March 11, 2014
It was much colder than average for this time of year which made it difficult. One morning was eleven degrees below zero F. One snowstorm of several inches occurred.
I only opened the huts to let the sows go out to drink, eat, and urinate/defecate. Keeping the huts closed help to keep some of the sows body heat in the hut. Having the huts in the hoop barn kept the moisture from the snow from being a factor. I used about one bag of wood shavings for each hut and gave a fresh slice of straw daily. This was on top of a base of wood chips from Menard’s.
The sows all farrowed within a week of each other. They averaged over 11 piglets born alive. Now, about ten days later they have an average of 8 piglets nursing, so there was a good deal of loss. When conditions are this difficult, it seems that piglet vitality plays a large part in survival as well as the mothering ability of the sow.
As the temperature warmed into the 30s F, I left the doors open and put the rollers on to keep the piglets in but allow the sows to come and go as they please. The piglets only stayed in for a few more days before they began to jump out. So I’ve removed all the rollers now and the piglets are able to explore.
The piglets in these photos are only a week old. It’s amazing how precocious they are. Look at the open mouth on the black and white piglet below, trying to decide if my boot is worth eating.
March 3, 2014
It’s been a long winter. As I write this on March 3rd, it’s 11 degrees below zero F. I’m tired.
I’m back to hand-to-mouth wood cutting. Everyone who burns wood says they’ve burnt way more than normal. I need a bigger pile next year though, because the crusted snow in the woods makes it nearly impossible to drag in logs.
In a bit of serendipity, I met an old schoolmate who burns wood also. I told him I had an outdoor wood burner.
“Oh, you’ve got one of those wood pigs, too!”
“What’s that?” I said.
“It really goes through the wood, doesn’t it?”
He’s right. I’ve finally realized that an outdoor wood burner is not a very efficient way to heat a house. However, it is a safe way to heat a house and I’m stuck with it for now.
He told me about a lumber yard that sells scrap lumber for twenty bucks a bundle. They’re good-sized, eight to ten feet long, dry wood. He burns it in his burner.
Not being a fast thinker, I had to let the idea germinate for a few days. I think I gave myself permission to buy wood when I nearly got the tractor stuck for the umpteenth time.
I called him up and asked him to bring me a load and he delivered eight bundles. If I’m not reading the calendar wrong, that should be enough wood to get me to the point where it’s hot enough I’m forgetting how cold it’s been!
February 21, 2014
This is my newest farrowing setup. Last winter/spring when I had all that trouble in March with snow and cold, I decided I would try putting the farrowing huts inside a hoop barn. You can see by the ice on the bottom of the closest hut that it’s still cold in there, but I shouldn’t have as much of a moisture problem as I did outside in the snow and cold.
Since I stopped farrowing in my parents’ heated barn in 2011, I’ve tried four different ways of farrowing:
The warm, dry months of July, August , and September are ideal for farrowing outside. I’m convinced that if sows had plenty of space and material to build their own nests, no predator problems, and feed and water, a farmer could do absolutely nothing and would average over 8 piglets weaned per litter during this perfect time.
Farrowing in huts on frozen ground with snow and ice surrounding is what I tried last winter/spring. I managed to wean 7 piglets per litter, but it took tons of bedding and manual work and was stressful.
Farrowing in huts in the warmer months is easier than when it’s cold. I probably sleep the best with this method as I know if a sow and her litter is in a hut with a roller on the door to keep the piglets in, they are safe from predators and the elements.
Finally, farrowing in a hoop barn with homemade pens is the first method I tried in January of 2012. This worked surprisingly well except for a couple of litters born when the temperature dipped to zero F. I made temporary pens out of wire hog panels, giving the sows plenty of space, removing the panels when the piglets were a couple of weeks old. It was quite a bit of work, letting the sows out of their pens for feed and water twice a day, but it was a nice environment for the pigs and the farmer.
So putting huts inside a hoop barn is my fifth iteration. I plan to use this system only until mid-spring, then I will go to huts outside. As always, I plan to keep statistics and share the results by the end of the year.
February 19, 2014
My better half thought I had some spots a dermatologist should check out. The Dr. found what he called a pre-cancerous spot on my cheek and froze it with liquid nitrogen. I’m not sure it was necessary, but he’s the expert. He also scooped out a spot on my scalp. I feel like I’m going to pieces.
I did learn something important. I used to wear SPF 8 suntan lotion, figuring that would be 8 times better than nothing. However, the Dr. told me that low SPF suntan lotion only protects us from the UVA rays, letting the UVB rays through. It’s the UVB rays which cause skin cancer, so by putting on lotion which kept me from burning, I actually may have spent more time in the sun letting the UVB rays do their damage.
Update: I went online and am now thoroughly confused. It appears my understanding of UVA and UVB is reversed. It’s unlikely the Dr. gave me incorrect information. What’s more likely is I had a difficult time listening while being scalped and froze. I’ve always heard someone besides the patient needs to be there to listen. It is very difficult for the patient to listen.
There seems to be some debate about all sunscreen. Some of the ingredients may be carcinogenic and in this sunscreen photo it appears that more ultraviolet light is absorbed by the skin when sunscreen is used. I don’t know what to think. Readers, weigh in with your comments.
Looking at the photo above, I see my skin has aged. I don’t feel terribly old, approaching 45 years, but I realize I’ve probably spent many more hours in the summer sun than almost anyone reading this. I plan on continuing to wear long-sleeves and pants and a broad-brimmed hat which I’ve been doing for the past fifteen years. I’ll probably put SPF 30 sunscreen on my face when I’m doing tractor-work, sitting in the summer sun.
February 11, 2014
I noticed my boys playing on the pile of snow I made from scraping up the driveway. So it became a game for me to see how awesome of a hill I could make.
This latest hill is 9 feet tall with super-steep sides. After struggling to climb to the top, Shepherd actually requested a not-so-awesome hill next time.
February 1, 2014
Restrictive, but warm! I normally wear something like the ensemble pictured below. But when the temps drop below zero F, I throw on these insulated bibs and am able to get my chores done without discomfort.
My Dad is a big fan of insulated coveralls. He usually puts them on in October and doesn’t take them off until May. But I’ve found them too restrictive. I like to move when I’m outside.
That being said, I was too cold when the weather turned brutal. So when Country Outfitters offered me clothes for free, I jumped at the chance to try these insulated bibs.
And I learned something. I used to think when my toes and fingers got cold I had a cold toes and fingers problem. So I would put on a second pair of socks and gloves to combat the problem with limited success.
Now I see when I put on these insulated bibs, it ties everything together and warms up my core. This warmth radiates to my toes and fingers and I don’t need more socks or gloves. Amazing!
January 22, 2014
I’ve never liked evergreens. I think it’s because I distrust their green when the rest of the world is white and brown. Something about their green is off, even in August when this photo was taken.
That being said, I planted this small windbreak late last summer when they were purchased for the corner of our yard. I read the tags before planting and realized they need more space. So I recommisoned them for a small windbreak in the pasture.
Fast-forward to now and we’ve been experiencing one of the worst winters in memory, with arctic blasts of wind dropping the windchill well below zero for days. I feel more exposed on top of this hill and am thinking I need more windbreaks. So I ordered 25 Colorada Blue Spruce from our county agency and may double or triple the order before this winter is through.