Monthly Archives: October 2010

Pet Update

Next week Will is driving down to North Carolina for the Great Pyrenees, but until she becomes the inevitable center of attention, I thought I should let you know how the other not to be eaten animals are doing as of late.

Delilah is definitely queen bee.  Watson follows her around like a lost puppy dog, until she blows him off, at which point he then chases her up a tree, like a tween boy who pushes the object of his affection in the cafeteria line – he’s just that awkward.  She is wonderfully patient with Alston, who basically wants to yank on her tail and pat her too hard on the head for her liking.  And she comes when called… do normal cats do this?

Samson is the cat equivalent of Watson – completely desperate for our affection.  He rolls around on his back whenever we enter the basement, trying to entice us into petting him.  Sorry kitty, not until you also carry antihistamines.  Every morning when we open the basement door to let the cats out, Delilah heads out in seconds, while Samson looks at us confused.  He then hides in the woods in the lower yard all day until it’s time to return to the basement… with the exception of those times when he tries to sneak in the house after us.

Watson is actually turning into quite the impressive farm dog.  When he’s not tailing Delilah, he’s standing guard on the front porch (ok, napping on the front porch).  He even managed to chase off a stray dog the other day.  When we let him out in the morning, he makes a full inspection of the farm before returning to the porch.  And he follows Will around during the morning chores.  Who knew our beagle ball o’ need just wanted a job?


Out of the coop

This weekend, we let the chickens into the yard for a bit so the kids attending our farm warming party could have an animal to pet.  The ladies were a huge hit.  In another two weeks or so we’ll make this a regular part of their day, but we’re really waiting to hit that 10 week mark before we let them out in the open with only the electric fence for protection. 

Picture courtesy of a colleague’s wife, who was kind enough to share this with me.  Also, I think Alston has a crush on their daughter (they are only 1 month apart).

Perhaps “Pig-ready” was presumptuous

We [thought we] had everything ready but one crucial piece – a way to transport our three little piggies.  Sure, we have a pickup, but we needed some sort of cage or top so the oinks wouldn’t abandon ship mid-drive.  Will Googled the crap out of pig cage, pig carrier, transporting pigs, and nothing of note came up.  So we decided to get creative.  We started calling friends of ours who had recently house broken dogs, to see if we could buy their crates.  I managed to buy one off a colleague for a super-reasonable price, but Will deemed it too small, at which point I started Googling “tamworth pig weight 8 weeks” to no avail.  Internet, that’s -2 for you.

So, by chance Will is on the phone with the dog rescue lady (we’re getting a Great Pyrenees after all, but that’s for another post), and mentioned that we had a dog crate and she says “Oh, just use a Goat Carrier” in a completely matter of fact tone.  In the way I’d say “You should buy a belt” if someone told me their pants were falling down.  I’m convinced that all country knowledge is like this, as sure enough the local Tractor Supply place had goat carriers in stock.  It’s all about asking the right question (read: NOT pig carrier?).  So now we have this large, bottomless cage that sits in the bed of the pickup and has a sliding door so you can easily get the animal(s) in and out without too much fuss.  There it is internet, Pig Carrier = actually just buy a Goat Carrier.  Consider yourself countrified.

This morning, we load up into the truck, Will, Alston and me, and head to Oak Hill Farm in Palmyra, VA.  The piglets are adorable.  The farm hands lures the mama pig into the stable and the piglets follow, so as to make it easier to catch them.  He then picks up the piglets one by one and hands them to another guy to load into the cage, all while the oink is squealing her little face off.  It is a blood curdling sound, hearing a pig in full panic.  Poor Alston had no idea what was going on.  But the whole process only took about five minutes for all three, and we were ready to get back on the road.

Before we left, Will started asking questions about fencing.  He’d erected electric fencing, but the pigs were smaller than we expected (Watson-sized, actually, which is to say beagle), and the other day, while the juice was on, Watson tested the wires, got shocked, but instead of jumping back he jumped forward and ended up on the inside of the enclosure.  So there was doubt about our fence’s fortitude.  The farmer though it sounded like we’d be fine, or at worst we’d have to run another wire so there was more barrier lower to the ground.

The ride home, Will freaked out about the fence.

We get home, and pull the pickup into the enclosure.  To play it safe, Will grabs only one pig from the carrier and sets her down.  I swear after being out less than one minute, she nudged the fence, jumped a little and walked right on through.

