It is becoming increasingly clear that I am unable to write about the farm in a winter that refuses to provide me with snapshots of red pigs and speckled chickens in the snow. Not that the color palette this year isn’t, you know, nice, or whatever, but there is an obvious difference between brown and fairyland, inspiration-wise.
|Chickens tilling the (brown, uninspiring) garden.|
I mean, I can feign eloquence all I want; the truth is, winter this year is muddy and annoying. We aren’t snuggled in a farmhouse under a cozy blanket of snow, happily taking our rest and boiling stews on the cook-stove for the better part of an afternoon; we are trying to keep the animals' bedding dry, pulling cars out of the never-ending mud*, and struggling mightily with trying to plan the next year in a way that makes any sort of economic or business sense.
|I took a ton of pictures during last week's 4-hour snow! Here is my favorite October pig, Curly Top, enjoying some grain.|
I am almost nervous to actually write it out, but the fact remains: I miss Actual Winter. True, I drive like a 90-year-old on Quaaludes when the roads are snowy (and, in fact, I craft playlists specifically to help boost my confidence on snowy drives to work), and it is inevitable that I end up on my butt more often than not while trying to carry food to livestock over icy floors. But this endless parade of 40-degree-days…well, we all know what they say about a 40-degree-day. Ain’t nobody got nothing to say about a 40-degree-day.
|December Growers meeting snow for the first time. They took it in stride, being far more excited about the opportunity to slyly mug for the camera.|
So, we’ve been here, ensuring that the pigs are getting bigger (and boy howdy, they sure are…the oldest batch has surpassed me in weight and are closing in on Big Man fast), shuffling the breeders around as these two come out of solitary to be back with the boar, and those two are spirited away to private stalls for their impending litters, all without the soft kisses of snowflakes on our faces or the satisfying crunch underfoot.
The pigs are still pleased as happy round peaches with this winter of constant mud, with the breeders taking almost-daily trips out into the pasture to bound about like puppies (watching them happily cavort is something that will never, ever get old. These are not animals meant to bound, and yet, gloriously, they do, flopping ears, stumpy legs and all), and the growers building an impressive system of muddy pits and terraced lounges in their outdoor pen. In the meantime, the three ages of growers (August, October, and December) have been successfully integrated, and they have established a hierarchy: biggest pigs in the deep bedded round bale stall, smallest pigs in the under-barn catacombs.
|Alpha pigs in the haybale room.|
As for the human projects, I’ve got my garden seeds all ordered, and the garden plots all planned. Big Man has been up to projects that involve more online research than hands-on farmin': trying to find a giant (8,000 gallon!) tank to store whey, trying to set up a cheaper source of grain for the pigs, trying to plan out the pasture fencing, trying to firm up our spring orders.
|As of last week, The Reds (Missy and Little Red) are back in gen. pop. with the boar and the other ladies.|
Winterless Winter is not so bad, and I’m sure that if it were 5 degrees with a 2-foot snow pack I would be complaining mightily (but, at least, would have something to write about). We have been eating our way through some delicious charcuterie and sausage experiments and drinking our way through some good homebrew. I’ve been working on getting stronger arms, liking the NFL, and finding time to read books that further neither my farming knowledge nor my cultural sensibilities. This last one is surprisingly important for mental health.
|Garden/winter chicken area in the 4-hours of winter last week.|
I am almost certain that posting this will ensure that a major snowstorm hits the farm within a month. And, longing for a few days of dramatic whites and addictive checking of the weather dot com, and with the knowledge that every third day is warm enough to melt whatever snow collects on the ground, I say: bring it on.
*And out of some worse places, too: for example, rammed into a tree off the side of a slushy-icy road. RIP the benz. Ye shall be missed. Verily.