MIA = In The Barn

It’s amazing!  I actually found my way back to the computer, it will be a brief visit for now.

I have been in the barn for what seems like days.  As you recall, we are in the middle of our farrowing season.  With sows and gilts having piglets left and right, I feel as though my head is spinning.  Add to that sick kids, not all at once, but one after another, and I look like a zombie with a touch of lunatic!

In a nutshell, this piglet season has not gone as smoothly as we have experienced in the past.  We have been blessed on the Delk Family Farm for years with near text-book deliveries.  This season is turning out to be one full of more things going wrong than right.IMG_3929

The first delivery, Spoinky,  was pretty much as normal as we are used to experiencing.  Things started to go wrong with delivery #2, Norma.

We like to move our girls out of the herd and into the barn, where they have their own private birthing stall.  We have a pair of sisters that were not expected to deliver until May.  (We base our due dates on when we actually see the boar breeding the sows/gilts.)  In this case we have a boar who acted differently than any other boar we have had.  Usually once the girls have been bred the boars will leave them alone.  This guy had done his job, but continued to breed the girls after they were already bred.  This usually isn’t an issue because the girls that are already pregnant don’t tend to tolerate any further breeding and put up an aggressive battle, effectively saying “No” to the boar.

Back to delivery #2,Norm, we came upon this in a sad manner.  While we were removing another sow that had an upcoming due date we discovered one deceased piglet.  We were instantly alarmed thinking we had not moved this girl in time and that she was now in labor.  Wrong!

That was when we realized it was one of the sisters that wasn’t due until May!  We quickly changed our focus to this girl.  We moved her out, we moved her sister out, and moved the original sow we were after.  With these three girls now set up in their own spaces we began to watch for more piglets from Norma.  Sadly there were no more piglets, leading us to believe that the whole litter, however many there were, had been consumed by others in the herd.  Absolute devastation took me over. Looking at Norma with her swollen teats and depressed expression only made it worse.

With no rest for the weary, delivery #3, Emma,  arrived that night.  Emma had better luck, she delivered her litter with only 2 loses.

After a day with no deliveries, Monday brought us delivery #4, Cinnamon.  Cinnamon is our oldest sow and known to be a fiercely protective and successful mother.  This was the one we were counting on to be far less stressful on us.  Boy were we wrong, again!

Cinnamon went into labor, however she would not push along with her contractions and it came to the point that we had to intervene.  It isn’t an easy task having to physically pull a litter from a 600 pound sow.  Thankfully Marcus was able to get the job done, though it took most of the day before we had pulled the whole litter.  Out of 14 piglets, she has 6 survivors.  Three of her piglets were born dead, the rest that died were due to her crushing them.  This sometimes happens with pigs, however this was no accidental crushing.  She was clearly not interested in caring for the piglets.  Left with no other choice, we spent the day with her making sure they got as much colostrum (the first milk) as possible, then we took them away.

With a house full of sick kids and all the litters not going as planned, the last thing I was ready for was bottle feeding 6 piglets!  So we had a plan.  What if Emma was willing to add a couple more piglets to her existing litter?

We put the plan into action, ready to take it slow, one piglet at a time.  Well that plan changed rapidly when I approached Emma with the first of the 6 piglets.  The piglet was loud and upset instantly triggering Emma to go after the person, me, that was making the piglet scream!  We then quickly gave them all to her, from that moment they were all hers.  No one was going to touch her piglets!  So there was one great thing to happen during this whole ordeal!  Crisis averted!IMG_4115

Now we are up to Tuesday morning and another not so pleasant surprise.  Litter #5 had arrived, sort of.  Olivia had indeed had her litter in the night, but when we went out there were only 2 live piglets.  Most of the loss in this litter was no fault of Olivia’s.  The majority of her litter had stopped development at some point late in the pregnancy.  She had 4 piglets born normal, of those 2 we found in a corner away from mom very cold, and did not make it.

So things don’t always go as planned.  Life on the farm is unpredictable and Mother Nature can be cruel.

I wish I could say that the stress of farrowing season is over, but we have 3 more sows to deliver still, Penny, Norie and Primrose.  For the time being we are focused on the cows and the kids as we prepare to embark on a 4 day event away from the farm showing the cattle.

Just wow!

From the moment our children come into our lives they become our whole world!  When they are very small we hold them close and protect them, usually starting off by baby-proofing the whole house.  It seems that every stage in their lives comes with new independence for them and new things to protect them from for us.

With our oldest daughter all these things are exhilarating and terrifying. For me, Katelyn exposes  us to everything “new” for the first time.  I like to think that she clears the way, smooths the ground and paves the road for this journey called parenting.  Sometimes I forget that she is growing up because no matter what she is doing I see my first-born, little girl.

