OH DEER….

I don’t think I would ever describe my nature as being murderous, however, recent events have proved me wrong.

Today I walked out in my back yard/budding fruit tree orchard only to discover that I had several damaged trees. I was devastated and heart broken as I every day look at my trees since they make me happy (It really is the small things). I studied the damage with concern; broken branches, scraped up bark and one tree completely broken, before I resolutely walked back inside. I quickly made my self a sign fully intending to post it at the side of the road. It read “HUNTERS WELCOME”.

I think we all have some both good and bad character traits. What it comes down to is a matter of choice; we can give into whatever bad stuff we are feeling (it’s tempting, it’s that immediate gratification) or we can chose to cultivate the things that make us good people (which is a lot harder but with definite longer lasting rewards). Professor Dumbledore told Harry Potter; “It’s your choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Often doubting my own abilities, I love this quote since there is never a shortage of choices!!

Our farm goals also came into play; am I farming in harmony with nature if at first trouble I feel like shooting the poor deer who vandalized my trees? The deer undoubtedly thought he was the lucky one to have just discovered the newest restaurant in town. Since I’m raising pigs for meat I obviously don’t have anything against eating meat, but I wanted this particular deer shot in pure revenge even if I told myself it was to prevent any further tree damage. Admittedly not my finest moment. I came to the conclusion that the only place where this sign should get posted was on this blog!

Some quick googling and texting to my hubby provided me a few more humane methods to deter deer. Scott suggested that I should stop by my hairdresser and ask for a bag of hair, he swears that deer don’t get close to it. Personally I’m wondering if that’s just an excuse hunters use when they don’t catch anything…. 🙂 My awesome hairdresser gave me whole bag of hair and I have now draped every tree with a generous amount of long black and brown hair.

Online I found a fellow apple tree grower who swears by his method and that a neighboring apple tree orchard had done this for the past 50 years and NEVER had deer bothering their trees; They hang up suet holders between every 4 trees and add half a bar of Irish Spring soap in each of them. Scott who was equally sad about the trees stopped at Tractor Supply on his way home and bought not only the suet holders but also a big roll of deer net. He put it up immediately since he was leaving for Europe the following day. Kudos for working until the wee hours of the night!

The suet holders are now hanging around my trees, and to be on the sure side I added the whole bar of soap to each. Every time there is a gust of wind, it now carries with it the smell of Irish Spring! I think it smells good, but hopefully the deer don’t.

Only 3 weeks after planting our trees we have one that is completely gone and 3 that are damaged.. if this pace keeps up we’ll have zero trees left come spring so I sincerely hope the deer keep away.

The deer did leave something else behind.. a deer tick I found crawling on my hand (oh ICK). I must have picked it up while wrapping the trees (I figured it couldn’t hurt wrapping the trunks in vet wrap – the stuff that clings to itself- to aid in the healing of the bark). And on that note I’m heading to the shower since I now have the creepy-crawly’s big time.

Sheep won’t follow an unknown shepherd(ess)

Normal people get a farm and then animals. We are NOT normal people. We decided to start farming without having barns and fencing and places to store feed, and instead we are building fencing and shelters as the animals are arriving. For the sake of your blood pressure and day to day stress levels I would definitely recommend everyone to do it the “right” way and not our way. I can also warmly recommend that you NOT place your animals and shelters down a steep hill. Unless of course you really like to get in shape and love running up and down every time you forget something!

On the Saturday morning our sheep were arriving from Alabama, I was working like a mad-woman putting up the temporary electric net fence to supplement the permanent fencing while Scott was laying his last hand on the “Shig-shack,” which is what he renamed the the pig shed since they were going to share it with the sheep for a few months. My original time schedule which was tight already had been further accelerated because Heather, from whom I bought my sheep, was traveling North to NY and kindly had offered to put my two Cotswold sheep in her trailer. I naturally said a quick yes as it saved me a 26 hour round trip. I happily announced to my husband that I didn’t have to drive back and forth to Alabama to collect our sheep. He looked a little puzzled and quietly asked where we were going to house the sheep. His next question was “why only two?” Usually I am the one who jumps in with both feet. To have a husband who is actually every bit as crazy as me in this regard is refreshing! We had made a projection of how many sheep we could have on our acres taking into account future lambs etc. and the magic start number was 4. I was wondering if I was overdoing it with the chickens and pigs and now sheep, all within a month and thought it wise to only get two. It didn’t take me long before I quickly texted Heather, and the 2 ewes were now 4!

