Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Pigs, lambs, canning, and another flood

Life on the farm has been so busy the past couple weeks that there hasn't been time to do anything extra -- like writing in my blog. In fact, it's been so busy that we are not even getting everything done around here. There simply are not enough hours in a day. We have been harvesting vegetables from the garden, canning and pickling green beans and wax beans, freezing shredded zucchini, and freezing beans.

We got four new pigs a week ago. They are all boars. We moved the two older boars to another pen. They were approaching puberty, and it's too early for the gilts to be bred, so we separated them. That was an interesting experience. We were able to coax them outside the walnut grove with a pan of grain, but then moving them 100 yards proved to be more difficult than we'd hoped. Of course, by now, we always imagine that moving animals will be a challenge, but we hope we're wrong. We decided to see if Porter, the four-month-old English shepherd could be of help, and he certainly gave it his best shot. He does have amazing herding instincts. he would get the two of them about 1/4 of the way, the one would break away and run back to the fence where the gilts were. After about 15 minutes, we decided to stop, because he is a puppy, and they are not supposed to work that long, plus it was obvious he was tired, whether he wanted to admit it or not. His tongue was hanging out of his mouth, and he was panting hard. Still, he refused to stop trying, so Margaret had to hold him.

Mike picked up the pigs, which are close to 100 pounds now and carried them to their new pen. Of course, they squealed like they were being tortured -- why do pigs do that! And one of them was so upset he peed on Mike. Now I know where that disgusting pig-farm smell comes from. When pigs are not on pasture, the pee has nowhere to go and just sits there and stinks -- which is why pigs need plenty of space.

We've had more lambs, and we've lost one. We had a two-day flood that ended yesterday. As usual, the Shetlands were out grazing in a high spot that got surrounded by water. Katherine was able to get them to move across it to dry land, and everyone was accounted for at that time. But then later in the day, she went out there, and one of the ewes was screaming her head off. Her lamb was nowhere to be found and still has not shown up. We are assuming that she got caught up in the flood waters. It was thigh deep on Jonathan, who is 5'10" tall, and the current was swift, so it could have easily picked up a young Shetland lamb.

Princess is now living in the barn and hating it. She has become too active to live in the house. She runs around everywhere and pees everywhere and nibbles on everything, including power cords. When we are outside, she follows us around like a puppy. She is our shadow, regardless of which two-legger is out there. She clearly identifies with humans as "her" kind. I've taken her to the sheep pasture several times, and she is clueless. The first time I took her out there was four days after we brought her in the house, and her mother still recognized her. She called to her and came up to her. It looked like she was telling her welcome back -- "Let's go honey." But Princess had no idea that that was her mother. She stuck to me like glue. I've taken her out there several times since then, and Pocahontas still looks at her -- stares at her -- but she's stopped talking to her. She comes up sometimes and sniffs her, but it looks like she's given up. If a sheep can look at another being longingly, she is. It's really sad. One day I sat out there with her for an hour, hoping she would start playing with the other lambs, but she didn't. When one lamb came up and sniffed her, she jumped away. I was happy that by the end of the hour, she walked up to another lamb and sniffed him. Progress!

There is still so much to do before winter. Hay is scarce this year, so we need to get more pasture fenced for the sheep. We have more than enough pasture to support all of our animals over the course of a year, but without proper fencing, all that land is worthless.

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