Tag Archives: black berkshire

Apparently, we’re pig farmers now

We got piglets again.  They look just like the last ones.

Spots and A.P. are now pork and delivered to customers.  We went out on a limb a little bit getting these piglets before having customers arranged to buy the meat, but we had the chance to get Black Berkshires again, which went so well the last time, and we just like having pigs.

These little girls have 1/4 Tamworth in them, but you wouldn’t know.  Enormous ears, black with white patches, one bigger and bolder than the other. It’s Spots and A.P. all over again, except for the great escape on arrival.  We did better with that.

They were jammed in a dog crate together – too small for them but better than separating them.  They seemed pretty relaxed in the crate, but they had a fair drive to get here.  I think transport day must be the worst day of their lives.  Hot, cramped, apprehensive, and unfamiliar.

Instead of carrying them across our land to Pigland, HW wheeled the crate over in the wheelbarrow, and set it down inside the electric fence.

I opened the door, and they froze, deciding they were very shy. 

One pig is possibly twice the size of the other, although they are the same litter.  They have lovely eyes, like dog eyes.

They stuck just their noses out into the grass, sniffing around a bit without leaving the crate.  This may be their first contact with the outdoors.

We left them to come out on their own time, and I came back to check on them in half an hour.  They were in the exact same place.  Snouts outside resting in the grass, settled down and fast asleep.  We need a nap after that last experience.  No new experiences yet, thank you very much!By dusk they had come out and were hiding in their woods, but came out for a late snack.

Almost bacon

The pigs don’t know it, but their days are numbered.  They’re busy living the good life.

They seem so big!  All jowlly and robust.  They never outgrew a good sprint, and they love the daily wallow – I pour a bucket of water over them every afternoon, and they’ll leave behind food at the sound of me pouring out some water – they run to me and flop down in the puddle.

Adventure Pig

Spots

The oinkers have  ravaged this last fence placement, but they love it- they sleep at night under the shrubs – really they spend most of their time cashed out in the dirt under those shrubs.  It wasn’t easy getting the fence to surround that big patch of buckthorn, either, but they are expressively appreciative of my effort.But what’s this in the background?  Oh, just the resident chickens.

Resident is not an exaggeration.

Tribe Oreo decided ages ago to live with the pigs.  The Oreos and their Silkie stepmom leave the coop in the morning, go directly to Pigland, jump through the electric fence (which is, in fact, energized), and spend the entire day in there, leaving at darkfall to go back to the coop.  Every day.  For weeks.

They share the pig house.  Birds and pigs all sleep in there together when it gets hot or rains.

The Oreos are black as crows and weigh as much as their mom now.  They are big on perching, and like to jump up in those tangled shrubs.  One is a rooster, already standing up to the Silkie roos.

Probably the one eyeballing me is the rooster

They spend the day roaming around the pig enclosure, perfectly satisfied to stay inside the fence.

We speculated.  That the hen likes it in there because she is safe from the attention of the roosters.  That they like the pig food, or benefit from the pigs’ rooting.  I tried putting her in the coop with the Colonel, to see if she would stay with him and under his protection.  Nope.  Pigland by day and the Brahma coop at night.  She knows what she wants.

Growing piglets and oinker games

The oinkers are growing!  They still have long legs, and act like dogs in ways. They stretch first thing out of bed, they jump around when they’re excited, and they love to run.

Seeing how much they love to run makes me sad about all the pigs that are confined in quarters barely large enough for them to turn around, where their only function is to eat and grow fat.  Clearly lethargy is not their natural state.

They love a good sprint.  They celebrate the coming of food by an exuberant oinking lap around their enclosure, usually with a figure eight through and around their house.  They’re very athletic pigs.

HW loves the pigs (he doesn’t seem to have any conflict with adoring them and having to kill them later).  He’s disappointed when he comes home from work and I’ve already fed them (so I tend to wait).  Either way, he visits them while he’s still in his work clothes, and then he comes in saying something like “Those oinkers are funny!  I was sitting in their house with them and…”

You were what?

He’s been actively trying to tame them.  We can do anything to them while they’re eating;  Spots tolerates HW petting her at other times, but A.P. won’t stand for it.  He also snorts at them, although I’ve told him he’s probably saying something insulting in their language.  They love it though, they immediately get louder and oink back when HW comes down the trail, snorting.  He’s kind of good at it.

