The pigs have ceased to be. As always, they had a good, lazy, romping life, with mud up to their eyes most days and loads of naps. I’m not going to miss this pair, though. They were extra sneaky and cunning, and developed a taste for illicit exploring.Now I’ll be able to leave home again.
The sun came out and dried up all the rain. Not all – there was a lot of rain. And more wind. This morning, the pig house was upside down. No pigs. That’s never happened before (the pig house flipped, certainly not absent pigs). I can picture them bolting out of there as their house lifted off of them.
Pigs are easygoing, pleasant, optimistic creatures though, so they had no worries about settling back in after breakfast.I had a good time in the greenhouse, cleaning up, untying strings. It seems like such a short time ago we were tying up the strings for all the vining plants to climb- cukes, melons, tomatoes. It’s nice to spend time with my birds when they’re at ease, not just in the food frenzy I get to see twice daily. They spend their down time lounging, and investigating, and investigating new places to lounge. They flop down anywhere. Chickens cashed out everywhere.The guineas really like it under that coop.
What chickens really enjoy is industry – somebody else’s. I was tearing down the cucumber vines in this corner. Moved a few things, paused to sort out my ipod, turned around, and…the whole crowd is in there “going over” my work. Hmm, we’ll just have a look, shall we?
The pigs are enjoying jack-o-lantern guts, to put it mildly. I’ve got a few days worth of meal-enhancements from a carving party. I mix the pulp in with their pellets, and nothing budges them from their bowls when they’ve got pumpkin. I moved their fence around two trees, taking an entire half of it down, and there was not a flicker of interest. No investigating. Whatchu doin’? Nothing. (Good to know).
If anyone local has carved pumpkins left over from Halloween that will just rot, text me! Or give them to your local pig. Pumpkins are incredibly healthy for pigs. Dogs too, but they can’t eat quite as much pumpkin as a pig.
What a load off my mind! Everyone is in. I thought it might all be too crowded for the numbers I have now, but it’s ok. It’s sloppy and slapdash right now, but it will work out. There’s plenty of room for the coops, and a pool, and more.
The guineas are being very tolerant about this mass invasion. They very much like to sit up on top of Silkieland.Perhaps we’ll poop on you. I think they’re so cute. They treat the chickens more like pets they’re fond of, than equals. They watch out for the chickens and will erupt in alarm calling if one is in distress. They’re always watching what’s happening, but stay a little bit aloof.
I just realized. How am I going to recognize Galahad, once all of the Pearls grow up?!
It’s hard to feed everyone, because I get mobbed, and there’s tiny little chicks in the mix. I walk slowly and carefully.
They’re all so happy! It was remarkably quiet all day yesterday, and when I look in, everyone is piled up, or investigating something, or lounging somewhere. Very peaceful. It’s getting cold, too, and I’m reminded how lucky they are, because it’s nice and warm in there.
All the coops are cozy and clean. I’m tidying in the greenhouse, but outside the greenhouse is a catastrophic mess, with all the doors, and canvas and chickeries and hen tents and sticks and buckets strewn around – huge mess, but I’ll get to it. Note the little face on the other side of the fence. Still golf ball sized, but getting very voluminous pants. The chicks all learned how to go to bed in the coop in two nights- impressive!Ketchup etc on the rim of Silkieland – popular real estate.The guineas are piled up underneath Alpha coop! I dug a hole. My irrigation tape is still in. I have to pull all that – lots to do yet.
Also yesterday I moved the pigs. They’re out of the woods entirely now, as they need maximum sunshine as it gets cold, in their final weeks (one is gone already). They were so funny! They were sprinting around, galloping the length of their new field OINKOINKOINKOINKOINK! And jumping on each other like dogs would play. Very funny. They’re very expressive. I was trying to move the fence one post at a time, while they were in it still, but they kept running back up to me, because they’re excited. I just found some delicious roots over there! Oh, what are you doing here? Looks like the fence is all floppy right here, oink oink… I’m like, no! Go away! But I managed, kept them in.
Now I must dig all the potatoes, because it’s about to get COLD.
We’ve had a lot of rain in a week and a bit. The ground is soft and muddy everywhere, and that makes the electric fence easy to knock over.
The pigs escaped after their supper yesterday, an hour before dark. I thought I heard them snorting around in the woods by the house, and I assumed that they would be bedding down and we’d see them in the morning. Boy was I wrong.
They had wandered nearly a kilometer away, and there was a grand nighttime pig drive, our neighbour herding them down the road towards us in a side by side, Hugh rattling a bucket of feed that they ignored, and me sprinting back and forth to keep them on the road.
They were so tired and cranky, all they wanted to do was lie down, so the hardest part was the final bit through the brushy orchard and field, where they were separating, circling back, and flopping down anywhere they could. What a miserable rodeo. Then we had another torrential downpour overnight.
This morning we moved their house onto dry land (they root, it rains, it becomes a mud hole, I move them) and moved their territory. After breakfast and a cursory exploration of this week’s ground to churn up (pleased oinking), they went in their house to make a nest (more pleased oinking), and passed out. They’re going to sleep real well after that big adventure. We are planning to take one of the three out tomorrow.What a night. You can’t even.
The wild birds are well fed. They’ve been cleaning out my crop of sunflowers. From full to this, all in four days. I grew them for them, but I hoped to ration them out a little better, and for my chickens to get some.
