Hurricane Farm

  (Scotland, Connecticut)
A view of life on our farm
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Photos from the Hurricane Farm Tour

This past Saturday we took part in the Coventry Regional Farmer's Market "Graze Fest" which involved tours of some of the farms involved in the market. 

Erica did a great job showing a nice group of eager folks around our farm and many wonderful photos have been sent to us by the participants. 

Follow this link for a slide show courtesy of David Cope > http://www.flickr.com/photos/triodeandco/sets/72157624467019842/

 
 

Hurricane Farm at Scotland Farm Day, 2010

We brought some of our livestock to the annual Farm Day here in Scotland, CT this past weekend.  The photos below are from the Norwich Bulletin.

Here's two week old Moe sleeping after a morning's full of attention.

 

The piglets were also hard at work ripping up the grass looking for grubs, roots, and other yummy things.  But so much hard work made for some sleeply little piglets for sure!

We had a great time and met some wonderful new customers and friends.  It was also nice to see some of our CSA members and regular customers who came out as well.

 

 
 

Just In Time To Beat the Snow

A couple of weeks back we had about what seemed to be non-stop rain for days on end.  The farm had become a mud pit.  Almost like Spring, but without the flowers, grass, and other plants popping up and sucking up the excess water.  So...we had mud, in some places several inches deep.

Just about this time we determined it was time to move the hogs into their winter home attached to the barn.

When we first moved the hogs into the garden for their "Fall tilling excursion," we had all three of them in the same cage.  Not so anymore!  They grew quite a bit while removing all the old roots and grubs and other bugs from the garden.

We were able to get the first two up onto the trailer wihout a problem.  The third one almost broke out of the cage, so we had to wait to move him until we got these two guys settled in.  Check out the rooster along for the free ride!  He rode in on the trailer all the way from the garden.

We backed the tractor right up into the barn and then...

...unloaded the hogs.  A couple of curious hens accompanied the rooster and came out to watch us try to lift, drag, push, and pull the cages down the length of the barn.

It seems we got the hogs moved just in time, for that rain gave way to some snow and we were graced with our first plowable snow of the season.  Moving these guys in 4-5 inches of snow would NOT be fun!

Glad to see we got the "thumbs up" from our little supervisor! 

 
 

My Four-Legged Tiller, Part 2

The frost has hit and the squash is done.  Sadness creeps into the picture as one looks around at the dying plants.  The sqash was commanding the garden mere days ago, but its leaves are now turning a sickly dark color.  The frost sneaks in and kills quickly, just as quickly as the early morning sun whisks it away.

While we are short some squash patches, we have gained some pig areas.  The hogs have been moved into the garden and will be rotated throughout in order to clean, till, and manure the spaces that will hold next Spring and Summer's crops. 

Even though the entire garden is fenced in, we set up some movable hog panels (16 foot long rigid fence sections) to encourage the pigs to keep to a specific area as they work.  We have many crops remaining that do not need the help of the pigs at this time.  They might like the strawberry patch or the kale rows, but we do too!  Pigs keep out, please...

We'll let them work their wonders in the squash patch, then move them through the corn and other crop areas in the coming weeks.

Did I mention that they work for free?

 
 

Local Foods at a Local Restaurant

A local Connecticut restaurant, Zest, has some wonderful dishes on the way prepared with local ingredients including ribs grass-fed, dry aged beef.  If you are in Northeastern CT, stop by their 1750's farmhouse restaurant and try the taste and flavor of local foods!

http://www.zestofct.com/

 
 

A Recipe for (Our) Heritage Pork

One of our customers recently tried some of our Heritage pork and offers this recipe:  "Slap Ya Mama Heritage Pork Chops."

Please follow the link to their Food Blog and, perhaps, try it out yourself!

http://acoupleinthekitchen.blogspot.com/2009/08/slap-yo-mama-heritage-pork-chops.html

 
 

Rain Gutters = Dry Pigs

One of the projects that was on the slate this summer was to install gutters along the front edge of the barn.  Mainly I wanted to keep some of the water out of the pig pen, but also I wanted to try to keep the rain splashing on the barn sills to a minimum. 

