Slow and steady may win the race but in this day and age, it can be frustrating and seem like we get nothing done. It seems like a life time ago when Eric and I had first gotten married. We lived in a small town and spent our Saturday mornings just relaxing with no big hurry to get out of bed. Often times we would even eat breakfast in bed and remain in bed well after breakfast. There were things that needed done but they were things that could wait. This Saturday morning, we spent it moving a litter of pigs from the barn into the winter pasture with the rest of the feeder pigs. As much as we would love to just let the little pigs out as soon as they are born, we hate to tempt fate or supply the local coyote population with a quick snack. So, our little guys spend the first three weeks in a stall with their mom, and the next three weeks in the same stall on their own. Within six or seven weeks they are up to size and ready to be out on pasture.
We have a crate that we fasten to the side by side to load the pigs. My job is to run the door of the stall when Eric has picked up a little pig, give the pig a shot of de-wormer and open the door of the crate. Little pigs are rather dramatic and tend to squeal the most blood curdling squeals just on the fact the have been picked up. Every time we move little pigs, I think the next time I need to bring ear plugs. This time was no different. First, we weighed a few of the pigs to make sure that they were the size we thought they were, so our treatment was correct. These little guys were a good fifty-five pounds. Any bigger and they really start to be a handful. When the first one was picked up, the goats ran out of the barn. Apparently, they had enough of the drama and figured it was a good time to eat pasture, as far away from the action as possible. That made life easier since goats tend to be on the curious side and often times end up being directly in the way. Four of the little ones fit into the crate comfortably but there was not enough room for a fifth one. It was going to take three trips. With any other pigs introducing new ones to a herd can be a bit touchy. They will usually try to fight and carry on. Luckily, Boris has passed on his laid-back genes. The nine bigger pigs that were already on pasture and living in their huts did not even get out of the huts to say hello. It took the little ones running up to them to even get noticed. We stayed and watched them for a while before we went back to the barn for more.
As it turns out every single time, we do this, the first bunch is the slowest, and easiest to catch. As the slow ones are gathered up the quicker ones remain. Trying to grab ahold of something that is shorter than your knee can be tricky, especially when they are quick. Soon enough we had the next crate loaded and ready to move. When we got back to the winter pig pasture all of the pigs were outside of their huts playing. Everyone was playing nice, and sniffing and rubbing on each other. The additional four pigs were unloaded and ran to see their litter mates as well as explore their new surroundings. There were two more quick little pigs left to pick up and move to the pasture. When we got back to the barn the goats were still out of sight avoiding the squeals that were still to come. Within a few minutes the last two were caught, treated and loaded. We were on our way to put them in the pasture. When they were altogether, they were in full explorer mode. They wondered all over the pasture, tested that the fence was working, and made up to the bigger pigs. We watched for a while to make sure everything was going smoothly before leaving to put everything away.
It was almost like the goats were counting how many pigs were left. Once we had moved the last of them the goats had returned to the barn to put themselves directly in the way. The crate we use for the moving of the pigs when they are small enough is kept on a platform scale in the barn. It makes it easier for us to know the animal’s weight so we can keep an eye on the goats that tend to get over weight and monitor the growth of the little ones. When you see the animals everyday it is hard to judge if they are growing well. With the scale we can weigh them every other week and make sure they are doing alright. The baby goats can just be led onto the crate and weighed. Smaller pigs can be carried onto the crate. But once the pigs reach seventy-five pounds they need to be baited on. I bit of patience and some marshmallows make that job a lot easier. With two of us moving the crate onto the scale is not a big deal. With two of us and all of the goats it is a different story. They are certainly creatures that demand attention, and are smart enough to know where to find it, directly where we need to be. When we back up the side by side they know if they stand in the way one of us will get out, scratch their ears and lead them out of the way. When we open the door to the stall that has the scale, where the crate needs to go, they will run in. There is absolutely nothing of interest to them in the stall, but once again they get their ears scratched and lead out of the way. One fact is certain, if you are planning on hurrying you might as well forget it. It is better and faster just to slow down and scratch ears, and go with the flow. Slow and steady can sometimes drive me up a wall, but it always wins the race.
I am truly thankful that we get the opportunity to spend our days busy. There is a sense of accomplishment every single day. I love when we are making soap and everything swirls exactly how I wanted it to. I enjoy watching the animals grow and their personalities develop. I am always thrilled when I have the chance to meet new people and tell them about our operation and how we treat our animals and our daily routines.