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Herding Pigs & Washing Udders, Part 1

2011 June 27
by Aurora

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.

happy pig

happy pigs

Ten things I have learned about pigs:

  1. A healthy five-month-old pig is way too big for me to tackle.
  2. They will escape out of anything. If they feel like it.
  3. They will try to eat anything, up to and including you (well, just in a curious sort of way, not very seriously).
  4. 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.
  5. They sometimes sleep in a big pile.
  6. They don’t poop where they sleep.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.]
  9. They can’t sweat, so mud-baths and sleeping in the water trough are their way of cooling off.
  10. 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?

6 Responses Post a comment
  1. Priscilla permalink
    June 27, 2011

    #2 + #6 + #7 + #8 = GENIUS. They are so smart! I want to play with them. I never got to play with farm animals. City girl mah whole life. I did get to ride a horse once when I was like 3. It was fun! Loving the blog so far!

    • June 27, 2011

      Don’t forget your recent horse experience in CR. I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

  2. Max permalink
    June 28, 2011

    Gonna need more pictures of blissed-out pigs. Thanks.

  3. Adelia permalink
    June 30, 2011

    My grandparents ran a dairy farm. They always had other animals too, including pigs. I love pigs! But my strongest memory, for obvious reason, is when the time came every year to de-horn and castrate the cows/bulls. You only need one bull on the farm (lucky guy) and you don’t want horns on your herd on a dairy farm where they can puncture the udders (at least that was what I was told as a child). I still remember vividly the smells and colors of those days. It also helped me build a stronger stomach which helped out in Paraguay. :) I told several of my Paraguayan neighbors that we de-horned our cattle back home and they couldn’t believe it. As you probably remember, they use the horns as an anchor to tie a cow to a certain spot. Miss you Aurora! Hope you’re having fun on the farm!

  4. July 1, 2011

    A single summer, as a very green long-haired city boy (14?) visiting a sheep ranch.

    Strongest memory? Can’t decide between when the butch-cut, tobacco-spittin’ foreman stationed me at a trail choke point during round-up and just galloped off, telling me to yell & wave my arms over my head at the sheep to deter them from taking that path, without bothering to mention what a ram was (and when I should get out of its way if I didn’t want to be knocked ass-over-teakettle), or maybe when he handed me a small hatchet and sent me outside to fetch a chicken for dinner without telling me what happens if you chop off a chicken’s head above its voicebox (it hops off the stump and runs around clucking for few minutes), or the time he ran in during supper and curtly ordered me to wash my hands and follow him back out to the barn where he instructed me to reach up the back end of a mare and pull out a foal by its jaws during a difficult labor while he held the mama’s head down and spoke quietly to her.

    The animals were all wonderful but it’s the big grin on the farmers after every prank they pulled or hallowed mystery they introduced me to that I remember most.

  5. Irene permalink
    July 8, 2011

    My memory of farm animals were all ponies or horses at fairs as a kid. One memory does stand out in particular though. Here in Ottawa, Ontario there use to be a place in the country where you could rent out a horse to ride for about 1hr. A group of us decided to do that one day. (20yrs ago) My horse was the biggest one, a male and my brother Jason had the smallest, a female. First time on the horse, I was given limited instruction and off I went. We all stayed together (5-6 of us) and all was good until without prompting my horse just decides to sprint! I’m stunned and barely hanging on knowing if I fall off I’m foretelling an ambulance ride to the nearest hospital! Eventually, he calms down and the group joins up with me again with giggles and laughter from watching me not falling off. Meanwhile I”m shaken up a bit, frazzled as to what made the creature take off like that. Then I hear my brother saying to his horse ‘click click click’ and at that exact moment off I go on a ‘hold on by the seat of my pants for dear life sprint’ again! My horse just assumed it was I saying/making the ‘click click click’ sound. To this day I will only rub a horse on their chins and their foreheads…thank you very much! lol In addition to all this, my brothers horse had a crush on my horse and she kept crashing into him on purpose. Jason and I did have a good laugh as he couldn’t control his horse either. I also found out I’m allergic to their dander/hair. Sneezed up a storm for hours thereafter. Oh well, chalked it all up to ‘trying things at least once’ in your lifetime. That’s my tale on farm animals. :)

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