We decided to run 1/2 of the legnth of the barn to start.  This would take care of the pig pen area and also it would be pretty hard to run more than 50 feet of gutter all in one direction.  Too much water would get in there and there would be overflow.

Pinning up gutters seemed like an easy task:

1. purchase gutters
2. install them on barn

Not SO simple, it turns out.  This project called for lots of pre-steps before we even got near the gutters.  One step was even involved paint (I loathe painting, anyone can tell you).  I mean, seriously, putting up gutters involves PAINT?!  What the heck...

We first had to install some trim work upon which to attach the gutters.  There was only about 1" of existing trim, not enough to provide the angle we'd need to run 50 feet.  So we tacked up some  6" pine to make a nice surface.  But, then we had to paint it.

Lucky for me, my kids love to paint!

They did such a great job that I only had to touch up areas here and there...I know where to turn ANYTIME I need any painting done.

I'm not sure how it happened, but I got more paint on my clothes than the kids did!

101 feet, 8 inches of "gutter-mount" painted and ready for the gutters...

The next step was the kids' favorite.  When I was building the new out-building, we often used the chalk-line.  They love snapping it and then reeling it back in.  We snapped a 51 foot chalk-line and proceeded to mount the gutters.  We bought these nifty little clips that simply clip into each channel of the gutter and then screw in with a power drill.  Nice and quick!  What was not nice and quick was all the sealing that had to be done to the seams between gutters, to the downspout, to the gutter end, etc...I dislike the caulking gun almost as much as the paint brush.  It especially becomes a chore on the third try at sealing it all correctly to keep it all from leaking.  Pretty soon, though, the kids will be able to handle the caulking gun, too.

The gutters are now up (ironically all the rain has gone away) and we're all ready for some dry less-wet-than-before hogs for the Fall.  Next time it rains, the gutters will whisk the water away to the edge of the barnyard where it will soak into the ground without making mud.

 

 
 

Moving Pigs, Our Second Encounter

Last week, or sometime thereabouts, we had to load three of our hogs onto the trailer in order to take them to be processed.  As readers will recall, our first experience loading pigs, while perhaps comical, took WAY TOO LONG!  This time we had it all figured out, and for the most part, everyone involved cooperated with the plan.

First I had to back the trailer up to the barn and make a runway for the hogs.

Notice above how little clearance there is between the trailer gate and the door frame of the barn.  Now, I should have measured this all out when constructing the trailer gate, but that did not happen.  In fact, the gate was about an inch or two too high to fit into the barn. 

SOLUTION:  Pallets!

Backing the tractor up onto four pallets raised the tractor, thereby lowering the end of the trailer just enough to clear the door frame.  Yet another addition to the essential farm tools list:  pallets.

After getting the trailer where it needed to be, we set up a hog panel (a 16 foot long rigid wire fence section) and reinforced it with a couple of 2 x 4's to hold it in place.  We had a little step made out of a pallet for the hogs to use to walk right up onto the trailer.

All that was left was to "bait the trap," as it were.  We had restricted the feed intake of the pigs the previous night so as to be sure that they would be hungry enough to waltz right into the trailer.

Here I am opening up their pen and telling them to head down the center aisle.  I also reminded them to return their seats to their original upright position and to check the overhead compartments for bagage before exiting.

And there they go.  Right down the aisle, into the chute, and onto the trailer.  Pretty easy so far.  They were not wild about the step, but with a little coaxing and some pizza from Erica, they eventually took the plunge.

We got the first two into the trailer and they immediately started chowing down on the food piled up in there.  I put some wooden slats across the trailer so as to "lock" them towards the front while we tried to get the last pig on. 

Turns out we didn't need the slats, really.  After gorging themselves the two pigs decided on a nap.

Erica used some more of the pizza and some other tasty morsels to try to lure the final pig on.

We gave the pig about three hours waiting time, during which it decided to also take a nap.  Just not in the right location.

Eventually, the last one made its way onto the trailer.  Once they were all back together they ate, drank, and slept just like it was their new home.  This was a much more successful--and less time-consuming--adventure this time around!

