castrating pigs

Just a few days ago we castrated pigs for the first time. In the past the sole reason I never wanted to breed pigs was due to this very topic. After our piglets were born the reality set in that this job would need being done.

I told Nick (we are recently separated) to please ask the guy we bought them from to do it. We’ll pay him and everything. So he found a breeder that was willing to come out to the farm (no hauling animals) to show and teach us.

We watched a couple YouTube videos and I was even more grateful that someone else was going to do this job.

With pigs you cannot band them like you can a goat or a cow. You have to cut them.

With a scalpel.

Then pop the what-nots out like a big pimple.

Then cut out the family jewels by the strand that’s still hanging on for dear life.

You must do all this with the greatest precision with a live screaming fully-conscientious patient. Make sure you clean it with a rag before you start too.

You can imagine my relief that someone else was going to do this.

The set day had arrived. Nick came to help even though it was not his day to be at the farm. He has been gracious in helping tie up loose ends here. He knows also that this has been the dread of my life for several months.

We fed the mama in a horse trailer and locked her in. This way she is separated from all the babies and also unable to see what’s going on.

I’m sure you’ve heard stories of how vicious a mama bear can be. A mama sow can equal or exceed that rage. I’m convinced of that. Petunia (mama sow) has always been so sweet. Once she had her babies she turned into a lunatic. We can’t even pet one of her pigs without her charging.

A safe place for us and Petunia was secured.

The couple that came to help were a wealth of knowledge and very kind. He explained the process and even brought a special stand he uses. The first little guy was brought. He was the fatest little piglet we had. He was turned upside down on the stand, placed with bottom facing away from the man castrating. He squealed something fierce. He was going crazy. This guy starts cutting and explaining while the wife held the legs securely. After a bit the pig stopped squealing and the job was done.

The pig was handed over to us to place back with the others. Then I noticed the pig wasn’t waking up. I gave some rescue breaths. Over my hand. No pig mouth to mouth.

Nothing.

I tried a rough rub.

Nothing.

Then the wife and I went into full piglet CPR. Compressions and breaths.

Nothing still. I could tell the eyes were lifeless and not going to come back.

What just happened!

So after a few minutes of shock we started on the next boy.

The breeder asked if I was going to do the next one.

Umm.

Can you do it so I can see one with a good ending?

He did. That one went just fine. So, I was to do the third and last little guy.

I did. That one went just fine too. I cleaned him up with a rag and just got the job done. I even thought to myself, “This is not a big deal.” I’m not one to get queasy anyways. I mean, I’m an EMT and have seen some traumatic things with no problems.

After handing off the little dude, I placed the scapel in a container.

Then it hit me. I don’t know what it was really, but everything was going black. Really black. I remember holding onto the stand and bending down trying to will the light back. Maybe it was the death. Maybe it was the slippery little berries that got away from me, making the job just a bit longer. Maybe I should not be doing things like this. Maybe I’m just a fixer and not a cutter.

Next I saw faces above. Exactly like it is in the movies. “Jennee, Jennee, you passed out.”

The wife was wiping my head with a cool rag. The faces looked concerned. Then I realized where I was and I remembered everything going black. I was out for 20 seconds. I was caught on my way down. I guess someone asked if I was alright and I just said, “No!”

Then I went down.

I was still waking up and I realized that I was holding the hand of my husband and he looked like he just saw me die. I could tell he was freaking out inside. I let go of his hand.

He’s not my person anymore. I remembered that. I thought for just a second that things like this are going to be hard alone. Not castrating. Although I’m certainly not going to do that alone.

The times where you’re in a bind and you just have someone there.

That will be hard to loose. It still must be done. It is just very hard. I’ve never really been alone. I got married at 20 and I still lived with my parents. Now they are 5 hours away. Sure I have friends and co-workers who are amazing. Asking their help feels more like charity though.

I sat up. I felt fine. I stood up. I felt fine. We continued our visit with this helpful and great couple for 30 more minutes. The whole time I felt sorry for them. Here they come to help and a piglet dies (likely a heart attack), I pass out, and right as they’re leaving Nick gets stung in the head by a bee.

