Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

We try to hold gratitude as part of our daily life, but certainly holidays in general and especially Thanksgiving, remind us to take a step back and consider how fortunate we are. This Thanksgiving, we find ourselves thankful for many new things in addition to good health, lovely friends and supportive family. We get to celebrate and express appreciation for a successful farming year.

As part of that we are so very thankful to everyone who is making it possible:
  • Our farm share members, who are also contributors of time, products and most of all encouragement;
  • Liva and Katie who have kept us sane and make it possible to produce such great food;
  • All those (and they are many) who have helped us create spaces for growing vegetables, housing animals and various other projects to make us effective and efficient;
  • The farmers, neighbors and other folks who have and continue to mentor us and answer all of our various questions;
  • Certainly to our diverse and mostly lovely set of livestock for their general willingness to work with our system; thrive here in Vermont and produce tasty milk, meat, and eggs;
  • And of course to Uno, Hop & Scotch for doing what they can to herd, hunt and spread joy.
We feel very fortunate to have landed in this community and continue to be delighted that our small farm can provide not only local, healthy food, but also a source of learning, community and joy for people.

As we sat down to Thanksgiving dinner, know that in addition to expressing thanks for the food, which will have been mostly grown here on our farm; we will be expressing thanks for all of you who are not only making this possible, but also making our work joyful.

With much gratitude and wishes for a wonderful holiday,

Laura & Mari
Green Mountain Girls Farm

Friday, November 20, 2009

Here's to Risks

This evening Laura and I had a somber and somewhat soggy toast with dinner. "Here's to Risks". We were honoring little Risk-the-Runt who didn't beat the 50/50 odds the books gave him. We were also celebrating risk-taking. Not the kind of risk that invites danger. We don't think we caused the little guy acute suffering and we were not trying to be heroic. It just looked like he had a shot at living on even though he failed to thrive amongst his 6 siblings. We are glad we invested in him. Amazed at how quickly heart strings entangle. Heartened by the interest others took in the little guy. And rekindled in our appreciation for life and its fragility.

Scotch the kitten reminds us it is worthwhile to take risks and gain new perspective.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanks to the Turkeys

People warned us that turkeys are mean and unpleasant, but ours have been a joy. In fact, they are some of the lowest maintenance animals on our farm. They do love to eat, but mostly they wait patiently for their turn, though they do mob you for food some days. And they didn't even complain when their shelter was inundated with water the day we got 4 inches of rain in just a few hours. (Thanks to star visitors, we got that shelter moved in a flash.) Their happiness is quite evident when we move them to a new pasture. They gobble up the fresh grasses and make happy turkey noises.

We have enjoyed their displays and various chirps, barks and gobbles, but their time on our farm has come to an end. No turkeys will be pardoned, but we do take a moment to thank them for the joy and nutrition they will bring to many this holiday season.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Risk, the Runt

Risk seemed like an appropriate name for our littlest, runty piglet as we took him away from his six rambunctious siblings and Fife this morning. Risk is 1/3 the size of the others, if that, and now that Fife's other 6 piglets are scampering about, wrestling and chewing on each other, the runt was getting roughed up and abused. This morning, the humane choices were to euthanize the runt or see it we could nurse him.

We made the decision to pull him out, try bottle feeding him with some goat's milk and see if he could get a bit stronger. This is generally against our better judgment -- figuring they are better off with their kind and available milk 24/7. Which is what we had been deciding for the past few days. He was strong and tenacious enough to make it through some cold nights and negotiating 6 sibling piglets and a 500 pound Mama - maybe he'll make it.

"God, I can't believe we are doing this," Mari said several times today. We are bottle feeding a 5 day old piglet. At just 2 pounds, he is very precarious. I am glad to report he is taking the bottle, but only time will tell. And how we are to fit in 16 feedings a day, we are not so sure. Nor do we know how much a 2 lb piglet should be drinking. I am sure many farmers would think we are crazy and wasting our time. But clearly, we have a soft spot for the underdogs and decided to give him a chance.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fife and Her Piglets Bring Joy

It is amazing how quickly the piglets grow. Don't get me wrong, they are still very small, but it is amazing that in less than 5 days we can really see a difference. They seem less fragile now, which lets us farmers sleep a little easier on a 20 degree night and they are very cute. Already, they are coming out of their shelter to dig around in the dirt, putting those noses to work at a young age. Fife is doing a great job in her new role as a mama pig and we have 6 strong piglets (4 boys & 2 girls) and 1 runt that seems tough, but she does worry us.

We have already been asked about names for the piglets -- yes, they need names. It is still 2009 so we need game names - do feel free to send your nominations. Hopefully we need a lot, because Madison, Fife's sister, is due next week. Words don't really due justice to the piglets, so I'll stop here and just add some images. (Check out the slide show to the right for additional photos!)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mis en Place*

Fife, just 24 hours into motherhood, grunted to urge back the wandering piglet. Simultaneously she used her snout to toss some straw into the corner of her farrowing hut, where the pile of straw combined with heat lamps keep the squiggly bunch of eight piglets warm. We farmers worry if it is warm enough but otherwise are thrilled. We’ll sleep well tonight with all this in place. Fife seems to be doing a great job figuring it all out. Without immunity and with the 2 to 500 pound ratio not in the piglets' favor uncertainty lingers. And we are sobered since the ninth piglet didn’t make it. Luckily the compost pile reached the optimal 140 degrees F earlier in the week, the temperature required to ensure a clean outcome. So the ninth piglet too is covered and warm, in its place.

As November advances winter readiness projects proceed at a snappy pace. Mark has used patience, 2x4s, trigonometry and scrap wood to finesse snug sides for the second hut. Collin, Forrest and Mari assembled 100 cedar posts and associated lumber to install a new fence around the winter loafing areas. Laura and Liva sorted and topped copious crates of lovely carrots and turnips. These will be stored with other delicious storage veggies in Kati’s root cellar.

Our friend MJ introduced us to the concept of Mis en place. MJ, taking some days off from her work at the Food Network to prepare for Greek exams (she does Classics on the side), generously coached us on our home catering exploits and cooked turnip champ. We learned a ton and ate well.

Mising en placing seems endless to Mari and Laura! It seems inevitable that snow and cold will seize in place some tools and plants that haven’t gotten prioritized on our mega-spreadsheet of projects! Soon after that we’ll be able to see less and less that is out of place, if we are lucky enough to get a blanket of snow anything like the last two winters! Snow or no snow we know we’ve landed in a wonderful place for us right now. It is because of all of you and your tomato pies, blog feedback, hands-on-help and overall encouragement. Thanks.

*Mise en place (pronounced [miz ɑ̃ plas]) is a French phrase defined as "everything in place", as in set up.