The Firewood, the Ark, and Sheila Bites the Boar

Out on The Matriarch’s old farm, where John grew up, is an old mulberry tree planted by his Grandfather. 12sheila-009

Last winter this branch fell.

12sheila-016 12sheila-018

This winter this dead branch will keep his grandson (and his good wife)  warm.



On the way home we dropped into John’s workshop (at the old farm) so he could show me the first Chicken Ark. This one is for the Layers.


Unfortunately it looks like he may be called back to his paid job soon. His wife makes him work for ‘food’. But he is hoping to make me one more Chicken Ark so I can run two meat chicken enterprises this year.  There a couple of other women joining me to grow food for their families. Deb is one of those who will be raising some chickens this year in one of John’s Arks. Good food for her wee girls. You know how I love having children on the farm.  Deb and her family are working towards a little farm of their own! And as we all know it takes a village to run a farm so I love the idea of Deb joining our Farmy village.

After we had inspected the Ark and I had been shown all the finer details


and while the red truck was running, we decided to make a break for it and visit Sheila.

The last two times I had been out there she met me at the gate yakking away about the baby pigs next door and the friendly old sows to the East.

This time she was laid in her bed in her shed, with the piglets on the other side, calling and playing and she was not moving at all. She was cold. Her straw was wet with the thaw. Her skin was chilled and icy. She quietly barked at me like a tired pup but did not get up. I enticed her to eat a few of her treats, but then she laid her head back down.


I have to say, and I am one of the toughest people I know, I laid down next to her and almost wept. Poor Sheila, I said. I am so sorry.  She laid where she was and only moved her eyes, her barks were small.

I pulled at the wet straw, fury in my fingers, then told her I would be back with dry straw and a warm dinner.   On the way out to the truck I noticed that she had not been out of her room this morning. There were no tracks in the new snow.  But there was blood under the snow, like a red silk slip under white muslin.  From before.  I went back to the truck tight lipped. Something was not right. When I am very angry I get very quiet, dead frighteningly quiet. My anger sits like a stone in my throat.  I do not speak when I am angry.  Because sometimes my anger is misplaced. I have learnt that it is best to wait and see before bashing someone. John has known me since I was sixteen, he knows when to be still.  He put the red truck in drive and we drove.

We went home, across the icy blowing roads, past the banks of snow, sliding through the corners, unloaded the wood, fed and watered the  other animals and then put a bale of good dry straw in the truck, a bucket of barley, oats and free corn and a slice of alfalfa hay.

And back we went. Through the blowing snow that sent drifts across the roads. Through the weather that had become my enemy.  Back we went: to my Big Fat Pig.

The sun had come out when we arrived back at the little outdoor pig farm. The man who runs it does not live here, he rents the space. The dormitories are not heated as I had expected, Berkshires, like Herefords are a hardy breed. But he has his prize pigs here. I took the bucket of feed and bullied Sheila into getting up.

I rocked and prodded her until she stood up. She stumbled out to where John rattled her bucket of grain. Pushing her out, I saw that she had a long deep scratch on her left buttock, there was evidence of some badly aimed antiseptic spray.  She was limping. Ok, I thought here is why she was not moving.  She limped over to where John held the bucket, but she would not go too far. I moved her further, I needed to get all this wet straw out of her house and replace it with dry.

I did the housekeeping. Sheila began to walk about with a little more freedom, coming back to me to complain every few minutes.  She peed like she had not peed in a week and had a good feed. The other pigs got up from their own beds and poured out of their houses and all became lively.


I was leaning with my cheek on my Sheila’s back, chatting, sitting in the dry straw in the pen with her, when a truck pulled up and the man who owned the boar and all the sows got out. He is a nice man. Gentle and kind. The Berkshire Boy.

John asked him what had happened. It was best that I did not speak. (You know how I am, I fly off the handle after I have held it in so long.) Why did Sheila have a gash on her side. Why was she sleeping in wet straw.  The story that unfolded was very simple.

