The Pigs, Per, Abba, Odin





Per is living in the barn, much to the chagrin of Dizzy.  For one she lost her pen to him, for two she now has a front seat to his eating auditorium.  Dizzy would happily consume the exact same things, leftover pancakes, coffee grinds, sour milk, celery stubs, cold scrambled eggs.  The other day she worked hard and stole the rind of a roasted pumpkin from him.  Pumpkin, I can understand but really the horse has no discretion in her appetites.  I am no expert when it comes to horses but I think she is really strange.

Dizzy is probably also appalled at the lack of tidiness in her old bedroom.  Horses are nice and neat, they do their business in one corner, they don’t spill their water, they don’t toss their food dishes about.  Per does his business in one corner but his food and water are another story.  My husband spent quite a bit of time last week making this fabulous waterer for Per, heated and everything.  It holds about six gallons of water in a five foot by six inch PVC pipe, a nipple attached near the bottom, a submersible heater inside.  Perfect.

Except two days later there was about four gallons of water soaking Per’s pen.  Am still not sure how he managed this.  I can’t find a leak, can only guess that somehow he jammed the valve mechanism open and it flooded the place.

If Charlotte had to save Per’s life she might not say SOME PIG in her web, unless one put the perfect tone to it it wouldn’t make the point strongly enough.  Crazy, exuberant, energetic, and possibly dangerous all come to mind.  Per is the fourth pig I’ve owned, and he falls into the something else category.  He has this alarming habit of lunging, his pen is about four feet tall, he can lunge up so snout to navel is out of the pen.  His enthusiasm is directly connected to food and affection.  He loves to have his chin and ears rubbed, and he adores food.  The other night he tried to grab the dish out of Sarah’s hand and caught her hand.  She didn’t bleed much but she did bleed.  Not good.  Despite this  incident the kids are all very fond of him, he has so much personality; if alarmed he barks just like Dory, he collapses if you rub his side, he moans if you scratch him just right, and there isn’t a video game that can compete entertainment-wise with the fun of watching  his pure joy when eating.  However…  Am not sure we’ll be able to keep him until his March 3 date with the butcher.


Per, He is hard to capture as he is in perpetual motion. Sorry about the blurry edges!

Abba and Odin are perfect little squealing ones.  They are nice and round and short, they don’t jump or lunge.  Abba loves to have her tummy rubbed, Odin is much more skittish, and man, it will be some time before I let him loose again.  I assumed he’d stick with Abba and return with Abba.  Abba comes when called – better than Dory Dog even, as in I don’t not have to add on “I’ve got a treat for you!” Odin gave us a merry chase for hours before we returned him to his pen.  (Note, we didn’t actually chase him, we bribed him, we tried shoo’ing him, we tried to close in on him from three sides, all to no avail.  Chasing doesn’t work with any animal as far as I can tell, but it is an easy term to use –merry chase – just sounds good doesn’t it!?)

No, Odin has a mind of his own and shows no signs of warming up to the idea of being a well-trained pig.  He is starting to squeal when he sees us, he is starting to stay nearby when we kneel and pet Abba but he is terribly reluctant to be touched.  Hopefully we can make some headway with him because come spring I’d love to have him out grubbing up some gardens for me, but do need to be able to move him from here to there.

Moving along

Things are moving along. Slowly.  Crutching around is hard work.  Getting down to the barn and back is slow going but worth it.  It amazes me how energy and clarity come with those moments out in the barn.  By the time I get back to the house my arms are tired, but I feel so much better.  

Bonnie Boots, as my friend Monica dubbed her after hearing about poor Kathleen and Sarah,  is being a bit of a dic-a-doo.  She is lifting feet more than she should, not really trying to hit me but clearly trying to get out of being milked.  Don’t tell my mother or my doctor but her hoof has landed on my right leg a few times, nothing below the knee but still… so not cool.  I can’t quite figure it out.  Perhaps some tenderness from the ‘holding up’ over the weekend, perhaps the idea that kicking might have gotten her extra grain or less time in the stanchion, perhaps simply the change of routine, I wish I could understand her language better.  In the past I’ve been able to make eye contact and chat with her a bit; with my back to her I can’t.  Before I was ‘flapped’ she would often stop mid-way through milking and lick my face or hands, perhaps my back offends her?  I just don’t know.