Heather arrived in her big truck and even longer trailer and after the usual hellos she was wondering where the sheep were going. I pointed down the hill and told her I had halters for them. Her response was priceless, a mix between a laugh and a snort while trying to not do either. In a flash I realized that these sheep were NOT pets, and they were certainly not halter trained, but I was used to alpacas, llamas and horses, so really, how hard could it be? We got halters on two of them and took them off the trailer. These sheep weigh about 150-200 lbs. and look like big fluffy clouds. They did however not act like fluffy, docile sheep. Cotswolds are often called the gentle giants. Gentle? Within 30 seconds, one of the sheep had gotten out of the halter in Heather’s hand but since sheep like to stick together she just followed the one still being led by me. At that point Heather thought it would save us some time just letting the other two out of the trailer so they, too, could peacefully follow the one being led.

Lesson learned: NEVER assume that sheep will do what you think they will do.

The other two decided NOT to join us and ran up on the lawn instead. The sheep that was following me quickly decided that being with TWO sheep was far safer than following just one. Now we had three sheep loose on our lawn. My mom and dad who were here visiting were looking at it all with an increasingly panicked look on their faces. “My” sheep was now in full “I’m NOT staying here all alone” mode, and was doing a very believable impression of a bronc, jumping up, down and sideways while I was hanging on for dear life. Gentle? Ha! Heather mentioned getting a food bucket so Scott approached me saying he would take the “wanna-be-a-rodeo-horse-sheep” while I ran to get the food bucket. I quickly instructed him in how to hold the halter- it was a slip knot-type-halter. I turned to go but paused to take a quick picture while Scott said, “don’t worry honey, I got this”. Famous last words. 3 seconds later we had FOUR sheep on the lose, now setting off towards our neighbor’s backyard. They admittedly have a much nicer and greener lawn.

Food bucket in hand I now followed Scott, Heather, my daughter and our 4 sheep who kept going further and further away. If you chase sheep, they don’t come back to you. I dialed my son’s number and quickly asked him to come out and help us. Within minutes our sheep had decided to get out on our thankfully very quiet country road and were heading towards the village. Luckily, a truck driver saw them coming, and turned his vehicle sideways to block them so Scott could slip in behind them and drive them back towards home. As the sheep came back into view, we heard Scott yelling to block the road so they couldn’t pass our house. Mom, dad and I were positioned, and the sheep took one look at us and darted around us back onto the lawn. We slowly approached them, and they decided that it was time to start grazing in our back yard. I bee-lined in to the garage, brought out my second electric fence/net and together we slowly put the fence up around the sheep where they were. Phew. Caught.

Heather recommended that we let them settle down for a while to not stress them too much, so we left them to work on the lawn and waved good bye to Heather who probably was very happy to get on her way.

After 3 hours of enjoying our greenest grass, the sheep seemed nice and calm; time to get the sheep down to their pasture. Scott thought for sure that if we lead the two dominant ladies, the others would follow. I’m not quite sure why I listened, Scott is NOT well acquainted with livestock of any kind. We haltered the two, and lo and behold, the others followed. Mom and dad were at the top of the drive way, to prevent any mishaps, and my daughter had stationed herself strategically at the line to our neighbor’s green lawn.

By now the sheep in halters had had it. They were even worse than before, and in the midst of leading them a man stopped to ask if he and his daughter could get permission to hunt on our land. LOL- I felt like telling him that if he could help get the sheep into their pasture we’d talk, but my husband kindly said no and to excuse us as as we had our hands full. No sooner did the guy leave and whoops- Scott lost his sheep again. My dad bravely tried to throw himself after the runaway- who naturally was on her way into our neighbor’s again- but it was almost comically slow since he’s 84 years old and a LOT slower than a determined sheep.

My poor sheep was alone again, seeing her friends disappear in the distance, a true horror if you are a sheep. She jumped, she bucked, she gave up and played dead. I was seriously wondering if she had a stroke since she just lay there breathing heavily with her eyes closed. I’m not exactly sure how long it took for the rest of my family to turn around the 3 runaway sheep, who had headed back onto the road towards the village. I was sitting with my possum-playing sheep at the bottom of the hill. Gus (son) and Scott came back and together we managed to pull/push her into the pasture.

