You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2010.

The kids decided this would be a great year to host a sledding party with all the snow we’ve gotten in December.  So, we set the date for today and left the weather to chance.  Wouldn’t you know it, it’s raining outside!

A little rain never ruined a sledding party.  The moisture is actually making our backyard hills very slick and icy.  Perfect for going really fast in a sled.  I love watching the kids fly down the hills, laughing the whole way.  I feel it’s so important for the kids to be active and outside.

Along with fun, my kids have had their share of work responsibilities during Christmas break also.  The girls have been working in the sow unit most mornings at 6:00am.  They help with processing pig litters, breeding sows, feeding sows, farrowing sows, and doing laundry.  If they get a day to sleep in, they really appreciate it!

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Christmas day was extra busy for Dale as a new group of sows started to have little pigs. A sow’s gestation period is about 114 days ( 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days as we learned in our Intro to Animal Science class) so these sows were bred last September.

Quite a bit of observation goes on during this time. Dale is making sure the sows are comfortable in the farrowing room. Once a sow starts to farrow, he makes sure she isn’t having any problems and that the pigs are being born on a regular basis, about one pig every 20-25 minutes. If it takes much longer than that, he may have to help.

Dale likes to keep the farrowing room cooler for the sows, about 70 degrees, but the little pigs need it warmer, so we use heat mats (think in-floor heating), to provide a warm surface for the pigs. We’ll also use a heat lamp over them if necessary to provide additional warmth.

It’s critical to make sure the pigs nurse on the sow right away. The rich colostrum provides energy and immunity for the young pigs. Pigs that eat well the first few days will grow better the rest of their life.

Farrowing pigs takes extra time and effort. But the reward is having a group of sows with many healthy active pigs.

It’s Minnesota.  It’s been snowing.  It’s almost Christmas.  It’s time to shovel off the roof.  This may sound like preparations for Santa, but no, I’m not talking about the roof of our house.  We need to shovel off our hog barn roofs.  And no, Santa doesn’t visit our pigs.

I’ve lost count of how much snow we’ve received so far, but know that we are on the verge of record-breaking snow amounts for our area in December.  Brandon decided today was the day to tackle the enormous job of moving the snow from the roof to the ground.  One of our buildings is the length of a football field, so that gives you an idea of the task at hand.  This morning he rented a  snowblower up in town, got the shovels around, and up on the roof he went.  I asked him how it was decided what staff members stayed inside the barn to work with the pigs and which ones got to bundle up to go outside.  I think the answer had something to do with a short straw.

Our boys, ages 11 and 8, were envious of the employees perched on the roof, so Brandon invited them up to help with the job.  They are still at ages where climbing on the roof is definitely not work.  My only stipulation was no emergency room visits two days before Christmas.  Life on the farm is always interesting.

Winter has not even officially started, yet we’ve had enough snow to make most people ready for it to be over. Cold temperatures and icy winds have added to the mix and we’re already talking about what it takes to be a “hardy Minnesotan”.

What should we do? Well, when you’re 13 year old son asks you to come outside and have a snowball fight, you put on your winter gear and get involved. The snowball fight turned into a “King of the Hill” contest that pitted Adam and Brett against Beth and I. Thanks to the huge snow piles that Dale made from all the snow so far, we had an awesome hill to claim.

Fortunately the boys have enough respect for Beth and I that they don’t use all their strength. I use my “experience” (isn’t that what we say when we get older and less agile?) to try to outsmart them. We try to stop the game before someone gets hurt, which isn’t always easy since Beth always seems to catch a flying boot or knee.

Not everyone has a nice yard or big snow pile to play on. But as the saying goes, life is what you make it. Winter looks like it’s here to stay for a while and we can either try to find some enjoyment out of it or be unhappy. Snowball fight anyone?

Throughout this blog you’ve had the chance to get to know us. Now I’d like to tell you a little bit about our farm. Dale’s grandfather Ed Stevermer started this farm in 1917. We are living in the house he built. It’s changed a bit over the last 93 years. The house has gotten bigger, while the number of people living in it has gotten to be fewer. That’s typical farm house progression.

We have a farrow to finish operation which means we have sows that give birth to little pigs on our farm. We raise those pigs until they are ready for market, which is about 5 ½ months of age and weighing about 270 lbs. We sell about 2500 pigs per year. Each pig will eat about 9 bushels of corn so our pigs require about 118 acres of corn for feed. An acre is about the size of a football field, so it takes 118 football fields of corn to produce the pork on our farm.  We grow corn to feed to our pigs and then sell the pigs to provide lean protein for others to eat. Meanwhile, the manure from those pigs is organic fertilizer for our corn and soybean ground. It’s a nice sustainable cycle.

We also grow soybeans, which provide a nice crop rotation for the corn. Dale will sell them to the processor, as a cash crop. The soybeans are crushed and the meal is separated from the oil and we’ll buy back the soybean meal to feed to our pigs.

You may be wondering how our farm got its name. Grandpa Ed was selling Chester White breeding stock and needed a name for the farm. He called it Trails End Farm because it was near the end of an old Indian trail.

Everyone has their own way to signify the start of the Christmas season. For some it’s shopping on Black Friday, for others, making cookies and treats. For me, it’s making Chex Party Mix. Growing up, we only had Chex party mix at Christmas time, so now, I’ve continued the tradition.

Today Beth and I made 5 batches of party mix. We’ll be lucky if it lasts until Christmas. Some people have a sweet tooth, my family and I have a “party mix” tooth. I can walk by the candies, cookies and fudge but show me a bowl of party mix and I’m all over it.

I make my party mix the old fashioned way, which mean I bake it in a 250º oven for one hour, making sure to stir it every 15 minutes. So that means setting the timer and keeping track with hash marks so I know how long it’s been making. I know all this probably sounds odd, but I just can’t risk the taste not being the same by microwaving the Chex cereal.

Chex Cereal-$2/box; Peanuts- $2.89/jar, Pretzels- $2.50/bag. Expression on the kids face as they take their first bite of party mix…. Priceless.