Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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Baby Season Again

It's a spring thaw here at the farm!  Although it's a great change of pace not having to break chunks of ice from all the water buckets, the packed snow has become so slippery that it's pretty much a matter of when, not if, I land on my rear while doing chores.  The best I can hope for is that it's not on a big cow pie!  

 

As I mentioned last time, we have babies!

 

Here's Char's pile of piglets- there are 8 total, 6 mostly black like mama and two of the blue butt coloration like Wilbur.

 

and here's double trouble...Rosa's twin ewe lambs, who are already beginning to bounce around and play!

 

It's somewhere between snow and mud outside, but luckily for me I have lots to do here inside!  The Farm to Table conference in Pittsburgh (www.farmtotablepa.com) is coming up March 25 & 26.  It's official that I'll be presenting at 2:30 PM on Saturday, so I've been polishing up my presentation as well as putting together a Powerpoint full of pictures of the animals to show as well.  I'll also have a table in the exhibit hall, so I'm inventorying what products I can take to sell, putting together some signs with information and photos of the farm, and prepping to be part of the Friday evening food tasting as well.  While it is work, I enjoy this kind of stuff and I'm really excited. If you attend this conference, be sure to stop by the Pleasant Valley Farm table and say hi!

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Home Alone...with Babies!

Most people know that spring is the time for babies, especially on the farm.  However, our sows have 2 litters of piglets each year so we do have babies in the fall as well.  I'm happy to report that Charlotte gave birth to 8 piglets on Saturday and all are doing well.  Our other sow, Fern, is due a few weeks from now. This is Char's 5th litter and will be for her sister Fern as well.

Char went into labor early Saturday morning, and Dan gave me updates throughout the morning and early afternoon as I was  waiting on the stand.  We were both very happy she chose that day, because Dan had been planning a hiking and camping trip with his brother and was leaving late Saturday.  Having livestock, especially the varied assortment we have here at the farm, means it's next to impossible to get away for more than a few hours.  I had assured Dan that I would be fine, that I can handle anything that needs done here while he took some time away with his brother.  Everything was going well in the hog house and there were 6 piglets born by the time they left.  I checked on her again at chore time and was excited to count 8.  Pigs are known for taking care of themselves during delivery, they don't need assistance with the regularity that cows or sheep will, so I made sure she had plenty of fresh water and left her in peace.  Yesterday morning I fed her, but she wasn't her usual hungry self, being pretty much exhausted from labor.  By evening, she had eaten a little during the day but didn't greet me during evening chores.  Char also seemed to be breathing a bit heavy.  Now, it reached a high of 89 degrees during the day and was a bit humid, so I was really hoping that she was just hot and still tired.  But a nagging little worry in the back of my head said what if something was wrong and she was still in labor?  After all, she has had 10 or 11 piglets in a litter the past couple of times.  Dan wasn't here to take a look and tell me not to worry, and although I have neighbors that would gladly lend a hand if I needed something, they don't raise pigs.  The closest vet is 20 miles away (one way) and farm calls aren't cheap, so I would hate to make that call unless I knew for sure something was wrong.  And everything has gone fine with the pigs the past 10 litters.   So just to be on the safe side, I called Dan's dad who has seen more baby pigs born than I can imagine.  He said it did indeed sound like she was just hot and tired and gave me some advice about what to feed her for an energy boost and how to keep her cool since she's penned up with the babies away from the mud wallow.  I was so grateful just to hear that I was worrying too much, and that I could go catch some of the Steelers game with my sister without worrying about abandoning a farm animal in need of attention.   This morning Char was up and waiting for breakfast and all 8 piglets were doing well too. She was excited to see some rather large zucchini included in her meal! I was so relieved.

