I have a sow. A large sow. A large, not-yet-reproductive sow. If she’s not to become a mobile sausage unit, she needs to produce some babies. Thus is the economy of the farm. The sow’s name is Patience. Irony was the driving factor in naming. She is anything but patient when it comes to food.
Enter Lord Strange. A boar on loan from my friend, Farmer H. He raises loads of pigs and does it in a really great way. I’ll let you know when his sausage comes available. It’s going to be good — truly free-range stuff.
Lord Strange has been staying here for the purpose of breeding Lady Patience (as an aside, he didn’t come with the name. Alice gave it to him. I haven’t told Farmer H yet. Further — ’cause we’re on this train of thought and it’s going somewhere — Lord Strange was an Elizabethan nobleman who financed a troupe of actors during Shakespeare’s time. He was an actual person. Alice came across this name in a biography, and chortled, and thought: ‘the next animal that needs naming…’ And in wandered the heretofore-nameless boar. No, there haven’t been any porcine performances of Twelfth Night out in the paddock… yet.) Lord Strange’s stay has had the additional benefit of keeping him away from H’s gilts (young unbred female pigs) because a litter in November is a challenge. There are few people who want to buy piglets in February– it’s too early in the year. And it’s hard to shepherd the little piglets through the depths of a New England winter. So, from H’s perspective, since it is better that temptation not lead a pig astray, Lord Strange could stay with me. And yes, astute reader, why, you might ask, would I want a litter in November? I never said I was smart.
So Lord Strange is here for two reasons: reproduction and birth control. Funny thing that.
As compensation for the room and board of Lord Strange, H offered me two piglets. I arrived dutifully at H’s farm at the pre-arranged date and time. I have a lot to learn from H. So when he speaks, I listen. Carefully. H said: “Now, make sure those piglets don’t get out, because you’ll never catch them. They will be GONE.”
I backed out of his driveway reciting, “Piglets don’t get out. Never catch. GONE… Piglets don’t get out. Never catch. GONE.”
I got home and put the two piglets into a confined area by themselves. This was intended to give them time to acclimate to their new environs, and make acquaintances from a comfortable distance. From a previous post, you may remember that I have five French Canadian piglets. One of them had a prolapse, but that was yucky, so let’s don’t talk about that so much. Counting Lady Patience and Lord Strange, that makes seven pigs of varying ages and sizes to get to know. This could take a little piggy some time — especially since five of this drove speak French. To facilitate this adjustment, I made sure that there was a place for snouts to poke back and forth, figuring that the pigs could all take this opportunity to acquaint themselves without the challenge of actually being in each others’ space. I walked away to tend to other things, content that I had heeded H’s admonishment. No piglets were going to get out on my watch. No, sir.
It only took 10 minutes. First, I heard squealing. Then I heard more squealing, accompanied by much commotion involving pigs of various sizes and ages. Then I watched as the piglets gallumped, ears pumping air in syncopation, along the fence line, frantically testing it for openings. What the little pigs couldn’t know was that the pig paddock is surrounded by a larger pasture area, also fenced, where the sheep and cows roam. The interior paddock is the “Maximum Security” paddock, while the outer paddock is “Minimum Security,” from which several of my more clued-in sheep issue themselves day passes to feed on my hydrangea. I knew what the piglet took on faith: that if a piglet got out of the interior paddock, it was only going to be a matter of seconds before the piglet was free. Given that I was “never going to catch it,” the loss of the piglet would be bad. But having to tell H would be worse.
I sprinted into the cow/sheep paddock. I wrangled and ran. I waved my arms. I cornered the piglet behind a composting manure pile which happened to be right in front of the spot where she had wiggled out. And with the unintentional assistance of Lily the cow, who was really curious about what the heck this little pink thing was running around under her feet, we got the piglet back into Maximum Security. This was good.
I set to reinforcing the various openings that were not perfectly-pig-proof. Again, hubris intact, I knew there would be no further escapes and that I would have a good chuckle with H about how close I came to “not catching” the piglet. Before I left the paddock, I pantomimed to the French Canadian piglets that chewing on the little ones’ ears wasn’t nice; and then had a chat with Lady Patience about being more maternal and looking after the two little ones All was great for the rest of the afternoon.
My plans for the evening involved leaving the farm. This is always a dodgy thing, but even a guy who loves what he does needs to get away on occasion. I cleaned myself up and drove away. During the drive, I got three phone calls. First, an unplanned delivery of hay was occurring — at that very moment. Not good, but there was no rain in the forecast. That could wait ’til morning. Second, the sheep had gotten out of the neighbor’s pasture where they were spending part of their summer vacation. Fortunately I had already addressed this issue earlier in the day and the friend calling just hadn’t spoken with his wife, to whom I had already relayed the news of the sheep’s recapture. All good — two for two. And third, another friend was calling to borrow my back on Saturday to build a stone wall in front of his new house. I put my back’s workdate on the calendar. All was well, even though I was a little stressed about how irresponsible I was being to leave the farm, especially when there were two new piglets, the sheep were getting out and hay needed to be put away.
Upon arrival at Alice’s place, I went in the house and begged for a beer or a sedative, anything to tell the little responsible angel on my right shoulder to SHUT THE HECK UP! Things got better. We had dinner. It was nice — civilized even. And then it happened.
A neighbor called to tell me that there was a piglet in her front yard and…what should she do? H’s voice rang in my ears: “never going to catch it.” Being almost an hour away, I asked her and her three kids to try and catch the piglet and put it in the dog crate on the back of my truck. I felt bad sending them on such an errand. I hung up and I did what any responsible person in my position would do: I had another beer.
A few minutes later, one of the neighbor boys called to apologize that he had chased the piglet and that it had disappeared into the woods. I let him know that I appreciated the effort they had all made on the little pig’s behalf and that they were “never going to catch it” anyway.
I hung up again and began the acts of contrition and arduous mental preparations required for telling H.
I drove home dispirited, vowing to myself that I would never — ever — leave the farm ever again… not for groceries, not to pay the taxes, not for dental work. Never. The little responsible angel bumping along on my shoulder gloated. I made a half-hearted attempt to find the pig in the dark. I went to bed penitent.
The next morning, I went to the pig paddock to take inventory. I was not walking the walk of an optimistic man.
But lo, yay verily, hosannahs on high…both of the little pigs were there. This was nothing short of an agrarian miracle. The little pig had wandered home of its own accord.
When I told Alice, she said “that’s a good little pig.”
And since piglets on my farm are either French Canadian or honorary French Canadian, she was given the name, Bon-nie. She’s a good little pig and I am grateful to her, cause….
I didn’t have to tell Farmer H.