It’s been a crazy busy month. Spring hit early and after a rather feeble attempt to finish the painting in February which, to be honest, I enjoyed about as much as being made to watch back to back episodes of Inside The Actors Studio (sycophantic nauseating drivel) while having my toenails filed with an angle grinder, March and April have been all about the farm.
I feel justified in calling it a farm now since we have done some irrefutably farmy things since the snows melted. The first and possibly most pant-wettingly exciting of them all is the PIGS. You might remember a post from last year, Is It Too Early For Pigs? Well, if not, then suffice to say we’ve been planning these for an awfully long time and my desire for a black pig or four was finally fulfilled just over a week ago.
Like everything we undertake, the reality was never as simple as our imagination led us to believe and this certainly took some doing. Two or three weekends of building turned $100 of lumber, some off-cut steel siding, scrap left over from the house build and a 6′ steel rod into The Mansion. This bad boy of pig housing sports an 8′ x 8′ reinforced plywood base, a 2′ wall with extra thick reinforced panels to take porkers lolling against them, has a cathedral ceiling, a door solid enough to rebuff the Spanish Inquisition and was filled with two bales of the finest hay that money could buy.
In hindsight, putting the wheels on before building more than the base would have been a smart move, since trying to lift several hundred pounds of wet wood alone and “slip on a wheel” to what turned out to be a poorly-aligned makeshift axel was nothing short of a bitch. In the end, I used the axel as a tow bar, attached a chain to it and dragged the beast into position. OK, it wasn’t the most elegant solution and I did put the tractor’s front-loader through one of the gable walls which needed a teansy repair, but I was pretty pleased that even though the steel bar bent, The Mansion didn’t break and I managed to get it perfectly level in the field. Only a bloke could appreciate the wonder of that. I showed Emma the bubble on my spirit level as proof and she barely stifled a yawn. I expected at least gasps of awe or perhaps a cup of tea, but sadly neither materialised.
I actually think The Mansion could withstand a direct strike with a smart bomb and did seriously consider a) moving the boys and Emma into it so they could appreciate first-hand the wonder of level floors in a bumpy field and b) converting it into a shelter in the event that the Belgians ever invade. Unfortunately, we had four piglets coming in a week from Big George which meant The Mansion would have to remain a pigsty.
The following weekend I focused my attention on the electric fence. As many will attest, I struggle to wire a plug successfully so the challenge of wiring up a fence to carry 20,000 Volts without turning a sizeable chunk of our neighbourhood into one giant magnet was rather daunting. However, spurred on by the thought of Emma and the boys with perpetual static-hair and the risk of attracting stray ferritic asteroids, I studied several configurations and managed to get it all wired up without incident. I drove in my grounding rods (all 6′ of them) and even wired under a gate.
The switch was flicked on at 4:32PM and 14,200 Volts coursed through the circuit. Relieved, if slightly disappointed, to not see blue arcs pulsating between the lines ala Matrix, we drove immediately to Big George’s to get the pigs. We opted for four females, wanting to keep a couple for breeding next year. They were about 8 weeks old, small, cute and mightily annoyed to be grabbed by the hind legs, stuffed into a pet carrier and bundled into the back of our Mazda 5 for the drive home.
The first two we released into their new field were the smallest ones. Winnie, our Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog, who at 7 months is showing all the “guardian” instincts of Pol Pot, decided at that very moment to charge into the electric fence and welcome the new arrivals. Needless to say the sight of 75lbs of slavering dog being electrocuted was enough to scare the piglets senseless and they decided to bolt in the opposite direction through the now-dead fence and off across the field. I yelled for Emma to chase them, but since she’s asthmatic and has about the same acceleration as a 1972 Austin Maxi, the chances of her catching two nimble, fear-crazed piglets was always going to be slim.
So, after fixing the fence I took off after her to discover they’d evaded recapture in a hedgerow and were nowhere to be found. I must say, the thought of having electrocuted my dog and lost 2 piglets within a minute of releasing them was about as depressing as a French Country Kitchen With Matching Rustic Tile Backsplash. It took nearly an hour for me to find them and get them herded back into the field. Unfortunately, they’d obviously had so much fun watching Emma and I have near cardiac episodes that they both ran under the wires and bolted again.
Nearly another hour later, Emma nabbed one against the fence and I snatched the second as it was wriggling through squealing like a toddler who’s been told he has to share. This time they got locked into The Mansion with their two siblings and we collapsed into a heap.
It turns out that the pig I nabbed had defecated on me which shouldn’t have been a massive surprise since every animal we have ever owned has chosen to excrete, urinate or otherwise express their displeasure by propelling some kind of fluid on me. From ninja-spinning dwarf lop rabbits, cats who like to pee on my boots, incontinent dogs and sick chickens, I’ve had it all. The lesson here? Farming: tiring, unpredictable and there’s often quite a lot of shit. But despite that, I’m chuffed to bits. After a week of fattening up, all the pigs are too big to get under the electric fence now and Winnie won’t enter that field anymore. In fact, the electric fence is turning out to be a huge boon. Not only is a fake electric fence keeping both dogs off my newly seeded lawn, but the cat (of piss-in-boots infamy) got electrocuted this weekend which, with the notable exceptions of dunking them in a bath or making them wear booties, turns out to be the most hilarious way to get revenge on a cat without being arrested.
So, there you go. We’re officially pig keepers and proper farmers. Anyone in the Ottawa area that wants to buy pasture raised pork in the autumn, we’re selling three halves (and keeping one for ourselves). I can almost taste the bacon already so be quick!