Changes in routines always seem to cause trouble...for some reason just switching who is in charge of feeding which creatures means you'll probably find something on the wrong side of the fence, a broken gate, or something like that.  It's so hard to prepare for every contingency, which is why farmers don't take vacations often.  Even if you can find someone willing to try and tackle the feeding chores, you worry about things like "what if the 800-lb boar hog gets loose?" or "did I tell them how to get Dixie (a 1-ton draft horse) unstuck if she walks through the fence again?"  Many of these animals, like the breeding stock or the horses, are here for years.  Each have their own quirks and personalities and we get to know them much as a pet owner does.  Respecting their temperaments allows us to give them the best care in the most humane way possible, even if it means doing things a little different for one animal vs another, even of the same breed. Like a pet owner, we want them to get the same loving care if we get the chance to go away.  But unlike a pet, these animals are also our livelihood.  If something goes wrong and we lose an entire litter of piglets, that's lost income when we wean them, as we often sell some weanling piglets, or possibly a sausage shortage next spring at our farm stand.  It's even a little intimidating for me, because even though I know my animals and they know me, I'm still new to most of the livestock we raise, having only had contact with these species of animals for the past 3 years or so.  If something seems off or out of the ordinary, I rely heavily on Dan's judgement because he has a lifetime of experience behind it.  And I'm so lucky to have a good relationship with his parents, who are just a phone call away if I need a second opinion in the meantime.  I'm hoping that the rest of the week will be uneventful and filled with tomato picking, salsa making, digging the first onions of the season and cleaning up the barn. While I can, if necessary, screw a gate back together or fix wire fence, I'm really hoping to not need those skills while I'm in charge this week!

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Butchering Season Begins Again

The trailer from our local meat processor just left with some of our pigs on board.  By law, we're required to send them to a USDA-inspected slaughtering facility.  We are able to process the sides of meat here at the farm, which means a busy week next week.  I'm usually in charge of the wrapping & labeling of our pork products, as well  as mixing up the herbs & spices for our multiple sausage varieties.  Some of the pigs that left today will go towards filling last fall's freezer pork orders, and the rest will be frozen for sale at the stand when we open at the end of the month.  We'll have fresh pork as well, but we like to have some frozen on hand too, and this allows the necessary time for the smoking & curing of the hams and bacons so we'll be able to have those as well.  It was nice to have a break from meat processing over the winter, but it's that time of the year again. It really takes a lot of planning to get everything scheduled properly!

We moved our broiler chickens to a larger pen today.  We want to get them out on pasture as soon as possible, but it actually snowed here today and these birds just don't handle cold & wet weather well.  To keep them healthy without pumping them full of antibiotics, we decided it was best to put them in another indoor pen with a raised floor, but we'll be watching the weather to get them out on grass as soon as possible. Unlike the pork, we are able to process our chicken start to finish here at the farm, so that will take place just a couple of days before our opening day.  Not only will we have some chicken available at the reopening of the stand, we also have a new batch of broiler birds arriving this week.  They will be able to be out on grass for a longer period of time, as we hope the weather will cooperate when they no longer need their heat lamps in a few weeks. 

The cold continues tonight, with frost forecasted.  We're a bit concerned about some of the crops, like sweet corn and blueberries, but the majority of what's in the ground, like lettuce and onions, won't be damaged if it gets nipped by frost.   It's so exciting to actually see veggies up, and I even have some early radishes to incorporate into our dinner tonight.

I was delighted with the new bottles that arrived this week and have been in the process of filling them with flavored vinegars.  Our Thai Sweet & Hot dipping sauce will be in them as well, so be sure to check them out when you stop to see us! 

 
 

Lots of Excitement!

The weather here has been beatuiful, the mud is drying and we have even more beautiful farm babies!  Lambing season continues, we now have a total of 6 healthy little lambs...5 rams (boys) and one ewe.  Last years we fininshed the season with 4 ewes and only 2 rams, so I guess it's just the boys' year this time!  We also have three more ewes who we are watching closely, as they have yet to deliver.

Both our sows have delivered their piglets, with Fern giving birth a few days after Char.  We have a grand total of 19 healthy little piglets!  Wow!

