The meaning of vacation is derived from its Latin root ‘vacatio’ meaning: to be unoccupied. Which makes sense, since most people these days say that they need a vacation from their vacation. Duh! They kept themselves too occupied with activities to feel like they had been on vacation. We however do not need a vacation from the vacation. Just a few hours to unpack would be nice. We returned from a week long vacation visiting family in Florida at 10pm last night. We drove, so after two days in the car we were tired but not exhausted. Now after 24 hours of being home - we are exhausted.

Our first stop when we pulled in the driveway was the back barn. Inside, a mama sheep (a ewe) and her new twin lambs were tucked away from the harsh weather. Eleanor, one of our new partners at the farm, found them in the morning while doing chores and when she checked back in with them at noon, they weren’t doing so well. It was cold, but not cold enough to be snowing. And the sky was dumping rain and melting the 10 inches of snow that fell two days before. Soaking wet is an understatement for the conditions on the farmstead.

I guess I need to make this long story much shorter, or I won’t get to sleep tonight...We spent an hour checking the lambs in the barn and the ones who were still outside with their mamas. Lucia and Isaac slept in the car and grandma Karen came out to welcome us home. We drove up to our house and carried sleeping children and the necessary bags inside. Thank you Eleanor and Patrick for literally keeping the home fires burning - our wood stove was nice and hot - so our house was warm.

We didn’t get much sleep that night. Once the kids were in bed and we were a little settled, it was time to go check on the lambs again. Then we set the alarm for 4am and got up to check again. Each time we check them we rouse each one, and see if they are hungry. Then we either help them nurse, if they need help. Or, worse case is we have to milk the mama and feed them using the bottle. Another set of twins was born in the night and when Dan went to check them, he walked the mama and carried the twins into one of the pens that he recently built for our new lambs.

We did sleep between 6 and 8am. Then we had to be awake and alert for children and other farm chores - including another check on the lambs. When I went down to see how things were, there was another lamb being born! The rest of the day, I was back and forth between groups of lambs and mamas. Dan reinforced the pens with another sidewall and bigger roof. I took one of the lambs from the mama in the barn because it seemed too cold. Karen and Lucia worked on getting it warmed up with a hair dryer and fed with some formula.

The rest of the day is a blur - of sunshine and crazy snow squalls, births and near deaths, feeding animals, fixing fences, chasing animals back into their pastures, and eating a meal or two. Now, I need to tuck Lucia and Isaac into bed. Dan will go and check the lambs and mothers again and maybe someone will send an angel to clean up the rest of the dinner dishes.

Posted
AuthorKate Marsiglio
CategoriesAnimals, Family
Tagslambs

hey all, we’ll be hosting a bunch of farmers for a NOFA-NY Field Day event on Wednesday, June 27th. Focus is mainly pasture management and multi-species intensive grazing. While it’s hard to define what that is exactly - below is my response to a someone from the NY farming community who’s interested in attending the event.

Hope it’s informative to some of you.

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Hi Rebecca,

Got your questions from Bethany at NOFA-NY I'll try to give you some concise, pertinent info reg. our grazing / rotation practices.

Very many factors play into our grazing rotation decision-making.

• numbers of animals • Spring weather / grass growth • proximity to water • availability of shade • previous year's grazing plan • dairy cow breeding (until we sold one this year, we've kept two bulls to separately breed our beef herd and dairy cows) • hay-making (which depends on weather and pasture conditions) • predators • farmer burn-out: this is a big one since we have NO permanent fencing so always have to set up new electric perimeters

In any given year we probably use 45 to 60 acres of pasture for our cows, sheep, pigs and chickens.  Additionally, we use another 60 or so acres to make hay.  And then, if the weather cooperates, we make hay on pastures that have been grazed early in the season.  Never really did the hard numbers to be honest.

