Tag Archives: Pigs

U is for UV

Olivia catching a few rays – we are all enjoying the sunny breaks we’ve been getting between the downpours…

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L is for Late Nights in the Hog Pen

After weeks of waiting, we are back on piglet watch, this time in the newly designed and constructed hog hut. We’ve had terrible troubles with our sows panicking during farrowing and then lashing out at what they perceive to be the cause of their pain – their new piglets. When Olivia had her last litter and I tried to intervene and get the piglets out of the way until she could finish delivering everyone, she came after me. Let me tell you it is no fun to be tossed in the air by an angry sow, flung aside like I was of no heavier than a scrap of cloth.

After that rather scary incident, I was very leery about getting between Pearl and her piglets and thought I’d be very discrete, staying way out of the way while she delivered her little ones. That was a mistake. Well, perhaps not a mistake when it came to protecting myself, but a mistake in terms of saving the piglets.

We had been busy preparing a safety pen for everyone and were about a day away from completion when Pearl went into labour a tad ahead of schedule. So, I had to improvise with a couple of pallets and a gap between the pallets and the hog shelter wall. By the time I had maneuvered this makeshift safety pen into position, Pearl had dispatched three or four piglets. She continued to deliver and after I had the protection of the pallets, I was able to pull four more to safety. We dried them off, put them under a heat lamp, and waited until she had delivered the afterbirth before warily putting the surviving piglets back in with her. Even though we had a creep set up and an area with a heat lamp in the hog shelter (for the piglets to stay out of the way), she still managed to squash two more during that first night! So, after all was said and done we wound up with two piglets out of a litter of eight.

A day later, we also had a lovely new safety pen built inside an old horse trailer and positioned in Olivia’s pen. Olivia has been eating and sleeping in there for several weeks now (with the back door open so she was free to come and go) and late this afternoon when she was producing milk, I locked her inside. She is quite comfortable in her ‘den’ but this new, smaller area with its low walls allows me to safely work around her. I can reach in to assist and remove piglets as they are born. They will stay close by under a heat lamp, but out of the way so the risk of squashing is minimized.

It usually takes mom and babies about 72 hours to learn to talk to each other. Mom has a special grunt that means ‘get out of my way while I lie down!’ and another that means, ‘I’m lying down now – come and eat!’ As soon as they have this all sorted out, I’ll open up the back door of the safety pen and they can all come and go as they please, but meanwhile, everyone should be reasonably safe.

Had I known how stressful this whole farrowing process was going to be before we started down the rare hog breeding path, I’m not sure I would have started on the journey! But now that we are on the road, I have to admit there are few things cuter than new piglets. Not that any appeared last night. I slept down in the truck and checked on Olivia every couple of hours, but she slept through all my nighttime visits.

I started writing this post last night thinking I would finish it in the wee hours of the morning when I could post photos of the new arrivals. Hah! Unless Olivia gets in gear today and delivers everyone during the daylight hours, it looks like another night wishing the truck was just a couple of inches wider so I could stretch out properly.

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Meanwhile, I will enjoy these little cutie pies, who hatched yesterday. Can we all say ‘awwwwwwwww!’

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Hens in the snow

Hens in the snow

The chickens are definitely under-impressed with all the snow over the past couple of days. As am I, to be honest. The worst part of this deluge has been the strange nature of the precipitation – a mix of rain, snow, ice pellet, and sleet. It’s just warm enough that there’s a good foot of slush in places and plenty of running (gushing) water everywhere. It’s just cold enough that the snow is sticking and making it horrible to walk/carry hay/function outside.

It is now pouring as I write this… if the temperatures creep up over night, much of this mess will have washed away by morning. If the temperatures go the other way… oh, my – I don’t even want to think about the mess my hill will be by the time morning rounds roll around… Yuck!

Poor M. C. from Germany thought he’d come to Vancouver Island because it’s relatively warm and snow free. Hah!! Instead he wound up having to build bridges out of logs and pallets so we could safely navigate the deep mud slushy in the hog pen. So much for my ‘start seeds’ and ‘prepare garden beds’ plan…

Large Black Hogs in the Snow

Inside their hog hut, Pearl and Olivia build fluffy nests out of hay and then burrow in and snuggle up together. They seem to be dealing with the nasty weather remarkably well, all things considered.

