As I explained the other day, I have been browsing the archives for images to upload to my newly constructed Smugmug gallery. All of my digital images are organized in such a way that the many thousands taken in support of this blog are stored together and everything else has been stashed in a series of subsidiary directories. Many of these other images are of the farm and taken over a period of twelve years, beginning in 2001. Although I don’t often look through these older images I did over the weekend and found a wonderful view of a group of young Tamworth Hogs enjoying pasture on a lazy autumn afternoon back in 2007. The image was taken with a Sony DSC-W80. As most of you know, nearly all of the images which appear on this blog have undergone some post processing. Although I did subject this beauty to a bit of a tweak, it was pretty darn nice as is. We raised Tams, as feeders and as breed stock, for nearly a decade. Although there aren’t too many Tams here in the U.S., there are a few and these are prized by the good farmers who raise them for their ability to thrive out of confinement as pasture pigs. Here’s what The Livestock Conservancy has to say about this beautiful red hog … The characteristics of the Tamworth reflect centuries of selection for an outdoor life. Pigs of this breed were expected to find their own food. Long heads and impressive snouts enable these pigs to be efficient foragers. Long, strong legs and sound feet give Tamworth pigs the ability to walk for considerable distances. Ginger red coats make the pigs adaptable to a variety of climates. Tamworths have an active intelligence, and they are agreeable in disposition. Sows are prolific, able to produce and care for large litters. The piglets are vigorous. Both sexes of this breed reach a mature weight of 500-600 lbs. The Tamworth was traditionally considered a “bacon” breed, meaning that the pigs thrived on low energy forage but grew slowly. They produce meat and bacon that is lean and fine-grained. The breed has an excellent carcass yield of up to 70% due to its fine bones, creating a more productive meat:bone ratio. Registrations in this country are overseen by the Tamworth Swine Association. Given our recent spate of very bad weather, looking at the image below lightened my heart and gave me reason to believe that winter will not last forever. Just two more weeks until the window to lambing season opens. Wish us all luck.
Given the way in which blogs are presented, I am convinced that posts which reside more than a scroll or two behind the most recent are doomed to languish and to be forgotten. Because I believe there is value in looking at contributions from days, weeks, and even months ago, I have decided to post a gallery of images presented during February of 2013. Perhaps it will be interesting to scroll through these and to compare them to those presented during this past month. Be patient, it may take several minutes for all of the images to load fully. Hovering over an image will reveal its title. Clicking one will take you to a carousel view and you can either move through the collection or click the links to read each post in its original form. Note that this is the twelfth in my series of retrospective posts. If you’d missed any of the others you can find them all by using the search feature in the sidebar to the right, simply search for retrospective.
There was a time, long ago, when I was much involved in sports. Like many of my friends I played hockey, baseball, and tennis, and even took turns at track and at wrestling. Many of my friends either excelled at one or another of these endeavors or were lucky to belong to teams which did very well. They were awarded medals for their efforts and others were lucky to have won trophies. I can still remember coveting the awards which had gone to others for I too wanted one of these physical symbols of achievement, so badly in fact that my good mother once purchased a trophy for me. Its figurine was nondescript and, of course, had no inscription on the nameplate. Many years later, as young women, my daughters showed goats, sheep, hogs, rabbits, poultry and beef at our annual county fair. Joanna and I have an attic full of trophies which attests to their successes in the show ring. Both girls were also competitive fencers and each has her collection of awards. Joanna has not only received ribbons for participating as a member of a competition sheep-to-shawl team but she also has an extensive collection of awards received for fiber art that she has entered in local and more distant competitions. Suffice it to say that, among this winning family, I have always felt rather unaccomplished. If you follow the comments section of this blog closely you will know that I mentioned in replies to comments made here that, with much trepidation, I entered my first photo competition. It was a juried show and entries were judged this past week. I am happy to report that all of my submissions were accepted and two of them won awards. The image of dried Teasel took Third and the one of the falls was awarded the single Honorable Mention of the show. These achievements were more than a half century in coming … scary when you think of it in just that way.
