Sheep in the Mist||Photo Shoot

There is really no purpose to this blog post other than to show off my sheep and how awesome they look in the fog. I’m so glad I grabbed my camera, and the sheep made the perfect models. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. Happy Monday!

PS Be sure to read the captions for commentary

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Georgette stops to check me out, but quickly decides the camera isn’t safe. Time to run to her friends.
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It’s a rainbow of sheep…well a neutral colored rainbow.
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I call this her supermodel look.
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Paisley is always such a diva. She’s stomping her foot at me here. So. Much. Sassiness.
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Silver and Georgette really wishing I’d go away
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The white sheep just seem to be one with the misty fog. 

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If the sheep were making a movie, this would be the cover. Evelyn is even bowing.

When Did Farmers Become Villains?

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The picture of that little girl is me. I was about 9 years old and had just shown my first goat. I enjoyed playing dress-up, creating adventures with my Barbies, and watching Disney movies. In all my days as a child, I imagined many things for myself, but never did I imagine becoming a villain.

In a world of princesses, I was Belle and Cinderella, but never the Beast or the evil queen. I was the Wendy, soaring with Peter Pan, but never was I Captain Hook. As a young girl, I imagined so many scenarios and plots that took me to distant lands and allowed me to be a princess, heroine, adventurer, explorer, or president, but never did I imagine becoming a villain.

Yet, here I am at 23, and somehow, I with so many others that I hold dear, have become villains. Why? It wasn’t because of the want of power or greed. No, it was because I…we are farmers.

As a little girl, I LOVED living on a farm. For me there was no better life. I learned values like hard work, honesty, good sportsmanship, responsibility, compassion, grit, and dedication. When I looked to the other farmers I knew, I saw that in them too. So, it would come as a shock when I, along with other farmers, were grouped together and villianized.

As I grew older, I began to hear the ripples of people who condemned the farmer. And so, I decided to share with others what I knew about farming. I decided to share my passion, and my love for it. I had no idea how HARD it would be.

I didn’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I don’t think I expected people to attack me and farming with such awful accusations. All of a sudden, I was a murderer for eating bacon. I was a rapist for allowing animals to be bred. I tortured animals, had no heart, and was even a cannibal. I was compared to Hitler, told I was participating in slavery, and destroying the environment without a care. I was a villain.

But the truth was, I was just a farmer. I was a girl who had dreamed of flying with Peter Pan, and had become a farmer. Somewhere in there, though, activist groups, individuals, and the media deemed me and so many others as the villain.

When did the farmer become a villain?

How could the farmer become a villain?

Perhaps it is because only 2% of the population are farmers, and many no longer understand agriculture. Or maybe, it is because media coverage of farming drastically diminished at the same time people were becoming farther removed from farms. So, when the media did turn their attention back to farmers, they looked much different than Old McDonald. Perhaps farmers are villains simply because social media allows people to be more bold and say horrible things.

Whatever the reason, the farmer is a villain.

But, are they truly  villains?

No.

How do I know? Because I am a farmer, and I know my heart. This is not the heart of a villain. This heart has mourned the loss of an animal, broken for the ruined crop, and toiled day in and day out, all while being told it was a murderer.

More than a farmer, though, I am a person. The other farmers–they are people too. And those names that we are called and the accusations thrown our way do not fall on deaf ears. They hurt. Because farming is not just a job or career. Farming is a way of life, and if people took the time to understand and get to know us farmers, they’d find out we are far from villains. They’d find that they have us all wrong. We are so much more.

When did farmers become villains?

They didn’t. They have always been a resilient community with large hearts and a passion for the land, food, animals, people, and their families.

So, I will hold my head high. I am not a villain or even a princess or a girl who flies with pixie dust. I will hold my head high because I am a farmer.

Lambing Season- 2016-

When it comes to animals being born on the farm, I think I get the most giddy over the lambs. There is something about those little wooly babies and their over attentive mommas.

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Aspen was the first ewe to go. We walked outside to 2 little black girl lambs.

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Meet Lace….

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and Silver…

I just knew it would be a short time before the next lamb would arrive. I checked several times a day and through the night. Alas, it was like watching a pot boil. Finally, Aspen’s sister, Fiona, had a super splashy baby girl that is all diva. Meet Paisley…

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We now had 3 more mommas to lamb. I made my predictions as to who would go next. Of course, they decided to spite me and go in all sorts of orders. Our old girl Duff, was the third one to lamb. Once again, we had another little girl, but this one was white! Meet Eve…

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We were down to our southdown sisters. Sybil went first and had a super black little girl. I’m somewhat partial to Sybil, so this baby was really exciting for me. Meet Georgette…

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The last arrival was Edith’s little white lamb. Once again, we had a girl. While we just missed her birth, we caught her right after, so she was still getting cleaned off by mom. Meet Evelyn…

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We are so in love with our 6 little girls. They are all very different, and have way cool wool. We can’t wait to show them at State Fair. They have already been on several field trips to visit kids and tell everybody about wool.

