Sunday, July 23, 2006

Pig Tales

This could be a cautionary tale. It could be a tale about the secret of life. But whatever, it is a twisted tale because it is a pig tail.

We’ve had pig tales before, when we thought they were real sensitive to electric (that IS what we’d read). Of course, we thought, and we hoped, to be wiser, more experienced, not to mention, luckier this time. We went further afield to get smaller pigs this time. With two weaning pigs in a van with four kids and two adults, we stopped at Kroger and made a side trip to the TSC to pick up hoof nippers for the donkey. They seemed fine, personable, sweet even.

We made our plans for putting them in the pen when we got home. Of course, they were a little bigger than we’d actually expected, a little stronger. And a little wilder since they were raised in the woods by their mamma and had only been taken off her and put in the barn the night before we got them. So they were wired with all that. In the pen they started beating it senseless with their little unringed noses.

Well, they will calm down.

Put water in. Started to put food in. I stepped in the pen, a moment when a bit more caution, a bit more slowness would have been handy. They panicked, hit a weak spot, and were gone.

Gone I tell you.

Two little 20# black piglets loose in the woods where every stump looks like a little black piglet catching his breath.

Hours passed. It is about 100’ difference in elevation between the lowest portion of our lands and the highest, and it covers about 75 acres total (not all ours). This is what we were covering, again and again, on foot, searching for piglets, with no clue how we’d catch them if we found them.

This is often how life on the farm is.

We were starving so we came in and ate. Barbeque.

There were several things we might have done differently and thus might have avoided disaster. If that one wire on the pen hadn’t been old and brittle, they might not have made their escape. Or if I’d been more cautious stepping in. Or if I’d tied their little halters to them better, we might have been able to catch them before they ran out of them. That really had almost worked. If we had managed to push them at just one point when we were herding them . . . .

But herding anything is an art, and herding wild baby pigs is basically impossible. And as even NASA has found out, avoiding all possible disasters is basically impossible too. But there is a huge emotional reaction to disaster with a few obvious coping mechanisms. One is to give it up. We had a neighbor once who was growing a garden and in one night a groundhog ate every single one of his almost ready to pick cabbages. His response: “You just can’t grow cabbages around here.” Since then, that has been a catch phrase for us -- “You just can’t have pigs around here” is a reminder how ridiculous giving up is.

Another is to buy it all aright -- to see your mistakes as not having enough in the preparation and doing something like, going out and buying a prefab steel and concrete bomb-bunker-slash-pig-pen and buying some other stuff that you won’t even know what it is until you get to the store and the urge to buy it overtakes you and then getting more pigs to go in there.

But the thing is to know that an emotional reaction is just that, and as of yet, you don’t even really know what the situation is much less exactly the best way to deal with it. In our case there would seem to be some obvious possibilities. One possibility would be for us to never ever again lay eyes on the pigs. One would be that we’d be able to catch them somehow. Another would be that we can’t catch them, but they raise themselves up and we still get to eat them just after a wild boar hunt. If they are gone, well, we can buy more pigs later, can even buy 100#ers in November for just $100. And the other two possibilities, well, who can complain about either of those really?

Still, the acquisition of pigs is filled with such hope and promise and then to lose them . . . . After we ate we wandered back out to look for them some more. With radios. I loosed and took my dog with me.

We must have been up and down the hills, from top to bottom and back to top, at least 15 or 20 times, not counting the traversing the ravines, sliding down and climbing up slopes worthy of scenes in Lord of the Rings, threading through thickets that briar rabbit calls home. Exhausted, I walked out the flat top one last time.

And heard grunting. I radioed for back up then was sure I’d just imagined that I’d heard anything at all. But then there it was again. Finally it got the dog’s attention. She gave chase, which was exactly what I’d hoped the untrained overbred sweetheart dog would do. I didn’t know if she could hurt them or not, but I pretty well knew that I couldn’t catch them.

Soon I was heard to say on the radio, “I have a pig!” Husband is making his way toward me but he was probably a half-mile away and downhill from me when I radioed. Plus, he’s not wanting to unintentionally scare the pigs on his way up. Several times he radioed to check where I was exactly. At some point I radioed the children to bring me the dog crate. No one could figure out why I wanted it but they knew not to ignore the command in my voice and did as they were asked.

