News from the Farm | April 21, 2014

Springtime at the Farm

Full Belly Farm is bustling with spring activities.  We’ve had plenty of warm weather and within a few days after the last rain, the ground was drying out and the fields were busy.  This is the time of year when the cottonwood trees along the creek start cottoning – so billows of the white fluff, full of cottonwood seeds, blow in the air and settle in every corner.

The piglets that were born almost two months ago are now old enough and big enough to cause trouble.  They have been living close together in their safe, warm pen across from my house, but yesterday they were given access to the big wide world of green pasture below.  This means that they had to learn to respect the electric fence.  There have been a lot of squeals coming from various fence-to-nose contacts, and at first, every time there was a squeal, there was a stampede of 11 piglets back to the darkest, farthest corner of their straw-filled pen.  Afterwards, the piglets invariably lined up at the door of their pen and gazed anxiously towards the mysterious pasture until one of them would again venture slowly out into the danger zone. Today, after countless run-ins with the fence, they are finally all out eating the green grass and tearing up the soil with their strong snouts.  They look very happy.  They LOVE their greens, and what better way can you think of to make use of the healthy green grass that grows here in the winter after the rains? 

 The grasses are annuals – and they are all about to go to seed, in fact many have already gone to seed and I am pulling the nasty foxtails out of my dog’s coat.  The seeds are a problem because they don’t simply add to the seed bank in the soil, but lodge in the paws and ears of many animals, especially dogs, causing pain and suffering.  On an organic farm like Full Belly, the sound of the weed-eater is common at this time of year, as we remove the weedy grasses from around the irrigation risers, buildings and hedgerows of the farm. Noisy, gas-guzzling and tendonitis-causing, I have never liked the weed-eater and love instead, to see the chickens, goats and pigs out cleaning up around our trees and buildings.

Often, at farmers markets, or in response to an article in this Beet newsletter, when we mention animals on the farm, we hear from some people who think that it is wrong to keep domesticated animals.  On the other end of the spectrum, the industrialized agricultural model requires that animals should be strictly separated from vegetable crops and crowded into production units.  Here at Full Belly, our production animals are the sheep and the chickens (the pigs are mostly for home consumption). But really, the sheep and chickens aren’t here just to produce eggs, wool and meat for you and me.  They are also here to return plant materials back to the soil in a form that will be made available for future crop growth. Less tractor driving, a better fertility cycle… It’s a cycle that makes sense to us, even if the macro economic trends cannot bend themselves to its wisdom.

–Judith Redmond