Herding Pigs & Washing Udders, Part 1
I answered the ad for the apprenticeship for three reasons: they wanted a beekeeper (me!); they wanted a gardener (me again!); and they wanted someone interested in learning about animal husbandry (me three!). Score!
I am learning about dairy cows and pigs right now. Today I will talk about pigs.
The pigs are pretty easy-going. We have Hampshires and Yorkshires. Their only job is to get fat (yes, they will be eaten). Some days I help move the pigs from one pasture to another, or help put them back in their pen. They are working at helping us till up overgrown land so we can plant a bigger garden. Good pigs.
Ten things I have learned about pigs:
- A healthy five-month-old pig is way too big for me to tackle.
- They will escape out of anything. If they feel like it.
- They will try to eat anything, up to and including you (well, just in a curious sort of way, not very seriously).
- They have incredibly strong necks and noses and can till up a field in no time at all by themselves. If this visual doesn’t work for you, imagine the pigs as shovels, with their heads/necks the shovel part and their bodies the handles. Voila! Diggin’ up all over the place.
- They sometimes sleep in a big pile.
- They don’t poop where they sleep.
- They know exactly how bad they are being when they escape and they know exactly where they are supposed to be instead of the garden/barn/field/front yard.
- They don’t eat prickly plants (thanks, guys, way to be useful). [Correction: they want you to think they don't eat prickly plants, but they actually do, when they don't know you're looking.]
- They can’t sweat, so mud-baths and sleeping in the water trough are their way of cooling off.
- The more I work with them the tastier they look. Mmmm, bacon.
My favorite pig moments have been: watching them fight over who gets to lie in the water trough, pigs snoring, pigs twitching in an obvious dream (a-dor-able!), and the time the pig tested the toe of my boot to see if it was edible (pig’s jaws bounced right back off that boot). It’s also been neat to plant squash and melon seedlings where they were pastured (pre-tilled and -fertilized soil!).
This is the first time I have worked pigs, and I am really enjoying it. The closest I got to farm animals as a kid was at the county fair, or in my brief stint with horses in the summer of 8th grade.
My memory of watching an enormous mama pig give birth in a pen at the fair is seared indelibly in my brain. I also remember, from Northwest Trek, that baby mooses (meese) are orange. (Ok, a moose isn’t a farm animal, but it still counts.)
I will occasionally pose questions for readers, hoping to get comments or stories from you. Here’s the question:
What, if any, was your exposure to farm animals as a kid, and what are your strongest memories on the topic?