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Mud, Pig Piles, and Puppies

Posted 2/25/2011 7:18am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

Late winter / early spring is a humbling time of year for us.   The earth's awakening from its deep freeze brings expectation of verdant pastures, productive gardens, frisky lambs and the reality of ... mud.  This is mud season.  The "dry" lot is sloppy, the driveways that circle the barn are sticky and slick with mud atop frozen ground.   Just walking up from the barn feels like an activity that promotes soil erosion, our brown footprints following us across the road right to the backdoor, where I hear myself nagging "wipe your boots!"  "Keep that mess outside!"  It may be an effort in futility, but nonetheless, it seems rather hardwired.  Oddly enough it is this time of year that we seem to attract a good number of customers and friends to the farm.   I hear myself apologizing for conditions that I have very little control over; dirty snow melting under the drum of warm rain.  I know I must trust people to understand.  Farmers, after all, are not the only ones who endure this transition of seasons and eventually the warm spring sun will win this battle.   For now it's just a waiting game.

This week Roy and Charles, our dairy-farmer friend and neighbor,  castrated the young boars in our litter of pigs.   Boars, like bulls, are castrated to prevent early breeding among our feeder pigs and it makes the little guys easier to handle.   It is a fairly simple procedure made difficult by the strong effort of the roaster-size pigs to escape one's grasp, thus the need for two strong farmers to hold them still.   By the next morning, I had a hard time picking out the new "barrows".   When I went down to feed them all the little pigs were laying together in a big pile.  They do this for warmth.   I learned at PASA that pigs at the bottom of these piles sometimes suffocate and die.   This happens if too many pigs are attempting to share a small shelter.   Just the knowledge of this possibility gives me a terrifying, claustrophobic feeling and the determination to prevent such an occurence.   Although the farmers who shared their experiences raising pigs were just as determined and well-meaning.  New risks with every new endeavor -- but being greeted with a snort and wet snout -- it seems worth the risks. 

Mac has sired another litter of puppies.  Tippy, Charles and Tammy's border collie, had the pups last Sunday morning.   The girls are thrilled at the prospect of playful puppies in a couple weeks, but for now, Tippy is staying quite protective of her squirming, mewing brood.