Pete's random thoughts

Friday, September 22, 2006

Killer pigs

I can't believe I haven't posted since May. Summer is a busy time here because the weather allows us to work on stuff that we can't do all winter, like build fences, put on a new roof etc. Since I posted last, we've doubled our amount of cleared land, more than doubled our fenced in area for livestock, introduced a couple of new guns, had a series of bonfires to get rid of brush from the cleared land, built a new, improved duck pen and countless other projects.

We've also got some new critters. Ready to butcher is a flock of big, fat Pekin ducks that we grew out from day-olds. We had started a flock of goslings at the same time, but that was a dismal failure as they kept soaking themselves in their water dish and dying because they were chilled. Waterfowl babies are pretty stupid. Ducks are fun, ducks are noisy, ducks are entertaining, but nothing compares to our next addition: pigs.

I picked up the tailings of the pen full of piglets at the auction. Paulie and I went down to the auction one Tuesday afternoon to get four piglets. Of course, I came home with eight. We have buyers for most of them once they are grown out, but there are still two up for grabs. They eat voraciously, well, like pigs. They are curious and mischievous. At first, they were in a 16' x 16' pen made out of welded steel livestock panels.

Eventually, one of them lifted up one of the panels and wiggled into the main pen with the goats and cow (and assorted poultry). I ran him down and put him back over the fence into his own pen. Then Maria and Brandon came to farm-sit while we went away to Josh and Hannah's wedding in Maine. The first night, the same adventurer pig found his way into the main pen. I wasn't about to suggest to Maria that she pick up a wiggling, screaming 100lb pig and put it over the fence, so I told her it was OK.

We got home a few days later, and things really were OK. The next night he was joined by another pig. The next day, they managed to tear down the steel hog panel that separated their pen from the main pen, so now all of the critters were running in the same pen. No problem, it was OK. Some of the pigs would sleep in the goat shed, nestled down in the hay. Others figured out how to get into the chicken house and slept there. It was OK.

This morning, Wendy came to get me and tell me that she thought the pigs were eating a chicken. That's not OK. I went sprinting out to see what was going on, and saw that in a rare moment of cooperation, they had managed to subdue a Jersey Giant hen and were all clamoring for their fair share of the booty. So instantly all of today's plans went out the window.

While Wendy and Louise ran the show inside here, Jeff and I spent the day out in the pens. First we rounded them all up and put them back into their original pen (larger now, we had added a few panels to it). Next we repaired the fence and rigged up a strand of electric fence wire around the inside of the pen to discourage their messing with it in the future.

What is more entertaining than a pen full of pigs? Easy: a pen full of pigs and an electric fence. The first one went over and sniffed it. First there was a loud SNAP followed by a sharp squeal. Being a pig, he tried it again. This time the snap and squeal was followed by a galloping mass panic. They ran away from the fence to the other side of the pen where they huddled up guessed it...the electric fence on the far side of the pen. SNAP-SQUEAL-STAMPEDE right on over to the other fence, and so on, until eventually in the stampede portion of the drill, somebody gets their leg tangled in it and broke one of the clips that hold the wire, shorting it out. They really didn't have anywhere "safe" to run to, so we decided to shuffle some of the fence panels and give them a bigger pen.

The new pen is 32' x 48', and of course lined with a strand of hot wire. When I came in for the night, they had stampeded a few times, I had fixed a few clips, and they had formed a square in the middle of the pen, with each porker watching his section for whatever unseen force that keeps stinging them. Eventually, they will venture out of the square and find out that they only get shocked when the touch the fence. Pigs are pretty crafty like that. Eventually, they may even figure out how to short it out.

As I was leaning against the fence, thinking to myself: "ayuh, this'll work", I heard a commotion from the far side of the chicken house. It sounded like this: SNAP-MAAAAAAAAA!!!!! and I saw a white streak go flying by. It seems that Bumper the goat had stuck her head through the fence to try and nibble the bark off of one of the posts and got an unpleasant surprise. She probably won't do that again. With any luck, the pigs won't get another chicken either.