This is when I learned that a very nice man trying to help got out of his truck but forgot to put it in park with the result that it drove itself off the road down a hill taking down several smaller trees before being stopped by a large tree. The truck owner managed to drive around the hill and back up on the road after a while, and other than losing the side mirrors, he seemed to be ok which was a miracle in itself. Still, we felt horrible since it really was the fault of our sheep. Once turned around, the three runaways simply walked right into our garage where they stood looking for something to eat.

When Scott again mentioned taking two sheep down and having one follow, Gus and I wisely said no. Not that it did us much good. In spite of wearing not just one, but TWO halters, this Sheepoudini was able to get out and run away, for the third time. Ever had the feeling that no matter what you do it won’t work? I had it. Scott and Gus were on her tail, got her cornered briefly and as she started taking off for the road again, Scott cut her off and tackled her. Gently. Scott waited with her while Gus resolutely drove up the John Deere (lawn tractor, not real tractor). It did have a dump cart attached and at this point I figured it must be less stressful for the poor sheep – and us – to simply put her in the cart. On the cart she played dead for most of the time. Who knew all sheep knew that game? Not until she was laying on the ground with the halter off did she open her eyes and then she simply stood up and walked over to her friend and started grazing. We decided to repeat this process with sheep number 3 and 4. It wasn’t pretty, but took less than 5 minutes per sheep.

7 hours after they arrived, and minutes before the dark, the last sheep was FINALLY in the pasture. They checked out their new home, and seemed quite happy to get their grain, hay and water.

I was a mess. My rib was severely bruised, I had twisted my ankle, ripped a nail and had several bruises on my legs including a set of hoof prints on my forearm. My step counter recorded 17,000+ steps and 64 flights of stairs (counting the elevation of our hill). I was exhausted but I was happy. My sheep were home and all else could wait until morning.

Relaxed and happy!!

“MOM- The Pigs are GONE”

I recently had the pleasure of having the house full of my family! My parents came from Sweden and my son and his sweet girlfriend arrived from Colorado. We had a lovely time with dinners and friends and of course some very unexpected events.

Having already seen the pigs in their pasture from the deck of the house, my parents soon wanted to walk down to see them close up. We took our time walking the path down the hill as it’s rather steep at a few places. My 21 year old son Gus went ahead, but then came bounding up the hill, shouting “Mom, the pigs are GONE”. I quickly joined him assuring him that they most likely just had nestled deep into the straw for a morning nap. These little darlings nap long and often, but usually stick their heads up once they hear my voice since that is equivalent to treats treats and they have taken to protest loudly if I’m too slow in handing out the goodies. Alas, there were no little faces, no happy squeals, and definitely no pigs coming galloping towards us. The pen was empty and very quiet. I looked around the field, up the hill and down towards the pond- not a pig in site.

Just two weeks prior, my daughter had yelled to us that “the pigs are out” but at that time they were on the path steps away from the pen just munching away on fresh grass and were easily lured back into their pen by tempting them with a few apples. After that incident I told my softhearted husband that electric fencing was a must. He had been against it thinking the fence was enough and was quite insistent over the fact that there were no signs of attempted porcine jailbreak. My reply had been that the sign of them “trying to get out” would be that they WERE out. However, I still yielded to his wishes and instead got boards to screw in all around the bottom of the fence line. Their last escape had proved that if their snouts got under the fence while rooting and they noticed that they could lift it up they would be out in a blink! Pigs are said to be as intelligent as dogs. Dogs figure things out, and I’m now wondering if pigs actually are smarter than dogs…. hmmm.

This little girl is thinking for sure!!

Gus and I split up searching and after 10 very long minutes he called me- he had found the pigs WAY back on our property heading up a hill. He said that he called to them, and Otto, our boar, had turned to look at him but decided to ignore him and instead turned back in the direction he was heading until he heard my voice. Luckily my voice and the sound of a food bucket filled with treats made the difference and all of the sudden he was trotting downhill with the 2 little girls in tow. Otto, being older and BIGGER most definitely is the ringleader. He was immediately rewarded by a piece of apple and then all three of them trotted along the path with me all the way back home, where they got the rest of the apples. They in fact stayed closer to me than our three dogs do when we are out walking.