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Now that lambing season is over, shearing season is about to begin, so stay tuned! For now, enjoy all of the cuteness.

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You Have to be Brave to Raise Livestock

Two weeks ago was a tough week on the farm. We lost 3 animals in the span of 3 days, and that…. that was really hard.

I’ve been raising livestock for 13 years, and have had animals since the day I was born. And, throughout that time, there has been loss. It comes with the territory. Some of those losses have impacted me more than others, but no matter what animal it is, it never gets easier.

The other week we lost two goats- Tres and Nala, and our barn cat- Sassy. Tres was unexpected. She was fine one day, and gone the next.

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Nala, lost her battle to a raging infection, despite 3 visits to the vet, several antibiotics, and meds to control the fever.

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Sassy was 13 years old, and we knew his time was drawing near. He lived his last days as a house cat.

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Nala was the the third one to go, and at that point, I was ready to throw up my hands. It was entirely frustrating and emotional. You work so hard to keep these animals healthy. When they get sick, you do everything you can to make them better, and sometimes it isn’t good enough. When your best isn’t good enough, that can cut deep.

Nala went into premature labor. Not only that, but the baby was not in the proper position. After trying for 40 minutes to realign the baby, we decided that we couldn’t do it. We knew the baby was already dead, so we loaded Nala up to go to the vet. Those vets worked for more than an hour to deliver that fetus. Everyone was tired, especially Nala. She was registering a temperature of 105. The next few days was a series of banamine for the fever, antibiotics for the infection, oxytocin for a retained placenta, and more trips to the vet. We were hoping that it would clear up. We were hoping that we could try again for a baby next year, but it wasn’t meant to be. Nala was my best doe. I was the most excited for her baby. It would be her first and the first off our new buck. I put a lot of hopes and dreams into them, and it went up in smoke.

When you raise livestock, they have a purpose. It may be for breeding stock; it may be for showing; it may just be to go to market. Whatever the purpose, you put hopes into that animal. Sometimes you get your hopes up.

Losing an animal isn’t about the money spent at the vet. It isn’t about the money lost in the investment of the animal. It isn’t about having to dig a hole. It is about heart. I may not shed a tear for every animal that dies, but they all hit me. They all are a life, and that affects my heart. It doesn’t matter how many animals you have, or the scale of your farm.

I recently heard a story of a hog farm that had the PED virus. This virus caused 100% mortality in baby pigs. Although there are thousands of pigs in those barns, the farmers wept. Not because they were losing dollars, but because that life was gone, and that was devastating. The hope and potential of that animal was gone. Their best efforts weren’t always good enough.

After hearing that story and thinking of my week last week, one word came to mind-bravery. Raising animals takes bravery. You have to be brave to put hope and dreams into an animal that does not have a 100% guarantee. Even if it has a totally healthy life, the lifespan of animals is not the same as ours. You are choosing to love and care for a ticking time bomb. When that animal does pass away, it takes bravery to continue. You have to be brave to care for another animal.

When I was on the third day of losing an animal, I wanted to walk away. I didn’t want to put expectations or hopes into yet another animal that might not make it, but then… then I saw the other side of the spectrum. I saw little Pluto, only a week old, braving the cold weather to explore his world, and I smiled.

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Raising livestock is hard. It is frustrating. There are tears. There are also smiles, joy, and heart. Raising livestock takes bravery. In spite of loss, in spite of sadness, I choose bravery and to hope once more in an animal, because that is what it is all about.

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Ice, sword fights, and boys

Typically, I have a love/hate relationship with the weather, but right now it’s mostly hate. It is causing one heck of a mess around here. The grossness isn’t just about inconvenience, it is causing a lot more work too. The ice caused a lot of limbs to fall, and of course loads of mud. While these photos are from the first ice round, I thought it appropriate considering yesterday’s ice and today’s rain.

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During all the cleanup, there was a bit of an accident too.

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How? Well, let’s just say boys will be boys, and let the next picture do the rest of the talking…

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Yes, that is sword fighting. Everything turned out fine, though. Mom cleaned up Isaac’s wound and put some butterfly strips on it. He was good to go, and now has a cool upside down v scar.

