|Posted by Melody Nye on April 11, 2013 at 3:20 AM||comments (0)|
I’m listening to Cokie Roberts read her book ‘Founding Mothers- the Women who Raised our Nation’ on cd. It’s a great listen and inspiration from a historical and a female tenacity perspective. This leads me to the topic of this blog – work, time and the perception of the inverse proportion of one to the other.
I’ve not often thought of myself as a strong woman though I’ve been described as one by many. More, I think of myself as tenacious. Tenacious is what gets you to goal when nothing goes as planned. Tenacious is that otherwise named stubborn streak that rears its stiff necked head when you’re told you can’t do something you really want to do and are sure ‘it’ will work despite all evidence to the contrary.
And that strength has seen me through many farming challenges. Time is a relative concept. I believe ‘it’ can be done so I tackle ‘it’ and somehow I’m continually surprised when it’s way past a civilized bedtime! My tenacious bearing keeps me going when I’ve underestimated project scope, when I’ve misread instructions and am redoing something (yet) again and when my productive wakeful hours have ended but I’m not to the finish line.
So my perspective on time is I’m simply grateful to have it. Starting Melo Farms has taken us back in time to the more labor intensive pasture based farm life of the old days. Chores, yes please I’ll have another. Trading old habits and expectations for new rhythms and success metrics and realizing the day is never ‘done’ you just rest in anticipation of what’s to be done tomorrow.
Generations of hard working women before me worked much longer hours in environs far less warm, safe and dry, doing more with less and thinking their lives more sweet than sour, taking little leisure but great pleasure in a task done right. There is a drive to succeed, to accomplish; to fulfill that makes me feel a kinship to these great women. I’m thankful for this day and all the accomplishments I savored, big and small. It wasn’t a day too short it was a day well spent with another to begin in mere hours. It’s now 3:12 am and time for a little sweet rest before tackling the day ahead. Joy!
|Posted by Melody Nye on March 24, 2013 at 8:05 PM||comments (1)|
It's been a long winter! The most upbeat people I know are actually beginning to get a bit grumpy, the new has worn out of wearing woolens and creating warm spaces.
In a darker moment last week it hit me like the ton of lake effect snow hitting my windshield why Eastern and Midwest pioneers were so willing to pull up and head to the mythical, magical Willamette Valley. The place where I've spent a great deal of my life since 1970 and living, literally at the end of the Oregon Trail within view of the Willamette River. They'd heard about fertile land, long growing seasons and braved the Continental Divide AND the Cascade Mountain range to live free and prosper in that Promised Land.
I grew vegetable gardens annually a good part of my adult life so I know from being out in the elements. And, I wasn't one to complain (too often) about the 'liquid sunshine' Portland, Oregon is so famous for. BUT the two hogs we raised in Oregon did lose their lush, perfect pasture within a week of arriving in February. Nothing like two 12 week old piglets to turn wet, rain saturated soil into one big mud bath.
Hmmm. Well. Extended, Michigan cold winter silver lining time. Last spring everyone may remember the warmer temps but have forgotten the TON of rain and flooded pastures many rural farmers dealt with. We personally were knee deep in mud and had lost a hefty percent of our winter pasture so dry, cold Michigan winter 1. We had to press more 'not yet ready' pasture into use to keep clean, healthy conditions for our younger piglets. Dry cold Michigan winter 2. We purchased 5 large round bales for winter wind breaks last year, which became unneeded due to rain but have filled in beautifully for straw bedding this year. Dry, cold Michigan winter 3 and winning by a landslide!
And, while the overnight temps keep us from starting our dinner chickens as early as we'd initially planned it is the perfect condition for our year round, outdoor heritage pig raising.
So here's to Mother Nature. I may have grumbled a time or two this March and grown a deeper understanding of why my distant kin wagon trained it West. But, when I look at the big picture you've proved to be a real friend to these Midwestern heritage hog farmers. 2013 Yale, Michigan. We are in the right place at the right time.
|Posted by Melody Nye on September 18, 2012 at 8:20 AM||comments (1)|
I hear so many cool memories from people my age who knew / raised / sloped pigs at their grandparents. I love the moments of the faraway look that recaptures and relives those feelings and have come to realize it’s less about the pigs and more about touching the tangible memory of time spent with a grandparent. I have a tad jealous love of those memories as I don’t have them and people enjoy a rapt audience as I live vicariously through these stories.
