Friday, August 2, 2013

That'll Do, Pig.

Gibson walked into the house dew soaked, paw bleeding, and panting like mad. He was smiling and trotted right to his dog bowl for a long slurp. I wasn't worried about his cut, it was just an open wound on his paw, a ripped scab from a minor slice. Farm dogs get beat up a bit, and his feet are no exception. I took a jar of salve my friends Kathy and Mary gave meant and filled the cut with the herbal remedy. By noon it would be a memory.

He and I just had a great little sheepherding moment on the hill. Ruckus, the blackface ewe who is the smartest and wilyist of my sheep, had escaped and needed to join her friends in their paddock. I don't have enough grass to have the sheep on pasture all the time so I do what I call a hay rotation. They are on hay for 2 weeks, grass for one, then a hay/grass combo before they get rounded up for the grass to heal a bit and shoot back up. This girl was breaking the rules, having snuck out to eat the good stuff. Gibson was wonderful. He kept his eyes locked, his movements calm, and helped me convince that sheep without touching her a single time to enter a gate. He's a persuader all right. She ran inside!

With the sheep working on their morning breakfast (a bale from the back of my pickup, a little soggy from last night's rain)m I walked over to the horses. I did let them out to pasture, and Merlin did that beautiful thing where he rears up and tucks his head and his muscles all bunch and mane flies. It's worth getting up before 7AM to see. They started in on some grass while I hopped their fence to check on the pigs.

Yes, pigs! Four pigs were delivered last night by Tom Brazie. Raised by his brother's family the little guys arrived in two pig crates in the back of his green pickup truck. My friends Tyler and Tara and fond of Tom and wanted to see the pigs as well, so they showed up last minute to help us unload the critters. I think since they were both sharing the pork and helped build the pen, they were pretty invested in Cold Antler's Porcine concerns by this point. Not only did they arrive with their fancy camera, but everyone of us carried a pig across the law, into the woods, and into the new pen.

The little guys screamed the entire time we carried them back into the woods but soon as their trotters hit the ground they were silent. It did not take long for them to find their pig chow and get to work eating all they could. I have only raised pigs in singles and pairs, so seeing the level of competitveness was a bit of a shock! They went to town on that pig chow, eating all they could, grunting and pushing the whole time. It is really a happy scene to watch, and the pen is spacious, shaded, and lets in enough sunshine to let them tan if they want to. Right now while they are this size they are staying in the original pen. Soon I will set wiring into the woods and let them explore and be woodland pigs like their ancestors were. I am getting moveable netting (which they are already trained to) and setting it up so they can move around as I please. I do think it is time to invest in a fence tester. I don't want these guys lost in the woods, that would be a real problem. In truth it's why I put off the pastured pigs for so long. You lose a chicken or a sheep, that's sad but recoverable. Each pig is pre-sold and worth hundreds of pounds of meat in a few months. You can't regain that time or effort by starting over 4 months down the line. This is a little risky, but with good electricity and vigilance I think we will be fine. It's worth it for the bacon. Is it ever.

P.S. THIS JUST IN - Got a call from the post office, 50 chickens are waiting for me. Time to get some coffee!

photo by tara of