Weekend on the farm, lots of activity

This weekend was a pretty busy one for me. After working all week in my day job which has its own set of issues, I arrived home Friday to interview a very nice young lady who was attending NC State and looking to get some work on a farm. After reading her resume, and talking to her for a few minutes I suggested to her that she is more qualified than I am to be a farmer and that she’s not going to learn enough at our farm to justify her time. I wish I had a place for her, she’s a really smart and accomplished lady.

After she left, I spent some time working in the barn before meeting two different customers who wanted to buy meat. It’s still the best part of this gig to meet customers, and to meet their families. One of them on Friday had young girls and they were on a search for humane beef that their daughter was ok with purchasing. She’d learned about factory farming and was now refusing to eat meat that wasn’t raised ethically and humanely. I gave as good of an explanation as I could, standing in the dark with nothing to point to and show her. I think she was satisfied but I guess we’ll know when they show back up and buy more beef.

Or not. That’s one of the downsides to this business, sometimes people don’t come back for more product and your don’t necessarily find out why. Was it too expensive? Did they revert back to store-bought meat? Did they find someone closer? I wish I could have taken her on a tour and showed her the cows and how happily they live on our farm. I think that would have cemented her desire to buy from us. Anyway, it was nice to be able to close the week with some sales off of the farm.

Saturday my day started with a ride to Zebulon and picking up 13 pigs from a farmer there, Howard and his grandson Stephen. Howard was what my father would have called “a card” or “a bird.” I think today we’d call him a crazy old coot. He was a nice man and was certainly entertaining. Dustin went with me and we had some adventure getting the trailer backed into their driveway because it was so tight but Dustin kept a lookout for me and I just took over the state road for a few minutes while I backed in. Luckily nobody came by so we had the whole road to ourselves, which was handy because we were taking up the whole road! Stephen had all the pigs already loaded in the back of a truck so all we had to do was transfer the pigs from his truck to our trailer and we were done in five minutes. $60 per pig x 13 pigs, $780 worth of swine. These were Duroc and some other cross of a few heritage breeds, mainly Duroc. I forgot my ear tags so I crossed my fingers and snuck back home with no issues. It’s a $5000 fine PER PIG if you don’t have your ear tags so $65,000 in fines was riding with me. The ear tagger in permanently in the trailer now. I’m not making that mistake again.

After I got home with the pigs, Miguel and Justin were moving pigs from one of our paddocks to another. This was to make room for the new pigs. Justin looked somewhat defeated and Miguel (who had the flu but was still at work) looked tired. Turns out the pigs were simply running through the wire back into the paddock as fast as those two were putting them out. I hopped out of the truck and jumped into the paddock to help move the pigs while Justin stayed on defense keeping the pigs in their new paddock. Kind of a pig goalie.

Prior to arriving at the farm, I had lamented that I’d gotten a big of “pigginess” on my pants and I needed to change. Just a small spot on my pants. After dragging about 6 pigs through the mud and I don’t want to think about what else, I was covered head to toe in a rich cake of pigginess. Sweating, dirty, stinky, and tired I went over to the house and stripped out of my clothes. I didn’t have a place to wash and I was too dirty to go any further than the door of the house. Luckily I had some clothes I’d dropped there earlier which were covered in “cowiness” which smells not nearly as bad. Plus it was dry. I slipped on those clothes and ran back out the door because Dustin and I had a class to take in Durham at 11.

We arrived in Durham, just off of Briggs Avenue at Bountiful Backyards for a mushroom growing class I’d seen advertised. I’ve been told that growing mushrooms is a no brainer if you’ll just learn how. The last time I went to a class like this it was hippie central. In fact when I told SWMBO about some of the stuff we’d had to do in this class, she laughed till she cried (I’m not the best hippie in the world)and she still laughs disturbingly when the topic comes up. So with trepidation, Dustin and I attended the class, with me trying to stay downwind of everyone because I smelled like a pig riding a cow through a rendering plant. The instructors introduced themselves and were very nice but a bit crunchy. However a few minutes in we learned that our instructors were Dr. Khalid Hameed and Dr. Rytas Vilgalys. Both professors of mycology at Duke University! Holy cow, talk about driving a nail with a sledge hammer. Needless to say we learned some things at this class and came home with some logs inoculated with mushrooms. Quite a value for the money spent.

