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Archive for September, 2009

Today was the expected due date for our Yorkshire sow and she delivered her piglets right on time! She chose to start the birthing process after breakfast and by Noon there were 16 healthy piglets scrambling over each other and trying to eat. It was exciting not just to watch but to actually help. Although, my actions were limited to cleaning them off, clearing out their mouths and making sure they squealed so we knew they were breathing. Thankfully no other actions were needed and the whole process went smoothly. Without further ado, here are the photos…

Momma, last week. Can you believe she was even bigger yesterday?

Momma, last week. Can you believe she was even bigger yesterday?

Early on, about 10am... these are the first ones delivered.

Early on, about 10am... these are the first ones delivered.

another view

another view

Can you tell I am excited?

Can you tell I am excited?

All 16 happily eating! The bars are setup so the sow can get up and lay down and not accidently hurt a piglet.

All 16 happily eating! The bars are setup so the sow can get up and lay down and not accidently hurt a piglet.

When I last checked before leaving the farm, the sow was resting comfortably and all piglets were still rambunctious and voracious eaters. I will be keeping my fingers crossed for the next few critical days so that hopefully next week the sow and all her 16 piglets will be brought up to the main barn for everyone to see.

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Exhaustion…

Wow, what a week. I am exhausted. Which is amazing because I have had more energy coming off weeks where we were picking up hay and straw from the fields and stacking it in the haylofts (in 90+ degree weather!). But, not this week. Lots of meetings, tons of talking to people. Today we took two sheep, ducks, a rabbit, chickens and our 5 month old Holstein heifer (dairy cow) to a retirement center for people to visit with the animals. This was for their “fall harvest” celebration and we were one of the attractions. It was great seeing some of the older men and women get excited over the animals. The cow, Samantha, was the biggest hit. Everyone wanted to know who she was, if she’d be giving us milk in the future, when, would she grow any bigger, etc… etc… So I did A LOT of talking. And talking exhausts me. But, it was great fun and inspired me to try and volunteer at a retirement center again in the future. I have never done that before and it was so wonderful to hear the different memories/stories everyone had to tell.

Well, the weekend is fast approaching. I may go watch a Western Horse Show but I definitely know I will be celebrating October Fest with friends tomorrow! I will also try to upload the last photos I have from Spain. Either I need a new USB cord or a quick trip to Walmart/Target to get the photos put on a CD. Either way, it is on my “to-do” list.

Talk to you soon!

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Just a quick update on our show pigs… The 300# Hampshire-cross barrows have slowed their weight gain – which is good since they are maxed out and if they keep gaining weight we won’t be able to show them. The other Chesters and Blue Butts are still gaining weight. They all range between 130 and 180 (as of today). All of the farmstaff have been working with the pigs almost every day. The ones up by the main barn are walked each morning around the front pasture a few times. Those pigs come back in huffing and puffing and full from eating cow pies (eww! I thought only dogs did that…). Our other pigs who live out by the fields and have more space in their pens are being worked a little less regularly. This includes “my” Spot gilt who I will be showing at the State Fair. They are all a bit more rambunctious than the barn group. But, all have shown improvement. I am happy to note that the Spot gilt was turning about 75% of the time in the direction I wanted her to go – in between running and a few quarrels with the other pigs. She makes me laugh. Well, seeing any pig “run” makes me laugh. One of these days I’ll try to get video. But for now at least I can post about forward progress.

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Back to Work!

How nice it is to be back on solid ground after flying. I hate flying and each year I despise it even more. Now turbulence has started to worry me when it never did before. That and when you look up at the baggage compartments and see them wiggling around… ugh…

Anyway, it is good to be back. And it is good to be back to work already. The pigs have grown quite a bit in the week I was gone. They are all gaining muscle and have reached their weight goals. This is both a good and bad thing. Good because we can more easily/naturally slow their weight gain. Bad if they are over the allowed weight for their class.

One surprise. I will be showing a pig at the State Fair! I am not entirely sure what I need to do, but those details will come in the next two weeks. Although I do know I am showing our newest, least trained pig. Nothing like pairing two greenies together! I went in today to just work with her in a ring we created. At first she just takes off running but after the first few minutes she settled down … some. Turning is not an easy feat. If I can keep her on the rail we do well until she sees something more interesting and then off she goes! We have fourteen days until the show so hopefully I can work with her and get her to settle down some. This is going to be fun and I intend to update on our progress.

In the meantime, I am not the only one happy  that I am home. My rescue kitty has yet to leave my lap and demands to sit in “her spot” the second I sit down.

Here she is, in her usual position in my lap…

Dibbs.

Dibbs.

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As the Pirineos start to form in the Aragon region of Spain, there is a church that was built long ago and dedicated to the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. From 1970-1975 a new Shrine was built in honor of Mary and as a place for people to receive peace in their soul and life. Between the architecture, the many confessionals, and the scenic views… there is a bit of peace to be found by anyone who makes their way up the winding roads. It truly is a beautiful place. My words will never do enough so I’ll just share some of the pictures I took. I hope you enjoy!

Driving, we can see it in the distance.

Driving, we can see it in the distance.

View from afar.

A little closer... still winding our way up.

The original church. You can still walk down to see it.

The original church. You can still walk down to see it.

A view of the open space infront of the new shrine.

A view of the open space in front of the "new" shrine.

The unique pilars that can be seen throughout the new shrine.

The unique pillars that can be seen throughout.