My biggest fear is always the choices that we make as parents along the way.  We want to make sure that she will have all the opportunities to achieve her life dreams. It is so important that all of our children are strong, confident and brave. The world is a very scary place!  If we have guided them to be honest, caring and compassionate, then we are doing something right.

As she usually does, Katelyn brought me to tears last night.  She is staying about and hour and a half away from home for a four-day weekend. Being an active member of the Lakes Region Chapter of the New Hampshire FFA, she is attending the State Convention!  She was selected to receive an award.  She had to work hard for this award, preparing her resume and interviewing for it.  The award is given out in four levels. While we had received notification that she was selected for an award, we had no clue what level she had qualified for.

 We made it to the Radisson hotel, I felt like we were stepping back in time, it looked like a castle!  Katelyn met us in the lobby.  She gave us a tour of all the floral arrangements that had been entered for judging, including hers.  We saw all the FFA Chapter displays, all including the word “Voltage”.  Later we learned it is the theme word for the year for the FFA nationally.

   Surrounded by blue corduroy jackets and Chapter members in their Official Dress, it was hard not to feel the electricity in the air.  We took our seats and we were instantly surrounded as they formed a massive conga line, parading through the entire banquet hall.  The music, dim lighting and hundreds of young leaders with their glowing smiles ignited and spark inside me.  This was exactly what I wanted for our daughter. Seeing her in this element, with all the other FFA members that share a passion for agriculture like she does, all I could feel was joy!

 The session was called to order and I felt honored to be able to experience this with her.  You see, I spend a lot of time with our children and their 4-H clubs, but I never really get to be a part of her FFA experience.  I finally felt like I got to connect with her on her FFA journey!

Award time came.  There were four members from all over our great state of New Hampshire that were asked to take the stage.  The awards were to be read from lower level to highest level (all of which are a big deal!!  These awards are for entrepreneurship, these are all young leaders preparing to start their own business!). As I sat there listening and applauding for each recipient my heart pounded harder, waiting to here “Katelyn Yazinka” over the speakers.  When her name wasn’t even the third name called my eyes began to well up and I was short of breath. Her eyes met mine as we both realized she was receiving the top honor!  I was exploding with pride!  It was just one of those moments that you learned so much from. I know she is a strong person.  I know she will be successful. I know she will never give up on her dreams in life.  A moment where I can say she has grown, taking another step towards independence.

  
  
While this is one of the biggest things Katelyn has achieved in her 16 years, I can still say it doesn’t measure up to one of my biggest achievements…her!!

What a weekend!

Who knew you could fit so much excitement into one weekend?  First thing Saturday morning, before the sun peeked over the trees, we loaded 4 young pigs onto the stock trailer.  We piled into the GMC diesel, headed first to my mother’s to drop Fly off for te day. Next stop, an hour away, the NH 4-H Livestock Judging Clinic.

At least we thought it was about an hour. Everything was going great until we were about ten miles from our destination. As we pulled off the highway for the final stretch something was wrong. No matter what Marcus did, the truck would not accelerate beyond 25 miles per hour!  Oh boy!  This was bad, not only in a worrisome way!  Nothing puts Marcus in an unpleasant state more than when the “Delk luck” kicks in.  So we continued to limp along and finally crawled into the driveway of Sweet Meadow Farm, the site of the 4-H event.

 We made some calls and arranged for a good friend to come out and tow the trailer home when the event ended.

In the meantime we enjoyed a great day with an extended 4-H family. The kids all learned about judging livestock and how to explaine their selections. They were presented with the following classes: sheep (fleece), sheep (carcass), steers, heifers, mature cows, and swine (provided my our farm).

  
  
  
  
This event was also used as a tagging station for 4-H project animals that will be auctioned off at the Hillsborough County Agriculture Fair.

 After a lovely potluck lunch Becca spent some time looking at the lambs.  She is purchasing 2 ewe lambs from the Sweet Meadow Farm.  I thought shopping for clothes took a while, but apparently shopping for just the right ewes is a much more intense experience!

  
 By the time we made it home all I wanted to do was rest!  But that wasn’t on the schedule.  It was time to start the evening chores. Thankfully my mother drove little Fly home to us.

Sunday we spent the day taking care of a very sick little Becca, making major barn repairs and taking Katelyn to her 4-H officers meeting. She was recently voted in as president!

 I think Mondays in general are a dreaded day. This Monday was as stressful and hectic as ever. I was on sow watch, a litter due any minute!  Well that sow was hard at work on her nest. After checking in on her at 8 am I discovered she was hard at work on a hole in the barn, and would soon escape. Marcus came home from work long enough to make the repairs and keep her in place.  Becca’s fever was climbing, up to 103, she had major headache and ear pains, a cough and lack of appetite. The doctors couldn’t get her in, so it was off to Urgent Care.  Turns out she has the Flu.

