Monday, January 25, 2010

Still Life With Pigs

I painted this still life, it's oil, 3.5x2.5 inches.  It sold long long ago on ebay.  But that is the still life and here are the pigs!


PigI really don't know if I've told anyone here this before but when my husband and I first got married we had elementary school age kids, (boys, his) and teenagers, (mine, girls) and he was determined to spend more time with them than he had his older kids.  So we farmed.  We were newly married you see and in love.  I lack the farming gene.  I swear there is this gene that makes you think all this farm stuff is grand. (it's called the crazy throw money away gene sometimes too)  I'm not a city girl but the first time I tasted homogenized milk (I was 6,on a train, going to KS to see my brother with my mom)I thought I was in heaven.  We had a dairy when I was growing up.  I did a post on this before, sort of I think?  We drank the milk from the cows.  We sold the cream, what we drank was NOTHING like whole milk or 2%, think lumpy skim milk.  I wasn't much on the butter thing either but believe it or not I have churned butter.  Farm life is just not what it's cracked up to be.  I think my problem was I grew up on a farm and then was Mrs. Earth Mother for most of my first marriage. (Mother Earth News was my primary magazine, I made my own yogurt and potato stamped wrapping paper, I've split lots of wood, we had 3 gardens and sold watermelon as a hobby for the kids, for years my kids we not allowed dessert except on weekends and pop only when someone would sneak it to them but that's another story, I was mean mean mama but they were healthy, of course I made all my own Christmas presents, macrame, crocheted).

 Anyway we had this farm because this was a man (new husband remember we are in LOVE) who would work and farm (and the bottom would fall out of the farm economy AGAIN).  And we had pigs. (I was a real estate agent when he met me,  I wore skirts and hose and high heels and hardly ever smelled pig poop but we were in LOVE, did I say this?)  When we first bought the farm we were going to raise cows, we had some bad luck and lost a bunch of calves and could get a contract to raise pigs and had all the equipment and buildings albeit was OLD and needed fixing.  We fixed and fixed and fixed. We had 30 sows farrowing (having baby pigs) @ a time.  I timed myself and I could do (cut teeth, tails, iron shots, antibiotics if we had a problem, and castrate the males) a pen of pigs in between 5 and 10 minutes, one of my skills.  We eventually had over 1600 head of pigs on the farm @ one time.  Then we went REALLY broke and my husband had to go back to driving a truck and I raised pigs with 3 teenagers and one almost teenager.  One would not come out of the house but that's another story.  She's the one who raised the runts in the house and kept house for me.

What brought this on was a post by Jan Mader on her blog Animal Talk.  She told of someone having to kill a badly injured squirrel.  It is necessary and humane and kind but it doesn't feel that way when you are doing it.
I can't remember many of the times we had to kill animals on the farm which was a blessing.  I remember lots of times I wanted to kill some animals, you haven't lived till you've looked for cows in a thunderstorm or been shocked by an electric fence one too many times.

We tried to raise the runt pigs in the house.  My daughter was pg by this time, I hope she doesn't mind me telling this.  Her runt pig died.  Like I think it was in BED with her, do not judge us, I drew the line @ sleeping with them.  Prettiest little runt pig and she was nuts about animals.  This is the daughter with 7 dogs now and 4 kids.  She came around the corner bawling and saying "how can I raise a BABY if I kill PIGS" insert horrible crying noises.  She's a wonderful mother btw. 

The next story is my runt pig story, it's not a pretty one but this pig was determined to die.  This was a tiny pig, teeny, we gave it special food and more antibiotics than it should have survived.  It was sort of the pet pig if you can have a pet out of 1600. (I did and one was named Velveeta, he SOLD Velveeta, she was the prettiest shiny black pig and followed me everywhere, this story is not about Velveeta though).

I was feeding on the feeding floor which is a large slab of concrete angled so the rain runs off of it and with sheds for shelter for the pigs @ one end, much of our activity went on on the feeding floor.  Anyway there was another building close by that was semi enclosed that we didn't use.  Runt was like several months old by this time and we knew we'd never be able to sell him or even let him live in good conscience, Runt was an UGLY pig.  Butt Ugly, looked like a white razorback with allergies and weighed like 20 pounds soaking wet when he should have been close to 100 or so. I actually figured up the cost of the medicine we had given him and with the expensive antibiotics it was well above $40, part of the reason we were broke I suppose.

I'd fixed Runt a nice little box in the semi enclosed building, it was early spring and he could get fresh air but yet be by the other pigs.  He couldn't stay too close to any of the others because he just didn't fit in.  You're thinking Runt was this sweet little pig that was ugly and misunderstood?  Nope, he was spoiled and had a nasty little personality.  I think it was just because he was our first true Runt that we kept him alive so long.  I'd cut off the antibiotics and he was getting weaker.  BUT Runt had one habit that was infuriating.  He had a nice warm wooden box with rags and straw, his own food and water.  Every morning I would go to feed and Runt would be on the feeding floor if he could make it or stuck in the mud if he couldn't.  He would be getting trampled with the other pigs or flailing in mud in front of the feeding floor, I'd wash him off and dry him as well as I could and back to his nice nest.  EVERY MORNING, 7 days a week for a month or more.  Runt wasn't friendly, I guess it was all the shots and I really do think he lacked brains along with health.  One morning the mud was deep and runny.  I didn't find Runt for awhile.  I didn't save him that time. I actually held him under as he was half drown already.  I can still remember it.  Not a happy story and most will disagree and say I should have killed him earlier, taken him to the vet to be put to sleep, not killed him....etc. but I killed him.

More farm stories in the days to come, hopefully cheerier.  OK, they aren't real farm stories, they are me on a farm, there IS a difference.


mistaya's M.O.M. said...

Farm life isn't a picnic is it?? I have enjoyed having horses all my life but I cheated and decided that I would keep them at a horse riding stable. I had to look into the eyes of my beloved horse as the vet put him to sleep. Don't beat yourself up about the little pig. We sometimes have to do things that we feel are best for our creatures that share out lives and most of the time it isn't easy. You are a tough person to have survived your time on your farm. And what interesting stories you have to tell.

TC said...

Thanks about the interesting part about the stories, I have more. LOL
I won't beat myself up but I pretty well cold bloodedly did the pig in.
When we were farming we said we would laugh about it some day, it's almost here. LOL

Mark Kreider said...

In the meantime, there is nothing in the whole wide world better than bacon, a nice pork butt (shoulder) etc., on down to the squeal. It would be tough to have a Super Bowl without a pig's involvement. Keep on doing your best! I want some chickens.

TC said...

Yes bacon and ham are like meats I can't live without, and roast and hamburger.

We carry ham from the midwest to TX now for a living!! LOL My husband does and I watch and make sure he doesn't make any mistakes. LOL

Kathryn said...

Well, you are like a foreigner to me. I've no clue what it's like to live on a farm...raise animals...much less deal with ending their lives. I freak out when I see something dead.

Totally grosses me out.
I guess I'm just not "farm material".

Kudos to you, though!

Jo said...

TC, I have tried several times to post a comment here, but I have trouble doing it -- Blogger doesn't like me. :-) I will try again.

I think your painting is exquisite. I would love to see more of your paintings.

I'm sorry you had to kill Runt. That must have been a very difficult thing for you to do. Goodness!

TC said...

It's OK if you freak when you see something dead Kathryn, my husband doesn't do dead things either. They don't bother me so much. As for the farming you do what you have to do. I don't camp btw though I motel rather well though, LOL and I don't even have a garden anymore.
JO! Thank you for following! I'll shoot you an email or you can go see a few of my paintings @

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