Homer has found a new entourage. Over the years the crowd he runs with has changed quite a bit..from the 3rd of 6 kids running in a station wagon, to a father, Westinghouse, Johns Hopkins APL employee to a grandfather, self employed contractor..and now, a full time farmer. Now, wherever he goes, the ducks, geese and pardoned turkeys accompany him. And the dog too, she tracks him.
It is a comical sight to see him walk around the farm with all these animals trailing after him. Not so amusing when they come up on the back porch and leave behind what animals leave behind..
A few weeks ago Homer conducted a workshop on pen building. It's a design that works great for turkeys, broilers, pigs, vegetables and laying hens.
And then this morning he revised the design. Milk crates work great for laying hens: light, strong and holes along the bottom for getting rid of icky stuff. But having things stamped with "property of" and dairy names is not attractive.
A source was located for plain, unmarked milk crates. He will add Sunnyside Farm to them, but for now they are unadorned and inside the pens, covered by the tarp and easy egg access with limited escape pathways for the hens. A minor change, but major for a pasture based operation, makes it easy to keep those birds moving!
And additional options for water for those thirsty hens..
When Claire was a baby we had some shelving systems from Ikea. Made from particle board and super heavy, they are no longer in my possession.
For a time I had all wood furniture..but we sold our house and moved to a rental place, sold lots of our stuff too. Our stuff would not fit in this house anyway, with ceilings so low I can touch them without a ladder! And now that we are on the farm there are a few things needed.
Homer built a cool faux mantel in the living room. Jessica was a big help in that project. But now, as January comes to an end, seed orders are in, the basement is again set up for seed starter..we can feel the growing season rapidly approaching.
I want a spot for some of my stuff, and bought a shelving unit from Ikea. It arrived with exactly the number of pegs needed, no extras. 52 pegs. Yesterday I broke one..which means Homer will have to help me now..and he has a few other things to tend to!
And I bought a few baskets that fit in the cubbies. They look great in the store and the catalog, and in blog posts about this unit. There are blog sites about how loved and utilized this unit is. The baskets? They stink. Have been in the garage for a month and they still stink.
Homer is going to have to help me now, as the drill will be needed. And next time I'm headed to Ikea please remind me of this. With 20+ years in-between I forgot. Much prefer what Homer builds!
This week is the PASA conference..the sustainable agriculture conference that takes place in State College, PA.
There are many activities that happen. A lot gets crammed in to the few days. This year, Homer is conducting 2 sessions..one on integrating rain barrels into year round hoophouse watering and, with me, another session on growing vegetables and livestock on the same farm.
He is also offering tuition for his pen building workshop this spring as a silent auction item. A pen will travel with us and be assembled in the courtyard..a few chickens will travel along too..and we have a session with one of the childrens groups where we visit the pen and answer their questions.
There are sessions relating to our Food Alliance Certification and wonderful food from local farms.
We have a chance to see our fellow farmers, in a situation where we are not working, so we can chat, catch up and laugh.
The holistic orchard guy..the guy who grows way beyond organic..will be there. I had a chance to hear him before and look forward to the opportunity to hear more about his way out of the box ideas.
Between now and then the hundreds of photos that will go into 2 PowerPoint presentations must be culled. Homer has been selecting and filing, now it is my turn to load, in order, into the presentation, load onto the thumb drive and make certain to bring along to the conference.
Lucky for us, Jessica has agreed to stay here and keep the farm going. Lucky for her..the days will be above freezing and no snow is predicted. So much nicer to take care of animals when water thaws out.
2 years ago Claire faced near blizzard conditions. This year, well above freezing and sunshine. Getting excited!
Yesterday Homer and I were both off the farm. We visited a number of locations, discussing CSA possibilities, pig slop pickup, bulk chicken orders and the like. In the slower growing season we work hard to arrange logistics, so that during the growing we can zip to all that has been arranged.
Even the farmer's wife knows this is not..chicken..
One of the great things about going to conferences, farm shows, farmers markets and other farms is learning about how to do things.
