There was a ….

My life story seems to revolve around the craziest of things. So many of my stories start with, there was a _________ (insert name, animal, or thing) and that’s what started it all.
Farming hasn’t been any different. First, there was an empty farm. Then, there was a calf. Then, it was a rescue cow… and chickens, turkeys, more cows, pigs, more cows and calves, piglets and finally alpacas. Intermix in there a couple of dogs and a cat too. 

I often ask myself how I got started in all this. It’s rhetorical. I do the damnest things… like rescuing a cow with two calves. Or answering an ad on Craigslist about a bloodhound pup that I really didn’t need but wanted anyway. Or browsing ads and finding local cattle that I desperately wanted for years at a good price.

The lastest episode of “what the hell did I just do?” involves two alpaca. Today, of all days, I decided to add to the chaos and let them run lose. It’s the first time they have ran out in the pastures with the cattle. Not my smartest moment. After they go running, jumping and kicking past the entire herd of 40 head of cattle… it hit me!!! 

I’m here by myself! What am I going to do if they attack? If they charge through the gates? If they start a stampede and blow the fence down? What happens if the horned cattle box them against the barn wall?

The end results is that the cattle seem to think the alpaca are as insane as I am, so they just stood by watching and on alert. Myself?? Yeah, I’m frantic. Pacing back and forth with all these questions charging thru my head. In the end, as my anxiety became too much, I walked away to do another task.

As I trudged straw to the new piglets for bedding since it’s going to be so cold tonight, I watched them running all over. They seemed to be having fun and the cattle were statues with a few random head turns.

In the end, they went right back into the barn. Not even a little excitement to be found. They are all nestled snug in their room in the barn, with visions of wide open pastures to run.

My heart rate has finally returned to normal and I’m ready to call it a completed day! Also well that ends well…

Later in life, I’ll tell the story and it’ll begin “There was a set of alpacas.”


Chaos Ensues

I’m finally feeling like I’m caught up with the chaos that life has been for the past few days.

My hours have been spent checking and sitting with piglets, planning and more planning. A bit of year end finish up has been completed, new concepts to make my job easier and ideas on how to share more.

There is always more… more work, paperwork, planning and improvements.

This all causes chaos when trying to keep up with everything. It’s all okay and I’m feeling like I’m in a good spot with all of it right now.

Cold weather coming in tomorrow night means a Monday filled up with tons of adjustments and too many phone calls or follow ups to do. Phone calls will become emails and my back will kill me tomorrow after moving tractor buckets filled with straw to keep the piglets warm.

The upside is a day outside, hanging out with the new babies and enjoying their antics. You just can’t have a bad day when you have playful piglets!

I’ll keep it short for today and try to get lots of pics to share in upcoming posts. I’ll see what I can do to demonstrate how the packs work to generate heated beds and how piglets use straw like we use comforters.

For now, I’ll leave you with a mother son moment. A friend brought her son for a visit and they were soon fast friends with a group of 5 day old piglets! 

I love what I get to do!

Daily Update (Kind of) – 1/24 Piglets Arive

January 24th, 2017 at 10 am

On Monday, the 23rd and due date, I watched as Mabel carried mouth fulls of hay all day long. She worked, walking back and forth about 40′ from an old bale to her hut. Demonstrating the classic signs of nesting.

She was still carrying after dark and didn’t care who got in her way, including her hut mate. She buried him under her newly formed waist high pack!

Mabel’s nest pack, including the boar and anything else she could grab

This morning at 6:30 am, she had a nice spot built and was hanging out, showing with strong contractions. As the ice, water and snow from the nor’easter overnight created all kinds of issues for everyone else, she labored to give birth to 11 piglets.

All were dry and warm by the time I got to meet them at 10 am! ​


This is basically my first sights I got to see of them. Oh, how I loved seeing those little wiggles!

At the end of the day, Mabel the momma sow had them all tucked in for the night. Hopefully, my day will be much calmer tomorrow so I can go sit with them for a little while.

If you’d like to see the live feed videos, please follow Barrows Farm (just click the colored text). I’ll be posting several over the first few days and weeks to show how they are progressing and to ask any questions that may come up.

For now, I need some sleep after a long day of battling through no electricity, new upgrades to internet service and some serious thought processing on a variety of topics. My nice warm bed and my snuggle hound are calling my name.

The second you are handed a newborn it is yours. It doesn’t matter what body it came out of. I’ve never felt more strongly about anything in my life. ~Edie Falco

Not so Daily Update – 1/21

What a fun filled week and now into the weekend… well, not really but no one died, I’m still walking upright without assistance and I overslept this morning.

Been a crazy morning already since I slept in until 10 am and then had to scramble around doing morning chores and checking on a sow.

Let’s talk morning chores. When a farmer is late with feeding, animals are grumpy! It reminds me of those snickers commercials where the initial character is “hangry” and then changes into a calmer character once it takes a bite of the snicker bar.

That’s pigs all the way. Grunting, barking, trying to literally climbing the walls kind of hangry. After they get food, they settle right down, nice and calm.

After chores, I had to put together invoices, a flyer for beef available and do some upgrades on a new project. Had company come check on the progress of animals, visit the new alpacas and they even brought me a pitcher for water or juice with a cow on it.

After all the commotion and activities to get off today’s to do list, I finally have a half hour break… more coffee and it’s back to doing the evening chores. I’m already tired enough that I’d like to go to bed. After dinner, I just might… that way I don’t oversleep again tomorrow.

Good news is that I’m up to date on invoices, order sheets, advertising and no more weekend visits scheduled. Tomorrow, I’ll work on year end for 2016 and get all my records updated. That will mean I’m all caught up with the farm stuff. Sadly, that makes me very happy.

I also want to work on a new area for weaning piglets and get the boar moved. Shouldn’t take too long to get that finished up. Slow progress doing it alone but I’ll get there! Thank goodness my weekend was rescheduled and allowed me a little extra time to get these things done. 

Those check marks ✔️ on that lengthy to do list are a work of art!!! 

Time for me to get back to work. I’ll update next time with piglet pictures hopefully. 

Not So Daily Update – 1/19

I’m horrible at keeping up with everything sometimes. I’m just so overwhelmed with the long to do and get done list right now.

I’m working on maybe one too many projects outside of the farm. Stuff that I really shouldn’t be focusing on right now as there are so many other additional priorities. I just can’t let any of it drop for a couple of reasons.

One… ever have this dream of doing something BIG and I do mean really, really big to help others? Well, I have had this vision and dream since 2009. I can’t talk about it fully right now but when I can, I’ll be over the moon to share the news. Every year since 2009, there has been one barrier after another… financial logjams, not enough time, too many distractions, schooling, phone calls to fix financial nightmares and beating my head against brick walls. WELL, NO MORE! Now is the time. Even if I, personally, really don’t have the time or extra energy.

Two… I don’t want to hold back help from others because I’m struggling. My whole life has been a struggle and I truly want to do this all to help myself, help my friends and help others that I have yet to meet. This is very important to me, right down to the very fiber of who I am. This is something that needs to get launched…NOW!

I know I’m yelling a little… kind of a pep talk to myself on why I put myself through all this extra, all the headaches, all the fights and struggles. In my heart, I know this is what I am meant to do. I know how much this has all changed my life and if I can help even one person, just one, then I will achieve a goal I’ve sat on since 2009.

What bothers me the most is I feel so guilty over now doing it sooner. Who could I have saved? Who could I have made a difference with if I had just fought harder, worked more?

I have so many fears about doing this. Backlash from others, my past haunting me (even though the most crucial was out of my control) and others trying to steal my dreams. I am determined, alright maybe just too damn stubborn, to let it go. I am passionate about it because I want no one to live the way I have.

Constant depression, anxiety and fear residing on the shoulder with the little angel saying I can’t do this because it exposes too much of the inside of me that I have kept hidden for so damn long. Anger, resentment and drive to prove others wrong associated with that little devil, the words engraved into the tines of fork.

My days are consumed with moving forward, trying to drop the baggage of the past abuses and ailments. I am going to fight for this dream as long as I have breath in my body. It must be done! It just must.

So for now, my days are balanced between developing a plan for the next 3-5 years and working the farm. I’m writing papers, developing timelines and checking off to do list boxes all while waiting for piglets to arrive, taking care of the animals and trying to stay on top of this nightmare of financial issues, family problems and so much more.

