You've got a lot of choices. If getting out of bed in the morning is a chore and you're not smiling on a regular basis, try another choice.
- Steven D. Woodhull
In last week's blog post, Holy holon, Batman!, I wrote that Lone and I had settled on our initial business plan. We have also recently established a schedule of chores, and subsequently fallen into a daily work routine. In brief, the day is divided into four parts, driven by the requirements of our ever-growing menagerie:
- Let the chickens out of their houses and feed them. First we feed the smaller birds crushed organic corn, then whole kernels to the larger birds. The sequencing is important: the larger birds have to be kept in their house until the smaller birds have had their fill...after all, the larger birds are higher in the food chain.
- Feed the dogs and cats.
- Feed the hogs. In addition to the vegetation that they consume inside their pens, we supplement their diet with approx. 1.8 kg of organic corn per hog per day, again whole kernels. By soaking the kernels in a 50%/50% mix of organic milk and ent water, we improve nutrient uptake without having to go to the trouble of crushing large quantities of corn. It is not long ago that we changed from feeding the hogs twice daily, at 10:00 and 16:00, to feeding them once daily, at 12:00. This seems to work much better; hogs generally like to sleep later than other farm animals, and this practice also forces the hogs to forage prior to receiving their first meal. As feeding the hogs is without doubt the most physically demanding farm animal activity at Alfheim, it is extra nice to have it done and dusted before lunch, after which ones energy level drops noticeably. The piglets are treated somewhat differently: we feed them at 10:00 as their tiny tummies and hyper-metabolisms do not seem to lend themselves as well to a single, midday feeding. This, however, is only a temporary measure while they are growing most rapidly. While our hogs' growth rates are currently probably somewhat slower, I expect that by the time we fully implement our plan to supplement their ration of organic corn with copious quantities of organic milk and eggs, we will achieve similar or more rapid growth rates to those described below:
After three to five weeks, pigs are weaned (removed from their mother). After reaching an age of eight or nine weeks, by which time the pigs weigh an average of 23 kg (50 pounds), the pigs are moved to another area for growing until they reach roughly 54 kg (120 pounds); finally, they are finished (fattened or fed in preparation for slaughter) until they've reached the marketable weight of 100 - 113 kg (220 - 250 pounds) -at between five and six months. On average, then, hogs gain almost one kg per day every day of their existence. Remarkable!Also of hogworthy note, we sold three of our largest shoats on Sunday to the individual who we hope will be coming to work for us in mid-October...7-9-13. He has agreed to join us in principle, but my many years of hiring people has taught me that the period of greatest risk of buyer's remorse occurs between signature and the start of a new job. Moreover, given the fact that the individual in question will be the second employee, Clair was the first, to leave the local patrão to work at Alfheim, a reaction of some sort is to be expected. That said, he brought six family members with him to choose the shoats, a very positive sign, and Lone, not surprisingly, bonded instantly with his mother, another plus.
It was also a plus that he purchased our two largest male shoats because we have not yet castrated any of our piglets...preferring to wait until after the full moon on September 4th. This is done to reduce the bleeding. While a generally accepted principle in biodynamic farming, it surprised us to no end when Clair rather than Lone or me insisted on waiting for the moon to wane. The general wisdom of our decision has been reinforced by everyone with whom we spoke about castration in Vargem Grande -noteworthy that the alternative and the traditional views dovetail so clearly.
- By changing the hogs' feeding time, our late afternoons now involve nothing more than moving the cattle, which we do every day at 16:00. I am already convinced that I can see a difference in the pastures from this daily rotation, though, to be fair, Lone is less certain. She chalks it up to the coming of spring. What is indisputable is the fact that the cattle are now as easy to move as checkers...a gentle nudge and they move where they are supposed to. In most cases it is possible to migrate them from pasture x to pasture y solo.
- Feed the dogs and close the chicken houses, preferably with the chickens inside. For the most part this latter task is pretty simple...the chickens begin roosting at dusk. Dan, the drake, and the other two ducks, on the other hand, loiter outside the hen house as long as possible, like smokers congregating outside an office building...probably because as the lone floor dwellers in the hen house, their early arrival only increases their chances of being shit on.
- Feeding the dogs is also pretty simple...it certainly requires no reminder: Muninn usually begins chewing on the metal kitchen door in such a demonstrative fashion as to leave little doubt about what our priorities should be, and Negão does his part, too, whipping both Muninn and Layla into a frenzy. Once fed, though, all three dogs instantly quiet down.