Mending Fences

They say that good fences make good neighbors.  I’m not sure about that when it comes to people, but it is certainly true when it comes to animals, especially when you just happen to have one of the most respected organic gardeners growing his stuff just a few hundred yards from your several hundred pound, eat-anything-that-even-resembles-food, field plowing machines – otherwise known as pigs.  We found this out the hard way one day not so long ago when I got a call at work from my lovely wife.  There was panic in her voice.  The kind of panic that exudes hopeless, foreboding fear.  “What happened?  Are the kids ok?…”  I asked.  “The kids are fine.  But Ham’s out.  We don’t know where she is.  One of the neighbors called and said that their young daughter thought she saw a bear in her backyard.  It must have been Ham, but she isn’t there anymore.”  (Ham is the name of our matriarchal, very stubborn and rather large Tamworth sow.)  I tried to reassure her.  “Don’t worry.  She’ll turn up at dinner time.”  But then a thought occurred to me…  “Only – *make sure* that she doesn’t get to Wayne’s Organic Garden.”  I said.  “Anywhere other than that!”  “Oh, I doubt she’ll find that.”  Said my wife. “She would have to find her way through a maze of trails.  It would be like finding a needle in a haystack.” 

Guess what. 

It seems that master chefs and health conscious consumers aren’t the only ones who appreciate the freshness, quality and superior taste that organically grown brings.  Ham was very happy with her find, but the organic gardener was not, let me tell you.  Understandably so.  Thankfully one of the workers at the garden had the presence of mind to grab a cattle panel and loop it around Ham, trapping her til we got there.  To make matters worse however, we really didn’t have any easy way to transport her.  We have a trailer, but it takes time and effort to transfer a 400 lb sow up two feet.  We didn’t have that much time.  We were contemplating alternatives (think “Ham” dinner for us and the organic gardener) when some very gracious alpaca farmers from down the road showed up with their ground level trailer. To make an even longer story shorter, with the help of the handy trailer, we were able to get Ham home and secured before she was able to do any significant damage.  But the lesson was learned.  No more Mickey Mouse fences.

Now, armed with a little experience (and perhaps a whole lot of motivational fear) we are building new fences.  We are currently fencing in approximately five acres of woods and rough pasture so that we can permanently pasture and rotationally graze our herds.  This is actually what we’ve planned to do all along.  We try to raise hogs in a way that is most natural to them; in a way that mimics, as closely as possible, their natural habitat.  By putting them to pasture and rotating them to new pasture every so often they will always have fresh forage to consume, roots n-such to dig up, and clean, natural pasture to live in.  It not only produces happy, stress free pigs, it also produces the best pork that can be had.  

By a stroke of luck, we found out through a friend that an old farmer a couple of towns over just happened to have several piles of cedar posts lying around his farm.  Cedar!  To quote Jeremiah Johnson, “You can’t go no better.”  And at a fraction of the cost that pine posts goes for to boot!  We scooped up a bunch and we’re now in the process of drilling holes and setting posts. 


Of course, this is Connecticut. “Drilling” isn’t always the best way to describe post hole making in these parts.  The picture below started as a nine-inch wide hole, and goes down to approximately 24 – 30 inches deep.  That pry bar is around five feet long, and I needed every inch of it to get those boulders out.  If all 100 or so holes go this way, look for me at the next Mr. Universe competition. 

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