Two days before this picture was taken, our layers were grazing that field. Two. Days. We were ‘almost’ ready for winter, but ready or not winter has arrived. As I write this, we’re in the midst of yet another storm. It is beginning to feel like this year might be one of ‘those’ years…guess we will see!
As amazing and wonderful as pasture raising animals is, it’s not a year-round reality on PEI. So come winter, everyone needs a safe and cozy spot inside. In previous years, we were able to pasture raise our pigs right up until their November/December butcher. That has not been the case this year! We gambled and we LOST.
Let me take you back two weeks ago…it was a typical Sunday morning, the sun was out and off to church we went. By the time church was over we were in the middle of a storm. One, that I might add, no one was really expecting. Forecasts changed quickly and by suppertime Sunday evening we were without power. Monday came and went with difficulty around the farm – we had no power still and therefore no water for the animals. Shawn helped a neighbour hook up a generator and we were able to get some water from them for the animals! Thank you! Then another storm and still no power. Long story short, we were able to borrow a generator for ourselves the next day. It had really become a worry having so many animals (150 of them!) and no continuous water supply. Not to mention, we maintain a chicken and pork supply in our freezers and we were worried about it not staying cold enough. Luckily, with the freezers being in outside buildings, they were keeping cool enough, but we needed a generator. So thankfully, while out shopping for a generator we bumped into a kind acquaintance who let us borrow theirs. Again, thank you!! Shawn was able to hook up the generator right away and get more water to the animals!
It all sounds simple, until I share the detail that our pigs were still on pasture…in the hollow of the field…surrounded by electric net fence! No power, no working net fence. And to top it off, the snow pulls the net fence down. The pigs quickly discovered that there was no shock to that electric fence that was once holding them in their pasture. Never let someone tell you pigs are stupid, because they are quite the opposite. And I can testify. So off they went roaming around the field, walking by the front window of the house, you name it. We chased them and chased them and chased them. They would not cooperate. That’s the thing with 7 pigs versus 2 humans, they team up against you and quite often you are going to loose. Thankfully after a couple days we were able to lure them in the sows old pen and add more electric fence and there they have stayed. We have a shelter built for them, filled with straw to keep them cozy and warm until they meet their fate in the coming weeks. They’re lucky they didn’t meet it sooner…it was not a fun week for us farmers. But we survived. We survived four and a half days without power. We ate off our wood stove, kept the fire burning for warmth, drove into Montague (our nearest town) and bought fast food meals and went and shared them at my parents warm house (Thanks Dad and Mom!).
That week was an adventure! Thankfully we had worked all day Saturday, before the beginning of the storm, to move our sows and flock of organic laying hens to our neighbours barn where we have rented some space for them. That was 60 animals in from the field that we didn’t have to worry about being buried in snow. And that was a relief. Unfortunately, we ran out of time on Saturday and weren’t able to get the last 7 pigs and 24 turkeys to the barn. However, we were able to move the turkeys fairly easily. No matter where Shawn goes they will follow – they love him and he likes them just as much! The pigs were the real challenge. And did they teach us!!
In years to come, we will make sure that our animals are moved to barns or are in pastures next to barns where it will be easy to get them inside quickly in the event of a big storm like this one! Hopefully, with the 22 new power poles on our road we won’t have to worry about major power outages like this one for a while 😉
I’m not sharing this because it showcases how awesome we did, in fact it shows the exact opposite. We failed. But we lived and we learned. We’re not here to pretend that we do everything in farming (or our lives) perfectly, but that we are human. We carry the demands of working full time and try our best to juggle all that we want to do on the farm. But still, we make mistakes and we learn from those mistakes and we pick up and carry on. We wanted to quit that week, but two weeks away we are full of excitement yet again for farm life. What we do want to share, is that pasture raising is so important to us, that we sometimes go too far and fail to remember that we live on PEI and snow will eventually come.
So here we are – farming and learning and carrying on.