Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Waiting for Circe's Piglets

Circe is due to have her piglets in 2 days. 

Since these will be our first piglets born in winter, I'm not sure what to expect as far as how much help they will need staying warm. 

Piglets are born without the ability to regulate their own temperatures for a few days, and while they can get warm by snuggling next to mom, that does leave them more at risk to being squashed if mom rolls over on them in the bedding.  Commercial pig farms solve the problem by locking the sows in tiny farrowing crates and keeping the piglets in a separate heated place of their own.  But I prefer to let my pigs live a more natural life than that, so my sows never get locked up in crates.

I did want to give the newborns a little extra shelter and warmth, though, so I moved Circe out of her hoop house that she's been sharing with Jack out behind the barn, and built her a snug nest inside the barn.  The nest is a backwards "G" shaped enclosure made of hay bales to give insulation from drafts, then bedded with a generous pile of loose hay that Circe can push around and adjust as she likes.

Above the nest area, we've hung two heat lamps to provide extra warmth when the piglets are born.  As a safety precaution, we placed a metal fence panel as a "roof" between the nest and the heat lamps.  That way if by some chance the heat lamps should happen to fall (and believe me, we fastened them securely!), they would not fall into the bedding and start a fire.

I've been feeding Circe in her nest for the past few days so that she gets used to it and associates it with being a pleasant place to go.  She's not shut in the barn---she can still go out and wander around in the paddock for fresh air and sunshine whenever she likes.  But she seems to like her nest and loves to sleep in there, luxuriating in the comfy, private spot.

Now all we have to do is wait a couple more days for the piglets to arrive!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Pig-mas!


Magick the pig wishes you a "Magickal" Christmas

And a Happy New Year

From all of us at Ingleside Farm.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sheep in a Dunce Cap

That's it.  I finally couldn't take it anymore.

I have a sheep named Wheat who---alone out of the entire flock---has developed a bad habit of getting her head stuck in the hay feeder.  Oh sure, a rare few times I've had to rescue another sheep or two who have gotten their heads stuck somewhere.  But those sheep have done it ONCE, learned their lesson, and never done it again.

Wheat, on the other hand, does it daily.  Not just daily, but two, three, four times a day.  Every time I go outside, there she is, stuck again. 

There's another feeder she could eat at where it would be impossible to get stuck, but she rarely uses it.  There are other ways to eat from the feeder she likes without getting stuck (all the other sheep do it!).  But she won't learn them.

As a result, she spends most of her time trapped in one position---all night, all weather, any time when I'm not right there to rescue her instantly.  After all, I DO have a few other responsibilities on the farm besides extracting learning-disabled sheep from the same stupid predicament over and over and over again.

So I finally said enough was enough.  I came up with a solution to the problem.  For the rest of the winter, Wheat will have to wear a dunce cap.  A special dunce cap, invented just for her, to prevent her from sticking her head into places it doesn't belong, so instead of getting stuck all the time, she can move around freely like a normal sheep.

Well, maybe not quite normal.

 Wheat's dunce cap is a spare piece of light PVC pipe fastened to her horns with duct tape.  It makes her head too wide to go through the small holes where she likes to stick it.  If the head can't go IN, then there won't be any issue with it not being able to come back OUT.  With any luck, by next winter, Wheat's own horns will have grown enough that they will naturally prevent her from getting her head stuck.

But for now, it's the dunce cap for her.  And after all the hassle she's put me through over the past month, I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a certain perverse satisfaction in making her wear that embarrassing looking contraption on her head.

The other sheep are looking at her like she's an alien.  They'll get used to it soon, but meanwhile they're not sure whether they want to run away, beat her up, or follow her around staring at her new fashion accessory.

At least she can run around wherever she wants to now!

