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.