There will be days I’m just testy and bitchy. There will be days that I’m a ball of tears and tissues. There will be days that I will be a bull in a china shop. Take it in stride, forgive me if I snap and please forgive my daily, not so daily posts.

Daily Update – 1/16 PM

I know I said I would do morning posts but there was something that happened today that I’ve NEVER seen while raising pigs.

A boar piglet that’s not supposed to be able to hit puberty until 3 months at the earliest, is 9 weeks old and twisting his little pecker out and dropping loads!!!!

Re-evaluate! NOW! The phrase “dammit” came out of my mouth more than once… so now during the next vet visit, I need her to check all the gilts or give them shots for gestation (pregnancy) prevention. One damn little obnoxious boar piglet causes chaos.

To those that don’t know, pigs have a corkscrew penis.

The newly named “Magic Mike”, who hit puberty at NINE weeks!

I won’t get into the reproductive capabilities. Right now, I need to work on getting a plan of action in place.

I’ll update as decision are made!

Daily Update- 1/16

You know what? It just kind of hit me that I only do updates in the mornings. Probably not the best way to describe my day but mornings are my favorite and most productive times.

By the time I’m done at the end of the day, I still need to feed myself and wind down. Otherwise I’m up half the night buzzing around still trying to get things done.

So morning hour updates it is!

This morning is a little warmer and I’m feeling just better enough that my face doesn’t feel like exploding. As part of my morning rounds, I check on a bred sow. She’s due on the 23rd but is showing signs of preparing already.

Her milk bar, otherwise known as teats, is beginning to fill. Her rear teats aren’t flaps of skin but have some substance to them. Her front teats are still close to her chest, so she has a few days to go.

Mabel, a Berkshire sow, is getting ready to have her second liter. I got her as a trade and barter thing because her original owner owed me some money. I got her and the boar, Buddy, at the same time.

Her first liter was 10. She’s got 12 teats, so let’s hope she has 12. I’ve seen this cross before and while they aren’t the miracle pigs that Petunia produces, they are still hearty and hefty.

After this batch, I will make a decision on what to do with her. I’m not really a fan of hers to be honest. It’s not that she’s a bad pig. She would do a fantastic job for someone. She’s just not the genetics I’m after. 

Petunia is what I call a blocky sow. Low to the ground, massive shoulders and hams, great loin development and super feed efficient. Mabel is what I call a bacon sow. She’s long and lean. She’s not very feed efficient and I actually have to feed her nearly twice as much just to keep her condition. 

My goal is to produce as effectively and efficiently as possible. Sows that require less inputs are always good. Ones that produce high daily weight gain piglets are better. Temperament is another factor I always consider. There’s a lot more too but you get the idea.

My preferences lean more toward the traditional old school hogs than the newer commercial type versions. That’s just my preference. My dad raised the latter, with a gestation barn full of yorkshires. I disliked them then and still do today.

This brings me to the subject of selection… the beautiful part about livestock is that it doesn’t matter if its cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys or anything else in between. We have the choice of variety, with many different options on how to accomplish our goals. Sometimes, the choices are daunting while others seem to fall in your lap.

I’m what’s called a researcher. I dig into genetic history, animal abilities, efficiency, mothering capabilities and so much more BEFORE I buy anything. A pig is never just a pig and a cow is never just a cow. Knowing ahead of time also helps me make decisions on what to do at times too. It helps me eliminate some of the risks.

So now, I sit and wait. I wait for piglets to arrive. I wait to make a decision on what to do with this sow. I have 8-12 weeks to decide. Decision making never stops on farms. 

See… my problem is that I love all animals so it’s hard for me to make these hard choices sometimes… so I’ll leave you with a photo of newborn piglets!

Petunia’s piglets, a few hours old on 11/13/16

Daily Update – 1/15

Mornings like today, I really wish I had help. This stupid sinus issue is taking its toll. Even after being on meds for weeks, I still can’t seem to shake it.

After limited sleep due to post nasal drip gagging, I still have to push myself thru my chores. I’ve got no one to fall back on, so it’s all up to me.

It’s daunting sometimes when I sit back and think about it big picture. It’s a lonely place, often scary when you start thinking about laying injured somewhere for hours before anyone ever really realizes you’re even missing.