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Needless to say, the weather is taking  bit of a toll on us. It’ll be fine, though. We’ll just keep praying for sunshine.

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Life of a Farm Boy

As I was flipping through photos, I was struck by what a great life farming provides. Sure it is hard work and dirty, but there is no better place to grow up in my opinion.

I always knew that I enjoyed the farm life, but wasn’t sure if I was an anomaly. There is a 12 and 13 year age gap between my youngest brothers and myself. This has allowed me to really take in what it is like growing up on a farm. I’m thoroughly convinced  that we are incredibly blessed to live this life.

Recently, a woman visiting the farm mentioned that this was her daughter’s dream. I mulled that over. My reality was her dream. Wow! How lucky am I? How lucky are my brothers?

Living on a farm can be inconvenient, dirty, and hard. Going on vacation means finding someone to feed the stock. After a ball game on Saturday, we return to make fence repairs, medicate animals, or clean barns out. By a young age, we kids know and have experienced the miracle of life and the woes of death. Everyday is a go outside day (sometimes it is just a matter of how fast can we feed).

BUT, living on a farm is… well, just scroll through the photos. It is the life of my brothers. It is the life of farm boys.

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When it Rains: Weather Causes Challenges for Hog Farmers

For many in the world, rain is simply an inconvenience. Umbrellas go up, feet get wet, traffic gets worse, plans get ruined. It is just plain gross.

For some though, rain devastates. We all know that a lack of rain can ruin crops. We have all heard of farmers praying for rain, but there are also the days where farmers are praying for it to stop.

Recently, it rained, and rained…and rained some more. I had two flooded pastures, and the sheep had to wade puddles that were more like rivers to get to a dry pen. I was beyond ankle deep in mud. It frustrated me, but there wasn’t a thing to be done… well except transfer the sheep. I realized that for us, though, the rain and muck was an inconvenience. It was a bigger inconvenience than someone who doesn’t live on a farm, but compared to what my dad was dealing with, it was just an inconvenience.

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An example of the standing water we had on the farm

Dad is an environmental manager for several hog farms. His job is to oversee the management of the land on the farms, the lagoons (containing area for hog waste), and all waste treatment from the pigs. In short he manages dirt, poop, and crops…with people.

Examples of some of his duties include managing innovative growing and harvesting bio-mass (e.g. miscanthis, sorghum, etc.) for bio-fuels. He oversees how land renters are managing that piece of land. He also monitors lagoon levels at multiple hog farms. Lagoons cannot rise to a certain level. This is why the waste (aka manure) is pumped out and used as fertilizer on crops. It is a great way farms use resources. They can’t pump this waste on the land flippantly, though. They follow strict guidelines and regulations set forth by the state. Dad makes sure they follow these regulations.

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Pumping on hay fields for fertilizer

One of his biggest enemies, is rain. I remember as a little girl seeing how stressed he was because of a heavy rain. Why is it a stresser? Well, rain can fill up lagoons and make them rise over acceptable levels if not managed. Managing the levels take place with proactive measures by pumping when it is sunny and the crops can soak it all up. They also occur in the midst of the rain. Sometimes, no matter how proactive farmers are, Mother Nature will not cooperate. She just keeps on pounding the rain.

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A low level lagoon

Can they just pump in the rain on the wet ground? Absolutely not! Can they throw up their hands and say oh well? Nope! They work overtime. They haul in tankers to haul the waste away to keep the lagoon level down. This is expensive, costing thousands of dollars. Add this stress onto the fact that if they ever hit a high level, they have to report it to the state. If they have a spill, they get fined. There is major stress trying to protect the environment, abide by regulations, and fighting Mother Nature.

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During Christmas, it rained. My dad was on the phone a lot, making calls, making decisions, and making the drive to the farm that was 45 minutes away to monitor it. There was the potential that he was going to have to call his guys and say you have to work on Christmas. Is pig poop so important that he would have to take men away from their families on Christmas? It is when it rains. It is when they are looking at rising levels, fines, and damages. It is important because if they ignore it, they fail, and they hurt their community. So, like the majority of individuals who farm, they go out in the rain, and on Christmas if needed.

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Pumping on sunny days is a proactive way to manage for rainy days.

Takeaway: Lagoons are in the news a lot as a pollutant and farmers are portrayed as the polluters who willfully ruin the environment. The truth, though is they work very hard to protect it. My dad has been an environmental manager for more than 15 years. He is the kind of guy who when given too much change, he returns it. If he returns a couple of dollars, don’t you think he would follow regulations, and safeguard the environment even at the expense of blowing his budget and working on holidays? I do. I’ve seen it for almost two decades.

