Tag Archives: farrowing sows

She drank from a bottle called DRINK ME
And up she grew so tall,
She ate from a plate called TASTE ME
And down she shrank so small.
And so she changed, while other folks
Never tried nothin’ at all.

 

It’s funny how time passes.  I look at the clock and an hour passes in what seems like seconds, at other times five minutes feels like an eternity. How is Gus two already?!

Oh!  The dogs are barking.  Is someone here?  Wait, it’s 2 in the morning, I hope no one’s here.  I hope they aren’t chasing the cats.  Should I go outside and check?

Is that someone looking through the window?  Nope, just my plant.

I wonder if Gus is cold?

These are the thoughts and conversations I’m having with myself while I’m up in the middle of the night with a certain baby.  Who hates to sleep.  I may be loosing my mind.  I wonder how long someone can keep it together running on so little sleep, because I don’t think I’ve slept an entire night since Gus was born nearly 2 years ago.  And I’m positive I’ve had, at the most, 4 hours of consecutive sleep at a time since Caroline was born 7 months ago.  Lately (like for the past month) 2 hours at a time is the norm.  And this girl likes to party.  We have little parties a few times a week in the middle of the night.  She will decide that rolling around like a mad women is much more entertaining than sleeping.  Because her crib is too small for such shenanigans, she prefers my bed.  It’s my job, apparently, to make sure she doesn’t dive off the bed or suffocate herself.  Usually these parties last about an hour or so, that’s about the time she tires herself out and we are allowed to go back to sleep.

Good thing she is so darn cute

 

How can something that feels so rewarding, be so boring, exhausting, and infuriating all at the same time?  Hello parenthood, I hate you and I love you.  But I’d love you even more IF YOU WOULD JUST LET ME SLEEP.

So it’s been awhile since we last spoke, I’ve been trying to keep everyone alive, while also not succumbing to madness from sleep deprivation. Priorities.

We ended August saying goodbye to Sam and Amy.  They became our family, and the moment they left their presence was missed.  We were back to teaching the ways of the farm to new volunteers every couple weeks, I had to adjust to being able to take care of Gus full time.  Amy and Gus went on adventures every morning while I took care of Caroline and worked on my end of the business.  So many adjustments.  Sam knew the ins and outs of the butcher business, and I don’t think we will have anyone cut bacon better than he did. Frankly, life seemed a little empty there for awhile.  You can follow their adventures on instagram at karmathekombi.  I know they will go far, and I can’t wait to watch.


We’ve had some really interesting and great volunteers come through in the last couple months.  Andres and Amy from the U.S. And England.  Cami and Dennis, a French couple.  Tim from New Zealand,  Elaine and J.J. from Ireland (Elaine could be my best friend if only she accepted Tuna in to her life) Sam from the U.S. and Adrienne and Lawrence from Canada.

Shawn and Gus got to go to the United States for a couple weeks.  I was very jealous, and it was very quiet around the house.  The quiet was especially felt in the mornings and evenings.  No one dancing on the couch, asking to go for a walk or play “choo choos.”  (And that’s just Shawn) I thought the quiet would be nice, it wasn’t.  I realized how wonderfully full my life is.  Isn’t there a saying about this?  “You don’t realize what you’ve got till it’s gone,” or “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”  All those apply.

They got to spend time with Grandma Betty, Grandma Jesse, and Gus got to hang out with all of his cousins, Aunts and Uncles, and of course his Nana and Papa.

 

Isn’t this how everyone travels?

 

Go Gus! Proud Mommy over here.

Something very cool happened while they were there.  I am apart of a Mommy Group on Facebook. We all have babies the same age as Caroline, well they put together a care package for me that Shawn’s mom picked up.  It really was such a cool and amazing thing.  All these ladies I’ve never met in person pull together and help each other out. So much love and support, I was honored.

While they were gone our good friend Washington helped the volunteers harvest honey from the hives.  So far its been a great year for honey, the bees have been busy.  The volunteers who helped learned a lot and Washington really enjoys teaching.  My house smelled amazing too.

