Tag Archives: farm

Shoehorning a Portable Hog Shelter Into a Horse Trailer – Where’s the Bear Grease?

After building the most lovely of hog shelters, MC and I had to figure out how to move it up to the road and into a vehicle for transport over to the new hog field at Maypenny Farm. We hitched the truck to the ‘tow bar’ on the hog hut and dragged it up the hill. Easy peasy! The heavy duty runners (built out of posts that once held up our old deck) slipped over the gravel like an Olympic skier skims through powder. Maybe not quite like that, but it was way easier than I thought it was going to be and the next thing I knew I was zipping around the block to pick up the horse trailer. Hitching was a snap with MC giving extremely accurate and precise hand signals (in Germany, there’s some sort of license specifically for anyone who wants to haul trailers around… part of the prep for taking the license test involves learning a very effective hitching communications system…). Before I knew it I was back up on the road in front of the house and had backed the trailer up to the hog hut… I was humming at this point, smugly thinking we were ahead of schedule. Hah!!

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Even with the metal roof off, it was quickly obvious just how tight a squeeze it was going to be to shoehorn the hog hut into the horse trailer.

If we had been lifting in something the size of a dog crate, we would have been laughing – a sixteenth of an inch on either side is plenty of wiggle room. When the structure in question weighs… well, a lot, it took some German ingenuity and lot of good humour to rig up a system to haul that sucker aboard.

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I kept finding myself thinking of the anonymous souls who used ramps and pulleys and levers and who knows what to build the pyramids and erect Stonehenge as we improvised a ramp using a couple of planks and attached a come-along to the tow bar of the hog hut at one end and the steel divider inside the trailer at the other. There followed an awful lot of pushing and heaving and ho-ing and grunting and levering to inch it up the planks until it wedged firmly against the back of the trailer frame.

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More shoving, wiggling, jiggling, prying, squeezing and cajoling followed until finally, the hut was persuaded to board the bus…

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At this point in the proceedings, the hog hut was well and truly jammed half in and half out of the trailer. Somewhere in behind the hut is a trapped German…

MC is 6′ 8″ tall and it was quite the feat of contortionism for him to squeeze past the stuck hut and escape… Our task was not yet complete, however. The hut was just a bit too long to shove all the way in without first removing the heavy steel divider to which the come-along had been fastened. More hammering, prying, lifting, and a bit of sweating followed before we were able to remove the divider and get it out of the way. The hut was so heavy and jammed in pretty tightly that we couldn’t budge it without help from the come-along. So… MC gallantly plunged under the horse trailer…

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He was able to fasten the come-along to the underside of the trailer frame and with a bit of cranking and more shoving we were able to squeeze that thing inside and shut the door! We were no longer ahead of schedule, but we were on our way. Little did we know what traumas awaited us at the other end where, we learned, loading the hog hut was going to be the easiest part of a very long day.

Stay tuned for the next installment in the “Let’s Get Those Hogs Moved” saga…

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Babar and Freckles

Babar and Freckles

Babar (purebred Cotswold ram) and Freckles (Border Cheviot cross ewe) hanging out together in the sheep shed… This was taken because I still haven’t had a chance to do a proper portrait sitting with Babar. However, the light was terrible and I was rushing so I didn’t really get anything that was worthy of being called a portrait.

Later in the afternoon I was visiting some other blogs and someone (I wish now I could remember who it was so I could give you a link because the images were remarkable!) mentioned Snapseed, a photo-editing app. I’ve been looking for a versatile app that doesn’t bombard me with stupid links, ads, and annoying pop-ups so I could do some basic editing of snapshots taken on the phone.

The Babar shots were handy and I had a few minutes, so I started playing around. Snapseed definitely has potential… It seems to be linked somehow to google+ (which seems determined to take over the world) but until I find something better, it looks like it could be useful… Do you have any other suggestions? What do you like to use on your phone for editing shots on the go?