So we made it home before the sow delivered.  I gave Becca her Tylenol, set her up in a “sick nest” on the couch and sat with her.  Fly seems to know she feels miserable and keeps watch over her.  Marcus gets home from work about 20 minutes later and there are already three piglets born in the barn!  So out to the barn I go.

 We spent the next 4 1/2 hours in the barn with Spoinky as she delivered.  She had a nice litter of 11.  We did lose one the first night though.

  
Thankfully Tuesday was quiet. I spent the day taking care of Becca.

Flashback Friday 1

I thought it might be fun to take Fridays and turn them into a stroll down Memory Lane.  Childhood is a nice place to start.

I have loved animals as long as I can remember.  I grew up showing chickens, ducks and geese with the 4-H at our local fair.  We always had poultry running around the yard.  With that, there was an ample supply of poop.  I remember my sister being particularly fond of the goose poop.  She would seek it out, only to step right on it!  You see, my sister loved to get that sticky goose poop plastered to the bottom of her feet just so she could peel it off.  Fun stuff!

We had a wonderful garden.  It was always great fun to see how big we could get our pumpkins to grow.  Every year we would each select our best pumpkin and enter it in the fair.  We did a lot at our local fair.IMG_3806

We also had a horse when I was younger.  Boy, he was my whole world!  What else would a little girl dream of?  A horse!  My riding buddy’s name was Ben, he was a Morgan.  You could do just about anything with this horse.  I remember chickens climbing on his back while my sister went back and forth through his legs like they were May poles!

Ben and I competed at the N-BAR-H, a local riding club that still exists today!  I had a great T-shirt from the club.  It had a whimsical cartoon horse, with a big goofy head, standing in a fence, with a little pile of manure just behind him.  It said, “N-BAR-H’ers Do It In The Ring!”  I always thought it was quite clever.

Growing up, I remember having a few different dogs in our lives.  The first one I can remember is an old Yellow Lab named Danny.  He stands out in my mind as a dog with incredible strength.  He was an outdoor dog, always chained to a doghouse.  Okay, maybe not always, he had a tendency to break the chain and run.  That has a lot to do with why he was around for such a short amount of time.  It was sad when I learned that he had been shot and killed when he got into someone’s trash.

We also had Cocker Spaniels and a Toy Poodle.  But the dog of my youth that stands out the most is the one who journeyed with me to adulthood.  Her name was Lady.  She had belonged to a breeder that had intended to show her, for whatever reason she was not eligible for showing.  We got her when she was just a year old.  For 12 years she was my best friend.  She was a beautiful tri-colored Collie.  After losing her I thought I could never live with another Collie again, I just thought it would be like trying to replace her.  So for years, I never did.  But, there is more to that story for another day.

 

 

An Island Retreat

Don’t get your hopes up, I have never been to an island!

Living on a farm tends to give you some serious roots.  It’s hard to justify a vacation away somewhere when so many lives are depending on you.  Sure, I could hire a farm-sitter, but there is one major problem with that.  You see, I am one of those people who expects everything to be done just as I would do it.  The animals are all used to our feeding routine, which I hate to deviate from.  Also, knowing the animals is extremely important, there are times that the feed may need to be adjusted.  If someone is feeling under the weather, we may need to give them some Pro-bios.  With the horse and pony we worry about things like colic.  What if a sow is due to farrow?  Did the water buckets get filled?

What if there were to be a power outage?  The majority of our fences are run off an electric fence charger.  The last thing I want to hear while I am miles away is that the cows or pigs are running the streets of Middleton!

Those are just a few things that go through my head in the instant I have to think about leaving the farm.  That’s not to say that I never leave.  Many times Marcus and I have to divide and conquer.  As you will recall, my children show their animals.  From April to October we have intermittent  fairs and youth shows.  Usually this requires the kids and I to live out of the travel trailer on location.  That leaves Marcus at home with the cats, dogs and  any livestock that hasn’t come with us.

I don’t know what stresses me out more, getting the kids organized with their animals at the shows or leaving the farm.  Either way, I am always beyond grateful to return home.

So how does the island come into all of this?  I am a huge Survivor fan!  So much so, that there is a standing rule in my family.  Everyone knows not to call our house during Survivor.  The occasional “oops” phone call does happen, but if it isn’t an emergency there is punishment!  I have become quite creative with the delivery of a “Voo-Doo” item to those who make the error.  It has been a unique wicker chair and a tall wooden tribal man, it just depends on my mood and what I find at the time.  I know it seems harsh, but the way I see it, “Outwit, Outlast, Outplay”!

With all that said, I must go.  The islands will be calling very soon!!

Spring or Winter?