 

Photo credit to Amy (of Amy and Andres) some honeycombs from one of our hives

We think it was such a successful honey year because we had some late rains at the beginning of the “dry season.”  Ecuador has two seasons, Rainy Season (during the North American Winter) and Dry Season (North American Summer).  The rains encouraged the Eucalyptus trees, which are abundant here and from which the bees get 99% of their honey, to bloom late.

Big Momma had some heartbreaking news (our big sow).  We thought she was pregnant, but as the time for her to give birth came and went we realized something was wrong.  Dany (our vet) came out, turns out it was a phantom pregnancy.  We just can’t catch a break these days. Everything else on the farm is trucking along.  We have 10 “piglets” running around. Everybody had their pastures moved around some, and the rainy season has begun which is always a refreshing change.

image2 image1-1

Caroline has started to eat solid food, sits up by herself for the most part, and is starting to be mobile.  I fear crawling is only about a month away.  She loves her walker and bouncer, and really likes running over her brother.  From his screams you would think it was a train running over him, and he was tied to the tracks because he doesn’t get out of the way. She does this adorable thumb sucking thing too.

 

First food!

 


  
Gus is quite the jabber mouth, he adds more words to his vocabulary every day, and practices them constantly.  We’ve started preparing him for potty training, which has also added some great words to his repertoire. He loves trains, and trucks, and spotting airplanes flying overhead. He will help you out doing anything you ask him to.  Wanna dance? Just turn on some music and he’s there ready to bust a move. He can jump, pretend to be a frog or bear. You’ll know if a dog or cow is within your vicinity as he promptly moos or barks when one is near.  There are quite a few cows and dogs on our drive to town.

 

Helping with lunch

 

Finger painting fun

 

Some of my girlfriends and I are throwing a Halloween party and Gus will get to get dressed up and go trick or treating. I am not going to miss this particular tradition with my kids, and we are so lucky to have friends willing to help. I’m sure I’ll have lots of pictures to share.

The tradition of trick or treating and getting dressed up for Halloween is not something they practice here.  Shortly after Halloween, on Nov. 2nd is the Day of the Dead.  The indigenous bring a meal to the cemetery and have a meal with their ancestors, remembering and celebrating them.  They make bread in the shape of babies and horses, and a drink called Colada Morada out of the tiny wild blueberries that come in to season this time of year.

November and December bring visitors!  An old roommate and good friend is coming down in the beginning of November.  I think it’s been about 3 years since we’ve seen each other. I’m ecstatic to show her around our paradise, and meet her husband for the first time.

Shawn’s family comes in December, and we are going on vacation!  The Mindo cloud forest, sightseeing in Quito, and the beach for a few days, who hoo! We are using AirB&B for the first time, I’ll let you know how that experience goes, but the thought of my two children sharing a room to sleep in is already giving me anxiety. But who knows maybe Caroline will figure out this sleeping thing in the next two months and it’ll all go smoothly. (Hopes and dreams eh?)

 

Here’s what I’ve been reading/watching:

This fed my adoption bug – The Child I didn’t adopt

This is pretty rad, a language that’s around us all the time as it’s the native tongue of most of our neighbors, this Girl rocks out some Michael Jackson in Quechua.

Cotacachi from the air – so cool

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Five Months Under Our Belt

“How do you spell ‘love’?” – Piglet
“You don’t spell it…you feel it.” -Pooh

Ugh, I’m embarrassed I’ve neglected writing for so long. I’ve written this blog, the next one after Gus’ 1 month blog 4 times now! But for some reason I just haven’t posted it yet. SO MUCH KEEPS CHANGING! It’s nuts! It takes me a lot longer to write a blog now (you know, the baby business) by the time I feel like I’m ready to publish, its been a month and life is so different. I can’t keep up. Just when I’ve gotten used to something, everything flips around again.

Gus is officially 5 months old. He giggles, from way down deep in his belly. Probably the best sound in the world. What makes him giggle? Monkey noises, his daddy tickling him with his whiskers, leg tickles, rib tickles, fart noises (which he’s got really good at imitating, thanks Daddy) toe tickles, Ecuadorian ladies fawning over him speaking Spanish to him, little tosses in the air, and playing airplane. We have a lot more fun now that he’s less delicate, and more rough and tumble. The gymnastics coach in me had a hard time in the newborn phase, I didn’t know how to “play” with him, and was worried I’d break him.