Our basic principals are (in no particular order):

• don't overgraze • sheep never touch the same pastures twice in the same year • allow for "sacrificial" paddocks if it ensures adequate water and shade (this means that the area closest to water and the lane to the water trough take heavy hoof traffic and overgrazing to keep animals close to water) • keep electric fences hot! (5-7k volts) and test them often (everyday, or a couple times a day) This also means a lot of weed whacking. • make as much hay as possible - cuz ya never know (last year we made about 2000 squares and 100 rounds for 20 cows and 60 sheep and had tons left over (literally) because winter never came.  not a bad problem to have.  and the beef cows will munch away at the extra 2011 hay with delight when (if) it's below zero this winter. • sometimes it's ok to give yourself a break and allow for larger paddocks so the cow line doesn't have to be moved everyday.  and hey, the cows seem to love the extra space as they frolic around.  The pasture will survive just fine. • pig pastures get a full year fallow at minimum and are of minimum slope to prevent erosion • chickens follow cows and sheep unless we have predator trouble - in which case they go wherever the heck we think they'll stay alive!

We graze many small fields and our farm is basically in a ravine with a large main pasture off to the North.  Additionally, our pastures are on opposite sides of a fairly well-travelled road.  We have become quite good at moving the herd back and forth across the road.  It's exciting!

Bottom line is that there is noooo textbook solution to all of this craziness that is multi-species pasturing.  So many idiosyncratic factors that may or may not apply to another farmstead.  And, seven years into farming, we are still students ourselves, learning from every success and mistake. Still figuring out our specific little plot of the world and how to best care for it.

So good luck, and maybe we'll see you at the field day.

best -dan

Posted
AuthorDaniel Marsiglio
CategoriesAnimals, Events

wpid-kate-lucia-mazzie-300x225-2012-05-26-07-532.jpgThursday morning I knew Sierra had calved. I woke up at 6 and quietly slipped on my chore pants and boots. I do love being the first one out and about on the farm. The mornings are almost always cool and wet. Things smell fresh and new all over again, even when the days have been hot and dry.

I walked over to where Sierra and her friend Elizabeth were grazing along our driveway. There at her feet was a little pile of brown and white. As I approached I could tell she had already been licked dry. So she must have arrived in the early morning - a typical time for calves and other farm babies to come into the world. Things are quiet, no humans are buzzing around, no engines running, even the wild birds are asleep. It is a time when a mother can attend to the work of birthing in the still darkness, without the noises and activity that light brings to the farmstead.

I approached Sierra and her new baby. She let me give it a welcome rub down and I carefully checked its belly to see if there were testicles or teats. My hand quickly discovered hat my eyes confirmed - no testicles! TEATS!! A girl. Our first heifer dairy calf on the farm since we begin milking cows!! A blessing for the future of farm fresh milk on our farmstead.

Later that day, Lucia, Isaac and their friends, Iris and Roan held an all farm vote to name her. They created a beautiful polling place, complete with a register, voting box, pen holders, and a megaphone! When all of the votes were in there was a three way tie - Maisy, Penny, Violet. But then we remembered grandma had yet to vote. So Lucia called her and gave her the three choices. Maisy won!

Welcome Maisy!

wpid-DSCF0921-2012-05-26-07-532.jpg

 

Posted
AuthorDaniel Marsiglio
CategoriesAnimals

Dan and I have done this many times before. Driven to a farm with a little red pick up truck with hay in the back and come home with two to six piglets in the back. In fact we have done it so much and are so comfortable with the ins and outs that dan’s father and mother have even gone to pick the piggies up. But today Dan and I drove together because he is heading away from the farm for two weeks and we needed some time together to talk. And we were going to a friend’s farm that we had yet to see, even though we have known each other for many years.

We had a great time talking about life and farming with Sonia and Dave. Some farmers are businessmen first and last, they know how each item on their farm plays out on the expense/profit sheet. Others are milking cows or raising cattle because it was what their parents did. And another set believe in something, a way of living, a way of raising animals and crops that provides them and their customers with superior food. At its core that is what farming is about. Food.  Dave and Sonia are the last type. I confess, so are we.

What does this have to do with pigs? I am not sure, but bear with me. Once we saw Dave and Sonia’s piglets I knew we were going to have to make some changes to the fenced area that we had set up for them. First, they were not outside. Second, they had never been trained to an electric fence. Third, they were not accustomed to coming over  close to the person who was bringing their food.