Not that I was born from a rock it’s just when you’re born to parents who are 38 and 45 in 1960 I got the aged out absence from my Father’s parents and the bad luck of my Mom’s bereft childhood. Dad’s parents were in their late 60s and 70s and had simply already lived their life expectancy by the time I entered the scene. Mom was an unfortunate product of her time in the early 1930s in the deep Depression era who lost her Dad, who was a lineman, to electrocution by grabbing a live wire when she was 8 and her Mom 4 years later to death at her replacement husband’s hand. My grandmother lived in the age where women did remarry to keep a roof over her head, food on the table and a chance for a future for her 8 and 10 year old children and had chosen disastrously.
So you understand why I simply answer no grandparents. And I love Lynn’s stories, the loving grandmother and grumpy but loving grandfather. Spending summertime weeks at their house and building a lifetime of memories that delight and define him to this day. And it’s my own lack of personal experience and idealization of the role which has led to my love for my own grandchildren. Though they’re almost half done with their 3 year stint in Germany they were here at the beginning. They were here when we brought home our first 6 pure breed Berkshire hogs. We all marveled together on pig nature, the feel of a snout, eating habits and finding our comfort level with animals that are large and have a low center of gravity. Holding close and snuggling a suddenly shy, unsure and delicate 5 year old granddaughter. Feeling Ethan’s comfort and wonder at the new, new in his life.
I don’t know what Ethan and Abby’s memories will be as they reach our age and they’ll have a gap from Grandparents just starting a farm to coming home to a fully realized operational dream come true. But from the stories my Dad shared of a early 1910s home in metropolitan Boise Idaho where they had a chicken coop for egg layers who became dinner chickens to moving 100 years forward to the 2010s where we raise chickens, hogs and partner with other well skilled farmers to bring other good food to market . I know they’ll know the intimate relationship of how food is nurtured before coming to table and the responsibility of stewardship and the reward of loving what you do. We’re contributing to a new generation of adults who will have that moment stealing memory that will bring a smile about their lives with grandparents and pigs.
|Posted by Melody Nye on September 17, 2012 at 8:20 AM||comments (1)|
I'm asked on a weekly basis how can I kill the animals I care for. The query as written is not verbatim. The actual questions run the gamut infused with you heartless bastard to true disconnected disbelief. I've honed my sound bite response to 'it's not my favorite day of the week' but this does not cover the true depth of my conflicted feelings about raising animals for food.
So let's begin there, food. I had winnowed down my meat to fish and buffalo by the time I started the journey to raising my own food. I like chicken and as a 40 something, with no actual farming experience I was full enough of myself to think I could raise and kill chickens for food. Well, I was right about learning a skill set but it started a journey that evolved me from consumer to conservator.
The only true flavor of the initial experience can accurately be shared by my best friend Carol. She was the first call I made when the chicks came home and shared loads of phone calls sharing weeks of innocent awe and discovery raising these awesome animals. Chickens! They have a pecking order! They have friends, habits, personality and they go through a tremendous growth change over the span of a short 6 week period. Cute, adorable day old chick. Week old fuzz bugs just showing the tiniest tail feather. 2 week olds, skin showing moving from fuzz to feather in unadorable awkward fashion, no longer really attractive and pooping like mad. 3 weeks old, visually better with most of their permanent feathers filled in to make them pretty again. Week 4, the mini full feathered versions of the adults they'll become. Week 5 through 12 the absolute best of dinner chicken life. They forage, strengthen their friend circles, chase bugs, test their wings, rise with the sun and rest with the sunset. It's a glorious cycle to watch and celebrate.
The first group I raised I took to a processor. So much anxiety in crating the chickens, transporting them 30 miles, listening to their cries and squawks of uncertainty, discomfort and general panic at the changed surrounding and handling. Then the ultimate moment of out of the crate and throats cut. I stayed for it all. The processors were efficient. I came home with a cooler containing 25 well raised chicken bodies. And tears. The yard was empty of the chirping I'd grown accustom to and the life that had thrived just hours before. Plus the true test was to come. Could I actually eat the very chickens I'd held, petting and marveled over? To be honest the first one I cooked I gave myself permission to just serve her and eat the sides. But I did take a bite and the chicken was every taste I'd been wanting. Tender, juicy, clean, fresh. I didn't feel polluted after drinking chicken broth.
