Man, just when we had March figured out, it turns around and throws us for a loop. It’s brought us 75 degree days and 30 degree days all in one week. It’s brought us life and death, great opportunities and horrible mistakes. Basically, March just doesn’t give a fuck. Have you ever had one of those days or weekends where you look back on it and you have no idea what happened or what you did? Even though you actually were productive with your time? But for the life of you, you can’t recall what really happened? That’s what the entire month of March has been like. In addition to all of March’s shenanigans, our schedule has been incredibly hectic. Dave and the boys have been going up to Iowa, we have lots of construction/projects going on, and I have a house that is in the perpetual state of what seems to be a tornado disaster zone. Plus, we’re running low on our overwintered savings so money is real tight. So basically… Goodbye March! It’s been real weird. We’re ready for April.
This month we set our first round of hatching eggs. Out of 24 eggs, we had 20 Marans and Olive Eggers hatch out. This is by far the BEST hatch that we’ve ever had! Last year we had some decent hatches, and one horrible hatch. But this year we redeemed ourselves! Thank. God. I still want to do at least one more round of incubation, plus maybe get some more chicks for our misfit turned heritage breed coop. As much as I love our mutts and basic breeds, I would love to add in some pure heritage breed chickens. But as it sits right now, it looks like we’ll be able to fill our other coops with a great mix of Marans and Olive Egger chicks.
One big bummer that happened this month was the finishing of our maple syrup. This year’s maple syrup season was a weird one for us. It started really early, then right in the middle of it, we had a two week long freeze when the trees didn’t release any sap and the sap that we had collected was a solid frozen block. We had to wait to cook it until everything melted. When the weather finally did warm up, it got up to freakin 70 degrees. All of the sap hanging on the trees spoiled and turned to a thick, snotty and sour mess. So that was a loss. Then we were finally able to cook on our new cinderblock maple syrup cooker, but everything around it was a huge mud pit. Then, as we were doing our final finishing cook on our propane burner, the syrup spoiled. We lost about a week’s worth of work and I don’t even want to think about how much money we lost. Now I’m bummed out just thinking about it.
But that’s just how it goes. Sugaring is based on weather patterns and you can’t control that. I wish we would have had more syrup this year, but we didn’t. And we learned a lot. In three years of doing this, we’ve never had anything spoil. But now we have, and now we know. And that’s ok. That’s my mantra for this month… and that’s ok. However we are doing one super cool thing with the maple syrup that we did get! Our buddies at Juniper in St. Louis set aside a genuine Knob Creek bourbon barrel for us to age our maple syrup in! In a few months our already awesome homemade maple syrup will be turned into bourbon barrel aged maple syrup. And that’s really neat. You gotta look for the small silver linings… or in this case, the bourbon linings.
Moving onto better things… As I said before, Dave and the boys have been taking trips back and forth to Iowa. The reason being is that they’ve been picking up an awesome fodder unit from Rustik Rooster Farms. Our buddy, Carl Blake, is letting us borrow one so we can grow hydroponic wheatgrass and fodder for all of our animals. It’s a dream! A dream that we even have one and a dream that the thing actually fits inside of our barn! The fodder unit is from All Seasons Greens (which I believe isn’t in business anymore). With this awesome fodder unit, we can turn 100 lbs of seed into 1,000 lbs of feed for our animals! This means we’ll be able to cut WAY down on our feed bill and stop giving them as much commercial grain during the winter.
And next… the pigs. Ohhh, the pigs! We have had five gilts farrow this month! It’s been the most amazing, wonderful thing. First it started with Beyonce. She had her seven piglets in the “big girl” pasture (aka general population pasture) unexpectedly. We didn’t even know she was pregnant! But the babies were fine, and we got her moved into the farrowing pasture with no problems. We knew that we had about 2-3 weeks before the rest of everyone else was due to farrow so we moved the rest of the seemingly pregnant gilts over to the farrowing pasture. We set all five pregnant mommas into their own farrowing hut with their own yard. This is the first time we’ve really been able to see our farrowing pasture and huts put to work. With the girls in their own huts, we gave them their own food and water and plenty of straw so they could get settled in and start nesting. Then within a 6 day period, they started to have their babies. After Beyonce had her seven, Adele had seven babies. Then Lil Kim had five. Then Amy Swinehouse finally had hers!
Amy had some complications with her farrowing. And of course she did, because she was the most highly anticipated farrowing and she’s the pig that I’ve come to have a special bond with. By the time she had her babies she was HUGE. She ended up carrying 11 or 12, but only 9 survived. And that sucks. But considering that it’s her first time having babies, and that she was carrying that many her first time… I’ll take nine healthy babies all day. I consider that a success, she’s doing a great job mothering the nine that she has. I think this just means that we can expect a great litter from her the next time that we breed her later this year. And big picture stuff: out of the six litters of piglets we’ve had born at the farm, we’ve only lost Amy’s 2 or 3. And I think that’s a great ratio. I have to repeat my mantra… she didn’t have a perfect farrowing her first time out the gate. She lost some pigs. There was nothing I could have done to change that. And that’s ok. Because you know why? That’s just farming. And we have had 42 beautiful piglets born at the farm, and THAT is awesome.
We let Beyonce and Adele out of their huts and into the main pasture so that their babies can get out and stretch their legs, run around and be baby pigs. And ever since the moment we let them out, Beyonce and Adele began to co-parent like a boss. They babysit each other’s babies, look out after them, they all eat at the same time, nap at the same time and in the same hut! They’re besties that do everything together.
The only pig that was left to farrow was Taylor Swift. On Saturday I went up to the pens to give everyone some extra straw. I looked into Taylor’s hut and she was in labor! Jackpot! I’ve never been able to see a pig give birth, so this was extra special awesome. When I got there, she had six piglets already nursing on her but she was still having contractions and pushing. I got my camera ready and waited for her next round of contractions. And then it happened. Out came #7. And I saw it. And it was amazing. And… I got a video if anyone wants to see it.
If you’re not into that, here’s Taylor’s babies nursing for the first time.
So we’ve had all of that going on, plus we’re starting all of our seedlings in the greenhouse as well as prepping our garden for spring and summer plantings. And to top off this weird and wonderful month, I woke up this morning with Cadillac sleeping with his head on my chest. It was an extra special treat and totally worth sleeping in for so I could enjoy it for a few more minutes. And with that, I say goodbye March! And bring it on April!