Moving day

Today was moving day for Gladys and Lucile, the two resident potbelly pigs. Working around the rain drops these past two weeks, I finally finished the new Piggery. My original plan was to tuck the piggery under the old truck which serves as a hay shed for the lambing barn. Winter put the project on hold. Thanks to my friend Duane, the new Chicken Palace was completed before winter hit. It allowed me to do a major chicken roundup of the wild bunch and move the flock from the old 8 by 12 coop into a new 14 by 24 building. The chickens, including 80 roosters hatched last summer, loved it. Thanks to Craigslist, I was able to trade the roosters for two turkeys. That’s a story for another day.

Anyway, the old coop became the piggery for the winter. I got Gladys and Lucile in a trade. I traded hay for a petting zoo. Gladys and Lucile are real pigs! They love to eat. They survived the winter hunkering down in a mountain of straw, eating and getting real fat! I try to make sure my animals get enough food. Apparently pot bellied pigs are easy keepers. I didn’t factor that in to my feeding. I suppose I could rationalize and say their legs shrunk from snuggling in a thick blanket of straw all winter. Needless to say, when your a four legged critter and your belly exceeds your leg length, you begin to experience mobility issues. Sorry girls!

So I added a piggery into my work plan. My work plans are fluid. I make them up as I go along. I had lots of eight foot two by fours so I decided on an eight by eight structure. The two by fours cut in half led me to decide on four foot walls. Using rough lumber, I decided to make the sheeting a board and batten finish. Deep within my storage shed, I retrieved an old barn cupola I had bought at the Waverly auction, as it still had the tag on it. Pigs stink. I figured ventilation would be a good thing. I mounted the unit in the center of the roof and built the roof around it. Also stored in the shed were bundles of shingles left over from another project. Just enough as it turned out.

So today was a big day! Just as I finished caulking around the cupola my young neighbor Dallas rumbles into the yard on her four wheeler. “What are you doing Mr. Ed? ” “Getting ready to move the new piggery” I said. “Can I Help?” “You, bet”, I said, glad to have help. Did I mention I built the piggery out in the yard in front of the workshop? As most of my projects, the new piggery, turned our a bit more substantial than I anticipated. “Are you going to be able to pull it”? My skeptical friend asked as we hooked up the chains. “if the tractor can’t , I’ll go get the horses”, I joked. She helped hook the chains. I hopped on the tractor, put it in low gear and slowly began moving forward. It moved! I crawled towards the new site, Dallas borrowed my phone and documented this momentous occasion.

Five minutes later we began maneuvering the new Piggery into position. Pushing, pulling, shoving and sliding, we managed to get it where we wanted. Time for a lemonade break. Rested and updated on the events of the day, my friend and I moved on to phase two. We needed to connect the pig pen to the Piggery. I pounded the posts, Dallas tied the hog panels to them. Pigs have strong snouts. We made sure each corner was secured well.

Phase three proved to be the most challenging. As I flung open the door of the chicken coop, Dallas informed the girls, it was time to move! They grunted and resumed snoozing. I hate to say it, but offering them a snack was the only way to get their attention. After a few minutes of pushing and urging, we were able to get them to exit the old coop. Pigs aren’t stupid. They quickly figured out something was up. Faced with a choice of moving twenty feet to a new home or going back to the familiar, they protested vehemently. Growling, squealing and snarling like beasts ten times their size, Gladys and Lucile, pushed Dallas and I to the limits. First we tried gentle persuasion by pushing them. Not. Then we tried the stick method like the experts use at the State Fair. No way. They tried to eat the stick. Next came the rope method. Try lassoing a two hundred pound solid chunk of pig when there is no ground clearance! When I finally got the rope around Glady’s middle, I pulled it tight. Upset by the rope, she pulled me backwards. Them we tried the rope around the rump trick. Gladys retaliated by peeing on my boot. Dallas found that particularly amusing.