More of the architecture.

More of the architecture.

The main carving inside the shrine. It is incredible to see in person.

The main carving inside the shrine. It is incredible to see in person.

The view looking out from the shrine.

The view looking out from the shrine.

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As promised I want to share some of the “farming” projects my dad is working on in his home town, Peralta de Alcofea. Close to the house he has a lot of plants and vegetables growing. Including peppers, lettuces (during the cooler months), onions, garlic, tomatoes, various melons, raspberries, “golden” berries, black berries, grapes and an olive tree that is being shaped like one of those bonsai trees. I don’t have a picture of the olive tree because right now it is in the middle of a growth spurt and will not be shaped again until after it gets cold.

Very tasty grapes!

Melons growing on a low, slanted roof.

Melons growing on a low, slanted roof.

Close up of the hanging melons - see how they are elongated!

Close up of the hanging melons growing on the roof - see how they are elongated!

Outside of town my dad rents some land from the local government. The dots of trees in the middle of the picture below are growing on this rented land (about 8 euros/year). Most of those trees are olive trees and my dad expects to press approximately 800 kg of olive oil. He will keep about 200 kg from that batch.

Olive trees on the rented piece of land in the middle of this photo.

Olive trees on the rented piece of land in the middle of this photo.

Small olives ripening in the tree.

Small olives ripening in the tree.

Right now the olives are not ready to be picked. However we still were able to do some harvesting together! On the same piece of land are some almond trees. Generally farmers use a machine to vibrate the tree which releases the pods in to a net below. However, there are only a handful of the almond tress on this property so we were able to do it the original way… by hand and stick. Here are some pictures I was able to take…

An almond tree.

An almond tree.

A young pod on the almond tree which is not ready to be picked.

A young pod on the almond tree which is not ready to be picked.

Once the pods on the almond tree split open and begin to dry they are ready to be taken off the tree. Usually just shaking the branch will cause them to fall off.

Once the pods on the almond tree split open and begin to dry they are ready to be taken off the tree. Usually just shaking the branch will cause them to fall off.

Loaded branches on the almond tree!

Loaded branches on the almond tree!

I have stashed a few of the almond pods away because I would like to start my own tree back in the United States. I would also like to take a clipping of the grape vines back home but unfortunately it is not the right time of year to trim from the plant. I will be sure to let you know how that goes. More updates from Spain to come.

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A lot has happened since my last post so I will try to focus this entry on our excursion to Zaragoza. We left somewhat early in the morning for an hour long drive through the country to get to the city of Zaragoza which has a population size of 750,000. Zaragoza is a beautiful city, very clean and as always friendly.

My father, The Boyfriend and I took a tour of the Ambar Brewery which was opened in 1900. The brewery was once outside the city limits of Zaragoza but now it is located closer to the center of the city than it is to the outside. What was really neat, for me who works on a time-period farm, was that the brewery still uses pieces of equipment dating back to the 1920’s and 1930’s. Here are a few of those…

This sized the various grains in order to make sure similar pieces were roasted together.

The second piece of equipment weighed the grains to make sure they were all the same density before roasting.

The second piece of equipment weighed the grains to make sure they were all the same density before roasting.

After roasting the grains were mixed with water and boiled in to a mash. Historically copper was used and is considered the best but now all the breweries use stainless steel (money and upkeep).

After roasting the grains were mixed with water and boiled in to a mash. Historically copper was used and is considered the best but now all the breweries use stainless steel (money and upkeep).

In these large, approximently 40,000 litre, tanks the beer and added yeast is left to furment. Ambar chooses their yeast from a special school in Germany. Each beer company has selected different strains of yeast that they feel are superior and help produce a distinct taste.

The fermentation begins in these large, 40,000 - 70,000 litre, tanks with the addition of a specific strain of yeast. Each brewery chooses a strain of yeast developed from a special school in Germany that helps to add a distinct flavor.

Finally, and to some most importantly, it is time to enjoy the beer!

Finally, and to some most importantly, it is time to enjoy the beer!

After enjoying a few “cervesas” we went back to the heart of the city to explore some of its history. The El Pilar basilica (Our Lady of the Pillar) in Zaragoza has a lot of interesting history. It is most known for a time during the Spanish Civil War when two bombs were dropped on it that never detonated. It is considered a miracle by many in the region.

El Pilar basilica, Our Lady of the Pillar basilica.

Inside El Pilar basilica.

Inside El Pilar basilica.

Artwork in El Pilar basilica made from alabaster.

Artwork in El Pilar basilica made from alabaster.

Another view from inside El Pilar.

Another view from inside El Pilar.

As Zaragoza has expanded of the last decade there has been a lot of renovation within the city. With that means digging and there have been some amazing discoveries found under the city. That include this amphitheater that has been dated back to the Romans.
Roman ruins found in Zaragoza.

Roman ruins found in Zaragoza.

And here is a Roman bridge, still being used.
Roman bridge in Zaragoza.

Roman bridge in Zaragoza.

  Pieces of history can be found all over Spain. In Zaragoza contractors are now afraid to dig in to the earth because they most likely will find an archeological site and then they will not be allowed to continue. If anyone is traveling through Northern Spain I would suggest a stop in Zaragoza. It is a beautiful city with lots to see, plenty of shopping and all the good food you could ever want. The city is tourist friendly without being “touristy.” You will definitely get a true taste of the culture in Zaragoza.

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