Hoophouse in Bad Weather

I wrote about building our hoophouse for hay storage last fall as we prepared to move all of our hay into a new location. The hoophouse is 30' with 24' PVC hoops. It could comfortably hold 180-200 square bales at a time. 

Erecting such a structure in Tennessee is a bit risky given the high wind speeds and frequency of tornadoes. Every time the winds pick up above 40 or 50 mph I get a little nervous and half-expect to see a giant white ball of shattered PVC and torn white plastic tumbling across the fields.

Last night's storm was a great test with wind speeds reaching a reported 105 mph only 15 minutes north of us. I don't think it got that bad where we are, but there were some mighty gusts that had us up from about 3am to 4:30am watching for tornadoes and monitoring the radar.This morning the hoop house was fine, however. It held steady and kept the hay dry.

Our animals also love the structure. Sometimes our LGD Sheba will climb the fence and find a nice place to nap inside. Our cat, Levon, also finds solace atop the hay bales. Nevat, the LGD puppy, can't terrorize him up there.

Nevat 'playing' with Levon while we reloaded our hay stash


New hay bales loaded; Levon happily perched above the puppy's reach


Sheba rents one of Levon's hay bales for the night

Thus far it's held up well, keeping our fingers crossed that it stays that way.

Pastured Pigs - Act One - At Last

The girls enjoying the broomsedge. They love broomsedge roots, a new benefit to that "noxious weed"!

We've long detailed the onboarding experience of the Ossabaw pigs at Little Seed Farm. What was once envisioned as pigs rooting through the pasture quickly turned into a pallet-pen welcome package that was to last for many months. The escape (and general rowdiness) of the piglets made me question whether Ossabaws could ever work on pasture. If not, they weren't going to fit in the system we envisioned for our pork operation and they'd all be eaten, sold, or cross-bred.

So as the pigs grew fatter and gained experience in their wise old age I tested and monitored them. I already knew that as young pigs they were scared and excitable. Being Ossabaws (a still feral breed), that's to be expected. Each day I would get in the pen with the pigs to feed them and pet them. Luckily, they still ranged in the 25-100# weight-class and weren't yet big enough to really mess with me if they felt like it.

By the time November rolled around I was feeling very comfortable that the pigs knew and respected the electric fencing and that they knew (and not quite respected) me. They were ready for the ultimate "electric-fence-only" test. I am planning to breed the pigs in January, so I figured I might as well wait until then to set them loose inside an electric-fence-only paddock and risk the chance of them escaping. 

But as usual things didn't quite go according to plan. Also as usual, things turned out alright in the end.

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Sheba Gets Shot

Izzy and Sheba in the sunrise

Most of you know Sheba, she's one of our Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD, for short). In fact, she's the head honcho when it comes to LGDs around here. As the Alpha dog, she runs the show and we rely on her a great deal. I'd go so far as to say that she's the most important animal we have.

Sheba is a "perimeter" dog, which means she has complete freedom and is responsible for protecting all the animals. The cows, pigs, goats, guineas, etc. She is the designated perimeter dog because she respects our fence and does not seem to have a strong inclination toward 'packing' with the goat herd. Izzy, our other adult LGD, has far greater 'pack' mentality with the goats and she does not respect the fence lines. That's why Izzy gets locked in inside the electric goat paddocks everyday. We don't want her running around causing trouble and we like knowing that a dog is with the goats at all time.

Sheba is also responsible for training Sophie, our puppy LGD. Just like kids, LGDs do best when they have a good role model. Sophie pals around with Sheba all day and night and only recently started staking out her own areas on the farm. Sheba is slowly giving Sophie increased responsibility as Sophie gets older. They also spar a lot. Sophie will start 'playing' with Sheba and it will evolve into a full-fledged battle. Sheba will let Sophie attack her for a while, casually tossing Sophie aside, and when she's had enough she'll pin Sophie on the ground and latch on to Sophie's neck.

So when Sheba went missing we were pretty nervous. She's not one to be gone for longer than an hour or two. She might make her rounds around the farm, but she's always back in time for evening milking. I can't remember when she's missed it. That's her chance to mingle with her sister, Izzy, and play bodyguard on the walk with the goats. 

Not only that, but Sophie was hanging around and seemed a little more alert than her usual puppy self. Sophie without Sheba is a rare occassion. The night Sheba went missing we called and whistled as we usually do when we need her, but no response. We went to bed worried, especially with hunting season recently opening up and wild animals on the hunt before winter.

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