Will Unloading Cedar Posts
Back in 2007 I had been working on designing a large greenhouse for winter farrowing. We had saved up our money to buy the materials to build the greenhouse. Then in the spring of 2008 when we were supposed to start construction our butcher announced he was retiring. We slammed the brakes on the greenhouse project and switched gears to the Butcher Shop project because if we can’t get our meat to market there are no sales. Priorities became clear and shifted quickly. Life can be like that.
The money we had saved up to build the greenhouse went into the butcher shop. I had already been planning to build a butcher shop but had planned on starting construction in 2014. Well, now it is 2014 and we’re almost done construction of the butcher shop so we’ll be able to soon open for meat cutting. Now it is time to do something about that greenhouse project.
FarmTek is offering zero percent down with zero percent interest for four years on the purchase of their greenhouses and that makes it so that financially we can swing it. It will cost about half a pig a month – something we can do. Being able to farrow more of our sows through the winter will pay off with larger numbers of pigs being ready in August through November when we normally have a low count in our pig numbers.
What we need to do to make this happen is build a foundation for the greenhouse. It will be cedar post knee walls – basically two fence lines. Even our south field plateau which we carved out of the mountain is sloping ground. Having sloping ground is good as it drains, however it makes building a little more challenging. The knee walls will give us a solid, level base to build the arches on and also raise the greenhouse a little higher which helps the tractor drive in for delivering hay to the pigs as well as aiding in ventilation.
We’ve used open greenhouses with the pigs during the winters for about a decade. The ones we’ve been doing so far are all small, temporary ones made out of livestock panels, pallets and such and then covered with cheap construction grade plastic. These work. The trick is building them on a slight slope for drainage, having lots of ventilation leaving the south end, the lee to the wind end, open and having a vent at the north. They also must be pig tough as the animals tend to grab plastic if they can reach it and they rub up against posts to scratch.
One of the things we discovered long ago is that the pigs prefer to sleep under an bright sky. They don’t like dark sheds but prefer translucent glazing overhead. Thus open greenhouses work very well for them. I say greenhouse and most people will think of a hot house for keeping plants through the winter but these are really open cold frames.
What the greenhouses do is shift our seasons by about two months. Inside the greenhouse it feels like October or November in January and February. That makes a big difference to the smaller grower pigs and the piglets.
Inside the greenhouses we lay a deep bed of wood chips topped with hay. This composts producing heat – warm toes. The composting hay and twigs also become more digestible and the pigs eat much of it over the course of the winter. This is similar to the forest floor material that they like to root in during the warmer months.
Bright skies, shifting the seasons, local warming and easier winters. Happy pigs. Life is good on Sugar Mountain, even in the winter.
The irony with me buying cedar posts is I have maybe a hundred acres of cedar trees. However they’re not in my current rotation with our sustainable forestry and it is actually cheaper for me to sell my cedar logs, which are much higher quality, and buy in cedar posts. Economics work in funny ways.
Outdoors: 39°F/21°F Overcast, Light Snow
Tiny Cottage: 63°F/59°F
Daily Spark: It is easier to pull a pig with a treat than to push it up a hill.