Freezer Camp

Bittersweet. Taking dear friends, companions, food, to freezer camp is never an easy day.

Today was a big one.

I know that it is easier to become detached from where food actually comes from, how it is grown and raised, animal or vegetable. So much is involved, and the further we get removed from modern, commercially raised food, and the deeper we go into research, the more impossible it is to support factory farming, animal or vegetable.

Anyway, loving and giving animals a special place on the farm, and letting them live their lives to the fullest is a joy. The fact does remain that all good things do come to an end, even good lives, and all death, big or small is powerful and difficult.

We are grateful for all they give us, in so many ways.

The bad Jersey bull had really been pressing our luck, as all the hundreds of cows which spend their summers in the high mountains have been coming down to the valley early this year. He has been home here for the last two months or so, since our miracle and we extended freezer camp by a few days. When he got back here, Faline was in heat for sure, but we wanted to make sure she was really bred as she was acting like she was in heat again a few days ago.

He comes home at every once in a while, sniffs around, and finds that she is not interested in him (standing heat) and he bellows off, looking for a hole in the fence.

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“Daddy, where are you going?”

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Heat and standing heat explanations are going to take a bottle of wine, and a lot of words, to connect the dots and correlate what that all means (in human terms, which I have DEFINITE relevant thoughts on) but that is for another time. whew.

So for the last couple of days we have been moving and setting up sheep panels, which definitely are not “portable” but are a huge improvement to our typical sheep cowboy method of sorting. Cussing is at a minimum. Last night we finished, but ran into a few snags like a flat tire on the stock trailer and bobcat… and it set the man back.

The bull of course could not be found. The man is amazing in that a few weeks ago to bull was across the river, and this time was across the barbed wire fence and on our neighbors property with his cows. The fence was partially down, but no gate, so the man had a lasso and put it around the bulls horns, and actually pulled the bull over the downed fence and across the river and into the pen. Bull charging man, man dodging, lady freaking. woah. The bull really is a good boy, he just can’t help it that he is full of raging hormones. So last night same thing: man with lasso, puts over bulls horns, drags bull through river and thick trees, bull fighting every tree and getting rope hung up on each one. Lady having nervous breakdown.

Bull happy to be home eating hay, but still irritated with rope. We put him in the back corral, and hear him tearing up the fence and shed. Freezer camp could not come one day too early.

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So after the bull rodeo, and most of the flat tire rodeo, we have to figure out how to get the 6 lambs, the bull and two pigs on the trailer for 8 am arrival at freezer camp, almost two hours away the next morning, and it was getting dark. The man wanted to load the pigs, which I know would come immediately for any treat, so sheep it was.

The new panels worked pretty good, but still need work. We were able to sort out the six lambs for this morning, and 12 ewe lambs which a man from Durango is coming tomorrow morning to pick up for breeding ewes.

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Most of it had to be done in the dark, and sheep do not like dark. The bull still had to go on the trailer first, even though it had a nail in the tire, and he was destroying the back pen trying to get his rope off. The man tells me to open the trailer doors, but gives no further instructions as to what I should do.

He is bringing the bull, on the rope, out of the pen to the trailer. Lady freaking out.

Some how, he gets the bull on the trailer, without bloodshed on any party. Actually the bull likes the trailer, thinking he is going to another party with ladies, but at least he is on and this time can’t get away. Whew. Now to go to the neighbor who has a tire fixing kit, man plugs hole in tire in the pitch dark.

Not much sleep. Lady sees lights outside at 5 am, man putting gate inside trailer to push bull in corner, loads 6 sheep, puts in another gate to separate for the pigs. Lady trying to get little girl ready for school, who has to drive car (without a license, but big deal, she has driven tractors, trucks, motorcycle… since she was 12) to the road for the bus to pick her up.

The dear pigs going to freezer camp is much harder. We really love our pigs, they are American Guinea Hogs, a heritage breed, lard pig. Very gentle and friendly, and great foragers. It is amazing that they can grow and get so fat on just grass. (They eat hay and alfalfa like the sheep in the winter.) We do supplement them with kitchen scraps and extra skim milk or whey when I have it. After having such heartbreak with the several times we tried to have success with piglets we processed Drake, the boar, last year and decided to not keep these two over the winter. One would have been too lonely.

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Yes, they lived a very good and happy life.

photo by Natanielle Huizenga

photo by Natanielle Huizenga

Getting them on the trailer in the dark morning was not going very well, even with grapes, tomatoes and a pan of milk, as we did not have a ramp and they are not the best jumpers. Corn tortillas did the trick and finally everyone was on.

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