“I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” – Sir Winston Churchill
Pigs get a bum rap.
They are possibly the cleanest animal on the farm.
They are strong.
They can be a watch dog of sorts – they bark at strangers.
And they are extremely smart. Actually, smarter than a dog.
So when Polly gave birth to her little ones, I knew we were going to have a delightful experience. Similar to a litter of puppies, minus the puppy breath. (And who doesn’t get intoxicated on puppy breath?)
But, like any living creature taken into our custody, they require our care.
In reading about piglets, the outlook was bleak. The survival rate was determined by so many factors. Piglets cannot get cold – not even a slight chill.
Also, they may suffocate or be crushed by their mother’s weight. The stories I read told of entire litters being snuffed out due to these factors. Still, we refused to be a statistic.
First came the clipping of the teeny-tiny razor sharp wolf teeth. This is a necessity if you want your sow to be comfortable and nibble free. It also cuts down on injuries when the little ones start playing rough with their littermates.
However, clipping wolf teeth is easier said than done. We waited until Day 2, then took one little piglet at a time. I held the piglet and Rustic Russ maneuvered the clippers (a.k.a Leatherman). We learned real fast that we had to act quickly. Polly was making attempts to hurdle the pen and come pay us a visit. Bear aren’t the only protective mothers in the forest.
By Day 3 the piglets were getting extremely mobile. They were also starting to form distinct personalities.
Names were being formed. I opted for women and men of the Bible. Esther white with spots, Ruth the little Blonde, Naomi the red with black spots, Phoebe the red with white stripe, Jacob the white spotted male, and so on.
We had decided we would be castrating all but one of the males.
We chose Daniel as a future boar. Daniel was the first little piglet born to Polly. He was also the largest. He was beautiful – a rust shade of red similar to that of an autumn leaf. He was magnificent.
We named him Daniel because he was daring. While we were busy with the other piglets on birthing day, he would venture up to his mother’s face to nuzzle. Me, being frantic about her grabbing him in her mouth for a frustrated tasty morsel, kept telling him to escape danger. “Run, piglet, run!” However, the minute I looked away for a second, he ambled right back up to her face.
After the drama of the birthing was done, I recall telling Rustic Russ that the first born reminded me of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. So the name stuck. He grew to be a beautiful red boar with an adventurous personality.
Once weaned and ready to leave our farm, he went to Animal Control Ellen’s, who coordinated with her friend, and fellow gentleman pig farmer ... who also happens to be our local Sheriff, Dan Bean, to have our Daniel eventually father a litter with their chosen stock.
And as you would know it, Rustic Russ and I ended up buying Daniel’s offspring from Sheriff Bean when they were ready for sale. We bought two gilts (females) and a boar. We named them Cicely, Roslyn and Maurice. (Our “Northern Exposure” trio.) They were good stock – from our Daniel. And decendants from our Polly and Bacon.
Farm life is tough. It is about caring. It is about walking out into the cozy barn in the dead of winter with a mixture of warm oatmeal, honey, bread and milk for them to slurp up and nod in appreciation, and then giving them a scratch behind the ears or rub on the rump before retreating from the barn, back out into the cold.
The caring starts from Day 1. As it did with Weebles.
Weebles was named before the others due to his immediate need for nurture. Not a name from the Bible. It was a name from the Heart.
As the early days passed, we watched Weebles with hope. At first he appeared to rally. It wasn’t that he was a runt. I would say Ruth was the actual “runt” of the litter. She was a runt, but perfect in every way. Weebles simply wasn’t healthy. He was the one out of ten that failed.
As days passed, we knew Weebles wouldn’t be growing to be a magnificent pig like his siblings. We did what we could to make sure he was comfortable. He was. He was with his mother and siblings like he should be.
Upon arriving home from work one day, I was greeted by Rustic Russ who displayed a quiet reserve. I’ve come to know that means he is waiting for an opportunity to talk about some important issue in the day’s events. He told me Weebles had died earlier in the day.
Later that night, after an especially quiet dinner, I had learned Rustic Russ buried Weebles in the special place in the woods reserved for our beloved dogs and Cali, our 16+ year-old cat.
It seemed fitting. He was only here for a short time, but wiggled into our hearts, just like he snuggled into the depths of the Carhartt jacket the night Rustic Russ carried him from barn to cabin, and back to barn again, on that opening day of deer season on a cold November day.
Until tomorrow ~ God willing,