The Berkshire Boy believed that Sheila was showing signs of coming into Heat. So he thought he would introduce her to the Boar while he changed the straw. Often this brings them into a full heat after a while and they will breed when she is ready. If they do not want to be bred or in his words if they ‘do not want his business’ the sow will run off and he lets her out the gate.  Sheila turned on the boar and attacked him. (Which I fully believe after seeing her fight Charlotte). So poor old Al bit back.  Will had quite a time separating them. Sheila raced back to her pen and would not let anyone near her again, even. I think she stayed in there until I came.

So Sheila hates this guy.


And This guy is next in line. (below)   Will, the Berkshire Boy is not going to risk his prize boar with our wild gilt again (fair enough). Can you see Boar Number Two right in the back there? With all his sows in the foreground.


Let’s hope she likes this guy.  His wives are a nosy bunch.


After a feed and a good rub Sheila was up and about and more like herself.  I sprayed her wounds with antiseptic again. Sat with her a while.  And now her bed is dry and deep.  And she and the horde of friendly pigs and  piglets are ready to sit out the next storm.

I will go out again every morning that i can get through and I have asked Will to let me know next time he takes her out to visit the boys so I can be there for her.  He could not believe I was able to sit with her and call her and move her to and fro, she just ran from him.  Fair enough. We will work as a team now. Will, Sheila and I  – with Our John the driver. Even if I wanted to bring her home, though i think it is too early to give up, the weather will stop me moving a stock trailer around for a few more days yet.

But she is settled with the other pigs on either side of her so I am hopeful she will receptive to the next boar. Otherwise it is injections and AI.

What a day.

Off we went home again.  John made dinner, I prepared the barn and all its animals and birds for another bout with the arctic thingamebob. Last night the over night temp was 0  and blowing, then the temps drift without rising straight down to -16 by midnight tonight. Thankfully -20 was taken off the table. But the worst of it is the winds. And the windchills. Luckily none of it will be blowing into Sheila’s little door. She is warm and dry with her new friends the piglets in her house beside her.

All in all, we are getting better at managing the bad weather.

I hope you all have a lovely day,  hot, cold or indifferent.. lovely is best.

your friend on the farm,


88 Comments on “The Firewood, the Ark, and Sheila Bites the Boar

  1. Poor Shelia! i hope she likes her new beau better.
    Poor rejected pig! Seems like Shelia make her opinion quite well known.
    Hopefully romance will be in the air soon.
    ~ C

    • yes, if a pig does not want the boar then she makes her feelings known! The poor fellow got a hell of a fright. He has never had a sow attack a boar before. c

  2. Oh Sheila, poor girl. Unwelcome attentions, a cold wet bed, a sore bum and no Celi to comfort her… I think she must have been very, very happy to see you. And I’m very happy to see the woodpile replenished.

  3. Oh dear. Sorry, but my brain just keeps buzzing with Oh dear, Oh dear.

    Be brave. Keep warm, darling.

  4. That’s a lovely old tree and impressive chicken ark – nice work John!
    Poor Sheila – don’t leave her there too long 😉

    • We will have a result one way or the other within the week he thinks, I know, but I think she will be a good wee mother so we have to give her a chance.

  5. I don’t think I’d risk my only breeding pig – and a very intelligent pig to boot – to another fight. Injections and AI via the nice lady vet would be my choice.

    • We will not let her in with a boar if she is being aggressive with him through the gate. Don’t worry, I can go the injection route if I have to but I would rather she came into heat by herself. c

    • I know, my best guess is she put herself back to bed in disgust and refused to come back out for him to sort her out, the snow had been blowing and then it got warm, so it was a collection of very ordinary issues as usual.. c

  6. I am sorry Sheila was sad and hurting … I might just have decamped and built myself an igloo right there …. 😦 Laura

  7. You are with your anger the way I am with mine. ‘Xcept you manage yours better. Poor poor Sheila. So much to cope with all at once. A man she doesn’t like and shitty weather. Poor old girl.

  8. I am so sorry you found her like you did breaks my heart. I am sorry this new year continues to try even the hardiest. This next batch of weather will be crazy cold in MN and WI and snow in the deep south. Stay strong for all your animals. Prayers being said for you. NZ is looking good I hear it is warm.

