With the shorter days and colder nights we are reminded that we don’t have long before the ground will freeze.
We’ve decided a date for slaughtering the big pig (who is not that big in the grand scheme of things — estimated 60kg right now — but the bigger one of our two). And a friend with a gun has agreed to come and help.
And around the same time (end of November) we want to move the little pig into the orchard.
The orchard is rather overgrown. We’ve recovered half of it and planted 5 new trees, 4 apples and a plum to complement the 3 pears and few apples that are there. One half has a lot of other stuff in it including conifers, birches, and an oak. There is lots of shelter which we think will be good for the winter. And maybe some acorns which the pig will be very happy about.
However, it is only fenced on 3 sides so we need to do something about that.
Gradually, we’ve been figuring out what needs to be done. Chopping down trees that are in the fence line (a couple of those are dead). And finding wood to use for fence-posts.
One of the chopped down trees was about the right diameter but after some experimentation we’ve decided that spruce does not make good fence posts. After you’ve whacked the top of the post with a sledgehammer several times (but not enough times to get it as far into the ground as you need it to be), the wood starts splitting and breaking apart at the top.
Plan B involved chopping down a small cedar from a clump in the corner. Cedar does make good fence posts.
Other frustrations include the fact that the truck has decided not to start. The bed of the pickup makes a great platform from which to whack fence posts with a sledgehammer. If it won’t start, we can’t move it to where we need it.
In the meantime
While we were being frustrated with that, we diverted our attention to building the pig shelter that needs to go in a sheltered corner of the orchard.
There is a partial wooden fence (more of a wall, actually because it hasn’t got spaces between rails but flat boards) that forms the back wall so we needed to drive a couple of shorter posts for the front and then use some recovered ceder siding (from a friend’s garage; she had a carpenter ant problem that required one wall of her garage to be totally rebuilt) for sides and a roof. We stapled heavy plastic sheet on the top before laying the roofing.
The soil in that corner was really nice, too nice to be under a pig bed, probably from all the falling leaves over the years. So we dug out a couple of wheel-barrowsful of soil to put in the cold frame before the roof went on. And I put a couple of barrowsful of spruce boughs in there, too, for bedding though I might supplement it will old hay we have from a friend’s place.
There front of the shelter is quite sheltered and it looks very cosy over there.
Back to the fence
Today we decided on an alternate platform for the whacking — a board across a couple of trestles. This enabled us to drive several posts before Mat had to take Freya to her choir workshop. We have one more bracing post to drive (the one that involved cutting down that extra tree) and then we can figure out how to put the wire-net fence on.
We’re learning from a pamphlet (Storey Publishing has a great series called Country Wisdom) and other books as well as just looking at some of the existing fence.
It’s hard to get useful advice. Most folks tell us that you must have electric for pigs, but we aren’t ready for that yet, and the various existing fences seem to be doing okay (helped by them not really wanting to go anywhere).
I am going to take the advice of a friend from church who said to dig a 1-foot trench and bury the fence to make sure they can’t dig under it. And to use fence with holes small enough they can’t get their snouts in to bend a hole big enough to get through. That seemed sensible.
We bought a gate at the feed store, too. Unfortunately it has the kind of hinges the pigs know how to lift the gate off. I don’t think Mat was with me when we fixed that problem earlier in the summer. But I think I can come up with a fix.
While Freya has her choir workshop Mat is running errands. Those include a trip to the feed store to buy hog grower mash and fencing.
I’ve limbed the tree/post and cut it to length but I’m not very good at making the end pointy with the bow saw (and I don’t use the chain saw) so Mat’ll have to do that when he gets back.
Then we drive one more post and dig the trench along the fence line (I suppose I could start on the trench this afternoon).
Maybe we’ll even get one part of the fence done (i.e. from the gate to one end) tomorrow.