In fact, quite the opposite they were so terrified of us trying to pick them up that they jumped the four foot high wooden dividers in the barn! Once we had them back home, they waited in the back of the truck while we went to work putting two electric chicken fences around their measly two wire strand electric fence.  Then Dan and I carried the screaming 25 lb piglets by their hind legs over to the port-a-hut and shut the door behind each one.

The amazing part about a pig’s ear splitting scream is the dead silence as soon as they stop. And they stop as soon as you release them. So they stayed in the house for a few minutes to get their bearings. Isaac was antsy and Patrick had some questions for me about an order so we headed over to the store while Lucia was left in charge of watching the piglets to emerge from their new home.

A few minutes later, Lucia found me and reported that the four of them had come out and had been shocked a few times. A big smile on her face showed that she knew that this meant they were learning to stay in the fence line. We walked over to watch them together. They looked great. But something happened that made them a little too nervous and before I knew it all four of them were out of the fence and heading up the hill away from the tidy little enclosure we had built for them.

I couldn’t believe my eyes as I watched them pour out of the fence. I was trapped in the sheep fence trying to fix a post that had popped up out of the ground. As quickly as I could, I scrambled out of my enclosure and headed up the the steepest hill on our farm in a dead run. Lucia called to me asking if she should go get help. I yelled yes and thank you. Isaac moved as quickly as his little legs could carry him but he was quickly out of sight behind me and the pigs were just barely in sight in front of me.

One of my first thoughts as I tore up the hill was how much light we would have to chase after them.  By my estimate, less than two hours of daylight remained. They made it through three of our pastures and were into a wooded area within a matter of minutes. I could hear Dan feeding the cows at the bottom of the hill and yelled to him that one was headed towards him.

It was getting worse. In the beginning at least they moved as a pack of four. Now they had divided and we were being conquered. We were going to have to catch them one at a time. As I ran my feet slipped on mossy rocks and my head bobbed to avoid having an eye plucked out by pricker bushes and I tried to imagine exactly how we would catch them: a net? We had no nets of appropriate size. Herd them? There is no herding pigs. It just cannot be done. Herding animals never split up. They have no individual brain. This is where the intelligence of pigs is more advanced than that of a cow or sheep. So what then?

The answer is less graceful than you might imagine. You throw yourself on to them in a classic football tackle. Dan and Patrick cornered and caught the first one soon after I saw them speed down the road after it. It took Dan a few more minutes to tie her legs and put her in the back of the 4 wheeler. By then Isaac had made it all the way across three fields on his own and met up with me and Dan’s dad on his 4 wheeler. We had two more surrounded in the middle of the field. Patrick was headed up the hill. I was beginning to feel like perhaps this wasn’t going to take as long as I thought.

But they got nervous, ran up the hill and then split up again. The black one headed down the hill and the red one across the hill to the barn. Dan had driven to where we were and began chasing the black one on foot. Isaac and I hopped in the 4 wheeler and headed down the hill to the road. Patrick took off after the red one on his own. Isaac and I saw Dan running the black one down the hill and we headed it off on the driveway. But she turned around and before I knew it Isaac was heading in to the safety of Grandma’s house and the black pig was across the road with me and dan chasing close behind it.

Dan chased that pig for another 10 minutes. I parked the 4 wheeler and set out on foot as well to try and corner it somehow. But pigs being forrest animals slide by rose bushes and hawthorn trees, fallen stumps, rock walls, and low branches as if they are covered in butter. It seemed as if there were a never ending amount of obstacles for us to jump over, duck under, run around and snag our clothes.

Finally, I saw the little pig slip. Its hind leg got caught in a hole or something. I felt like I was watching a scene in a nature movie where the antelope makes one mistake and then the lion is upon her. Dan was down, the pig was under him. He pulled off his belt and tied her up for transport to the pig hut. One more caught. Winded and worn we drove the two escapees back to the fence area.

Dan’s dad was there and explained to us that he had had one cornered trying to get back into the fence and had lost her. ‘She headed that way’ He pointed along the creek past the tents. Dan and I were on our way before he got the words out. We split up. Came upon Patrick who had been tracking the fourth one, but lost her. Then came upon the one that Peter had sent us after. We chased her back towards the fence line. Then she headed up the hill (that very steep one from the beginning) and over the two pastures. Dan headed out on his dad’s 4 wheeler. I was on foot.

