July 5, 2013
Shepherd decided not to show and butcher hogs at the fair this year. We decided sweet corn would be his project. Here he is checking for ears, (not there yet). The corn is just starting to tassel which you can see on the left. Also check out the cloud face above his head.
We are trying a supersweet variety this year from Harris seeds. There are three main types of sweet corn: su or normal, se or sugary enhanced, and sh2 or supersweet, along with many different hybrids among the types. Supersweet needs to be isolated from other types of corn or the sugar turns to starch. This happened to my family when I was a kid and we couldn’t eat the corn.
February 19, 2013
A couple of years ago, Shepherd developed an interest in Alpacas. He decided he would like to own one. So we researched online. Along with finding Alpaca prices in the low thousands, which caused Shepherd great disappointment, we found an excellent expose of the US Alpaca industry in 2005 titled, “Alpaca Lies? Do Alpacas Represent the Latest Speculative Bubble in Agriculture?”
The US Alpaca industry was indeed a bubble ready to burst. The authors wrote a follow-up article in 2012. If you are interested in economic bubbles, you’ll want to check out these articles.
After reading the first article I suggested we wait to buy Alpacas. Shepherd also didn’t have near-enough money saved. He was disappointed but we came up with a plan to save his earnings from showpigs to buy Alpacas. Using the data available to us we calculated it could take three years.
However, in the spring I saw an ad for Alpacas in our local “Shopping News.” The owner had a herd numbering in the dozens. She was no longer breeding them. She was willing to let us take two young males for $75 each. Shepherd thinks we got a good price because she likes us. That’s true, but if you show up with cash money I’m betting she’ll like you too.
We took them home and spent some time with them. They are a fun animal. Not much heavier than our dairy goats, they’re light eaters. They’re not as social as goats, but they’re not very wild. They spent the summer grazing with the cattle and did fine.
In June we paid a guy thirty bucks to shear them. This needs to be done once per year. We haven’t done anything with the fiber, but it’s unlikely we’ll make enough to cover their annual costs, so we’re sticking with just two Alpacas and calling them pets.
October 5, 2012
The nights are getting cold. We had our first frost.
I put insulation and a door on Cider’s doghouse. Of course Gameboy had to try out this cozy space. I remember when I was small and saw different than the grownups.
September 21, 2012
I’m kind of sad. I sold Bewilder today, (pictured). He was one of the first two herdboars used on my new farm, (Able, the other boar, died). He weighed 680 lbs. and I received 14 cents per pound for a grand total of 95 dollars.
If he would have been doing his job better I would have kept him longer, but he was no longer consistently settling sows. It’s amazing how much he grew. Look at him in this post from last year. He gained over a pound per day since then, and I’m feeding less grain than I ever have.
Alas, I run a business and I can’t keep any dead weight around even though I would like to. This is something that is giving Shepherd some distress. He just can’t continue to butcher his showpigs. I thought we had reached a fine compromise by designating some species as pets, (goats, alpacas), and other species as business, (cattle, hogs), but this doesn’t work for him. He gave it a fair shake, showing and butchering hogs at the fair twice, but he doesn’t want to anymore and I’m not going to push him.
We want him to stay in 4-H because we think it’s valuable and he likes it. I asked him what he thought he could show at the fair. He said crops, so I’m going to help him grow and sell sweet corn next year. I’ll let you know how it goes.
June 15, 2012
A dog showed up one evening. It was shy, scratchy, and emaciated. It didn’t have a collar. It looked like some sort of coon-hunting dog. It wouldn’t approach within twenty yards. It was in obvious distress.
I figured the most merciful thing to do would be to shoot it in the head. I knew I couldn’t do that, though. The softies in my family wanted to feed it. I guess I would have to be included in that group because I got the meat and cut it into throw-able chunks we could toss at her.
Once we fed her, she stayed around and howled outside the house most of the night. I didn’t get to sleep until 1 am. I figured I knew why her previous owner got rid of her.
Another day of feeding her and night of howling and she finally let us pet her. Once she started trusting us, the howling stopped. So now we call her Cider. She sleeps on the porch and follows us around all day looking for attention. Since she’s put on some weight, she’s starting to look more like a Lab.
We put a perfunctory ad in the paper, mainly to show the boys the right thing to do. I doubt anyone is looking for her. I’m sure someone took her for a ride and dropped her off. It ‘s such a cowardly way to deal with unwanted animals. Most end up suffering before they die.
April 24, 2012
A “sounder” of piglets assaulting the cat fort.
I’ve always been fascinated by the names we have for various groups such as, “murder” of crows, “prickle” of porcupines, etc. I found this site which has more collective nouns than I knew existed.
The boys made a play area for the kittens by placing green tree leaves in a tray outside of the fort. The piglets devoured the leaves, but failed to breach the blanketed interior of the fort.
April 15, 2012
The boys enjoy building flights of fancy with whatever they can find. Coyote traps which collapse on touch, skateboards, and the latest, which is called a “cat fort.”
Unlike the other building projects which failed to trap or skate, a mama cat chose the fort to give birth. She is raising four kittens with lots of attention from the boys.
December 24, 2011
“Oh no!” I said as I looked outside last Saturday morning. “Oh no!”
We received three inches of unexpected snow. I had cut a large amount of wood in the pasture and left it to split and pick up. Normally I like to pick it up if I cut it, because if it snows, you’re digging through the snow to pick up the wood. I was overreacting though, because the snow melted in a few days and I was able to split and stack the wood on a hay rack to dry.
The boys however, reacted with joy. Each got a shovel and built a private fort. Gameboy’s came up to his knees, but he described it to a friend as a room he could walk in.
Once the snow started to melt and stick together, they built a snowman. Now the snowman is the only remnant of our first snow. Oh well, I’m sure there will be more.
November 15, 2011
Shepherd has been diagnosed with Asperger’s since the age of two. What this means is that he would rather be home alone than out with people. I sympathize, because that’s where I would rather be.
He also has tactile issues, and is not very coordinated. I remember one of his first visits to the farm with his brother and a couple of friends. The other kids played in the mud of the creek, and Shepherd cried on the bank because he didn’t want the mud in the car.
The farm has been great for Shepherd. We haven’t put a lot of pressure on him to change, but we wait for something he really wants to do, then help him make progress. Now he can wash a pig, stick his hand inside a pumpkin, and climb a tree.
July 25, 2011
Shepherd, washing his showpigs. After we washed them, we took them to the fair where they were weighed and ultrasounded for backfat and loin-muscle-area. These three measurements are used in a formula to determine percent lean, which is how the pigs are ranked in the carcass show, pictured below.
The next day was the show. Shepherd practiced walking them everyday, and the practice paid off, as the pigs followed his direction. The judge was less impressed, however, and awarded Shepherd a white and a pink ribbon. Winning showpigs today are extremely wide-made, with bulging muscles. All of this muscle can cause structural problems, though, and the result is pigs which don’t handle stress well.
Shepherd’s pigs were very functional and problem-free, which are traits that are difficult to recognize, as the absence of a problem is more conceptual in nature. Shepherd’s black and white pig was in the top half of the carcass show, though, and received a red ribbon. This helps me know we have the muscle, it’s just in a more functional package.
Shepherd’s black and white pig weighed 242 lbs. and his white one weighed 283 lbs. They gained 371 lbs. in 102 days for a rate of gain of 1.8 lbs. each. They ate 1574 lbs. of feed, for an average of 7.5 lbs. per day for each of them. They ate 4.2 lbs. of feed for every lb. they gained.
It was a very rewarding experience for Shepherd and the whole family. I really appreciate all the people who help make the fair.