Pigs, Pigs, Pigs!

Feb 08 2017

Pigs, Pigs, Pigs!

Pigs are cool. Anyone who has ever had one can attest to that. That being said, when you are up to your eyeballs in them, they can get a little overwhelming. 

We have been in the middle of a pig-a-palooza lately and have a few pig stories to share. 

Pig # 1: Violet. Violet is one of the girls that was born to our sow Petunia last winter. We've kept her around and decided, randomly, last fall to have her bred. We weren't sure if it was successful, but we had both her and her sister in the pen with the boar at the same time, because, well you never know. We waited and waited and finally began to think that the first breeding wasn't successful. Then BAM! She got huge overnight, to the point where her nipples were almost dragging on the ground. Yup, she was pregnant. We weren't 100% of her due date (bad, bad farmer!) so we just sort of waited. As it turned out, she took it all into her own hands (or hooves, whatever) and after commandeering one of the smaller houses in the big pasture, gave birth to five healthy piglets! That was where the problems started. Vi had no interest in her babies whatsoever. I panicked because it's been cold and miserable here and that was the last thing we needed was a bunch of frozen pig-cicles. We got them all bundled up under their heat lamp and set about to convince mama that she needed to let her littles nurse. I tried cramming her in the house; I tried feeding her in the house, nothing. And then, via the wonders of the internet, someone suggested an old farmer's trick of getting the sow drunk to help her relax. Ok, so maybe drunk is a strong word but multiple forums and groups suggested giving her some beer to get her to calm down. Since beer doesn't last in our house, like at all, I called the neighbor who came to the rescue with a couple cans of Coors Light – some for Violet and some for me. A couple of cans later, Vi flopped right over and the littles began to nurse away. Since then, she's been an alright mom. All five kiddos are doing well so far, however we are going to be pulling them from their warm cozy house the weekend for a welfare check - and to give supplemental nutrition if needed. As for Violet, we are going to let her wean this litter but that will be it. She's not a very responsive mom (they can shout and cry and she barely reacts - not a good sign) and we worry that could hurt future offspring. So, once the litter is weaned in about seven-eight weeks, Vi will be culled from our breeding program. It’s not a fun choice to have to make, but when we think about what is best for our farm and our company, you have to make those tough decision. 

Pig #2/Pig #3: Chrissy aka Chrysanthemum. Chrissy is Violet's sister/littermate. Their mom is Petunia aka Tuney who is one of our favorite sows. Chrissy got pregnant at the same time her sister did but for reasons unknown, she's a horrible mother. Like makes Violet look like mom of the year kind of thing. First off, she had four babies. She decided to give birth in the pouring rain the night after Violet did. The Fisherman and I sat in her house with her, watching, hoping and praying that all would work out. Two were still born, one took its first and last breaths as I held it and the fourth is our little brawler that we're calling Solo. Or Colombo (because he's so small, he'd fit on a Colombo roll - yeah the Fisherman has a sick sense of humor). Unfortunately for Solo, Chrissy could care less that he's on this planet. We had a hard time getting her to let him nurse right after he was born and his motions are still super jerky and erratic, which research says could be due to a lack of oxygen during birth? Still not 100% sure. Even after his first night, she would just leave him to go scavenge during the day, leaving him all alone in their big house, cold as ice. We started feeding her in their house, one to keep her out of the mud because it has been raining incessantly and two, to keep her closer to him. As soon as she'd stand still to eat, he would rush over and start nursing, like he hadn't eaten in hours. Then, yesterday, when we went out to feed around 7 am (again, in the pouring rain) we found him on the other side of the paddock, about as far away from his house as he could have been. Chrissy could have cared less. We got him scooped up and moved back into the house but as he tried to nurse, Chrissy kept pushing him away. We said we'd give her another chance but yesterday evening, when we went back out to feed, he was curled up in a corner, shivering and wasn't even able to get up to nurse. I decided it was time to intervene. Scooped him up and he didn't make a peep which was really unusual for him and stuffed him into my jacket to keep him warm, all the while Chrissy noticed nothing. We moved him down to the house and have been feeding him via a syringe every 30-45 minutes. He's already gained a couple ounces and is back to being his little fighter of a self. As for Chrissy, she’s another one that we’ll remove from our herd. Kind of a bummer but I would rather not have to go through that anxiety again.
Now Solo is living in a dog carrier in our bathroom with a heating pad and a very watchful Ally Mai as a babysitter. He needs to eat as often as possible so that means that I’m up EVERY HOUR to feed him a couple syringes worth of his formula before collapsing back into bed. I managed to kick The Fisherman hard enough a couple times during the night so that he’d go do it (I work full time and he has this week off, the lucky bagger) but he also is with Solo ALL DAY so I figure it’s only fair. So far it’s working. Last I heard Solo was running around the house like a giant, fuzzy, black roly-poly bug with Ally Mai hot on his heels. He’ll get moved onto a bowl of formula here in the next 24-48 hours (hooray for a full night’s sleep!) before we re-introduce him to the herd in a few weeks.  

