Friday, March 28, 2014

A Night Away, for a Gala!

Last weekend, Christian and I snuck away for about 24 hours.  We left 12 pages of notes for our intrepid friends/farmsitters and hoped for good weather.  The event?  The 11th Annual Minnesota Life College Gala, hosted in part by my wonderful brother Graham.  We couldn't have been more proud to be there for Graham, alongside our friends and family and all the friends and family of Minnesota Life College students.

We even came home with Garrison Keiler's A Prairie Home Companion/Lake Wobegon prize package, and a gorgeous pastel painting by local [to Michigan] artist Jill Wagner!  I'd say all in all it was a fantastic evening… and after the winter we've had, we're happy to get away, just not for too long.  We may never leave in the winter again, for any reason, after this year's Polar Vortex strandings and mishaps.

But look at all the fun we had!  We clean up pretty nicely, too.



Friday, February 28, 2014

Spring is Coming!

Ready or not, here it comes.  With that 9 pm Sunday night call from the post office letting us know that our chicks were in, the 2014 HSF season was officially underway.  At least with daylight coming earlier and earlier as the days grow longer, we're not waking up in utter darkness any longer.  Those first hot rays of sunshine burning into the bedroom wall are a glorious change from even just one month ago.



Meanwhile, this is what my commute looked like, just yesterday.  Winter, just the sheer heavy-handedness of it, actually made me want to cry as I drove 20 mph with my hazards flashing towards the highway.  


There are days when it feels like winter is just NEVER. GOING. TO. END.

Maybe I just enjoy pain but I also kind of love that about real winters.  This one has gotten to be so terrible that thoughts of green grass and things growing again make me incredibly happy… I think about it the whole time I'm out doing chores each morning and night.  Every day of miserable chores is getting us one day closer to spring and a new year of things growing.  Praise Cheesus!


I don't know that I've ever looked forward to spring as much as I am this year.  It's a whole new feeling, kind of difficult to explain… it's as if people who haven't been through it with animals on the ground and seeds in the basement can't possibly understand how it feels to be so close to Spring.


In any case, it sounds like spring in the house, even while snow flies outside.  ONE MORE MONTH!!




Saturday, February 01, 2014

Genesis


This hog was born into a confinement operation.  Until today, he has never set foot outside the barn into which he was born.  He has never lived on anything other than slatted floors, has never seen light other than the dim florescent bulbs lining the barn aisles or the sunlight peeking through vented fans in the walls.  He's never seen snow, or straw.  Until today.


On this snowy morning, we welcomed a new boar to Ham Sweet Farm, and with it, we embark on a new project.  Last year we raised "feeder pigs," otherwise known as weaned pigs, and decided to keep the lone female to breed.  If all goes well, we should be expecting piggies on the ground by early June.

We have  a little American Guinea Hog boar already, but quite frankly, he is so much smaller than our gilt Gnocchi we don't think he can, well, err... get any business done with her.  Not to mention that when she's in heat, she's a raging, frothing-at-the-mouth monster.  Our little boar, The Godfather, is abjectly terrified of her.  Can't say I blame him… she's more aggressive with us when she's in heat as well.

The gestation for pigs is 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days, putting us right at the start of summer for farrowing [birthing].  Perfect.  Christian and I decided that the best thing for everyone involved was to have her bred with a boar more her size.  But where does one find a boar?

We contemplated taking her to a few other farms for a "conjugal visit," A.I. [articificial insemination, test tube babies], waiting to see if The Godfather would change his mind and step up to the task… we contacted a farmer friend of ours about it, and he said he had a boar the farm could no longer use.  In the livestock world, being born a male is a great gig for a very select few.  But for the most part, males are either raised for meat or are essentially a waste product [think dairy industry or all the roosters people are constantly trying to re-home].  Boars, in other words, are a dime a dozen.  We asked our friend how much he would be willing to sell the boar for, and he told us that the going rate for a hog of his size "at market" was about $90.  Keep in mind, we're taking about a year-and-a-half-old hog who weighs 450 pounds or so.  We couldn't turn that down.

Side note:  Real Life now includes earnest discussions concerning tracking the heat cycles of our female pigs and goats, and excitement over good lookin' babydaddies for the aforementioned.  Our weekends are chock full of excitement!

Yesterday, I got home from work and Christian arrived home shortly thereafter.  I realized once we came in from chores after dark, I had just thrown my work clothes on over what I had worn to work that morning.  Nothing like building a pig hut in your favorite, and probably most expensive, pair of jeans!  Thankful for Carhartt weather these days.  It was warmer yesterday than it has been in quite some time, topping out at a balmy 28 degrees or so.  We prepped as much for our new arrival as time allowed before dusk came calling and it was time to take care of everyone else for the night.

