Good Morning, Sunshine.

IMG_0882 (2)

How does your day start?

Big stretch as you fix that first cup of coffee? Check the headlines online? Maybe you go for an invigorating morning jog? Or maybe you’re the lucky soul who can find 20 minutes to meditate so you start the day in a calm, focused state?

Yeah. Me? Not so much.

My today started with several of our ever-vigilant dogs thwap-thwapping (trust me on that sound effect) out of our dog door at high speed and in full frenzy. Ahhhhh…the pleasant start to yet another day on Tails You Win Farm.

There are different levels of bark around our place and I know them all well. There is the “I think a leaf just fell somewhere in the back 40 acres” bark. That gets no response from me. We have no neighbors within 80 acres of our dog yard. Bark your fool heads off.

There’s the “HEY, did you know we have horses” bark. Yeah. I know. This bark also gets no response from me.

There is the “I’m barking and barking at nothing in particular” bark. This is generally Bernie, our adorable, but often vocal pit bull mix. He, as my father used to say to me in my babbling youth, is “talking just to hear his own head rattle.” Stellar parenting right there.

This barking gets no  response from me UNLESS it causes the other dogs to also join in the chorus. Then my response is to stick my head out of the back door to yell something along the lines of, “Bernie, shut the living (insert expletive you can only yell when you have no neighbors within 80 acres of your back yard) up!”

Mad dog training skills. I know.

There is, however, one particular bark that will have me bolting straight out of a sound sleep, grabbing shoes and a spotlight. Note: decent clothing optional. No neighbors…80 acres.

The bark that gets my blood racing faster than even a double dose of caffeine can accomplish is the bark that signals a barn security breach. All of the dogs will be out sounding the alert. All of the dogs will be racing up and down the fence. All of the hairs on my neck will stand right up.

A barn security breach generally means that the miniature donkeys have once again found a minuscule hole in the fence. Or that Ferris Muler, the giant Houdini mule, has pulled another how-the-hell-did-he-do-that escape.

A barn security breach also means that our distant neighbors may have had wee morning hour visitors. OR it may mean that Jim’s beloved garden may have been raided. This is probably my greatest fear. Neighbors be damned, but God save those animals if they wreak havoc with Jim’s late season tomatoes and still vine-ripening cantaloupe.

By now you have guessed that this morning’s bark-fest was the latter. BARN SECURITY BREACH. This is a five-alarm, get out the door to assess the damage before Jim finds it emergency.

It was still dark:30, so spotlight in hand, pulse racing, I stepped out on the porch. Morning moment of gratitude: tomatoes and cantaloupe all safe and still snoozing.

An eerie calm had descended on the farm as I rounded the corner of the house to see who the latest escapee might be. Did the dogs REALLY rouse me so they could go steal my spot in the bed? Apparently.

Just as I was about to call false alarm and head inside I heard a rustling sound. I called out a tentative hello into the pre-dawn gray. Nothing. I called again. “Hellooooo?”

And I got a hearty roar in return.

Yup. A roar. A friendly, happy, whatcha-got-for-me roar followed by a pleasant snort, snort, snort.

Jerry at the porchToday’s escapee was none other than Jerry Swinefeld, our resident 800ish pound hog. Finding Jerry roaming the space between the house and the barn was actually a relief. He is truly the lesser of the evils once you have determined the garden is still alive. While the donkeys and the sneaky mule might stubbornly opt for the grass-is-greener wrong side of the fence option, Jerry is generally more than happy to follow me to the barn on the promise of an early morning snack.

I called out to him just as my mom called out to wake me me every morning of my childhood, “Good morning, Sunshine!” I probably just grunted at her too.

My big piggy ambled over to me, gave me his special “uh, uh, uh” greeting and followed me like a happy puppy. A really big, muddy, drooling, happy puppy.

Oh hey…the gate to his pen was standing wide open. This was not an escape mystery to be solved, this guy had an open invitation to roam. Oops. (For the record…Jim was the last being with latch-capable thumbs in the barn…just saying.)

I gave Jerry a little snack. I said good morning to the assembling horses, donkeys, mule, and Bob the ram. I returned to the house victorious, relieved, and ready to face my day.

And yes, the dogs had indeed overtaken my spot in the bed. Hope you’re comfortable…hey, did I just hear a leaf fall? Psych!

I hope you, my loyal reader, got to enjoy your coffee and muffin. I hope you had a leisurely shower. I hope your day got off to a good start. All possibilities considered, mine sure did.