Hogs and Horses

DCF Horses and Hogs

I’ve been backing up photos through google+ (an option now available if you happen to use Picasa) and it struck me how many of the farm photos show groups of animals hanging out and getting along. Ducks and chickens, turkeys and Bantams, ducks and sheep, turkeys and hogs… The cat, Iago, and anybody who will stand still long enough for her to snuggle.

I’ve had horses for many years and one of the things I heard people say with an air of total authority was that horses and pigs do not get along.

DCF Ringo and PhilipI beg to differ! Ringo in particular is happy to befriend creatures of all stripes – he loves the cat, follows chickens around, and chats through the fence with the hogs (this is our old boar, Philip). When a particularly adventurous group of piglets got out, where did they head? Straight for Ringo! They tugged on his tail and chased each other through and around his feet and he just stood there, head down, curious and gentle.

The oddest bond he has ever formed was with a wild rabbit. The rabbit regularly sought him out and would sprawl in a sunny spot in the horse paddock. Ringo would amble over and proceed to give the rabbit a massage, which the rabbit appeared to thoroughly enjoy. How on earth this peculiar relationship ever began is beyond me. Why would a wild rabbit sit still long enough to allow a HUGE animal like a horse to walk over and give it a back rub that first time? Mysterious, but kind of cool.

Unfortunately, hawk, owl, or eagle likely got the rabbit because after several months of the rabbit hanging out with Ringo it suddenly disappeared.

Perhaps in the course of the Great Photo Sort Project I’ll come across a photo of the bunny and post it…

NABLOPOMO – We should be doing more of this… mending, that is.

Dad recalls all kinds of slogans from the war and post-war years. "Make Do and Mend" was one of them.

Dad recalls all kinds of slogans from the war and post-war years. “Make Do and Mend” was one of them. [E. colin Williams]

Sometimes I think my life must seem incredibly boring to other people. I don’t actually know anybody else who obsesses quite so much over things like buckets of water! If you are fed up with the subject, move along!

The hog water troughs have long proved to be a challenge – the pigs love to dump them over, climb into them, fill their mouths with dirt and then rinse and spit into them…

The ducks are the only creatures who are perhaps even worse at fouling (fowling?) containers of water. They blow their beaks under water to clear out the mud and sludge they accumulate while sifting through sludge looking for… whatever they are looking for. Anyway, between that delightful habit, their incessant splashing and dunking, and the liberal amounts of poop they deposit while they are busy floating around in places they don’t belong, they make a mess of the hog water quicker than you can say, “[Duck] Bottoms Up!”

With all that in mind, I decided to try a new watering system for the hogs. Inspired by a similar set-up over at my neighbour’s place, I bought a hog nipple and a couple of threaded bits so I could convert a garbage can into a covered watering system.

Dad and I set about installing what appeared to be a pretty simple set-up. We wrapped all the relevant threads in plumber’s tape, drilled a big hole in the side of the plastic garbage can, and then proceeded to fasten all the bits together. We screwed the hog nipple into Part A, put Part A a on the outside of the garbage can and then threaded Part B onto Part A, but inside the garbage can, sandwiching the wall of the can between the two parts. Sounds ludicrously complicated but was actually very simple.

Hog nipple screwed into Part A. If only I'd paid more attention at the farm supply store as to what Part A was actually called... Threaded collar into which a hog nipple is inserted...

Hog nipple screwed into Part A. If only I’d paid more attention at the farm supply store as to what Part A was actually called… Threaded collar into which a hog nipple is inserted… The red ring is the outside cover of the roll of plumber’s tape.

We put some water in the garbage can so it just covered the new hog nipple installation and went and had dinner.

Testing the seal...

Testing the seal…

When we returned to check on the water level, it had dropped to just below the ring. We figured we didn’t have a good enough seal, perhaps due to the ridges on the garbage can, so we dug out our our handy dandy Roof Patch stuff and applied it liberally.

Roof Patch goop - can be applied wet - guaranteed to stop leaks. We also added more plumber's tape for good measure.

Roof Patch goop – can be applied wet – guaranteed to stop leaks. We also added more plumber’s tape for good measure.

Roof Patch goop

We repeated the water test and… noticed that the water level was dropping even more rapidly. Not only that, there was the distinctive sound of water dribbling… A closer inspection revealed that the problem had nothing to do with the nipple installation but everything to do with a nail-sized puncture wound on the back side of the garbage can!

How did we miss this hole the first time around?

How did we miss this hole the first time around?

