Essex Farm Note
Week 48, 2014
One of the first-time mama sows farrowed on Monday, and things did not go well. When Matt went to check her he found she had killed the whole litter of seven. He wasn’t sure if she had squashed them by accident, or something darker, but in either case, he had to crawl into the farrowing hut to remove the carcasses, which she had buried under a layer of frozen dirt and straw. As he was pulling them out, one of them moved in his hand, just a little bit. Matt cleaned the dirt out of the tiny mouth and nose so it could breath. Then he tucked it under his arm, brought it up to the greenhouse, and put it under a heat lamp, before going back to his other chores. He didn’t have much hope, he told me, but maybe I and the kids would like to attempt some Thanksgiving week heroics.
When the girls got home from school we went to take a look. The piglet was not much bigger than my hand. He was on his side, not moving, and very cold. I couldn’t tell if he was breathing or not, but Jane touched his eyeball and found he still had a blinking reflex. There was life in there, but just the tiniest spark.
We brought him into the house and made a warm bed for him on a hot water bottle covered in a towel, set in front of the woodstove. I warned the girls not to get attached, since he was much nearer dead than alive. They took turns holding him in their laps, and Mary the dog licked the side of his face while I heated up some cow colostrum I had in the freezer. I didn’t have a tube small enough to fit down his throat so I filled a dosing syringe, held his head up, and dripped a few drops into his mouth, and then gave him back to the girls while I cooked dinner. Every few minutes we gave him another few drops. By the time dinner was ready, he could hold his head up. The girls named him Pancake, as in, flat as a. By bedtime, he was standing up, and eagerly swallowing the colostrum. At the midnight feeding he was strong enough to bite my thumb hard with his little needle teeth. He got 24 hours in the house, and then he went out to the greenhouse, where he is living in a warm, straw-filled nest among the broiler chicks. Mary has appointed herself pig nanny. She spent the first night lying next to his box in the house. Now she treats him like a puppy, cleaning him up after meals and gently trying to pick him up by the back of his neck when he strays too far from his nest.
The cold snap last week froze both ponds into the most perfect skating rinks I’ve ever seen.
Then it melted, and snowed, so now we have a layer of mud under a few inches of snow. Tires and hooves really tear up the ground in conditions like these. Luckily, the beef herd is already in the covered barnyard. We hope to get the dairy cows under cover this week. The sheep are still grazing through the snow, but they are not heavy enough to damage the pasture. The garlic has two-inch roots now – hooray – and the insulating layer of snow will help protect it during the damaging freeze/thaw cycles of late fall. We are hoping for a few warm days before winter clamps down on us, so we can get some fence posts planted and hoses up before the ground freezes. And that is the news for this full-bellied 48th week of 2014. -Kristin & Mark Kimball