Saturday, April 14, 2012


Autumn has returned to the valley and for Leven River Farm autumn is a time of plenty. The warm wet summer season has left us in a good position with large quantities of green grass standing in the paddocks for winter. We have picked and stored the pumpkins, dug the potatoes and shucked the corn.  Our raspberries are almost finished, the apples at their peak, and the veggie garden supplies a seemingly endless supply of tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions and other goodies. The first frost hit last week revealing the last of the fresh tomatoes for this year.
At long last the zucchinis are finished and only the pigs didn’t get sick of them. The pigs are partial to mature zucchinis, relish pumpkin and sweet corn but their real favourite is an apple or two. If they spot you walking their way with a bucket of apples, they drool and foam at the mouth in anticipation of the ripe juicy apples.

Frost has knocked the vine but the tomatoes just keep coming.

The cattle have lost their sleek summer gloss, now dressed in their rough winter coat. They are down on the river cleaning up the overgrown grass and young willows that have threatened to overtake the riparian zone. We have just added a Guernsey house cow and calf to the herd. A little premature, we still lack a bail and protected milking area but that will come in time.  Monty, our Hereford bull, has returned to Leven River Farm for the winter, he has been away visiting with a couple of local Angus cows. He has taken up residence in the top paddock, every morning his mournfull bellow echoes over valley, a protest against his solitary existance. 
Cleaning up along the Leven River.
Taking Monty along to meet some new cows.

Most of our first two litters of piglets have left the farm for a new free-range home in Bruny Island. I weighed some piglets at weaning at ten weeks – average weight 30kg. No more weighing, they are getting too heavy and hard to hold, just a ball of wriggling muscle with a high-pitched ear-piercing squeal. As far as I can determine thirty kilograms at ten weeks is about as good as modern breeds in a commercial piggery can achieve. I suspect hybrid vigour from the Tamworth - Wessex Saddleback cross has boosted growth rates. Maybe there is a real future for these old breeds after all.
We didn’t wean the piglets until they were ten weeks old, I kept waiting for the sow to wean them but when she seemed content to let them suckle I forced the issue. The first night five piglets braved the electric fence to return to mum, on the second night only one went through, after that they settled contentedly into their new home.
Perky is almost hidden by her twelve piglets. They are only five weeks old.

Before we sell any more I will have to build a suitable loading ramp. Loading thirty kilo pigs  into a crate by hand is no fun. We have kept seven; three or more kept as breeding stock with an unrelated boar and the rest for our own use. I have kept all the ginger ones, four with a white saddle and three without. They are distinctive animals with a black skin under a glossy ginger coat. They all have the long lean body shape inherited from the Tamworth and don’t appear to be getting over fat. It will be interesting to see how they dress out in about ten or twelve weeks.

Prosciutto. She is stretching out in the hope of getting a belly rub.