The incubator is filling with eggs and our first chicks of the season will hatch next weekend.  I've missed the soft peeping of chicks, so I'm excited about that, too.  I also spotted the first goose egg of the season this week.  This goose found a nice spot under the rabbit cages in the back yard.  It's fairly out of the way, but I can watch from my kitchen window, so I'm hoping she sticks with this spot for hewr nest this year.  I noticed this location as I moved the bantam Japanese chickens from that rabbit cage back into their summer home.  It is a bottomless pen called a chicken tractor, and now that the snow has melted, I can put those birds back out on grass.  It sure is nice to see them in the yard again!

The plants are coming to life as well.  I noticed the first glimpses of crimson popping up through the mulch covering our rhubarb patches.  The blueberry bushes are showing little buds and it looks like my rosebush survuved the winter.  A few early leaves of green mark where the oregano, thyme and lemon balm are in the herb garden as well. The daffodils are poking up and I'm sure the forsythia and lilac bushes will be blooming soon, as the buds are starting to swell on the branches.

Besides all the spring excitement, I'm also looking forward to the Farm to Table conference set for next Friday & Saturday at the David L. Lawerence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.  While the cost of a table for the 2 days was a bit out of our farm's advertising budget this year, we belong to the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, aka PASA.  They are featuring member farms and giving free samples of products at a table there, so I've already sent them a box of our jams and mustards.  Dan and I are planning on attending on Friday as well, and if all goes according to plan, we'll be at the PASA table when our farm is featured to answer questions and have some of our products to sell.  I think this is really neat, but I'm also just as excited to check out what other farms in our region are doing.  When I find out the actual time our farm is scheduled, I'll be sure to post it so that you can stop by and say hello if you're there!

 
 

Spring is in Full Swing

Although the weather is a bit gloomy, the rain did get rid of the snow.  Even though it's still muddy, at least the water has stopped coming in to the barn.  The hog house has stayed wonderfully dry with its new roof, which is great since we have so many new piglets!  Charlotte had her litter Thursday-11, a new record for her.  While we lost a few the first few days, if she raises these 8 it will still be a successful litter.  Her sister, Fern, gave birth last night.  She had a whopping 12, but 2 were stillborn, which often happens with such large litters.  Again, we're still thrilled.

We though there would be a lull in lambing season as the 4 ewes still outside are young and historically, the youngest give birth a bit later on into the spring months.  However, looking out my kitchen window into the pasture, there is a new lamb who will need to be brought into the nice warm barn before nightfall!  The other five are growing at a record pace, and we can't wait for the pasture to dry up a bit so we can let them out!

We are super busy inside the house too.  We had tons of home improvement projects on the to-do list to get done over the winter.  Spring is here, so we're trying to do as much as possible while it's still too muddy to plow.  Once the outdoor work of planting and field prep begins, major inside projects are pretty much on hold!

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New Roof

Although most of the major farm projects for the year are over, we're thankful that the weather is holding so we can get one last major project accomplished this year.  The hog house is finally getting a new roof!  While the ground level of the building is made of blocks, the upper story was wooden.  The roof has been leaking for some time now, and the big blue tarp over the roof has long been shredded by the weather.  The whole building was turning into an eyesore as well as a danger, as the leaning wood promised to collapse sometime if we didn't get to it ourselves.  Since the bottom is in good shape, Dan and I had decided this spring the best plan would be to tear down the upper story and replace it with a steel roof, sloping only one way so the water would no longer end up in front of the pigs' door to the outside run.  We're hoping this new layout will help to eliminate the giant mud puddle currently in front of their door. Eliminating the second story is really no loss of space, since pigs don't use staircases and we weren't using the space for storage or anything else.  It should cut down on the mice as well, as they had taken over the top story and were abundant below as well.

