A $65 dollar pig? Houdini #47, joins our farm

Yesterday I had a plan. You know that old saying, “No plan survives contact with the enemy” by Helmoth Von Moltke? Yeah, that’s how my day went.

Monday was the first week day that Emily would be working. We haven’t had someone working during the week besides Miguel. I know I’m supposed to be working now, but Miguel has been giving me a hard time because he says that I haven’t REALLY been farming. I’ve just been meeting customers, giving tours, talking on the phone, driving the truck, and giving animals injections. He says when all the real farming happens, I’m doing something else so effectively I have no street cred at this point. Since I had to talk on the phone, drive the truck, and talk to customers, and give tours, I felt like I’d been doing my part but street cred is earned on the street.

So Emily shows up and Miguel and Emily go out to feed the animals in the cold rain while I go make breakfast for the family in my snuggly warm house. Hmm, I see where this lack of street cred comes from. Before I leave for breakfast, Miguel informs me that he’s bought a pig.

“Bought a pig?!” Says I.

“Yes!” says Miguel

“What kind of pig?”

“I don’t know.”

“How big is it?”

“I don’t know.” With a big smile, says Miguel.

Miguel then informs me that he has found this pig, on a Mexican Facebook swap page (apparently there is such a thing) and that it’s just down the street. It’s also apparently 8 months old which should mean it’s about 175-200 pounds. That’s a pig that should cost about $200-300, and it’s 65 bucks. Ok, let’s go see the pig. We’ll run down there, grab the pig, and then come back to my list of stuff we are doing today.

I go make breakfast, they feed the animals, and we meet back at the barn. We bid Emily a warm goodbye and off we go. I ask Miguel if we should bring the hog panels with us since they are so handy and we don’t know where we are going or what it will be like.

“Nah, it’ll be easy.”

“What if this guy can’t load the pig.”

“He’s a Mexican, he can handle the pig.”

So off we go to get the pig. We had some driving adventure finding the place even though it’s literally on the road I live on, just miles away. I had a bit of a screw up with my schedule that morning because I got confused on a customer I was meeting but after a while, we got everything settled and pulled up to where the pig was.

As I pulled up, Miguel asked if I was going to back in. You see, I’m in an extended cab, diesel pickup truck, pulling a goose neck stock trailer that’s about 20 feet long. I look into the “yard” of this place and it’s obvious we’ll never turn around. The only choice is to back in, off of Old Stage Road, in the middle of the day, and it’s been raining, and there are DEEP ditches on each side of the barely one car wide driveway.

My mind goes back to Sunday, when I had Emily back the produce trailer. She struggled a bit, which I let her do because that’s how you learn. I was careful not to make fun of her and only tried to give helpful advice and otherwise stay out of her way because the only thing worse than struggling is struggling while you new boss glares at you. Eventually I felt her frustration was making things worse so I backed the trailer for her, quickly and with one effort at it. She felt bad, and of course I felt smart. I tried to tell her it comes with experience and she’d be doing it in a week. I tried not to be an arrogant ass. Apparently I failed and karma was here to get me.

So I began backing the trailer into the driveway. At first, I was only blocking one car as I attempted and failed to get in the driveway. Then helpfully, another few cars came up, one of which was of course a deputy sheriff. Oh goodie. After about six more attempts, I finally got my rig backed into the driveway enough that the sheriff and everyone else could get by. With my head hanging low I peeled out of the truck. Miguel was jubilant though because:

  1. He can now make fun of my backing ability. Something that will be entertaining the rest of the day
  2. There stands a $65 pig. It’s alive and looks healthy with all four legs, two eyes, etc. There had been some discussion on what must be wrong with this pig to be so cheap.

So Miguel goes and knocks on the door. A lady answers and says “He’ll be right here.” Then another lady comes to the door and says the same thing. Finally our pig farmer comes to the door to talk to Miguel and to load this pig for us. He is wearing a shirt I don’t recall, a huge down jacket, and I kid you not, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes pajamas and flip-flops. Now I’m not master pig loader but one thing I know, if you’re going to mess with a pig, you’ll end up looking and smelling like the pig before it’s over. I’m wearing Duluth Firehose work pants, a Duluth hanger bender shirt over a Ninja Cow Farm t-shirt, my standard hat, and steel toed boots. I also have a knife and a gun should things go awry. Either I’m WAY over prepared or this guy has never loaded a pig before.

So Tony the Tiger tells us that the pig will walk right into the trailer. It’s a very nice pig and is like a dog. Uh huh. Miguel and I decide to watch the spectacle of entertainment unfold and simply get out of the way. After about 30 minutes of trying to convince this pig that walking into a trailer is a good idea, where it makes about 14 laps of the yard with various people trying to entice it, Miguel and I give up and tell them to get the pig into the dog kennel they have there and we’ll get it in. The kennel is small, and there is a hole in the gate but we should be ok if Tony the Tiger can block the hole. We get a rope and they get the pig in the kennel. When Miguel and I go in after it, the pig hits the hole that Tony is guarding. I’m not sure the pig noticed he was there but Tony certainly did. He limped away saying he was ok while Miguel and I laughed at each other and this whole situation. Once more the pig went back in the kennel and once more it ran right over Tony, again causing some limping and cursing in Spanish.

When I go to someone’s house, I prefer to let them do the loading since it’s their animal till it’s on the trailer. However I could see that this wasn’t going to ever get done. I found a piece of metal that we could cover the hole with and Miguel and I went in alone to get the pig. Miguel laid on the pig while I put ropes on it hind legs, a trick we’ve used before when handling a bigger pig. There was some confusion between us because when Miguel jumped on the pig and got it down, it screamed so loud that Miguel couldn’t hear anything I was yelling to him even though I was right beside him. We should have recorded that scream for a horror movie sound track.

