Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Full Day

I woke up at 7:26 this morning so as to turn my alarm off, which would start beeping at 7:30. I was already sleeping in a bit more than usual, but today I wanted to sleep in juuuuuust a wee bit more. I slept until 7:33 before bolting upright as my sub-conscience remembered that I had a doctor appointment at 9:30, and I needed 2.5 hours just to get barn chores finished and make myself presentable. Whoops. So all ideas of sleeping in were thrown out the window as I started scurrying through the beginnings of my Wednesday. Surprisingly enough, I managed to make it out the door just in the nick of time. And yes, I even managed to brush my teeth. I'm good.

Almost three months ago, I lost pretty much all hearing on my right side. I had gone swimming at the beginning of September and came home with an aching case of swimmer's ear. After a week of being a grumpy bear from the painful infection, the swimmer's ear cleared up. But before another week could pass, my hearing faded for no definable cause. We tried everything to treat it... Drops, candles, water, more drops, more candles, more water... Nothing worked. After awhile I got used to being half deaf, but I did miss being able to hear, and was I definitely getting tired of having to ask people to repeat themselves. So today was the day, I was going to the doctor and I wasn't leaving until I could hear!

Shucks, I should have done that sooner... The nurse pulled out a cattle-sized syringe which she admitted to having bought at our local Wilco, and started the oh-so-fun process of irrigating. And wonder of wonders, that did the trick. I can now hear from both sides now! It's taking some getting used to though, how loud everything seems now! Just tapping away at this keyboard has me wondering if the keys have always been this loud... Never take your hearing for granted. It's a wonderful thing.

After regaining my hearing, I had to face the next challenge of the day: Taking my permit test.

Yes, you read that right... I'm 20 years old, I run a small farm, I have an off-farm job, but for all these years I have NOT had even a driver's permit. I tried getting it last year, but failed the test and then was too busy to take it again. But I had to stop running from fear of failure; this was getting ridiculous not being able to drive myself anywhere. So I bit the bullet and did it today. During the whole drive into town (20 minutes), the doctor's appointment, town errands, and up to the very, very, very last minute at the DMV, I had my nose stuck in the driver's manual, trying desperately to finish reading through the darn thing. That book of 113 pages has been the bane of my existence for the last year and a half! I finished reading the very last page right as the lady at the desk pointed me in the direction of where I would be taking the test. Talk about "squeaking by"... After something like ten minutes of agony, I finished the test and PASSED! Whoop, whoop! I am officially a "legal" driver! So now I just have to bite the next bullet and learn to drive a vehicle that has a stick shift. [shudder] It's been five years since I've tried driving something with a stick shift, so I'm hoping that perhaps I've matured since then and will be able to do it. We'll see though. I'm a horrible when it comes to multi-tasking which is what driving anything besides an automatic vehicle seems like to me.

After coming home and helping a farm patron with her weekly goods, I headed out to do what I thought would be normal barn chores. Ha. I'm so naive sometimes.

Upon getting closer to the barn door, I could see what looked like the southern half of one of my pigs poking out from a 5-gallon bucket. Preposterous! Why on earth would my pigs be out? Why such a thing is ridiculous, right? My pigs? Escaped? Well, it turns out that it was indeed a pig that was not in its usual pen. Arms akimbo, I looked down at the grunting marauder who had not yet learned of my presence. I grabbed a hind leg on the trouble maker, intending to bear hug the fellow and put him away. Who knew that pigs could be so slippery!?!? The pig squealed and shot forward, out of my grasp and reach. And of course it just had to be Sausage that was out. The bigger, meaner of my Tamworth weaners. Mike was calmly back in his pen looking innocently smug. It was time to call upon all whatever wit and cunning I had left in me (which amounts to precious little). Now, have you ever tried to catch a 40 lb. pig? There is virtually nothing to grip on those things. Seriously. With a goat or sheep they at least have an upright neck with gives you some leverage. Pigs? Nothin'. They are fast as greased lighting, and they're a perfect torpedo shape which leaves you pretty much nothing to grab except a leg. But how are you going to get close enough to grab that leg if the oinker is going too fast!?!?  My pig books all said things like putting a bucket over the pig's head, putting them in a floorless box and then scooting them where they belonged, putting them in a gunnysack, or luring them with food. Right. Okay, we can do this Caity. I didn't have a gunnysack, so that idea was kaput. Luring him with food? Nope, he wasn't hungry after all the time he had just spent snacking in the barn.  Putting him in a box? Turns out that the ONE box that was big enough was so soggy and damp that Sauasage was able to literally burst right through it. Put a bucket over his head? Are you kidding me? I felt like a cutting horse facing a steer trying to put a bucket over his head. Either that or a hockey player with a grudge. 

That was it. There was only one thing left to do, but I didn't know what that one thing was. So I set out to do it. Yes, I'm genius. I thrust, he dodges, I throw in a parry, and he retaliates with a lunge. This isn't a chase, it's a fencing match of brain power between species. he ducks behind the 2-ton stack of hay and I clamber over it. He wheels into a corner and I just barely miss him. He met his waterloo though in the milking parlor. I had him cornered there. During this whole adventure, Peaches the heifer was bawling her head off for some reason or another. Her moo is fairly tolerable, but when she bawls it makes my skin crawl. Ugh. Feeling downright feral I crouch and lunge as the little porker passes by me. HA! I got you by the hind leg you uncultured swine! Sausage retaliated by jackknifing around with a fierce growl and trying to slice my arm open with his needle-like teeth. The only available option I had at that point was to quickly scurry to the opposite side of him and grab his other leg. Great. Now I've got this pig in wheelbarrow fashion. What now? 