Yesterday his story was:  “I was out there chasing those oinkers around… ” (You were what?!) “They love it!  They know that it´s play, because as soon as I stop, they run up to me.  But they LOVE to run.  Then when I left I looked back and one pig was flopped out on the ground, legs out – no, not in their house, just in the mud – then she got up, walked in a circle, and flopped down again – she was all tuckered out!”

So HW plays games with the pigs too.  I haven’t even witnessed him sitting in their house or playing chase, let alone when I had a camera.  But I can hope.

The introduction of two bowls (recycling the dog bowls):

 

It worked perfectly, exactly like I expected.

Oh, you’ve got something good over there?  I wants it.

One pig gets jealous and pushes the other off her bowl.

Displaced pig coolly walks around to the vacant bowl.

Repeat.

Repeat.  Repeat.

Both are eating constantly, but quite sure the other bowl is better.

Pigs

The piglets are settling in, and getting a little friendlier.

They are kind of like dogs in some ways.  They stretch out their back legs behind them when they first get up, wag their tails, enjoy a good sprint, even do some barking, which sounds like whooping cough.

These pigs are so dynamic, I can’t believe the difference from the 2014 pink pigs.  They are not lazy or laidback.  They express themselves with a good back and forth sprint the length of their fence, whenever we come out with their food, or a treat.  They´re deep into rooting already, and don´t sleep in.  They´re up with the chickens.

Plowing with your NOSE. I can´t get over it.
So cute!

AP  (“my pig”) is pushy (the one with a blaze).  AP is bolder.    Spots, or Spotty, has more white on her face – her blaze is patchy.  She also has white lower eyelashes on her right eye.

They have a big splashy go at the dog bowl.

They have a big wrestle over it, but it seems to come out equal, so we haven´t introduced a second bowl yet.

Joinup!  First contact, helped by the prospect of some milk:)

First springy day.

I was in shorts all day today.  The snow earlier this week is all gone in the clear areas, and it was warm!  These are the loveliest days of spring. The (very few) days before all the bugs come out.  It would have been the first barefoot day of the year, but I cannot go barefoot here.  Thorns everywhere – berry brambles and hawthorn, and I’ve had a hawthorn in my foot before.  Alas, here I live in boots. The mud season is here. This year the robins are back long before the spring peepers.  The peepers will announce the bugs.

My bees obviously made it through the winter well, having a good fly today in the blessing of the sun.  It seems like all of them are facing the hive – the backwards flight, calibrating on the hive location.

The pigs are captive and content, so things are a whole lot less exciting around here lately- thankfully!

Tail wag – munching grass

They’re getting into rooting like old pros in the soft ground now.

This is Adventure Pig (A.P.), the great escape ringleader

And warming up to me.  They come snorting up the camera, and then scamper away.

The hens were having a good day in the mud world today.  I saw them slurping up worms like spaghetti.  The chickens don’t know it, but these are their last days sleeping in the greenhouse.  As soon as the rain is done, their coops are out!  I´m sure they can’t wait; there´s a week of sun coming, and they´ll be released outside at first light (as opposed to the past frosty interim days, where I keep them locked up until mid-morning when it warms up.  .  Summer chicken life – FREEdom!

Inside the chicken dome it was spa in the sun time.  They make divots all over to bathe in, today’s location (odd) was by the figs and feed sacks (oh well).

Knocked one over

I lone that I got this picture proof of how well they get along.  As a generality, they tend towards their own birds, but as individuals, the layers and bantams can get in the bath together.  I´m so grateful they’re successfully integrated, because I won’t have to surround the Silkies this year to protect them from the other chickens.  They can be free ranging too.  It will be interesting to see how much space they actually use now the flock is so much bigger.  Silkies barely “range” at all.

The pigs are coming around

They’ve mastered the art of “looking hungry”, learned that we are the food, and have made a new routine of excited oinking and running around when we come with the scoop.  They even approach!  I throw the food – (OMG, run away!) they sprint around, and then saunter back to eat. They no longer try to run through the fence, but pull up an inch away.

I was taking pictures through the fence and they came so close (Is that a snack?) I thought they’d touch it.  Cute!