 

 

 
 

Growing Up and Expansion

There is so much to do that sometimes we don't take time to notice how large some of our animals are getting, especially as they transtition from little babies.  Remember those hogs that we used to till up our gardens, orchard, and bramble patch?  We brought them to Farm Day in Scotland, too.

Well, they've grown substantially and we won't be bringing them around for fun any more!

Additionally, we have been working on our new pasture.  It is pretty large, about 7-8 acres in all.  We'll be using the back 2/3 for now and maybe more later.  I spent yesterday brush-hogging the areas where I plan to erect the field fencing, and then I set in some nice cedar posts.  I plan to finish the cedar corner posts and then strech the fence today and tomorrow.  We'll be using metal t-posts between the end/corner posts to allow us to move the fence if we need to easily enough.  Our neighbor has been generous enough to let us use the field/pasture free-of-charge for a couple of years.  We'll be bringing our cattle down there next week at the latest, I hope. 

It's amazing, but we have more than doubled the size of our grazing area in the course of a couple of days.

I drove the tractor down to the field last night so it would be wating for me this morning (it's fun to drive on the roads!).  We took a few photos of the field before the fencing is up and we'll post them later on.

 
 

Hogs On Apples

We still have not uploaded the photos from the weekend, but here are some to hold us all over for a little while.

Here we have some hogs--snouts sullied--after a hard afternoon's rooting session.

They have cleared all of the land for our orchard and have also just about finished our bramble and briar patch.  We'll be moving them behind my log pile along the west end of the farm this coming weekend. 

Here is Erica hard at work planting what will hopefully one day be a wonderously prosperous apple tree.  All of the trees we set in have started to bud and are full of leaves.  The bees are starting to leave their hive and gather nectar and I saw several of them already buzzing by the apple trees.  We have set up the hive right amongst the apple trees for maximum pollenization.

Speaking of bees:  When they arrived, they were looking rather piqued.  So much so that they seemed to be--and were--mostly dead.  After a quick couple of calls and some photos sent via email, the supplier has agreed to send us a second shipment as a replacement.  Our queen, however, looked healthy and quickly worked her way onto the honey frame foundations to start her egg laying work, but the colony is off to a rocky start with so many dead bees during shipping.

We'll be adding the new bees as soon as they come.  Below is a shot of the bees that we received in the mail.  An acceptable amount of dead bees would be no more than 1/2 an inch on the bottom.  You can see how something must have happened during shipment to cause over two inches of dead bees.  All the bees amassed on the bottom are dead.  There are still several thousand living bees clinging together at the top end of the cage, but this may not be enough to establish a heatlhy colony.  Also of note is the can in the center of the shipping cage.  This is filled with sugar solution to feed the bees during their voyage through the mail.  Just to the right of the can, nearer the top, is a small cage which houses the queen and five of her royal servants.  Their job is to feed her.  She apparantly cannot be bothered with such menial tasks.  Anyhow, only one servant was left when the cage arrived, so that might explain why the queen was so eager to leave her little cage...She might have been a little hungry.

Stay tuned...More to come!

 
 

Pigs on Pasture

The "little" pigs have finished tilling up our orchard area and we have planted four apple trees so far.  The trees are already starting to form buds!

So it was time to move the piglets to a new area in which they can put their concerted efforts into what they do best:  tilling up the ground.

The grass has been coming up fairly quickly and thickly with all the cold, wet days peppered with warm days over the past two weeks.  The pigs really enjoy being on this lush grass.  They not only can root around and look for grubs, worms, and other tasty morsels, but the love the grass itself along with the roots!

Yummy!

These photos were taken just after we released them into their new penned in area.  We will be turning this area, which is just to the side of our front garden, into a briar and bramble patch.  Blackberry.  Raspberry.  Black Raspberry.  And so on.

Hmm...Do I want to eat that Dandelion?  Maybe I'll just take a little bite and see how it tastes...
The way this little guy is staring it down, you'd think it was giving him a bad attitude or something.  I guess it did not taste as great as he had hoped.

