June on the farm

Summer is finally here. Some days it doesn’t feel like it but lush green everywhere you look is a sure give away! Much has happened this spring. Dave and I got married in May. We have lots of piglets. The fruit trees have flowered and are setting fruit. The fields are seeded, and the greenhouses are planted.

Everything is still possible – nothing has been decided. It might be a hot dry summer and the tomatoes, peppers, and basil will flourish. It might be a cold, wet summer and the onions, carrots and squash will love it. But my hope is that it has something for everyone, rain – but not too much, sun – but not too hot.

All five of our sows have now had their piglets. What a beautiful thing going to the barn in the morning to find a whole new batch of babies exploring the world for the first time. We have learned that it is better to leave the mum alone to look after things herself than try to ‘help out’. Pigs are humbling because they have a wildness that is surprising. We are trying to find the middle ground between giving the pigs as much self determination as possible while being aware that these are not wild pigs and they need us. We are raising them much like our grandfathers did while drawing on ‘new technologies’ that weren’t available in the past, like electric fencing that can be moved easily and often, and nutrition analysis of the feed, so that we can be sure they are getting all the minerals and nutrients they need to flourish.

We have made another of our pig pastures into garden this year and the transplants are thriving. Every year we are seeing more of the benefits of having animals as part of our farming system. This is a long term project and the benefits will build on themselves as time goes. Most of last year’s pasture is being seeded in clover and when the clover has gotten fully established the pigs will get another go at the field. We have based the size of our pig herd on the amount of land we have so that they will have fresh pasture every year. As the land gets more fertile it will be more productive for us and for the pigs.

What a privilege it is to live a life close to nature. Farming is hard work but we are so grateful our hard work is at home and we can stop and listen to the bird songs, or to watch a garter snake patrol the garden for slugs. Putting it all out and waiting for the return is a huge act of faith. It is expensive to raise piglets, and buy seeds and soil amendments. There is a temptation to worry about whether the year will be bountiful. Sometimes we need to stop and remind ourselves that there is bounty everywhere. It is simply a question of perspective.

The swallows are thrilled with the bounty of early summer insects and the snowshoe hare couldn’t be happier with all the tender shoots popping up everywhere. The pigs are enjoying all the junebug larvae they are finding as they roll away the sod in their pasture. The fruit trees are very happy with the fertility the pigs are providing. This morning I was impressed to found a bed of self-seeded cilantro that is much thicker than the bed I actually planted.

Soon the bounty will show in our booth at the farmer’s market. For now we have to be content to watch everything grow, and enjoy the long days of summer.

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