Just another day on the farm. Everything went as it usually does.  Living in New Hampshire you learn to expect twists and turns with the weather. Even though the calendar tells me it is Spring and we had warm, wonderful weather just a few days ago, Winter reared its ugly head today!  That’s right, we woke to a blanket of snow on the ground and a steady supply continued to fall throughout the day.  The people who are closest to me know that this white stuff is not a welcome sight.  But since there is no point in arguing with Mother Nature, I just press on with my day.

Today that means an early morning phone call requesting my presence at school.

Substitute teaching  qualifies for adventure in itself!  You never know what kind of day you are in store for.  Today turned out to be less exciting than usual. Spending only the morning half of my day in the kindergarten assigned to one friend.  Usually the kindergarten is pretty a busy and exciting place to be!  The children have so much energy, imagination and creativity. But today was a bit different and I have to think it is due to the weather. You see, I spent about an hour and a half of my time with one very tired little friend!  He fell asleep!  That’s right, his adventure was in dream land. Meanwhile, I was less than comfy on a cold, hard floor, cradling his head as he slumbered.

I could completely understand his need for a nap!  After all, the shifting of the seasons does the same thing to me!

Luckily I got to spend the afternoon with my husband and sweet little Fly!  It was a great treat before I headed off to pick up Russell and Becca from school.

I wish I could say we went home from there and spent the rest of the day toasty warm in the house. As you recall, I have very busy children. Today’s activity required a long snowy drive to gymnastics.  With all the cars off the road as I travelled it was obvious that we had Spring long enough for everyone to forget how to drive in slick winter conditions.

But the day ends, as it always does, with animals and family being fed.

Maybe tomorrow Spring will return!!

  Friday we spent the day outside in the Spring weather.

Today it was very clearly Winter!

Mud…it sucks!

pig mudToday was one of those extra special days.  You see, it isn’t everyday you get to eat birthday cake.  Since Russell is now 12 years old, we had to celebrate!  After a breakfast of homemade waffles and real maple syrup, we jumped right into presents, cake and ice cream.  Russell spent the majority of the day working on the various Lego sets he received.  I wish I could say that the whole day was fun and games.

There is always work to be done, today was no different.  Our small barn has been in desperate need of repairs and upgrades.  The first project of the day was to replace some of the support beams on one whole side of the barn.  If this didn’t seem like a big enough task, add in the dreary, wet weather.  Not a speck of sunshine in sight all day.

We managed to get two of the four posts replaced.  We figured it would be best to let those set and allow the concrete to firm up before we finish up the wall.

Since the day was still young we figured we should try to accomplish something else.  We only have 10 days before we are into our farrowing season this Spring.  We have 8 sows due between April 11th and May 31st.  It only made sense to begin moving them out of the pasture and into the barn.

Most pigs don’t take to being physically forced to do anything or go anywhere. We have a great system for moving our pigs around the farm.  We have worked with all our pigs since they were piglets.   When we need to relocate a pig or put it on a trailer, we make a “tear drop”.  When you take a single cattle panel and bend it so the ends meet it makes a portable cage.  We then just lift it over the pig we want to move and gently walk her along.

Even with this great technique there are always things that don’t go as planned.  The Spring weather is partly responsible for today’s frustration.  Spoinky and the rest of the herd provided the rest.

So the weather has caused the winter pasture to be extremely muddy, in some areas it comes up over our tall boots.  The depth isn’t even the worst of it.  While we ran around the pasture attempting to weed Spoinky out from the other 8 pigs, we quickly discovered a problem.  The pigs could run, but not us!  The mud had waged a war against us, grabbing tight on our boots and holding us in place.  Each step was a major achievement, especially if we kept our boots on.  It was absolutely exhausting.  At one point I leaned against the fence to catch my breath.  As Marcus continued the quest to single out the one sow we were after I caught myself in a moment of laughter.  Just witnessing his personal battle with the mud tickled my funny bone.  Between his feet being randomly stuck and his body continuing with the momentum of the chase, he was reminiscent of the blow up sock men you see at a second hand car dealership.  After that, all it took was a loss of balance that almost took him down into a bed of mud, I couldn’t help it!  I was rewarded with a genuine look of disgust!

Just as you might have suspected, what goes around comes around.  As I rejoined the chase I was quickly put in my place.  As we cornered Spoinky I suddenly found my feet cemented in place.  When 600 pounds of nervous pig is running at you, you get out of the way.  Or not.  My mind and body were in sprint mode, but my feet did nothing.  Closer and closer she came until she had run me right over!  Yeah, that’s right, flat out on my back in the thick, black pig mud.  There I was covered in mud, a banged up knee and wounded ego as I hear Marcus chuckle while asking if I’m alright.

In the end we got the tear drop around Spoinky and she quietly walked to the barn.  All that hard work paid off.  But it did leave us with a strong opinion on working with livestock in the mud.  It sucks in more ways than one!!