The sheep occasionally escape over the electric tape that’s supposed to contain them in their piece of pasture. This isn’t a huge problem because it’s usually only one at a time and they hate being separated, so that one just keeps grazing at the other side of the tape from the rest of the “flock”. (Do three sheep make a flock?) The problem is reuniting them since the outlier doesn’t want to be rerouted away from the others. Thank heavens that all three of them now recognize the gate on the front of the orchard as the way back to home and family.
This morning, Tiny, my no-longer-all-that-tiny ewe, took the big leap and I went down to put her back. After encouraging her around the orchard, I freed the latch on the gate so that a quick shove would be enough to open it, then retreated to let her make her way back inside. Just as she got to the gate, Boinker pushed at the panel with her snout and made the Great Escape into the Brave New World between the orchard and the barn.
Of course, this sent Tiny shooting off in the opposite direction. Sigh. Everything sends sheep shooting off in the direction you don’t want them to go. I need a good sheepdog.
Torn between which to catch first, I chose Tiny and spent the next few minutes sending her this way and that, until she leaped back over the tape and instantly went back to grazing. Meanwhile, Boinker had embarked on a journey of happy discovery. Morning glories, yum! Oh look! There’s water in this ditch. Nope, too deep. Ah, bind weed, my favorite!
Only then did I realize that the gate to my newly planted garden was open. So was the barn door where all sorts of things pigs find delicious are kept. Panic put wings on my feet. If she were to get into either of those places, I’d be in a whole heap of trouble, because she’ll never want to come out. There’s no handle on a pig and I’m guessing she’s well over fifty pounds.
As I sprint for the garden and barn, I’m dickering for Heavenly help at the same time I’m warning the Powers-That-Be that I really don’t need chasing pigs to be my next crossfit routine. I reach the garden just in time to slam the gate in her face, then leap over her to yank down the barn door. She pauses to watch my shenanigans, then, still grunting happily, she starts slowly up the ramp that crosses the ditch and leads up to the house, making a snuffling examination of everything along the way. But at the top of the ramp is my new lasagna garden full of…melons! Argh!
All of a sudden, the light bulb clicks on over my head. I need THE BUCKET. All the animals on the farm know THE BUCKET. Good things show up in THE BUCKET.
So I run up the ramp (see the reference to crossfit above), then up the stairs onto the porch, from which the dogs are now exiting because they want to see what the pig is doing. At the top of the stairs I notice the dog leashes. Can you leash train a pig in just a few minutes? I’m desperate, so it’s worth a shot.
I take a leash, jog inside to grab the treat bucket, then realize I have the best piggie treats ever in the fridge just now. This weekend I slaughtered chickens for a friend and came home with heads, innards and feet. I meant them for the dogs, then remembered that pigs love meat even more than dogs. In fact, just this morning my two little gilts enjoyed a bunch of raw gizzards. So I fill the bucket with more offal, and return to the porch and offer up prayers of thanks. Boinker and the dogs have retreated back down the ramp to explore the fence around my garden. Boinker is grunting in ecstasy as she roots through the thick sod while Moosie and Bear look on.
Even from a distance I can see the gears in Moosie’s head turning as he presses his nose to the gorgeous black earth she’s exposing. “What’s she looking for? Gophers? Mice? Squirrels? Oh yes, squirrels for sure! I’ll help her look for squirrels.”
There aren’t any gears in Bear’s head; he’s just a pretty face. Instead, he’s watching Moosie, hoping the little dog’s gears turn up the word “Play”.
I race back down the ramp (good, a counterpoint to the run up), all the while certain that I’ve got her. When I reach them, I shove the bucket under Boinker’s snout. She snuffles politely, then looks up at me. I can see it in her eyes. “I appreciate the gift, but no thanks. These grubs are much better.” Back she goes to rooting.
Ack! A perfect ploy perfectly foiled! It’s time for Plan B, which I only then realize is much more like Plan Z.
I set aside the bucket, which the dogs immediately knock over just in case it’s something they want. Because this is Boinker, I start scratching her back. She’s long since given up waiting for the joy of scratches to overtake her before she faints. Instead, she slides instantly down my leg to lay on her side, making her belly available. I slip the leash over her head as I give her what she wants. She opens one eye at this strange change. She’s not even panicked as she gets to her feet, shakes her head and takes a half-step back. Hogs don’t have necks. The leash comes over her ears and slips off her snout. Once that unfamiliar thing is dispensed with, she returns to my leg and again slides down to the ground, begging for more scratches.
Goldangit! Now what? I don’t have a Plan Z-point-1.
Or do I?
I look behind me at Oinker, who has been pacing the orchard fence making her usual quiet little grunts as she watches the comedy playing out across the sod. I blink. What an idiot I am! She’s not watching us. She watching THE BUCKET.
Giving Boinker a last scratch, I reach for the now-empty little blue bucket. Yuck. I have to scoop what the dogs spilled back into the bucket. For the record I probably wash my hands a dozen times a day due touching yucky stuff. Once I’ve refilled the bucket, I start for the orchard gate. Yep. Oinker is definitely waiting for treats. I glance hopefully behind me. Not so Boinker. She’s gone back to grub hunting.
“Hey, piggies,” I call, worried now. That calls usually brings not only the pigs, but the sheep and turkeys as well.
By now Oinker’s squeals are so loud that they’re echoing. I again glance over my shoulder. That’s caught Boinker’s attention. She’s turned to look in our direction.
I watch it happen. I see the instant she realizes Oinker’s going to get something that she’s not. It doesn’t matter to Boinker that she doesn’t really want what’s in the bucket. All that matters is that she’s being left out.
Yes, hogs can run and they’re surprisingly fast. Boinker reaches the orchard fence by the time I’ve spread the offal out onto the dirt in front of Oinker. Bursting past the dogs, Boinker has dived, snout first, into the slimy pile of guts almost before Oinker has gotten her first mouthful.
“Oh you greedy little pig,” I tease her but it’s not really a tease.
I can’t tell you how glad I am that this proved to be a fact rather than something someone just made up.