Monday, October 5, 2009

Pig perambulations

I'm going to write this particular escapade up right away so I don't forget a thing.

Today was the day I had to take the three sold pigs to the butchers. Accordingly, I had a plan, kind of. I had decided to use the old pig crate, which fits into the truck bed, one more time. To get the pigs up there I would construct a sturdy pig-ramp, using the motorcycle ramp I had built this summer. The addition of high, pig-proof sides would do the trick.

And so I went and found a 4 by 8 of plywood and cut it into two 2 by 8's, then screwed them onto the sides of the ramp with a couple of studs for stiffness.

So far so good. Then I loaded the ramp in the truck and trucked it over to the barn and put in place in the doorway of the barn, ready for pigs. The truck now empty, I loaded up the pig crate and dropped its wooden tailgate and put the new pig ramp on this, carefully positioned in such a way as to make everything line up, and no gaps for hasty pigs to wiggle out. (So I thought.) I used the barn doors to fill some of these gaps, bits of plywood or pallet to fill others. I opened up the pig pen and let them out and tried to lure one onto the ramp with food in front and me pushing behind.

First up was Gus.

Gus took one look at the ramp, made a short run, and cleared the sides like a show jumper, heading for points west.

One pig out.

No matter, I thought. Gus is a troublemaker anyway, he won't go far and I can get the two girls loaded. The girls will go easy.

Two more show jumpers later and I was out looking for our three pigs. I was able to get them into the north paddock, where they began to grub up our nice recovered pasture. Not willing to stand for too much of this kind of vandalism, I tried to lure them into the barn through the side door, then through the back pen.

No dice. Grubbing and rooting much more fun, sorry.

To this point you shouldn't feel sorry for the poor pigs. Even though the story ends badly for all three, so far, they were having a fine old pig jest at my expense, and enjoying the relative freedom of a 1/2 acre pasture instead of a 15 by 30 foot pig sty and 15 by 30 foot outdoor pen.

I soon got tired of trying to lure these disrespectful creatures nicely, and instead got a rope. I caught Gus by the tail and got a noose around his neck, then after a couple of rugby moves, got another noose around his foot.

Hog-tied, I wrestled him into the barn. It wasn't easy. Aimee came out to see what all the screaming was about, which meant that I had help, but also that I would have a handy critic.

Then I hog-tied Vera. Aimee put her fingers in the ears to mask the pig squeals. By the time Vera was in the barn, Ruby came willingly. All three pigs took a nice cooling mud bath. Going after them, I lost a wellie twice.

Back to square one.

I decided first to secure the back door of the pig sty to reduce the amount of space for pig chasing and wrestling to a manageable amount, and to remove the possibility of losing a wellie again. This was achieved with three three-and-a-half inch deck screws.

Crude, but effective.

Then, with Aimee's "advice" ringing in my ears I tried to think.

Let it be understood, I was already shattered. My nerves were gone, my stress load sky high, pulse racing. The pigs, meanwhile, were taking a nap, girding their loins for round two.

For myself, I couldn't think straight, but on an off-chance called the butchers. Did they happen to have a trailer? Sure. They would loan me a 4 by 8 low-rider pig trailer, if I would just come get it.

Would I? You bet. In a pig's heartbeat.

I drove over and picked up the trailer, taking the nice safe half-hour or so of driving to gather my wits. It wasn't easy. So far, these pigs had me beat. I was nervous about how things would go later, but hopeful. The trailer proved study and well made. Just the kind of trailer I should have bought, or built, for myself, if I had any sense.

And an extra $800.

Back home, I set about getting the trailer in the barn, unhitching it from the truck and running it into the gate of the pig's pen, using the open gate to block the "loose head" side. I dropped the tailgate. Somebody had left apples in the trailer, and the pigs went right in.

Only trouble was, with the trailer dis-hooked from the truck, the thing tilted right over as soon as a pig was in it.

So I hooked it back up to the truck. But now the barn doors were open. I pushed them tight against the truck and trusted to the gate-block as before. But the pigs rushed the gate while I was fiddling with the other side. One pig went right out, the other two dallied. I screamed for Aimee, but no help came. I could only keep one barn door shut at once. The remaining two pigs waltzed their matildas right out.

One pig decided at this point to rummage about under the truck and got stuck, starting to scream. What's the procedure when a pig is stuck under a truck? Not having encountered this particular problem, I improvised, confidently, the way they taught us in NCO school. Noticing that if I backed up the truck more, into the barn, it would tilt up an inch or so, I tried that.

That only made the pig scream louder.

I went to get my floor jack.

Even when the truck was well clear of the pig, she still lay there, no doubt relieved not to be stuck anymore.

I went around to her butt end and gave it a gentle kick. She wiggled out.

With three pigs now loose again, and me getting my rope ready again, of course it was time for Aimee to show up. And Aimee was pretty mad at me not only for mistreating pigs, but also for not asking for help.

I thought I had screamed out loud for help. (And no help came.)

Go figure.

So with two of us to hold doors and tailgates and the weigh down the trailer tongue so it didn't have to be hooked up to the truck, so the barn doors could stay closed and pigs stay in, we were able to get Gus loaded easily enough.

But no other pig was willing to get on the trailer as long as Gus was on there screaming and angry because he was now finally caught. With Gus trying to climb out, unsuccessfully, thank heavens, I drove away.

The pig from hell.

But one pig, even one out of three, is better than none.

It was an hour to and from the butchers, with Gus only showing his head above the trailer sides once, but that was enough for me to tap the brakes.

Then back for the two sisters, who went in easily enough and didn't try to climb out.

Then I had to fix all the fences that pigs had broken while on their spree. All in all, my pig trucking day went from 10 am until 6pm. And I was shattered.

Of course the pigs were in far worse shape, although they didn't yet know it. But for some strange reason I don't feel nearly as bad as I normally do for them.

Here they are in happier days.

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