Another great thing is learning what not to do, or what we will never do. This year we were at the PA farm show during the time the beef cattle were there. We were surprised at how much our cattle of the same age (but different breed) looked like the prize winning steer. Good to see!
We were also astonished to come across longhorn cattle. Usually grown in Texas, here they were, with full on horns and all, in PA. Our cattle have their full horns..little things that curl in a most amusing way. The longhorns had just that..horns that look solid, strong and like they would hurt.
Only photos from the farm show of these. We will never have these on Sunnyside Farm. Not gonna happen.
That depends on many things..the type of baler and equipment used to bind up the hay.
Used to be hay was forked by hand, set into large piles, covered with hay to keep it dry. Some farms in Europe and many of the old order Amish farms in the U.S. still use this method. When you visit art museums that display paintings from the old masters there are always paintings depicting hay making..it was an all hands on deck, everybody works on these days kind of thing.
So now, here in central PA, there are so many kinds of hay made..it is amazing. From those still made by hand using hay forks, to giant bales too big to go into the back end of my 6' bed pickup truck, and everything in between.
Once cattle are growing well they can eat most anything. Hay is usually distinguished between horse hay and cattle hay..cattle hay will not be perfect, sometimes stayed out on the field too long before going under cover.
We have just one cow here, our gal Sybil, who is carrying a calf. Friends visited yesterday and commented on just how pregnant she looks..she is nice and round and full. While there is still plenty of grass on the fields we want to make certain she is getting enough to eat..we don't want the calf too big, so it will not be corn and soy..and we want her to maintain her health, strength and size. So we give her organic kelp, plenty of water, salt lick, and a mineral lick. And today, a bale of hay that will roll of the back of the truck and out on the field for her to have as she chooses. It is heavy enough to require a fork lift to get it into the back of the truck. Just in case she wants a little something different. And yes, it is horse hay..clean, dry, kept in a barn. Until now.
The dog, Sandi, loves sweets. Especially baked goods. There is no end to what she will do to get attention her way when she wants what we are eating.
Very gently she places her front paws on a human leg. Then she rolls her head around in a "look over here, at me" gesture. Then she licks her licks and gives deep eye contact. A tiny, throaty whine if need be.
That is one funny dog. Better get double the amount of baked goods you think you will need!
But there are exceptions to that. Snow days, when the snow is deep and moving the pen will result in laying hens escaping or getting hit by the pen..the pen stays in one spot. Rain is predicted today, which means the snow will be washed away and the pen will be easy to move again..on to the next spot.
And when we have 3 feet of snow we move the hens inside the hoophouse, and leave the pens on the field until we can move them again.
So far, we have not had a big snow like that this winter. Both snow storms have fallen and melted quickly. And our egg theory did not happen this storm..no big dumping of eggs in the last few days.
Exceptions. Work arounds. Changes. The most important tool in the farmers toolkit? A sense of humor, and wonder, at just how many ways and times exceptions must occur.
The weather predictors called for snow yesterday, and they were right. It snowed 4+ inches here on the farm.
Friday afternoon was cold. Jessica stopped over to discuss summer plans, and Homer asked for assistance with the roof on the lean to area next to the hoophouse. Last week when the winds made our concrete block house shake, the sheet of plastic covering the roof on the lean to tore, right along a seam.
He spent an hour up and down the ladder in the cold wind, resetting wiggle wire, pulling the roof back into place, patching the hole. The goal is to keep the wood dry..wet conditions and wood make for ugly situations.
The roof held the snow. We will get a new piece of plastic from our supplier, but for now the patch job held beautifully.
The hoophouse itself, where all our hoses are stored all winter, has also held up.
It was so cold on Friday working the repairs that fingers and toes lost feeling, even with gloves, wool socks, warm boots. Dinner after: tomato sauce made with garlic from Everblossom Farm, our canned tomatoes, Keswick cheese, pasta from Italy, carrots from out back..yum!
And the wood and vegetables are safe for future use. Homer..he knows what he is doing..
