The days are getting shorter and the pigs are getting bigger. I'm starting to get that feeling like I had around this time last year - like it's war out there, trying to keep all these pigs fed (and contained), and each day I'm not sure that we're definitely winning. We had our first litter of the fall/winter farrowing season yesterday. One of our spotted sows, Boots, popped out 12 healthy piglet and handled it like a champ. In fact, she got up to have breakfast between piglet 4 and piglet 5. The cows are still grazing on fall pastures. The spring's calves are chunky little beefers, and they're looking pretty snazzy in their fresh winter coats. What a difference from last year, when the pastures were all burned up by drought and we had already been feeding hay for 2 months. Most of the produce is out of the garden, with just a handful (ok, maybe several hundred pounds... so a big handful) of beets and carrots and rutabagas left to bring in. Now it's just a matter of finding somewhere to put everything.
We'll have more animals on the farm this winter than ever before - 15 cows, 10 sows, one boar, and anywhere between 50 and 90 weaned pigs. There's still a lot to do to get ready, but we're making progress. Winter quarters are all set for gestating and farrowing sows. The hoophouse is up and should have plastic on it tomorrow - this structure is 12 feet wide and 72 feet long, and will provide shelter for the swarm of growing pigs we'll have at any given time in the coming months. After the plastic is on, it's just a bit of fencing here and a gate or two there, and then it's time to move the critters into their winter home. Thankfully the weather has been pleasant. Well, except for last week which brought us 10 inches of rain (5 of which came in a few hours overnight), gusting wind, downed trees, and 2 days with no power.
Part of the joy of farming is living intimately with the seasons, knowing fully the joys and hardships each has to offer. The buzzing acceleration of spring, full of hope and anticipation. The hustle and bustle of summer, brimming with life and opportunity. The downhill falling feeling of autumn, a drawing inward, a turn toward introspection from summer's ebullience. The shared suffering of winter, love's warmth and tenderness starkly illuminated against the cold dark. Each in it's turn, successes celebrated and failures taken in stride, a life lived closely with weather and soil. We're falling now, but soon enough we'll be settled in for winter, staying warm by the wood stove, dreaming of spring once again.