Transition Into 2022
The transition from 2021 to 2022 on the farm was unusually eventful this year. The first event was the arrival of Leo, home on his first leave from the Army following his initial period of military training. Leo arrived just before Christmas allowing time for him and us to complete pre-Christmas arrangements. Jody and Georgie came to the farm on Christmas day, Jay baked a ham, and all the accouterments for the dinner were made available by the dinner participants.
Unfortunately, Christmas cheer was tempered when Arno tested positive for Covid. The farmhouse moved immediately into isolation and quarantine mode. Both Ivan and Leo moved into Jean and Ken’s apartment. Mask-wearing became standard practice and traffic between the house and the apartment came to a halt. Communication between members of the two households was restricted to distanced outside conversations through masks or through the phone. Rapid Covid tests were administered periodically to check on disease progress and spread. Luckily, the disease was restricted to Arno who never became very ill. Arno eventually tested negative and the farm gradually returned to pre-Covid operations.
All the while the Covid saga played out, the weather was having its effect on the farm as on all the rest of Washington state. December had been wet but the rain turned to snow just after Christmas. Cold settled in and snow accumulated. Jay was delighted to turn the ATV into a snowplow which worked much better for clearing snow than the tractor. With that, he kept the driveways and parking areas passable. Snowy weather persisted for several days and the roads remained icy up until the time Leo left to return to military duty on the 6th of January.
As the snow melted and rain continued to fall, the pasture and hay fields flooded as they usually do when Otter Creek runs full during wet periods. With this flood, however, the pasture pond rose to an unprecedented level, covering the hayfields all the way to the edge of the forest on the west and covering the pasture all the way to the base of the fence line close to the house on the east. Waterfowl love this condition and flocked to the pond to frolic and feed on what must be newly uncovered foodstuff in the floodwaters. On most days there were probably more than 100 mallards on the pond. Interestingly, when the pond waters got deep enough, diving ducks also arrived. This year a pair of Buffleheads were on the pond during the times of deep water. When the pond recedes in between rains, the diving ducks can’t feed in the resultant shallow water and the Buffleheads no longer came. The mallards, however, like it all ways, deep and shallow, and will visit the pond until it disappears when the country dries out in the late spring.
A small flock (15 – 30) of Canada geese visit the pasture every day at this time of the year regardless of its flooded condition. However, when the pasture is flooded, the geese seem to enjoy the pasture even more and, at times, numbers will accumulate to greater than one hundred.
Jay and Ellen brought in this year’s seven new 20 lb weanling pigs on January 9th: four males and three females. The males were not castrated. Jay is now arranging for the vet to perform the castrations. Pigs bring a certain amount of drama to farm life. For instance, one of the little buggers has already escaped from the pen and had to be rounded up and returned; the escape hole was patched.
The escapee is still small enough to fit under the pasture gates. Our first view of his escape was of him wiggling under a gate and heading toward the flooded pond. Ellen, Ken, and Jean ran out to capture him so he did not drown in the floodwater, but by the time we got there, he was trying to get back into the barn through the goat and sheep entrance. The goat would have none of it and drove him off.
He frantically tore around the barnyard, trying alternately, as we later realized, to get back through the goat and sheep entrance and through an escape hole that was situated so he could get out of his snug barn pig stall, but not back in.
He was quick, darting this way and that, but with three of us all cutting off his escape, we finally caught him and returned him to his stall where he ran over and snuggled, panting, under the heat lamp. All his siblings surrounded him, licking him and nudging him all over, trying to either comfort him or lick him dry or both.
Another contingent of new farm life arrived when 3 lambs were born to the ewe we call “bad momma” on the night of January 13th. The other two ewes look as if they too will shortly be bringing forth new lambs. With the advent of new pigs and lambs, a new year on the farm has officially started.