At the farm conference we attended last week, there was a group there selling tools. We replaced our rake and added another hoe to our power tools..the ones that run off Homer power.
The hoes we own look and work nothing like the kind you get at a local hardware store. Ours have sharp blades that are at different angles..depending on what you are weeding. The blades get sharpened with a file every few rows, and they glide through the earth like a hot knife through butter. The work is quiet, the results are clean beds.
This year we are cutting back on the number of farmers markets we attend. For the last couple of years we have, by mid-summer, been overrun by weeds and things growing in between planting beds. Just because we run out of time..time to hoe, move the piglets and the chickens between the beds..so more time will be on farm, less time standing at market. We have been lucky this year in hearing from a few more folks who want a few more chickens weekly..enough to be able to deliver, or have pickup here, and have more time to work with the kind of power tools we use here. This is not your great grandparents hoe..it is the latest, most up to date version..
We prefer to eat local. Sometimes it seems it might be impossible when it is below freezing outside..but we still manage to do so. Here's how.
Coffee..not local. Never gonna be. But it is Counter Culture, grown in mixed, permaculture settings and it is delicious.
Buckwheat flour, grown at Yeehaw Farm. Made into pancakes with our eggs, the last of the butter and milk from Barbie Smucker's farm, and sugar from somewhere far away.
Maple syrup in a mayonnaise jar from a farm in western Maryland.
Peaches, canned here on the farm, last summer when they were in season. From Ben Wenk at 3 Springs orchard.
And as always at this time of year, studying seeds, reading about best practices for the heirloom varieties we grow.
After breakfast? Ordering 2 truckloads of compost. One of leaves and one of mushroom compost as their base.
Contemplating what to get from Nolt's in terms of row covers, disintegrating mulch, replacements on irrigation equipment. At an hour each way, I hope to make one trip this spring, one trip only. Seems unlikely.
We have found that our girls lay eggs for years. Over time, people have told us various beliefs about the business of eggs.
Some people buy pullets..hens that are just ready to lay eggs, full grown girls usually of a production variety. There are lots of breeds of chickens, and several that have been bred to lay an egg a day consistently. Of a uniform size and color. Sometimes the hens have their full beaks, sometimes not. Most times they have been vaccinated against some chicken type ills.
We start with day old chicks, from a variety of mostly heavy breeds. We look at the endangered list from The American Breed Conservancy and order as many as we can from the far left of the list..if we can't, we order from somewhere on the list.
And then the peepers live in a brooder, under lights, for a while. Depending on the time of year longer sometimes. We order on a regular basis, in an effort to have an egg supply year round. This effort has not worked, btw. We have gaps in the months with less sunshine each day, as the girls hate the dark and cold and, let's face it, their babies have a greatly reduced chance of survival in the dead of winter.
We just love a carton of eggs with lots of different color egg shells in it. The eggs themselves taste delicious because of the mobile pens, the moving of the hens to fresh grass..which they decimate in 24 hours..and then leave their waste behind, to fertilize. It is a sight to behold just how green the field is when spring arrives!
Right now the oldest girls are just outside our back door. The pen is moved each day, and they are mowing the high stuff right down.
And we have discovered it is true that they prefer to lay eggs in the dark. Old drop cloths provide a curtain in this pen, and a cushion of straw allows the girls a soft spot. When they are feeling it, we see nests in these boxes. We usually offer a variety of boxes for laying, and the hens fight over the same box, making one large clutch of eggs, leaving other boxes empty or with few in there.
Yesterday, the pen of old gals started laying again. We have found good solutions to hawks killing the hens, but before we did we lost our hens on a regular basis. Some of these girls are 5 years old..the survivors of the last, ugly, devastating hawk on the ground and inside the pen attack. Most are 3 to 4 years old. We are not certain of the age limit of egg production, we will monitor this flock, weigh the cost of feed versus output versus price sold, and in the fall decide what to do with these girls.
For now, we do the happy dance when we see an egg in the box..