The journey had begun. I was no longer a consumer. Chickens were broken down into parts and pieces and vacuum sealed. Chicken served that year was savored and portioned. Friends were judged for chicken worthiness. Once served there was no waste tolerated. 2 per month was the allotted ration. And in the following spring the reality that I'd need to change my on the road work schedule to ensure I was home for a continuous 4 week stretch to begin the raise cycle again was entrenched. My sister was begged into stewardship to help me care for the next 25 when I had business trips in weeks 5 through 8. And in response to the humanness of transporting chickens to kill I made the next leap and steeled myself for learning how to process them myself.
That's another blog entry so I'll stop here. I believe in a relationship with your food as ultimately it's an act of caring for yourself. I own the relationship and the responsibility. And when it's all judged in the end I hope I've given our animals the best life and the best environment. I'm no longer a consumer. And as the years have marched forward I'm thankful to the family and friends who tolerate my non consumption of other animals. I don't eat meat out anymore. Animals are thinking, feeling beings and if they've been raised poorly, confined, and denied the nature of their animalness I refuse the support the system that supports those types of grow operations. Because, by extension I have a relationship and impact on those animals as well.
|Posted by Melody Nye on May 1, 2012 at 2:25 AM||comments (0)|
Gestation crates made national news a few months back. I loved the energy of the e-waves, calls to action to end the production practice. Well the fervor has died down - and I don't know of a single factory that has removed a single gestation crate. Focusing on the positive, the attention did get several large corporations to begin looking at mandating producer’s end use BUT as I write this today there is no change.
To anyone who knows us our stance on this practice is not surprising. But I feel the need to educate about what it's like to be a girl pig in a factory farm. From the time a girl pig is sexually mature, around 6 months old she is bred and lives in a gestation crate. I don't know why the mere name doesn't make a person's skin crawl. As we near Mother's Day can you imagine a human being confined to a crate that doesn't allow for the simple act of turning around? A pig pregnancy lasts 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days. Somewhere around the 3 month and 3 week mark the mom to be is moved to a farrowing crate to prepare for birthing. The farrowing crate is no larger it's simply differently scaled on the outside to accommodate piglets to be confined closely with Mom after birth.
Did I mention the insane cruelness of these enclosures? Concrete floors, no space to walk, sleep in communal packs or play. In a production facility a girl pig is simply a means to an end - giving birth to a saleable carcass or more breeding stock. And a girl will go from the farrowing crate back to the gestation crate to repeat the process until she is 'culled' when no longer useful. This is not a 4 month anomaly but an entire lifetime of confinement. Hour after hour, day after day, month after month and year after year.
I have been in a production hog facility. It was where I got the hands on training to prepare for our own on farm births. My single day long training was instrumental in understanding production hog practices. But my intent is not to beat on the production machine but raise up those who do it right.
My ask to anyone who reads this, if you don't buy your pork from us PLEASE check the practices of who you do buy from. There are other small farmers just like us that don't use crates. Support them. Only by supporting a -0- crate tolerance will we change life for all these girls.
I love each of our sows and gilts and the freedom they enjoy. Our girls have something that so many of their sisterhood should have dignity, honor and respect.
For more information on the issue I invite you to check this link www.farmsanctuary.org/issues/factoryfarming/pork/.
|Posted by Melody Nye on July 17, 2011 at 12:58 PM||comments (0)|
Son Scott and his girl Julie gifted us with their time and talents on their home visit last month. We now have a YouTube page with three farm videos. Click and enjoy a little life on the farm!
|Posted by Melody Nye on July 1, 2011 at 6:47 PM||comments (0)|
We had oldest son and his girlfriend home with us a few days this past week. We had such a great time sharing our progress over the past year +. 4-week old piglets in the social area in the barn, one herd in each of three pastures and mobile hoop houses with chickens of varying week’s age. Lots more one on time for all the different herds since it's usually just Lynn and I making the rounds.
And that brings me to my reflection. What do all these different pastures give us and why do we spend time each day with each pig. Since our herds have each other to play, sleep, eat and wallow with do they really need us? I think yes from both a social and practical perspective.
Practical: Each day we 'see' with our eyes, hands and ears if each Berk is healthy, sporting an injury or feeling puny. The last two have happened and while the usual treatment is time and rest it's a watchful eye to benchmark any change in case there is something serious that needs tending.