Duct tape really DOES fix all problems!  :-)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Our First Egg

We've been waiting for months, and at last the day has arrived.  Yesterday we got our first egg from our chickens!  The hens are approximately 7.5 - 8 months old now, so I guess that's right about on schedule.  I'm not sure if we should expect very many eggs in the near future, since it's mid-November and the days are just going to keep getting shorter.  But I've read that Orpingtons do sometimes keep laying through the winter, so I guess we'll see!

Our egg is on the right, with a store-bought size "Large" egg and a penny in the photo for size comparison.

I've read that a pullet's first eggs are often tiny and misshapen, but this egg is lovely and perfect.  It's a bit smaller than the store-bought egg, but it's still a respectable size.  It's lighter-colored than the store-bought egg too.  It's exactly the beautiful pale porcelain-pink flesh tone that you'd see on the face of an expensive porcelain doll.

Next came the taste test.  I hard boiled both the eggs, and we shared them for breakfast.
 As you can see, our egg (top) has a much richer color, presumably because our chickens have access to grass and bugs and occasional scraps of fruit, instead of just chicken feed.  Our egg also had slightly more flavor and a less dry and crumbly texture to the yolk.  It also had a noticeably stronger shell.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's a Pig's Life

The sheep aren't the only ones worthy of a photo shoot.  The pigs deserve some camera time too!

As you can see, our Guinea hog boar Magick works very hard here on the farm, mainly at napping, eating, and being cute:

"Psst.  Hey Dad!  You asleep?"

According to the measuring tape method of weighing a pig, Magick weighs about 280 lbs.  That's pretty big for a Guinea hog!

Magick's mate Cerridwen is slim, fit, and active now at the very beginning of her pregnancy.  I suspect it might have been her bossy, highly opinionated attitude that encouraged poor, lazy Magick to seek out the company of other pigs yesterday.

About a month and a half away from giving birth and starting to get quite heavy, our other sow Circe luxuriates in a relaxing mud bath:

Let's not forget the piglets!  They're getting bigger and bigger.  There are only 4 left here, 3 of which are sold and one that will be going into our freezer in a few months.

It's interesting to me that we have both the slender long-nosed type and the chubby short-nosed type of Guinea hog in the very same litter:

After the Shearing

Since I already posted a series of photos of the sheep in full fleece, I figured I should give equal space to showing how they look now, after they have been sheared.  It took a long time and a lot of work for me to shear the whole flock by myself, so I ought to celebrate a task well done with a photo shoot!

Wish is beautiful with or without fleece:

Xcarlett and Xanadu rest among the fallen leaves:

Tansy sure looks different without her glorious golden fleece:

Pandora is one of the first sheep I ever bought.  She's middle aged now, but she always gives me wonderful, stout lambs:

Willow looks so much smaller with all her lush fleece removed:

As I was shearing, I started to realize I have a shortage of solid black sheep in my flock.  It makes me all the more grateful to have lovely Sapphire, who is one of my favorite ewes:

Tawny strikes a pose on a small rock:

Rowena rests in the shade:

Two photos of pretty Tsarina:

Urbana, Regina, and Paris:

Moriah is the oldest sheep in my flock, 8 years old and still going strong:

Shearing Utopia reveals her excellent, stout meat build that had been hidden beneath her wool:

Although she's a "teenager" now, Xolani has retained her irresistible "cute lamb" face:

Although she is one of my most regal looking sheep, it's hard to get good photos of Paris, because she is very independent and wants nothing to do with foolish human shenanigans:

Let's not forget the rams!  Here are 3 of this year's ram lambs:  Xavier, Xerxes, and Xenophon:

Here are Nicholai, Xaq, Scimitar, and Ukraine, all hanging out together:

Here's Nicholai, the gentle old King of the Flock:

Scimitar is looking stout and handsome:

We trimmed Ukraine's horn because it was growing too close to his face.  We still have to trim the other one:

It was hard to take pictures of Xaq because he kept following me around wanting to be petted.  So far he's doing a very good job of remembering that he has to approach me RESPECTFULLY.  Breeding season is no excuse; I don't allow disrespectful, overly assertive behavior from my rams: