Gentle Readers. We have pigs.
I wonder how many times I’ve written in this space about how much I’d love to raise a couple of pigs. Ten times? Twenty? A hundred? So what stood in my way? is the question that begs to be asked.
Why, my sensible husband, of course. My hubs reins me in when my fanciful nature tends to get me (and therefore, us) in trouble. I’m in a tiny bit of trouble right now, in fact–very nice trouble, but still--with . . . well, pigs, and chicks, and chickens, and Too Much Garden, as well. I wake up in the night and wonder what I was thinking, ergo: how I will ever get all the weeds pulled? Why so much? Why so many? Why do I always believe that I can do it so–stinkin’–much?
Actually, I can’t do everything I’d really like to do. Prudent Bryan would never get himself into this much work, knowingly, at least. But it seems to be The Way I Roll . . . for better or for worse. And since he (bless him) is stuck with me–for better or for worse, we (deliciously circular reasoning, eh?) have pigs.
It seems like a bit of a miracle, that we have pigs at last. I told a friend this the other day–a beautiful, well-groomed, city lady–and her eyes grew very merry indeed, before she burst out laughing. In. My. Face. For her part, she tried to hold it in. Then I realized that maybe it did sound a bit silly.
After all, our having pigs is not the crossing of the Red Sea type of miracle, but a miracle just the same. Two events–actually, three–came into play to make it all possible.
- Our big dog Ollie disappeared a couple of months ago (sadly), leaving his sizable and very secure yard empty.
- My neighbor Irwin called me one afternoon: uncharacteristically, I was in the house and answered the ‘phone. (Also it was a minor miracle that I could locate the ‘phone.)
- Bryan had a cancellation at work, so he answered his ‘phone when I called (which never happens).
I am compelled to point out the obvious fact that my husband is good to me, as you all know. He has let me drag him into lots of things that he would not have chosen for himself, including country life + raising a big family + homeschooling + teaching theatre to a crazy (yet winsome!) bunch of homeschooled kids + raising chickens and other critters + doing farmer’s market + et al, et al. Mostly when I present him with something new I’d like to explore, he raises tired eyes to mine (I am considerate: I always time my ideas to be presented to him when he is sitting down) and says “if that’s really what you want . . .”
But he (unaccountably!) drew a line in the sand with my marvelous pig idea. I’m pretty sure that he pictured himself dragging home from work, only to be handed a pig-net (how does one catch runaway pigs?) and asked to help round up the piggies. “They escaped again, honey. I’m tired of chasing them,” I would say, with a gentle sigh. “I’ll turn the task over to you and go to bed now, thank you.”
“Good luck, darling! Save the bacon!” I would call gaily, as I flipped my long shimmering golden hair over my shoulder. Wait. The long golden hair? Fiction. And so is the rest.
I knew that I would be better at raising piggies than that. I had done a bit of homework; I knew a good fence would make pig raising less adventurous; I’d been raising meat chickens for years and I actually suspected it was a lot more work to raise them then a couple of pigs; I have a friend who raises pigs every year and she’d already given me tons of instruction: in short—I knew I could do this!
That leads me to the issue of the fence. Whenever I’d mention my hoped-for pig project, Bryan would gaze at me and say “who’s going to build that fence for you?” He had me there. Both of us are so busy that I really couldn’t see when we’d get a fence built. I had chosen a place for it, a couple of years ago, in an out-of-the-way spot behind our shed–a tangle of brome grass and weeds that I knew pigs would enjoy–but I couldn’t see how I’d erect a fence by myself, and Bryan had made it clear that he wasn’t the one to help me. 🙁
And everybody says, first thing: “Raising pigs? Be sure to put up a very secure fence.”
So I was stuck, wanting to raise pigs but without the blessing (or the muscle!) of my husband. Have you ever tried to move hog panels–they are so long, like 20 feet long–honestly I don’t know how long they are–they are it-takes-two-people-to-move-them long—And for those who might suggest (and I have heard this suggestion more than once) that I just go ahead and do it, without hub’s blessing? That’s just not the way we roll. Peace at home sans pigs, to me, is preferable to pigs at home sans peace. And you can quote me on that, gentle reader. If you have a mind to.
But back to the day that all this changed. The phone rang. It was our nice neighbor Irwin, who actually raises pigs, himself.
