Last winter this branch fell.
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,