This was a God-awful winter. I could quote all manner of statistics… snowpack, the 9 ft of snow the local ski resort got in February, all the bone-numbing days of sub-zero temps… but I’m just going to sum it all up as such: It Was a God-Awful Winter.
It was the first year I’ve had hogs just step over hog panels; the snow was so high and ice so packed. Litters were lost… I don’t like farrowing in the winter, but circumstances led us into that in a few cases. Yeah it was about 4 months of doing the “penguin walk” here in paradise.
Both outside hydrants froze, of course. Until we installed a water line in the basement, it was the 5 gallon bucket brigade out of the bathtub. Down the stairs… great exercise… at least there was some silver lining.
Occasionally I felt jealous of all my barned-up colleagues, mostly in the midwest, with those nicely heated structures… with all creatures, great and small, bundled in a cozy corner somewhere. But those thoughts were short-lived… give me that stiff north wind in my face and that crunch of a dry, crisp snowpack under my feet… vertical, horizontal, diagonal snow… bring it on.
The hogs take it all spectacularly. Yeah the temps set them back a bit certainly. It’s fairly primitive here with all manner of huts, all outside. Wooden huts of all configurations I’ve built in my little shop… just have to make sure the darn things aren’t too tall to clear the door when you pull them out! The details… We also have some of those metal port-a-huts… very handy and pretty warm with the half door and lots of clean straw… I get the big 4×8 bales… just make sure you put them on pallets and tarp them good! When they freeze to the ground, it’s just not fun at all.
There’s always periods of thawing/re-freezing. This attaches everything into the earth as super glue would… and everything is harder and much more time consuming… digging out the straw, digging out the truck, digging out the flatbed to go get grain, digging out the stock trailer, digging, shoveling, pushing, lifting and tossing snow. More exercise! But God-Awful.
Winter is a clean time of year, however. No mud. Sleds with feed, straw, buckets of water and whatever slide almost effortlessly… that just doesn’t happen pulling along the ground.
Raising hogs outside, as they should be raised, is a hard enterprise in its own right… but winter puts a hard edge on it all… the contemporary clothing makes just about anything bearable… as long as you keep moving… sitting on the tractor up in the breeze pushing snow around can be a bit chilly, but worth it… absolutely necessary actually if you need to move any equipment around; stock trailers for instance. The tractor all chained up is something I can’t do without.
So, all you folks raising your hogs in less temperate climes… rejoice! But we take it here in stride… clean snow-blanketed mountains overhead… that little northern pigmy owl that hangs out here most winters… the chickadees and nuthatches frequenting the hanging suet box… snowshoes, skinny skis and insulated coveralls. We can take it… as God-Awful as it can be.
But now spring is here… banging its drums. I’m sitting here in my beloved cargo shorts … on balance, life on the Heritage Hog Farm is the life for me.
Enjoy the animals, scratch their backs, rub their noses. They’ll take care of you if you return the favor.
Finally Spring… 2017