Thirty minutes later we managed to cajole them into their new pen. They nibbled the new grass. I Hope they enjoy their new home and new lean green diet. Just in case they were still upset, I gave them a little scoop of grain. Judging by their grunts and slobbering, I think they were thinking about forgiveness. Only time will tell.

Piggery on the move

Dallas, shaking out the straw for the new home.

The newest addition to Mr. Ed’s Farm, the Piggery

Gladys and Lucile enjoying a welcome wagon snack.

Education field trip for preschoolers

A child’s smile is priceless. Watching children interact with a real live animals in a safe and comfortable setting also brings smiles to parents and teachers. One can only imagine what goes through a youngster’s mind. One on one contact opens the door to learning and teaching moments. It creates a special bond and maybe, a lifelong memory.

Farms are places where children can see domestic animals in their natural environment. It is where the livestock live, eat, sleep and are cared for. It is where they are most comfortable.

Mr. Ed’s Farm is open for school field trips. Currently it is focusing on younger children, pre-school, Head Start and kindergarten. The experience to date has involved groups of about twenty children and 10-15 adult chaperones, parents and teachers. They have been scheduled for two hour time blocks. There is a portable bathroom on site.

The itinerary has been as follows:
1. Gather in the Welcome Center for a brief orientation. The Welcome Center is a 24 by 30 converted garage that has patio windows installed in place of the overhead doors. It has a wood pellet stove for heat. There are tables and chairs to easily accommodate 30 people. There are hand washing stations and tables for snacks. There is a glass fronted box with live chicks for the children to see, touch and hold.

2. Horse drawn ride, pulled by a team of draft horses. The children and adults climb aboard a “people mover” for a 25-30 minute wagon ride around the farm.

3. Immediately upon the return, the group is escorted through the animal displays and the barns. Included on the tour are border collie dogs, turkeys, chickens, ducks, rabbits, lambs, pigs, goats, sheep, calves, a llama and draft horses. The animals are secure but accessible. Every effort is made to orient the displays and enclosures at a child’s level. Farm staff tell the children about the animals and answer questions. They converse with the students, listening to them share what they know about animals and farms. Time is allotted for child, adult and animal interaction. Whenever possible, the children are allowed and encouraged to hand feed the animals.

4. Return to the Welcome Center where they can wash their hands and have snacks. The teachers provide the snacks. Crayons and coloring pages are available as an additional activity.

This is the basic program as it exists today. Additional displays, activities and activity areas are been planned for the future.

Cost for the program is $5 per person with a minimum charge of $125. Purchase orders are accepted.

Here are some observations on the experience to date.
1. Many children and some of the parents have never visited a farm or seen live farm animals in a farm environment
2. The children are excited when they see the baby chicks. They want to “see more animals”. They ask questions and love to tell you what they know about animals. Adult listening is key to making the most of their experience.
3. Some children are afraid of the animals, others have no fear. Making sure the encounters are safe and positive is a moment by moment experience. Feedback from the adults has been very positive. Most of the enclosures are new, the barns clean looking, and the usual farm smells neutralized as much as possible.
4. Scheduling the horse drawn trip at the beginning seems to get the experience off to a good start. It’s a little bumpy, which the children seem to delight in. It also leaves time to take a relaxed tour of the barns, plenty of time to eat snacks and wind down before boarding the bus.
5.Having everyone begin and end at the Welcome Center simplifies the scheduling for the bus drop off and pick up.

Booking a field trip is easy. Contact Mr. Ed, (Ed Nelson) by phone 218-262-4686 or 218-966-1354 cell or email:

Here are some photos of things you can expect to see.

Garage converted into the Welcome Center

Chicken coops for laying hens and chicks

Fonzie and Rosie

New born lambs

20130505-101618.jpg Baby chicks

20130505-103314.jpg Horsedrawn people mover

Sheep lining up to be fed

20130505-104226.jpg Snuggling up to a bunny

20130505-104402.jpg Percheron draft horses

Letter received regarding the experience.