We had visitors scheduled for Tuesday at lunchtime. Then word came that Michael Pollan was giving a private talk, before his evening appearance in front of 2,000 people. The visit/lunch plans shifted a week, and a few minutes of question and answer with the author occurred instead.
The audience was small, and the forum was very conversational. People asked his thoughts on a variety of topics..and he concluded with an interesting idea.
In the food world we are looking for solutions. We want to eat better, cleaner, home made and safer food. We are constantly hearing terms like food security, food deserts, obesity, diabetes, GMO's, antibiotic usage..and many more. We wonder about our own health, and get checkups to make certain all is well.
And we hear of people around us being diagnosed with a variety of ills, serious and more than a bit scary. We read, watch documentaries, attend lectures and generally work to know more.
Yesterday, Pollan spoke of a few things we already knew, and have spent some time head scratching. One is the question of health as it relates to food..he quoted a figure, more than 75%, that doctors now treat patients for food related health issues..health problems that diet and exercise alone can..cure. Not just treat, but cure.
The other thing that really struck us: the idea that as with tobacco, the insurance industry might be the ones to really help change food, what is in the farm bill..which currently funds growth of corn, soy, wheat..the big GMO's, goes into lots of stuff in various processed forms that causes all sorts of health issues..the food bill also subsidizes all of the federal food plans..SNAP, free lunch, breakfast and dinner at K-12 schools..and some funding of conservation plans.
There are many lobbyists paid by big food in DC. The food you eat growers, like us, have little representation in DC. The food that gets processed and flavored and extruded and packaged in shiny stuff has lots of paid people visiting our congress on a regular basis.
Pollan's suggestion that the medical insurance industry will soon take on the issue of food and health, and the idea that rates would be calculated as they are now for smokers..who pay a higher rate for insurance than non-smokers..is epic. At least to these 2 farmers from south-central PA.
And then, back to work on how to get cattle to the butcher today. We need our own livestock trailer..we have hired, borrowed, cobbled together methods of transport long enough. And our scheduled visitors? Who we attended the talk with? Had an extra livestock trailer on their farm, and it is now on our farm. Last night Homer separated the cattle scheduled to be transported and today we are hoping for an easy time loading..favorite foods await inside the trailer.
And the herd (not Sybil, the milk cow, but the rest of them) stampeded Homer last night. In the dark. They decided to see if they could trample him. He used the one thing he had on him to stop them..he turned on the iPhone so it lit up the dark, stopped the herd and turned them away.
Thank goodness for technology. Never know when it will be useful.
We provide buckets and a couple of places we visit regularly provide leftovers for the pigs.
Vegetables that have turned, leftovers from the juicer, bread gone stale comes back to the farm with us. The orange buckets from Home Depot or the empty pickle buckets travel back and forth with us, full on the way here, empty on the way back.
Sometimes, when we are lucky, there is a bucket of coffee grinds and the paper filters. Coffee grinds make a great addition to the compost pile, help it to smell good and the bugs just love it!
It was so cold the other night that the entire contents of the coffee froze. Solid. Filters, coffee, water and all. It appears that the freezing temperature of all that mix is, in fact, 32 degrees. It was a low of 15 degrees or so it was ice, ice baby.
If you have ever planted carrot or lettuce seeds you know they have the potential to drive a grower insane.
Some varieties can be purchased as seed tape, or pellitized to run through a push seeder that drops one at a time.
Neither solution works for us. The old types we grow are never available on seed tape or pellitized. Planting by hand results in clumps..carrots end up as dental floss like things rather than a full size carrot. Hand thinning, after hand planting, must occur.
We use the Lee Reich method of growing, outlined in his book Weedless Gardening. It has worked well for us, except when it comes to the teeny tiny seeds. Rain washes all the seeds into the aisle ways, in a clump. The wind takes them and moves them on gusty spring days.
Homer has built his seed plotter in several sizes and iterations. This is how inventors work: using different materials, sizes, weights..until the desired outcome occurs. Last fall we harvested delicious carrots of lovely size and proportion, lettuce that was uniform in size and shape from seeds Homer plotted in late summer. We can't wait for spring so we can get these in the ground..I'm dying for a good carrot..