They bury themselves in the hay in their palace, sometimes ears showing, sometimes a black back, sometimes nothing.

Is there even a pig in there?

Then when we come down the trail, they burst up out of bed, look out, and emerge with straw all over their face.  Or just the ears pop up, a sentry.  Early-warning  snack detector.

Got snacks?

Once I couldn’t see them at all from outside the fence, and sure they were gone, I started looking for a breach in the fence.  Then Boufff!  the hay exploded and two pig heads popped up.  I went in to fix up their bed (Run away!), but one pig couldn’t resist coming back to see what I was doing in their house.  Messing up their bed, obviously. We had it perfect!

They’ve started to tear apart the intact bales that form their windblock/bed.  It was a matter of time.  We go in and pile the hay back in bed that they’ve pushed out, they rearrange it again.  Long as they’re cozy.  It’s still cold at night.

Gotcha, pigs!

I recommend sheep/chicken mesh electric fence for pigs.

The night was stormy, a mini-blizzard.  In the dead dark and strong wind, we went outside and wrestled the fence into place and plugged it in, then extracted the so-very-successful two-strand, in a big snarl, naturally.  The pigs were willfully asleep.  There was shouting, yet they refused to wake up.  It was cold outside, they weren’t budging from the hay nest for nothing.

We caught them!  The mesh fence works.  In the morning, the pigs bolted away from the sight of us, ran into the fence at top speed ….and then sproing! bounced back.  They tried it again and again, but eventually concluded that A: they don’t fit through it, past the nose, and B: the fence bites back.

I wouldn’t put it past them to figure out that only the horizontal strands are hot and selectively chew their way to jailbreak, but until then, our piglets are under control.

They are SO different than the last pigs.  Besides being bigger when we got them, these pigs are feisty, and wild, with opinions.  The pink pigs were totally into cuddling, crazy for touch, until they got too big for that to be safe for me (perhaps because of being weaned earlier?).  We won’t be petting these guys anytime soon.

Most pertinently, the two-strand fence that failed so spectacularly this time  worked with the last pigs.  They screamed blue murder when they got shocked.  These pigs don’t peep at it.  We did have problems, but, the user-problem variety.  We got lax about keeping it hot- it’s easy to find excuses to not carry batteries around – serenely thinking they’ve learned what the fence does, we don’t need to keep it hot all the time. 

Pfft! The troublemaker noticed once, maybe by accident, that the fence wasn’t always hot.  After that seed was planted, sometimes it’s off!, he felt it was a reasonable risk to test the fence, and did, every single day.  The moment it wasn’t hot, grounded out by their rooting or a dead battery, he was out. Then, he would target the energizer, chewing and ripping the leads off and sometimes hiding them in the pig house.  This practice definitely delayed the restoration of power.

A very educational mistake on our part.  Won’t happen again (I’ve got a solar maintainer on the battery now – way cheaper than the admittedly awesome solar energizers).

This is the usual view of them.

Then they look back, balefully.

Is it gonna be the garbage can again?

They wait until we leave, to eat. I’m conditioning them to the sound of approaching food, but so far we mean flee!.

They’re super cute, with their upright ears,  long straight tails and white socks. Hopefully, they will come around and become friendly.  Eventually.

In fact, recovering the escapee(s) only took three days, better than I hoped for after my initial googling.

Round two, Piglets in the lead

Sure enough, the piglets went to bed in the pig house.  Excellent. 

We closed up the fence in the night.  We’ve so got these pigs now.

In the morning, HW went to feed them.  They both bolted, straight through the fence like it wasn’t there.

You’d think, maybe there’s something wrong with the fence.  They don´t even squeak when they go through it.  HW, having had the same thought, is checking the fence the hard way, every day, and it’s on.  He’s getting a good lift,  even with big boots (I will not check the fence that way).

On my way home from work, I met my pigs coming out the road.  This is disconcerting, to meet one’s livestock strolling up the road you’re driving down.  Oh hey!

They looked small from the driver’s seat, vulnerable, like a couple of toddlers confidently taking a walk together.

I chased them all the way home, although they kept pulling over to the shoulder for all the world to let me by, and they weren’t afraid of the truck.  They kept stopping on the side of the road, looking back at me.  Go aheadWhy aren’t you passing?  They were afraid of ME, though, when I stepped out of the truck and charged them.  Zoom!

