Looking back over the past four years, it’s hard to believe how much things have changed. When we originally made the decision to purchase rural property, it was mostly with starry eyes, and all I saw was the greenhouse, flowering fruit trees, deep purple plumbs hanging low and heavy on branches that framed the property and looked out over an organic farm field.
The house came with 13 hogs (yes you read that right), and in my very large daydream, I thought this was absolutely amazing. I saw myself picking apples on a hazy summer day, with a giant gentle hog oinking along behind me stopping to munch on fallen fruit. I saw flowers and greenery and imagined gardens and fall mornings with changing leaves and a beautiful lush garden. Chickens clucking and laying colorful eggs, happy dogs running around, the whole thing. But to be perfectly clear, this was absolutely a daydream, and as those things usually go, it doesn’t take long for reality to set in.
What the house came with to be exact was 4 hogs, 3 of which were boars and a big red mama pig I called Rosie, 9 piglets, a rooster, a wiener dog, and a Rubbermaid of giant Koi fish left on the front porch with a little air pump humming away. The previous owners left in a huge hurry to hit the road, thanked us, and let me know that there was probably enough pig food for one day, and that also “by the way” one of the boars had a nasty infection that was “probably” okay but might need attention.
Have you ever heard the term “funny farm?” I would say that it’s a pretty good depiction of the mess that was awaiting. Gone was the beautiful grass we had seen in the spring; it was now weeds up to my hips that needed clearing. Thick weeds. 10 acres of them. And I didn’t have a mower. The greenhouse was an actual jungle of weeds so thick the stems were like small branches; you were not going to just go and clean that easily up (it actually took a skidsteer to clean it). Cue where my husband reminded me that “he told me” this would be a lot of work.
The first morning I went out to feed those hogs the tiny bit of food the owners had left behind, they were all crammed up in one pen and I got a pretty big reality check. There is nothing gentle or cute or sweet about 4 adult 400 pound plus hungry farm hogs competing at a weak fence for the bucket of pellets you are trying to get into their feeder. Half the pen was filled with mud so deep and soupy, there was no way to get around in it. Not to mention the tiny piglets! How they survive without being trampled I will never know!
The boar with the infection that was “probably” okay was indeed not OK. I won’t get into those details, but it was nothing I would have ever expected on my first day on a homestead. After a week or so I connected with another pig farmer in the area who took all those boars off my hands, helped me get straightened out, and taught me a lot of what I know today about pigs. I kept the mama pig of course, and it turned out she was super sweet on her own, and I really did love her a lot. Later when the piglets were gone, I did part with her to the very same farmer and she lived her life out on his farm – I cried my eyes out, but I didn’t want her to be here alone.
The wiener dog got picked up by some people the old owners sent that I didn’t know and didn’t see again. The Koi fish? How long can huge fish really live in a Rubbermaid container on a porch? The rooster, I decided to call Richard. He had survived mostly on his own and slept in a window well at night without a flock to keep him company. When I brought my hens, he loved them immediately and we would all watch him strut his stuff around them showing off his shiny feathers. He is still on the farm, has a warm, safe coop, protects the heck out of his girls, and he is the absolute NICEST rooster you will probably ever meet.
The farm still gets overrun with weeds and grass, but now I have a mower and good ways to keep them under control. The greenhouse did get cleared and established, but like most things on a farm, is still a work in progress! We still have the old pig pen, but I learned how to manage the irrigation so whoever is living in it doesn’t get totally flooded out. We still have pigs, just KuneKune pigs now, but thank you to friends and mentors I made along the way, I can deal with an infection or sickness that comes their way, and if I need help, I have somewhere to turn and ask. My pigs do follow me into the apple orchard happily oinking away, and I love every second of it. We do have flowers, greenery, amazing flowering trees, berry bushes, more happy dogs than I’d like to admit to, colorful eggs, and all the things I did see in my active imagination, as well as a new dream to be able to share everything we are so lucky to see every day with fresh eyes, and share it with everyone who might be like me, and have big daydreams too.