Phew, I'm exhausted just remembering all that. And yet, it's not over. 

Pigs # 4: In the midst of all this drama, The Fisherman swung by a friend's house in Angwin on Thursday and noticed a small potbelly pig in her front yard. After confirming that no, she did not have a new pet, they caught the little porker and moved her into the yard. Our friend canvassed the neighborhood while the pig destroyed her backyard (so much for gratitude, right?). Since she lives in a rental, the pig had to go. And who volunteered to foster her until we found her home? That's right, The Fisherman. HAHA! I know you were all thinking it was going to be me. I said 'No way Jose' and was clearly overruled. Granted the moment he brought her home, I started begging him to let me keep her. So much for will power. Anyways, we had moved the four boys that had been born on Thanksgiving down to the yard when Violet and Chrissy's babies were born and so the pig I christened Delilah moved in with them. We spent the weekend alternately chasing and then running away from a herd of five hogs (and our whippet, Ally Mai. Yeah, my life is bizarre). We posted all over social media, plastered the town in flyers and called every single animal rescue group and law enforcement agency in the county. Nada, nope, zilch. Clearly, she had been dumped. **Side note** For anyone who is ever going to consider buying a potbelly pig as a pet, please understand, these so-called teacup pigs will not stay teacup sized for long. Pigs grow - a lot. Potbelly’s in particular can quickly grow to 75, 100, even 200 pounds. They get overweight very quickly and can become as ill-mannered as dogs – even worse sometimes. There are lots of people who think mini-pigs are so cute and that they will stay itty-bitty forever. WRONG. This leads to a very high number of pigs being surrendered at shelters, rescues or just plain dumped on the side of the road. To those people who thing it is ok to abandon an animal, a pet, on the side of the road, there is a special place in hell reserved for you.
Do you research before considering one. Pigs make great pets, don't get me wrong, but don't think they will stay the size of your beer can forever. 
ANYWAYS. So we spent four days searching for her previous owner/trying to find someone to take Delilah off her hands. We had a few nibbles but nothing concrete until yesterday morning. During one of the rare windows that we had power (again, still raining so much that I got stuck at home and wasn’t able to get into work) we got a text saying to call this gal who was interested in adopting Delilah. They had never had pigs before but were looking for a great way to introduce them onto to their mini-homestead. And they only live 15 minutes from us. After talking a bit more, The Fisherman and I decided it would be a good fit. We loaded Delilah up and drove her up the hill. Good news, we only had to dodge two or three landslides to get there. Arriving at this family's adorable place, we know instantly it would work. There are kids everywhere, plenty of green grass and a snuggly little shelter. Renamed Penelope by her new mom, the ungrateful little wench just waddled off to peruse the buffet in her new paddock instead of saying goodbye. Rude. But all is well that ends well. Penelope has a wonderful new home with a fabulous family to love her and I have one less pig in my yard. HALLELUJAH. 

All in all, it's been a crazy couple of days. I'm tired and sore. My diet has mostly consisted of caffeine and anti-anxiety meds and I wish I could explain where all the different bruises came from. Thankfully, I’ve got some pretty amazing friends, both real and via social media. Please know that your support has an immeasurable effect on me. Your cheers, thoughts and prayers make be both want to laugh and cry with joy – but mostly cry because I’m so damn tired. 
But I'm still here. I love every second of this life, even the dirty ones when you're smeared in blood, shit and god knows what else.
In the heartbreaking ones, where a new life is snuffed out before it has a chance to grow into something wonderful.
In the exhausted ones, when you hear the squeal of a starving piglet coming from the bathroom at 1:47 am and know that you have to get up, despite an alarm that will be going off in just a few short hours.
I embrace the exhaustion because it means that I am living my life to the fullest. There is something profoundly satisfying about collapsing into bed at the end of the day, so tired you can barely lift a hand to turn out the lights. That profound exhaustion means that you are fully engaged, mind, body and soul into what you're doing. It's a very common thing for farmers but there are many others who experience it too and can vouch for me too. That deep, delicious ache means you are alive and living a life worth living. And in my opinion, there is nothing better. Maybe except for a cold beer - those are pretty darn amazing too.

With love from our dirty, exhausted and overflowing hearts, 
Lailand & Jeremy