Saturday, January 30, 2010

Furry maniacal bulldozers, new piglets, and El Niño

Things are moving really fast these days. With the warm winter we are having, my hops started shooting up about a week ago. Likewise for roses, irises, camellias, and rhubarb. It seems like everything just went dormant, and now it is here already. Teresa had managed to throw her back out really good and had been laid up. Also some nice fellow stole our insurance settlement out of our mailbox, so we have been pretty busy on the home front let alone pedaling the farm along. I think the piggies sensed our vulnerability and figured this was the time to stage their revolution. The neighbor’s alpaca escaped into our barnyard and told the girls of his freewheeling lifestyle. I didn’t know the girls speak alpaca, but they understood fully and two of them decided to join him. When I showed up, I was quite surprised to see them wandering around the barnyard. I fed the well behaved ones to keep them focused while I opened the gate to get the misbehaving ones in. I was able to get Patata, one of our Blue-Butt sows to follow me in with a bucket of feed, but Gerbil was not so easily convinced. She wandered into the barn and planted her face firmly in the bag of winter reserve feed. I closed the cow gate behind her while I devised a plan to get her back in the pen. I built a cache pen to keep the other pigs back while I opened the gate for Gerbil. Then I had to build a corridor from the barn to the pen. I strung up two strands of barbed wire on each side, parked a car on one side, and the green beast on the other, then filled in all the gaps with old boards, bales of alfalfa, and children’s bicycles. It is funny, I can remember fixing old Volkswagens in the same manner. This was four hours later to complete. I opened the pen gate and went to get Gerbil, she had her face planted in the Diatomaceous earth. When she looked up her face was covered in pure white (it looked like a scene out of Scarface). I went behind her to nudge her along, but she needed no nudging she went right into the pen. I reinforced the iron gate with tighter chains and strung barbed wire in front of it. I estimate Gerbil ate about 14 pounds of kelp, 5 pounds of DE, and however much grain a girl can inhale in 4 hours. I was surprised to find the next day that my reinforced gate was child’s play to the pigs, they bent it like butter and I found four of them with their face in the winter feed, and two in front of Kid Pig’s pen giving him a graphic example of the birds and the bees. I dumped some feed in the pen and most followed into the pen. I Still had my wire runs handy from yesterday and strung them up again (just one each this time, and no bikes). It took a little prodding but finally they both went right in the pen. I restrung the barb wire barrier, put beefier chains, attached a heavy gauge galvanized panel, and then parked the green beast in front of it. I was tempted to say “let’s see you get through that”, but I know better. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised to see them driving down the road in the same truck cruising for dudes. I wish I could say it ends there, but the next day….I pull up and find 6 of the girls frolicking in the middle paddock with kid pig. They had bulldozed through the side panel barbed wire like a marathon finish line, and broke down kid pig’s fence and busted him out. Poor young Kid pig thought he was going to his first junior high dance, but quickly found himself in the evil den of domination. Keep in mind kid pig is about 50 pounds and these girls are 350-500 or so. At first they flirted and kissed noses, but then they started getting real aggressive, biting and sitting on him. This would have been ok to manage if a litter of piglets didn’t just start dropping. Gerbil threw Kid Pig in the air and bit him, and two of the other girls were trying to mount him, I literally had to get between him and two of them with a measly pitch fork. I lifted up his fence for him to run to safety, but he didn’t seem to get it. After a couple hours of the battle royal cage match, I poured some feed into the girl’s pen and all but Gerbil went under the fence. Gerbil wanted to but she was too hesitant to go under the barbed wire again. I built another cache pen and cut the fence. She went in and I reinforced the fence behind them. They were literally going ballistic; they would look at kid pig and loose all sense of restraint and manners. They kept pushing through until I put up full sized sheets of plywood so he was out of sight. I reinforced the fence with hog panels, 2x4’s, and steel posts in addition to that. While all this was going on I was supposed to be back in Tacoma unloading a pallet of electric wire fence, which I hope will soon make issues like this fewer. The driver fortunately unloaded without me, after having a good laugh at my expense when Teresa explained why I could not be there. Kid pig was exhausted, and so was I. We laid down in the middle paddock and rested. I gave him a good scratch, and he told me he was thinking about becoming a priest. That was short lived however, as he went over to the girls pen raising ruckus again. I led him back into his pen with food, and mended his fence. He is too charming for his own safety. I had a similar experience building the farrowing pen in the middle of all these girls, but that is another story. On a positive note – the half day the handful of pigs were in the middle paddock, they tilled it up about 50%. They are going to be excellent tractors. I will try to get pictures of the piglets up soon – right now I can’t find the adapter to upload.