I mentioned, the other day, that I was working to construct a photo gallery of images at Smugmug.com. I am happy to report that, although the process is a slow one, I’ve made good progress. As I browsed my files today, trying to make a number of impossible decisions, I came across this image, taken in 2007. Although the current level of activity here at the farm is more than sufficient to thoroughly discharge all available energies on any particular day, it doesn’t come close to what used to go on around here. Our current menagerie includes a flock of breeding sheep, layer hens, geese, horses, and a large number of dogs (some working, and some underemployed) and cats (some working, and some underemployed). When our daughters were very much involved with 4H this collection also included breeding groups of hogs, cattle, and dairy goats. Thinking about the history of the farm makes me wonder how in the world we did it all. The answer has much, I am sure, to do with being younger back then. With spring just around the corner it is again that time of the year that we anticipate lambing season (ours will commence sometime around the middle of the month). The thought of newborn lambs running around the place makes us both remember the many years we had goats here. If you’ve ever been fortunate to experience the delight of a newborn lamb and not experienced a newborn goat kid (or neither, for that matter) I’d like to report that the lamb pales in comparison to the kid. Little goats are simply adorable, not only physically (for who can resist those uppy ears and bright eyes) but in character as well. Goats are intelligent and do more than tend toward mischief … they are down right and unabashed trouble makers. But we miss them. Our first goats came with us when we moved here from Indiana. We milked Saanens, by hand, for more than a decade and welcomed the challenge of keeping them fenced, and safe from marauding dogs and coyotes. It is in the very bright light of this history that we anticipate lambing season. We are not sanguine about the current absence of goats here. But life goes on and routines change. Thankfully, however, we remember our goats with pride, fond memories, and lots of nice pictures.
Temperatures have moderated over the last few days and this has put an end to some of the snow and ice. The sun regains its strength and the equinox is not far off. Snow which blankets the roofs and high places is, on clear days, the first to relent and the incessant dripping, if the nights are cold, results in the formation of large icicles. These accumulate, greedily, and then succumb to their own indulgences. With the sun directly overhead one may watch the snow sublimate and drift away. The drive, because it has been plowed, is next to surrender within a day or so. The most recalcitrant accumulations however are those which cover open ground. Water which forms when the top layers melt simply percolates, making for more dense, more resistant, layers; these will persist for weeks to come. It is fun to watch the snow retreat, for as it does it reveals surprises in much the same way an eroding hillside may offer up its fossil treasure trove. Nothing so dramatic as Ötzi, the Iceman shows up here at the farm but emergent twigs and seed pods have their fascination. We begin each day by hunting, as if in a mine field, for the thinnest layers of ice which have formed overnight. These are located and noted; they are peripatetic, forming, then melting, only to reform and appear the next morning, elsewhere. We are vigilant for fear of the unforgiving force of gravity. When our water table is high and charged, melt waters find their way to nearby creeks, streams, and riverways. We took a walk yesterday in the dwindling daylight. I have photographed the outlet at Zindel Park before and yesterday its waters were pretty in the fading light. Joanna questioned the wisdom of wading into the cold water. I was focused on the falls and wondered what sort of contrast the relative uniformity of the cascade would provide for the chaos of the run. Both boots filled with water quickly, even before I had established my tripod in the stream bed. Joanna was watching for fear I might want a closer vantage to the falls. After I motioned that my feet were cold she rolled her eyes and bade me it was time to go. No matter. I had my picture.
The last post to have been uploaded to this Pairodox blog is dated February 8, making it two weeks tomorrow since I last clicked the publish button here at WordPress. That last communiqué told of the installation of a water well here at the farm. What I did not report then was that I had begun brewing a good case of the flu on the Friday before the day the well was drilled. Between overseeing the drilling on Monday, the excavating on Tuesday, the plumbing and electrical work on Wednesday, and doing chores on all three days, I’d estimate that I spent nearly fifteen hours outside in winter weather that included snow, sleet, and temperatures well below freezing. I was feeling so poorly that by Wednesday afternoon Joanna put me down for a nap. I don’t take naps, normally. I remained in poor health last week as symptoms migrated from my throat, to my head, to my chest. For most of this week I have been on deck but have been experiencing what Joanna calls post infectious poop. It’s been a very difficult three weeks which have presented few opportunities for photography, thus the profound silence from this quarter. Because it has never been my habit to rest in bed, while ill, I had ample opportunity to sit in the kitchen by the wood stove. One project which I took time to work on was the construction of a SmugMug site which has allowed me to begin the process of gathering together the many images which have been presented at this Pairodox Farm blog. If you have read any in the series of retrospective posts which have appeared here you will know that I have expressed the opinion that, Given the way in which blogs are presented, I am convinced that posts which reside more than a scroll or two behind the most recent are doomed to languish and to be forgotten. I believe that many of the photographs which have appeared as part of this blog have appeal and I wanted to be able to showcase them in one place. I hope you will take the time to visit this new site and please do let me know what you think. In closing, I hope you enjoy the image below. It was taken in the autumn of 2012 while on a drive through the countryside to our southwest. Given the habit of rejecting the use of electricity, almost all households belonging to our local Amish sport extensive laundry lines. I always watch for them. They are a treat for the eye as Amish outer garments (shirts for the men and boys and dresses for the women and girls) are always quite colorful.
