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Benny the Future Dexter Ox, New Pastured Pigs, and Your Chance to Win a Video Camera

| 7/12/2011 9:10:00 AM

Samantha BiggersSummer has brought a very busy time to the farm. The last few weeks have seen the ducks grow a huge amount and we have got a lot of rain. Also we had a farm accident. My husband Matt was unloading our 1987 jacked up F-250, getting ready to go get some pigs from Warren Wilson College Farm the next morning, and stepped into a large hole in our road. He almost broke the ankle. In fact we did think that it was broke so we went to the emergency room which is something we will never do again unless we are in danger of dying. Matt was on crutches for 2 weeks but is now a lot better. The healing process is going to take a bit longer though. A nice older farmer helped me go get the pigs. Farming can be dangerous stuff. I hate to admit that my road is so bad that it can be a safety hazard at times. Private roads can be a pain when there are disputes about road maintainence. If one party is unwilling to pitch in on gravel, then you are in a hard position.

Pigs from WWC 

Pigs get down to business immediately when turned on pasture

But on to brighter things on the farm. Matt is well enough to start working on the house again. We ordered the glass for the sun room and we should be putting the planks up on the inside walls early in July. After that it is on to the septic system and underpinning. If we get that done then we will have the winter to do all the detail work in the house such as cabinets, hardwood flooring, and trim and molding.

The baby ducks are doing well and do not look like babies any longer. It is amazing how fast they grow. We lost one more so we have 13 ducklings left. The weirdest thing is that they are old enough for their sex to be determined and it looks like they are all female. I would never have thought this could happen. Now we have plans to buy several unrelated male ducks and build a duck house to accommodate the growing flock. If each girl duck we have averages 8 duckings next year we could have as many as 120 ducklings! Luckily there are a lot of nice restaurants in Asheville that might be interested in local free range duck. That also gives us time to get all the rules straight and make sure we are doing things by the book.

Ducks in the road 
Speaking of books, I am working on writing a comprehensive breed guide and how to care for guide on heritage breed cattle. It is going to take a lot of research but hopefully by the end of the winter it will be ready to be submitted to publishers. I have added several breeds in besides those that the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy recognizes as a heritage breed. The Jersey and Shorthorn should be included because they have been the cow for a lot of homesteaders over the years.

Bessie's calf, Biggers' Big Ben or “Benny” as we often call him, is well on his way to becoming an ox. I decided I wanted a Dexter ox instead of a Jersey-Holstein cross. Dexters are just so much calmer. Ben is pretty much weaned but he still is hollering at his Mama a lot. I got the halter on him and have started teaching him to lead. He has been much more cooperative than I thought he would be.

Benny and I 

Benny getting brushed 

Besides writing the book and some magazine articles I have started to help the American Dexter Cattle Association with their website. I am definitely learning as I go. I had no Frontpage web editing experience before this. I want to do a lot of work on the site but it seems like there is always so much to do and then my computer got hijacked by a virus. My laptop runs Ubuntu linux. If I didn't have to use windows for Frontpage to work, I wouldn't fool with having a Microsoft product at all. On another computer note, we are trying to figure out how to beam internet up to our house. It is just a question of whether or not we have too many trees and hills in the way. We are up at 3.000 ft elevation. The local cable company is hesitant to install anything because we are half a mile up a dirt and gravel road.

The weather has been very wet here in western North Carolina. We have had thunderstorms and rain every day for around a week. It is good for the crops but makes it a bit difficult to get other things done. It has given us a break from the heat though. 70 degree temperatures are better than the 80s and 90s we were seeing. The pastures have greened up a bunch. I am a bit baffled that we have not got a bunch of shiitakes right now but we don't. Hopefully they will fruit soon.  The dogs have put on quite a show for the camera here lately.

Judy Harvey
7/14/2011 11:19:15 AM

I enjoyed your post, and will think about which funny story I could share.

Nebraska Dave
7/13/2011 4:43:04 PM

Every farm worth anything had to have a few pigs when I grew up. Now back then pigs were not confined in buildings until they were market ready. They had the run of the pig yard and pasture. We were raising organic pigs and didn't even know it. I was a bit of an adventurer in my early years and always tried to imitate the bigger kids. It so happens that every hog yard usually had a big waller hole that was filled with water, mud, and whatever pigs like to waller in. This one was about 10 feet in diameter and maybe one to two feet deep of stinky pig waller. The pigs absolutely loved it on a hot day. One the big kids of the neighbor's family where this story takes place, decided to hop up on top of a wooden fence to survey the pigs in their cool waller pool. I suspect maybe I was about 4 years old at the time. Climbing up the fence provided a challenge but I made it up to the top of the fence and felt quite proud of myself. The owner of the farm and father of the kid I was trying imitate said, "Dave you be careful up there and don't fall in the pig pen." As I turned to respond to that comment, I slipped and fell backwards head first into the pig waller pool. I not sure about what happened next but my next memory was being washed down in the horse watering tank. I'm not sure what the horses thought about that. The clothes I had on, ah, well, I think they burned them out back in the burn barrel and gave me some old clothes from the bigger kids of the family to get home. I don't think they ever let me climb that fence again. Have a great day and stay away from the pig waller holes.

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