Finally we got the pig up and wheelbarrowed him into the trailer. There was some laughing again and Miguel happily paid the man who was now limping and covered in mud. We pulled out and headed back to the farm but not before I pointed out to Miguel that I had been injured for his $65 pig.

Bloody thumb from a pig injury
Bleeding for a $65 dollar pig.

On the ride home, I learned the rest of the story I hadn’t been able to glean from the exchange in Spanish. Turns out the pig was so cheap because a deputy sheriff had already been to this guys house twice because the pig was “walking in the road.” He said he didn’t believe the pig went in the road but what could he do. You see this guy didn’t keep the pig anywhere. He just walked around in the yard and did what he pleased. He said that if the sheriff had to come back one more time, he was taking the pig and fining the man so the pig had to go.

So I took this picture after getting as much sympathy as I could from Miguel on the ride back. We had stopped at our entry gate and I pulled out my phone and snapped this pic. While I was doing that some crazy lady came flying up, blowing her horn and running up to our window. Good God, what now? I rolled down the window and she said, “Your pig got out!!”

Being the thoughtful and intelligent person I am, I answered, “Ugh, what?”

“Your pig is walking down the road, RIGHT NOW!”

Miguel and I jumped out of the truck and ran to the back of the trailer. The door I had personally checked before we left was wide open. The rope that we had tied to both legs was untied and laying in the trailer, and the pig was calmly walking down Old Stage Road. The lady had her iPhone out filming the whole thing, cars were stopped on the road, and I’m befuddled. /Sigh.

The lady said thanks for the entertainment and drove off while Miguel and I went out in the street to deal with this pig. Remember this is the pig that “didn’t go out in the street.” We walked it back and forth a few times, all the while dealing with the various drivers of questionable intelligence on the road. Of course they were smart enough to be driving somewhere while we smelled like a pig so there is that.

After a couple of laps of the road, Miguel said maybe this pig needs to be made into carnitas today, something we had discussed already on the ride back anyway. “Just shoot it and we’ll take it to the barn and dress it out.” I agreed but said not yet.

“Why not?

I pointed to the forty cars stopped on the road waiting for us to clear the pig from the road.

“Isn’t it legal to shoot a pig?”

“Yes, but I’d rather not have 40 witnesses with iPhones out when I do it.”

“Oh”

About that time the pig decided to climb the bank of the road and get up on a steep hill that is part of our farm. That was a welcome change because it got the pig off the road and onto our farm. I followed the pig up the hill while Miguel went and got the truck and swapped it for a Gator.

I followed the pig through the woods, whom I now dubbed Houdini due to its escape from ropes and steel cages, walking along one of our pasture fences. The pig was actually very calm through all this and after about 100 yards actually stopped and starting rooting around and snacking, a very good sign.

Pig in the woods
Houdini, making her way through the woods

We walked Houdini all the way through our woods, into the yard of the house, along the fence, and into the barn yard. Thankfully Carter came out and helped us because about this time Cotton noticed us and was very happy to get involved. Tony the Tiger said this was a tame pig and at this point I believe it. I’m walking this pig the way I do a cow and she’s behaving very similarly which I’ve never seen a pig do.

Luckily for me, one of my former employees is in the barn yard witnessing the whole thing. He’d already seen me on Old Stage and now was able to see the end result of what I was doing. The only thing than having a SNAFU is having a public SNAFU.

So we grab some different types of produce and start tossing it to the pig to see if we can get her to eat and therefore go where we want her. Turns out she really like bananas (who doesn’t) and luckily we have about 140 boxes of bananas on hand. We spend about 45 minutes trying to get the pig to walk into the barn where the formerly sick pigs are but we just can’t get her in there.

Trying to get a pig to go into a paddock
Trying to convince Houdini to go into the barn. The peanut gallery looks on.

At this point she’s noticed the other pigs and decides she’d like to be with them instead. We turn off the hot wire and walk her away from the woven wire fence and to the poly wire fence. She immediately goes into the paddock to be greeted by the other pigs. Phew! We turn the hot wire back on and head to the barn to put the pieces of this day back together.

About five minutes later Miguel pokes his head back out of the barn, takes one quick look and says, “The cows don’t like the new pig either.”

Sure enough Houdini has gotten through three strands of electrified poly wire and is now in the pasture with the cows who are quite excited to see a short, hairless cow running around in the pasture. I’m already in the barn so I grab a rifle in case this pig decides to go off the farm. It’s not leaving the farm and we’ll spend the rest of the day making carnitas if that’s how it goes. However again the pig is perfectly nice and we walk it back to the barn where we spend another 45 minutes trying to convince it that the barn is a really nice place. Finally Miguel smartly opens the far door so the pig can see light through the barn and with 20 more bunches of bananas tossed the pig walks into the barn. We close it up and herd the pig into a stall. Double phew!

It’s now 1pm. We started this whole thing at 9am. Four hours for a $65 pig, and we’ve done exactly nothing on the list. It’s now time to go to the market so there is no time to do anything except knock out the daily chores and get back and deworm and ear tag Houdini.

We finish the day about 5:30 so technically on time. Miguel tells me, “If anyone says you aren’t farming, you send them to me. You’re a farmer now!” At least I got some street cred out of this whole fiasco.

Pigs in a stall
Houdini with new friends, now tagged #47

Houdini spent the night with the pigs who have been convalescing. She received a new ear tag, #47, and was given 1.5cc of Norometin  sub-Q. Assuming she hasn’t performed some sort of magic trick during the night, she’ll spend a few days in there and then make her way outside into a normal paddock with other pigs her size.

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