The project began yesterday, with Dan and his brother knocking down all of the boards not responsible for holding the roof up.  Then ropes were tied to the support beams.  The other end was fastened to the van.  The second story came down with a big crash, but safely for all involved. They've recycled lots of the usable  lumber to build supports and give the roof a proper angle so that snow and rain will slide off.  As I type, the green sheets of metal roofing are being nailed into place.  Daylight will be running short, but we'll try to get it all on tonight.  The the most time consuming part will start- the cleanup!  We'll save any still-usable boards for future projects, but there will still be lots of rotten wood and shingles and random junk that will need to be picked up and disposed of.  We'll give the inside a thorough cleaning and spread the manure on the fields and then line the pens with fresh bedding.  This was really important to get done before winter, this way the sows won't have to go to a new building before the next litter of piglets are born in early March.  

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Black (Angus) Monday

We said goodbye to our two black Angus beef cows last night.  Because of government regulations, the only animal we can legally process start to finish and sell here are the chickens.  All other meat animals get picked up and transported to Hirsch's Meats, the local slaughter facility.  Mondays are the days when pickups occur, so we had a very busy day.  First, we had to get the cows into the barn.  Although they have been with us since July 2008, they have been out to pasture since about May with no real human contact except running up to the fence when we threw corn stalks over for them to eat.  Luckily for us, they remembered the sound of feed rattling around in a feed scoop and followed us into the barnyard and then the barn without too much trouble.  They even remembered where their stalls were and let us put collars on them so they could be tied up for the afternoon.  Next we had to catch the two lambs, so the easiest thing to do was lure all the sheep into the barn.  My older ewes came on the run at the sound of the feed scoop with the rest of the flock following right along.  Unfortunately about half of the goats snuck in too.  Just as we were shutting the barn door to sort out the male lambs, a black lamb jumped through Dan's arms and out into the barnyard,  Of course, that was one we needed!  Luckily he ran into the lower part of the barn and was caught.  Upon looking at the younger of the two ram lambs, he had done better than expected on a grass-only diet and was even bigger than the first, despite being a couple months younger.  So he was sorted out into the holding pen, and the rest of the sheep & goats were shooed out of the barn.  Lastly were some pigs out in the movable pig tractor.  It was too muddy & far to move it down to the barn, so we put a crate on the trailer behind the pickup and loaded the pigs onto the trailer, then backed the trailer into the barn.  Using portable gates to make a kind of runway, we simply opened the crate and the pigs backed out and followed the path we had to the pen.  So far, so good!

Later in the evening, well after dark, the trailer arrived.  We had spoken to the driver before he got here, so he knew where to back in.  I don't know how he gets that big stock trailer backed around, but I guess he's had plenty of years of practice.  The pigs were the first to be loaded.  To avoid a pig trying to squeak under the trailer to freedom, we wedged bales of hay in the opening.  It gave them a step to get up into the trailer, too.  We set up the gates again, opened the door of the pen, and all went according to plan.  I've watched enough pigs get loaded by now it doesn't bother me to see them go, especially when there is a new batch of cute little babies running about.  The lambs were next, and we kept all the females this year, so there are still 4 for me to try and tame down this winter.  They each weighed less than a big sack of feed, so Dan was able to just pick them up and carry them to the trailer and put them where they needed to be.  Last to load were the cows.  When we bought them they weighed about 200 lb each, so they could be pulled or pushed to load onto our little trailer without too much problem.  They gained 700-800 pounds with us, putting their weights around 900-1000 pounds, so that wasn't an option.  Dan tried to lead Bandit, the steer, who walked right along until it was time to step up into the trailer.  He then refused to budge, and no amount of pushing, pulling or tail-twisting could convince him otherwise.  Monica was missing her buddy and really trying to get loose, so we untied her and she ran right for the trailer.  She started to go in, but her hoof got caught in the twine holding the hay bale together and she pulled back.  By this time Bandit was loose too, and with a bit of yelling, arm waving, pleading and poking, they did load.  We've had these cows for over a year, and I'll really miss seeing them.  I was even getting a little sad when I walked into the barn to help load the trailer.  I was glad they were a bit uncooperative, because they really weren't that bad (no one, human or bovine, was hurt), but my mind was more focused on the task at hand than on where the  trailer was headed.  We do still have 3 more cows here, and the best part is that when we get the beef back, not only will we have some money to put into various projects around the farm, we'll be able to buy more cows!  Although it's so hard to watch an animal you've raised go to be killed, every animal on a farm has a purpose and not all of them are glamorous.  I wasn't going to name or pet or feed snacks to the cows when we bought them, knowing that they were going to have to die, but Dan reminded me that just because you aren't going to keep an animal for the whole of its natural lifespan, that doesn't mean it won't appreciate love and cookies.  So that's how I look at it too.  They had a good life while they were here, and now I get to fill the empty spot in the barn with adorable little cows who will get more love and cookies.

