It is both a joy and a curse to have a tin roof on the farmhouse. The slightest patter of rain, easily ignored on the now-conventional shingled roof, is instantly audible on the metal. There is usefulness in lying in bed and listening as the rain begins; you don’t need to tune in to the radio for the forecast, much less peer out the window, to know which way the wind blows.
The curse is that it serves as an unwanted alarm clock in the pre-dawn hours: a reminder that the barn jacket is still hanging on the fence post, that a favorite hand tool is in the back of the pickup, that you have a dozen things to complete, rain or shine, the next day. Once awake, you hear the dogs bark … and you start wondering if Delores has escaped her paddock, again. And so the day begins. The brain shifts into gear, and you roll out of bed, unwillingly, and get dressed. And as you make coffee and step out into the early morning, whatever rain you may have heard on that tin roof has moved on to other pastures. The day, when it dawns, will be with clear skies.
As I went about my chores this morning, I found that no new lambs had been born and the new hog, Delores, was still contained. The previous morning during feeding had revealed another ewe with brand-new healthy and active twins. The score for lambing season to date is 6 ewes:11 lambs; 9 ewe lambs:2 ram lambs; 14 more ewes to go. As with all new births, yesterday morning’s mom and babies were separated into a lambing pen, where they will stay for a day or two. The maternity ward gives us a chance to observe and a chance for the mother to adequately bond with her new offspring. Today or tomorrow, she will be turned out with the other new moms and their charges.
Delores considers dinner.
Yesterday, we spent the bulk of the morning reinforcing one of the pig paddocks near the gardens to receive an incoming pregnant gilt. We had not intended to get back into breeding stock, but a number of our local sources for feeder pigs have had troubles this winter and have nothing to show for their labors. That, rightfully, should be a warning to us as well. But we plunged ahead and made a bargain to purchase Delores instead. She should farrow for the first time around the beginning of March.
Delores, a yearling black pig of about 200 pounds, had heretofore been a pet. The woman selling her said she hadn’t realized how fast and large pigs grew. Cindy headed out late morning to pick up the hog. I, meanwhile, spent the time butchering and cleaning roosters. I was just finishing scrubbing down the equipment after packaging and freezing the birds when she returned, Delores in tow.
We had a quick late lunch and easily introduced Delores into her new, spacious digs. We secured her with the final bit of fencing, gave her fresh water and retired for our afternoon nap.
Awaking refreshed, we had our coffee before heading out to do our late-afternoon chores. Dinner guests would arrive within a couple of hours, and dinner would need to be prepared. We stopped by the pig paddock first. Spotting the hog panel thrown up at an odd angle, we knew immediately that “Houston, we have a problem.”
Delores, in the space of an hour and half, had escaped from her paddock through an unsecured hog panel, trundled down a ravine, been discovered in a neighbor’s front yard, enticed into a goat pen, escaped from that pen, and walked back up the hill into the ravine. And that is where we found her, 200 yards down a steep hill from where she had begun to explore the countryside. It should have ended in a catastrophe. But within five minutes she had followed Cindy, and a bucket of feed, back home. We spent the next 30 minutes reinforcing the fencing, then completing chores, before heading in to cook for our evening guests.
Which is undoubtedly why, this morning at 4 a.m., I awoke to the feather-light rain on the roof and wondered, “Where is Delores?”