Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Fit to Be (Hog) Tied

A few days ago, the daughter of my new boss asked me why I said that pigs are especially smart. Suddenly at a loss for specifics, I made a bumbling attempt to answer (having only cared for pigs for a total of 1 day at this point). I think I said something about how they always poop in the same place--I had learned this about 4 hours prior to the question--and that they are curious and social with humans.

Well. I can now tell you exactly how pigs are intelligent. They are escape artists. Today, as I was filling in soil around the foundation pillars of what will soon be Williamstown's first composting toilet, I heard a strange sound coming from our cows. I looked up to see two small pigs sprinting away from our five cows, all of whom were less than willing to share their choice compost with porcine interlopers. Surely, I thought, those are not our pigs? I ran to the barn, praying that I would see 8 pink snouts lined up against the front of the pig pen. Instead, I could make out two pigs lurking guiltily near a suscious-looking hole in the back corner. Just then, another porker trotted around a corner near the chiken coop, stopped upon site of me, and sprinted back as he had come. I rounded the corner and honed in on the escape hatch.

Gotcha, pigs.

I blocked off the exit and went looking for reinforcements. Soon Katie, (our venerable second year apprentice) was blocking the hole bodily while farmer-in-chief Don, Margaret (our other apprentice and cow whisperer), and I tried to round up the pigs on the lam. Margaret and Don caught the first when they cornered him by the compost, and he protested his return to captivity with ferocious squeals. Luckily, none of the pigs are propper hogs yet, so they were still small enough to carry (awkwardly) upside-down by their legs.

The second pig proved more of a challenge. Having witnessed the drama of his friend's capture and reimprisonment, he was determined to escape a similar fate. Meanwhile, the cows had moved back into their paddock and were busy providing an unpredictable bovine obstacle to our pig-catching strategies. Occasionally, one of our cows would charge the pig, leading to a Farmer-in-the-Dell-eque game of farmer chases cow which chases pig which runs away squealing. The pig was small enough to slip under fences and agile enough to evade most of our attempts to corner him. He led us through a swamp, across the fields, and even onto the neighbors property, before we finally herded him back to the beginning and (thanks to the help of Katie and Don's wife Bridget) into the barn. We had to dive on the pig to finally catch him and lift him back in with his compadres.

And after all of this adventuring, the stress and the drama, he quietly rejoined his friends and went over to sniff at the food bowl to see what was for dinner. All of that running around must have made him hungry, you see.

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