Good morning to you too, Jerry Swinefeld. Hope you have a nice day.

Lost. Found. Never Really Lost In The First Place?

Jerry is backJerry Swinefeld, the 700ish pound Hampshire hog that calls Tails You Win Farm his home, is a bit of a Houdini hog. Seriously. Yesterday he vanished into thin air. And this morning?

Yep, snoring away in his stall, right where he should be.

How the hell does he do that?

This creature is larger than my smallest horse. Larger than my miniature donkeys. Big enough to command a little respect from even our big horses and mule. He sends coyotes running in terror. And yet, he can just seemingly pop in and out of existence on a whim.

Maybe he really is a magical pig. Maybe I’m actually a witch and I just don’t know it! It’s my own little Harry Potter world. Harry Potter had an owl as his special, magical companion. Figures I would get a giant, lumbering hog.

But I’m not the one with the magic. It’s all on Jerry. Yesterday, he disappeared; he was no where to be found. He did not answer when Jim whistled, as he normally does (that whistle means dinner). He did not answer when I called out for him, as he sometimes does if he feels like it. He was not napping in any of his favorite hideouts.

However, today when I went to look for him again, I found him sound asleep, back inside his stall, inside the barn, inside his fenced pasture.

Huh.

Well, no harm done (as far as I know). I checked on Jim’s cherished, still-ripening, late-season tomatoes and they were all present and accounted for. Whew.

You see, I wasn’t really too concerned about Jerry being lost. He’s a big boy and can take care of himself. I was more worried what havoc he might be wreaking in an unsuspecting world. One year he took a bite out of every cantaloupe Jim had growing in his garden. He didn’t just pluck one and eat it. Nope, he did the Goldilocks routine: This one isn’t ripe enough, this one is too ripe, this one is just right.

But so far it appears he truly just went on a little walk-about, as one friend suggested. Then he apparently got sleepy and magically popped back inside his fence. Poof!

I suspect his magic has more to do with “hey, look what happens when I shove all 700 solid pounds of myself against this fence” than it does with magic wands and invisibility cloaks. That means I need to head back out to the barn with some tools to see what damage has been done. You’d think a hog-sized hole in the fence wouldn’t be too hard to find, but there have been times when we never could figure out his escape route.

Delta and Ferris

Delta Dawnkey and Ferris Muler on a sleepy Sunday morning.

In the meantime, Jerry got to have a bite of breakfast and I got to enjoy a lovely early morning visit to the barn. My horsey friends will understand this immediately. There is nothing better than visiting with your horses/donkeys/mule in the night or in the early morning. It’s a very serene time in the barn and so very good for my soul.

The flies are still asleep (do flies sleep?), the temperature is pleasant, and everyone still seems a bit drowsy. The start to this Sunday was rainy and gray, no spectacular sunrise to light the day, but that just made the inside of the barn seem even cozier. I spent some great quiet time just moving from animals to animal, saying good morning, and giving scratches in all the right places.

Horse lips quivered in appreciation. Ferris Muler played with the hood of my sweatshirt as he always does. My miniature horse rubbed his head on my hip (I’m a great scratching post). My big red appaloosa, Dublin, put his nose against my cheek for a thorough sniff.

I’m pretty sure I now have horse slobber on my face. My clean jeans are now filthy. My hoodie may have some carrot crumbles hiding in it. And I’m starting the day with a huge, relaxed grin on my face.

All is right in our world today. I got the boost that even good old caffeine can’t deliver. And it’s all thanks to a mischievous, sneaky pig.

Yesterday I believe I ended my post with the worlds “dammit Jerry.” Today I think I’ll end with something a little different.

Thanks, Jerry. (Now stay put, damn you!)

Lost: Large Pig, Answers to Jerry Swinefeld

20150412_104026 (1)

What do I do? Do I put posters on street corners? Do I put his picture on a milk carton? Perhaps I should issue a Hamber Alert?

But seriously, somehow we have misplaced a 700ish pound hog.

Lost: One-eared pig that looks like a giant Oreo cookie. Reward offered if you’ll take him to your home instead of returning him to ours.

Yes, Jerry Swinefeld, our resident rescued Hampshire hog, is not where he should be. His stall is empty, his pasture is empty. It appears our hog is on the lam. And we actually do want him back.

