Two days before Labor Day my daughter, Sarah, and my husband, bought a forty-five dollar red with black-spots pig for me . I am guessing he is a Tamworth. Upright ears, long and lean. Quite a handsome fellow.
My husband thinks raising and selling pigs would be an excellent way for my little farm to make some money. I evaded his suggestions for several days, ‘we’ll see’, ‘maybe’, ‘not a bad idea’, ‘could I get you a beer?’, ‘I am making myself tea, do you want a cup?’. Finally I said, “The one thing I don’t care to go down as is a pig farmer.”
I mean no harm or offense to pig farming.
I like cows, I like flowers, I even like pigs but I just am not crazy about them. I can watch them for inordinate amounts of time, the way they eat is so appetizing. They relish every bite and tell you so. Their grunts and groans of pleasure, with their mouths full endear me to them, a bit.
But I don’t want to be a pig farmer.
I love my animals and I am nice to my animals. The other morning poor Per, the long, skinny Tamworth, was shivering and shaking. Poor little guy. He was nested in a bale of hay in his box and still he was shivering. I warmed up some milk and cooked up some wheat berries and rye and fed him. He gobbled it down, took a gulp of water and began to shiver again.
Clearly he needs a warm body to cuddle with.
Craig’s List is great. After filtering my way through an surprising amount of pig ads I stumbled upon American Guinea Hogs. With pictures. Rumple nosed, wide, black beauties, the kind of creature that makes you smile just looking at it.
I drove almost three hours out to Western New Hampshire and bought Abba. (Per is a Scandinavian name too, named after a character in the historical fiction story about WWII, Shadow on the Mountain).
OMG!!! I am smitten.
Abba is two months old. Her legs are about four inches tall, she has the girth of a size four soccer ball. She has no neck. She wags her tail. She lay down and let Per roll her right over. He massaged her entirety with his teeth, very gently. He is smitten.
Yesterday I picked her up and put in the pasture with Bonniebelle and Dizzy. Mini-black cow, mini-black, horse, mini-black pig. Am not sure how this happened to me, but quite the picture.
Per was very upset to lose his girlfriend but very happy to have her back for the evening.
This morning I decided I would let them both out. And that we would go into the back field.
The back field is a story itself but I won’t digress too much. In brief, the back field is one of God’s spots that you step into and sigh. Quiet, lovely, peaceful. And un-fenceable as it is bordered by wetlands. We try to mow it but crossing the wetlands is difficult, very dry weather required.
Any way I have talked and dreamt of shepherding my critters into the back field to let them mow it but haven’t done it. What if they got loose?
This was the morning to go back there though. I easily slipped a harness onto Per. Abba was having none of it. And her necklessness won her argument. Man! Can she scream! Ear-splitting endless eahhhhhhhhh!!!!!! No halter for her, creatures of like-kind don’t like to be separated from like-kind so I figured I’d walk Per and with a little luck Abba would follow. Per has a pretty good squealer on him too and wow did he let loose when I leashed him and ‘walked’ him out of the pen. With lots of tugging and screaming(him, not me) and short bursts of high speed we made it out of the pasture into the bottom of the pasture. And there was no moving those pigs anymore. Tall grass, speedwell, goldenrod. Pig heaven.
I dropped the leash and let the pigs wander while I cut some vines to make some wreaths. Dory, my constant company, my chocolate lab was not sure what to make of all this. She loves to go to the back pasture and couldn’t understand the trip ending so soon. Dory has two modes, Running around or laying around. I’ve never seen her standing around. Until this morning. She stood all morning watching over these little oinkers who had wrecked her walk. They ignored her and got busy rooting around. Perhaps their apparent eating interested her, perhaps some swine-protective instinct held her attentions, I don’t know, but she stayed close to them and stood watching them intently.
Per quickly figured out how to give his trailing leash a quick jerk when it caught on weeds and slowed his steps. Once he had a screaming tantrum when the weeds didn’t break. He quickly calmed down when I untangled him. He and Abba stayed within twenty feet of me, with Abba staying the closest and periodically coming right to my feet to sniff and get her ear scratched.
Abba is so, so, so cute. I can not imagine a better way to spend a Monday morning. Standing in the middle of autumn-glory. Cool, breezy, sunny, being nuzzled by the cutest pig ever every few minutes, making wreaths, attempting to make a kissing ball of bittersweet vines (don’t you love that irony?). I don’t want to be a pig farmer but I was envisioning stand in the company of pigs, who might become lovely pasture-fed pork or have to be sold, while I stood making bittersweet kissing balls that I could ribbon up prettily and sell, could I become some kind of homestead artisan after all? Oh, what a lovely morning to be a farmer! Perhaps I would finally get brave enough to walk my little black cow out of the pasture for a walk and a graze while I continued my wreath work. I could be an artist inspired by nature, my pigs, and my cow – heavenly! Perfect!
And then gosh darn!! A big black wasp had to wreck my morning. Darn it if he didn’t swoop in and sting my hand.
Truth be told I knew there was a nest down there in the bottoms, but it is on the other side of the opening. My son had gotten stung earlier this summer and I had watched the wasps later to see where their nest was. These wasps go looking for trouble. I am not afraid of bees in general, in fact I have a whole slew of honey bees that settle into an extra watering dish everyday. I mostly figure bees won’t bother you if you don’t bother them. But these black wasp things are flat out nasty. And I am allergic to bees and/or wasps. A quick count of hospital visits? Four times I’ve gone into anaphylactic shock. But, two years ago I was stung nine times by ground wasps and didn’t react at all. A few times before that I had been stung and had taken huge doses of vitamin C and not had a reaction. Am not sure if the C helped, if my age helps, if my system is changing, or what, but so far I haven’t stopped breathing and don’t have much in the way of hives though I do feel a tad itchy in a few spots. I’ve found if you ignore hives they calm down or don’t even rise up. The length of time it has taken me to write this far and the amount of time it took me to return my pigs to their pen has found me at this level of ok-ness. I don’t think I’ll go into shock today. I’ll post tomorrow and tell you.
But back to that darn wasp and my idyllic pig-loving, day-dreamy, morning. Right through my glove and ouch! right into the top of my hand he got me. I swore a few times and talked to Dory about what I ought to do. Run up to the house and get the C or collect the pigs and get them into their pen? We decided to collect the pigs. Being the clever farmer I am I had slices of apple in my pocket.
I walked a distance towards the house, back into the pasture, and knelt down, “Come, Abba, come.” Abba and Per both looked up from the ground and ran to me! Yeah! What clever pigs. Abba, my tubby little dancing queen, grabbed the apple and hide behind me to eat it. Per was so busy chasing her he didn’t take the slice from me. What a typical boy. I walked several more feet and again called and offered the slices. Again they both came quickly and both got slices of apple. This worked all the way right into their pen, Abba leading the way. Now I am triple-wise smitten, cute, smart, and cooperative.
I can’t wait to go pick up the breeding boy in November!
And I will posts pics when my daughter returns from school to help me.
And so far I am okay. I drank half a teaspoon of vitamin C crystals in half a cup of water, I made a paste of vitamin C for the swollen hand. My hand is quite swollen and my arm throbs but hey I can live with that my tongue and neck are not swollen!