Smiley Monster

Smiley Monster


He’s rolled over a few times by himself. He scoots when he’s laying on his tummy. He ADORES standing, and pushing off his legs. He stares at his hands intently, and has found his feet. He will put anything in his mouth, my hands, his hands, my chin, toys, clothing, you name it he will chew on it. I’m pretty sure we will be seeing a tooth sooner rather then later. I’ve given him “tastes” of avocado and banana, which confuses him greatly.
Gus and Mommy

Gus and Mommy


Up until about a week ago Gus didn’t pay much attention to any of the animals. Now he watches the cats intently when they walk into the room. Reaches for them, and touches them when he can.

Gus & Cuddles
We visit the piglets, he smiles and laughs when they nudge him. Piglets and babies, you can’t get any cuter than that.

Gus and piglets

Gus and piglets


After a week long protest he’s back to sleeping 8 hour stretches at night, then back to sleep for 3 more. The week he turned 4 months he woke up every.single.hour. I almost lost my mind. We discovered he liked sleeping on his side, and it’s been a lot better since then. Even with my rocking, walking, and nursing him to sleep, all those no-nos I did, he prefers to just roll on to his side and go to sleep. I almost cried the first time he did it. He was fussing nonstop while I was putting him down for bed, I laid him on our bed to give my self a 10 second break, low and behold he rolled on his side and was out like a light. I pray everyday that all our children have the same sleep habits… Not holding my breath though.
(Of course I took a picture the first time)
Beautiful sight

Beautiful sight


We got to go to Quito and he now has his American birth certificate, and passport, as well as his Ecuadorian passport, and I.D. To get his American identification we had to bring in medical records, pictures of us and me pregnant, Ecuadorian paperwork, and sit through a pretty interesting interview. All the Ecuadorian identification was easy peasy. Less then an hour in the passport office. I am very relieved to be done with it all.
Passport photo

Passport photo


So What’s Been Going On At The Farm You Ask?
We had a new litter of piglets born to CiCi. They were adorable of course. There was one little guy we were worried wouldn’t make it. He was either kicked in the mouth, or was born with a defect, but he had a really hard time nursing. We’ve been feeding him milk in a bowl and he has since started thriving. He’s still the littlest one but he sure has a lot of spirit.
CiCi is the only pig left of her generation. Saying goodbye to Muddy was really difficult for me. I had to leave the farm for the day.
Muddy’s piglets are getting really big. They aren’t quite as friendly as their Mom and Aunts and Uncles were.
We’ve had to say good bye to some cows. Sabastian, Two Horn, Salvador, One Horn, Mercedes, and Josephine have all been sold. We still have Loki and Perdida and are hoping they will make the next generation of cows for the farm.
The garden is back in full swing and it’s beautiful. We’ve been going behind the pigs and planting. Most everything is still seedlings but it’s really exciting to watch everything grow.
Josephine, Mercedes calf

Josephine, Mercedes calf


Escape!

Escape!

CiCi and her new brood

CiCi and her new brood

Newly planted garden looking pretty good.  Can't wait for everything to grow

Newly planted garden looking pretty good. Can’t wait for everything to grow

As for me…?
Of course everyone says that the first 6 weeks are the toughest. Things have certainly fallen into a routine, but I don’t think Gus has gotten any easier or harder. What I think changed was me. I became more at ease with what life as a mommy is. I’m not nervous or anxious about much anymore. I no longer worry that he’s sick or hurt when he cries, babies cry. Most of the time he’s just a little bit bored, or teething, or hungry, or tired. All of which I am confident that I can fix now.
Gus - Brent_03

Gus - Brent_02

Gus - Brent_01
Christmas was VERY tough for me. I had this little being and his great daddy, both were incredible, but I was a little lonely and homesick. All holiday seasons since my mom died have been bitter sweet, but this one seemed more intense. I read an article about having children after the loss of one of your parents, it really resonated with me. I can’t find the blog again, I wish I had kept it, but it talked a lot about how having a child reopens the wounds of loosing a parent. I look at Gus and think about how much my mom would have loved him, and how much I wanted her to see me as a mother. As Gus grows more and more people say he looks like Shawn, and I agree, but when I look at his eyes I see my mom, and I’m grateful.Gus floor

Un Mes Mas… Wait, What!

