Or maybe it should read: What?! A Week?
That may be the best way to describe the last seven days. We have spent hours in the barn(s): fall cleaning, pen rebuilding, poultry reorganization, and all types of general fix-it work done. Sometimes fox-it work turns bad, and turns into another category of task – one that involves money that we don’t have and skill sets that we haven’t yet learned — that is the “major projects” category. We have many fix-it tasks that have suddenly decomposed into “major tasks”.
Two weeks ago I ordered up fifty Kosher King day old chicks to raise for one specific customer of ours. That meant that we had two weeks to prepare for the arrival of the chicks. So the day of arrival came, I went up to the post office to get the box, and husband Myles and two year old Peter were scrambling to get the pen to finished. It isn’t really that complicated to clean out and make sure that all of the chicken wire is intact. You also have to hang the heat lights, get the kiddie pool and pine shavings arranged just so, and fill the water and feed.
Additionally, this Kosher King pen was in need of a window fix. First, let me briefly explain our barn. This is what we affectionately call “The Old Barn” — to differentiate it from our ‘New Barn” which is a late 1980’s cinderblock built , gambrel roofed dairy milking barn — the “Old Barn” is a late 18th century, early 19th century four story wooden barn, with a Dutch Lap slate roof desperately in in need of repair. But the roof is not today’s focus. The windows are not original to the structure, but most are probably dated back to the 1950’s. The glass is not safety glass, and the wood is punky. Last year we had some problems with poultry flying at the windows and hitting the glass with such force, that the glass would break. Birds would escape, and glass around animals is really bad. So for a temporary fix, we covered some windows with plastic, some with woven grain bags, to keep the birds from hitting the glass so forcefully. We figured that plexiglass would be the perfect fix to install on the inside of the windows… until we visited the store and discovered how expensive plexiglass in the size that we need, is. Forget that idea!
Instead, we picked up that wavy plexiglass that is used in roofing and greenhouses. It was much more affordable, and I figured that we could make it work. Well, it would only work for us, I soon learned, if we could cut it. Note to self: If attempting to cut a panel of that stuff, you need a small, really fast spinning saw blade with a wicked number of little teeth. We learned that a shop knife and scoring does not work.
So we got The Kosher Kings window replaced and that baby chick pen is a really comfortable temperature, even outside the heat lamp area. I am pleased with that.
A few nights ago, I roused Myles from a sound sleep to go check on the piglets in the pasture, as I was hearing growling. He was gone a long time, and said that he didn’t find anything unusual out there. The next morning, we were missing two piglets, and one turkey had been killed. We were extra aware and looked for prints, and found nothing amiss for a night, then two.
Now, two days later, I just got the phone call that we lost another piglet last night. Not disappeared like the others, but this one was half-eaten and stuck in a fence. I am horrified. Today, after the farmer’s market, and after I get out of work, we will be weaning the piglets early to a barn pen. Locked away and safe from the hungry coyotes. First it means moving roosters, then moving turkeys, and then piglets… but it’ll get done because we can’t afford to lose the animals. It is terrible to think of them getting hunted down like that.
In between these things, we have met new customers, delivered eggs to Enterprise Farm in Whately, delivered a few turkeys for (USDA) processing in Westminster Vermont, and provided first-hand farming testimony to the The Farm Technology Review Commission, a committee of the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture. (The role of the Commission is to study and recommend options for updating farming technology including, but not limited to ways to promote energy conservation, collaborative purchasing, purchasing and selling of energy and energy saving technology. In addition, the Commission will also recommend alternative options for agricultural sustainability and growth, and analyze regulations and statutes to ensure that they are not impediments to the adoption of farming technology.)
Additionally, we visited a farm in Connecticut, and a farm in New Hampshire, in search of a milking cow, and/or milking goats. Neither of the farms had the right animals for us. It is because of this crazy schedule that we keep, that we ask customers to call first before stopping in for meat! Thank you. And remember, if you don’t see the little, little piglets in the pasture anymore, it is because we have taken steps to preserve their lives. Perhaps when we can determine exactly what the predator is that took the lives of a turkey and three piglets, and we can protect everything accordingly, the little piglets will go back in the pasture. Until then, it will only be the big pigs.