Formerly,Bar None Ranch, of Berlin, NY, we are now Climbing Tree Farm, of New Lebanon. We raise PASTURED POULTRY, LAMB, GRASS-FED BEEF, and WOODLAND/PASTURE-RAISED, MILK-FED PORK. We keep our animals true to their instincts- letting our pigs dig, our chickens range, our sheep graze. We feed rotationally graze on pasture and silvo-pasture (in the woods). We work with a local dairy to feed our pigs Jersey milk. We are conscientious stewards of the land, and our animals.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Truck Puzzle- Moving Forward

 We often say that what we like best about farming is that almost every day there is a puzzle to solve.
This week the transmission on our farm truck broke, and we stopped being able to drive in reverse in our truck. We try really, really hard not to put ourselves in debt. Since winter is usually our slowest time of the year financially, Colby has decided that his new challenge is to do all of his farm work without ever having to back-up...which makes tasks like hooking up a trailer pretty tricky, but he's got a plan! He will always park the trailer at the bottom of a hill and roll into place. What seemed like a huge bummer, and an expense we didn't budget for, has now become a fun new game!

Here's an example of another recent "truck puzzle:"


Winching the stuck truck out of the mud.  

Mulefoot Hogs: Super-Foragers!

Young Mulefoot (about 60 lbs.) finding acorns that other pigs overlooked.

 Colby recently combined three groups of pigs into a single group in a large wooded section. A mother sow (350-400 lbs), twenty piglets (around 75 lbs. each), four Mulefoot piglets (around 60 lbs each), and seventeen (150-200 lbs. pigs) are now living in this section. Colby did this to cut down on his daily chores...the fewer locations he has to feed in, the less time he spends driving around the farm with a truck full of milk, and the more time he has for making new fences to move the pigs into new areas. But, we're hoping for another benefit too.

A mother pig and twenty piglets weighing around 75 lbs. each were in this fence for a couple of weeks before the other two group of pigs arrived (its about 35 acres in size- so there is plenty of room for this many pigs!). The original group had been foraging fairly well. Despite the fact that we gave them their own special pan of grain and milk, the Mulefoot youngsters immediately began digging, and finding acorns right outside of the Pig Palace, which should be the most thoroughly searched for nuts. These little guys sure do now how to forage!

The other group of pigs that we moved into this section is a group that was born on our farm to sows we raised from piglets. We have watched mother pigs teach their piglets to forage. The sows root with their noses, and push the tiny piglets into the ground they have just opened to let the piglets discover what they have uncovered. This is a group of very skilled foragers. Their foraging ability seems to grow with each generation, as mothers pass on their knowledge to their offspring. Our goal is to breed a line of pigs that are exceptional foragers, who will eschew grain for what they find in the forest.

We are hoping that in addition to sows teaching babies to forage, these three groups will share knowledge and become exceptional foragers.

Young Mulefoot in Search of Acorns

Pig Palace in an Abandoned Stone Foundation

Stephen (our logger/friend) and Colby putting rafters on the pig palace

The palace measures about 25x20 and is about 4-6 feet tall.
We are working in conjunction with Stephen, who is selective cut logging our leased land. When he came out of this section of the forest we put the pigs into it. Stephen used his skidder to create a low wall made from big stumps set opposite from an old stone foundation. The pig palace is tucked in from the wind, its sturdy, and when filled with hay and warm pigs it is quite cozy.
Young Mulefoot Pig Checking Out the Palace.