Water, water everywhere
It's a real mess around here. We suffered through a couple of feet of snow in March, including a solid foot overnight on the last day of the month, and then a couple inches of rain within a couple of days, and then a string of cloudy days. All that rain, and all that melting snow, and not a whole lot of sunshine in recent memory means there is a ton of water out there in every ditch and low spot. And muck and mud everywhere else. The ditch through the "South field" where we kept the growing pigs last year could be a white water rafting attraction. There's way too much water running right through one of the half-acre plots we plowed for vegetables (though no detectable erosion, given the very slight slope). We've resigned ourselves to the pigs winter paddock being transformed into a outdoor pig mud-wrestling pit and are focused on making sure their houses stay dry by giving them plenty of bedding.
One thing that this winter has impressed upon us is that is impractical, if not impossible, to raise a significant number of pigs (more than a couple of sows) in a way that we feel great about in New England without a large barn or hoop house to keep them in over the winter. Especially on a typical NH or central MA farm, where sandy well-drained soils are rare, and mostly what you get are perched water tables on dense glacial till, or mucky poorly drained soils on lower-lying fields. I'm not talking some kind of slat-floor hog-confinement operation here. Instead, I envision a large sunny airy structure with plenty of bedding allowed to accumulate throughout the winter, maintained in a way such that the bedding pack begins to compost even while the pigs are living on it. The natural composting process provides some warmth. The deep bedding allows the pigs to engage in their natural rooting behavior and provides sows with plenty of nesting material for winter farrowing. Throw in some good hay (which pigs absolutely love, contrary to conventional thinking) and we've got a real "winter grazing" scenario for our pastured pork operation. And on top of all that, all that "fertility" the pigs were generating is mixed with bedding and ready to compost when the hoop house gets cleaned out in the spring.
So be wet and dreary today, but things are looking up. I heard my first robin sing yesterday, and the weather for the next several days looks like a turn in the right direction with warm (or even hot!) days and mild nights. The strong April sun should dry things out in no time, at least returning us to a baseline level of dampness. We can hook up the above-ground water lines, which means no more lugging hoses around to fill water tanks. Soon, very soon, we'll be setting up our fences for spring and summer grazing rotations. Almost time for that joyous spring ritual of watching the heifers buck and dance when we let them out on green grass for the first time in months. As for when I'll be able to get on the tractor and get the garden soil prepared for planting? Your guess is as good as mine!