We spent a couple of very cold winter days in a conference center in Leesburg VA. A pretty campus in an odd location..you have to drive through a neighborhood of new houses, shopping and a school to get there. The place was large enough to have a series of underground tunnels to get from one building to another..thank goodness, as it was way too cold to meander outside for a bite to eat.
Homer had the opportunity to present a 2.5 hour workshop on pen building. He began with parts already cut, and assembled a pen that is smaller than we usually use..but we have a small pickup truck and did not want long boards hanging out of the back as we transported the pen parts through 3 states. The session was fun, and extraordinarily thought provoking comments and conversations occurred. This morning, Homer was on the computer designing a pen that can be produced locally, last for 20+ years, be easy to move, and cheaper than the one he made for the conference. It is just the prototype that costs..a fortune..and a great idea was presented to us for a solution to that expenditure. More on that later.
Then on to workshops, idea sessions, business planning, lovely meals, silent auctions of cool stuff, keynote speakers, panels addressing food security, food production, the farm bill..many conversations in the hallways about ideas, plans, dreams..offerings of help, requests for help, lots of laughter, support..common interests..an opportunity to hear from DC Kitchen and the programs they run to offer an alternative to street life in DC..all in all it was amazing, thought provoking, so good to be there, to here opinions in alignment with mine and others that vary widely..but still make me think, make me stretch.
We feel lucky and blessed to be able to have the time and the means to participate in the farm conferences we have the joy to attend. We have been to ACREs, to Women in Ag, to Future Harvest/CASA, to PASA. There are others that take place..the one in New England, where it turns out a neighbor from Rockville (yes, it was another century, thank you Facebook for finding Robin) attends, is of interest to me, to see her and to hear about winter time growth in high tunnels.
The wheels are turning. There is much todo in this season of cold: prepare pots for seed starting in the basement, recheck seed orders, negotiate for cattle, get compost, have our water, soil and feed tested, prepare for taxes (ugh), see the dentist and doctor..and more..but to break from what must be done to spend a few days in what could be done is a gift, and we are happy to have it. A shout out to Claire who stayed on the farm and kept all in great shape while we were gone. Her father gave her a tool kit for Christmas, and she used the hammer in it for breaking the ice in the top of all the water containers these last couple of days. We could never leave without her here.
And here, from this past summer, is radio host Mark Steiner with one of our chickens. Taken last summer at a farmers market..who knew he would show up as a moderator at this years conference?! Small world!! And Homer too..
Homer gave his presentation on building moveable livestock pens at Future Harvest/CASA conference yesterday morning. It was 2.5 hours long, and lots of fun. When he completed the pen and people moved it around..lots of feedback that the design was liked, seemed feasible to make, and not one person slept the entire session. Even Homer stayed awake!
One woman attending came over to say something to me. In my ear she said "I can book Homer in a comedy club in Manhattan". I gave her our card.
During the Future Harvest/CASA conference Homer will conduct a 3 hour workshop on pen building.
Pens are a funny thing. It seems simple enough to put something together, load your chickens or laying hens or turkeys or pigs into the thing and then move it daily. Animals don't live on their waste the ground has time to absorb what they leave behind..native dung beetles appear and use the animal waste to make more dung beetles..it is a beautiful thing.
But then there are days of 65 mile per hour winds. Or days of 6-7 inches of rain. Or 3 feet of snow. Or torrential rain followed by freezing temperatures, causing everything to be coated in ice.
And the water lines freeze up. The pen lifts up with the strong wind and smashes down. A fox digs under the pen and carries away every chicken inside, leaving the pen empty overnight.
Pens are heavy, requiring more than one person to move each one. And if, like us, you have 17 pens of chickens, 5 pens of turkeys, 5 pens of laying hens and a bunch of pens full of pigs..they need to be heavy and yet light and nimble. They must be easy to move or your knees and back will..break!