Makes me want to grow a field of them, but then the ravens will come and really clean them out.The pigs are moved again, now in the “pasture”, which is much easier to move the fence through. Of course, they are hiding.It was a hot and humid day (just before it got cold and very rainy), so they were in their brushy bit, covered with mud.
The pigs got another big move yesterday. And they’re acting like they did all the work. The space they have with the two strands of fence is vast (not literally, but it seems pretty vast, and it’s plenty big enough for them to get totally concealed). I walk around looking for them and it’s like Wild Safari. Can you see them? Is that something moving over there?Well, there’s a spot where pigs have been.I’m not moving. Maybe my eyelid. One lazy pig.Spot the pig? The other two are in there.
I’ve got some rowdy pigs. Specifically, the female. She’s a bit of a loner, happy to be apart from the boys some of the time, and she doesn’t respect the fence. She knows how to get under it, rooting under a post (the bottom strand isn’t electrified), and then tossing it up, where it will flop down on her back and she can charge underneath, getting only a modest shock on her thick back. I haven’t seen her do this all the way through, but I’ve seen her start into the process very deliberately . I’ve had it. I’m out of here (I thwarted her). This all started with a mass escape incident, and watching that happen, I knew they’d be ruined on the fence. I am counting myself very lucky that it only ruined her on the fence.
Using an electric fence on pigs is a delicate agreement. They agree they will act like they fear the fence, and you agree to believe it will keep them in, when both of you (I think) knows that if they really want, they can go through it. If this pretence breaks down, then the pigs are “what fence?”, and you can never relax again. But the electric fence enables them to have a completely different life than they would if you had to build “pig tight” to keep them in, so it’s a good deal for them. They get a big sward to root and play and run in, and resemble real pigs.
But now, I have a problem pig, and every so often, she goes on walkabout. She doesn’t go far. She just goes and knocks over all the chicken waters and licks their trays clean (the chickens alert me to the invasion). Then I have to pretend to be friendly Aren’t you clever, let’s get a treat (and she runs after me all pleased with herself), when I feel like beating her with a rope. She’s pretty good about going back in. See, the good boys who stayed inside the fence are getting a treat, don’t you wish you were in here now?
Hence, bribery. I’ve taken to surprise feeds of a bucket of apples and garden scraps, to minimize monotonous downtime that could raise exploratory ideas. Of course, religious punctuality with regular feed time is essential to prevent mutiny.I appear off-schedule (they are surprised, and come rocketing in!)They try to body block to keep choice to themselves. The apples go first, even sour green apples. Crunch crunch.Four days so far, no escapes.
The pigs were lying in the mud on one side only, so they (two of them) are browned right down the middle like mimes. They look fully mudded, but they’re not. There’s the pink side!
Yesterday they liberated themselves. I came home, no pigs, and did my usual march all over all the places they could get themselves in trouble with a pail in hand, but I couldn’t find any trace of them. It was too late to rouse them. I was sure they’d chosen a place to sleep, and when pigs are asleep, you can walk right past them. Which meant they hadn’t gotten into any trouble, and I expected them home for breakfast.
They were. They returned right to the place where they’d breached the fence. They were a pain to get back in. Why should we, when we can just upset the chicken food? But once recaptured, they were so tuckered out from their big adventure they spent half the day napping in their house.
Later when I was moving their enclosure, I discovered they had been right on the other side of their fence, exactly where I was shifting them to. They’d gone for a sneak pre-root. It’s a nice spot. I’ve been working them over to here. Now they’re under two big apple trees. Not a lot of apples, but they can just wait for them to drop.
Moving the pig fence is one of the most nightmarish jobs I do here. It’s like untangling a big snarl of wool while dragging it through dense brush, with a time limit. If the snarl of wool were 40 lbs and also snagged on absolutely everything, as did your hair, and it tripped you. It takes two hours, weekly when the pigs are big, and it’s exhausting and frustrating. And I’ve got it dialed. I can even estimate routes that make the fence ends meet pretty accurately. It’s been worse. Much worse. But the results are good; I’m slowly reclaiming the field, although it’s a multistage project to get rid of the glossy leaf buckthorn.
It’s not exactly a thankless job. I get this:
Happiest pigs everThe pigs are expressive and clearly joyful. They have enough room that I can’t even see them from one side to the other.
Finally some rain! The pigs, who are usually muddy to the eyes, are today muddy to the ears. They look funny, with their eyes cleanish in the full muddy cones of their faces.By afternoon they had gleefully mudded the whole rest of their bodies until they had single cleanish strips only along their spines.One of the pigs has a predilection for bringing one or more of their rubber bowls into their house. Sometimes all three are in there, sometimes stacked. I’ve read that pigs use their bowls as toys if you leave them in their pen after dinner, but these are the first pigs to have played with their bowls. Here one pig has just dragged one bowl out from under the other pig, and dumped some of it. Every morning they play food bowl duck duck goose. They start all with their own bowl, then one inevitably goes to the next pig. You got something better in there? The first pig exits, and instead of going to the vacant bowl, goes to the next pig’s bowl. What are you eating? Same thing? I think I’ll try yours. That pig goes to the empty bowl and…they do it all over again, every few mouthfuls.