Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Escapades in the Barn

(Photo by Red Dog Photography)

The temperature dropped significantly late yesterday afternoon, and poor Scotch was tugging blankets over him in an attempt to get warm. He really hates the cold. It doesn’t take much for one dozen potbellied pigs to break down the three bales of straw I put in there last week, especially when the piggies get wet and muddy, so I took pity on him and decided to add another bale to the end at which he was trying to sleep.

The challenge is to lug a fifty pound bale of straw into the piggy stall without letting ten nosy pigsters and one pushy mama out into the main part of the barn. In morning light, this is not too hard as I put something tempting outside and close the barn door. But it was already dark, the piggies had already been fed, and they were settling in for the night.

Since most were snuggled down in the straw, I foolishly took the chance of opening the stall door, bale in arms. As I am only 5’1”, and the gate is about 4’8” and the bale of hay extends past my head, I am working by touch alone. Just as I manipulate the latch and stumble backwards to swing the gate open, I feel a piggy dart through my legs and make good his escape. Spritzer! Oh no!

I dump the straw, slam the gate to block the others who are now on full alert in case their scout squeals that food has been found, and try to figure out how to get Spritzer back in the stall. Unlike well trained dogs, piggies don’t sit and wait patiently while people open gates. When faced with an immobile obstacle in their path and a human behind them, they panic. They have an intense fear of being trapped – it is the nature of animals who are prey. So when I went to the far end of the barn where Spritzer was checking out the bales of hay and tried to shoo him back toward the stall, he raced at top speed to the closed gate and then raced, squealing, back to the far end of the barn again, knocking over a half dozen plastic bins and an empty garbage can enroute.

Of course, this was all occurring in a very dark barn by the light of a flashlight - the very amateurish electrical wiring in there died a final death last week.

I decided I was going to have to distract all the other piggies, including poor Scotch who had finally gotten his blankets pulled over him just how he likes them, unfortunately right by the stall door. I needed to open that gate to let Spritzer go in of his own accord.

Peanuts! I had one bag of peanuts left from the generous supply Lynda had provided at Misty’s celebration dinner. I tossed peanuts into the feed stall, the “lobby” area between stalls, and the far end of the sleeping stall, and watched as nine piglets and one Mama Soda greedily tore into them. Scotch elected to stay in bed but batted his eyes and lifted his snoutie to me to say "Foster Mama, just put a few of those peanuts right here by my snout, would ya?" And of course, I did. Spritzer would figure out a way to either clamber over him or go around.

Meanwhile, Spritzer had returned to the hay at the other end of the barn, where he was busily munching his way through a nice fresh bale. I approached him with a handful of peanuts, which thankfully have much higher treat value than hay in the minds of piggies. I slowly enticed him back along the length of the barn, opening the gate when he came within about eight feet of it. Hearing his brothers and sisters noisily squabbling over who had the most, the biggest, or the tastiest peanuts, Spritzer trotted in, scooted around Scotch’s back end, and joined the melee.

I breathed a sigh of relief, locked the stall door, and turned to depart……and fell smack over the bale of straw that I had dropped when Spritzer escaped. A bale of straw that was still on the wrong side of the stall.

Looking back at Scotch, and seeing him still cozy under his wool blanket, I decided the pigs would be fine for one more night and that extra bale could go into the stall in the daylight hours tomorrow.

G’night piggies. Sweet dreams.

No comments: