Fall on the farm is our busiest season. Most farmers are “buttoning up” their vegetable operations, or continuing on with their milking duties/operations, or completely finished with raising crops such as hay and straw, but we are gearing up. There are preparations for winter that we are still making – getting the last of the hay put away, getting winter housing arranged (as it changes every year depending on which animals are which age), confirming the turkey orders, and defending the animals from predation.
Predation from wild animals has taken a pretty significant toll this year – that of lives of three piglets, and one turkey (recently) and a huge impact on the mental state of the farmers here on the farm. We have re-figured our pasturing on a “moments notice” (really within 24 hours) to get the most vulnerable animals out of the pastures so that the coyotes didn’t continue to feast at night, and we have taken turns sleeping extremely lightly, if at all, ready to defend the critters should we find coyotes in the field with them. My brother-in-law spent a night in the pasture with the sheep to make sure that they were okay. It really is a pretty low-tech way of doing things, and I wish that there was a different way to deal with predation. But predation is so simple and basic a thing. The wild things are hungry, and we have roosters, piglets, turkeys, and other little two and four legged dinners running around everywhere. It seems pretty simple. Just because there are about three layers of fencing (both electrified and not) between “the outside world” and the animals that belong on the farm, means nothing to the wild animals. I understand that. It is just an awful realization that you lost your farmed animals to wild ones for dinner. To look at it financially, which a small farmer cannot help but do, we lost just under four hundred dollars worth of animals that one night. And that was their current value. (If we had raised the piglets up to a year old, the value would have risen to considerably more.) On that note, I am abandoning this thought…
The two sheep, as mentioned above, are in the pasture, and grazing what is left of summer grass. They are enjoying the locally harvested hay that we supplement them with daily.
Sometime very soon, they will be joined in pasture by a white Romney Ram who will be attempting to breed them. We are looking forward to having Spring lambs, but in order to have them, we need to get the eager young ram here to do his “rammy thing.”
In other Farm News:
We have a few new additions to the animal families. Olive the Berkshire Pig had her piglets and they are safe and healthy, and awfully adorable with the black spots on a red field (the Tamworth boar part of the parentage.) Gringot, one of the milking jersey cows, calved earlier than we expected with a very robust bull. The vet said that she was due to calve at the end of December (which would make the sire of the calf a Jersey) — but, she calved with what looks all the world like a Belted Galloway with a “broken belt” (the white does not go all the way around) — so, I would say that the pastured Belted Galloway bull did his thing. And then we just bought a Critically Endangered (according to the National Heritage Breeds Conservancy Conservation Status) Canadienne cow. She is just under four years old, and in milk. She comes with Canadian registration papers and has been named Uma. She is used to people speaking English, which is good — as my French is terrible, but passable to read the registration. I took three years of high school French and Latin in high school and in College. The Latin has helped me in more ways than the French, so far. Uma, the cow, is not however, used to people leading her around on a lead, or being tied up, so our farm will be a bit different for her until she settles in. I was very close to being dragged on my stomach across the yard today, just unloading her from the trailer.
Products: Everybody wants to know what we have for products. We have some of our own eggs, and Enterprise Farm in Whately sells our eggs as well. There is meat available, and we have a few turkeys left for the holiday. They are Heritage birds — more flavorful — not injected with hormones, steroids, not fed candy, not injected with basting solutions, etc. Just the real, natural deal. This year they will be freshly frozen for the holiday, as the processor is “processing” for us the second week of November. We have a quarter of the number that we raised last year, so if I have to tell you that we are out, I am very sorry, and please understand that we raised more than 100 last year to sell 80, and this year we LOST 200 eggs, and the hens stopped laying, and we have about 25 or so. We will have some for your Washington’s Birthday Celebrations, groundhog Day, St. Patrick’s day and other Spring celebrations — they just won’t be up to size for November 25 this year.