I was at the window with them, looking for some sort of reason for all these symptoms of discomfort. While my critters do let me know if breakfast us running late, it is rare that such a joint ruckus is sang in chorus like this. This is the sound of raccoon raids or a fox with a chicken in his mouth. It’s the sound of sheep figuring out the fence isn’t turned on because I needed to bogart their charger for the goats. I looked, Gibson and Annie looked, we saw no beasties or escapees. The key word being “saw”.All I could think of was one word.
“Oh No…” I thought aloud, Gibson looking back at me with concern. He knows that sound means get-dress-and-lets-get-to-work. And so in record speed I slipped on dirty socks and damp wellies. I stuck my baggy house pants into their knee-high rubber. I threw on a fleece and a bandana to keep the hair out of my eyes and we headed outside to see if there were pegs running amok.
I call pigs, pegs. It’s what a swineherd yells in my favorite novel, “HEEeeeeyyyy PEGS!” to his sounder. He had a thick hill country accent for that fictional world and it was delightful to read and the character was a pleasure to meet.
So here is why I was so concerned over the pegs. Yesterday some friends come by, Miriam and Keenan, and they were game to help do some down and dirty farm work. And when I say down and dirty, I mean it. We were going to build an extension on the pig pen. I had plans to double their enclosure’s size but that meant running more electric fencing at snout level. Well, that’s no big deal, right? I had the posts, insulators, and wire laying around somewhere in the barnyard and Enough spare wire fencing to stop any flying powers, so starting at 2PM after a night lunch of pot pie we headed outside to get our hands dirty.
And that was my first mistake. Because I don’t know about how your homestead’s run but around here if I think any (even a minor) construction job will just “take an hour” it usually needs five. Especially if the job is done with all farm-found supplies! I think I have enough t-posts, and insulators, and such and something is always missing. I did prepare for this day, in theory, at least. And took inventory of what was around. I knew for this small project there was enough stuff. I wasn’t expecting the electricity and wiring to fail though.
Which is exactly what happened. For some reason the wiring around the base of the pen wasn’t working? It was earlier that day, and the charger was only a few weeks old so I was at a loss what was causing the lack of juice? This wouldn’t be a big problem if we hadn’t gone through the process of building the entire new addition on their pen, and had it fenced just waiting for the zap to make it peg-proof. See, porkers are notorious rooters and snufflers. They stick their noses in the dirt and turn it over with such skill and speed they make rototillers look like action figures. And it only takes a few determined pigs an hour or so to root, dig, or snuffle their way right under a woven wire fence. Most pig operations (at least around here) don’t even bother with wire fences for just that reason. They use electric netting or just the wires and posts. I use wiring, because I have it here and I think it gives me the mental comfort of there being a non-electric barrier to slow them down if the fence juice fails. That electricity is what really keeps the now hundred-pound oinkers in check.
With the electric wiring all strung up were were done with the construction phase. It really only did take an hour or so to expand the pen and rewire it. But without that jolt the whole thing was a time bomb of pig escapism. Now it was almost dark. My friends were getting numb fingers and too polite to go inside to the house. I was troubleshooting like a mad woman. Replacing older wire connections, walking around the fence line, swapping out the charger for a new one, using new extension cords, trying new plugs in the house…. it was getting darker and darker and it was well into the night when finally the sparks flew and the fence was live. After hours in the mud, pounding fence posts, running fences, wire, and a few prayers we got the pegs secured. Something clicked in the chain of consequence and the jets fired up. I still don’t know what did it, but I was too tired to ask questions. The three of us cheered when a pig got a zap on the snout and stopped digging around their barriers. If you think that is unkind, you never had to herd escaped pigs back into a pen after spending several hours in the cold dark mud finding the dang missing link.
I am so grateful for their help! Keenan and Mir were truly tough about it, carrying posts and logs, running the wires and handing over fence rolls and wire cutters. They stuck it out and when we finally found success were came back into the farm house too tired to do anything but sit around the fire, enjoy a slice of pizza, and celebrate a small victory.
But, I guess you could understand why that outburst this morning had me jumpy. I worried the pegs had escaped and were messing up the joint like the little hooligans they are (and I say that with love, since this group is the sweetest foursome ever to grace the farm), but they are troublemakers for sure. If the fence wasn't holding its charge I was certain they would already be in the kailyard. And when I did head outside in my drab clothes, frantic and silly, I found that the reason for the sing song was nothing more than a small herd of whitetails leaping across the fences and upsetting the sheep. Their white plumes high in the air and they leapt off, unimaginably graceful and high, away from the farm.
When I went to the pigpen, there was four happy beasties staring right back at me, snorting for their break from the fast. My smile was wide enough to spread butter on.
Photo by Miriam Romais, sounder stopper!