Year’s End Mexico Style: a Little Late.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a farm update, so, I am very pleased to report we are 20 piglets more populated and—it was our best harvest ever! Our little plot produced four and a half tons of grain. I believe we own it all to pig poop… and Felipe’s herculean efforts.

What 4 1/2 tons looks like.

What 4 1/2 tons looks like.

We were astonished by the benchmark crop. We’d felt behind in its care all year, and we couldn’t find anyone to harvest (Felipe is working and I have retired from field work with its allergens, scorpions and wasps) so the pigs have been destroying and consuming it for over a month.  But Felipe, somewhere in the midst of the season managed to lug (on his back) 60, 80lb bags of rotted pig manure about a ¼ mile uphill, to a small field he reclaimed from the scrub this spring. I spread 20 bags on our small tortilla corn field, and even with him hauling the bags into the plot for me, it was still hot, heavy, hard labor. As usual, he never ceases amaze.

Here’s a bit of information about “do it yourself” organics that may surprise you. By substituting the manure we were able to use half the chemical fertilizer we have in the past, but—it took 2 tons of manure, rather than 150 kilos of fertilizer. And, a field that would generally take two hours to fertilize took two days of strenuous labor.  Not to mention the months of collecting and managing the manure. Of course, the benefit is less chemicals on our land, in our water and animals. Still, doing it the natural way is MUCH more difficult.

We’re trying a new tactic with the stored grain this year. We put bounce dryer sheets between the bags to keep the field mice at bay. We’re not certain it will work, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed. Rodents do a lot of damage, chewing holes in the bags, making a mess and leaving their droppings in the grain, which the sows do not appreciate.

Gorda and her brood.

Gorda and her brood.

Gorda and Minnie had total of twenty healthy piglets. They were very considerate, birthing on the weekend so Felipe could assist. Still, he was tired Monday morning after 12 hours of waiting, crouching, cleaning and acclimating piglets to the teat.

Felipe assists Minnie

Felipe assists Minnie

 

Finally— we have a new dog. After so many horrible deaths, I’d decided not to get another dog until I could afford to fence in our yard. But King was in such a terrible situation, I decided he was better off taking his chances with us than living as he was: on a chain so short he was forced to sleep, eat and shit in the same place. We’re taking every available measure to keep him safe. He’s assisting in this effort by never leaving Felipe’s side.

Dog in Love

We look forward to another prosperous year at the PDR; this year’s goal: by year’s end, Felipe will no longer need to work outside our farm. Wish us luck 🙂

King

King

 

Can’t Plant Me in Your Penthouse

going back to my plough…

On my way home today. Corn and sorgum is harvested and ground, as you can see from the new header, the flowers and crops are gone. This is my favorite time of year.

I will miss you Larry.

Pigs in Zen

Usually I have something poetic to say about harvest , but unfortunately, this year’s crop isn’t very inspiring. Due to uncommonly late rains our pickings are a little dismal. We planted very late and so weren’t in danger of our grain sprouting on the plant as many were, but because of the extended season we got a late wave of pests.
From this huge pile of sorghum you can hear the munching of a million tiny mandibles. When we shake a tassel bunches of small worms fall from it. They will continue to consume our profits until the sorghum fully dries and can be ground.
Sorgo
We did better with our corn, though because we weren’t able to weed sufficiently about a third of it is on the ground consumed by morning glory vines, irretrievable, because the late rain caused sprouting.
Fortunately, we grow only to feed ourselves and animals because the market value of grain is very low this year. Farmers who can afford to will keep their crop for fattening animals to make up for the loss, which should benefit us because people will be in the market for piglets.
Felipe’s pig project, on the other hand, is very productive. To date we have 48 piglets and three more sows to birth in the six weeks.
He has a delightful new procedure I’m excited to tell you about. For several days before one of his mama’s(his choice of words)is to birth he lets her run free. Exercise is good for birthing ease. Then she makes a nice nest for herself and has her babies in the open, which cuts down on piglets lost to crushing because they have so much room and no walls to get caught against.
Not to mention, they all seem very happy with the freedom. How can I tell when pig is happy? They play. Even the mama runs around, grunting and jumping like a piglet. It’s especially entertaining to watch Empire , all 250 pounds of her, cavorting with her clan.

Empire at Large
Felipe has also taken to letting pigs out if they are under the weather, he believes they find the natural remedies they need in seeds, grasses and leaves, and he’s found loose piglets are less incline to scours likely due to more diversity in their diet. We’ve had no illness requiring medication since he started the practice.
Alas, we can’t let them all roam free together, though we have enough room. Packs of pigs roam beyond their fences, and fences strong enough to curtail pigs are expensive. But for several weeks a year everyone but Don Juan, who molests the neighbor’s sows, gets a good romp.

© 2013 Abby Smith, Writer