Friday, May 11, 2012

Spring Pigs

Today marked a milestone in our adventures in country living.  Sure, chickens are great, but every hipster in Seattle has got him or herself a backyard flock.  Shoot, any good flock of chickens just about comes with a pair of skinny jeans, some ironic facial hair, and a can of PBR.  But you know you are going beyond the trendy when you step into bona-fide livestock.  So that's what we did.  Time to dust off the Curriculum Vitae and add "Pig Farmer" to the list of life skills.

We picked up our four piglets today from new friend Pablo at Mountain View Family Ranch (  The pigs are being raised on the farm property that we have been rehabilitating with friends.  They get a very large paddock, deluxe all the way.  We had to do some work to make it right, including fence repair, gate replacement, and electric-fence installation.  We knew that the pigs would be ready for pick-up in early May and the day finally arrived.  We had some last-minute adjustments to make, but moved the four little ladies in late this morning.

There has been a lot of interest in this project as it picked up steam.  The four pigs we have are going to be divvied up between six or so families - when word started getting out, we could easily have bought ten or more, there was that much interest.  But we are keeping our first venture into pig-raising modest in scale.  It is a five-month investment, these cuties are slated for the chopping block in November.  That's the way of things, folks.  But they are going to get a lot of attention and love in the meantime, possibly even a trip to the fair.  Stay tuned for more farm updates as we all get settled into late spring routines here!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Old Shed, A New Coop

There have been some exciting developments recently that have resulted in a great deal of work.  Real, get-your-hands-dirty, be outside kind of work, which has prevented a lot of blogging.  Blogging about work and life is a kind of derivative, a downstream product of life, like shadows on the cave wall.  I would much rather be occupied with the font of experience than the products of experience, so I make, once again, no apologies about the trickling pace of posts.  There is a great deal going on, however, and I suspect that 2012 will produce a great collection of photos and reflections!

Things like this - a new farm! old farm....and not our farm.  Some friends have recently acquired a small, run-down farm property located just minutes away from our house here in Yakima.  They have graciously included us in a rehabilitation effort, as our two families, both interested in homestead-y kind of living, work to put animals of various sorts back onto the property.  Our plans are ambitious and far-ranging, including chickens, cows, sheep, goats, pigs and who knows what else.  We have been working hard to get the place ready for the first couple of move-ins and I have learned the first of what will surely be a whole host of important lessons.

Lesson #1:  There is no such thing as an "animal-ready" farm.

Even a property that has previously housed animals will probably need a surprising amount of work to get ready for new residents.  A great example is the new chicken coop.  We quickly identified a shed that looked like a likely candidate to be repurposed into a chicken coop.  It had previously housed a couple of varieties of pigeons and then just the scatalogical remains of pigeons.  There were various design considerations to deal with, not the smallest being that the shed had been cobbled together with a variety of materials and not a square angle in the structure.  Also a consideration was our desire to make great use of recycled materials, of which there was a large supply of around the property.  The very first step, logically, was to purchase 5 chicks from the local feed store.  These we began raising in our garage, which was a great delight to our kids.  It also started a stopwatch on the coop project.....we had about 5 weeks to get the thing ready.  Nothing motivates like a deadline.

The shed was torn apart and cleaned out.  No less than three front-loader buckets full of guano were carted away as we made the space as disease-free as we could manage.  The coop is a large design, more than capable of housing the now 14 chickens that make it their home.  A front run is open-air, surrounded by fencing and accessed by a recycled door.  The chickens access the coop proper by way of a ramp that leads to a small door.  Inside, there are roost areas and nesting boxes for all those eggs.  Four of the chickens are laying adults, and so there are already eggs being produced and enjoyed!  The nesting boxes are accessed through individual sliding doors, which the kids check daily.  New tin was put on the roof and on the sides, to make the thing look a little less like a shanty (though putting tin on that structure was a challenge, to say the least).

The chicks are all moved in an enjoying the new home, which has light and heat provided so that it will be able to sustain them through all seasons here in Yakima.  The kids check in on them just about every day, keeping close tabs on their personal favorites.

We've also been working overtime on getting one of the large paddocks on the property ready for new residents that will arrive this Friday - four pigs!  Pictures of that project and the little porkers will soon follow.  I've established my new apiary on the site as well, and will probably have about 3-4 hives working by the time summer is in full swing.  Green acres is the life for me!  Stay tuned for more updates from "the farm".