#141: Filling the Pen.
The big blue machine is Dad’s wood-chipper. He’s been filling two of the pig pens up to capacity again in preparation for the eventual weening of the piglets, who are expected soon but are as yet unborn.
The bottoms of the pens are ground level, lined with plastic, layered with logs to create airspace and thus keep the environment aerobic (a key part of Korean Natural Farming), and finally filled to the top of the tin walls with woodchips, IMOs (indigenous microorganisms), etc.
Creating this kind of deep litter pen makes a friendly home for the IMOs to flourish, which helps keep the pigs healthy and happy. It also makes the whole place smell of nothing more offensive that the good earthy dirt, and even then only on occasion. The IMOs are so quick and efficient at breaking down everything that not only do they take care of anything smelly the pigs produce, but they also are constantly lowering the level of the bedding as they decompose the wood chips into soil. Dad is constantly having to add more wood chips, and never has to muck out or remove anything but what we might choose to utilize elsewhere on the farm.
#142: Pregnant Mama.
This is Big Mama. She’s due within the week, and her sister Spot have her litter three weeks after that. Both our sows have created mud-pits for themselves in an attempt to cool off as the weather turns towards hot sunny summer days.
When a pig gets near her due date — gestation is three months, three weeks, and three(ish) days — the litter ‘drops’ and suddenly her belly is nearly dragging on the ground from the added bulk of piglets, and she gets a hollow between back and belly. It’s at about that point when you can start to see the piglets squirming around instead of just feeling them, and that the mama stops trying to get up for anything less that actual food. The inevitable feeling of sympathy for the heavily pregnant and obviously less-than-comfortable mama is drawn from her caretakers, and we all wait for the birth.
After the birth, the piglets will soon be running around and pestering her and annoying each other and napping in an adorable heap before running around again, as little kids tend to do. Once they start to naturally wean themselves, at about five weeks or so due to their fast growth (thanks to the Korean Natural Farming Method!), Dad will move the mama into her new pen and leave the piglets in the familiar territory until they are picked up by the people who bought them or raised to butchering weight. And the sows will be bred again, and thus the whole cycle continues…