“Say, Amy,” he said in his gentle drawl, “Are you raising pigs over there right now?” I snorted (ironically). Nope, I assured him. Though I’d always wanted to raise pigs, my tyrannical and overbearing husband wouldn’t let me . . . no, that’s not really what I said.
“No, we aren’t,” I said. “I’d like to, some day, though.” Admire my restraint, gentle reader. It was real.
“Well,” continued Irwin, “they found a little piglet running around the golf course and brought it to me–it’s not mine, so I thought . . . saaay, if I don’t find anybody who will claim it, shall I call you?”
I froze. I caught my breath. I thought of hub’s stern resolve to not ever, ever possess pigs. “Gosh,” said I, “Sure, call me, let me know, by all means!” because: how could I refuse a free pig? But I was thinking “It won’t happen. What’s the harm? He’ll find the owner. There are lots of folks–lucky folks!–who raise pigs in our area.” And lost pigs, after all, aren’t that uncommon in these parts. But that wasn’t the biggest issue.
The biggest issue was: what would Bryan say? Or, worse yet, do? Would he pitch me, finally, to the wild coyotes in our parts? Toss me into the pond? Tie me up and leave me out in the desert for fire ants to consume? He doesn’t seem like a violent man, but coming home to find the dreaded pigs could be the proverbial straw . . . I dismissed my worries and went about my day. It wouldn’t happen. Things like winning the lottery, finding out that you are actually Nigerian royalty and have inherited the crown and all the benefits therein; getting handed a free piglet–those things don’t really happen in real life, do they? Just in fanciful fiction books, right?
Of course, right.
I convinced myself of this fact. Which is why it was such a surprise several hours later when the phone rang again. I had nearly forgotten about the pigs (believe it or not), with the cares and tasks of the day taking precedence, you know, as they do. I glanced at the caller ID. It was Irwin again. I gulped. I might have wet my pants, just a little (kidding). I answered.
Irwin was smiling, I could hear it. “Well, Amy, you still want that pig? Nobody is claiming it and I’ve called everybody in our area . . .” I wondered, briefly, why Irwin didn’t just add the piglet to his herd (flock? cadoodle? Scurry?*)
(*Now this is amusing, gentle reader: I just looked it up. The name for a group of pigs depends on the animals’ ages. A group of young pigs is called a drift, drove or litter. A group of older pigs is called a sounder of swine, a team or passel of hogs or a singular of boars. Who knew? I didn’t. I’m guessing that a couple of young pigs is called a couple of young pigs, though, since a couple is not, after all, a group. Right?)
“I would love it,” I said, stifling my squeals (ironically) of joy, “but I’d have to make sure it was okay with my husband first . . . ” and, thinking hard and ahead and optimistically, as is my wont: “and, say–would you have another piggie about the same size that I could purchase, to keep the first one company, that is–if my husband is okay with it?”
The good farmer thought for a moment. “Yeah, I think we might have one about the same size,” he said.
“I’ll call you back!” I said. I hung up the phone and thought for a moment. The chances that Bryan would answer his ‘phone were very very very VERY VERY! slim. He is a busy therapist and most of his work days are booked full, with only a lunch break. It was late afternoon. He doesn’t answer his ‘phone, obviously, during a session. If my hair was on fire and I was being consumed by the aforementioned fire ants and nobody was around to help me, and he was the only person on earth who could extinguish it with a super-secret fire-ant-repelling extinguisher, and I called him, he wouldn’t answer his ‘phone. Not that I’m bitter. It’s just the way it is.
PLUS: in all the years I’ve wanted pigs, Bryan has never shown the slightest sign of changing his firmly-held opinion that raising pigs would, in essence, be tantamount to being tortured by cannibals. Or eaten by fire ants. While your hair is on fire. He has made that patently and annoyingly very clear.
So why would today be any different? He’s not going to change his mind, I thought, briefly, as I dialed the ‘phone. PLUS he won’t answer his ‘phone, as per usual. I pouted, briefly. Why even waste time calling? One ring–two rings– . . . I sighed.
Irwin would hand the free piglet over to some other woman in the area who was pining to raise a couple of pigs, against her good honest husband’s will. I wondered briefly how many women there were out there like me. I dismissed this question abruptly, and listened to the phone ringing . . . hmph. My sad, pigless, life, sucked . . . .