That did it.  they’re expanding their territory now.  The pigs can’t be marching up the road visiting the neighbours.  That’s just embarrassing.  (This is all embarrassing, it’s just kind of funny too, and if it helps someone else-).

I extracted the stored chicken fence, schlepped it over and starting setting it up around pigland, knowing the piglets would be moseying over from the driveway, hungry after their big run home.  I was about half done when they showed up, and seeing me, hid themselves.  I finished anyways, rushing, leaving a big funnel open.  If they go to bed at night again, then we close the fence in the night, muhahaha!

I lurked.  I waited.  I furtively encouraged the pigs from the woods to pigland vicinity.  I watched from afar.  The pigs approached the sizable gap in the fence, did some sniffing, had a discussion, reached consensus, turned, and purposefully marched off into the woods.

Oh GOOD GOD!  I set off at a run, down our trail, and got in front of them.  It was a near thing.  They were headed somewhere, deliberately.  Now it was dusk, and I walked back and forth in front of them, and after they turned, kicked around making noise until they wandered back in the vicinity of pigland again.  This time, with dark falling in the woods, they were content to root around under the bird feeder, winding down.  I waited, for ages, until I saw them hesitantly take steps into the confines of the fence, and I retired.  NOW we’ve got them.

Spoiler:

Yes, now we’ve got them.  This works.  Two-strand electric fence for pigs?  No way!  Chicken/sheep mesh fence – yes.

 

 

 

Man vs Piglets, day 1

In the morning, we did two things.  I went out and tracked the missing piglet, and HW moved the “good piglet” from the greenhouse to her own bed.

Right at dawn, he went to the greenhouse, looking for the piglet.  We knew she’d be cozy, that she’d take liberties with the chicken hay fort and make herself comfortable.  She’d taken apart some bales and made a huge haystack, and then buried herself in it.  He had to dig for her.  Then he grabbed her by two legs, a front and a back (picture that) , and carried her outside, from the greenhouse to piglandia.  I saw him coming down the trail hanging a starfished pig, head limp.  She made a couple of slightly irritated grunts, like “Don’t bogart the covers”, but that was it.  Her eyes didn’t open.

She slept right through it!  HW slung her into her bed in the pig palace, mounded the hay up over top of her, and she didn’t twitch.  She stayed there, soundly asleep, until past noon.  I had to reach into the hay before I left for work to be sure she was really in there.  Dead to the world at noon.

I set out in the morning to track the missing pig, which was very informative.  She had practically followed us back, and stayed out of sight in the treeline, but used our trails and come right up to where she (a foot tall pig), could see the greenhouse.  She’d popped in and out of the trees looking at the greenhouse from different directions, walked up and down our driveway, out and back on the road a fair ways, had a look at the quad trail, meandered through the orchard, and then gone back out where she’d originally jogged, into the woods.  In other words, she knew exactly where we lived, and where her sister pig was, by the time we went to bed.

Pigs don’t mind using trails and roads one bit, and walk in straight lines on them, but off-trail, they move in long S-curves.  Also, they retrace their own steps, walking almost in their own footsteps.  Hoofsteps?  The little bit of snow on the ground was nice, kept all the information.

I put out sprinklings of feed just a bit closer in than her nearest look-sees, knowing she would probably follow her own tracks back in in the morning, which, judging by Sleeping Beauty, might be quite late in the day.

HW got home before me.    At work, I got a text:  Zero pigs.

Okay, now they’re officially both at large.  Awesome.

Later I found out the details, that he had walked up and found Adventure Pig standing outside the electric fence, Good Pig standing inside the electric fence, and on his approach, both of them took off, Good Pig whizzing through the two-strand like it wasn’t there.

When I got home, both pigs were eating from one of my bait piles right next to the greenhouse (we considered using the greenhouse to trap them), and spent the evening scuttling around in the treeline, watching me watch them.  At least they’re together, and happy.

We raised up the strands of the fence and turned it off, hoping that Sleeping Beauty would give the pigpen rave reviews on Travelocity and both pigs would choose to retire in there together come nightfall.  Then we would sneak up in the night to restore the fence, trapping them behind the electric tape (again), bahaha!

Because that’s been working so well thus far.