Soon I saw husband about 100’ away. I holler at him but it is obvious he doesn’t understand me. I step to the side and raise up the pig that I’m holding by its two hind legs so that he can see it! His face totally lights up. “You have a pig!” he says.

“Yes, that’s what I SAID,” I say, but really, I can’t blame anyone for not understanding. And I really couldn’t talk that much on the radio because every time I did, I had to hold this wild struggling pig with only one hand. The look in husband’s eyes said it all to me, if I could but hold on to that forever.

As I write this, one pig is still on the loose although it has been sighted and chased once, to no avail. The caught pig is settling down. I’m trying to catch up on doing the dishes while the rest of the family gardens in the thankfully cooler weather of today. I have cuts and bruises that testify to a fall at some point yesterday, a hard one that somehow I don’t quite remember. When I undressed last night, I had hemlock needles in my underwear, which I figured was testimony to how deep in the woods I was, and how fast I was moving through them at some point.

So this is life on the farm. If I had to sum it up, I’d say that you never know what will happen next; disaster is always looming around the corner, but so is another party; there’s never a dull moment but if there were one, you’d be thankful for it. I tell this tale because, well, we dance.

Originally uploaded by contrarygoddess.

We dance
We dance
To the music of the gods
The music of the breezes through
The green plaintain
The murmur of the river and
The roar of rain
And if the Gods decide to
Send a hurricane
We dance...
We dance
To their everchanging moods
We know the gods are happy
When the green things grow
They're angry when the river
Starts to overflow
And since we never know
Which way the winds will blow...
We dance to the earth
We dance to the water
The Gods awake and we take no chance
Our hearts hear the song
Our feet move along
And to the music of the Gods
We dance!

from the musical Once On This Island


madcapmum said...

Well, this story has everything - fugitives, a high-speed chase, and a happy ending; I expect any minute some corporation executive will be calling to make a made-for-t.v. movie!

I haven't yet had to work that hard for my bacon, and believe me, I'm taking careful note. Pigs = escape artists. They're on our Stage II list.

the Contrary Goddess said...

Well, after they are tame and know where they are, they are still escape artists but then they don't go anywhere -- they just look for the feed bucket.

patsy said...

you probably think how CRUEL but put some rings in their nose if you don't they will root out under the pen. also the one that is lose probably will come to the one in the pen. good luck.

the Contrary Goddess said...

I have to say I'm curious as to what and who you'd think I am with the "cruel" comment.

Our last pigs were ringed. We didn't see that it changed their behavior much, and when possible we do think it is better to leave well enough alone. Which is why these are boar piglets, not barrows -- because there are only risks and not benefits to castration when raising pigs to eat relatively young in homestead not industrial factory farm conditions.

Now, I do have philosophies that are bases for some of my farm practices. Babies need mothers, which I why I won't bottle raise goats. Although I tried it. Pigs need to root. Although I tried ringed pigs. When possible, natural is better. Smaller is better. Local is better.

the Contrary Goddess said...

although I do want to add, we might change our minds. I see no reason to yet, but we learn something every time. And we change what we do every year because of what we've learned.

patsy said...

some people think any thing people do to animals to control them is cruel so sorry if you mistook my comment. like i was squealed on by my sister on her blog. she told that i killed my extra roosters and some thought i was cruel. no i am practial. can't feed 30 roosters for life. i read this blog about a year ago where this woman in california was going in a mans chicken houses and libertating his chickens, she thought she was smarter than the farmer who raised chickens. i thought she ought to go to jail.

the Contrary Goddess said...

Oh, Patsy, I understand practical! I am so with you there. Roosters are for eating! If you want eggs, there are going to be extra roosters to eat. If you want milk, there are going to be extra animals to eat. But there are lots of things we *think* are practical which may not be. Like digging and plowing everything. I do not take my goats off their mammas. Etc. Again, I guess my basic philosophy is to leave well enough alone as much as possible. Let goats be goats and pigs be pigs and roosters be roosters.

Thanks for the comment and really, I do always want to hear your ideas.