Starting from scratch
With piglets around, the to-do list keeps growing
Because of this crazy life that I have — being a mom, running a farm and doing a little writing on the side — I don’t have much time for myself. It is a good thing that I am not the type of gal that needs to have a daylong retreat to relax. I just don’t have the time. Instead, I get little bits of alone time here and there, put my feet up and recharge.
I have been finding myself relishing in my alone time atop the tractor, zipping around the farm doing various odd jobs. I have realized that for some strange reason I begin to sing some inappropriate top-40 song loud and proud at the same spot on my road each time, without even making a conscious effort to do so. No one even hears me over the revving of the tractor engine. I’m almost embarrassed to say that lately my longest stretch of alone time has been in front of the TV, engrossed in really bad reality shows that are surprisingly addictive. Good thing Farmer Jim doesn’t know, he would be disgusted at the amount of brain cells that I am loosing over the course of that hour. But alas, solitude happens very rarely and the best-made plans are, more often than not, interrupted by a crisis down in the barn.
Tonight, I had a whole list of things planned before lights out: Finish folding the laundry, clean the kitchen and update our Oxbow Farm blog. It isn’t an exciting list, but it was my goal for the evening at least. But when I pulled into the driveway after running some errands I spotted a stranger. “Who is that?” I thought to myself. Then I saw a piglet run around the corner of the barn with my two farmhands in hot pursuit. “Oh no,” I thought. “There goes the mommy-do list for tonight.”
Now, I could have given a little wave and continued driving up my driveway to my house so that I could finish all that I needed to do, but that would have been downright mean. So out I went in my wedged shoes and khaki pants to meet the sweating farmhands and the inexperienced in farming friend. After hearing the story of how the four piglets had escaped while their stall was being cleaned, we got down to work. I changed into big muck boots and ran down the paddock with a grain bucket to lure the piglets back to their home. I couldn’t help but think of my friend, Rachel, who teases me nonstop about my lack of fencing skills when it comes to keeping my animals contained. But ha! This time it was not my fault and there was no fencing involved.
The piglets ran to another area where our six adult pigs are clearing out a section of our property, in an effort to regain an access road. All the pigs were running around confused and excited, each feeding off each other’s energy. I threw down some grain on the ground so that the big pigs would be contented while we tried to corral the small ones. There is nothing scarier than 300 to 350-poud pigs running towards you at full speed in an attempt to be the first one to the food. A quick sniff with their noses turned them 90 degrees when they realized I didn’t have the grain anymore and it was on the ground beside them.
The two little piglets followed and tried relentlessly to get a bite to eat, but that was not in the cards this time. With these two being so small and so low in the pecking order, so to speak, they could not get near any of the food. And the older pigs were worked up, head-butting any other pig that tried to take their food and nipping at any tiny ear as it ran past.
Like a chicken, the best way to grab a piglet is by the back legs. First you reach for one and, when you have a firm grip, you grab the other. You can carry them like this if you want but it should only be for a short distance. They squirm so violently, they can be dropped quite easily. So once we caught them, they were carried — like you would a lap dog, close to your chest — up our steep hill and back into the barn, screaming their discontent all the way.
I was very surprised that big Mamma pig who, even though it was not her piglets, became extremely protective once she heard the little pigs screaming as they were being carried off. I was amazed at how quickly her whole attitude changed from first trying to fend off the little ones to then becoming extremely concerned. I was equally concerned for our legs and backsides in the event that she decided to take a defending nip.
After this whole fiasco, I brushed off my manure-splattered khakis and changed back into my non-farming shoes. I headed up to the house to clean the kitchen. The laundry would have to wait for another day.
Kim Graham lives in Dublin with her husband, Jim, and their two children. The couple hails from New Brunswick, Canada. This column chronicles their first-ever adventures in farming. For more about the farm, see www.oxbowfarmnh.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.