An Evolving Cast of Characters

The last time we had pigs on the farm was…not an optimal experience. It was a learning opportunity. It was a shining counterexample to the dictum that everything is either a good experience or a good story.

But that was years ago (by using the plural, strictly speaking, I mean “more than one”). And I was that kid who always had the long-term memory of a fruit fly when it came to inadvisable activities. So when we heard that returning native son Alex was looking for land on which he and business partner Kyle could try raising a few dozen pigs, my first thought was, “Why not?”

Just kidding. My first thought was “Run Screaming.” But we heard them out. We visited the setup they were working with on some family land nearby. Had a lot of farm-wide discussions, going back and forth about under what conditions we would be okay having pigs back here. Came to an agreement, and this afternoon Alex and Kyle brought over their first dozen little squeakers.

So far, these guys are unlike any other pigs I’ve interacted with. They’re curious, they’re playful. They seem recognizably happy. One of ’em was maybe taking a cue from the goats and trying to leap up on a rock in their section of the brush pasture; another kept tearing across the field at top speed then spontaneously spinning out in little porcine donuts.

Not that I’m going to let myself get too attached to them – this breed apparently take only six months to go from “cute little squeaker” to 500-pound sumo hog. I’ve tried to imagine a world in which a quarter ton land-plowing porcine food funnel can be seen as “cute”, but I’m not getting the optics to work for me.

Regardless, we’ll see.

Our other recent arrivals are a pair of Anser domesticus, farmyard geese that join us as a rescue from a neighboring farm where they weren’t fitting in well. Cosmo lost an eye, and with it any sort of status he had with the flock. Diminutive Peony was apparently the only other goose who would consort with him, and the two became outcasts together.

The plan is to set them up as guards in the fenced fruit orchard by the new house. In spite of the six+ foot fence (we now have flagged wires at 7 and 8 feet), we’ve been hit twice by deer. Cosmo and Peony have already demonstrated that they can rise to a level of ornery that would make a bear think twice about approaching, so we (Lydia, really) will be trying to convince them that the fruit orchard is their territory and needs defending. From deer, that is. We need to simultaneously convince them that we, on the other hand, are their friends. Which so far appears to be the harder part of the equation. I’ll keep you posted on how that’s going.

Peony and Lydia attempt to resolve differences of opinion on where geese belong around here.

We have had one unsuccessful addition to the farm. For ages we’ve been wanting a barn cat. We know we have barn mice, and there seem to be two ways people deal with mice around here: traps plus poison, or barn cats. We (again, when I say “we,” that’s pretty much Lydia doing all the work) kept in touch with Center Valley Animal Rescue until they told us they’d received a candidate: a small, white very feral female. Lydia borrowed a suitable crate and set up a cozy spot in the barn to help her get acclimated before letting her loose.

Danger Cat (a.k.a “Bones,” “Puffball of Death,” or “Pam” – “Pam”?!? – depending on who was addressing her), seemed to take an instant dislike to all of us, peering out with understandable distrust from the hutch that Lydia had crafted within her crate to provide a little privacy. Lydia brought her tuna. I brought her bits of turkey. Lacey sat and sang to her. We all did what we could, I think.

At the end of the acclimation period, Lydia propped the crate door open and retreated to give our new involuntary resident a chance to venture out unwatched. And that was the last any of us ever saw of her.

Will we try again? Yeah, probably, eventually. But for the moment, I think we’ve got our hands full with all the other new arrivals.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. occasionalww says:

    Hey David,
    I think that you will find the geese to be the most welcome of your new tenants. They love to eat slugs and will glean them from your garden and leave most plants alone (until you run out of slugs). I was amused by the picture of Lydia with the goose because I can imagine that’s how I looked the first time I tried to wrangle a one.

    Fortunately, my grandmother, a homestead girl, was around at the time to show me how to do it. Since geese legs hinge forward from the ankle, you can hook your forefingers in each ankle and pull them to your chest. They may flap and try to fly for a short time but you are safely behind the wings. They will quickly relax and lie vertically next to you, and using their wonderful goose neck, their heads will stay horizontal at mid chest.

    They are great “watchdogs” as you have already noted, intimidating but not dangerous.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Indeed – the initial struggles aside, we’re very much looking forward to having the geese here! I’ll forward your “handy goose handling tips” to Lydia. I think the problem was that Peony had just seen Lydia whisk Cosmo away and didn’t know where he’d gone, so she was understandably concerned about her fate.


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