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The Pig-o-Tiller

We've worked hard to get an electric fence up around the smallest part of the barnyard so our little piglets can get some fresh air and sunshine.  Many of our customers who stopped by last Saturday enjoyed seeing them run around;  they're very playful at this age! Besides providing an outdoor space for the sows & piglets, we also had another reason to get them out in this particular space.  This part of the barnyard isn't grazed very heavily, so weeds have started to choke out the plants that the livestock find tastier and more nutritious.  A pasture without maintenance will become simply a place for the animals to exercise, but not much of a source of food if the plants that are best for that species are overgrazed or taken over by weeds.  So it's time to re-seed this patch of pasture.  We plan on using just a general hay mix- grasses, clover, legumes and other plants that appeal to pretty much all of our critters.  However, with the weeds thoroughly covering the ground, we have to prep the soil to give the seeds the best possible chance to grow and thrive.  While we do have a very high quality rototiller which we use in the garden every spring for that purpose,  that wasn't the route we wanted to take.  Round bales of hay were fed in this spot for years, and every spring I pull up yards and yards of orange baler twine.  It would quickly wrap around the tines of the tiller and cause major problems.  Besides, we try to use it as little as possible,  both to keep it in great shape for years to come and because we try not to use too much mechanized equipment.  This particular area is also too small and rocky to use the horses to plow it up.  Enter the pig-o-tillers!  Hogs have a natural instinct to root- they use their extremely strong snouts to dig into the dirt and then lift up.  This way they discover all sorts of piggie delicacies like grubs and roots. In the process, they expose the bare dirt and uproot whatever is growing on the surface. Two sows and 18 piglets can do a lot of work or damage, depending on your point of view. They can cause a huge mess if you don't want the ground completely uprooted, but  this is just what we're looking for to plant! So the pigs get exercise and some extra food at no cost to us, and they get to entertain themselves by doing what pigs naturally want to do.  And we get the pasture reseeded with just minimal time and work on our part.  It's what we like to think of as a win-win situation!
 
 

A Big Problem

What weighs 750 lbs, has tusks, a bad attitude, and won't stay where he's supposed to?  Lately the answer has been our boar (male pig) Wilbur.  Normally, he's quite a pleasant guy to be around;  he loves having his back scratched and will take a treat gently from my hand.  However, this week has been a reminder that we really keep Wil for one thing only, as a breeding male, and that means an animal won't always act like a pet.  They can get very dangerous.  

