It’s been a fast and busy summer, and we’ve been blessed with a lot of good, a little bit of bad, and several beautiful additions to the farm as well as reminders of what a beautiful place we live and how lucky we are to be doing our work. Wendy’s still trying to learn to set aside time to write things up and keep our friends posted about farm life. It’s been a long time since the last post, so long that this update will include the fact that we’ve had our next batch of piglets (sadly, a very small one)! Our first farrowing back in June brought us a total of 18 piglets (9 per sow), who are now happily out on pasture, separate from their parents and growing like weeds!
For those of you who don’t have time to read a whole post and want some pictures, scroll down to the bottom!
I’ll start with the good and the exciting. Front and center in our lives right now are the Farm Tour, coming up this weekend, and our wedding in 11 days! Dry Ridge Farm got its first press this week in a feature about the upcoming Farm Tour. You can check that out here (though the fantastic picture of Graham with one of our sows is not in the online version): http://www.mountainx.com/article/45346/Come-out-for-Buff-Orpingtons-and (we’re near the end). As promised in that article, Farm Tour visitors will get to see week-old piglets. Clementine had her first litter on Friday, and she, like her two sisters who gave birth in June, is an excellent mother; she’s extremely calm and non-aggressive toward us, which is a wonderful genetic trait to have on our farm! Unfortunately, we made a mistake that led to three piglets “disappearing” (we didn’t notice a hole in the farrowing stall… that’s a seriously dumb mistake we won’t make again!). So we have five tiny little piglets now. Exciting, but far fewer than we’d hoped.
Our lambs and piglets from our June group have set out on their own and are rotating through separate pastures and getting ready for market (can’t wait til late November to taste our first pork and lamb!); we also moved our last batch of meat chickens for the season out of the brooder and onto pasture. No more brooder until February, and while it’s been great to have chicken for market this summer, it’s also very exciting to think that we won’t have to work with them for several months! They just not as rewarding as our other animals. Hogs and lambs and laying hens all have personality; meat chicken… Not so much.
Finally, we decided to grow our lamb production more quickly and added 16 ewes to our flock of 22 back in July. We bought a ram at a Dorpor auction in late July and we put him to work about 6 weeks ago. He seems very happy surrounded by his 38 ladies, and we’re very happy at the prospect of having more lambs in late January!
Life at Dry Ridge has truly been wonderful. About once a week, I (Wendy) will be driving around doing chores and get hit by how lucky I am to be doing the work I do and spending my days surrounded by animals and beautiful land. That doesn’t mean we don’t have bad days though; they come with the territory. Most of those bad days have been due to the fact that where there is a lot of life, there is necessarily death. Ideally, we’d like for that to come only when we plan for it, but life doesn’t always let us control it to that extent. We lost one of our ewe lambs to a virus shortly after weaning in early July; there was little we could have done, and so we could accept it as an occasional and natural part of our business. Our tougher loss to swallow was a little ram lamb two weeks ago, whose parasite we didn’t catch early enough to treat. It reminded us of how much we still need to learn and the habits we still need to form, but we also keep in mind that we have 23 other lambs who are doing wonderfully.
Our worst day to date, was August 27th, the day our third sow had her litter. We’re not sure exactly why, but she had her litter over a week early, she only had five, and all were more or less stillborn (there was one that survived a few hours but wasn’t really viable). We contemplated the idea of having sausage for market earlier than planned, but have decided to give this sow a second chance; she seems to be eager to breed again, and we figure we might as well try again while we wait for our female piglets to grow to breeding age. It was a seriously sad day, and puts a hitch in our pork plan six months from now, but again, it goes with the territory.
Our only other bad news was that our tomato plants all got late blight… but so did every other tomato in Western NC, and we had hundreds of tomatoes for two months, so we’re certainly not complaining much about this year’s tomato crop!
Finally, our beautiful news: Most exciting are the “treasures” we get to collect every morning as part of our chores. We have eggs galore these days!! We’re getting about 8 dozen eggs a day, so come by market soon to buy them up! They’re delicious, with bright orange yolks, and our hens are still young and getting used to laying consistently, so you can rest assured that you’ll probably get a double yolk in each dozen of eggs!
The current pride of our farm is our ram, a seriously gorgeous Dorpor we purchased at auction, who was born at Locust Creek Dorpors and sent to auction by Windy Acres Farm in Tennessee. I find it funny that I started saying things like “wow, look at those wrinkles” in a completely serious voice, referring rams’ face wrinkles (a sign of high testosterone), and it was fun learning about ram length and things like wrinkles. The sheep at this auction were seriously beautiful creatures.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a few other beautiful images from this time of year, when rain and sun mix and when days start cooling and the time comes to save a bit of summer for January.
Thanks to you all for your support through the summer, and I’ll try to keep future updates frequent and shorter.