I couldn’t see her, but I had a sense that she would have gone the same route as the first time. Then I heard the cows. They sounded like they were calling to me. Not the normal, ‘we’re hungry where is our hay’ that we normally hear. And then I heard Rose, our young livestock guard dog, barking. Dan drove down the hill to me and I told him of the noise and suggested we check it out. “I bet they have the pig over there”

Sure enough, as we drove up the entire herd of cows was standing in a line staring at a little shaking red pig. Rose, thinking she had a new playmate, leaped back and forth trying to get the tired pig to move. Of course the pig had chosen a great place to rest: Against a rock wall guarded with so many briars and prickers that we could barely move. I tried talking loudly to distract her, encouraging Rose’s antics and keeping the cows interested in what was going on. All the while Dan was trying to inch closer from behind.

Soon it was all too much for the piglet and she bolted into the herd of cows. Almost being trampled (Cows are wary of anything so small, that moves in such a random way) she darted through the field with Rose and then Dan on her heels. I confess, I stayed back to yell cautionary warnings to Dan and see how the whole thing would play out. I felt like the cows would be okay with one human and a dog and a pig running around their home, but two humans would put them over the edge. One too many random darting objects. And I did not want to be trampled.

Dan dashed among the cows as they bellowed at the piglet.  The piglet was kicked by hooves a few times but never quite stomped to the ground.  Dan darted in and out of the scrambling cows as I yelled warnings of caution.  Their are two bulls in there after all. Dan dove once - caught her leg, but she slipped away. He threw his wadded coat at her to try to slow her down - no effect. Finally the piglet seemed to tire and the chase ended when Dan dove on the her. Her squeals scared the cows away. Patrick brought dan some baling twine and I drove the 4 wheeler to the fence opening to pick him up - piglet in hand. We drove back and decided to keep the three we had found locked up for the night. It was almost dark. Yes, one got away. There is now a little red pig out in our woods. Only three little pigs on the farm. Dan drove to town to get some bourbon so we could nurse our sore bodies a little bit. I headed to Grandma’s to retrieve Lucia and Isaac. Then the three of us walked up the hill to our little house where a chicken stew was waiting for us.

Posted
AuthorDaniel Marsiglio
CategoriesAnimals

After a very mild first 2 weeks of winter we are finally experiencing some cold weather. Not quite below zero yet, but we normally have a few of these single digit nights followed by teens during the day throughout November. It really is nice to feel like its ok to stay inside for at least the morning since its so cold outside. Time to hibernate and get a little office work done.

The great news is that we are really conserving hay. So far we’ve only fed about 10 square bales to the cows and about 4 a day to the sheep for the last 12 days. Pretty good considering we normally feed hay thru most of November. At this rate we’ll make it thru the winter with hay to spare. But winter is young…

wpid-stillgrazing-2012-01-4-19-47.jpg

Posted
AuthorDaniel Marsiglio
CategoriesAnimals

So I am sitting here in the darkness...It is 11:19PM December 7th our first true snow of the winter. I had to stay here because Lucia and Isaac are asleep upstairs...Dan had to go out to herd some cows back to their fence enclosure. I have no idea how he did it..or if he did it. All I can do is sit here and wait to hear the story.

I found a bunch of our beef cows tromping around near the Pod Garden. I set out for our farm store at 10:45PM to put the last of our NYC orders together. As I walked down our long driveway, something felt funny.

In the dark. Snow hitting me in the face, I noticed tracks on the ground. ‘Looks like the dogs were playing,’ I thought. Then a few step further and I realized that they were not dog or cat tracks. I started walking slower. Upon closer inspection I quickly figured out that they were cow tracks. I walked a few more steps following the tracks with my flashlight and then thought, “maybe I should look up in case I get too close.” I lifted my head and flashlight and yes, there was a row of big black and white cows looking at me. My flashlight reflected green in their eyes. Now what!