Oh, OK...Maybe I'll try another bite of this one...

In no time at all the pigs will clear this patch and we will move them again.  I have a nice spot that is rife with poison ivy behind my log pile.  We'll get them clearing that out and exposing a nice stone wall that runs most of the way down one side of our property line.  Not only do they clear the land, but they fertilize it at the same time!  It's a win-win for all involved!

 

 
 

My 16-Leg Tiller; Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Zip-Tie

We finally cleared out the space for the orchard and the bee hive!  We pulled out some great firewood for next year and have cleared out a nice sloping area for our fruit and bees.  Unfortunately, there are still tons of roots from grape vines and remnants of prickly bushes all over the area.

Solution:  Bring in the rotor-tiller.  But this is not your average gas powered machine.  This one (four of them, actually) runs on weeds, grubs, and whatever else you put in the path of its powerful snout.

We purchased four more piglets and they are busy at work in a movable pen that will eventually clear out the leftover mess in the soon-to-be-orchard.

They are hard at work tilling up the soil, eating the roots, and also composting the soil with their manure!

We picked up an old calf hutch that was for sale on the side of the road and it will be a perfect movable home for these little guys.  We can also use it later when we start letting the lambs and their mothers out into the pasture.

Here are our little ones trying out the hutch.

Here I am admiring the fine work that the pigs are about to do.  We used 4 livestock panels, some old metal posts, and a handful of zip-ties. 

Now, along with the 5 gallon pail--as our readers already know of--the zip-tie is an indespensible item on the farm.

See how handily they fit into one's upper pocket?  And oh, the colors!  They can't be missed when dropped into the muddy ground (like screws, nuts, and bolts always are).

Even a four year old can master the zip-tie.  Above we can see Liev attaching one of the livestock panels to a post.

Fine work was done by all.  Including the pigs (eh hem...tillers) who have just about cleared out that area.  We are planning to move them over today or tomorrow.  The bees arrive in a week or so and the plan is to have the pigs finished in this area and moved over to the garden by then.

 

 
 

Load of Hay and the Old Fashioned Way

We usually buy our hay from a neighboring farm here in town.  I am not sure if it is common knowledge or not, but hay, like most any other commodity in the world, comes in a variety of qualities.  There is good hay.  There is bad hay.  And all sorts in between.  We've been lucky to get our hay from our neighbors at Twin Hill Farm as they "make" exceptionally high quality hay.  Not being a hay farmer myself, I don't really know what goes into "making" good hay, but I suspect that much of it has to do with timing:  when to cut, when to fluff, when to bale.  Of course, the rain never helps matters.

Anyhow, we bought the last few bales from our supplier back at the end of the winter, and we've been trying hard to locate a secondary source to hold us over until the first cutting at the end of May.  We tried a couple of places and ended up with "bad" hay.  Yuck. 

Sometimes, it takes going without to realize how lucky one is to have it in the first place.  I can assure you that we will be buying more hay from our neighbors at cutting time and trying to store it up so as to avoid scratching around in the late winter of next year.

I am happy to report, though, that finally we found some decent hay.  Our friends at Terrabyte Farm in neighboring Canterbury, CT put us in contact with some hay farmers a couple of towns over.  They were some nice folks at that hay farm.  It turns out that they bale somewhere about 12,000 bales per season on an old farm that they are allowed to use virtually free of charge.  Barns and all!  They worked out a deal where they pay the taxes for the elderly woman who owns the farmland, keep her cable TV piping in, and keep her warm.  In exchange they have access to her 100's of acres and huge barns.  What a deal!  It sure is nice to see situations like this in what seems to be an increasingly complex world.  Some things are still pretty darn simple.

Truckload of hay and one dancing boy!

Add one dancing girl.

End result:  one itchy cat!  There is something affirming about the itch on your arms after loading bales of hay on a warm Spring day.

 
 

Silo Acquisition: Phase 2

We have just completed Phase 2 of our SILO ACQUISITION.

