RISING SUN - There is a section in Pearl Swiggum’s book ‘The Barn Came First’ called ‘Solo Choring.’
In it she writes, “The Boss let me do chores alone on opening morning of trout season. I think the truth was that after all my bragging about my ability he was calling my bluff. No problem after the first half hour that I lost because the huskiest calves got out-two of them- and I had to wrestle them back into the pen. But I had been smart and started half an hour early so the actual beginning was right on time. The cows behaved well in spite of the fact that they seemed to miss the Boss. Judy, of course, tried to step the milker off. Bessie tried to shimmy it off, but the other heifer, bowlegged Sara, usually hard to control, was an angel. I did find myself talking to them and if anyone had been listening I might have gotten the name of talking to myself and you know what that is a sign of. But I don’t believe that because I do talk to myself and anyone who is able to do chores certainly isn’t. Old that is.”
Personally, I find myself relishing in the weekends because it means there will be two adults to do chores those days.
Although the spring-like weather was nice and boy did 70 degrees feel wonderful on my face the deep mud made navigating a herd of hungry pigs an interesting task.
Pig chores are especially the chore I wished I always had another adult to conduct them with.
I wouldn’t exactly say my pigs are mean, or man eaters. But, I would definitely say with confidence that if they were hungry, and I had the bucket, and it came down to spilling feed or getting squished by a 400-pound pig I’m tossing the bucket and getting out of Dodge.
The spring mud season complicates this for obvious reasons. With their cloven hooves, pigs get around through the muck and mud with ease. And along the way churn up the dirt and land.
A few times I hopped the fence and attempted to make a break for the trough as quickly as I could before I could be spotted. Again not out of fear of the pigs eating me, but more of being knocked over and pushed deep into the depths of smelly pig mud.
This plan was quickly foiled as I began sinking in the deep, heavy, wet mud. I turned my head and saw that I had been spotted. The galloping parade of grunting, barking, floppy-eared pigs began barreling toward me. I felt like a cartoon character slogging through quick sand as I tried to pull my leg up while the bucket of feed was perched precariously on my elbow like an old woman's handbag.
As the oinkers drew closer, I began to wobble more, nearly falling on my butt. The thought flashed in my mind of how long the kids would wait before they would leave the comforts of the couch and their movie time and come out to investigate what happened to mom?
As though by fate however, two of my friendlier red Hereford hogs circled around me curiously, rubbing up against me and created a bench for me to land on safely as I tried to get my footing. The pig was also rewarded, as he seemed to interpret this landing as a sign of affection and grunted happily, as I tried to hoist myself out of the muck.
One day when Chasca and I did do chores together, we worked to move some round bales into the cow and pig pens. Both animals I quickly learned become quite attached to their hay rations and will defend them with vigor.
As Chasca brought in and then attempted to tie a chain around the calves bale to flip it for easier eating, the pair of steers began getting excited and mooing indignantly at the rusty old red tractor.
The pigs on the other hand, much as they did to me, charged the bale and relished in knocking it over out of the better flaking position. I felt as though all of our hard work rocking and tipping the bale together upright was for nothing when I looked out the window a couple of days later and the pigs had rolled it from one end of the pen to the other and were laying out in the sun on the line of hay like pretty girls next to the pool or perhaps, more like sausage links in a pan.As time goes on and better plans unfold, I’m sure the wobbling wild pig chores will get easier. And who knows, maybe we too will one day be able to make the transition to being full-time farmers, enjoying taking our humble homestead together each day like Pearl and Punk did, except during trout season, of course.