We finally evened the score.
I wasn’t planning to write another farm report tonight, but the hogs apparently decided the chickens have been getting too much press coverage lately and decided to pull a P.R. stunt to get themselves on the front page.
Chareva carts the girls off to dance classes on Mondays after school, so I volunteered to make tonight’s dinner and have it ready when they got home. I finished my programming work around 5:00 and went down to the kitchen to see what ingredients we have on hand. As I was nosing around in the fridge, the dogs started raising a ruckus and barking like crazy. I’m not fluent in canine, but I believed I recognized the phrases from a previous incident where Chareva served as interpreter.
As near as I could tell, the dogs were yelling, “Hey! Hey, you pigs! HEY, STOP THAT! HEY-HEY-HEY-HEY-HEY-HEY-HEY!!!”
So I looked out the kitchen window, and sure enough, the hogs were busy exploring the area near Chareva’s spring project. They seemed especially interested in the wood-chip pile.
I called Chareva on her cell phone and explained the situation. She’s a much more experienced pig-wrangler than I am – meaning she coaxed them into their pen once – so I asked for advice.
“You might get them back into the pen if you fill up the water pan. But frankly, I have no faith whatsoever in your ability to handle the hogs, and I’m reasonably sure if I leave it up to you, this whole incident will end in disaster,” she explained. “So I’d better take care of it. In the meantime, try to stay out of the way and don’t do anything to make the situation worse.”
Actually, her exact words were “Try filling the water pan. I’ll get the girls and come home,” but I interpreted. I don’t speak canine, but I’m fluent in Wife.
I went out back and used a hose to fill the water pan in their pen. I didn’t make an attempt to chase the hogs for fear they’d bolt into the forest. Once the female got a whiff of the fresh water, she wandered towards the pen, but then decided she wanted to explore that big, long hill that leads down to the creek. I had visions of her jumping into the creek and then following the water flow to another county.
So I grabbed a spindly pine branch as a makeshift pig-whip and made a big circle around her to avoid spooking her by chasing her directly from behind. Once I got downhill of her, I turned and faced her, like a linebacker determined to stop a run between the tackles.
Maybe linebackers should be allowed to carry pig-whips. I didn’t hit her hard, but I certainly put more snap into the pig-whip than my girls did back during our failed attempt to coax the hogs into a trailer. (That game ended with a score of Hogs 2, Humans 0.) The hog squealed and snorted at me in protest, but she stopped the downhill run and waddled back in the general direction of the pig pen.
I had already opened the gate in case the hogs decided to do me a favor and wander back into the pen on their own. As I bumped her along with the makeshift pig-whip, the female headed towards the pen, then turned back towards the wood-chip pile. So I gave her a couple of whaps on the shoulder and a couple more on the future hams. Sure enough, she veered towards the open gate and wandered into the pen. Then she plopped herself down into some mud.
Inspired by this victory, I circled around the male and coaxed him away from the wood chips with some smacks on the future hams. Like the female, he snorted and squealed and probably cussed at me in some kind of hog dialect, but he waddled to the gate and then into the pen.
Whew! Nicely done, Tom. Wait until Chareva finds out you pig-wrangled them back into the pen without her.
I closed the gate and latched it, figuring I’d walk around the fence and find where they’d managed to dig underneath to execute their great escape. Just shore that up somehow, and …
Yup, that’s what I saw. The female was back out, exploring among the trees. A moment later, I saw the male trot out that way too.
That was way too quick of an escape to require squeezing under a fence. So I looked around and saw this:
One of them had managed to lift the gate on the opposite side of their pen right off its hinges. The other side was still chained, but the hinge side was now a swinging door.
Naturally, this was about the time Chareva and the girls pulled up to see hogs still on the loose and me standing there looking confused.
I told Chareva how I’d wrangled the hogs into their pen, only to see them escape again through this broken gate. I think she even believed me. After examining the gate (which we don’t use anyway), she of course decided the solution – as with all things farm-related – was to apply a cattle-panel.
So I trotted on down the hill to where the cattle panels have been patiently sitting and waiting to be used for fencing off the side pasture … assuming Chareva doesn’t turn them all into chicken coops, trellises, planters, coffee tables, or whatever else comes to mind.
Meanwhile, the girls took turns trying to talk the hogs into returning to the pen. They also tried tapping the hogs with sticks. The hogs were not impressed.
With the cattle panel in position near the broken gate and Chareva standing guard, I picked up my pine-branch pig-whip and gave the female a couple of whacks on the future hams to get her moving, then guided her to the gate and into the pen. The male required a big more persuading, but finally gave in as well.
Once they were through the broken gate, we sealed it off with the cattle panel. I pounded in a t-post (and you can be darned sure I paid close attention to how high I lifted the hammer) and then we secured the whole works with chains and aluminum ties.
Needless to say, I never got that dinner made. We ended up going to a diner in downtown Franklin.
The bacon date for the hogs is May 13th. It’s been interesting, fun at times, and a definite learning experience. But I think I’m ready for them to go from the pen to the deep freezer.
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