Did I mention my husband is often right?

Will starts running towards the pig, so the pig starts running away, towards the road.  Watson, who was hanging out on the front porch, sees running and naturally comes down to investigate.  He catches a glimpse of the piglet and immediately takes chase, so now Will is running after the pig who is sprinting away from the dog, all while Alston shouts “Ma, pig! Ma, pig!  Ooohhh pig!”

I manage to grab Watson and get him into the house while Will runs down the road chasing after a screaming pig.  Somehow, and I still have no idea how, he manages to catch her, and so it’s back to the goat carrier until we figure out what to do.

This is when defeat sets in.  There were a hundred other things on the to do list for today, but unless we expect the piggies to live out their days in the back of an F150, it’s fence time.  I think we shouldn’t call ourselves farmers.  We haven’t harvested anything yet.  We should call ourselves fencers.  We still had some hog wire left over from reinforcing the pasture’s horse fencing, but it’s another trip to the hardware store to buy metal posts to hold everything up.

Once the posts are in the ground and Will starts unraveling the fence, we joke about potential names for the farm… he suggests Third Time’s The Charm Farm – we get it right eventually.  I go with Funny Farm – because you’d have to be crazy to try this.

After about two hours, the new, smaller hog wire fence is up and the piglets are in.  We have the electric fence on as well, in case they root under the hogwire.  Not that we think it will do any good until we string up yet another wire come Monday.  Oh well, at least the pigs seem to like their new digs.  Let’s just hope they stay put over night.

It’s lucky these animals are both cute and delicious, or there would be a feral Tamworth wandering greater Esmont tonight.


Any day now we’ll be getting the call that the pigs are ready for pick up.  Ultimately, we decided to purchase three – two that we’ll keep for breeding purposes and one that we’ll eat come spring.  Since tamworths have an average of eight piglets in a litter, but up to twelve, I had this awful fear that we’d end up with 39 pigs on the farm at one time, which is way more than we can possibly use between our family and the restaurant.  Hence only keeping two breeding sows.

The final touches on the pig house were completed last week.

Nothing like a couple of coats of paint and a metal roof to make a structure look legitimate.  It turns out the skids even work, as Will was able to tie everything up with a thick rope and use the pickup to drag the whole building to the end of the lower yard closest to our house (read: the water hose).  So nice when things work out the way you planned!

Will and his dad also strung up the wire for the electric fencing and wired up the solar batteries. 
They managed to finish the whole project in half a day, so while I can’t comment on the complexity, it sure was faster than putting up hog wire.  We went with two chargers as the wire fencing provides absolutely no barrier if the electricity fails, and I am very much not looking forward to the first time we have to chase the pigs around and wrangle them back into their enclosure.  The thought was that the likelihood of both failing at the same time should at least be less, and that was worth the extra expense.

I fully anticipate eating those words.  So you can look forward to reading that future post.

More permanent digs

Last week, Will moved the now 6 week old chickens to the hoop house.

This will be their permanent home, and we’ll use the electric poultry netting to day-range them on various parts of the pasture, once they are a bit bigger (i.e. less tempting for hawks).

A good friend of ours gave us the laying box house he’d built before he decided that he’d be moving his birds every week (making the wooden structure too heavy to be practical).

Our birds won’t be laying until about January (which is not exactly peak production time, given how little sunlight there us, but should have us in full egg mode by spring), so right now the girls are just exploring the structure.  During the day, several hang out underneath it.

Will and his dad built the roosting, well, I don’t know exactly what you’d call it.  In order to make something that would fit through the door, they built it with hinges at the top, and then chains on the side (think easel), so it can easily fold/unfold.  Pretty slick, or at least I think so.  The girls seem to be using it some during the day, although I don’t tend to go to that part of the yard after dark (as it is SO dark on our property – I’m still adjusting to that aspect of country life), so I can’t say if they are legitimately roosting on it or not.  Oh well, it’s there if they so choose.

Jail Break

It looks like someone isn’t content to live in the basement anymore.

Of course, Samson may just have to deal for another week, as we will probably move the chickens to their hoop house tomorrow.  And I don’t think we should tempt fate by adding two outdoor cats to the mix until the peeps get acclimated.

New Toy


Will managed to score a second-hand Happy Valley cider press off Craig’s List.  It looks like it’s never been used.  We’ll have to remedy that.