So when we got back from the mushroom class, it was time to unload the pigs into the pig pen. I like to let them settle down in the trailer after the ride back. It’s a closed environment and the calmer they are the easier the transfer goes later. Justin, Miguel and I went to work transferring the new pigs into the pen. The jobs were:

Justin catches the pigs in the trailer. Once he has the pig secured, and all the other pigs have run to the front of the trailer, I open the door and take the pig from Justin.

I then take the pig to Miguel who opens the gate to the pig pen and puts the pig into the pen. He then closes the gate behind the new pig and we wash, rinse, repeat.

About 2/3 of the way through the load of pigs, Miguel dropped one of the pigs who only fell about 2 inches. However it was now loose! Another Flash Gordon?! Nah, this pig was more of Yogi Bear.

This is more of my speed for a pig.

We quickly worked him back to the gate and walked him in. Crisis averted!

Saturday night we had dinner with all of our friends and Ron and Katie’s house. It was a Christmas party where everyone was dressed up formal, except me. Not smelling like a pig and wearing pants was about as far as a I made it. I did smell like a lot of soap! With great food, great company, and lots of Katie’s famous punch, we chatted and laughed our way to midnight when I finally said I had to go before I passed out. I’d been up since 4am so it had been a long day. It was a great time though! Thanks Katie and Ron!

Sunday was another day of pig wrangling. We try to get 20 pigs at one time so that we have a group that can finish together 8 months later. With thirteen in hand, I needed another seven or so and I had found another nine pigs in Robbins, NC. Five were with one farmer for $50 each  with anther Duroc and something cross and the final four were a Glouchester and Land Race/Duroc mix for $60 each. The population of Robbins, NC is about 1100 people so the luck of finding two farmers with pigs at the same time was just awesome. That saved me a lot of driving.

I came home to unload all the pigs in the paddock with Saturday’s lot, and to meet Miguel’s friends Jose and Irvin. Jose has let us borrow indefinitely his carnitas pot and Miguel was making a batch of carnitas when I got back.

Our new carnitas pot, full of porky goodness
Our new carnitas pot, full of porky goodness. That bit of orange is Miguel’s hat barely visible through the steam

Since Jose was helping us out with the pot, I let him have one of our country hams we had hanging. I can’t sell them since they aren’t inspected, but I can let a friend have one for free. No harm in that.

After taking the Mrs. to see the new bull, I came back to the house and took another of many showers for the weekend. I then put on PJs and went into the kitchen where I had a 1/4 bushel of beans, two pumpkins, a bushel of apples, and a dirty kitchen to contend with. It worked out perfectly because SWMBO already had carnitas for dinner so I was left to my own devices in the kitchen. After cleaning the kitchen, I processed all the apples and made apple sauce.

Canned home made apple sauce
Canned home-made apple sauce

I also processed the two pumpkins and make wifely approved pumpkin pie mix, which I then vacuum sealed, labeled, and froze.

Home made pumpkin pie filling, made from our pumpkins and ready for the freezer
Home made pumpkin pie filling, made from our pumpkins and ready for the freezer. This is enough for 12 pies.

This is a SWMBO invention. You freeze all the pie filling then when you want pumpkin pie, you just thaw out the filling and drop it into a pie crust and bake. Nearly instant home-made pumpkin pie! Mmm, pumpkin pie.

I should mention that in all this, I actually didn’t do any farm work this weekend. Miguel and Justin both worked all day on Saturday, and Justin worked a half day on Sunday. I was the one running around doing everything else while they fed and took care of the animals. It’s a busy place on a farm.

With everything put away in the kitchen, I gave the kids each a small bowl of apple sauce and went to go sit down on the couch for a bit to watch Agent’s of Shield. I’ve missed the last few episodes since I pretty much don’t watch TV and the family was waiting on me to catch up. Three episodes later, and one whole jar of apple sauce later (small bowls were not enough), everyone was caught up. At that point, I went to lay down in the bed because I was cold. Strangely, I fell asleep almost immediately which wasn’t the plan. Another night of missed opportunity to read to the kids. Luckily SWMBO got everyone to bed.

All in all it was a productive weekend.

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