    • Claire, thank you for the gloves chat yesterday, I have decided to find some mittens, often I pull my fingers inside the palm of my gloves to warm them on each other.. which leads me to believe that mittens would be better.. thank you!.. c

      • The “experts” say mittens are best as the fingers are free to move and are together at the same time and so keep warmer than they would be in gloves. When its super super cold I wear the thin thermal gloves inside mittens – super cosy !!

            • I’m finding the mittens much warmer but cumbersome. I will look for a good pair of thermal liners, thanks for the suggestion. This morning doing chores my fingers went numb and throbby even in my thinsulate and fleece lined mittens and tomorrow they’re calling for colder yet!
              Poor Sheila, Poor boar, Love is never simple is it? ( laughing.) I do hope it all works out and I too have finally learned to clamp those thin lips tight. I find I eat fewer words that way.

              • I know about those numb fingers! I am going to get some mittens too, though maybe the weather will warn up a bit? c

  9. i think we have your weather.
    i’ll send it your way if you send alaska’s weather back to her.
    right now, 0430, the temp is +49F. too warm. willows are budding, and it makes me fear for other greeneries that should sleep through ’til break-up.

    poor sheila….poor you, finding her in such a mess. but, the story unfolds….and life goes on….

    i’m like you, it’s best i keep my mouth closed when anger settles into my heart.
    thankfully, there are others who know how to gently speak the truth and ask questions.

  10. Celi, all I could think as I read this was: Why didn’t he call you and tell you what had happened?

    I guess the regular farmers don’t feel the same about farm animals in general as we do about our animals in particular. Sad. If it lives and breathes it deserves comfort and kindness.

  11. What a shock to find her like that —I can certainly understand how you must have been beside yourself until you got the story of what had happened. I fuss Sheila is choosy when it comes to her suitors! I am glad you were able to calm her down and get her back to her normal self –hopefully suitor number 2 will be a better fit for her.

  12. Did I ever relate to the way you handle upset and anger! I still struggle with that far too much but I am learning. I am glad the event with Shelia unfolded with gentle understanding. Isn’t it wonderful when all involved work for the good of all?

    • Yes there is definitely team work at work here.. I love to be part of a team.. I just took a shot of the sundogs out on the horizon, two if them, amazing, I will post them for you tomorrow.. c

  13. Did you get pictures of the sun dogs this morning? Just before sun rise, it looked like two suns rising and a little later, two brilliant sun dogs.

      • I got some pictures with my smart phone and posted to Facebook for my far-flung family to see. Also, pictures of drifts blocking our car and truck – only got the yard plowed on Saturday. So we’re snowed in again – but we have food, heat and electricity so we’re good.

  14. Well I’m glad it turned out that she wasn’t being poorly treated or was sick, but poor boar and poor Sheila. I hope her next suitor has a better time of it and that the feelings are mutual in a good way!

  15. poor old Sheila, not only abused and used but bored by an old boar…serves him right for trying to take advantage.
    Maybe the next one will take her fancy, sometimes a ‘bit of rough ‘ can work wonders and I don’t mean the human kind….love and trotter kisses to Sheila

  16. Poor Sheila… But the Chicken Ark is looking really good! I hope that next time Sheila will like her beau better 😉
    Have a lovely day C!

  17. Oh, that made me sick to read — I can only imagine how it must have been for you. I’m glad there was a decent explanation, in the end, and that you could be there to help her feel better!

  18. Oh no – cry – my poor Sheila. I can’t believe that. She must have been so scared. Poor babe. Mommy would have done exactly the same as you – stayed with her and made it better. Give her extra hogs and snout kisses for me. XOXO – Bacon

  19. My heart was in my mouth reading your description of what you came upon with your visit to Sheila. Thank God you came when you did. She could’ve gotten plenty sick and probably did not only because she has been so lovingly taken care of these 2 years.
    Like the others of the Fellowship, I too blow my top but first hold back. Is this a women thing? Anyway, I’m so glad Sheila is at least dry and comfortable with the piglets to keep her company. She must miss you something awful, as you do her. as we all do. I hate not hearing about her housekeeping antics and the two of you having your chats.