So for the record, while putting a bucket over a pigs head might not work, nor might putting him a box do much good, trundling him around like what kids do in wheelbarrow relay races works *perfectly*. I had my pig, and I sure wasn't about to let go of him, so I applied forward pressure to that haunch of ham and smiled for a quick moment he began moving. After a few more moments, I figured out how to steer my vagabond pig and away we went. The merriment only lasted until we got to the door when Sausage decided that he'd had enough and began to squeal hideously. Ever heard a pig scream? Mothers, your toddler throwing a tantrum doesn't even come close to the pitch of an upset pig. Word of honor on that. But continue to trundle we did, meanwhile I pondered just what it would take before the neighbors called Animal Control on me. Peaches was still bellowing. Chickens were in my way. I was wearing a skirt. Could this get any funnier? I got Sausage over to the pen and with a supernatural heave-ho, I scooped him up and tossed him just barely over the top edge of the pen wall. With the pig screaming and writhing the whole time. All the work at the veggie farm is giving me some really nice upper arm muscles and a strong back, let me tell ya'. Comes in handy when you're trying to toss a pig who doesn't want to be tossed.

After putting Sausage back where he belonged and fixing the pen up, I was hot. And Mad. Peaches was still bawling so I made the split second decision that if she was going to bawl, then she had better have a legitimate reason for doing so. I shooed her into the barn, haltered her, and began the process of halter breaking her. My goat mentor who is also a vet tech, 4-H leader, and retired dairy cow owner, gave me some advice on breaking my mischievous heifer, so I decided that I might as well do the work today. The method? This may seem slightly harsh to some, but I think to those of you who really know large livestock, this is pretty tame. Dear Peachy abhors being haltered, and absolutely does not lead. That's not a good thing when she already weighs 700 lbs. and is still growing like a weed. After getting the halter on Peaches, she was tied to a support beam in the barn. The rope had to be long enough that she could lay down comfortably, but short enough that she wouldn't get tangled. It's a fine line. I asked my goat mentor how long she should stay tied and her advice was four hours. Every twenty minutes you have to check on them, brush them down, work with their feet, and towards the end you try leading them around. As I suspected, Peaches threw a conniption about the whole thing for the first hour and a half. I stayed outside with her for the first hour, making sure that she didn't do something foolish, and teaching Mattie that Peaches was off limits for awhile. After two hours, Peaches figured out that by standing close to the beam, there would be no pressure on her face. After three hours she was chewing cud. By four hours I was able to lead her around. Tomorrow will be the test to see if Peaches remembers her lesson or not. I'm really hoping that this works... 

When all the animals were fed, watered, captured, or trained, my afternoon was plumb gone and I needed to start dinner. We were going to have a simple dish of chicken with some biscuits, but then I decided to throw a bit of pizzazz on what would have otherwise been a rather plain meal. I just finished reading Joshua and Jessica Applestone's book titled, 'The Butcher's Guide To Well-Raised Meats'  and their "secret" chicken rub blend sounded way too tempting to not try tonight. I did leave out the cayenne pepper on my first try since not everyone in the family likes that spice as much as I do. But even without the cayenne, the chicken turned out amazing. Good gracious me, why did it take me so long to find that recipe??? The biscuits were also livened up when a sister decided to add cheese and garlic powder to them. Ha, okay I don't even want to know what my weight is now that dinner is over. But it was worth it. ;) I love food. Growing it, tending it, harvesting it, preparing it, and then eating it; it's all good.

So now I'm tuckered. It's been a full day, and my clock says I need to go milk the cow now. A farmer's work is never done...


Anonymous said...

Loved the story! It made my day =) if I ever have to catch a pig I'll remember your advice.
One day, when you're old, you should get your blog made into a book.
How are the broiler chickens?
And...what are those sprout things???

farmgal said...

Ok, while your story made me laugh and share with DH, I have to share a slightly (ok, much easier way to catch and move your porkers) then trying to catch them, all you are doing is upsetting them by try to catch them and o yes, when they scream, its almost unholy in sound..

So the first thing is to work hard at training them to a special treat, like banana that is always used to lead with, it gives soft small bites and they can be super full but when I show them a banana they can be lead most times anywhere you want in close quarters like the barn etc.

However, lets say that its a piggy mob, like when my pack of six nine week old piglets broke out, or you have one stubborn or untrained pig to get.. you want to use the board, it should be about 2 or 3 feet high by approx four feet long, ideally it has a attached leather handle on the one side, and a walking stick, you come on slow and gentle, and you use the board to block and guide them where you want them to go, and you use the very gentle tap, tap of the stick to keeep them moving or even to keep them in line with the board.

If you have a second person, they can use a second board and it will work even better but a single board works well

Now if you are moving a big pig, who at that point, I hope does have training, you are going to have your board at the head/shoulders, using the tap, tap on the lower back, thigh area.

Not only does it help keep things calm but if the pig does lash out, it hits the board, not the person.

Using the board does take practice, so ideally go into the pen and spend a little time moving them around with it, and if and when :) the time comes, it will save alot of sweat and stress on both the pig and you when you really need it.

Wendy said...

Busy day... We used a board similar to what farmgal talks about to move sea lions, elephant seals etc, when I worked at the Marine Mammal center. Worked great and it would have never occurred to me to use it on pigs.

Goat Song said...

I've tried the board trick to move the pigs, but had no success with it... :-/

farmgal said...

Can I ask, what happened in the terms of it didn't work?

Goat Song said...

You could never get close to the pig to even try! Even in their small pen, you just can't get close to them. Sigh. But yeah, I've seen scores of 4-H'ers doing the board/stick trick to maneuver their hogs; mine just aren't tame enough yet for that.

Prairie Kari said...

Interesting halter breaking method - have you had a chance to test Peaches since to see if the lesson stuck?