Then. The unthinkable. It happened. Bryan answered his ‘phone.
“Hello?” I think I swallowed my tongue, I was so surprised.
“Hi honey,” I said. Nope. I could still talk. Meekly. Demurely. Sweetly.
“What’s up?” he asked, a guarded note in his voice. Gosh, was he suspicious or what!
What’s up—what’s up is that I’ve been offered a pig–a free piglet–and I’ll take care of it all by myself and you’ll never have to chase it or clean up after it or nuthin’ and please can’t I just keep it? Please please please oh honey puh-leeeeeze and don’t–forget–the–bacon!? ANNND I have a plan for the fence that won’t involve you at all, I promise!
That’s what I was thinking. I tried to sound a bit more grown-up than that, though, when I asked him if I could do our good neighbor Irwin a favor and take this FREE piglet off his hands. Irwin had done us a favor once–actually, twice!–it’s kind of the way we farmers out in the rural areas roll. Tit for tat and all that.
I personally think it’s important to do good for your neighbors. As much as possible. When our horses took down all of neighbor Ryan’s electric fencing, for example, we rolled it back up, and I made him a very nice pie. That was my thinking then, and it’s my thinking now. I basically said that, I think, when I asked Bryan if I could take the piglet. The free piglet. The nice, eventual freezer-full-of-bacon-sausage-and-ham-steaks-piglet.
“Where would we put it?” he asked, quietly. Oh, gosh. There was a chink in his resolve. I couldn’t believe it. I began to get just a little excited.
“I’ve got a plan, don’t worry,” I said. “I can take care of it.”
He sighed, heavily. “You know that I can’t say no to you,” he said (very wisely, I must add).
“Honey, I’m not going to force a piglet on you,” I snorted (ironically), “if you really don’t want one. And–you’ve been saying no to me on this matter for years, remember?” Uh-oh. Had I gone too far?
“It’s okay,” he said, finally, with a sigh.
“Really? Really? ‘It’s okay’ as in . . . I can say yes? You don’t mind? I can take the pig?”
He didn’t mind. Or at least, he said he didn’t. Not too much. Possibly the thought of home-grown bacon in the freezer finally turned his mind.
So I called Irwin back, and we made arrangements for his son to bring the lost piglet–and another one about the same size–to our house later that evening. Then I flew outside, gentle reader, to see if the dog yard would be suitable, after all. I flattened the tall weeds, and dragged a couple of rubber bins for food and water, and cut down a couple of small locust trees. I spread out a bale of fresh hay, as bedding, in one corner.
We were ready for pigs! I couldn’t believe it!
Later that evening, Jonathan–Irwin’s son–brought the pigs over, in a big crate, on the bucket of his tractor. What–a–day!
Jonathan stood and visited with Amalia and me for quite a while before he released the two piglets that he brought on a crate on his tractor bucket, into the modified dog yard. As I studied the two, I realized with a funny feeling that they looked nearly identical: same pink skin and white hair, same smallish, strangely-intelligent eyes, same chopped-off tails, which were wagging like mad, by the way.
Then I asked him: “How could you tell that this one isn’t yours? They look so much the same!”
“Oh, I suppose it could be ours,” he said, “But the thing is, I have a hog operation with up to 1,000 head of hogs in it. If this one ran around and caught some disease or something, and then we put him back in the confinement unit, well–it could spread through there and kill the whole bunch.” (I’m sure he meant to say “the whole drift, or sounder, depending on the ages of the pigs.”)
I started. I studied the pig in question, the golf course pig. “Do you think he has a disease?” I asked the kind young man. The pig did look a bit puny–and dirty–probably from running around the golf course for several days and sleeping on the lam. The other pig–the one that came from their place–looked healthier, for sure, and certainly cleaner.
Jonathan looked surprised. Or maybe he realized that he had said too much. “Oh . . . . ” he glanced down at the pigs. “I doubt it. No, I really doubt it. Naw. Not at all!” Then he shrugged. “Well, good luck!” he said.
He coaxed the two pigs out of the crate and into the yard. They were skitterish. They were nervous. But hopefully, they weren’t diseased.
- 13 Things I Didn’t Know About Pigs
- How to Ground the Chooks (and when you may need to) *video*