With the pigs safely returned to their pen we turned our attention to figuring out how they had gotten out. We, that is Scott, was in the process of building them a shelter, or as he called it, the Shig Shack. You see, the shelter would be shared by both sheep and pigs for the winter months until the pigs were bigger and needed more room and we had gotten the sheep shelter in order. He had temporarily sectioned off that part of their enclosure, with emphasis on the word temporarily, and had also removed a fence post behind the structure to be able to get more room to work. He had worked on their shelter long after dark, and then forgotten about how the fence had been compromised at those spots. The pigs must have been thrilled when they the following morning discovered that they were able to go exploring.

When he heard about the escape, Scott stated that an electric fence sounded better and better. I have since read that pigs are every bit as good at getting out of their fenced-in areas as are goats, which are quite notorious escape artists! I guess the difference would be that where goats jump, pigs simply use their weight and snouts to push through!

I am still amazed about how they just followed me back home. I had no idea that pigs were that tame, or that sweet. But I have to admit that I have never looked deeply into a pigs’ eyes before, and never really realized how mindful they are of you. Now that I have, I can tell you that there is a LOT of thinking going on.

I can at this time not decide what I enjoy the most: seeing my pigs come running towards me when they see me or hearing the sheep baaing as I approach while sticking their noses out through fence to sniff me and give me kisses- well that’s what I tell myself- most likely they are looking for treats! I did not know that the pigs play as much as they do. Otto and my little Cockapoo enjoy running back and forth on each side of the fence, chasing each other back and forth, with short stops of coming nose to nose. The two little girls, who I think are growing quickly for being a slow-growing breed, often play with each other as well, pushing and nuzzling each other, running around in circles and throwing themselves down. When rubbed, they all lean into my hand and slowly sink down, laying on their side with their eyes closed. And if you really want to see a pig smile, provide them with a hole filled with water for them to roll around and splash in!!

We Have Chickens!

When the message that the chicks had been delivered to our post office came as the clock struck 5 pm I literally RAN up our hill to see if by chance postmaster Steve was staying open late waiting for me. He did better than that, he arrived at my driveway at the same time I was getting into my car. He carefully handed over a box and I was delighted when I heard the faint peeps from inside- there were at least several that had made the trip. My daughter noticed the commotion from upstairs and opened the window shouting “wait for me- don’t open it without me!”  (Our dedicated postmaster did receive a well deserved plate with cookies for his efforts the following week!)

My Pet Chicken, the online site I got my chickens from, again came through with flying colors just as they had in the past; ALL 8 made it in good health, nestled in lots of “stuffing” with a heating block to keep them warm. 

Naturally they were all completely adorable, and the “name game” immediately started. The Australorp is Toothless (after “How to Train Your Dragon”- the movie), my Buff Orpington is Sunshine, the Silver Laced Wyandotte is Lacy, and we also have Spaz, Eagle, Peckers, Waffles  and Tweety. I had decided to keep the price per chicken in the “normal range” but after having read about the Cream Legbar I ended up calling to have her added on to the original order of 7! This rather rare breed lays blue eggs, and since most of mine are brown egg layers – except for Eagle who is an Easter Egger and lays green eggs – I just “had to” get her! I’m actually able to show much more restraint when it comes to clothes shopping than chicken and other animal shopping 🙂 

It’s quite amazing watching them after you put them into their new home; they immediately start acting like real chicken, scratching for food, finding it and eating! I got second thoughts about my waterer though, a nipple drinker, and became very nervous thinking they might get dehydrated while while learning how to to use it. I quickly made a trip to our local feed store to buy a “regular”chicken waterer and found a laughing daughter when I came back home –  the chicks had already figured out how to drink from the nipple while I was gone. Clever girls. 

The only negative thing I can say about our girls is that they grow way too fast. We notice changes in them almost daily, and now they are in what I call their teenage stage. They are half grown, with a mix of feathers and fuzz making them look very weird, just like lanky and awkward teenage boys. They spent all of 3 days in the garage before the nights got colder and I worried about them not being warm enough to get out from under the heater to run around. My surprised family came home that day to find our little flock living very happily in our sun room. They do create a ton of dust by running around chasing each other, hopping up and down from their log and by pretend flying, aka flapping their little wings! I do have to say that the dust is outweighed by far by us being able to sit at our table and listen to their happy chirpings. They do outgrow this baby chick-talk eventually so I’m enjoying it for as long as it lasts. Our little farm is feeling more like a farm now that we have chicks (even if they are in our house)!

