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The Kings of Oak Springs, Episode 8, Livestock on the farm needed attention at their own pace

Updated on June 4, 2014
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Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

A new batch of baby pigs arrived

Sleeping piglets
Sleeping piglets | Source

Kent got a pleasant surprise when he went to feed the sow

Ten-year-old Kent King had the daily responsibility to feed the sow pig and assure that she had clean, dry grass (that the men had cut and stacked) in her pen each day. That particular morning, however, when Kent arrived to feed her, she was not alone. There were nine little piglets walking and laying around the pen, as well. "Pa, the sow had her babies!" Kent yelled out as he went to find his father. Karl was not far away. He was preparing a place for the lumber he would soon bring hime from the mill to use on the flooring for the house. Karl immediately went to the hog pen to check on his pigs. Soon, the entire family had gathered around the pen to see the new family of pigs that now seemed to nearly fill the pen.

Karl tended to the mother pig and each of the piglets, to assure they were well and breathing properly. He checked each of the sow's teats, and could tell they had already been of service to the piglets. "Bring some additional grass, Kent. We'll need to be using more each day, now, that we have more little animals in here." To Keith, he added, "We'll also want to scythe some extra grass, for a while, to be sure they all keep dry and comfortable." Karl and Keith had been carefully harvesting the tall grass in several areas of the farm that was just volunteer growth. Later, when they harvested the oats that had been planted, they would have straw. But, for now, the grass would have to suffice. In a bit, he also said, more to himself than anyone in particular, "We'll also need to expand this pen before long, as they grow." Eventually, of course, they would need to be weaned into a separate pen. Building a shed as shelter for the pigs was on Karl's list as a project, but that was a few months away, at the time.

Even the girls were fascinated to watch the new little creatures. Some were asleep, some were walking around. Karla reached through the wire to touch one, near the fence, closest to her. The soft fur made her smile. Soon, Katherine reminded the children it was time to get back to their own chores. Kent, of course, stayed with his father to help him, in any way he could, to tend to the new pigs and their mother.

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Karl brought home both chicks and chickens

Chicks
Chicks | Source

Karl made his first wagon trip to the lumber mill and returned with a surprise

In accordance with the agreement he had reached with Simeon Bishop at the Baldridge Lumber and Grain Store, Karl made his first trip to the lumber mill with his wagon and horses. He brought home the lumber he needed to get started on the flooring of the house. Per the agreement, on the way home, he stopped by the Lumber Store in town, and left off the lumber he had agreed to bring by there, as well. While there, he also picked up some additional items he had determined he needed in the meantime.

Before he returned home, he also stopped by the General Merchandise store where he picked up the other surprise he had for the family. He had arranged to purchase two dozen chickens that were only a few weeks old but were already designated as fryers, as well as an additional two dozen baby chicks that would be separated later between layers and fryers. This was a first major step in getting to where he wanted to be with the chickens. Obtaining a few more layers, soon, would likely be the next step, to bridge the gap until the young ones had matured.

Arriving home, the girls were particularly surprised, and even delighted, to see all the new chickens they now had to care for. They were especially happy to see the fryers, well on the way to being useful to the family for their favorite dinner. They had appreciated the extras the Dent family provided, but that had only been a very temporary solution to one of the problems they faced at their new home. Soon they would harvesting food items from their own garden. They had started planting that immediately upon arrival. All of the family members were looking forward to having those fresh vegetables in their meals.

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The milk cow was important to the farm

A milk cow ready to milk
A milk cow ready to milk | Source

On the farm, livestock breeding concerns and selection were a constant challenge

Karl King and his family arrived in Oak Springs with only a few selected livestock to get them started. In order to get a well-balanced farm underway, concerns about breeding and selection of additional animals to purchase were first year (and first month, even) priorities. Expanding the number and types of chickens were an early concern. Chickens provided both eggs and meat for the family diet, as well as, possibly, a cash crop. Allowing them to grow up on the farm was the most economical approach, of course, but supplemental purchases were almost always required.

With the sow having given birth to her litter, it would not be too long before Karl would need to locate a boar to help start another litter. Thurkill Dent, just up the road, offered to work with Karl, if he were interested. Thurkill had also said he had a couple of extra goats, if Karl was interested in a purchase or barter. Karl wasn't quite ready to make a decision, when they had talked, but he was seriously considering it. Getting some sheep might be an option, in time, as well. Karl also planned to check at the Sale Barn, to see if he could purchase a good milk cow, with calf (born or about to be born), so he could breed his current cow, again, when the other cow was productive.

A major decision Karl was mulling about in his head was whether to buy one or two more horses, or try to get through this first year with just the two horses and mules. These decisions were typical of the decisions faced by farmers each year. There were no simple decisions. Each decision made had impact on other potential decisions. And, of course, money available to spend on purchases was always as consideration. Karl had some reserve funds, but not so much to allow him to spend without giving each purchase due consideration.

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Note from the author

This is the eighth episode of this short story series set in the Ozarks Mountain setting of “The Homeplace Saga” family saga of historical fiction. This story begins in 1876, following the time period (1833-1875) of the forthcoming “Founding of the Homeplace” collection of short stories. Some of these earlier stories are published on The Homeplace Saga blog, found at the link, below.

“The Homeplace Saga” historical fiction family saga stories are the creation of the author, William Leverne Smith, also known as “Dr. Bill.”

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Your stories flow well, Bill. I'm big on flow and pace, and yours have it in spades. Well done!

    • Homeplace Series profile image
      Author

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you. These seem to be working well. I appreciate your comments! ;-)

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