the three hatchlings from spring, wasn't a kind and nurturing rooster to his girls.  He was ruthless.   He was young though and he may have learned as he matured to be the kind of rooster I'm used to; friendly, self sacrifing, nurturing and concerned for his girls.   Poor Gwen got the brunt of his ruthlessness.   In the photo above she's missing a bunch of back feathers...normal when you have limited hens and a rooster, but her comb is gone in the back and she's always got these sores on her head from him tearing pieces off along with any feathers in close proximity.    She tries to get away but can't.  He he's like a kid with a new toy... just can't put it down or stop himself.    Bonnie is agile and got lots of attitude to boot so she would just chased Nugget off but poor Gwen couldn't.    Bonnie would even try to  help out Gwen and chase him from her too when she was close by.   In the end though I had to intervine and say bye to Nugget.  He was sent off to a new home to help them spread that blue gene of his. Hopefully for those hens he'll learn to be a kinder rooster.

And then there were 3.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Taking time to see the flowers

Black Knight butterfly bush

As the name implies, this butterfly bushes flowers are a very dark purple when they first come out.  They lighten up as they open more but the color initially is a gorgeous rich deep purple.   Today it was full of butterflies.

 Summer Snowfall Trumpet Vine

This variagated trumpet vine was planted 3 years ago and it's the first time it's bloomed.  It's still pretty sparse and spindly  but getting there.  This year it's sharing a piece of trellis with a melon plant.

Sometimes it seems we get so busy with all the chores around here seeing the beautiful parts of this endeavor goes by the wayside and what a shame that is.  I need to put on my to-do list - stop and SEE the beauty every day!

On the not so bright side of the gardens today... my goat chewed tomato.  It was getting pretty tall.  Tall enough evidently for the goat to reach over the fence and chew the top right off.   She got two of them.

Back to the good stuff...jalepeno's will be ready shortly.  Wish I had been able to find some habenaro plants but couldn't and it was way too late to start seeds.   Next year!

The zucchini's are doing well.   Of course they usually do, but this plant is in partial shade so I wasn't sure it would do well at all.   I planted it in the flower bed in front of my house.  Most of my veggies are intermingled with flowers in flower beds.   Behind the zucchini is a Bugbane - Cimicifuga Atropurpurea that does very well so it's certainly got a good bit of shade there.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A pig tilled garden

Our front yard, planted, after our American Guinea hogs tilled up the grass for us over the winter

Last fall when we got our trio of hogs we put hog panels up in the front yard where there was grass we wanted gone, added a small shelter for them inside and let them go to it.  We moved them this spring to a new pen in the back wooded area of our property and planted the front.  Right now it's rapidly filling up with pumpkins, squash and beans.  Later this month I'll put in a fall crop of turnips in to supplement the pigs and goats food this winter in any spots that are still bare.  An added benefit of has been a few volunteers we got from the scraps we gave the pigs over the winter in there.  It's like a little present each time a veggie plant pops up you didn't plant.  And you can always just pull it up and feed it to the pigs or goats if you don't want it there.  We got a pumpkin, a cantaloupe and tomoto plant as voluteers this year.

The plan is to move them back there again this winter to re-till it again as well as to clean up all the vegetation from this years garden.

A volunteer pumpkin

Sunday, July 11, 2010

American Guinea Hog babies!

I love AGH's! I love that they are so easy and so smart.   2 of our new piglets, 2 days old, with their papa.

 We are still pretty new to pigs and 2 weeks ago we didn't even know piglets were coming.  I hear that's common in this breed if the females are housed with a boar.   One day you look out and see the mother pigs teats enlarging and soon after you have a litter of adorable little piglets running around.   I had thought that my 2 gilts (females that have never had piglets before) were overweight and would need to be slimmed down before they would be able to have babies.  If a gilt or sow gets overweight the fat around their ovaries can sometimes interfere with their abiity to concieve.  Not only was Rosemary able to concieve, her sister, Thyme, is expecting too.  Rosemary gave us 3 little boars and 2 little gilts.

AGH's are smaller pigs often mistaken for pot belly pigs because they too have a bit of a pot belly.   AGH's size is wonderful  for homesteads like mine without much land.  They are a favorite in many zoo's childrens petting area's because they are so friendly.  They love to graze and only root when everything they can graze is gone.  I leave them in my fenced backyard many nights to graze on my grass.  They go back in their pen in the woods behind our yard during the day.  I think it's cooler back there for them amongst the tree's and their wallow is back there too.  They spend a lot of their days in cooling off in that wallow. 

The other 3 babies sleeping in their house
We gave Rosemary plenty of space and were very resectful of her the morning we found she had had her babies. We co-house her with her sister and the boar,  Basil, but wanted to make sure she could have the house to herself in case it rained so made an quick shelter for the other 2.  It did rain that nigh, they did use it and now she's out with all the piglets in tow using it as well.  Coming from a dog backround rather than farm animals, I was surprised she was so OK with them and us being with her babies so soon.  She came out the second day followed by all her babies, laid down and rolled over to be scratched while nursing.  She clearly trusts us. 

Even more surprising to me was  how patient and gentle the boar was with the piglets when they got a bit confused and attempted to get him to nurse them.  He just rolled over and let them till they gave up.

Got milk????  No kids, Papa's do not have milk.

The hogs were initially purchased as weanlings because my 10 y.o. wanted pigs and since then she has been responsible for much of their day to day care.  Growing up with her as their primary care giver they've enjoyed much attention and become very people friendly.
Momma in the foreground with Papa back by the wallow.   Our 2 females are short nosed and our boar is long nosed.  Some short nosed AGH tend to put on weight easier than the long nosed hog do so I'm told.   It's certainly true in this family.  I can already see difference in the noses of some of the piglets.

A very pregnant Thyme is enjoying getting cooled off in her wallow

We are members of the AGHA and encourage you to visit their site or the ALBCA site if your interested in more info about  American Guinea Hogs. 

The AGHA is in the process of updating their site so check back with them again too as their new site promises to be even more informative.

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