|Butter (the mother pig) and the Butter-pats (piglets).|
Often, when people hear we are farmers they say something like "oh, how nice, so you have the winters off?" I am here to say this is not so... I can't speak for vegetable farmers, because I am not one, but work does not cease on a livestock farm during the winter or otherwise; not in the winter, nor on our Birthdays, nor on Christmas. Animals eat, and have needs every day, year round. What does change is the kinds of work we do, the population on the farm, and the weather.
We do not keep poultry over the winter (in the past we kept laying hens, but found that they did not thrive in the housing we could provide them with during the coldest months at our new farm). We do keep sheep and pigs over the winter. January through March is lambing time at our farm, which brings its own special set of chores. We will begin farrowing (having piglets) in the winter later this season. Housing requirements are greater in the winter- which means Fall and Winter are times for harried construction projects, and winter is a time of lugging bedding. Water is a big issue in the winter, because automatic waterers freeze, water must be carried to the animals daily (or often a few times during the day), and ice must be chipped. Our pigs drink a LOT of dairy, which must either be transferred to a heated tank or by the crate into our basement so that it doesn't freeze, and then distributed daily to the pigs. Swift shifts in the weather, and prolonged extreme cold can be hard on the animals, with pneumonia being a particular threat to smaller piglets (though thankfully we have avoided this completely so far this year!). Changing weather conditions make it hard to tell what to expect each day during our chores, and difficult to plan transportation to slaughter or to new forage- we've been alternating deep snow, and deep mud this year! We gain two (nearly full) days each week after holiday farmer's markets dwindle in Mid-late December...which is bitter sweet. We love seeing our customers each week and depend on the income we make there, but it feels fabulous to eat pancakes and play with play dough on a Sunday morning with our kids. (I counted and think we went to 48 farmer's markets this year!- We will have to eat a lot of pancakes this winter to make up for those lost weekend mornings with our kids!).
While we don't have the winters off, our life is good (and busy) year round.
|Transferring milk to heated tanks.|
|This has GOT to be one of the coldest jobs ever done by the human hand.|
|A common winter scene indoors at our house...one kid making pancetta, the other making bacon.|
|Butter-pats roughly one month later- growing well in the winter woods|