This weekend reminded us of how lucky we are to have such good friends, especially of the “sure, I can help” variety.
In preparation for early vegetable planting, it was time to relocate the pigs from the lower yard below the pond to the wooded area at the top of the pasture. There were two major obstacles. The first was hitching the pig house to the truck and dragging it up the driveway, through the cattle gate, under the pine tree and across the pasture without damaging our property or the structure. The second was getting the pigs from their electric fence enclosure to their new enclosure without them getting loose between the lower yard and the pasture where there is no fencing to inhibit their escape.
Dilemma No.1 went smoothly. The house held up fine, and fit through the gate without much trouble. The driveway only has minimal skid marks in the gravel and the pasture is much less torn up from the dragging than I expected. Will and our three fabulous helpers (and my father – my folks were down visiting) rigged up two wires of electric fencing to establish the new enclosure. Now to get the residents.
Dilemma No. 2 was much more problematic, so I’ll break it down into the various tactics attempted. A few things worth noting before I get started… tamworths are one of the few breeds of domestic pig that were never crossed with Chinese pigs, making them the closest in temperament to a wild pig (read: not docile). Also, these gilts are at least 150 pounds at this point.
Take a pig for a walk: Will and I got rather hooked on the BBC series River Cottage, and in one episode Hugh took his prize pig to the fair. He was able to show him around by walking next to the pig with a board on one side (to block the pig’s field of vision) and a stick on the other that he’d use to tap at the pig to get him to move forward. It appeared so civilized, like a dog show.
Will modified this a bit for our first attempt. He’d get the pigs to stay still by filling their feed bucket, get a rope around one’s neck like a leash while two helpers got on either side of the pig with boards of plywood we had lying around and a third helper with a bucket of food would lead the pig towards her new home.
The team plugged away at this effort long after I would have thrown in the towel. We couldn’t even control the pig long enough to walk it forward more than 5 feet, so there was no way we’d be able to make the football field-length journey without a jail break.
Truck and a ramp: Time to justify the 4 wheel drive pickup. Will gathered all the plywood sheets and some 2 x 8’s and constructed a makeshift ramp. We placed the food bucket in the bed of the truck and scattered apples along the length of the ramp. We even added bedding to the ramp to make it seem more appealing. Needless to say, no one took the bait.
We tried leading them up with apples, sitting on the ramp to walk up with them, holding the boards to the side of the ramp so no one would fall off, but we never got more than the front hooves on the ramp before the pigs would retreat backwards.
Wrestle ’em: At this point, I looked at Will and said “You’re just going to have to catch them and toss ’em in the back of the truck.” When he asked how I proposed he catch them, I replied “tackle.” After some brainstorming, everyone decided to chase the pigs around a bit to tire them out. And so it began…
Then I ply everyone with beers and sandwiches as my way of doing something other than just taking pictures the whole time. It’s a feeble thank you, one that we’ll someday supplement with some house-cured bacon almost a year from now.
Have I mentioned what amazing friends we have?
I’m happy to report that the girls are all settled in nicely now and seem to have forgiven us for the trauma of Saturday.