Life in the Slow Lane: Piglets

No Blackberries

No Blackberries

Before I launch into the description of Pigs in Heat Part 3, I have to take a moment to celebrate. After two years of watching the wild blackberries engulf the steep ditch bank across from the turkey barn, after watching at least a dozen turkey poults float away because Mama nested in said blackberries then flew across the ditch and called her wingless, newly hatched babies to follow, (drum roll please...) the blackberries are gone! About a month ago the folks in charge of the Mason Ditch began working on their waterway. With the water off I was able to stand in the stream bed and hack down the tangled six-foot-tall thicket that had previously thwarted every attempt to penetrate it. Swinging my handy-dandy electric hedge trimmer from side to side, I hacked pathways through the brambles followed by my trusty sheep and pigs who couldn't think of anything more tasty to eat on a cold winter's day than blackberry leaves. Today, I climbed the four-foot-diameter remains of a downed Cottonwood tree and went for the last thorny bastion. Another epic battle, another victory.

I wonder where those turkey hens will try to nest next? The only thing I'm certain of is that I probably won't like it.

Onto the piglets that I predict here and now will be born on April 29th.

Just as I suggested in my last post, Oinker went into heat on Wednesday. And just like her last heat, she was a stealth pig...no squealing or pacing, just Oinker being her usual calm self. While Oinker was working her way toward "standing heat", I called the place that supplies pre-piglet needs. Tim was very helpful, and suggested two doses instead of three, given Oinker's age and schedule. The only problem was they were out of Berkshire semen. When I mentioned I was in Arizona and didn't want white pigs due to sunburn, he suggested a Hampshire boar. Hampshires are the black pigs with the white band around the middle. I think Oinker may already be half Hampshire, what with the big black spot on her ear, so I'm guessing there will be plenty of melatonin to go around. When all was tallied up, I had two doses of the semen, a tube of lubricant, the special spiral applicator on plastic tubing and what turned out to be a life-saving, piglet-creating spray bottle of boar pheromone.

Thursday morning, I double-checked my kitchen--it was holding steady at the required 60 to 65 degrees--then made the trip to the UPS hub in Camp Verde to pick up my package. Diana showed up shortly after I returned. I was ready for her with two buckets full of raisins along with the instruments of impregnation. However, I didn't notice that the pheromones hadn't made it out of the box.

Down we went to the orchard, me in my boots and her in those great flower-print rubber shoes that you can get at Tractor Supply. After locking Boinker outside the orchard with her bucket of raisins, we set Oinker's bucket in the corner of the fence so she was hemmed in by the wall of shelters I built out of pallets. At Diana's instruction, I leaned heavily across Oinker's back. She tolerated it for about a nanosecond, then backed up and looked at me as if to say, "What the heck are you doing? I'm eating here."

Diana asked if I was sure Oinker was in standing heat. We pressed on her back. Sure enough, my pig went stock still and her ears shifted back. As she again settled into raisin heaven, I once more draped myself across her back. Diana was poised with the applicator. It was coitus interruptus with Oinker now irritated by all this fussing. As she she backed out of the corner and started eying the orchard gate, Diana, who was still holding the applicator, said, "I wish I'd remembered to bring the pheromones."

"Wait! I have them," I replied, already dashing toward the far gate. "I bought some just in case you couldn't find yours."

As I returned, I gave the small spray bottle to Diana and assumed the position--once more draping myself over Oinker's lower back. As I did, Diana reached around me and pushed the plunger on the sprayer five or six times. "Wow," I said with a cough, my eyes stinging, "that stuff stinks!"

Diana laughed at that. "I kind of like the smell," she said.

Huh. Guess boars aren't my thing.

Just then, Oinker got a good whiff and the light bulb went on over her head. Virgin gilt that she was, she played coy a bit but swiftly softened under my inadequate weight and accepted the contents of the squeeze bottle. It was a good thing she did because at that point Boinker was squealing, having smelled the same thing Oinker was enjoying and wanting to get in on whatever fun was being had.

It was only as I opened the orchard gate for her that I realized Oinker wasn't the only one wearing the contents of that spray bottle. Boinker nuzzled the hem of my jacket and the dance was on, me backing away as she circled, her snout in my coat. Oh yeah, my life would have definitely been poorer--and cleaner--without that experience. Well, the coat needed to be washed anyway.

Once Diana and I were safely out of the orchard, we agreed to repeat the experience the next morning at 7:30. This time it took us less than five minutes. I sprayed the pheromone directly on Oinker's snout (holding my sleeve out of the way) as Diana prepared the applicator. I draped, Oinker presented, Diana inserted and squeezed, and it was done. So much for romance.

Although Diana went away worried that Oinker might not have taken, I'm almost positive she's pregnant. Just after Diana left, Boinker tried one of her usual domination maneuvers and for the very first time Oinker not only resisted but fought back until Boinker backed off. And it's still happening. Tonight, Boinker tried to help herself to some of OInker's dinner. Oinker refused to move and Boinker went back to her own pan.

Other things have changed as well. Oinker has become unusually friendly with me, doing things she hasn't done before, like rubbing against my legs and tapping me with her snout to demand pats. Is Oinker pregnant or just taking on the role of dominant pig? Or did draping myself across her back confuse her into thinking I'm more than I am?

More likely I didn't get all that pheromone off my coat. And if I can't get it out of the coat? Well, I'll guess I'll have to start singing to Oinker, "Gilt, you are a woman now, but I'm just not your kind....."

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