    • I just came back from visiting her, sliding up the roads that are covered in ice and she is much better this morning, ate lots.. c

      • Oh good! I was so waiting for an update…. Isn’t it wonderful how all of us care so much for your not-so-little cutie porky pie Sheila?

  20. Good grief! What a drama to wake up to. I hope you’re ok and your anger is a bit dissipated. I would have been livid too. Our poor Sheila. Keeping my fingers crossed for her Celi. Big warm, comforting hugs to both of you. 🙂

  21. Mulberry trees bring back such wonderful memories of my childhood. My grandparents had a big mulberry tree in their yard. Summertime would find me, my sister and our cousins walking around barefoot and we always seemed to end up under that tree picking mulberries to eat, stepping on the ones that had fallen from the tree, stains on our feet. It took many baths to get those stains to disappear.

    I’m so excited to see the chicken ark and so excited to see it in person with my chickens scratching and pecking about.

    Poor Sheila 😦 She obviously has an opinion on who should father her babies and that guy was not him.

    Stay warm!!

  22. I was broken hearted about our Shelia, she is in a strange place, missing her home, sleeping on cold wet straw, thank you for coming to her rescue, I am so glad she and the rest of the animals have you..

  23. Another thing we have in common! I freeze with anger too. I become like an ice witch. Some people say “it was said in the heat of anger and not meant” Not with me – it will be said in the frigid cold ice of anger and I MEAN every damn word that comes out of my mouth! Mind you us ice cold types do not get angry as often as the fire types I think. It takes a lot to push me over that line, but once there you had better start running for the hills! You kept it together so well under the circumstances, I think I would have tried to get Sheila in the truck even if she had to sit on my knee (LOL yeah I know not a good idea), rather than wait out for explanations. I am glad it has been sorted as far as there is no bad feeling between you and the nice pig man. Now we just need Sheila to fall in love with the other guy so she can get home again soon.
    Hugs Lyn

  24. I was mortified when I read about Sheila’s treatment. Poor thing…she had no idea of what was going to happen. Especially if she was not in heat. No wonder she attacked the boar. Cold and wet and no Celi to help her. My anger is like a volcano when any of my loved ones are hurt or in danger…no icy anger…that comes later after everything is scorched and burned. I am taking a close look at the chicken tractor….maybe I could get DH to make one, too. Too bad you don’t have your own boar so that your sows would stay at home in their familiar surroundings to mate.

  25. How fortuitous that you decided to visit Sheila. You must have ESP or she sent you piggy vibes. The poor girl – I can imagine how relieved she was to see you once she got over her sulks. It’s fascinating to see that animals have preferences for mates as well. You can’t force it, can you? I am a bit surprised that the boar’s owner didn’t contact you about the injury, knowing how precious these animals are to you. But I’m glad she’s happier now and fingers crossed that nature takes its course and soon she’ll be home bossing everyone around 🙂

  26. Heart in mouth here reading about Sheila, pleased there was a good ending, I was worried maybe the nice pig man wasn’t so nice at all. I’m very impressed with John’s workshop!

  27. Heartbroken for poor Sheila. I guess the Berkshire man doesn’t work much with house pigs. I’m glad there’s a backup plan or two in case she just doesn’t like the look of those gents. I’m not for arranged marriages, either, Sheila.

  28. Now that I have composed myself after reading about Sheila, it occurred to me that this post is one of the best to put into your new Winter book. It is full of emotion and mental pictures. I was in Sheila’s stall sitting next to her with you. You do have a way with words, Celi.

  29. Yes, I don’t know how you’re going to organize your book. It seems to me, Sheila alone and her escapades would make an entire book, something along the line of “Pink Beauty”.

  30. Thank God you arrived when you did. And kept schtum with the worst of the anger. Sheila will have been missing you and her own home, so I suppose it’s not surprising she took it out on the boar. I will keep my fingers crossed that No.2 boar is more fanciable to Sheila.

    Great that you have some firewood now, but that’s a short-term relief. Have you a source of back-up supplies?

