Mangalitsa/Berkshire/Large Black piglet, aka a tiny elephant.
The cool mornings, the pup under a blanket, and the dinner time sunsets all tell us the same thing: another summer is drawing to a close here at BOTL Farm. As we put the following touches on our third year here in The House, it occurs to us that we have many words to share with you. Many words. Gather round the pixels we will sequentially illuminate, and let us illustrate and elaborate on another general farm update:
Pup the farm dog warming up underneath last year’s lamb pelts.
Our primary sawyer loves this machine as much as our head wood worker, and our sign-maker and lumber curator get behind it nearly as much as our main green cant hook operator. The whole crowd agrees, sawmills are great if you’re a wood worker. This season we discovered a cherry log on the property, and fortunately for the sawmill, that log was in the way of the barn. Cherry slabs have fantastic grain color. We’ve cut about 8,000 bd-ft of lumber in the last 1.5 years and built many things from it including an animal shelter and a cutting board. We also recently acquired a commercial-grade 16″ planer built in 1985 when one of us hadn’t yet been born and polymers were not considered structural. Soon our boards will all be smooth like a newborn piglet.
Cherry slabs and other rough-sawn lumber from our sawmill.
As we mentioned in our previous article, maintaining boy pigs is expensive and aspiring farmers are up to date on the latest AI research. Our attempts at manually operating the pig duplication machinery have proven effective, and we are proud to say that our two breeder pigs have produced a total of 20 piglets! This all happened in October. Both pigs gave birth in their pasture paddock overnight. The pig mothers demonstrated varying proficiencies in choosing whether to build a nest, and in how many inches from the electric fence they thought appropriate to allow their newborns to experiment with walking. Aside from one small shoulder injury, the piglets all appear to be healthy, curious, and helping themselves to as much milk as possible. We take this time to reflect on the miracle of life, how glad we are that this worked, and the prospect of having 400 lbs of bacon next spring.
A sleepy pile of piglets with their mom. Or their aunt. No one knows.
Have you ever heard that old adage about how “they converse like rabbits”? You can always rely on rabbits for duplicating themselves, except when you can’t. We’re not sure if it was a gamma ray burst, a rare ailment, a magnetic pole reversal, or some other extreme event, but this year we somehow ended up with rabbits that couldn’t reproduce. The rabbits nervously told us this doesn’t usually happen, and we told them it was OK, not to worry, and that we had a special place to keep them warm in the freezer. And thusly we decided to slightly reduce the herd population size to zero and try again in the spring with new rabbits. Hopefully the kind that know how to converse better. In the mean time, who wants some rabbit meat ??
Some of our pasture-raised rabbits sitting on top of a shelter in the rain. Wet, wet rabbits.
We built an open air barn with a roof! In fast moving startups, like farms, they often talk about the “minimum viable product” or MVP and say you should build the smallest thing you can to fill the need, and then start using it and iterate as you go. Once the roof was on the barn, we realized that was actually all we needed to keep the animal feed dry and we moved on to other projects. We should really think about putting walls on the barn before winter. But we now have a 60′ x 30′ barn with a 16′ high roof peak, steel trusses, wooden stud walls, and a metal roof. It also has a lockable person door installed next to a 30′ gap where the next wall will be built. Honestly the door doesn’t close properly anyway.
BOTL Farm’s minimally-viable barn: who needs walls anyways?
Sheep and Goats
The herds live on! We’ve got the boys and the girls separated still, but we’re getting ready to combine them again for winter to produce next year’s baby sheep and baby goats. We did our best at shearing our own sheep this spring, which is a bit like mutton busting while trying to use hair trimmers on a shag carpet soaked in crisco. We’re looking forward to another attempt at that this fall. Except for on our boy breeder sheep. He’s huge. Shearing him is going to be like giving a haircut while riding a bull. Several members of the sheep herd have been selected for a free trip to sheep camp this fall. They’re looking forward to the trip, and we’re looking forward to the neatly packed boxes they’ll return in!
Freshly shorn ram with marking harness, ready for the ladies.
Hard physical labor is not fashionable these days, and if there’s one thing the BOTL Farmers are, it’s fashionable. This has not stopped us from clearing miles of fence lines through the forest in the last 14 months and dividing 20 acres of land into 24 main paddocks, each paddock bordered by an electric fence. The fences uses 4 strands of electric on 3 separate circuits, and the paddocks are inter-connected by a system of 37 electrified gates. The primary construction is all complete, and we’re currently working on the finishing touches, testing, and bring-up of each section of electric fence. Once finalized, we’ll be able to move animals from one paddock to another for rotational grazing all around the farm.
A section of interior fence and gate, using new types of insulators called LockJawz.
And that’s an update on the farm! Despite all those words we still didn’t cover the latest on the honey bees, the tractor, farm road construction, that one time we got 100 dump trucks of fill delivered and leveled for free, the incident(s) with the bald faced hornets, our experiences with the word “silvopasture”, meeting the Yale forestry students and their government counterparts, our annual pigroast, the 20 types of grass we’re growing in the front yard, the chickens and the eggs, the farm house, and so much more! We wish we could share it all, and we’ll try real hard to write more soon. In the mean time, support your local farms, love the world, and stop by BOTL Farm if you’re interested in buying any eggs, pork, lamb, rabbit, lumber or soap! Cheers !
Grandma, the male Kiko goat and the father of our herd.
Last Updated on 2023-03-02