It’s like today that when you carry a wad of hay less than 50 feet and your head starts pounding so badly, feeling like your entire face is throbbing and pulsing, that you realize just how weak you can be sometimes. 

It also makes you realize how damn stubborn… ahem, determined as the alternative word chart says… you really are. Say what you will about the stupidity of it all, but in the end I gave 120% to make sure my animals are cared for. I didn’t slack, slouch or take short cuts. 

Through injuries, sickness, crappy weather, good and bad, I’m out there. Sick or not, I still take the time for piggy pets and to sit with new animals to get them acclimated. I still do head counts and herd checks. I still feed hay, fill water tubs and lug massive pails of pig grain.

Why am I telling you all this? Two reasons.

1) When you sign on to become a farmer and care for livestock, you don’t get sick days. You don’t take days off because the weather sucks. You don’t get any pity for injuries from animals. They depend on you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

If you aren’t committed to working daily and dealing with these issues, having livestock isn’t for you. This isn’t an office job working 40 hours with sick day benefits and closures for snowfall.

2) Farmers give so much of themselves. More than most would for the livestock they care for. So they next time you see that grumpy local farmer or dairyman at the store, cut them a little slack. This is a hard damn life and sometimes we just have bad days emotionally.

Most farmers won’t tell you how it eats at your insides, makes you question your own sanity but the heart of it is, we can’t survive day to day in other way of life now. When we think about selling out and giving up, it causes an odd panic and depression inside. It feels like you thought about willingly giving up your insides for research.

Just my random thoughts from the morning as I sit sipping ginger tea and wondering what I’m doing. Wondering if it’s really all worth it when I could have just slept in.

The end result is that I’ll never give up, no matter how crappy it gets on days like this. As long as those animals are here, I’ll still slug my ass to the barn and do what needs to be done. 

Update 1/14/2017

Lots of activity yesterday afternoon… 

  • piglets videos for the YMCA Learning center for 3-5 year olds
  • Trip to the butcher for a beef order pickup
  • The arrival of ALPACAS 

Yes, you read that right… alpacas.

I’m starting to think I’ve lots my sanity, okay truthful it didn’t just start to vacate.

A dear friend contact me saying they needed a good home and they could think of no one else that would take better care of them… so here they are. They were homed on another farm and after a bumpy ride of what I’ll politely say was “plowboy” tactics, two month and several headaches later, they are here.

*plowpoy – an old school country boy or farmer that doesn’t like dealing with women, under any circumstance or for any reason (intensity increases around farm women and women of authority)

Needless to say between scheduling, rescheduling and absolutely absurd expectations to drop new animals off between the hours of 10:30 pm to after midnight… it’s been a fiasco. The fiasco continues with denial of all records now too. The battle is far from over on this one.

Someday, I’ll sit and talk about the plow boy and why all of this backstory is important. Right now, I need to focus on waging war (because there is no other term to use) to get the information he has and told people he had. 

Nothing more upsets me that someone who neglects to fulfill obligations as an owner or caretaker. As a caretaker, you document medical treatments, foods, conditions and any other notables. Anything less is neglect and downright dumb!

I mean come on… how could you be mean, neglectful or cruel to animals like this? 

And the best part, the sing or hum to “talk”

Yes, yes… I’ll get videos soon! 😍

Daily Update 1/13/17

It’s Friday the 13th and my life feels like it’s straight out of a horror flick.

There are personal things that brought me into farming. And today I feel that same overwhelming need to just connect with something that doesn’t seem so totally insane.

Yes, I deal with massive depressive. Between family court and medical complications, I struggle everyday to stay up beat and positive. My animals are therapy, every single one of them.

Unfortunately, therapy isn’t enough sometimes. It’s just not. Days like today, it feels like I’m in a fog of confusion. Barely able to breathe. 

Every task seems overwhelming. It sucks. 

I know I have to trudge on. I have little kids waiting to see a live feed of pigs this morning. My excitement from two days ago has waned but I still want to do this for them.

It makes me so sad to know that I’m not able to give them 100% like I should be able to. Of course that brings me down even further. Downward spirals suck too.

I’ll post the link later. Right now, I need to go lug some feed and do my chores. I’ll update more later today when I have the time. Wish me luck!