Homer, who worked at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, Westinghouse and a few other places on projects requiring a security clearance level, has redesigned the pens from what existed before. They are moved from the front of the pen, not the back. I love not walking through the animal waste, and how the pens can easily change direction when a rock outcropping or tree is in the way.
He will explain the design, the blueprint, the parts selection, the subassemblies and the final assembly while putting a pen together with the group. Inside, thank goodness..it is predicted to be cold and wet during the time of his workshop.
This photo will be a part of what he does, to serve as a visual reminder to accompany the parts list. Any engineers in the group? I only know these terms because I hear Homer say them, if I had to build these..oh my!
Sometimes we try and make do with what we have and it works. Sometimes it does not.
We grow livestock that needs to be transported. We have cobbled together a variety of ways of getting livestock moved..but we do not, as of yet, have a livestock trailer.
Yesterday morning we spent some time, after Homer had spent a great deal of time the afternoon before, trying to get pigs in the back end of the pickup truck.
Funny thing about a pickup truck: if you sit on the open tail gate your feet swing off the ground. Even a long legged gal like me. To get a pig out of their pen and up a ramp, sloped steeply enough to get into the back of the truck..proved to be..challenging..
Only 1 of 4 was moved yesterday. There were a few phrases and exchanges that occurred that I'll not repeat.
And we are on the hunt for a livestock trailer. Homer's V6 truck is back on the road. While my little truck can haul a small trailer loaded with livestock, Homer's is really built to do that.
We saw a horse trailer today for sale, but our friends tell us that what we haul will destroy this. If you find a reasonable, used livestock trailer let us know. It is time that we get the right equipment for the job. Cause that truck is not quite cutting it.
We have funded a number of projects on kickstarter. From movies to comics to hoophouses to restaurant equipment, a potters kiln and a summer artist colony. Kickstarter is about funding dreams, is about helping people move forward with creative ideas and business start ups.
A person submits an idea to the kickstarter review team. The idea is either approved or disapproved for running on kickstarter. We submitting one idea, which we carefully thought about, discussed, reviewed. We were not approved. Then another idea we discussed, reviewed, debated, submitted. Not approved. Then Homer, after getting a cup of coffee, sat in the parking lot and submitted another idea. Approved!
So now we shoot and edit video. Determine a goal. Formalize the rewards for different support levels. Determine a time line. And then it all goes in and we cross our fingers that we get funded. Exciting!
In summer the cattle are light brown with a few white spots. The Jersey cattle we have this year look, during summer months, almost like deer.
In the wintertime they fluff up and darken up. Their winter coats are very dark, very thick, and very warm.
The last few days have been in the 50's, and the herd has been using their portable shade. Trees have no leaves to shelter them, and the direct sunlight on such mild days is hot.
We went to the PA Farm Show yesterday. First day is all about beef cattle..Angus, Hereford, Simmental, Limousin. The we got to the section with the Texas Longhorns and had to laugh..they look nothing like the rest of the cattle there!
Later on this week the dairy cattle will be there. Claire and I will go back for the sheep to shawl event, and to see the Jerseys.
We also had the chance to meet up with a few gardening/farmer folks I follow on twitter, awesome to meet them and hear more about them! It is amazing to find people with similar interest via link ups.
We moved to the farm in September 2009. There was a bunch of stuff in the front yard that had to be removed, and we had our International Harvester flatbed truck (from the 1940's) towed here. One of our neighbors mowed the grass that fall.
Out back the cattle mow. But having the cattle out front we tried just once, and it made the cattle, and us, too nervous.
We no longer own a lawn mower. It does not matter anyway, as there is no time for any of us to get the front yard mowed during the summertime! />
It is unseasonably warm here this January. The ground is still soft, so over the next few days fencing will go in, all around the front yard. t posts and cattle fencing.
When the grass starts growing we will go to the auction and purchase a couple of sheep. They will live in our front yard next summer, and we will no longer pay a guy to ride a mower around our front yard..the sheep will take care of it for us. Glad this can get done now rather than in March/April when there are a million things to do.