Take a quick look at the photo below and try and guess what we did this week. You would be wrong if you guessed that we prepared chocolate fondue, but if you guessed that we drilled a water well you would be correct. I have written before about the wonderful domestic water supply we have here at the Farm, a spring we have relied on for nearly twenty years. It was just two weeks ago that Joanna was in the kitchen and asked … does the pump sound funny to you? Whenever I hear questions phrased in just that way (is it going to rain, is that ice on the road, is it broken, will it cost much, is it leaking, do we need a new one) I know, immediately, the answer is yes. I ran to the basement to check the pressure gauge on the water pump. It wavered at 40 psi. It was set to cut out at 50. I waited. And watched. And waited a bit more. The needle shuddered but didn’t move. This was not good since the pump won’t shut down until signaled by the switch to do so. We ran the risk of damaging the pump so I cut the power. It was Saturday afternoon. Of course it was Saturday afternoon, why would something like this happen during normal business hours? I put in a call to our plumber. He answered and I proceeded to describe the problem. As if issuing instructions to a passenger who had taken control of an aircraft after the pilot had become incapacitated he calmly directed me to adjust the pressure switch to lower its cut out pressure. I did so and plugged the pump in, it refused to cut out, it wasn’t able to build pressure. The pump and pressure tank were relatively new, was it possible that one or the other had failed? Steve’s diagnosis followed quickly, he did not hesitate, with little emotion he announced, sounds as if you have a hole in the pipe. The walled impoundment which surrounds a spring is called a spring house, ours is ancient and is formed from carefully set field stone. At the level of the ground these walls are extended with brick to form walls which prevent runoff from entering the spring during periods of heavy rain. The supply pipe from the house runs through the foundation, travels about 50 feet, and enters the spring house about three feet down. We have known for some time that this galvanized pipe was corroding and that it was seriously arteriosclerotic but that could not account for our current difficulty. There was little doubt that there was a hole in the pipe and we could not build pressure because of it. You might wonder why installing a new pipe was not an option. I have equated the way in which the pipe enters the spring house with the way in which a needle might piece a balloon and then quickly seal to keep air from escaping … once that initial seal is formed a new one cannot be counted upon to reform when the old pipe (the needle) is removed and a new one is inserted. Once the wall of a spring house has been compromised it can rarely be put right. So, what were our options? We do have a drilled well which provides good water to the livestock, but this is out by the barn and 500 feet from the house and too far to get water, under good pressure, to the second floor. The only real option was to drill a well in February and with the ground frozen solid. We called two drilling companies and two excavators and put our plumber on standby. This past Monday the drillers came. It took the better part of six hours to drill, case, and cap a 150 foot well. The excavator came Tuesday morning and cut a trench to the house. He expressed concern over the 6-8″ of snow which was expected overnight and the single digit temperatures which would follow. To establish a water feed in those conditions, and then leave it exposed in an open trench, would be disastrous so we called the plumber who agreed to come out and connect the casing to the house. The excavator agreed to return, later in the day, to back fill the trench before dark. And so it was. On Wednesday the plumber braved 8″ of freshly fallen snow and icy roads to get to us and by early afternoon we had silty water running to the house. Silty, yes, but at seven gallons every minute, and in essentially limitless supply, I am pleased. It’ll take another few days for the silt to clear but we have water once again and if I never have to haul 5-gallon buckets of water to the upstairs bathroom again … it’ll be too soon.