    I’m so sorry that you’re in for more cold. We had a violent thunder storm this morning, with a heavy attack of hail. Everywhere looked as though it was covered with snow.
    Keep warm.
    Love, ViV x

  31. Oh god…my heart stopped when you said her skin was icy cold…thank goodness you went to see her when you did…she was just waiting, she knew you would get there as soon as you could. I am so relieved she is ok now…thanks to her loving mama! 🙂 I too, think that this post should go in your winter book…Cinders you are going to be famous someday…well, you are already, to all of us…

  32. late on . . . just home . . . not the post I hoped to read! After the all too recent pains with Charlotte this is not what you had hoped to find – not being anywhere in your league I would go the AI route reading all this! Somehow thought the guy lived on site . . . you’ll figure it out, you always do, but this is an extra hassle you sure did not ‘deserve’!!

  33. what is the farmy if sheila has to suffer one more second? i would have hurried her home in an instant. sorry but she has suffered enough.

    • we are in deep trouble with the cold, she is actually warmer where she is.. plus i cannot get the trailer out yet.. soon though, we will give her a few more days, til the weather clears and she is so enjoying her new piglet room-mates.. I would love her to have her own babies..

  34. I felt so bad for Sheila, knowing how much effort she puts into making her bed just so. I would have wept, for sure. Glad you are strong enough to leave her to have another chance. I think it will go much better with you there.

    • I think so too Patti, and she was not in heat, so she would not have wanted that boar near her, it is a pretty normal reaction really.. c

  35. What a heart-rending story. You and John were a great team and I do hope there is a better outcome next time. It’s so important not to panic in these situations, but to feel them through and think them through.
    My heart leapt though when I saw the firewood coming in. I’ve been thinking about you and wondering how you could possibly get more wood. And now you can have more fires. That’s so good to know.

  36. Oh my! I have worked with beef cattle all my life and nothing prepared me for the way pigs interact. They can be quite vicious when they are perturbed (quick, too). It can also be very hard to break them up once they are fighting. One thing my husband says … is stressing them a bit can help bring them into heat (he will cut their feed back a little, sometimes). I am wishing you success and a healthy litter of pigs in the near future (3 months, 3 weeks & 3 days for pig gestation).

  37. I can hardly believe that I am attached to a pig named Shiela and can now relate to her plight. Your story is so compelling that I was beginning to get furious myself. How dare anyone mistreat Shiela and leave her wounded in wet straw! I’m so glad things are under better control now. She is so lucky to have you in her life.

  38. I don’t know much about pigs, but I was wondering if a cloth rubbed on boar #2 and hung on the side of her stall would help Sheila feel more comfortable around boar #2 when she does come in heat? Have you, or do you plan to take cuttings from the old mulberry tree and plant them on your land? I was thinking it could be a fun sort of continuance.

    • The cuttings are an excellent idea, i shall do that this summer, thank you carol. The sack is also a good idea, I have been thinking along the same lines, but I did not want the farmer to think I was nuts, now that you have suggested it maybe it is not so nuts.. c

  39. something troubled me all day and then i realized, i think i sounded mean when i said to get sheila out of there. i am so sorry. i just love your blog and sheila so much i think i wrote before i thought it out. i just wanted to sound concerned and not mean at all. i know how you take care of your animals. i am so sorry if i offended you. i hope it will all work out fine! please give sheila a big belly scratch from me when you see her next! and hugs to you too celia! it’s been one tough winter!

    • darling jaz, don’t you worry at all, your reaction was exactly mine at the time, so i certainly did not take offence, she has settled now and the weather has settled too, though the roads are hell! hopefully better tomorrow..Charlotte (you will remember I think) took two weeks so we will give Sheila the chance. She was lovely today, she has made herself a deep warm bed .. we will have her home soon one way or the other .. thank you so much for popping back in, I was worried that you were worried.. c

  40. i am so glad that i did not offend you. i can’t wait for you beloved piggy to be back home and i see we both should be getting better weather soon. i think we and all the animals will love being outside again. i just love your pig so much!

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