Inside the hoophouse and under a floating rowcover we have a number of vegetables growing. This is a buttercrunch lettuce that loves the cold..not enough that we can grow it outside, but inside it is growing beautifully.
In the summertime we fight bugs. We check the vegetables daily and pick things off. Sometimes slugs find their way into lettuce. The heat causes lettuce to bolt..one day all is well, the next day seed stems are sprouting from every head of lettuce, which usually turns the lettuce bitter.
In the wintertime, even when the temperature is in the single digits at night, we can grow lots of greens. The seeds are planted in August/September/October, they sprout quickly, and then grow slowly. Under 2 layers of covers it is like growing almost 2 USDA zones south of here..not quite tropical but enough that we can eat this all winter.
This week we have had a couple of green salads with this as the base. Homer also made a chicken sandwich with lots of lettuce on it, yum. And for garden club on Monday I'll take a big salad from here and a pot of chicken soup. The president of Landreth Seeds is speaking, and I might just show her this photo.
We are located very close to Yellow Breeches, an amazing trout stream. It is easily accessible by car, runs wide and clear with varying depths and not too many rapids, and has a public park in the middle of a beautiful neighborhood. Tall trees line both sides of the river, and with the extra foot of rain we had last year there are plenty of new snags and hiding places in the water.
People who fly fish use bits of feathers and other materials to lure the fish onto their hooks. We have been saving downy feathers, longer tail feathers and clipped wing feathers. We clip one wing of feathers from our laying hens to make flying more difficult. We prefer the girls stay here!
This spring, or next, the farmer and the fly fishers that travel here will meet up. Or maybe we will make fascinators..
We have 11 pigs on the farm right now. Normally at this time of year we have none. Growth rates have varied vastly this year..as go the restaurant leftovers so goes the growth of our pigs.
In one pen there are 2 pigs, in another 4. The pen is the same size but the pigs are not. This photo shows them side by side..the pigs are the same age, from the same sow, born together. Looks like more pig pens need building.
We never name animals. Some arrive here with names, but we don't name things on this farm. Our Toulouse geese have names..Clover is the male, and the more aggressive of our 2 geese.
We found them on craigslist. Clover had kept the neighbor of his former owner inside their own house..if they tried to open the door and leave he chased them right back in. He is not a small fellow, and when Toulouse backs him up and the 2 of them come after you it is intimidating. The neighbor told the former owner "that is how lawsuits happen"..and 2 days later the goose and gander were here at Sunnyside Farm.
We fenced our perimeter when we moved here. After leasing land for years we had lost too many animals to the fox and wanted to try all means to keep the fox, hawk and dogs off our property. These 2 geese patrol the entire farm, and make enough noise, day or night, summer or winter, to keep things away..or to come and get us so we get unwanted visitors off the farm.
The former owners were not certain if they were a breeding pair. We got them young so no one knew. There are ways to determine the sex of a bird but we don't know such things.
If you look at this photo there are subtle but distinct differences. The male has a longer neck and the female is a low rider. She lays eggs only in the spring, one about every day for two months, and they are big eggs. Some days she can barely move, and then as summer heats up she is out and about again. He almost always positions himself with her behind him, he is always out front, on guard, watching.
In the next 12 weeks, as the weather changes from frozen back to warm and the water goes back to being liquid, these two make it obvious they are a breeding pair.
Everyone says geese have only one mate, and mate for life. We would never test this..Clover is mean enough that we would hate to see what he does to any other geese we might introduce..so we won't. Lifetime of this type of goose is 17-20 years, and these 2 are about 3 years old so we have a while to go with them yet.
I am the lucky woman who gets to be the farmer's wife to Homer Walden, the hardworking, creative and innovative force behind Sunnyside Farm. The farm is a pasture based intensive grazed farm in Dover, PA. We grow heirloom, open pollinated vegetables, chicken, eggs from heritage breed chickens, beef, heirloom breed turkeys for Thanksgiving and pork with no commercial feed, honey, eggs, Buff ducks. And the occasional flower or 2.