Starting a Valais Blacknose Sheep Breed Up Program

Many years ago I saw a picture on face book of a Valais Blacknose Sheep, or VBS, and I fell in love instantly. Back then, the breed did not exist in the US- it originates in Switzerland, the Valais region, so I looked at import rules, and there were no imports allowed of these adorable little sheep. The reason they have been dubbed the cutest sheep in the world is quite apparent when you see them. Add a calm and almost dog like temperament and you might just be looking at the perfect sheep.

(I’m unable to give credit to whomever took these adorable pictures so I’m hoping I’m not breaking any blogging rules by posting it!)

While browsing the internet in search of my perfect 4-legged lawnmower I happened to stumble on the breed up program that is taking place. Sheep breeders have diligently been working to be allowed to import semen, and by using AI (Artificial Insemination) you can inseminate a foundation ewe with Valais Blacknose semen. The resulting lamb (called an F1) will be 50 % Valais Blacknose. When the F1 is inseminated with VBS semen, her offspring will now be 75% Valais (F2) and so forth until the 5th generation is almost 97% which then is considered pure bred!

There seem to be a few different thoughts on how to chose your foundation ewe; many prefer to start with Scottish Blackface Sheep, others have bred to crosses, Lincolns, Teeswaters, Gotland Sheep, Finn Sheep, Babydoll sheep and so forth. I visited several farms and took notes on what they did and what their F1’s and F2’s looked like. I went to a Sheep and wool festival and saw even more sheep! I finally decided to to breed to a Corriedale, since I liked that particular sheep and its fleece. Unfortunately the once I picked out ended up having foot rot, not something I wanted to start out with, so back to the drawing board I went. I was disappointed to say the least, everyone with breeding age ewes had already started their fall breedings in my area. Many sheep are seasonal breeders, and only breed in the fall, another reasons I had like the Corriedales since they were able to breed fall and spring and although too young to breed this fall, I could have bred them in the spring. But now it looked like I wouldn’t be able to start my adventure for another year.

While visiting Mary Jean at Laurel Highland Farms, another breeder of VBS she happened to mention that the Cotswold sheep was one of her favorites. I went home, googled the breed and instantly knew this was the sheep for me. I loved everything about it and it seemed very compatible to the Valais Blacknose Sheep. But even better than that was that I liked the breed as I didn’t want to just dispose of these ewes ones I had my F1’s. It might be hard to keep them all on my small farm, but I feel they deserve better. I haven’t even started yet, so who know’s if I’m making the right or the wrong decisions! What I do know, is that I’m embarking on an adventure and am looking forward to seeing how my instincts will pan out.

Sometimes after everything goes wrong, you are pointed in another direction and I recently I finally found my Cotswalds, 4 mature ewes that have all been moms before, ready to breed this fall. And this wonderful breeder, Heather from Blue Springs Farm is even putting them on her trailer since she’s going from her place in Vincent Alabama to the Sheep and wool festival in Rhinebeck NY and is passing me on the way. I’m unbelievable grateful for everyone who has answered questions, had me visit their farms and befriended me. So many people with sheep are just incredibly nice and go out of their way to help out.

At this moment, I can hear my very fast growing baby chicks chirping in the sun room next to where I’m sitting, my shoulders and arms are dead weight after having been outside until dark digging fence post holes, while chatting to dogs and pigs and I can’t help just feeling such gratitude over being so blessed!

We are busily engaged building shelters and putting in fences for both pigs and sheep. The sheep will be here in a week- woohoo!

Baby Chicks in the Mail!

This is not the first time I have ordered baby chicks on line, but it’s just as exciting. Today was hatching day, and I received my notice that they are in the mail. Their pen (brooder) is set up in the garage and awaiting our new 8 little baby chicks, all of them a different breed. I’m hoping they are doing alright and am anxiously tracking them. According to the latest text from USPS they left the Cleveland Ohio distribution center at 5:31 pm today. I do feel sorry for them for the rough start they are getting… they get hatched, packed in a box with 7 other little ones and shipped off., but I will make it up to them once they are here.

For the first three days of their lives little chicks are provided with enough nutrients from the egg so they don’t need any water or food during this time. They are shipped together and this keeps them warm and hopefully less afraid.

Instead of the regular heat lamp to keep them warm, I found a heating pad that stands on legs, mimicking the mother hen so the little chicks can cozy up underneath it. Less fire risk than the regular heating lamp and more true to their natural instincts than a heat bulb. I’m excited and hopeful they will arrive tomorrow and have notified our terrific postmaster about their arrival to his office.