The other character that has been interesting to watch is Dory.  When I’ve been laid up in the past she has been right there, laying near my bed or door, watching and waiting.  Until today she has been watching and waiting patiently.  Just as Bonnie decided to give me one full day off before I had to come and milk, Dory decided that today was the day I had better play with her.  From the moment I got out of bed she was crazed, she put on her whole wiggle-butt, tail-waggety-whack routine – “we are going for a RUN!”  Food didn’t satisfy that itch, a quick trip out to pee didn’t either, she was certain that today was THE DAY that we’d be on the move again.  So, after William got on the bus I spent about half an hour outside throwing the ball for her.  Now she has calmed down and is napping.  And once again, her medicine was just what I needed.  

What happens when people are stuck in nursing homes, houses, hospitals?  I can’t possibly be the only one who benefits from fresh air and outside activity. Convalescing without clarity and energy hardly seems like it can be convalescing.

I have not been able to visit Abba and Per yet.  I miss rubbing their ears and bellies.  I have to go through a mucky spot so haven’t ventured there yet.  I’ve thrown apples over to them but that’s it.  They are surely missing our excursions.  They got out of their pen on Saturday so Eric and Sarah had to move them and set them for being penned pigs, at least for a while.  Poor Per must be losing his mind, he is one high-speed pig, her run circles for the sheer joy of it, his little piggy spirit must be suffering a bit.  Their new pen is nice and big and all un-rooted ground, for the moment that is the best we can do.


Fowl Romance

At the moment I have three flocks.

The laying hens: Pecky, Sweetie Hen, Zinc, the Remaining Ploska Twin, Not-Pecky-but-the-other-Barred-Rock, The Three Goldilocks, Mary-Penguin, and Rufus their Rooster, as well as the two Two Turkey who think they are laying hens – Trixie and Turks (and yes, they lay lovely, edible eggs).  This flock lives in the coop attached to the barn.

Rufus, the Laying Hens' Rooster

Rufus, the Laying Hens’ Rooster

Then there are the Greeks, Hecate, Hebe, Hera, and their rooster, Hades.  These are very small bantams, Old English Bantams.  They free-range by day and roost in the barn at night.

And last, but not least. The Fancy Banties.  They live in the lean-to which also houses the pigs.  I’ll do well to remember their names.  Emma, my Greek-God-loving child, named most of them.  With one clear exception.  There is Iris, Athena, Phebe, Cocopuff, and Persophone (I think), then Celine, a creamy white bantam, the perfect moon goddess, who turned out to be a rooster, as of yesterday he is Zeus.

Well, the fancy banties don’t like living next to the noisy, hungry pigs.  Makes them very nervous.  So I’ve been letting them free-range with the Greeks.  Then I felt bad for the laying hens and decided to let them free-range, too.

There are risks involved.  Hawks.  Foxes.  Etc.  But today we had romance.

The Laying Hens haven’t ever really accepted the Three Goldilocks and Mary Penguin as part of their flock.  It’s been two months since those ladies, large laying hens,  moved from the Fancy Bantie pen to the Laying Hen coop. At first there was flat out meanness, then slight meanness, then annoyance.  But never acceptance and certainly not love.

Rufus, the Laying Hens’ Rooster is a Japanese Bantam.  He is much, much smaller than the ladies in his flock.  He has ignored the Three Goldilocks and Mary Penguin for the last two months.  Too much failure, I imagine.

While I was milking this morning Hades, the God of the Greeks, began to make eyes at Mary Penguin.  Hades is small, perhaps also a Japanese Bantam. He is black and white and gray.  Quite Handsome.

Hades, with Hera, the red bantam, and behind him two tiny Old English Bantams, Hecate and Hebe.

Hades, with Hera, the red bantam, and behind him two tiny Old English Bantams, Hecate and Hebe.

Once Mary Penguin caught his eye the show was on.  He made himself as big as big could be.  Puffed out chest,  Flewphed up tail.  Feathers arched and fanned.  He doubled his size.  He beak-shined each and every feather.  Over and over again.  He about broke his neck trying to polish the feathers directly under his chin.

Mary Penguin watched for a minute or two and then scratched the hay around, looking for seeds or corn.  Then she couldn’t help it, she went back to watching him.  Sarah, my 15 year old, was watching and laughing from the feedroom.  If Bonniebelle hadn’t whacked me with her tail the first time I laughed aloud  – I would have had myself more than a silent chuckle.  Hades was something to see.

