Saturday, February 20, 2010

Wedding Bells!

We finally introduced Sassy, Peanut (our new Chinese landrace pigs) and Kid Pig to each other. It went very smoothly (for once!). I think the combined qualities of these two breeds will make the ultimate homestead pig for our region. They seem very happy together at the moment.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Flatulence fence, rocket pigs, and three ways to eat sod.

Since the last episode I have been trying to get a larger boar on site as sort of a peace offering to the sows… “occasionally I will slide a male under the fence, and you will not hurt me or the other villagers”. I have come very close a couple of times to achieving this, but every time some wily mishap seems to occur here at Crying Rock. I have decided to call it meant to be for now. I resolved not to rush the big boar, rather focusing on containment and survival. For step one we set up a hot wire across the pen where the girls keep busting through to Kid Pig. I reassured them while hanging the fence that my bright smile was not out of delight in revenge, rather in appreciation of everyone’s new found security. Now I figured they would learn right away, but the manner in which they did was quite surprising and brought out my inner 7th grader. I am boiling with curiosity as Hamster goes to test the wall…I hear a ”pop” as Hamster jumps and does a 180, lets out a…weeee, then farts. Never touches the wall again. Here comes Gerbil, ahh she has broken this wall more times than a Mongol in China, no problem for her. Here she goes…”pop” jumps and does a 180, lets out a…weeee, then farts. After moving away a good distance she turned around and just stared at it in disbelief. One time for Gerbil. Here comes Tiger Pig, no exception… pop” jumps and does a 180, lets out a…weeee, then farts. Tiger Pig like me has little faith and has to learn the hard way multiple times, well just two times for Tiger. Patata, once and so on and so on, all the girls are fence trained. Well looks like Farmer Joel will be farming from a hammock with this new found technology, until…a giant dual prop helicopter thunders over head. The pigs must of thought it was Y2K or WW3 because they went ludicrous. Patata stood up on my 2x4 reinforced steel post field fence placing all her weight forward. Now I have seen this before because she did it yesterday to get to the feed before everyone else. She did manage to push the fence down, but this time I managed to push her back (barely) and get the board nailed back in, before she got all the way out. To continue on the theme of me learning the hard way multiple times, I resolved that was just enough times for me to learn. I exclaimed to all pigs present “that’s it - your getting a wire across the top!”, as if I was super nanny and they understood English. Well, the wire across the top of the fence does not have me farming from a hammock, but it does make feeding time much more civilized. Everyone recognized that little orange wire and stood very clear. With all this building up and breaking down, I finally came up with a good system. I build panels out of Plywood, or livestock panel, frame them with 2x4, and put chains on all four corners. This allows me to quickly put up walls and move them around almost as quickly as they can be bowled down. To make them a little more lasting I put a hot wire alongside it. Works like a dream. In all of this whoop-de-doo I had a realization. As eager as those girls were to get at Kid Pig, he really wanted to hang out with them too. I believe if he had a pair of stilts the day everyone escaped may have turned out different. So not only do I need to get a big boar, I need to get a little sow. I swear when I jumped into this I thought I would be dealing simply with the simpler things of life, but to honor the continuing theme - I do tend to learn the hard way. So I did some research and found a small Chinese breed. I did some looking and found two of them only three hours away. Quick Kid Pig, put on your best sweater and wash your face, I’ll be back in 7 hours! I loaded up Teresa and the kids into the green beast and drove to the edge of the Earth. You may not know this but the edge of the Earth is exactly two tanks away. At the end of it there is no drop off into infinity, rather a ridiculously steep gravel road the width of one car. I had to switch into low 1 just to climb it, Teresa was literally covering her eyes. We could not believe there could possibly be people and pigs at the top of this hill, so twice on the way up we called to be sure we were in the right middle of nowhere. Sure enough there were people and pigs, so we tossed our coke bottle over the edge, loaded the pigs, and headed home. The kids decided to name the bigger of the little sows “Sassy”, in honor of the Mulefoot we lost on the way back from Bellingham. The little one acquired the name “Peanut”, I can’t remember how she got it, but she sure does look like one. These girls couldn’t come a moment too soon. Kid Pig is so social and sometimes it is hard to get work done cause he wants to hang out all the time. This morning when I pulled up, he shot out of his den like a bottle rocket emitting a trail of hay. When I came in his pen he just laid down on his side (meaning stop what you are doing and rub my belly). Who have I become farmer Joel introspectively asks himself as he starts the morning scratching pig bellies. Short story long – Sassy and Peanut are penned up eating organic mash, DE, Kelp, and pieces of Crying Rock sod. It is interesting to see that they eat a clump of sod the same way the other girls do having genes from across the globe and having been raised in relative confinement. They pick some grass. Then they flip it over and eat some soil. Then they tear it apart and snack on some roots. Tomorrow they will be released into Kid Pig's old bachelor pad. Kid Pig will be in the new bachelor pad one fence away. The idea is that I will keep them separated for one more week. Knowing that kid pig has been shown by the best how to decimate one of my best fences, it may be more like a day. In that case we will let nature take its accelerated course. I don’t know if I nor my measly pitch fork can stand yet again between two pigs with stars in their eyes. Besides they are the same size which in pig law is legally married. One last thing before I pass out. Today was a major milestone. The girls are in their first pasture (not counting the one they escaped into for a day). Our intention was always to be a pasture operation, and it has taken from when we started in December until now to make that happen, I almost died 1000 times. It was beautiful to see them rushing around with clumps of grass in their mouth, eating blackberry brush, and rooting under the sod. Hamster had some grass straws stuck on her nose like a kung foo master's mustache. I now have until they till that down to get their next paddock built, I am guessing two weeks – but we will see. As soon as they till it up I will plant yellow peas behind them for the next time they come through this paddock. These will grow with the existing pasture polyculture of sod grasses, clumping grasses, clover, blackberries, dandelions, plantain and who knows what.