A quick note about our postmaster Steve. A few weeks after Mother’s Day I get a visit; Steve had driven up from his office to see if the card he had in his hand might be for me. It had no stamp and could not be returned to the sender since the return address was missing as well. The front simply read: “Mama” with our street address, Spring City PA and no zip code. The Spring City post office had sent it on to the Birchrunville post office, and Steve took it upon himself to hand deliver it to me. It totally made my day, and I laughingly admitted it HAD to be from my son. When I asked him about it, he simply said he was in a hurry mailing it so it would get to me on time for Mother’s Day. It arrived three weeks late. My suggestion to him was to simply take a picture of the chosen card and text it to me next time.

Fortunately for the baby chicks, my son is not in charge of mailing them!!

Large Pigs Should Not Ride In Your Subaru

I thought I had planned the pick up of our new Mangalitsa pigs so well; I had even checked with the seller who assured me my 4 month old boar and the two female piglets all could ride together in the back of a Subaru. After a very pleasant 3 hour drive through scenic vistas I arrived to the pig farm, and was told to drive around to the back of the barn. The excitement had built steadily and I eagerly jumped out of the car so I could see our new additions for the very first time.

I first saw the male, and boy was he big for being a 4 month old. I had been told he would weigh about 70 lbs, and since I have an 80 lbs dog I didn’t think twice about handling him. I was wrong. He looked like the biggest guy in his pen. And he was dirty.. like in absolutely filthy dirty. I moved on to the next pen and there they were, the 8 week olds! Cutest little things ever! On the other hand, they looked a lot smaller than they appeared in the pictures I was sent. The farmer’s wife, a very nice lady, directed her helper to put the two piglets in crates so the big pig would not trample them. Instead, I strapped their crates into the back seat while the helper wrangled the boar. He was NOT leash trained -duh- and protested loudly and with all 4 feet. Finally he was hoisted into the back, where Scott had installed dog barrier to keep everyone where they should be. The wife smiled sweetly and said that he (the boar) would lay down and settle in once I started driving.

20 minutes into my trip the boar still hadn’t settled down and now decided to see if he could make his way into the passenger seat. I shouted a “no piggy” and he backed up, but not for long. Another 10 minutes, and there he was again, trying to shove himself through the tiny space- that now was decidedly wider- and my “no piggy- go back piggy” seemed much less effective. I looked at the clock, 2.5 hours to home.. yikes, well, he should settle down eventually, right? WRONG. How could 3 hrs all of a sudden feel like 3 days?? And the smell.. I promised myself I would offer Scott my car until the smell was gone from his.

Suddenly the boar charged the tiny space he had made and was now hanging half way over to the back seat. I made a very hasty bee line to the side of the highway. The piglet who’s crate he continually tried to heave into the air with his snout – I’m assuming to make room for himself – was screaming bloody murder. I was pushing on the shoulders of the boar as hard as I could, trying to get him into the back again. He did not budge. Let me assure you, this was in no way equal to handling a 70 lbs dog. This felt more like 150 lb pure muscle. I briefly contemplated if he would bite me, but then the squealing piglet got out of her crate at the same moment a big tractor-trailer thundered by, shaking the car as it passed. I stuck the piglet under my arm at the same moment my boar made it fully into the passenger seat. I slammed the door shut, quickly heaved the piglet into the back where she was now safe, and ran to the other side to rescue piglet number two.

This is when Scott received his probably fourth call – I was in full panic mode. What if the boar decided to get into the front? I would surely crash. Was it even legal to drive with a pig lose in the car? I declared to my always calm husband that unless he dropped what he was doing and came to help me I would leave the car and WALK home. Long story short, Scottie came to my rescue, we swapped cars, and I was finally able to exhale… did I mention the smell?? Poor Scottie, he lost the battle for the front seat by the way… (along with his cup holder) but he said he did some bonding and named the boar “Otto” in the process.

We at last made it home and got the pigs into their pen where Otto did what any clever pig does, he made himself a mud bath so he could cool down and practice some stress relief!

Lessons learned:

  • Pigs are NOT dogs, don’t share your car with them (2 hrs of cleaning the car and even if it looks clean, it still reeks!)
  • Pigs are stubborn, now I know where the term “pig headed” came from.
  • When a farmer tells you “he will settle in and lay down” don’t believe a word of it.
  • Pictures lie- I’m convinced our guy MUST be older than 4 months!! And he’s most definitely NOT weighing 70 lbs.

