Piggy Drama

By on Jun 7, 2017 in Carole's Corner |

The three black baby pigs fought and squiggled into position until each latched onto a bottle nipple and started sucking. It’s been two weeks since I became a “piggy momma” and I’m still learning what it takes. Two weeks ago Chipmunk, a Miles Smith Farm pregnant sow, gave birth to nine piglets then she contracted mastitis. It took us all (eight piglets, sick Chipmunk and me) to work out a feeding routine.  I had to bottle feed them and after the first few feedings, when they heard me, the piglets would squeal and shriek crowding the door.  Mother Chipmunk grunted as if to say, “Hurray.  Feed these babies.  They are driving me crazy with their squealing.”  When I opened their pen door all eight babies would pile out to suck down the milk I put out.  Chipmunk’s mastitis is healed and she has started producing some milk but I still bottle and pan feed those...

Bottle Feeding Baby Pigs

By on May 29, 2017 in Carole's Corner | 2 comments

One of the piglets scurried back and forth on the floor, another tried to leap twice his height into the box holding the milk while the one I was feeding chomped his razor sharp teeth into my finger. It was piglet chaos. I never planned on being a mother to eight piglets but nature apparently had other ideas. We had been waiting patiently for three months, three weeks and three days for Chipmunk, a sow, to have her piglets. The counting starts after a sow has a date with her boar-friend, in this case, Bucky, an eight hundred pound boar. Chipmunk had two previous litters (or drifts) of piglets without incident and on the morning I opened the pig-shed door and found nine live piglets and a hungry Chipmunk I thought this would be another problem-free delivery. How wrong I was. That evening Chipmunk was not interested in dinner but with a temperature of only 103.5, a pig’s normal...

The Cow Spa is Open

By on May 24, 2017 in Carole's Corner |

It’s Spring which means the Cow Spa is open! It’s time to clean up the clippers, sharpen the scissors and schedule spa time for the cows and steers. While the Scottish Highlander long hairy coat is perfect for winter, summer heat is another matter. Imagine wearing a heavy down parka all summer? For cows and yearlings that don’t shed that’s just what it’s like in the summer. Some of the cattle shed their winter coats but those that don’t get scheduled in the spa. The cattle at Miles Smith Farm love the spa. Given the choice between hay and the spa, my cattle will choose the spa every time. The gentle vibration of clippers against cow skin and release from a shaggy coat of hair lulls each cow into a semi-stupor. Her head will sink towards the ground and when I clip her neck she’ll stretch forward so I don’t miss a spot. Depending on the...

Bury Me Standing

By on May 16, 2017 in Carole's Corner |

Sarah was in labor so I brought her to the holding area where I could keep watch. Sarah is a Scottish Highlander cow who had given birth to a lively, healthy calf last year. She was the first of our cows to give birth this year but this year was not good for Sarah. I found the black bull calf shortly after it was born, dead. Thankfully Sarah was fine and didn’t seem upset about her lost calf. When farm animals die unexpectantly we bury them on the property. If we dragged them into the woods coyotes would eat them and develop a taste for farm animals, something we don’t want to encourage. Besides an animal cemetery, we also have a people cemetery where the farm’s founders, Miles Smith, his wife Eliza, daughters and baby grandson, are buried. The cemetery is surrounded by a stone wall but Mile’s gravestone peaks over the top of the wall and can be seen from the...

The Trees are Alive, with Bees!

By on May 10, 2017 in Carole's Corner | 2 comments

Every year, about this time, the three heritage apple trees in my backyard burst into blossom. Some years they whimper into spring with just a few buds but this year there is an abundance of blossoms. With this many blossoms and good weather during the summer, we should have a bonanza of apples in the fall. Many years ago these trees were surrounded by forest and struggled to produce apples. We freed them from their confinement by cutting down the surrounding trees. We also pruned them. I was told by a Yankee farmer that apple trees should be pruned so that you can, “Throw a cat through the middle.” While we never sent our cat flying through the tree, I assumed that meant most of the branches should be trimmed. Rather than shock these old trees after they were rescued from the forest by cutting lots of branches in one year, we trimmed just a bit every winter. Winter is the best time to...

Lawn Mooers At Work

By on May 2, 2017 in Carole's Corner |

Grass is growing, calves are being born, it must be Spring on the farm. With this warm weather and rain the grass is exploding from the ground and it’s time to get those cows and steers to work; harvesting grass. If you have a lawn you know the demands of mowing. For humans lawn mowing is a chore, for cattle, it’s a job they love to do. Grass is an abundant resource that humans spend hours trying to control while cows do it naturally. We like to think of our cattle as “lawn mooers.” During the summer cattle grow fat on grass that is abundant and prolific and, except during last year’s drought, is abundant. In New England, we rarely have to water our lawns or pastures since nature usually provides adequate rain. Cattle can “harvest” grass on hillsides and around rocks that gardeners spend hours trimming with expensive weed whackers. An added benefit is that while...