At this point in the proceedings Dad had a nostalgia attack.

“”What we need here are pot menders.”

This elicited a blank look from me. Pot menders? Who mends pots, anyway? Apparently, during and after WWII, all of England was told to mend their pots by none other than the Queen.This was done using something called pot menders. The following image showed up in my email inbox at 2am that night as Dad thought he was losing his mind and remembering something that never existed.

Photo by ijbison on Flickr

Sure enough, these double washer-type doohickeys were fastened together on either side of the hole in the kettle or pot, fixing the broken item. It occurred to me that these days if my kettle stops working I run out and buy a new one and toss the old one in the trash bin. I don’t think you could buy anything like this any more, except maybe on E-bay and besides, I don’t think plastic would respond well to this treatment.

Needless to say, our supply of pot menders was non existent, so we cast our minds around to see if we could find another solution. Duct tape? Pond liner patches glued to the inside of the can with Roof Patch goop? Some sort of rubbery plug?

In a flash of inspiration Dad thought of roofing screws which are backed with a built-in rubber washer. We found one, slathered it with Roof Patch goop, and screwed it (gently) into the hole.Roofing screw to the rescue!Roofing screw to the rescue!Our improvised version of a pot mender in position. Our improvised version of a pot mender in position.

Ta da! Hog nipple installed!

Ta da! Hog nipple installed!

The final step was to add water and wait. The can sat overnight and we lost nary a drop of water!

The next big hurdle is installing it in the hog paddock in such a way that the hogs can’t tip it over. Stay tuned… because, yes, there is yet more to come on the subject of water containers…

Day 20 – A Gleaning We Will Go

Apparently, gleaning (being the act of scrounging for leftovers after farmers are done harvesting their fields and orchards) was encouraged way back in the Bible. Back then the beneficiaries were meant to be tragic and unfortunate souls like widows and orphans, but I tell you, this contemporary farmer is very happy the practice has not died out entirely.

Michell’s Farm Market on the Saanich Peninsula – several generations of the family farm the land and run a successful farm market.

I am neither widowed nor an orphan, but I do have a lot of mouths and beaks to feed. As it turns out, the generous Michell clan down the road (of Michell’s Farm Market fame) has a lot of slightly squidgy squash, pumpkin, and gourds left over now that the big Halloween/Thanksgiving festivities are done. Add to that some ever-so-slightly yellowing broccoli and you have a FEAST for hogs, chickens, ducks, and turkeys. 

You can imagine my delight when I had a call asking if I wanted to come pick up some goodies for the critters. Oh, yes please! Thinking there might be a box or two or three I didn’t bother changing back into farm clothes as I was heading into town on another errand right after picking up the veggies. Mistake!

The box or two I was expecting turned out to be a veritable mountain of squash!

The box or two I was expecting turned out to be a veritable mountain of squash!

There were also a number of good-sized pumpkins and some broccoli heads that had just started to turn a little bit yellow.

There were also a number of good-sized pumpkins and some broccoli heads that had just started to turn a little bit yellow.

Of course, it was bucketing down with rain when I started to load and by the time I had transferred the bounty from the bins to my truck, I was soaked.

The pickup was FULL! There was an avalanche of gourds when I opened the tailgate and I had to dance out of the way to avoid being squashed by tumbling pumpkins.

The pickup was FULL! There was an avalanche of gourds when I opened the tailgate and I had to dance out of the way to avoid being squashed by tumbling pumpkins.

I stacked everything in a corner of the hay shelter and have been doling out the treats to everyone ever since. I have to hack open the harder-shelled gourds for the birds (they love the seeds and innards), but the hogs manage to crunch through whatever I toss in their direction.

Buckets of treats heading for the turkey field.

Buckets of treats heading for the turkey field.

Thanks, Michell farmers for keeping a glorious tradition alive! And, in case you are wondering what happened to my in-town errands, I was running so late by the time I had loaded and hauled away the booty I didn’t have time to go up to the house to change and had to make an appearance in not one, but two different offices wearing soaking wet, filthy clothes. Ah well, my embarrassment was a small price to pay for the sake of hearing those happy snuffling grunty noises of deeply satisfied hogs.

 

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One of these things is not like the others…

One of these things is not like the others...

There are a couple of opportunistic drakes who have decided it’s worth being chased by piglets if it means they might score a stray grain or two from the hogs’ breakfast…