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.
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.
(David Attenborough voice)
After the new enclosure has been prepared for these lucky piglets, the fence is parted, allowing access to the abundant unspoiled greenery this species thrives upon.But how long will it take them to discover their new freedom?
Their attendant retrieves the food bowls they are familiar with and places them in plain view just beyond the fence opening, filling them with fresh food.The young pigs observe these proceedings with interest, but from a distance. They are agitated by the presence of the human, and grunt with suspicion.
As the human withdraws, curiosity and hunger overcome their trepidation, and one pig tentatively leads the way over the threshold! Its sibling, still visibly anxious, follows soon after. To the boldest pig goes the spoils!
It didn’t take long for us to figure out a better way to use two lengths of electric poultry fence. Making a vast circle of space with both lengths is not it. That merely makes it approximately twice as hard to move them as it was with one length of fence.
The answer (blindingly obvious), is to set up the fences in two circles, like the digit 8, so that when it comes time to shift the pigs, close them into one loop of fence, pick up the other loop and peacefully relocate it. Then, or later, move the pigs into the newly placed loop and move the second section of fence. Drama free.
The added benefit is easily being able to separate the piglets for dinner time. Did someone say dinner? Oggg, oggg,ogggh!
(First there must be scratching)Now HW is closing the gate. Pick a side, Pancakes! They do pick a side, and sometimes switch; they know the drill. Shortstack is smarter. It’s raining, I’ll take the house side.
Then the pigs wait VERY impatiently for the food to be prepared, and served. Whheeeee, Whheeeee!
They’ve had they’re own bowls their whole sojourns here, and they used to get fed on opposite ends of the yard, but still, the first pig finished wolfing down their food goes to see if the other has any left, so thievery happens, and Shortstack has been at the losing end of that contest. This is far better.
Now Shortstack is even more pleased about dinner (hardly possible) because she gets to relax through her whole meal. I think she’s just a slower eater. Likes to savour.
The pigs’ latest move was especially exciting. We made a two-fence loop (two lengths of 100’+ electric net fence, connected for one extra long circle), which makes their space, just Huge. Good for us, they’ll last a little longer in there before we have to move them.They were extremely excited. Didn’t see them all day, they hardly touched their lunch apples, they were finding so much to eat underground. With the two fences, you can’t see the whole space at once. It loops into the brush and also into the pasture. They can get a good sprint worked up with that length. Can’t see where they are most of the time either, except they come out to say Hi. Hi.
These pigs are going to be spoiled (well, in a way-they’ll be sleeping outside), but they’re going to get hot meals. Cooked potatoes kept warm on the woodstove all night with hard feed, or some hot water and milk over meal.
After all, who wants to dig into a cold bowl of cereal on a sub-zero morning? Not me.
This is the best time to have a pig, there’s so much food. Potatoes and squash and apples and greens, loads of waste veggies. Between the pigs and the birds, nothing gets wasted. The pigs get the chicken food fines, the chickens pre-graze the pig lunches:
The pig lunch buckets get lined up a few days ahead. I pick up a wheelbarrow load of apples at a time, and the garden greens day before usually, so the chickens get first crack at the buffet. They don’t hold back. Sometimes they’re in a mood and clean up on the kale, sometimes not. They also choose a few apples and pull them out of the bucket to eat.