Well, about 35 days till the mythical due date. I just read back to one of my first blogs, I think I said “I feel like a house” why didn’t anyone smack me in the head and let me know I hadn’t seen anything yet? This little monster is doing this thing where his foot, or leg, or something moves across my belly and it looks like there is about to be a scene from that movie Alien. Others have seen it, I’m not making this up.
We had a doctors appointment last week, he weighs 5 lbs and is still looking like a healthy little boy, I can’t wait to meet him.
I am starting to panic a tad, the last month flew by, and he will be here before we know it. Thankfully the finishing touches on the house addition are being done, and we will get to move in within the next few days (fingers crossed), and finally move on with our lives.
It is time to say good bye to one of the pigs, so we will need to get making hams and sausages, and in about a week or so it will be chicken time again. Perfect timing, we need the income, and lately every time we go into town we are asked by at least one person when we will be working again. It’s a nice thing to hear.
Our crazy house has quieted down a lot. All of the 6 people we’ve had staying with us the last month have left. Right now we only have a couple here. Maria, who is from Spain, is a Spanish teacher, and is giving me Spanish lessons every morning for an hour. She is fantastic, and I feel so much more confident in everyday life speaking to Ecuadorians. Her boyfriend is Rafa, he’s Italian. From here on out until later in December we will be staying pretty quiet. The house construction is almost done and now we are just maintaining the gardens and animals. We won’t be starting any major new projects until after baby is born, so we don’t need as much help.
Lately though the animals have been quite the challenge. We have one cow, named Mercedes, who is pregnant, and has learned how to open the gates to the garden. Gates that have latches. Now I’ll admit they aren’t the most sophisticated, but for her to open the gate she needs to Pull on the gate until the wire that latches the gate shut stretches out and the opening is big enough for her to get through. She then proceeds to walk past all of the other veggies in the garden and goes right to the Nebraska Sweet Corn. Jerk.
We had a sad day a few days ago, we started to ween the piglets from Mama Muddy. They now have their own cozy piglet heaven in the garden where we had some veggies that were ready to be pulled out. Muddy has her own pen next door, and about once a day we let her in with the piglets to relieve some of the discomfort of not nursing regularly, and relieve some of the stress on the piglets. After we moved them though we noticed one of the girls was having a hard time moving around. Danny the vet came out to check on her. He’s pretty sure she has a birth defect in her spinal column, and in a couple months she won’t be able to walk at all so we will need to put her down. It is really sad but it’s a part of living on a farm. This is one of those things I know will be a good lesson for my children in the future, but a hard one.
The next post will be all of the pictures of the addition on the house, and pictures of all the people who helped us out building it. I can’t wait!

Piglets!!!

They have arrived!! New family members are here. Muddy one of our sows gave birth to five baby pigs, Saturday, August 10th 2013. The first arrived at 9:30am, and the last at around 12pm. This is our first litter of piglets on the farm so they are teaching us a lot. I’ve tried reading up on what was going to happen when the time came, but gathering information that was relevant to us was a challenge. There is tons of literature from universities on the Internet about breeding pigs, but almost all of them focus on the commercial aspect of breeding pigs. I did find a few websites that were helpful, motherearthnews.com which has individual authors write about what they know. The other was homesteadingtoday.com which is a forum based website. The later was the most helpful to me, seems like it was more people just like me, who have gone through some of the same experiences and offer very practical advice.
So here’s how our experience has gone down so far…
We moved Muddy to her new home a week ago. She has a fenced off area to roam, and we built her a farrowing den.

Muddy's new home

Muddy’s new home


I posted about this last week, but it’s purpose is to give her a comfortable place to nurse, and the piglets a safe, warm, place to be so they don’t get crushed by mom trying to stay warm. We have an electric heater on the piglet side and try to keep their half around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. We are trying to keep Muddy comfortable as well and keep her side around 60 degrees. But that’s hard because we’ve had a couple sunny warm days here.
Tigger (my constant outdoor companion) inside the farrowing den.

Tigger (my constant outdoor companion) inside the farrowing den.


