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Moving Animals



This week, a memo seemed to circulate among our livestock, planning for 48 hours of fence-breaching and relocation. It began with the pigs – I’m not even sure how they got out, though the odds are that it involved synchronized fence lifting with snouts. Amy and I (Mandy) got a distress text from Maggie, and hopped in the clubcar. As we passed the market garden, a dozen 200 pound pigs were leaping among the rows, looking like a cross between ecstatic puppies and stampeding buffalo. The clubcar spooked them and they raced down towards their enclosure. After that, it was a matter of herding them to the opening in the fence – letting hundreds of pounds of pork run one direction as the hundreds of pounds of pork still contained contemplated shoving their way out. Three humans, two dogs and one clubcar seemed to do the trick.


Here are the tyrants returned to their enclosure, enjoying a post-breakout dip.


Since there was no real danger involved (i.e. not near the roads or Sidney’s yard) there was something highly endearing about the interlopers. Slapping a pig on the rump to get it where you want it to go struck me as hilarious (I’m new enough at this game that I remain easily amused). Afterwards, as we recapped, we reminisced about Rose’s Bakery’s “Praise the Lard” t-shirts. We came up with a new slogan: “Shake Your Pancetta”. If anyone would like to turn that into a sticker or t-shirt you have our blessing.


The next jailbreak involved only one pig, but was even more dramatic. When I lead tours of the farm, we usually start by walking down to Ollie and Sweetie, our two breeder hogs. The neighboring crab apple tree is dropping fruit, so we gather up a bucket as an offering to this impressive and friendly pair. Ollie and Sweetie have learned to anticipate treats when groups of people head their way. The hog panel fencing that encloses them is about 3 feet high. When you’re balancing 600 pounds on four stubby little legs, that’s about enough height to keep you contained. Or so I thought.


Sweetie, looking innocent.


As we tossed crab apples into their open mouths, Ollie and Sweetie got a little competitive. Sweetie, who is pregnant but still a little smaller than Ollie, managed to hoist herself up on the fence, hooking her front hooves in the panel. All us humans gasped and took a step back with the apples, which Sweetie interpreted as an invitation. She scaled that fence – I still can’t even quite fathom how! She would have cleared it had she had a little more momentum.


But, we’re talking pigs, not antelopes, so she managed to get herself stuck, teetering and squealing. I admit here that I did not pivot. I possibly even froze. I had six tourists in my charge and a quarter ton pig attempting to skewer herself before our very eyes. Suffice it to say I was not sure of my next move. Luckily, Sweetie gained purchase on Ollie’s snout and boosted herself up and over. She cleared the fence all but one hoof for a dramatic “will she won’t she” finale, and then trotted clear, SO proud of herself.


Out of my depth, I called for backup. Crystal jumped in the trusty club car and headed down. Meanwhile, my tour group was taking it in stride, following my professional lead by making various noises of alarm and appreciation. The area we were in could easily be contained by two swinging gates, which of course were open. Sweetie, after trotting amongst us with her curly tail happily tick-tocking back and forth, headed for the open field.


The clubcar, heading to the rescue, with Annie in the lead.


That’s when the mom of the group turned to me with a twinkle in her eye and said “I’m a runner! Let’s go get her!”. We fanned out in the field to wrangle her in. It didn’t take much, actually, as Sweetie is so good natured. Back inside the gated area she found a little puddle and plopped herself down. Crystal hosed her down and Sweetie wallowed happily while we collected more apples.


We tossed a bucket of apples to the back of the pen to distract Ollie, who clearly had figured out he was getting the short end of the stick in this scenario. All ended well as she trotted back to rejoin Ollie. The youngest in the tour group was a little boy of about five years. It brings me joy to think of how he may remember this dramatic farm tour for years to come. Sweetie must have seemed HUGE to him. Bless that group, they were absolutely game and we were suddenly bound by this adventure. The rest of the tour could have been totally anticlimactic, but, you know, baby goats.


The final dramatic escape of the week came to our attention via social media. First there was a phone call – a large flock of sheep were contentedly grazing out in the pasture around the “senior barn” (a barn used by high school seniors for a mural each year) with no apparent fence in sight. For all real-time updates islanders head to the facebook group “Orcas Inclement Weather and Road Reports”. As expected, there was a post regarding sheep crossing the main road. We assured the facebook masses that help was on the way, and headed out with some extra electro-net.





This scenario was slightly less amusing, as it involved the road and was at the tail-end of a long day. Luckily, the sheep were very happy with their new digs, which was also a spot appropriate for grazing. It was just a matter of persuading them to stay put while we installed electronet around the perimeter.


There is a large metal gate at an entrance into Land Bank property, where they had been pastured. Upon investigation, we found that someone had swung the gate wide open and neglected to close it. (This is where I raise my fists to the heavens and exclaim “PEOPLE! If you open a gate, CLOSE a gate!!!). The facebook masses were put at ease, and we were relieved that everyone (sheep and car drivers) were safe.


When I expressed my exasperation over the gate, Eric simply mused “Yea, I thought I was done moving all the animals I wanted to move today.” Why yes, that’s it in a nutshell.


These sheep are on the correct side of the electronet.