Social: Well at the end of 6 months it's time to climb into the trailer and go to the processor. Not my fav day but made easier by our daily time. Alive, our pigs are around 250 pounds of dense, center of gravity perfectly placed muscle, so there's no coercing these boys and girls into doing anything they don't want to do. We don't have electric prods, we don't hog tie, so it's well established trust and communication with each pig that gets them into the trailer.
And this is the vast chasm of difference between factory raisers and us. I'd like to say at its basest level it's humanity. Yes it's time, work and attention. Yes it's carefully managing the load we place on our land. And it's very, very personal. But all this work makes me thankful each day I have the luxury of eating meat that's free from chemicals, free from cruelty and was full of happy, barking, oinking, running, social, sun drenched, mud wallowing life.
|Posted by Melody Nye on May 31, 2011 at 6:38 PM||comments (0)|
Did we just jump right in to the 80s and 90s with a vengeance, yikes. Our Berkshire herd has taken some generous siestas these past few days and the chickens have stayed on the grass in their hoop houses to avoid tanning, lol.
With all the heat we have a cool solution to quick and tasty meal planning! Next Saturday see us the Detroit Eastern Market for 8oz packages of fully cooked, cubed ham to add to chilled salads or fruit and cheese trays for easy, nutritious and tasty snacks! All Berkshire, fully smoked, -0- nitrates or msg.
|Posted by Melody Nye on April 25, 2011 at 10:31 PM||comments (0)|
Our newest girls arrived Saturday, Bette (ears straight up) and Kathleen (ears flopped forward), here's a bit of footage. They're just getting to know us and aren't cuddly like the rest of the herd - yet - but they have found their new favorite mud spa ;>
Re the names; it's a nod to Tom Waits, someone Lynn and I both admire. More details on request but basically it's a theme we can live with!
These two girls are really special as they represent a bring back from the brink of extinction. We are now an active part of conserving this heritage breed which is only one of two breeds listed as critically rare. When this breed came to the ALBC notice as of 2006 there were fewer than 200 purebred hogs documented. Most of these originated in the Holliday herd of Missouri, which is believed to be the last purebred herd in existence American Livestock Breeds Conservancy .
You won't see any Mulefoot pork from us in the foreseeable future as we will be concentrating on the raising, breeding and farrowing of these two rare girls. In 2012 if all goes well, we will have a few piglets for sale if you are interested in stewarding this breed back to healthy numbers! Then mid to late 2012 we may have a couple of Mulefoot for consumption as the flavor of this breed of pig is made for savoring! There's a small write up by the folks at Slow Food Arc of Taste for more information.
I'll keep posting to the website and FB page about how we're getting on in doing our part to preserve and thrive this unique pig breed. Oh, and advances on how I'm doing with the cuddly part too!
|Posted by Melody Nye on April 21, 2011 at 11:12 AM||comments (0)|
These past two weeks have seen Lynn and I through the incredible highs of our first Berkshire piglet births here at Melo Farms! It's been a joy to steward these girls during the birthing process - farrowing for us farmers. The sleep deprived nights of 4 to 3 to 2 hour shifts checking for impending births to the actual ushering in to the world deliveries.
I won't sugar coat it though, there were tremendous lows. This was a difficult birthing season. Only 3 of our 5 gilts was actually pregnant, those precious three went days past their due dates, and over a 7 day span of deliveries two gilts only delivered 1 viable piglet each and our champ, Nellie, gave us 6 unbelievably healthy large piglets. Each birth was assisted as we had too large, breech and two in the canal at once presentations. And unavoidable, sad losses.
As we've spent these last 10 days reveling in the growth and carefully stewarding these 8 new lives we also prepared to say goodbye to our two girls, Hildy and Molly. These two were slated to be of the five that were our first birthers but fate has a given them a different role in our farm. These two will fill current orders, be our entry offering as we begin sales at Detroit Eastern Market on May 7th and will begin our farm-to-table relationships with a few select restaurants earlier than we could have expected.
Those who are about to die we salute you, thank you and are humbled. In addition to that, these girls and the ones who will follow are the answer to this Omnivore's dilemma and hopefully yours. I will be grateful that you ate our fresh feed, vegis, fruit and pasture and that you lived pampered, stress free, healthy days as I cook you for friends and family. And, I will be inordinately proud to sell this healthy, well raised, life lived pork to our customers. Circle of life.