Calendar 2015

2015 Calendar Front Cover
Sows & Hens on South Field

It’s a new year and calendar time! The image above is the front cover of our latest creation. Calendars are a wonderful pictorial tour of life in all the seasons on Sugar Mountain Farm. Building the calendar is an event in our household where we collect together our best photos of the year, many of which appeared here on my blog. We categorize them and vote them up or down, reducing the pile to just a few that represented the past season.

The cover photo above shows sows and hens grazing in the top paddock of the south field. There is an Easter egg hidden in the photo. Hover over this word ‘clue‘ for a hint or look at the bottom of the page.

The Jeffries Family in On-Farm Butcher Shop

We’re the farmers at Sugar Mountain Farm and soon to be butchers as well. Each of us does many things from farming to construction to marketing to distribution. Some of us have special things we tend such as doing deliveries each week. Together we make it all happen.

This photo for January shows inside the brand new meat cutting room in our butcher shop. As I write this I’m finishing up electric, building the desk and shelves for the inspector’s office and have just a few other small things to do before we’ll be ready to apply for our Vermont state license to cut meat and make sausage.

Peanut Butter on Snow

Peanut Butter is one of our Blackieline sows who has produced many fine piglets over the years. She maintains her condition well through the winter, is a superior mother and thrives on pasture/hay without the need for commercial corn/soy based hog feeds.

Sow Chewing Her Cud

Do pigs chew their cud? Well, they’re not technically ruminants according to all the books because they lack four stomachs but there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Pigs do chew their cud. They’ll eat hay and then bring it backup and re-chew it. That is chewing cud. The fact that they do it a little differently and with fewer stomachs than a cow is not really the point at issue. The real question is, can pigs get nutrition out of the pasture and the hay. The answer is they do. Pigs eat pasture. More importantly, pasture and hay are not just grass but also legumes like alfalfa, clovers and trefoil as well as other forages like brassicas, chicory and such which are high in protein. We plant pig pastures with forages they can graze more easily but in the winter they’re eating the same hay as cows, sheep, goats and horses.

Pigs also have a few tricks up their, er, sleeve. One is the hay ferments in the round bales over the summer, fall and winter as it waits for the pigs to eat it. The hay bales smell slightly alcohol and sweet as a result. Cows and sheep likewise benefit from this type of fermenting of their hay. It’s a form of predigestion from beneficial bacteria just like with yogurt.

Second is much of the hay we put out goes into bedding packs that the pigs sleep on as it composts. The decomposition produces a much more digestible form of food just like the humus on the floor of the forests that wild pigs root up. It’s a form of cooking that frees up nutrients so they are more accessible.

Lastly, there is some theorization that pastured pigs have been selected for those with longer digestive tracts, perhaps more like their wild ancestors, and are thus better able to make use of fibrous vegetable matter like hay and pasture.

So while pigs may not have four stomachs like a cow they do have ways of extracting nutrients from pasture and hay. They can simply eat a bit more to make up the difference when compared with a high calorie commercial feed. It works.

Young Sows Group Nursing

Sows tend to seek out a private place to farrow, to give birth but then a few days later they join into cohorts with other sows to group nurse their piglets like this set of sows in a grove of saplings in the south fields. As the piglets become more mobile the sows take them further afield across the mountain and leave the birthing nests.

Piglets on Pasture

These new piglets are exploring the pastures of Sugar Mountain where they were born. Initially they thrive on the rich 8.5% butter fat milk of their mother. Within a week they begin nibbling on clovers and soft grasses as they learn what to eat at the snout of their sow.

Geese and Goslings

Who knows what the geese do at Sugar Mountain Farm. We sell pastured pork from our herds of pigs but we also have support staff. Like with the chickens and ducks, we don’t sell geese. Geese don’t hunt pest insects like the chickens or stir up the ponds like the ducks. Contrary to popular imagery the geese don’t spend much time in the water. But the geese part of the support system that delivers pork to our customer’s fork. We just don’t know what they do specifically. When I ask, they just honk at me. Perhaps that’s what geese do…

Ben Training Pigs in North Field

After weaning we tame young pigs so that they are used to handling. This training continues through out their life with walks through the fields. In the photo above Ben has a bit of bread crumbs that he was using to hold their attention.

Chicory Flowers

Chicory is a flowering plant that grows well in our pastures. There are blue, pink, violet and white flowering plants and the flowers change color over their life cycle. Research has shown that feeding chicory helps to reduce boar taint. A plant that is both functional and beautiful. One of the great things about chicory is that it has such a long season, growing late into the fall.

Herding Young Boars

Sorting boards can be easily and inexpensively made from plastic food grade barrels. These are light weight and work well both out in the fields for gathering pigs and in the sorting corrals for cutting the group to select which pigs need to go to market, be moved to gestating pastures or selecting sows to send to the boar herds for breeding

Ben, Will and Hope in Halloween Costumes

Halloween is a big event that inspires a great deal of creativity and planning each year. Will, Ben and Hope sewed and sculpted these costumes – a process that takes up most of October after planning all year.

Sows Grazing in North Field

Our pastures are a mix of trees, brush and open areas with soft grasses, legumes, brassicas, millets, amaranth, chicory and other forages. These mixed habitats have greater biodiversity of plants, wildlife and livestock than one would find in a monoculture lawn like pasture.

Our Tiny Cottage in Snow

In the winter the livestock pull in closer to our center fields which become winter paddocks. We are snug as bugs in a rug in our tiny cottage overlooking the snow covered fields. Although we’re still outside a lot every day, the cold months are a time to read, do more indoor projects and plan for the coming year.

Also check out the calendars from other years each with their own little tour of our farm here on Sugar Mountain.

Happy New Year!

Outdoors: 18°F/9°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 64°F/59°F

Daily Spark: One of the things to keep in mind about government is that it is completely and utterly schizophrenic. Government is out of touch with reality precisely because it is made up of a lot of different people who have different agendas and different approaches to things. Realize that government has departments for undoing and preventing what other departments are doing. This is simply the nature of large organizations. Some of the people are on the same page as you. Find those people. This little ah-ha can save a lot of grief.

Front Cover Easter Egg Clue: Two of these things are just like each other…

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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12 Responses to Calendar 2015

  1. eggyknap says:

    Congratulations on the butcher shop progress. What’s the butchering permit application process like? In particular, is the state likely to cause the process to hang up much?

    • We have been working with the state, and the USDA, since day zero. Typically the application process takes several months to half a year based on conversations with the state and other butchers. Since we’ve had the inspectors involved from the beginning they have told us they expect to be able to approve us immediately once we’re ready.

  2. Janice says:

    Love the creativity and drive of your family! Your persistance and push to create stuff to do things is inspiring! Thanks for the guided tour of life on sugar mountain!

  3. am in the pm says:

    Front cover Easter Egg clue. Would it be the 2 Rhode Island hens partially blocked by a logo on bottom?

  4. Jake says:

    I don’t have geese at the moment but used to and will have more in due time. They make fantastic guardians for just about anything smaller than them and ward off up to foxes and even some of the more timid domestic dogs. Of course with your hired protection services that part isn’t as important but I find they’re great at letting me know something is awry!

  5. Tim says:

    March – The decomposition produces a more more digestible form of food…

  6. Tim says:

    May – Initially they thrive a the rich 8.5% butter fat… “a” to “on”

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