Neither of us knew what to do. I looked at them one more time and then turned around to go get Dan. He is in charge of the cows. At least the big ones. As I trudged back down our driveway, I gave a backward glance every now and then to be sure they were not on my heels. But also hoping that they hadn’t turned towards the road.

So now..I sit and wait..and listen for dan to walk in the greenhouse.

12pm the lights of the Gator (ATV) finally turned toward our house! Dan popped his head in and solemnly said that everything is okay. He has to go check a gap in the fence for the big cows, but that’s it. Everything’s okay?!!

How did he do it? I watched the gator go up and down the hills in the darkness. I thought for sure the cows were gone or sick. Phew. I guess I have to wait up a little longer to find out how he did it.

-kate

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A little bit of yelling while zipping about on the ATV. Then a whole lot of walking the fence lines and adding posts, shaking off snow. Fed them a few hay bales and some mineral mix. All ok for now. Winter is here - time to get the cows ready for the long cold months ahead...

-dan

Posted
AuthorDaniel Marsiglio
CategoriesAnimals

So I am sitting here in the darkness...It is 11:19PM December 7th our first true snow of the winter. I had to stay here because Lucia and Isaac are asleep upstairs...Dan had to go out to herd some cows back to their fence enclosure. I have no idea how he did it..or if he did it. All I can do is sit here and wait to hear the story.

I found a bunch of our beef cows tromping around near the Pod Garden. I set out for our farm store at 10:45PM to put the last of our NYC orders together. As I walked down our long driveway, something felt funny.

In the dark. Snow hitting me in the face, I noticed tracks on the ground. ‘Looks like the dogs were playing,’ I thought. Then a few step further and I realized that they were not dog or cat tracks. I started walking slower. Upon closer inspection I quickly figured out that they were cow tracks. I walked a few more steps following the tracks with my flashlight and then thought, “maybe I should look up in case I get too close.” I lifted my head and flashlight and yes, there was a row of big black and white cows looking at me. My flashlight reflected green in their eyes. Now what!

Neither of us knew what to do. I looked at them one more time and then turned around to go get Dan. He is in charge of the cows. At least the big ones. As I trudged back down our driveway, I gave a backward glance every now and then to be sure they were not on my heels. But also hoping that they hadn’t turned towards the road.

So now..I sit and wait..and listen for dan to walk in the greenhouse.

12pm the lights of the Gator (ATV) finally turned toward our house! Dan popped his head in and solemnly said that everything is okay. He has to go check a gap in the fence for the big cows, but that’s it. Everything’s okay?!!

How did he do it? I watched the gator go up and down the hills in the darkness. I thought for sure the cows were gone or sick. Phew. I guess I have to wait up a little longer to find out how he did it.

-kate

-------------------------

A little bit of yelling while zipping about on the ATV. Then a whole lot of walking the fence lines and adding posts, shaking off snow. Fed them a few hay bales and some mineral mix. All ok for now. Winter is here - time to get the cows ready for the long cold months ahead...

-dan

Posted
AuthorDaniel Marsiglio
CategoriesAnimals

Here he is.  Another bull calf.  It just means that we'll have a lot of beef in about two years.  The final count this year:  5 bulls and a heifer (4 original beltie calves plus Sierra and Abby who each had a bull) We've now got 4 heifers to be bred from previous years.  One died in early June.  She was from last year's 4 heifers. Hard to pinpoint the cause of death.  Vet said maybe parasite overload, but that's extremely unlikely considering the health of all the others.  All symptoms add up to some kind of accute gastrointestinal distress form my analysis.  She went very quickly.

But this post is about BIRTH!!  The new calf is up and about saying "look at me!" (like grandpa Joe holding a golden ticket!!) and looking great.

Posted
AuthorDaniel Marsiglio
CategoriesAnimals

This big beautiful boy was born yesterday afternoon.  Today we milked Abby a bit with her tied to a stanchion.  She wasn't too happy about it, but not as freaked out  as Sierra is at first.  Find pictures of baby and mamma below.  Including one of Abby eating her placenta. (yes, they do that)

[gallery link="file" columns="1"]

 

Posted
AuthorDaniel Marsiglio
CategoriesAnimals