The ‘Egg Lady’ versus the pigs on the lam
Kimberly Graham 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.
Mamma and Sally enjoy their time on the loose.
I am known in these parts as “The Egg Lady.” If someone else had this name they may find it offensive, but I don’t. That is what I do — I sell eggs. And I have to say that folks seem to like what I do. I was told recently that my eggs have a good aura. My hens are happy!
We are slowly venturing into raising pigs for meat here at Oxbow Farm and I know that I have mentioned it before. Like I did with the chickens, I am going to learn as I go, but this time I am going to have some guidance from an experienced pig farmer. For the next year I will be working with Ed Epson of Henwyn Farm in Salisbury. He raises two types of rare heritage breed pigs: Mulefoots and Large Blacks, and he raises them how I want to, outside where they are happy and healthy. We were paired together through a special mentorship program created by NOFA-NH, (North American Organic Farming Association). I am able to come to his farm and observe his pigs and I can call or email him whenever I have a question or need some advice.
We currently have five females and one male pig. I had kept the male and females separated for a while but now they are together so perhaps in the next month or so I will be able to tell if we will have baby piggies on the farm this summer. During my first meeting with Ed, I asked important questions like: when will I know if my female is pregnant and how do I keep blood lines clean?
On a fine Saturday morning a few weeks ago, the plumber working on our egg-cleaning room in the barn walked up to the house to let us know that the smallest pig, Sally, had escaped and was rummaging through the manure pile. This was not the first time she and another pig had escaped.
Because I was still cooking up breakfast, Farmer Jim walked down to where she was and bribed her into her pen with food and then made his way back up to the house where he proceeded to watch her escape again.
The electrical fence that we use had been moved out of position because of the snow banks and so it left a good sized hole from which she could squeeze through. Having caught her again, she was fine in her pen while we tended to the fence. Later that morning while working on a long to-do list, I opened up the back door of the barn and looked at “mamma” a large pink sow on the other side of the electrical fence.
By this time it was mid-morning and she had already been fed so she was not interested in the bucket of grain we were using to lure her. It really only made the other pigs not able to have their fair share squeal with discontent. She ran around in several directions thus causing the dogs to bark and run around themselves and the kids to do the same. I then ran around like a crazy person as I tried to stop her from heading down the driveway and onto the road. I had already brought back a pig that had wandered away and I had no interest in a repeat performance. Back in the yard, I stared down a 400-pound animal with black beady eyes and thought to myself, “this is no way to die” and thus jumped aside as she bolted past my pathetic attempt at a blockade – a long stick.
After about an hour of trying to coax her into the barn, or a dark space of confinement as she saw it, we let her wander around the plowed-up yard and regrouped to formulate a plan of gentle attack. Our plan: Let her think that she is in control.
Farmer Jim followed slowly behind her, gently coaxing her up the enormously steep manure pile towards the barn door. He was carrying a heavy 16-foot piece of hog panel in case she decided to turn and venture back down the hill.
In reality, it would not have stopped her, but at least it was a visual barrier. I secured the dogs and children in the pick-up truck where they could fully view the ongoing events but at a safe distance. I moved a utility trailer and hog panels and created a horse-shoe shaped wall, ensuring that when she did actually make her way up the manure pile, she had nowhere to turn.
As we remained calm and patiently let her take her time she eventually made her way up to the top of the pile. When she realized she was trapped, she started huffing and puffing in anger. She even growled at Jim as she turned away from the hog panel he was firmly holding now on solid, flat ground. Into the barn she trotted and we quickly shut the door behind her. There was nothing that she could harm in the bay area of the barn so we let her hang out in the darkness for a while to calm down.
We then put her in the stall with Sally, her partner in crime and the both instantly curled up together and went to sleep, exhausted at the wildly exciting morning they had just had.
Farmer Jim and I brushed off our hands and made our way to the recycling center to finish our Saturday to-do list, dogs and kids still piled in the back seat.
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