She hung out in her new home for about a week so the stress of moving her had subsided, and gave her time to get used to her new home.
We noticed Friday night that she had started to get really busy, cleaning, digging a little, and when we pulled on her nipples, a little drop of milk came out. She was still eating so we thought we had at least a day or so. Saturday morning when we fed her she did not eat, and there was a small amount of liquid leaking out of her, which turned out to be her water breaking. Then about 9:30 Shawn runs in the house to let me know it was happening.
We had a couple of soft dry towels, and wet towels to clean off the babies as they made their appearance. From what I read the whole process could have happened without any human interference, and we actually did very little, but we were all feeling a tad overprotective so poor Muddy had four human observers. The umbilical cords, detached on their own, we cleaned off their nose and mouths as they came out and helped steer them in the right direction to nurse.
#1 nursing

#1 nursing


The average time between births was about 30 minutes, the longest being about 45 minutes, and the shortest six minutes. The first two, who were boys were quite big, the middle two girls were smaller then the boys but still a good size, but the last little girl was teeny tiny. We are still worried about her and her size, hoping she thrives. If she can make it through the first week I think we will be in the clear.
Little girl #5

Little girl #5


So now 48 hours later…
Muddy spends a majority of her time in the crate. We check on her and the babies about once an hour during the day, and let her out when she wants to be let out, but I think she actually prefers to spend most of her time in with the babies, unless she gets too warm or wants a drink or something to eat. She only started eating this morning, but was very hungry. We are giving her unlimited access to food at the moment. When ever her bowl’s empty we refill it. We put her in the crate at night to sleep. If we check on her and the babies are nursing she won’t get up for anything, even to use the bathroom.
Farrowing crate in action

Farrowing crate in action


The babies spend all of their time in the crate, we are a little concerned about one of the dogs getting a hold of one of them, or them getting out of the fence.
We were amazed at how quickly they were up and running. Now they are walking around, nudging the ground with their noses, and even playing with each other. They fight a bit over nipples when nursing, which worries me a little, there are a few scratches in the group. There are only five of them so there shouldn’t be too much competition nursing.
Selfie with piggy.  Best I could do, they start to squeal when you pick them up, and it stresses everyone out

Selfie with piggy. Best I could do, they start to squeal when you pick them up, and it stresses everyone out


Muddy’s timing was impeccable (note sarcasm) the only commitment we had all weekend was my baby shower that was scheduled for Saturday at noon. I was so excited I was up at 6:30 on Saturday and couldn’t go back to sleep. I have amazing friends here in Ecuador, and I’m so grateful for them. Saturday, August 10th, is definitely a day that I will remember for a very long time.

I have a human baby doctor appointment tomorrow and will post in a few days about that and update everyone on how Muddy and her babies are doing.
I welcome any advice on farrowing sows, or raising piglets if anyone has any to offer, keeping in mind that we go for the most natural, self sufficient, homesteading direction possible.
We have also decided to go for the cloth diaper approach with our own baby, and NEED advice on this. There are so many options, websites, and information out there that it is quite overwhelming.

Imbabura mountain at sunrise

Imbabura mountain at sunrise

You Get What You Ask For

It seems like we can’t get any busier! The house construction has started with a whirlwind! It’s been going for two and a half weeks now and the foundation is poured, walls are up, electrical and plumbing is roughed in, and the guys unloaded and carried 17 metric tons of concrete for the walls.

Only PART of the 17.6 tons of concrete the guys hauled on their back, for the new addition to the house.

Only PART of the 17.6 tons of concrete the guys hauled on their back, for the new addition to the house.


