About a month ago, I started seeing a very nice guy. A farm guy. He has a farm about 50km away from me.
He works up north a lot and is gone a lot, so he had someone going in to feed his animals. 8 pigs, 2 dogs, 4 chickens and his 2 horses. That person fell through. So he found another one... who fell through... and then ANOTHER one who bailed as he was leaving to go back up to work. This was the end of September.
SO.... me being the bleeding heart volunteered. It was only going to be until October 18th. Here we are, November11th and I am still doing it. I have a love/hate relationship with it. I love the animals. I am enjoying the work. I have always wanted this kind of life. It's the extra 100 kilometers a day that I am driving, and the rushing to get things done after work that I don't like. It's the fact that I don't do MY things anymore. I have been writing this for a WEEK. I just started seeing this guy and I have assumed his life. Mine has been put on the backburner it seems. I spend my weekends out there doing farm things. I like it. It's how I have to spend time with him right now. But it's ok. I like learning this stuff. I like being out there. It's quiet and relaxing - when I am not rushing to get things done and get home. But I am starting to feel like "the help".
He came home last week and had a lead on someone to take over. I hope. I am not driving that route when it snows. No way. I also told him that it was important that he find someone to take over before I start resenting him and hating this life. And things are going well with him and I can see this one working out... so we have to be careful. And he agrees. His mother has a friend who knows someone a few miles down the road. Yet she does not see the urgency in us finding someone closer to do this and has not taken the 2 minutes it would have taken to get us the contact info. I was supposed to have been done last week, but have to go back this week now. He is a great guy, but I think I am putting in way too much way too soon.
BUT - in spite of all the stress there are some good things.
Something that I have been dealing with out there.... Pig babies.
This last week saw the 3 sows all give birth. Of course I took the camera to capture a few photos.
Now - sadly, part of raising pigs is having a few casualties. I had to remove one that had died - quite possibly from being crushed by it's mother - from the pen. It was not fun. I cried. I put the baby in a pail to take down to the bush and I had turned by back for a few minutes and the dog took the body and did SOMETHING with it, I don't know what. She didn't have time to eat it. I cried more.
Sometimes they get injured. 2 had fairly large wounds, likely from being stepped on. And with them being a day old, they weren't very strong and there was nothing much that could be done. You feel helpless when you can't do anything. The day after I saw those two, I came back and they were gone. Pigs will eat their dead young to keep predators from coming around. While I was there, one of the sows started rooting around like a maniac in the straw. She pulled out a partially eaten mangled little body and finished it right in front of me. Again, I cried.
The little piglet in the 2 photos above, was one I fell in love with. Spunkiest one in the bunch. GONE. Vanished. I am heartbroken. I am learning.... don't get attached.
Of the 26 that I counted when they were born, 21 are left. That is good. Better than what survived in the spring. In the spring, 19 piglets were lost, along with one sow. She tore internally and her babies piled up behind her and suffocated when she was unable to clean them off.
Above, this is Charlotte. I gave her that name. I was being introduced to the pigs and she was the only one without a name. I was telling the guys at work about her (because I lead a boring life clearly) and one of them suggested Charlotte. So I called her that.
Charlotte lost her whole litter in the spring. It was her first. She was stressed out and didn't know what to do. She had her little after the other sows and was overwhelmed by those babies coming at her, trying to feed off of her. Likely she had no maternal instincts yet not having her own babies. She is my favorite because she is the outcast. She gets picked on at meal time and is always on her own. This was her last chance to prove she could be a good mother. Sadly, on a farm where the pigs are there for income, ones that are not producing are not kept. So I was rooting for her. Looks like she was the first to have her babies this round. She is the only one who has the same amount of babies now as she did when she gave birth. I think that her antisocial behavior helps because she kept her babies in the shelter and was glued to them. Yesterday - she finally had all of her babies out with the others. And she seems to have a bit more confidence. She has been getting in there and eating with the other pigs. Standing her ground a bit more.
I had never really spent much time around pigs before. But I have found a great respect for them. It is hard not to get attached to them. I am not a vegan by any stretch. It is sad knowing that most of these little guys will end up in freezers. But I understand farming. And I would rather eat pork from a pig that was treated like family and got to live a little rather than one that was tormented and killed. I have seen the photos in the media and some of these "farms" are appalling. These pigs that I have been spending time around are treated with respect. No tiny cages. No farrowing crates.
So - I guess - brace yourselves for a mass amount of piglet photos....