Monday, July 29, 2013
A Tale of Two Pigs
If we actually thought about it, it would be obvious that of all the porcine related tasks, the hardest by far would be persuading two 300+ pound pigs (Hamlet and Hamlette) to leave their happy home - full of delicious food scraps and silky smooth mud puddles, in the shade of several sassafras trees and with views of the Palisades – and walk into a wooden crate built for the sole purpose of transporting them to the place of their ending.
Perhaps we had not thought about it.
So how did we accomplish this daunting task?
First CSB built a wooden crate large enough to comfortably accommodate both pigs, yet compact enough to make them feel safe and to fit on a U-Haul trailer.
Then he hitched the trailer to his truck and backed it up to the gate of the pig pen. So far so good.
Early this morning CSB installed plywood barriers on both sides of the trailer ramp, and opened the gate. (It should be noted that in a trial run last night, both Hamlets walked in and out of the crate with no complaints.) Then we said encouraging words to the pigs, hoping they would, once again, walk up the ramp and into the crate.
Not this morning, no, they did not.
Meanwhile, our friend Steve came to help. Because he was raised a Mennonite, we expect him to have to be a repository of ancestral agricultural knowledge. He is also well-versed in all aspects of medieval heresies, and there are few subjects I find more entertaining than medieval heresies. (Manicheans, Cathars, Waldensians – I love them all.) To say he is a raging liberal does not do justice to his daughters’ efforts to persuade him to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance at their high school functions, and not embarrass them.
Once it became clear that the Hamlets were not going to enter the crate on their own, we resorted to the first – and often last - line of parental persuasion: bribery. CSB placed some yummy organic swine pellets at the far end of the crate. They turned up their muddy piggy snouts.
Then I went to the garden for arugula and cucumbers, since CSB claims they love arugula beyond all other greens. Sadly, I did not have any garlic French fries on hand, and I know for a fact that they will scarf up garlic French fries.
But still, they were not interested.
Next thing I knew, CSB was reclining inside the crate, cooing sweet nothings to the Hamlets, and suggestively dangling a sprig of arugula. While this was very amusing to watch – at least for Steve and myself – the pigs were blasé. They gamboled some more in their mud puddles.
Our next effort featured the Pavlovian theme. We rattled and clanged their metal feeder at the back of the crate, and hoped for the appropriate response. And it worked, for one of them: Hamlet (the male). He meandered into the crate and with great relief we shut the door.
Then arose a new problem: Assuming we could entice Hamlette to go up the ramp to join her sibling, could we risks opening the crate door and having Hamlet abscond? We practiced opening and closing the crate very quickly. But Hamlette was getting the idea, and she was not inclined to cooperate.
I am sorry to report that I do not have photographic documentation of CSB, splattered with mud, chasing Hamlette around her pen. While he was doing this, I had, so I thought, improved on the food bribe: hot dogs. Organic Beef hot dogs. I held the hot dog to Hameltte's snout, I wiggled the hot dog and sang “This little piggy”. She mostly ignored me. I too was getting rather muddy.
Time was passing, and we were getting nervous that we might conceivably fail to accomplish our task. CSB telephoned the butcher who suggested roping the pig’s hind legs. CSB tried – valiantly – to rope her hind legs. Maybe if you are a cowboy or a horse rustler or a rodeo-type-individual, roping a slippery pig’s hind legs is child’s play. But please take my word for it, that for we mere mortals, it is really hard. Especially if you are doing it inside a slippery muddy pig pen. CSB tried laying out the lasso and then yanking when Hamlette was – for mere nanoseconds – appropriately placed. Mostly this failed. One time he managed to rope one of her legs and the screeching was epic. We were sure the local constabulary would soon be alerted that gruesome deeds were being perpetrated chez Let it Bee. Hamlette got herself free. And happily there were no sirens or blue lights.
(I am going to skip a few intermediary steps, as they were frustrating and increasingly muddy.)
Then Steve – as you will see, I was not wrong about the ancestral husbandry wisdom of Mennonites – suggested creating a kind of chute or funnel. Yes, we channeled Temple Grandin, and it worked.
Using more plywood we created a narrow passageway leading to the ramp, and then made it narrower and narrower until, voilà, Hamlette was snugly in the crate along with Hamlet.
Soon, after hosing down, CSB was on his way to the holistic and very nice slaughterhouse. Quiet descended.
I like to think we learned something from this muddy adventure: more heresy, skip the food bribes.
Adieu dear Hamlet and Hamlette, you had a good life and we will enjoy you in the future.