I was in the barn last night. I had a big torch that shone its beam in a slim band through the barn. Tima was laid in an unexpected corner – exhausted by her runaway day in the field trying to eat all the corn. Tane not far from her side – taking up the whole corridor. They grunted gently as I stepped over them. Lady Astor mooed as sorrowfully as a cow as she chewed gently in her yard. The other cows and calves were gathered close to the barn. Seeking the safety of the buildings from the coyotes that walk the perimeter on occasion.
I heard the faintest sound of suckling and my attention riveted immediately onto the corner of the barn that housed the heavily pregnant sow, Molly. She is a very busy pig so I had built walls around her of straw so she could not see out and be distracted. Of course, this meant that I could not see IN. So I listened. Focusing all my hearing across the barn. But more than my hearing – I pushed my Self across there. Picking every sound up and inspecting it for clues. My body completely still, like a hunter. Her breathing was low and slow, no tension or heavy labour. Just this enthusiastic suckling.
I slowly lowered my light to the ground then let it face into the straw and turned it off. I slid my feet out of my gumboots. One foot. Another foot. In my socks, I slowly walked with cat steps through WaiWai’s sunroom, through the milking room, down the little corridor and to the ladder that reaches up to the loft.
My focus was totally on Molly’s breathing. Our connection complete. I had to be careful. If she got a fright she would jump up and possibly stand on one of her babies and also interrupt the ones working their way out into the world. She had farrowed twice already without problems so I trusted that she did not need my assistance. Animals usually do not need and certainly do not want a human person there. They even take themselves away from their own herds or packs to give birth alone. But I wanted to be sure she was actually giving birth so I could time my return, get her food ready, prepare to snip long umbilicals and iodine and inspect. Be on hand for problems.
So I went up the ladder to get to the loft where I could position myself to look down upon her. My feet feeling for the rungs, testing for sound, then leaning on toes; I took my time, pausing to be sure with each step and each breath – my own personal challenge. To walk soundlessly. Every sense alive. Once above in the loft, I reached my fingers full above me to feel for the rafters then I turned on a ballet toe to walk out across the beam across the open barn. So sure, so slow. My breathing matching Molly’s. My feet moving only when I heard another masking sound in the barn, a cows moo, or a chickens protest or the answer of the sleepy pigeons. My mind drifting down into an old time. My toes feeling across in the dark. My fingers just touching the old wood above me.
I listened and watched her body for alarm but she lay still, gently grunting to her baby every now and then. Nothing was amiss.
As I got closer I saw the little piglet – racing up the line of teats sucking and drinking. His head white and his body red and the cleanest he would ever be. His mother laid out supine and gentle. One baby safely delivered.
I watched without breath, hoping to see more piglets but then I felt a change in Molly’s body, a watchfulness, a caught breath. Time for me to leave, I had to trust nature now. I had to leave her to it. Anxiety only extends the labour. I would not sleep but I knew I had to leave her. The arrogance of humans to think we can do better.
I turned on one foot, retracing my steps back, balancing my way across the beam, then across the loft, quiet as a cat I turned and crept back down the loft ladder, through the corridors, collecting the torch and my gumboots and carrying them back over the sleeping pigs, past the cats and out the barn doors into the moonlit night. Leaving the barn light behind. Quiet as any mouse, I left. As long retreating as advancing. Gliding away. Back into the shadows.
By midnight Molly had given birth to only three piglets. When I checked her again at three in the morning there were still only three, yet she had consumed all her food and drunk a lot of water and was sleeping again.
It was a very quiet gentle night. Even the air was quiet. I heard her bang her gate at four and went out and refilled her food bowl. Gave her a pat. Examined her and no sign of problems. Her three babies were warm and dry and had full bellies and had already found their warm light. Maybe she only had three. All were delivered in good time. No sign of an issue.
If she were on the floor straining or in distress I would be more worried but she is quite calm and eating and drinking normally. Chatting to her babies.
I will check in with my pig mentors when they get up.
And I will keep you posted.
WEATHER: Change is coming.
Tuesday 10/03 10% / 0 in
Mostly cloudy skies. High 82F. Winds SSW at 10 to 20 mph.
Tuesday Night 10/03 90% / 0.17 in
Partly cloudy skies early. Thunderstorms developing late. Low 66F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%.
6:51 am. 6:31 pm
Waxing Gibbous, 93% visible 5:44 pm 4:20 amT