One of the Three Goldilocks came over and studied the two of them for a while and then wandered off, unamused and certainly not falling for all the fluff.

Mary Penguin fell.  Once Hades felt confident he’d won Mary Penguin’s attention he went for it.  The deal maker, the sure bet.  Food.  Keeping his feathers big and wide he began to nose around for food.  Calling Mary to come see, pointing with his beak.  Unfortunately there wasn’t really anything to see. Mary Penguin looked hard and then looked disappointed. She began to wander off a bit.  No longer looking at Hades.

Sarah decided to help the poor guy out.  He had to be exhausted.  Holding himself so big for so long.  She quickly tossed a bit of corn Hades’ way.  He quickly began his food call again.  Mary Penguin gave him one more try.  Bingo!  He had done it.  She moved her beak right up to his, gobbling up the corn.  Handsome as the devil himself and able to produce the real thing!

When I went out a few hours later the courtship had moved to the lawn.  Just the two of them, well off from any other flock.

Poor Hecate.  After all the birds had settled for the night I saw her up on the fence between my field and the neighbors.  She jumped over and hide in the bushes.  William followed after a while and shooed her back.  I shooed her into the barn, fully expecting to see Mary Penguin and Hades roosting together.

Close up of Hecate and Hebe

Close up of Hecate and Hebe

But that Mary Penguin, she is no floozy, she was right up in the rafters with the Goldilocks.

Hades was sitting on a fence, half way between Mary and the Greek Gals’ Roosting spot.

Poor Hecate jumped up with Hera and Hebe.  They’ll have a good gossip tonight – I’ll bet.

“Did you see that Mary Penguin?!”  “Imagine!  Moving in on our man like that!”  “Just ’cause she’s got those feathered feet doesn’t mean she is all that!  Men will fall for anything!”  “I’ve never really trusted that Hades, how can you trust a guy with a name like that?  No -really I mean it! A name means something doesn’t it?”  “And those green glittery tail feathers of his, can’t trust a guy that flashy.  My grandma always said that, flashy fowl is falsy fowl!  Maybe not quite that but something like that!”  “I didn’t think Mary Penguin would do this to us.  What have we ever done to her?”

PS:  The oPERation is complete.  Egads.  Per, Eric, and I all needed a beer after that.  You’d think a procedure like that would set a fellow back some, but nope, not him.  Operated yesterday, today he jumped the 2 – 3  foot fence of his pen like nothing had happened.

Good piggies.

The pigs were great today.  Emma was home with a cold so she went with me and babysat them while I worked on widening the path and making wreaths.  I need a nice swath clear of multi-flora roses before I bring my cow back there.  Since I got whapped a few years back, taking a thorn between two knuckles, sending a red line up my arm within hours I am a little paranoid of multi-flora roses.  Didn’t help that while I was buying arm length rose-trimming gloves a nice lady stopped to tell me her husband had died – DIED!  from a rose thorn infection.

The image of my dear Bonniebelle dragging me through a path of roses and killing me keeps me widening that path!

I digress.

This morning I didn’t feed the pigs anything before we went into the backfield.  The little dears were competing to see who could follow me best.  We were quite the sight.  Dory in the lead.  Then me closely followed by the pigs, with Emma taking up the rear.  When we got settled. me with my clippers, Emma sunning in white plastic Adirondack chair, the pigs happily poked and rooted around – perfect!  Per has this know-it-all attitude now.  He is so proud of himself when he comes when we call. His legs and length are so much longer than Abba’s he is always in the lead – which he is sure makes him my new favorite.  Abba just about kills herself running to keep up, poor thing is going to be fit!  Good thing she is for breeding not eating.

I sprinkled bits of fine cracked corn here and there – they had good fun finding it and digging it up.  Emma did a good job checking on them and calling them in if they ventured too far.   Made it easy for me to work.

After a while Emma headed back to the house, the pigs quickly decided to take advantage of being unattended and wandered off pretty far.  I didn’t call them but stood watching the grass wave well over their heads as they meandered through the meadow.  They weren’t eating at all, just enjoying their freedom.  When I called they grunted and came running.

I got them back into their pen with no problems, giving them a quart of clabber and a little grain.

Poor Per will likely have a little surgery this afternoon.  I picked up the ‘tools’ to castrate him.

I’ll let you know how that goes.