Umberto, our maestro, is incredibly motivated, along with quite a cheery guy, so he’s pretty fun to have around. It’s also an experience to hear him speak to the other workers in Quechua. I am saving pictures for when everything is done. I can’t hardly wait, it’s pretty stressful for us. The workers arrive every morning at 7am, and don’t leave until 4pm. We have to gather supplies that are needed, usually with less then 24hours notice, and organize our days around what needs to be done with the house and what the workers need help with.
I was so anxious about starting the house, and worried that it wouldn’t be finished before the baby came. Well we met with Umberto one day and started construction the next. Now I’m overwhelmed by all that is happening, but, I did get what I asked for.
Oh and there has been travelers. Spud finally arrived, about a month late, but we knew he was traveling by bicycle so we were prepared for the unexpected timing that comes with those that travel unconventionally. He fits in quite well, and is a great cook.
Manny and Spud's smoothie making bike

Manny and Spud’s smoothie making bike


We were a tad worried because as Spud arrived, the couple from the U.K. were set to leave, as was Dan, and the couple who were supposed to come volunteer canceled on us. Apparently bikers travel in packs. So on Spuds recommendation a lovely Austrailian couple arrived last weekend to stay for one night. One evening turned into a week. They were great to have around, very helpful in the garden, house, and with all the construction that’s been going on. Funny thing is I’m speaking now as if they’ve left, but I’m here writing with them sitting across from me, “preparing” to leave. Paul’s drinking a beer, and Lizzy’s making a diary. We will see if they leave.
Speaking of leaving, Dan was supposed to leave because his visa was about to expire. He left for about 24 hours, and is back now. He’s been here long enough to plant seeds, and eat the fruits of his labor.
Cuddles, Dirk, and Dan.  Cuddles loves Dan.

Cuddles, Dirk, and Dan. Cuddles loves Dan.


So last weekend we had two Australians, three British, three Americans, and a Swiss guy even rolled through for a couple nights. We had plenty of people around to help out, and I got what I asked for.
It’s a wonderful feeling to know that people feel so comfortable in our home that they don’t want to leave.
Speaking of new homes, being busy, and having a lot on our plates, Muddy was moved to her new birthing den a couple days ago. She’s starting to show signs of getting ready to give birth to the farms first set of piglets. This is one of those valuable learning experiences. From what we’ve read piglets, like other baby animals, like to be kept warm, but mama pigs prefer cooler temperatures. So when building dens for farrowing sows you build a space for mom and a space for the piglets with a heater. The piglets still have access to mom to nurse, but there’s less of a worry of them getting squished while trying to stay warm snuggling up against mom.
Tigger (my constant outdoor companion) inside the farrowing den.

Tigger (my constant outdoor companion) inside the farrowing den.

Muddy's new home

Muddy’s new home


In the garden the corn has sprouted, as have the onions, carrots, beets, and cabbage. We are starting to harvest cucumbers, the beets, carrots, and onions shouldn’t be far behind. We have been eating achoqche’s also. They are this curious little vegetable that tastes like a cross between a cucumber and a pepper. They are an ancestral vine that grows amazingly here. So far we have used them in stir fries, and tried stuffing them, but I’m still trying to figure out what else to do with them.
Achoqche vine and Swiss chard

Achoqche vine and Swiss chard


Succulent in the garden

Succulent in the garden


Part of the garden

Part of the garden


Little Guava tree Sylvia gave me

Little Guava tree Sylvia gave me


We sold our first batch of prosciutto that has been a over a year in the making. An ex pat wrote a book and had a book release party that we provided ham and prosciutto for. It turned out well and was good exposure for the farm. Shawn has also been creating some hard sausages like pepperoni, mortadella, and salami. So far, so tasty.
prosciutto

prosciutto


We have a baby doctor too! We got a recommendation from friends of ours, and went to see him last week. Baby is doing well, he weighs 2lbs, and his due date is still the beginning of November. I also went and got blood tests done. The language barrier will be a challenge for us. But our doctor comes highly recommended, and it’s nice to hear him recommend a more natural direction of things. I feel a lot better now that we have this taken care of.
24 week belly

24 week belly


27 week belly

27 week belly


I know I’ve said this before but I swear this little boy is going to come out running. Even the doctor commented on how much he moves.

Going through all of this makes me miss my mom more and more everyday. There’s always the questions you wish you could ask her, and things I want to show her. The fact that my son will never know his grandmother, know her laugh, and her crazy sense of humor. My grandmother passed away young but at least I have memories of her. The hardest part of all are the small things most take for granted. My son will never have clothes my mom bought him, or get a Christmas present from her, she was always really good at Christmas, she made it really special for us. I am lucky that we do have such amazing people in our lives, but I’ve come to realize through this experience how much I really miss her.

Mom

Mom