piglets & spriglets


We have two of them!

From the top: In mid January we went over to see the goings-on at the Urban Farm that is part of Heifer International headquarters. There was a new litter of Juliana miniature pigs, a pair of kids (baby goats, not the human ones), adult goats and pigs, sheep, alpacas, chickens, et cetera. We joked light-heartedly about bringing baby animals to the Ferncliff farm, especially a pig because at one point in the autumn we thought one might be bringing one in who couldn’t stay in her home at the time. After two more visits to the Heifer Urban Farm, we (read: Katie and I) were in love with the little piglets.

love at first sight

We soon found out that we were not the only ones who wanted lovable piglets to live at Ferncliff because last week, Rachel (the Ferncliff Nature Preschool director and fellow pig lover) told us that Heifer Urban Farm was look for places to adopt pairs of the 8-week old Juliana piglets. Dibs. The next day Chris, Katie, and I loaded up in to the 15-passenger Ferncliff logo van and drove downtown with a crate full of straw and brought two scared little pigs home with us.

After a week at the Ferncliff farm, both of them seem to be settling in well. Hopefully each of them will continue to be more outgoing as they grow more comfortable with their new home. They live in an enclosure with two goats  and a duck where everyone has space to play, forage, and sleep. George the goat is now worried that he is missing out on some attention though.

first day of foraging in their new yard

Juliana pigs are one of the smallest breeds and they are often marketed to people as mini or teacup pigs. They are often known as painted miniature pigs due to their characteristic dark spots. We are hoping that our two Julianas will help educate our visitors and campers about the realities of raising animals. These pigs can live indoors, but when fully grown they will still weigh around 70 pounds and have the natural instinct to root and forage, meaning their environment should allow them to do so.


I think I made up the word spriglet, but I am using it to refer to young or small things while still rhyming with “piglets”. The seedlings, the saplings, and the preschoolers are all spriglets. Ferncliff has a lot of spriglets around.

On and off over the last few weeks I have been scouring the edges of the wooded areas of camp for saplings that may not make it through summer in their current location. It happens when several saplings are too crowded, and so they are competing for light and water underneath the canopies of the mature trees. Some of these I have decided to transplant to other locations around camp where mature trees have been lost or woodland health needs to be improved. Transplanting saplings requires me to identify the tree species and what sort of conditions it would do well in so that it can flourish in a new location.

Since the Nature Preschool wanted to plant a tree as the inaugural class, they have been identifying species of saplings and deciding which ones they’d like to transplant. We have been using Eco Hour to plant loblolly pines, one of which will be marked as the Nature Preschool tree. I am hopeful that two oak saplings that have been transplanted  will grow to be shade trees for benches near the edge of the water.

This season Chris has decided to start nearly everything from seed instead of buying transplants from the store. While this will be incredibly rewarding to harvest tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, greens, and more later in the year, this also means more gardening work. It also means that anything that needs special care as a seedling is currently in our shared YAV office under grow lights. One tray even has a desktop fan blowing a gentle breeze over the seedlings. More than once I have expressed annoyance about the state of the office because there is stuff everywhere. Really though, it is nice to have a couple hundred tiny plants in the room.




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