TRUSTED NEWS LEADER FOR COTTONWOOD, CAMP VERDE & THE VERDE VALLEY
Mon, June 24

Life in the Slow Lane: Pig Update

I'd so like to tell you that June delivered her calf. I can't! I swear, she's doing this just to make me crazy. Actually, the only reason I'm not crazy is because I know there really is a calf and that calf was alive and well a couple of weeks ago. I'm hoping that means it's still alive and well. As I mentioned a while back, she's well beyond the due date her previous owner gave me. That makes me certain the calf is going to be an Angus mix. That's beef in two years for me.

But June's failure left me scrabbling for a subject for this week's post. I considered mud. Somehow, my farm was teleported to western Washington State last week. It rained almost continuously for the full week until I was almost sick of the moisture. Now I'm trapped in a sea of mud. This isn't your average mud. This is mud bog mud, beautiful, shiny, slick, suck-you-down-and-preserve-your-body-for-all-time mud.

Since mud didn't really appeal to me, I went back to wracking my brain until this morning. That's when I realized I no longer had PIGS IN HE-E-E-AT! (That was the Muppet episode no one saw.)

A week ago Sunday, one of the girl piggies went into heat. The previous day I'd managed to confine their brother in the orchard, guaranteeing his sister couldn't get to him. The orchard fence is my strongest fence.

(Being a greenhorn back in 2011 I believed a tall fence would prevent coyotes and mountain lions from reaching my chickens. Piffle to that.) And so it proved once again, because that piggy girl did everything she could to break in, crying and grunting the whole time.

By Tuesday her brother was in the refrigerator and piggy girl #2 went into heat. Rather than continue to repair fences, and potentially have to chase those girls home from my neighbors' in the rain, I put all four of them into the orchard and double-chained the gates. Gotcha!

That was just as the rain closed in. Sure enough, while safely confined piggy girl #3 followed her sisters into heat. That leaves the question of pregnant pigs only to piggy girl #4.

Being trapped in a small area--the orchard is only a tenth of an acre--with nothing to do but sit in their shelter and watch it rain, the girls got pretty bored. Eventually, they started turning the earth in the area where I feed them. They may have thought they were getting even with me, but I'm thrilled. Here comes my winter garden!

Then this morning a bright yellow sun appeared in an equally bright blue sky and I took pity on them. With the pasture gates closed and double-chained, I opened the orchard gate. They exploded out onto the green grass, grunting to beat the band, then set off at full speed (which is impressively fast if you've never seen pigs run) around the pasture's perimeter fence. I'd like to think that they were running for pure joy, not because they were hoping to break free.

They've spent all day grazing, lazing in the sun, slopping in the mud bog, chasing frogs in the pond, and napping on the opposite side of the fence from June. I swear she's staying close to that fence for their benefit. Who knew pigs could be so attached to a cow or a cow to pigs?

When I went down a while ago to check on them a little while ago, I was surprised when they all "assumed the position." Unlike my other pigs, these guys have remained very cautious around me. I blame that on their ears. They have the (Devon) Black ears, which cover their eyes. Being half-blind all the time makes them startle more easily and leaves them on edge. However, slowly and steadily they've stopped seeing me as a threat. Belly rubbing remained off limits until the little boy got sick after eating poison ivy. It didn't take him long to understand that I was offering comfort rubs and within a day or two of allowing me to rub his ears, he was offering me his belly. He continued to allow belly rubs after he returned to his herd. His sisters were worried. They'd gather around him, grunting in anxious warning as he laid on his side and let me touch him. Then, one by one, they took the risk and dropped onto their sides in invitation.

Today, girl #4 finally took a chance on me and I had four piggy girls wanting belly rubs. Yep, the farm is drying out and doing all right this week. It's be doing a whole lot better if that cow would just have that freaking calf.

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