Once settled in, I was able to sit and enjoy them, so here are some pictures of our new family members- who apparently did not read the book that said that pigs often don’t eat after transport. Once Otto had chilled for about 30 minutes, he was checking out the rest of his pen, eating up a storm with the piglets doing the same right next to him. Peace reigns at Gratitude Acres, and I’m finally heading to the shower!

The Mangalitsa pigs are coming!!

Looking like a sheep and acting like a dog- meet the Mangalitsa pig!

“A pig resembles a saint in that he is more honored after death than during his lifetime”.

Irma S Rombauer

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

Ever heard about Mangalitsas? I certainly had not! But then I had never envisioned myself as a pig owner either.

After Scott suggested that we get pigs I answered with a flat out “no”. This suggestion came after we (well me) had decided to get chickens and sheep. Scott will be the bee keeper, so I thought we had plenty to do already. However, one night I found myself looking at the different pig breeds (who knew there were so many?) mostly to joke with Scott, stating pig facts and spouting comments like “well this one ONLY grows up to about 900 lbs.” My eyes landed on a picture of a really weird sheepish looking woolly pig. I laughingly told Scott that if he wanted pigs he could get one of those!

Being curious by nature I continued to read, finding out more about these strange pigs and the more I read about them, the more interested I became. The Mangalitsa pig, or Mangelica which they are also called, is an old Hungarian breed that like many other old breeds almost went extinct when the big commercial pig farms entered the picture., but that are now gaining in popularity, especially among small farms and homesteaders. They have amazing marbled red meat, and the Mangalitsa pork is described as being the KOBE beef of pork! This was something I had to try for myself.

Check this out! We got the best pork chop the butcher at Giant had so we could do a taste test with the Mangalitsa pork chops I got… Thumbs up for the Mangalitsa pig!!

After having actually tasted this incredibly good pork and hearing how dog like and docile these pigs are, on top of being wonderful mothers, easy keepers and great foragers- we happen to have a lot of woody areas which is their native environment- my decision was made.. we are getting Mangalitsas!! I am going to pick them up tomorrow morning and I am so excited and also a little nervous. The closest I’ve come to a pig was at the petting zoo at Davis Farmland! Good or bad- I’m in for another experience of a lifetime! Stay tuned, and don’t forget to subscribe so you can get the next chapter of this adventure. I promise to post pictures tomorrow.

Why I decided to become a midlife farmer and blogger

I was finally where I “should” be in life. Happily married at last (after 2 failed marriages) to the most amazing man (yes, I am lucky and blessed), a nursing job I enjoyed, great kids and family, good friends and we were closing on our dream house on 5 acres in a few weeks so life was looking pretty close to perfect to me. And then – WHAM- I was laid off. To make it worse; it turns out that my MA nursing licence that should convert easily to a PA nursing licence (after having relocated to PA when I got married) ran into a snag. Since I was educated in my native beautiful country of Sweden, a complete review of my education was needed. I discovered that the schools I had attended were closed and that the city archive only had half of my transcripts.

What now? My first reaction was to get angry – how dared they say that I couldn’t be a nurse anymore? I had worked as a school nurse, correctional nurse, OR nurse, Labor & Delivery nurse, med/surg nurse and more for over 20 years. Then came the sad and depressed phase. I was a nurse but now I was not. So I felt like I was a nobody. Lots of ice cream entered the picture along with heavy duty binge watching of Netflix. All while trying to figure out what I could possibly do. Go back to school? I felt too old, and what would I study anyway? What was I interested in?

After months of asking God to point me in ANY direction, some attempts to online studying and of course more Netflix I half jokingly suggested Scott that we get some four legged lawnmowers for our out of control weeds on the steep slope down to the pond. To my surprise he was not against it! I happily threw myself into researching all about the most suitable sheep for this purpose. To my surprise I found that the absolute cutest sheep in the world – the Valais Blacknose Sheep – now were available as a breed up program. I had originally seen these sheep years ago and had fallen in love with them but at that time they were not allowed to be imported into the US. I enthusiastically exclaimed that THESE ARE THE ONES! Fast forward and we are now in the process of welcoming bees, baby chicks, Mangalitsa pigs and Valais Blacknose Sheep (through the breed up program) to our 5 acre property in eastern PA. Gratitude Acres is about to be born – and I decided to start blogging about my crazy life and decision to start a sustainable, bio-diverse micro farm in harmony with nature.