This post is Dad approved.

100 Years of Family Farming

Our farm was recently recognized with something pretty exciting. After some research into farm and land records, we put an application in for the North Carolina Century Farm certification.

The Century Farm designation is in recognition of 100 or more years of continuous family farming. Started in 1970, the program aimed to identify farms that had been in a family for 100 continuous years. To be eligible, records had to be presented that showed that the farm had passed to a blood relative of the original owner for a century or more. Of the 52,000 farms in North Carolina only about 3% of them have been honored with the designation of a Century Farm, and we are one! Isn’t that absolutely awesome?!

DSC_0094Our farm started in 1895 when Bettie Denning and husband David Jernigan bought approximately 150 acres. In 1909, Dave died. Bettie would later marry his brother, Jim Jernigan.  Jim and Bettie never had children, but Dave and Bettie had seven together–6 boys and 1 girl. The girl was my great-grandmother, Harriett Jernigan.

A tract of the original estate was given to my great-grandmother when she married (approximately 45 acres). She and my great- grandfather, Owen Weaver, built a house on this land.

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Harriett and Owen Weaver–1952

My great-grandfather cleared a large portion of the land with an ax, by hand. He pulled the stumps up with mules. On this farm land, they grew tobacco, soybeans, corn, and  cotton. They also had chickens and up to 100 pigs. Mules were used to plow until 1956 when the first tractor was bought. It would normally take one week to plow 15 acres by mule.

My grandfather, Bob Weaver, and two older siblings, Elizabeth and Nick, were born and grew up on this plot of land.

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Bob Weaver (Papa) circa 1949.
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Papa on a retired US Army Horse.

Papa helped with the farm work until he was 18. At this time, he joined the US Air Force. He would eventually be stationed in Scotland where he met my grandma, Sylvia McCabe.

001 (9)They married in North Carolina in February of 1966.

001 (11)In 1978, they moved back to the family farm land where they built a house. At this point, my mom was 11 years old and her brother, Bobby, was 8 years old. The house was built on 14 acres of the original tract of land.

Grandma, Mom, and Uncle Bobby doing some foundation work on the house
Grandma, Mom, and Uncle Bobby doing some foundation work on the house
Papa pumping water before pipes had been run to the house
Papa pumping water before pipes had been run to the house

001 (4)My great-grandfather was living at the end of the road, still raising pigs (my great-grandmother died in 1954). The rest of the land was being leased out to a local farmer.

My great-grandfather cooking a pig on an open pit early 70's
My great-grandfather cooking a pig on an open pit in the late 60’s
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July 1967–Mom is the baby being held by my great-grandfather. Papa is to his left and his brother, Nick, is to the far left.

Today, my Papa and Grandma have acquired 40 acres of the original estate, and my family lives on 6 of those acres. Our barn was built by my great-grandfather in the early 1960’s to be used as a pack house for tobacco.

fourth famPapa has buildings that are comprised of a tobacco barn built by my great- grandfather in the early 50’s. My great-grandfather died in 1988, but his handiwork lives on.

The next generation of our family is now farming on the same land that has been passed down for more than 100 years. Papa is growing a pecan orchard that has over 50 trees and rents out the remainder of the land for farming. We graze sheep and goats on 10 acres of the family land.

The honor of having a Century Farm is profound. In regards to why it means so much, I think Papa says it best,

“It is important to me to be able to pass down the land to my children and grandchildren, and for my future generations to know their heritage and where they come from.”

I am extremely proud to live on a Century Farm and to have such a rich history. Our roots run deep, and I love it!

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Garden Villains–Encountering the Hornworm

Our garden has been struggling hard core this year. Our peppers have consistently done well, but everything else has been a flop. We felt there was still hope for the tomato plants, though. They just seemed to be late producing.

That hope died when we got back from our vacation to the lake. Every single tomato plant we had planted, had been stripped of its leaves.

edit12The culprit–hornworms.

edit7Aren’t they gruesome, yet kinda cool too? They have super good camouflage making it really hard to spot them. We typically don’t even know they are there until our tomato plants start to become naked. Normally, we can catch them before they do too much damage; however, because we were away for a week, our tomato plants fell victim. I guess in this case it is “while the gardener is away the hornworms will play.” They are quite the evil little villain, and have thoroughly shot all chances of anymore tomato sandwiches for me.