This is the 3rd time we've had piglets from these animals, Wilbur and both sows, and haven't had a problem before.  Some boars get very aggressive and will go as far as getting in with the sows and killing the little ones.  The past 2 times we've had baby pigs, the sows were each locked up in a large pen with plenty of water, food and fresh bedding while Wilbur had the main hog run to himself.  The sow pens were in the hog house though, so he could still smell, hear, and to some extent see the girls.  While he was a little more vocal than usual, we had no problems.    Because we're about to put a new roof on the hog house and didn't want the piglets to be damp and cold in the meantime, the girls were moved to another building we usually use for the sheep & goats, but fixed it up for pigs.  Wilbur seemed ok until last Thursday.  Baby pigs will become anemic if not given iron shots, so that's what we do at 3 and 10 days of age.  One of our sows, Fern, gets very aggressive when you handle the babies and they squeal, so to avoid being bitten, we turned the sows out into the barnyard for the few minutes it took us to vaccinate the babies.  Fern decided to go over and say hi to Wilbur, and for the next 4-5 days we've been fighting to keep him away from our girls.  An animal that big is hard to contain when they are determined to be somewhere else.  When Wil got out, he was always found by the sow pen, ususally after doing something destructive because he couldn't get in.  Our poor plastic barrel we keep chicken feed in has been knocked around and spilled more than once, the plastic covering a couple of windows for draft protection on the henhouse needs replaced now, and we've had to put the gate back on its hinges too.  And our lovesick pig is a real monster to get back to his own pen.  The noise is horrendous, it sounds like a dinosaur or something terrible!  He's also been so agitated, he actually foams at the mouth and is beyond uncooperative. Handling him requires holding a piece of plywood in front of your legs, that way he can't bite you.  Usually he'll go anywhere if he's promised food, but that hasn't motivated him at all lately. It takes patience, bravery and some luck to get him where he needs to be.  Pigs are one of the world's most intelligent animals, and they can figure out pretty quickly you are trying to trap them somewhere they don't want to be.  That much weight and muscle can also make short work of fences and wire and boards.  Our biggest tool to keep the pigs where they are supposed to be is electric fence wire, but he has no respect for that right now, so we have to keep him penned up inside. 

This was a good morning however, as I saw no loose pigs when looking out my window.  So either Wilbur's calming down or the boards keeping him in the hog house were stronger this time! Normally, I don't tolerate mean animals.  More than one breeding rooster of ours has gone to the livestock auction because they were attacking people. One of my criteria for a new male sheep or goat is that they are calm and gentle towards people.  I refuse to spend all my time in the pasture making sure nothing is behind me.  Something that weighs 300 pounds and that will head butt you out of the blue is not acceptable.  A pig this big is nothing to take chances with either.  However, since it's only one bad week over 2 years, I'm going to give him a little time.  Dan told me he wasn't crazy about keeping a boar at all because behavior such as this is common in most of them...it would be very hard to find one more gentle than Wilbur's been 99% of the time.  So, here's hoping he's calming down for another 2 years of good behavior...or else I guess we'll be running some sausage specials!

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It's a boy and a girl and...

On a farm, by necessity, you live seasonally.  This is the time of year when I'm busy freezing and canning what I am able to prepare before the first killing frost and the long winter that follows.  It's generally not time for babies.  Today was a big exception.  Because pigs will breed year round, we were expecting a litter from each of our 2 sows soon.  We had moved them into the same pen the mother goats occupied a few months ago after a lot of cleanup and a little work to make 2 seperate, pig-proof pens.  We then moved Charlotte & Fern to thier new home to let them get adjusted before the big day arrived.  Although they were appearing close to farrowing (giving birth if you're a pig), we thought they were still a week or so away and were still allowing them access to the outdoor run.  Fern also started to build a nest out of hay, grasses & corn husks, but again, that means she is close but not necessarily beginning labor.  I was in the kitchen canning a wonderful peach barbeque sauce when my brother in law came in and informed me that the pigs were in labor.  I had to go out and see, as most farm animals birth at night, not at 1PM wit the sun high in the sky.  However, Char was outside with 2 piglets by her side and Fern was inside with 3.  It's very unusual for pigs to need assistance when farrowing, so we let them go.  Each of our girls had 10 babies, with one from each litter being stillborn, not uncommon for pigs.  I've learned not to cry for those ones and instead be glad about having 18 live ones.  While our girls have always had their little ones within a week of each other, It's pretty unusual to have them on  the same day, much less at the exact same time!  We had to get the moms inside where everyone can stay warm and dry.  Fern weighs around 400 lbs and gets really mean after she has piglets, so while she was exhausted and fairly calm we picked up all her babies and moved them, then she reluctanly followed.  Char was thirsty, so she was already up, it was a matter of picking up her babies as well and moving mom & the kids inside.  Everyone quickly settled down and no humans were injured in the process.  It was a good day.

