What happened to January?

Finding time to enjoy my daily chores with Waffles overseeing my work

It’s already the beginning of February and I’m asking myself where the usually long and endless January went. January is my least favorite month; it’s usually cold and dark and dreary and you don’t even have the Christmas lights to brighten things up. Usually January lasts for ever but this year January came and went in a flash.

My feeling of getting nothing done caused me to look back, and doing so my feelings of having wasted time slowly gave way to a sense of feeling a bit more accomplished. Here is a quick run down from the farm;

We separated the pigs– The girls are now getting too old to be cohabitating with Otto. This meant that we had to rethink the fencing and gate situation; redo some of it, move the sheep, and make another feed/water station. When it comes to water- pigs drink a lot – and not only that, they refuse to let water stay in a bowl. They make it their life’s mission to make mud out of any pool of water, so whatever water I serve them lasts for maybe a couple of sips before it gets tipped over. I learned that the hard way when we first got them. After an extensive google and You Tube search I picked up a couple of 35 gallon food grade plastic drums which had been used for pickled jalapenos and peppers. (I can still smell the peppers, but it doesn’t affect the water- I even tried it to make sure lol) We attached a large metal “nipple” to the side of it and because of the weight of all that water the pigs can’t tip it over and now have access to clean, fresh water 24/7. I’ve said it before, pigs are so smart! They figured their new drinking system out in a flash! This time Scott eagerly went along with buying the rigid metal hog panels – he no longer underestimates the damage a determined pig snout can do!!

Mud, mud and more mud! Otto now has his small area in front, and a large pen next to his shelter! Now we need to work on getting the girls their own larger pen!

We built the sheep their own run in– complete with a lambing jug. We also created a great hay feeder out of a wooden frame and a hay net. They used to just throw their hay out of the bin and onto the ground in order to get to the really yummy pieces/straws. As soon as it was on the ground they would step on it and it was then deemed inedible by them all. A lot of hay was wasted. Luckily I was able to re-use a lot of it; I threw all that perfectly good hay into the pig pen and the pigs would play/eat and sleep in it! It also made their pen slightly less muddy.

The new run in. Allie will have her lamb in the lambing jug in March.

I started my “meal worm farm”. After the first week I actually thought I was failing at keeping them alive- we saw a lot of empty “skins” and I thought they had died. Turns out I’m much better at this than I thought- meal worms actually shed their skins- like snakes- when they grow. So they weren’t dying, they were growing. I am now sorting out pupae daily from the meal worm drawer and putting them in their own separate drawer. One week later today- and our first little beetle has emerged! Annika looked at it and said- “it’s kind of cute”! Its light red color will gradually be turning black. I think I’m off to a good start.

This little guy/gal has just gotten out of its shell.

I found a vet– after recommendations from one of my customers- Kudos- I signed on with the New Bolton Veterinary Center and their “Small Ruminant Wellness Program”. Dr Pesato came out with three eager vet students and ultra sounded the sheep. So … drum roll … 2 out of 3 are pregnant! They are due in May. Allie, the ewe who came to us pregnant, was ultra-sounded again to make sure all the hoopla hadn’t caused her to miscarry and thankfully she is still very much pregnant. She is looking quite round, so I’m happy she wasn’t just getting fat! She’s due between March 1 – 15. Our family- and anyone else who wants to – are guessing the correct birth date. Winner gets naming rights- as long as it’s starts with a B. I have given up on hoping for snow and cold and have accepted living with mud for the next few months. That makes a March lambing date more tolerable (I’m hoping March is not our new winter).

Allie’s ultrasound… I wish you were able to find out the sex.. fingers crossed for all girls!

I Bokashi! Do you Bokashi? Another thing I started this month! I am very lazy by nature.. if something sounds too complicated I won’t get going with it. So even if I have always tried to compost my food waste, I have never really attained that “black gold” which is the end result of a great compost pile. Instead I’ve been plagued by banana flies and a jar of icky, sticky gross smelling stuff. Bokashi is a process that converts food waste/organic matter into a soil amendment which adds nutrients and improves soil texture. The biggest difference from regular composting is that the input it fermented, not decomposed, and that you can add it straight to the soil after a 2 week wait period, so it’s super fast! It’s fast AND easy; you can put anything into it, meat, fish, the weird science project you found in the back of the fridge, and all other veggies and fruits. I love it. I put all my leftovers and food waste in a yogurt container, and in the end of the day or when it’s full, I transfer it to a big bucket, sprinkle some bran inoculated with the micro organisms needed for the fermenting to start on top of it, put on the lid and done!! The bucket, which has holes drilled in the bottom to let the liquid seep out, sits inside another bucket for this reason. At least in my house! You can spend the close to $100 and buy a nice set up from Amazon with a tap for the “tea” but I’m cheap, so a couple of buckets work from me. I have already gotten my first cup of Bokashi tea- which I dilute 1/10 with water and use as a fertilizer, so now I have happy house plants as well!

My first cup of Bokashi tea! Filled with beneficial micro organisms.

Garden planning. It’s almost time to start getting those seeds going. I had found really cool red and almost black carrots, green, yellow and crazy streaked tomatoes, purple beans and a variety of interesting yummy sounding vegetables. With all the land and huge gardens Scott was saying we had to garden!! Turns out our soil consists of a thin layer of dirt, then just clay and it is super alkaline to boot. I realized not much would yield fruit in such a poor growing environment so I have spent a lot of time (and a free class through the Penn State Extension) figuring out how to fix the problem. I’m sending in a sample to do a “real” soil test but have in the mean time decided to use containers and straw bales while working on the soil.

With straw bale gardening the quality of your soil doesn’t matter, and the straw will help building better soil after use as well!

I think that’s most of it, or all the big things at least! Between working our “regular” jobs and the daily chores feeding animals and cleaning pastures- we have busy days, every day, but not too busy to enjoy our little farm. And not too busy for family and friends! So happy February everyone! If January went fast, I’m sure February will be just as fast, especially while preparing for our first little lamb to arrive! Maybe I should throw the girls a baby shower??!!

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