Finally!!! Winter! For the second time in this whole winter season the kids had enough snow to go snowmobiling–and the machine wouldn’t run. And now the snow’s all gone. We had some really nice ice skating ice on the ponds. The wet snow put an end to that, too. The ice was solid enough yet–just buried under 8 inches of slush, as Rachel is showing Keith. Good thing we invest in waterproof boots. We are looking forward to helping with my parents’ maple syrup production as we can. That’s sort of a consolation prize for making it through winter.
We’ve been raising pigs since about ’97 or ’98, going from farrow to freezer for most of that time. We’ve worked with many breeds and farrowed in all seasons and weather. We’ve used stalls, crates, huts outside, and just-plain-help-yourself pasture. We’d decided that we weren’t going to try to have pigs for the 4-H market long ago because you have to be farrowing in February. Modern breeds of hogs aren’t intended for hardiness and winter farrowing is dicey. They require lots of energy input. Our heritage breed pigs, though, are a different story. Farrowing crates, heat lamps or pads, and close confinement are not neccessary and would, in fact, be counterproductive. We use deep straw bedding in a drafty area of the barn for these gals, and they do marvellously. They like to have space, and we lost a litter because mama went outside away from everyone to have the babies. She hadn’t looked that imminent, so something else was likely going on as well. That situation is always a bummer. These pigs are nice, though. Hybrid vigor is a reality with them. The sows are 50% Mangalitsa, the babies 75%. These piglets arrived the first and second of March and they’ve all survived just fine. Our Durocs, Hampshires, Yorkshires, etc. would never have made it. These are truely farmstead, low-tech system hogs.
Rosie, KimiFuku (the bull), and our lone sheep have wintered well. Rosie still gives almost a gallon a day, which is just right for us. Sam is the faithful milk man and does a great job.
The hens have layed eggs well all winter. They have a sunny, well protected area. Keith occassionally sweeps the barn floor and gives them the alfalfa he sweeps up. That helps keep them healthy and provides them with some greens to keep their eggs yummy. Pretty soon we’ll put the roosters with a group of hens and let them do their spring thing. The little chick that hatched last summer is clearly a hen and I’m interested to see how she performs. She’s cute if nothing else.
The issue with the pigs continues. There are a lot of people concerned about a government entity dictating the elimination of what we consider the hogs of the future–pretty much all hogs that aren’t white. A lot of you have called and written legislators. We’ve gotten some financial assistance, and appreciate it very much. Spring is a hard time of the year to find extra money on a farm. Mark’s been on one radio show and is scheduled for a couple more to help spread the word.
If you have questions about the hogs you raise or are looking to buy, call the DNR to determine whether they are acceptable or will make you a felon. (That’s per the DNR’s own directive.) If you send them a picture and request a written response, they will ascertain your pig’s status. Please feel free to do this. They have told farmers to look at the Declatory Ruling and if that isn’t clear enough, to send them pictures and they will make an individual determination. This has been very confusing for 4-H folks and people who want to raise a hog for their freezer, so just check with the authorities and they’ll clear it up for you. Please feel free, also, to help us fight for your right to feed your family without checking with the authorities first. You can donate through Paypal with the button on the right, or this link. You can also send us funds directly to 1579 Brinks Rd. Marion, MI 49665. It all goes into a separate account and is used soley for expenses we incur (lawyers, court fees, etc.).