Spring signifies new life, and on Red Rock Family Farm (I think this is the first reveal of our farm name) we have a vision — an abundance of new life.
It’s not Spring quite yet, but we are already starting to experience the inevitable cycles of both life and death. With the start of any new job, lifestyle, focus, or hobby, the learning – or the “ah ha” moments – bombard you right and left.
Our recent week of “farm sitting” taught us more than we could have hoped, and our own farm development continues to teach us more than we thought each day could offer.
For us, the balance between letting nature run its course, and providing the necessary resources and care where it makes the most sense, is what we are looking to find – trying not to power over, but work alongside.
Three weeks ago, one of our mini-breed pigs had PIGLETS! When we brought Pearl and Petunia to their new home, marking our official entrance into farming, we knew they may be pregnant. We watched Pearl’s belly grow, and her nesting instincts set in, before unveiling three tiny babies from the straw mound Mama had built.
There’s nothing like brand new babies – animal, or human – and we couldn’t wait to get a peek at the little nuggets squeaking and squealing under the straw. But, as a teenage mom with an unplanned pregnancy there are many unknowns.
Is mama eating enough? Is she feeling okay? Is she producing adequate milk? Is she accidently laying on her babies? Are the babies warm?
My tendency is to want to protect and save – you may even say “control” – but that’s not how nature works. In the wild, it’s survival of the fittest. It has to be that way for the circles of life to be sustainable. Man’s urge to power over often gets us in trouble in the long run.
Keeping this in mind, we sat back and crossed our fingers. Providing shelter, food, water, and words of encouragement for both Pearl and her little ones.
After three days of looking at a mound of straw and only hearing baby noises, we decided to pull the straw back. Buried DEEP, we could only find two squirming piglets. In fact, there’s been no evidence of the third whatsoever. So, it goes – we are down to two.
A day later we were able to catch a glimpse of the babies nursing, and at about a week and a half from their birth (on the warmest day we had yet) the tiny black hogs were sunbathing and running around in the barn.
On the very same day that the piglets were born, the first calf of the season was born on the farm! In fact, it was the boys who spotted him and his mama while they were out building their fort. Notifying our resident rancher, they helped guide this new life to better shelter.
With conventional timing of calving season based on a race to market, we are observing a great deal of working against nature right on our own land.
When cows are scheduled to deliver in the cold winter months rather than in spring, human interference has to play a role on all sides. Calves are at high risk of freezing to death if they aren’t dried and brought to shelter for protection from the elements. This requires round the clock monitoring of the mamas and little sleep for the ranchers.
It’s considered both macho and profitable to be the first to bring young life into the world each year.
But is there a better way? We believe there must be!
It is a high priority of ours to find that better system. Sure, you are always going to have the joys of new life balanced with the unfortunes of death, but a method more in tune to what mother nature intended just makes sense.
Unfortunately, not all the calves on our property this season have made it through their first day, but most have, and as the temperatures warm the chances are greater. Their proud, protective mamas are doing a great job caring for them.
Keeping an eye on all the animals, both old and new, brings us great fulfillment.
We are in this together!