Hogs and Horses

DCF Horses and Hogs

I’ve been backing up photos through google+ (an option now available if you happen to use Picasa) and it struck me how many of the farm photos show groups of animals hanging out and getting along. Ducks and chickens, turkeys and Bantams, ducks and sheep, turkeys and hogs… The cat, Iago, and anybody who will stand still long enough for her to snuggle.

I’ve had horses for many years and one of the things I heard people say with an air of total authority was that horses and pigs do not get along.

DCF Ringo and PhilipI beg to differ! Ringo in particular is happy to befriend creatures of all stripes – he loves the cat, follows chickens around, and chats through the fence with the hogs (this is our old boar, Philip). When a particularly adventurous group of piglets got out, where did they head? Straight for Ringo! They tugged on his tail and chased each other through and around his feet and he just stood there, head down, curious and gentle.

The oddest bond he has ever formed was with a wild rabbit. The rabbit regularly sought him out and would sprawl in a sunny spot in the horse paddock. Ringo would amble over and proceed to give the rabbit a massage, which the rabbit appeared to thoroughly enjoy. How on earth this peculiar relationship ever began is beyond me. Why would a wild rabbit sit still long enough to allow a HUGE animal like a horse to walk over and give it a back rub that first time? Mysterious, but kind of cool.

Unfortunately, hawk, owl, or eagle likely got the rabbit because after several months of the rabbit hanging out with Ringo it suddenly disappeared.

Perhaps in the course of the Great Photo Sort Project I’ll come across a photo of the bunny and post it…

Two Suns in the Hog Pen

Most days, the lower hog pen is a pretty ordinary place. But yesterday, the sun was at a very particular angle and the place was transformed.

DCF Hogs at DaybreakAt one point, a strange illusion made it seem as if there were two suns and the world was ablaze.

DCF Hog Pen Two Suns on FireBy the time I returned a short time later after feeding the chickens and sheep, everything had returned to boring normal. Nothing to see here, folks – move along.

Which brought to mind the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and there is nobody to hear, does it make a sound?” How many extraordinary moments do we miss because we hurry on by, arrive a few minutes late, or take off before the best part of the show?

Which seemed like a bit of a sad question to end with… until I considered that every moment contains the potential to be extraordinary if we slow down enough to see what’s in front of our noses, even down in the most boring corner of the hog pen.

NABLOPOMO – Farmer vs Artist

Sometimes Dad drops sketches onto my desk. These are usually delivered with interesting comments like, "the one on the right is thinking about the Sanctuary Knocker."

Sometimes Dad drops sketches onto my desk. These are usually delivered with interesting comments like, “the one on the right is thinking about the Sanctuary Knocker.”

So while I’m being all practical and thinking about turkey sales and recipes, Dad is busy in his studio being all artistic…  He has been doing a series of sketches and watercolours of turkeys in various stages of development. The two birds in the image above are what we call teen turkeys – young birds not quite big enough to be heading for freezer camp (you can tell they aren’t very old because their snoods are of modest proportions…).

When Dad mentioned that the one on the right was thinking about what he would do with a 37-day stay of execution I confess I returned a blank stare.

“Look it up online,” was Dad’s reply.

I know Dad is a tad obsessed with the Sanctuary Knocker at Durham Cathedral. One of his paintings featuring the knocker graces the dining room:

Dad's painting of the Sanctuary Knocker at Durham Cathedral.

Dad’s painting of the Sanctuary Knocker at Durham Cathedral.

After our little turkey-inspired exchange I looked up the details and discovered that someone in grave trouble (usually self-inflicted trouble, like, say the person had stabbed someone else…) was allowed to thump on the cathedral door with the Sanctuary Knocker and, after being admitted, could seek sanctuary inside for 37 days. According to the Durham World Heritage Site website (which is quite excellent) the perpetrator could either reconcile with his or her enemies or plan an escape.

Good thing we don’t let the turkeys into the house or they’d be lining up to peck at the painting. Not a good thing for various reasons, but if the plotters above were successful in getting that cathedral door to swing open, 37 days from now would be much too late for Christmas dinner…

For more information about the cathedral, visit the official website.

