Full & By Farm – City Kids turned Farmers

Below is an e-newsletter from our good friends James & Sara. James and Sara are in their early thirties and grew up as city kids in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH respectively. In fact, James and I grew up across the street from each other! A few years ago, they decided to purchase land and start their own farm in Up-State NY. They ended up with 100 acres and endless stories that fortunately seem to match their limitless dedication to farming. I could go on and on about these city kids turned farmers. They have been such an inspiration, and source of life and farm lessons. I wanted to share this latest story from the Full & By Farm. Enjoy!
I woke just before dawn this morning to silence. It was a wonderful sensation after a day and a half of battering wind and rain. It was still dark but I could see from the beam of light coming in the window that the sky had cleared and the moon was gleaming. We faired much better than suspected, only 1.5 inches instead of the 3 that was predicted. Still it’s soggy out there in the fields and barnyard.

We have two wonderful interns, Lindsey and Dave, staying with us this week and next from St. Lawrence University. They are taking part of a semester long program in the Adirondacks, studying community and how people interact with the environment. We are supposed to be “reintroducing” them to society after several months in a remote yurt
village near
Tupper Lake. They seem to be enjoying farm life and have already been a huge help with farm tasks in preparation for winter. Their first day on the job they teamed up with James to slaughter two pigs, and will be helping with the butchering today in preparation for pick-up.

It seems like it’s been a while since I had any crazy animals tales to tell. This makes for poor story telling, but I like to think indicates better farming practices. I woke, however, as the light was just coming up Monday morning to James storming in the door from chores. It’s never good when the sentence starts with “Sara we have a problem”
followed shortly by “the pigs are all gone”. I hurtled from bed at this point and stumbled into some clothes.

In the several years that we have had pigs nothing like this has ever happened. In general pigs recognize fence lines remarkably well, even once you’ve removed a fence line they still don’t want to cross it. They are able to remember exactly where the line was and can barely be lured with food to take the big step over that now empty space. We
both quickly imagined our 7 pigs somewhere on South Bouquet Mountain, or perhaps over to Brookfield by now. To our surprise as well as the horses James quickly spotted them in the horse pasture of all places, rather than the woods which pigs are native to.

They were more than happy to come straight to James, seeing through his bucket at the morning grain that was sure to be in there. They came right up and began to follow him as he walked. The main problem now being that we had two streams to cross to get them back to their rightful place. The group made it down the hill and through the brush
to the first opportune spot for a crossing. James managed to get one pig over with a lot of cajoling and a little pushing, thinking that the rest would surely follow. With a lot of fanfare and noise they all refused, turned and started to run in every direction. The single pig that had crossed was distraught over his abandonment, yet refused to cross back over. We decided quickly that this would never work and James should try to gather the pigs once again and head to the road. They could avoid the streams altogether and come up through the vegetable field and head back to the pasture that way. As James lead the now 6 pigs on this longer route I tracked the lone pig up and down the creak trying to keep tabs on him. As the herd made the big U and neared their pasture my pig heard their calls and abruptly went running north, they all met up joyously on the banks of the second creek. I pushed the resistant pig across a sandbar and they were happily reunited and on the trail uphill and back home.

We learned a couple of important facts from this episode. One: pigs really don’t like streams. Despite their obsession with a good wallow soak, running water seems to freak them out. And Two: pigs are herd animals. The power of the group blew my mind and it so much easier to control a group than a single animal. Take whatever lessons that you
choose from that.


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