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Pig update

I’d so like to tell you that June delivered her calf. I can’t! I swear, she’s doing this just to make me crazy. Actually, the only reason I’m not crazy is because I know there really is a calf and that calf was alive and well a couple of weeks ago. I’m hoping that means it’s still alive and well. As I mentioned a while back, she’s well beyond the due date her previous owner gave me. That makes me certain the calf is going to be an Angus mix. That’s beef in two years for me.

But June’s failure left me scrabbling for a subject for this week’s post. I considered mud. Somehow, my farm was teleported to western Washington State last week. It rained almost continuously for the full week until I was almost sick of the moisture. Now I’m trapped in a sea of mud. This isn’t your average mud. This is mud bog mud, beautiful, shiny, slick, suck-you-down-and-preserve-your-body-for-all-time mud.

Since mud didn’t really appeal to me, I went back to wracking my brain until this morning. That’s when I realized I no longer had PIGS IN HE-E-E-AT! (That was the Muppet episode no one saw.)

A week ago Sunday, one of the girl piggies went into heat. The previous day I’d managed to confine their brother in the orchard, guaranteeing his sister couldn’t get to him. The orchard fence is my strongest fence. (Being a greenhorn back in 2011 I believed a tall fence would prevent coyotes and mountain lions from reaching my chickens. Piffle to that.) And so it proved once again, because that piggy girl did everything she could to break in, crying and grunting the whole time.

By Tuesday her brother was in the refrigerator and piggy girl #2 went into heat. Rather than continue to repair fences, and potentially have to chase those girls home from my neighbors’ in the rain, I put all four of them into the orchard and double-chained the gates. Gotcha!

That was just as the rain closed in. Sure enough, while safely confined piggy girl #3 followed her sisters into heat. That leaves the question of pregnant pigs only to piggy girl #4.

Being trapped in a small area–the orchard is only a tenth of an acre–with nothing to do but sit in their shelter and watch it rain, the girls got pretty bored. Eventually, they started turning the earth in the area where I feed them. They may have thought they were getting even with me, but I’m thrilled. Here comes my winter garden!

Then this morning a bright yellow sun appeared in an equally bright blue sky and I took pity on them. With the pasture gates closed and double-chained, I opened the orchard gate. They exploded out onto the green grass, grunting to beat the band, then set off at full speed (which is impressively fast if you’ve never seen pigs run) around the pasture’s perimeter fence. I’d like to think that they were running for pure joy, not because they were hoping to break free.

They’ve spent all day grazing, lazing in the sun, slopping in the mud bog, chasing frogs in the pond, and napping on the opposite side of the fence from June. I swear she’s staying close to that fence for their benefit. Who knew pigs could be so attached to a cow or a cow to pigs?

pigs laying on their sides in the pasture with Moosie the dog
one girl is trying to butt to the head of the belly rub line here.

When I went down a while ago to check on them a little while ago, I was surprised when they all “assumed the position.” Unlike my other pigs, these guys have remained very cautious around me. I blame that on their ears. They have the (Devon) Black ears, which cover their eyes. Being half-blind all the time makes them startle more easily and leaves them on edge. However, slowly and steadily they’ve stopped seeing me as a threat. Belly rubbing remained off limits until the little boy got sick after eating poison ivy. It didn’t take him long to understand that I was offering comfort rubs and within a day or two of allowing me to rub his ears, he was offering me his belly. He continued to allow belly rubs after he returned to his herd. His sisters were worried. They’d gather around him, grunting in anxious warning as he laid on his side and let me touch him. Then, one by one, they took the risk and dropped onto their sides in invitation.

Today, girl #4 finally took a chance on me and I had four piggy girls wanting belly rubs. Yep, the farm is drying out and doing all right this week. It’s be doing a whole lot better if that cow would just have that freaking calf.

Squash Soup

First, I would so like to report that I have a new calf. I can’t.  Although June is getting more serious about letting that baby go, she continues to bide her time. Obviously, her previous owner was incorrect about her due date. She may also have been incorrect about the Holstein bull being the father,… Continue Reading

Still Waiting!

Sigh. There’s no calf yet, at least not outside of June’s body. All the signs are there. Her tail’s loose as are the muscles around the birth canal. Her pin bones are low, her bag is filling up, and every day there are gooey strands wrapped around her tail. That cow! I swear she’s doing… Continue Reading

In the Waiting Room

I’ve waited to the last minute to post this, hoping I could report that the big event has happened. A calf is born! That’s right, after three years, here I am again, pacing like an expectant farmer in the waiting room set aside for those who own pregnant cows. June is ready to drop her… Continue Reading

Arachne

For those who don’t know the story, there was once a beautiful and talented weaver in ancient Greece named Arachne. She was so talented that the goddess Athena, also a weaver, challenged her to a weave-off.  They both made four pieces. Athena’s pieces all extolled the wonders and goodness of the Greek pantheon, while those… Continue Reading

Toadly

The other day I sadly swept a small, dead, completely desiccated toad out of my basement. I love my toads. I love them despite the fact they make the weirdest sound of all the creatures on the farm. Wait, I take that back. I have a blue heron who has begun spending the night on… Continue Reading

Morning Chores

First, an update on that epic battle of mine. IPM (integrated pest management) came through! The lacewings and ladybugs, along with more than a few spiders, have disheartened the ants. Although the cucumber looks pretty tatty, it has set on three new cukes. Victory is mine! Now, back to your regularly scheduled program. This morning,… Continue Reading

An Epic Battle

It’s been an interesting year for squash here on the farm. Early in the season I planted Hubbard squash from a three-year-old package and spaghetti squash seeds from a package that was even older. Much to my surprise, they went crazy.  I have three huge Hubbard squash ready for me to take …where? Where the… Continue Reading

Death Defiance

That cow! Remind me the next time I decide to buy a cow that I need to ask if she was raised by other cows or raised by humans. I definitely prefer cow-raised cows. Almost from the moment June arrived here a couple of months back, it was clear that she was very bonded to… Continue Reading

Felt-backed Ewe

I now know why sheep have to be sheared, even though my Dorpers don’t have wool and supposedly shed their “hair.” Tiny has been working on rubbing off last year’s hair for six months now. That was problem number one. You see, she should have shed it all two months ago. The second problem is… Continue Reading