Actually, my week-long plan to get the pig back is ahead of schedule.  Except for the zero pigs development.

 

The unexpected piglets

We were planning to get a pair of pigs again this year.  We have the customers lined up, and we felt “up to it” again.  In theory, pigs aren’t a lot of work, but in reality, they escape and rampage or wreck things at very bad times and can be exhausting.

We were not planning to get pigs in March, with snow still on the ground, but they came available.  Black Berkshires, raised organic, and born outside on January 31.  We’ve had some COLD temperatures since the end of January, so these must be hardy pigs.

So with two days notice, we reactivated the dormant pig palace, set up the electric fence, made a cozy pig bed, and bought feed.

Then we went to pick up our pigs.

The farmer was all business, ready with the plastic garbage can he used for piglet transfer.  He grabbed up one pig at a time out of the litter (we asked for females, because they’re “less trouble”), dropped it screaming into the can, and shut the lid.  He and H.W. carried the can the short way to the truck, and dumped the can, piglets sliding out, quite confused.  we had a tarp and some canvas down in the back of the SUV.

The ride home was long.  The farmer had said we might get a piglet up in the front seat with us, seeing as we didn’t have a pet carrier, but we didn’t get a visit, thankfully.

There were occasional sounds from the back, little grunts, with a question mark on the end.  Also occasional smells.

It was an hour’s drive home, on Nova Scotia’s winding roads, and still twenty minutes away, the piglets started to get carsick.  Little retching noises started, between the grunts.

Home.  Two miserable little pigs in the back of the trunk.  Is it over?

I grabbed one and set out for pigland.  HW followed behind me.  I carried mine in my arms, which exhausted both of us.  HW put his over his shoulders, which got him kicked in the face.  My pig periodically screamed, kicked and struggled, then rested up for the next bout.  By the time we got there, her eyes were closed like she was ready to fall asleep.  I set her down inside the fence and she stood still and calm.

Then HW came up with his piglet, now hanging over his back, apparently pretty comfortable (the pig).

Hamming it up

HW set her down inside the fence, and we both looked up to see Piglet 1 blithely trotting through the two-strand electric fence (yes, hot) like it wasn’t there.

I sprinted away, trying to circle out in front of the pig, to send her back towards our land, where she’s obviously going to want to rejoin the other pig, right?  This rapidly turned into trying to gain on the pig (“running” a ways to one side of her, through dense brush), and then, trying to keep the pig in sight.  A $100 bill, scampering off straight into hundreds of acres of Crown land and woodlot.  Pigs are FAST, and she wasn’t even running, she was out at a steady, relaxed trot.  I´m not even sure she was running from me, or the memory of the garbage can.

I lost her.  HW came up behind me eventually, saying that pig’s gone, give it up.  He had thrown his pig into the greenhouse, which has doors to shut.  The birds were in an outraged uproar.

Oh, and now it was almost dark.

We went home.  Piglet 2 was a dark shadow shape in the greenhouse, scuttling from one end to the other.  The birds, any that hadn’t already gone in their coops before the intruder came in, were treed on the roofs of the coops, furious!  Most of the layers were crowded on the guinea house, the highest point in the room.

Completely beaten, we retired, debating the feasibility of calling and buying another pig.  “Hey, we lost one, can we have another?”   Maybe not.

We can’t have just one pig, it will be unhappy.  It can’t live in the greenhouse, and if we put it in the electric fence, it will just run out too, looking for the other pig.  The lost pig is going to be sad, and lost, and cold!

Well, pigs are smarter than that.

I consulted Google.  Other pig bloggers were encouraging.  Advice item #1: Don´t chase them.  No point at all, they will run farther if you chase them and you won’t catch them.  Encouraging item #2: Piglets are champs at surviving in the wild.  They will almost never be gotten by predators.  Too smart and fast, and they are, in their wild form, a top species.  They also rapidly revert to wildness, once escaped.

What to do?  Feed them in the woods.  Move the food closer to home every day.  They like food, so they can be baited back with food, until you’ve baited them right into their pen and shut the door behind them.  Maybe a week or two.

That allowed me to sleep, although I was still worried for the lost lonely pig (spoiler: I needn’t have worried).

Oh, and the best possible way to contain pigs?  Two-strand electric fence.