Friday, May 15, 2009

The Great Pig Escape of 2009

The pigs arrived yesterday, and proved within the first hour home that they are a force to be reckoned with...

Allow me to introduce Herkimer (the token male in the middle), Florence Griffith Joyner a.k.a Flo Jo (the oldest girl on the left), and we haven't found a name for the littlest girl yet. She's quiet, so I'm still getting to know her... I'll let you know what I figure out.

My brother Jake and I brought the little guys home in Dora's crate, and set it in the middle of their pen. They were quite shaken, so we didn't force them out right away. When they finally came out (after a little coaxing from Jake and I), they emerged only to run around their pen and find the one place where they could slip through the 3 strands of electric fence to freedom, led by Flo Jo. Jake and I, never having had pigs before, did the only things we could think of. I scrambled to grab some grain and Jake tried to get ahead of them to keep them from running up into the woods. 

After herding them around the pasture for a good 15 minutes, we were finally able to get them into the back side of the barn where Jake immediately caught one by the middle. It was wiggling its way out of his arms, so I run up, grabbed its hind legs, and carried it, upside down, (the way you carry piglets without hurting them or yourself) and we put it in our old chicken coup which I had, luckily, cleaned out earlier that afternoon in case the storm was too bad and we needed to put the pigs in there. Jake was then able to catch the other smaller piglet, and we quickly put that in the coup as well... the only one left was Flo Jo, the ring leader... I tore out of the back of the barn and couldn't see her anywhere... but I could hear her. She was really stressed, and breathing/oink-ing loudly behind the well house. She saw me coming behind her and ran for it... fast (thus the name Flo Jo came about). She stayed down in the pasture as we continued to try to herd her down into the barn, but after another 5 minutes of that we were both losing steam... she took off up the hill toward the pond. I was close behind her but she got past the pond before I could head her off. I followed her up into the woods, keeping her in sight the entire time. I didn't have my phone on me, and I didn't know where Jake was. It was just me, alone with Flo Jo, in the woods. My only hope was to get her to head back down the hill... I ran uphill as fast as I could without keeling over, glasses fogging up the whole way, tearing off layers of flannel as I went. Finally she found a patch of something she liked and stopped for a snack. At that moment I heard Jake call up the hill for me. We yelled back and forth as I directed him south before turning up the hill to herd her back... it worked perfectly. She booked it back toward the house... I lost sight of her but Jake could see both of us and yelled directions to me so I would know where to go as I scrambled down the hill. When we got out of the trees, she was way ahead with Jake. We followed her down the hill past the barn, as she headed around the back of the house and headed toward the road. I sprinted from the driveway, rounded the front corner of the house, and was about to turn the next corner when I came face to face with Flo Jo... we both stopped in our tracks, shocked to be in front of the other. Flo Jo turned right around and ran back into the flower garden in front of the kitchen window... It's got a 10ft retaining wall going down to the basement level on one side... she was trapped... or so we thought. Flo Jo jumped off that wall in a split second and hit the ground running, olympic running athlete pig that she is. 

At that point Jake and I had been running as fast as we could for about a half hour and I didn't have anything left in me... we gave up as we watched Flo Jo run off behind the Sugar house and into the woods toward the brook... Jake walked after her and I decided to follow... the only thing we found was a hoof print in the mud... she was gone.

I came in the house feeling really discouraged, my first day as a pig farmer and I couldn't even manage to keep them in a fence... I took a shower and ate some dinner, feeling like a total failure the entire time. We called all the neighbors and the state police to let them know we had a piglet on the loose... we hoped someone else might have better luck capturing her than we did...

After dinner I headed out to the hoop house because I hadn't gotten a chance to check on the seedlings at all that afternoon. I slipped on my Crocs and headed out to the barn. I was half way up the driveway when I heard what sounded like a squeaky car engine, and then a really short squeal came after it, and I knew immediately it was Flo Jo. I whipped around to see her standing in the field between out house and our neighbors. At that moment I heard my mom, who was standing at our kitchen window (that overlooks that field) doing dishes, scream, "CLAIRE!!" "I see her!" I yelled in reply. I booked it in the back door to the breezeway, threw off my Crocs, jammed on my rubber boots and headed out into the field. In the time it took me to get out there, my mom had gone out the side door, around the house, and was standing in the middle of the field.. it couldn't have been more than 20 seconds... that surprised us both! That woman can move! At that point Flo Jo was standing at the back corner of our neighbors house, so I ran as fast as I could in front of their house and when Flo Jo saw me she ran  back up the hill.

I decided that it was time to stop chasing. She obviously wasn't going to go far, I thought if I got some grain she might come around... I walked into the barn to get some grain, which is stored right by the chicken coup that the other pigs were in, and found Flo Jo standing outside the chicken coup door, staring at her siblings through the chicken wire, oink-ing loudly with them, wanting to get inside. After initially scaring her outside accidentally, she came back in and stood 10 feet away from where I was standing at the door of the chicken coup. I unlatched the door, opened it wide, and talked quietly to her, all the while keeping an eye on the other little ones inside... they were perfectly still, and terrified, poor things. After a couple minutes, Flo Jo gave up and ran past me right into the chicken coup. No catching necessary. All three pigs were back home safe. Thank goodness!

Shortly thereafter I talked to Nancy from Hogwash Farm on the phone. We laughed about how ridiculous my first day was. She congratulated me for surviving. She said that in the future, there's no need to chase them. She said that catching at least one of those pigs in that specific situation was a good idea because they don't know this is home yet and also don't trust/know me either and therefore wouldn't just come to food. She said that as long as you have one pig, the other pigs won't go far. Pigs are herd animals so they will stick together. She also suggested keeping them in the chicken coup until we get to the point where they come toward me instead of running away when I enter. The other recommendation she made was to put a physical fence around the electric one so that when they are bigger they can't get out and eat our crops! Needless to say I plan on doing that!

All in all, yesterday was pretty intense, but looking back on it, it's pretty entertaining. I got a run for my money, literally.


Ali P. said...

Oh, my Claire,
That was such a great story. I am so glad it ended well for you. I would have paid a lot of money to watch all of that unfolding.
I love you so much and I am sososo proud of you.
Keep it up, I'll see you in 5 1/2 months!
<3 <3

VTPapp said...

Great story, and they seemed so calm when we met them:)

Reagan said (when he saw the picture) he bets that big pig misses him. And you too!

Hope they get friendly before your chickens come and kick them out of the coop!