Phase 1, the most tedious of all phases, included posting several ads on Craigslist throughout the greater New England and Pennsylvania area in the hopes of locating an unwated silo (a.k.a. Grain Bin).  After culling through dozens of responses offering us "less-than-ideal" (read rusted, warped, three-legged, bottom-less!) silos, we decided to call around to find out about new silos. 

New silos, however, are not very cost-effective--especially from the perspective of those who always purchase things second, third, and fourth-hand.

We did, though, find a slightly used silo through one of owners of what I guess should be called the "Silo Store."  He informed us that one of his clients was interested in selling her silo, and that he would be willing to remove it from her farm and erect it on our property.  Around the same time, I stumbled upon another used silo at a farm in a neighboring town.  This one was slightly more "used," but worth while checking out.

Phase 2, then, involved looking at and inspecting both silos.  We decided, ultimately, on the newer of the two in the hopes that it will be a longer-lasting investment.  Below, find some photos taken at the conclusion of Phase 2.

(BBQ grill not included)

 

Phase 3, which involves the delivery and installation of said silo, will hopefully commence (and resume) sometime this week or next.  Phase 4, involving filling it will feed from the mill will, logically, follow Phase 3 forthwith.

 

 
 

Baby Animals in the Barnyard

Here are some of the much anticipated photos of our baby farm animals.  We've been quite busy getting things prepared for their births and arrivals, as well as with sugaring, but here are some shots of the recent additions to our farm.

Moments after birth--and still wet--the baby lambs hang with their mom.

Later in the day, all nestled into their own private stall.  They are twins, though it does not look like it!

Here are the hogs, still quite young, but not looking like babies any longer!  Looks quite comfortable.  Perhaps I'll join them for an afternoon snooze...

We also acquired a new calf this past week.  He is a week and half old and already he towers above our kids.  His name is Aloysius (but our son calls him "Monster Truck") and he is an Ayershire bull calf.  This breed is larger than the Jerseys and is sort of neat for us to have as they originated in southern Scotland. 

He has two bottles a day, and is already starting to eat some hay and a little grain.

We've spent most of this rainy day rebuilding, cleaning, and repainting the bee hives that I had picked up last summer.  We ordered a 3 lb. package of bees and will be getting them into their hive in about three weeks or so.  There will be several updates on that project, I'm sure.

 
 

Hungry Hungry Hogs

Anyone remember that game "Hungry Hungry Hippos"?

It seems as I get a little older and look for games for my kids I find myself missing my childhood games more and more.

In fact, just after Christmas I purchased a "Crossbows and Catapults" game because I remembered spending hours on end building castles and walls, and then hurling plastic checkers with the crossbow and catapult trying to knock them over.  My brother and I had some pretty intense and fun games in our parents' hallway.  I still say hardwood floors are the best for this game!

At the time (being just after Christmas, I guess) I could only find one store with the game in stock.  It must have been popular last year.  So I looked on eBay.  Whoa...$150 for the original edition.  Man, what did I DO with all my old games?

So I ordered the new edition...It's sort of like the one that I used to have.  Only not as well made.

I guess my point is that things should be saved, re-used, and passed on.  Right?  What is all this about buying new things all the time?  Especially when they are not anywhere near the quality that we used to have, use, and love.

Someone should tell this to our hogs...They seem to LOVE my new drill (another new product that pales in comparison to the older ones...).

Will pig drool void the warranty? 

I can see it now:

Customer Service Rep:  Is that a bite taken out of the handle?

Me:  Yes sir.

Customer Service Rep:  Who would do such a thing?

Me:  Well, sir, my pigs, sir, prefer Mexican food.

 

 
 

Pig Soccer

We were cleaning out the young pigs last weekend when our kids came up with a new sport:  pig soccer.

After moving out several loads of dirty shavings and mud, we dumped in the new wood shavings.  The kids decided that they would help to spread them around the pen using their feet.  The pigs loved the action! 

Enter the soccer ball.

It appears that the pigs enjoy a friendly game of soccer from time to time.  Above, you can see how they arrange their offense.  The one in the front is about to block for the one with the ball...

Here they are, trying to regroup, after my son scored twice in a row.