For more information about Dad (who does have an actual name – E. Colin Williams) – visit the artist’s website.

Day 22 – Let’s Talk Turkey

They can run, but they can't hide...

They can run, but they can’t hide…

This year has been a bit of a challenge in terms of timing for processing our Christmas turkeys. Until very recently, the closest place to have the birds processed was up in Cowichan Bay an hour or so north of here – a journey that requires a VERY early start to get the birds there on time and then a return trip the following day to pick them up again (the processed birds can’t be transported until they have been sufficiently chilled). As you can imagine, the demand for slots is huge right before the two major turkey feasting holidays, so it is not easy at all to book a date that is close enough to Christmas to be able to offer customers fresh birds.

Add to this the fact our Ridley Bronze turkeys take their own sweet time growing to a decent size so an early date and frozen birds is not a great solution for us, never mind the fact our customers overwhelmingly prefer fresh birds to frozen (though, I have to say that having tasted both, there isn’t a noticeable difference in flavour). Anyway, the closest date we originally were able to get to Christmas was December 13, which meant very stale ‘fresh’ birds (too stale, really – though there is no definitive number of days a fresh bird can sit properly refrigerated, we were uncomfortable selling birds that would be 10-12 days before preparation). So, we were resigned to selling them frozen.

Invite a Ridley Bronze to your holiday dinner...

Invite a Ridley Bronze to your holiday dinner…

Then, we heard through the farmer grapevine that a new processor had been approved here on the Saanich Peninsula and, when I got in touch, I was delighted to hear he had space for our birds on December 21 (ready for us to pick up and get them to our customers December 22). Not only can we provide fresh birds, they benefit from an extra week or so of growing.

Now that we have the processing date finalized, I can post the link to our fancy schmantzy online order form.

Please note, we do not produce a huge number of birds and they grow to the sizes they want to grow. To avoid disappointment, please, please order sooner than later so you have the best chance of getting a bird close to the size you are hoping for. We do our best to match you up with a good dining partner, but it’s not like we are running a factory farm here with thousands of birds to pick from. We always sell out, so if you are interested in a fresh, local, delicious heritage turkey, click on that there link and let us know!

We are now able to take VISA and Mastercard – details for payment options are on the form. Over the next little while we’ll post some favourite recipes and cooking tips – these birds are not quite like the broad-breasted whites you’ll find in the supermarket. More on that, too, in future posts – for now, just wanted to give you the heads up on our late-breaking turkey news!

Day 13 – Chicken House Challenges Part 3

Meanwhile, inside the hen house, the girls were completely confused about where to sleep.

"You mean I'm supposed to jump up there?"

“You mean I’m supposed to jump up there?”

The first night, in fact, the girls couldn’t figure out how to walk back up the ramp, so they all piled up right at the bottom of the ramp, outside. By the second day they had figured that part out, but judging by the amount of hen manure in the nesting boxes and completely lack of bodies on the perches when I peeked in during the night, the girls hadn’t figured out that perches are for perching.

The next day, several of the hens had sorted out the perch situation, but nobody had laid an egg inside the nesting boxes, Instead, they are using the two back corners of the main area of the hen house. The next modification we’ll make is to add a low board across the bottom of the open side of the nest boxes. This will (I hope) accomplish two things: a) they won’t be able to shovel quite so much litter into the nest boxes when they are digging around in the shavings and b) they will feel more secluded, contained, and secure if they are behind more of a barrier.

Stay tuned…Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days agriculture blog-a-thon or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmer to find out!

Here's a shot from the stage when we were gluing down the roofing felt on the nest box roof. The plywood is over the top of the roofing to evenly distribute the weight of the heavy objects placed on top.

Here’s a shot from the stage when we were gluing down the roofing felt on the nest box roof. The plywood is over the top of the roofing to evenly distribute the weight of the heavy objects placed on top.