Villain Profile:

There are 2 varieties of hornworm that can often be seen together on a plant, and they look identical. There is the tomato hornworm, Manduca quinquemaculata, and the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta. The biggest difference between the two is the tobacco hornworm has a red horn, and the tomato hornworm has a black horn. Tabacco hornworms also have 7 oblique lateral white lines on them, and the tomato hornworm boasts more of a v-shape in their white lines. We identified our hornworms as the tobacco variety because of their red horn. I will note that some of my research did not differentiate between the two hornworms.

edit4Hornworms are actually caterpillars.They will turn into what is known as the sphinx, hawk, or hummingbird moth.

Photo Cred: University of Nebraska

The adults will lay eggs on leaves, the caterpillars will eat their fill until they are about 3-4 inches in length. After they have matured as a caterpillar, they drop off the plant and bury themselves in the soil to pupate. Moths will emerge 2 weeks later. They do this twice in the summer–once in early summer and again in late summer or fall. Those that pupate in the later half, will stay in the ground until spring.

Photo Cred: UKY

The hornworm gets its name from the horn that is on the tail of the caterpillar.

edit3They are always green with spots, but can range in size.

Criminal Actions:

Hornworms strip tomato plants of all of their foliage, and will even eat the fruit of the plant too.

edit9While tomato plants are their target victim, they like anything in the nightshade family. Peppers, eggplant, and potato are also in danger.

Fighting Back:

The most effective way to control hornworms is to just pick them off the plant… gross, I know. I wear gloves, because they can pee on you. They can hold on to the tomato plant pretty tight, so you may have to wrestle the dudes off. After hunting for all that you can find (trust me, it isn’t easy spotting them), you can throw them in soapy water to kill them. I just fed ours to the chickens.

These were all of the ones I picked off of our plants
These were all of the ones I picked off of our plants

Because the caterpillars can do so much damage in such a little amount of time, it is important to regularly check your plants. Afterall, there is a villain a foot, and they are ready to chomp down on some foliage.

edit11Despite essentially killing our tomato plants, hornworms are pretty interesting. They also make for some cool pics. For the record, though, the pictures I got do not mean I have gone soft. The tomato hornworms are not welcome in my garden.

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See ya!

 


Source:

University of Minnesota

UKY

University of Nebraska

University of Florida

Got to Be NC Show Pig Sale–We Are No Longer Pig-less!

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen where Alec and I traveled 1,200 miles and photographed/videoed 85 pigs at 12 farms all across the state for the Got to Be NC Show Pig Sale. We did it within 5 days and it was quite the adventure. Honestly, though, I loved it! After hours of editing videos and photos, they were posted on the online portion of the sale through Willoughby Sales. All there was left was to wait for the sale.

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Alec and I both planned on buying a pig at the sale. We had each picked out our favorites and set budgets for ourselves. I was stoked. When we arrived at the sale, I was excited to see so many people there. This was the inaugural sale, and I wanted it to do well. Because there was an online portion, there would be bidders both on the grounds and over the internet. It was a big deal for NC show pigs. As far as I know, this was the first of its kind in the state. There was free food, free t-shirts for buyers, and a lot of great folks.

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The problem with sales is you have to be strategic. I had 3 pigs picked out that I was interested in, but my favorite one was later in the sale line up. I was in the conundrum that I could wait until my favorite with the risk that it would go too high, and my other favorites would then be gone as they were earlier in the line up. I’m telling you, strategy and a bit of gambling is needed.

Alec’s first pick pig went too high for his budget, so he moved to the second, but when it got in the ring, he decided he didn’t like it. So, on we went to the third pig which went too high also. At this point, I’m getting a little squirmy for Alec. Our top 3 pigs for him were gone, and now it was a matter of picking one as they came through. One little guy came through the ring, and I nudged Alec that I liked this one. Alec watched him for a bit then bid. He got in a slight bidding war with another guy, and ended up calling it quits once he hit his budget. Dad and I finally talked Alec into going another $25. That won the pig.

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My bidding was much less eventful. I decided to pass up two pigs I liked to wait for my favorite and got her with no competition. I was stoked!

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Overall, I think the sale went well, especially as it was the first year doing it. Sure, there were some no-sales, but that’s alright. I hope to see it grow, and more people support it in the future.

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sale5It is truly exciting to see a great group of NC pig farmers come together to provide quality stock. Most of the pigs will be at the NC State Fair competing, so be sure to stop by the pig barn at the fair. For now, though, I would like to introduce you to our newest additions. I am no longer “pig-less”! They LOVE marshmallows.

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I am pleased to introduce to you my gilt, Alice:

 

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And, Alec’s barrow Gus:

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We should be getting two more pigs for the boys soon too, so stay tuned.