The pigs spent most of this bitterly cold winter in their huts, buried in a deep bed of slowly decomposing straw. But now that Spring has decided to grace us with her presence, it was time to move the fences that, at 12 to 18 inches high, spent most of the winter under snow cover.
First things first... we had to make a serious dent in the downed trees, broken and twisted branches, and upended root systems that were bowled over by the ice storm that hit us just before Christmas. We were incredibly lucky to keep power through the ordeal, but the damage done to dozens of trees around our property was impressive. Somehow we managed to avoid any structures or animals being hit at the time, but the fences did not fare so well.
Ironically, many of the trees damaged were the much-maligned Box Elder trees, a quick-growing, shallow-rooted piece-of-garbage specimen that resides on our short list of things to remove in the coming years on the farm. We had planned to remove them at a slower pace, but hey, no time like the present! Christian and our friend John Beng fired up their chainsaws and we started making piles of wood as it was cut. The pyres soon towered over us. As everything leafs out in the next few weeks, I'm very curious to see what our former Forest looks like. I'm guessing we could put
a full-sun garden out back this year if we wanted to! We spread a mix of seeds in its stead, and will be watching to see what grows well in the coming months.
Christian and I have gotten rather proficient at pig-fence building. It's a simple process: 1) pick your size, 2) unwire old fence, 3) place insulator posts and corner t-posts as desired and string with wire... and you can't forget the most important part! Once your new fence is up and taut, tie your "flags"— plastic orange tape that alerts the pigs to the fence's location. Pigs aren't known for their sense of sight, so the more you can help them avoid the fence, the better! In the photo to the right, you can make out the wire in the foreground... but other than the insulator posts, as your eye travels down the line, there's no telling whether or not a wire is there. In the background, you can see where I had stopped tying flags to take this photo. The bright orange is hard to miss. Once our pigs have been trained to these fences, they stay reliably inside of them even on a single strand of wire!
Once your fence is stranded and flagged and free of any snags, you're ready to hook it back up to the solar charger. That, besides the flags, is the most important part. And really, without the voltage, the flags won't do much good. We keep the fence hot, around 12,000 Volts or so, and the pigs know it.
Voila! Pigs in the woods. So far they've been turning over rotting logs, digging up raspberry roots, and hopefully rooting up any remnants of last year's garlic mustard and burdock. They love their freedom to explore, and we love watching them work. Not to mention, it makes for some delicious pork. Just don't tell them that.