When we woke up this morning, predicted snowfall of up to 8 inches made us think the delivery wasn't happening.  We did morning chores, and were inside about to make hot chocolate when Christian got the text— "The boar is on his way!  See you in a half hour!"  We threw our bibs back on and raced outside to put finishing touches on the honeymoon pigpen.  Just as we were finishing up with the pen and plowing out the driveway, a truck and trailer pulled in.

We opened up the trailer and he just stared out of it, unsure of what to do.  It took some coaxing but finally he jumped down from the trailer and sauntered into the pen we built to hold him and his new girlfriend.

We've been tracking her cycles for the past few months, and know she should be "coming in" tomorrow.  So today they're mostly flirting a lot, chasing each other around, and whispering sweet nothings to one another.  It's pretty cute.

So far, the new guy is doing just fine.  Cavatelli, Gnocchi's brother and lifelong pasturemate, is quite jealous of their new separation, so we may have more trouble with him in the next few days than anything else.  The boar has never seen or heard any of what he's experiencing today, so it's all new.  We have three strands of hot electric wire, laced with bright orange tape so he can see it, to keep him in.  He seems calm and inquisitive, shy, nervous.  Christian and I are both looking forward to watching him explore his new world.


 Also, his tongue sticks out a lot.  It's ridiculously cute...






Friday, December 06, 2013

O Tannenbaum

So this morning as I was doing chores, a van pulled into the driveway with some sort of landscaping decal on the side. The dogs went beserk and of course I was running late like usual. Figuring they were lost, I walked over and asked if I could help them. They said they were "here to decorate the tree," meaning our big beautiful pine tree in the middle of the driveway. I've been talking about wanting to put lights on it for Christmas probably since before we moved in, but it's huge and we have 937655 other things on our list of stuff to do. Maybe next year, I've been telling myself.

ANYWAY.

Guys: We're here to decorate the tree.
Me: Uhh... you know the house has been sold, right? They don't live here anymore.
Guys: [look at each other and smile] No, actually, we were sent here by Jill Baker. We've got a wreath and garland too.
Me: !!! 
Christian: Are you crying right now?

My mother!  What a sneak!  I had no idea, not even a whisper of a clue.  It didn't even occur to me that they might be at our house for OUR tree.  I just assumed they were showing up like they did every year.  But we all know what happens when you assume...

It felt like today would never end.  I buried myself in work and tried not to stare at the clock.  I'm not one to wish my life away, but WHY COULDN'T THE DAY JUST BE OVER ALREADY SO IT CAN GET DARK AND I CAN GO HOME?!

Finally, it did.  The drive home was punctuated by a stunning hot pink and orange sunset, held up by wintry tree bones.  Surely this is what it feels like before the lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree.

I arrived to the house just as the sun was starting to slump below the horizon.  And oh, the lights...



There they were.  Our tree!  Our tree.  Wow.



Tyrone [our sheep] seemed transfixed by the lights.  
That, or, he was staring at me waiting to be fed.  
Sometimes it's hard to tell.  
Baaaaa humbug!



BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER!!!!!!! There is nothing better than basking in the glow of lights this time of year. On any given day I can't wait to get home to the little piece of paradise that is Ham Sweet Farm, but tonight is particularly special. 

Apparently the company sent a scout earlier in the week and said the tree was so big, this was probably the only year they'd be able to put lights on it. In a good growing year they can grow 3 feet, and this was the absolutely limit that their ladders and crazy-long cherry-picker poles could reach.  Meant to be?  I think so!

The pictures just don't even do justice. It's truly magnificent. I had to make three trips out to the mailbox before I actually remembered to, ya know, grab the mail out of the box.  And I can actually hear cars slowing down as they drive by...

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Make Love And Lard

Well, we did it.

Raised a pig.

Finished a pig.

Butchered a pig.

Have pork for sale.

The results were better than we had even dared hope.  Our lovely, apple- and black walnut-finished pigs lived a good life and they live on in our hearts and bodies.  This is why we do what we do.  And that marbling!  My goodness.




And in case you're interested in buying any, the first results are starting to come in...  There's nothing that feels so good as hearing that you raised and produced a happy animal and a tasty product.



If you want to try some for yourself, email me at kate@hamsweetfarm.com for available cuts and prices.

Thanks, piggies.  We love you.