 

I know some of you are wondering how the Delaware tasted.  I still don't know.  We offered free samples of our homegrown chicken at the stand this weekend and had lots of leftovers from roasting 2 whole birds.  So the Delaware went into the freezer and between stuffing ourselves with the last of the garden's bounty of sweet corn and using up the leftovers, I'm not sure when I'll get it cooked.  But I promise I'll post it here! 

 

Apologies to Maureen for not personally replying to her comment from last post, but it's been hectic here.  She wanted to know why a commercial chicken would have all that salt water added.  The industry calls it "plumping" and says they do it because customers like the taste better.  A natural chicken will have a bit of sodium in it- 45-60 mg if you don't add any salt during the cooking process.  A plumped chicken can have 10 times as much.  To put that in perspective, it's more salt than an order of fast food fries!  Why?  You are buying by the pound but purchacing salt water, which is dirt cheap for big business to add to their product.  And customers across the country paid billions of dollars last year for the weight of the salt water alone! I'm also guessing that the salt and the seaweed product carrageenen, which is also used in the plumping process, preserve the chicken somewhat and allow it to sit in the store's cooler a bit longer before it starts to smell or look funny.  I haven't seen that in print though.  The best way to avoid all this is to find a farmer you can trust and buy direct.  Your taste buds will thank you too! 

 

Ok, I just can't get the pictures to come up on this blog.  If you'd like to see the piglets, just go to www.pleasantvalleyfarm.weebly.com and scroll down until you see "Our Newest Arrivals".  The piglets are about 2 hours old in the pictures!

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Grass fed pigs?

The fields and garden are nearly planted.  The only major planting task left is to finish planting the last of the field corn.  However, with the rain we've had over the last few days that may have to wait until the weekend, the field is too wet to be worked right now.  But the corn that is in the ground has sprouted; we can see faint green rows across the fields getting a little taller every day.  It is amazing what warm weather and rain can do!  The transplants that survived frosting and the ones we set out this past weekend are thriving.  There are blooms on the peppers and beans, lettuce and peas sprouting, so produce will be coming soon.  I will keep everyone posted on what is available.

The animals are loving the lush pasture this time of year.  I love it too, it means so much less manure to move!  We have 6 little goslings following the proud parents around the pond and fields.  They did better than we did in the incubator!  The little ones grow so fast, I joke that they will only be cute for another 24 hours or so.  All the little lambs are doing fantastic on pasture too, and the bottle baby calves we are raising are chewing thier cud more every day.  Pretty soon we won't need to be mixing up milk replacer every 12 hours. 

Even the hogs are getting out on grass! We have been pleasantly surprised how easy it has been to put our boar and two sows on a rotational pasture.  Believe it or not, a single strand of electric fence about 8" off of the ground is enough to keep a 6oo lb animal where you want them.  If only goats were so easy! But the hogs seem to enjoy the new space and have been grazing and not rooting it up too much.  Most of the piglets are gone, we sold the ones we needed to last night at the auction.  We kept 5 to raise and they have moved out of the hog house into the pig tractor.  The tractor is a 16' x 8' pen with no floor.  We will be moving it onto fresh grass as needed.  It has all the comforts of home: sides and a roof over about half the area, a nipple waterer so they can drink fresh from the garden hose and a feeder full of piggie chow. So far it's working well, and soon we plan on doing some major renovations to the hog house, so we're glad that the pigs are happy on pasture.

The chickens are getting plenty of sunlight and grass as well and are laying beautifully.  We're not incubating much besides duck and quail eggs at the moment, so we have eggs for sale.

It is a beautiful time of year to just take in the view of the farm from our back porch in the evening while we're grilling dinner.  It's my favorite activity this time of year. 

 
 
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