They were very sweet though. Turn out he’s a retired police officer from Boston and she’s a scrub nurse. That explained why when we went into CPR neither of us had to say a word. We just did it. We are going to get another sow from them.

It was quite a day. Soon after they left Nick did too. I felt weird the rest of the day so we watched movies and ate pizza.

That’s a real-life peek into what it was like to castrate pigs. Homesteading can really keep you on your toes and doubt your ability to do a simple task. Homesteading alone is going to be one of the scariest things I’ve done in my life.

Are you out there doing some life alone? What is your advice? I’m both excited and petrified. I think that’s considered “normal” feelings. What do you think?

give me all the animals

Remember when I told you we were going to re-start the farm this year? Well, we most certainly did. Our farm is bursting with life.

Our Wellsummer and Easter-Egger Chickens are on their second year of laying. We also bought 35 more chickens of every variety that sparked my interest.

Speckled Sussex, Phoenix, Polish, Silver-laced Wydottes, Orpingtons, Favorolles, Americaunas, Brahmas, Whiting True blues and greens, probably more than I can remember.

We also have 5 ducks. 3 Pekings and 2 that I picked up from Tractor Supply…jury is out on the breed.

I am so thrilled to introduce into our area Kiko goats as well. We will be the fourth breeder in Arizona and the first in our county. These amazing meat breed goats have been so fun to have thus far. We have 1 buck and 3 does. We also have a buck and doe for milking. They are Nubian/Apine/Saanan/LaMancha mixes.

All our breeding for goats will be through the late Fall and Winter months. I cannot wait to see some happy wagging tails in the Spring!

We also bought a breeding pair of American Guinea Hogs and one to feed out. We just had of first litter of pigs born last month. They are quite a joy to watch.

I cannot say enough how having a full-fledged farm can fill my soul with pride and happiness. I have often had to go out and take care of animals or the garden only to find myself lingering and enjoying more than expected.

The kind of healing that I can get from taking care of all these amazing creatures that God created is second to none. I have also believed for years that nothing gets the anger of pain out of a person like pulling weeds and chopping wood. I person can sort many a thought out that way.

I am eager to share with you the many more lessons I have been learning through the love and care of this farm.

As a recently separated gal pushing 40, I have many lessons to learn still. I am so thankful to steward this farm that has been such a blessing. My grief will not be processed through drinking and dating and “going off the rails”. Rather, I will struggle more with (and certainly not resist) that urge inside me that says, “Give me all the animals!”

the farm restart

Moving back to the farm has been so great for this family. All the convenience and ease of life we sought moving into the city was a huge let down.  We are starting up our life again here.  The simple and quiet rhythm here is truly what our hearts long for.

The city was convenient, but here is restful.

The first order of business is preparing the garden for a bountiful crop.  Our garden has rested since the great hailstorm of 2014.

Five Years.

My soul is longing for black compost under my nails, dirt on my face and a famer’s tan.  The glorious smell of fresh cut basil and bees buzzing around and pollinating the food that will be set upon our table is the kind of therapy I thrive in.

I have in the most nerdy fashion been researching.  Some of my favorite resources for gardening are found at Charles Dowding’s No Dig Garden, Roots and Refuge, and MI Gardener.

I have realized through these videos that I have so much the learn about gardening. I think this year is the most researched and planned out growing seasons we’ve had.  I mean I am over-flowing with information and am eager to start putting to practice new-to-me principles.

There is something so exhilarating about the first little sprouts pushing through the dark soil and stretching for the sun.  Every time I witness this miracle of life I am in awe.

In addition to the garden in its beginnings, we just received our baby chicks!  This time around we ordered Easter Eggers and Welsummers from Meyer Hatchery.

They are all being loved on by this family.

Is there anything sweeter than a baby chick chirping and scratching and learning to forage?

Well, perhaps a tiny anything is the most adorable ever.

There are many more dreams and plans being made here. I can’t wait to share them with you.

What are you dreaming of?