We had put the soccer ball in the pen with the last batch of hogs as they were constantly dumping over their water pail.  We figured that they might "attack" the ball rather than the bucket of water.  After learning that they could not eat the ball, our old pigs left it in a corner of the pen.  These new pigs, as you can see, have learned a thing or two about soccer balls since then.

 

 
 

Moving Hogs, or Hogs on the Run

Whew...Glad that's over.

This weekend we had to take three hogs to the butcher.  What was supposed to be done between the butcher's preferred window of 9:00 and noon ended up encompassing two days, 12 hours of pig wrangling and rebuilding of chutes and ramps, and two seperate butchers.

Our good friend Jeff was kind enough to lend a helping hand and was even kinder to contain his laughter at our attempts as pig wrangling.

There he is assessing my ramp and chute. 

See, I built this chute about 75 feet long.  It was made of some plywood, two old doors, my saw table, some actual tables, and some wooden pallets.  The chute was supposed to funnel the hogs from their pen, through the barn, into my work area, and onto the waiting truck.  We even constructed a nice ramp for them.  The concept was that they would walk down the chute, eating along the way, and move quietly and serenely into the cage on the truck.

Learned pig fact 1:  they don't prefer ramps.

The ramp ended up being too steep and the hogs never once even attempted to get onto the pitched ramp.  Back to the pen.

Here Erica is trying her best to coax this one up the ramp. 

Learned pig fact 2:  It's hard to coax an unwilling pig.

So, we swapped trucks for one with a lower tailgate, and made a new, improved chute and ramp.  This time, the pigs would have to use a ramp that only suggested an upward pitch.  We also tightened up the final portion of the chute to keep them from spinning and darting and clogging up the works in general.

This pig on the move was shot by my daughter, Violet.  Pigs are slow, right?

Learned pig fact 3:  Pigs are not slow.

Here you can make out the old door and my saw table.  It is, of course, the New England way to make everything available at any given time serve multiple purposes.

We finally got one hog into the truck and to the butcher.  We were able to cut down on the chute time for the second pig and got her to the butcher the next morning.  But we found out that this would be the last delivery that they would take.  They were, for their part, very understanding that we were having a tough time getting the hogs into the truck.  I forsee a trailer in our future...

We luckily were able to take the third pig to another butcher who was more than happy to accomodate us.  I'm glad, too, as I did not want to have a pig chute in my work area all week.

Here is a final shot of one of the hogs successfully using the ramp!  I am so lucky to have such a patient wife...she made a nice little trail of various foods for each pig.

Final learned pig fact:  They can be quite picky when they want.

The first pig liked pasta.  The second preferred cheese.  The final pig went for pizza!  We have the makings of a modern-day nursery rhyme.

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Some Animals in the Barn

How can one not love such a face?  The newest hog trio has a new game:  destroy the feed sack.  See, here are the easy rules...

1.  Pretend to eat your feed.
2.  Quickly sneak out of the gate as your water is being changed.
3.  Seek out nearby sack (either feed or wood-shaving, it does not matter).
4.  Proceed to rip it to bits while running up and down the barn.
5.  Smile as in above photo.

I can't tell if the pig is gloating or apologizing.  Your thoughts?

These sheep are about to give birth to winter lambs any day now.  We are hoping that all four of our ewes are expecting.  We'll be cleaning out and setting up seperate stalls this weekend to house the moms and their newborns.  We'll post pictures as this progresses.

This last one is one of the cattle.  Perhaps Mr. Greenshoes.  I am not sure which one this is.  We have eclectic names for our livestock, it's true.  But that is some of the fun.  We have had many rabbits named after characters from the Simpsons.  We had one trio affectionately named Patty, Selma, and MacGuyver. 

 

 
 

Out in the Cold and Loving It

Here is one of our hogs.  She is especially fond of dumping over her freshly poured water.  It's a game with her, I suspect.  I don't like playing THAT game, so I gave her and her sisters a couple of soccer balls to toss around.  Apparently, the fun part of the water game is watching me clamor about trying to retrieve and refill the water so they can dump it over again.

 
 
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