I am not entirely sure what inspires a normally lazy, sedentary porcine to suddenly up and abandon his happy home – you know, the one where he receives daily meals delivered wallow-side? Well, actually, I do have an idea. The culprit was likely last night’s rain showers and subsequent cooler temperatures. Nothing inspires a big pig to kick up his heels more than the end of blistering summer heat.

I’ve looked for Jerry. I’ve called for him. Jim has looked in some of Jerry’s favorite nap spots. He is nowhere to be found. You might think we would be terribly worried, but frankly, we have about 75 acres of hiding places at Tales You Win Farm and there are few things that a giant hog with sharp tusks has to fear.

Oh sure, we have a lot of coyotes in the area, but anytime I have seen a hogzilla-meets-scrawny-coyotes encounter, the latter creatures tuck their tails and head for the hills. They truly have no interest in trying to put pork on the evening’s menu.

Jerry at the porch 2It’s not the first time Jerry has made a “run” for it, and frankly he doesn’t usually run very far, or for very long. Meals are not served beyond the confines of his comfy, spacious pasture and true to stereotype, this big boy loves his meals. I expect he’ll find his way back to the barn – or even more likely, my front porch – at some wee hour in the morning. I’ll know when he does because my dogs will explode in a Charles-Manson-peering-in-the-window type of frenzy.

That’s always a fun jolt to consciousness.

Or I’ll get THAT call from the neighbor. Yeah, historically, he HAS made the 1/4 mile trek to see what the neighbors might be offering up for a midnight snack. Jerry is not exactly svelte or athletic, so I’m crossing my fingers that the wee hour in the morning wake-up call doesn’t happen on their front porch instead of ours. Any hopes of winning that neighbor of the year award would certainly be dashed.

I’ll keep an eye out tonight. Hopefully tomorrow, I’ll find my naughty teenager-equivalent passed out in the barn after a night of rowdy fun. When I do find him, I’ll scold him and I’ll send him straight to bed, but not without his breakfast. Dear lord, you do not deny Jerry his breakfast.

Then I’m pretty sure fence repairs will be at the top of my to-do list. Again.

John Denver fibbed. Life on the farm is NOT “kinda laid back.” But then again, I’m guessing John never lived with the likes of Jerry Swinefeld when he decides to test his boundaries.

Dammit Jerry.

Riddle: How Do You Move a Huge Hog That Doesn’t Want to Move?

Jerry at the porch

Jerry on a previous walkabout.

Do you have an answer to my riddle?

No?

Shoot. Me neither.

This post could also be titled: When Good Pigs Go Feral. It all started after Spamela Anderson, our grand dam of the farm, passed away at nearly 13 years of age. This left Jerry Swinefeld alone in his pasture. I interpreted “alone” to mean “lonely.”

I may have been wrong.

You see, about a week or so ago, I moved Bob, our resident bachelor ram, into Jerry’s pasture. There’s some nice grass springing up, it’s a safe little pasture with access to roomy shelter in a section of the barn, and the coyotes tend to steer clear of the big hog…so that would afford Bob some security (he is not one tiny bit savvy and falls for the “follow me little lamb” line every time a coyote tosses it his way. If not for the donkeys and the mule Bob would have been a main course years ago).

Thinking like a human, I came up with the idea that Bob would be great company for Jerry Swinefeld. Bob would nibble grass while Jerry would luxuriate in his favorite mud hole. The two would nap side-by-side in the shade. The odd couple would share the spacious stall in the barn at night, snuggled in the sweet-smelling straw.

Paradise, right? Wrong.

The day I moved Bob to Jerry’s pasture, Jerry moved out of his comfy digs in the barn and dug a new bed in the farthest corner of his pasture from the barn. He would not come back to the barn, not even to eat. This is is a profound piggy statement because, well, it’s FOOD and he’s a PIG.

So I thought I’d give them a little time to work it out. You know…give them a week and surely Jerry would decide that Bob wasn’t such a bad roommate after all. Right?

Wrong again.

Jerry has upped his game. He up and moved out.

We’re still not entirely sure how a 700+ pound hog has managed to subtly slip out of a seemingly still intact fence, but he has. Now he has taken up residence by the pond, up against the backside of the dam.

And he is not budging.

Usually I can lure him back to the barn with promises of grand feasts (this means rattle a bucket with anything remotely edible in it and he’ll jump right up). But he’s not falling for it this time.

Bob seems concerned. He spent the night standing confused by the fence, staring at his wayward friend snoring on the other side.

So today I get to figure out how to convince Jerry to come back to his home…and I need to do this before he decides to head off to see if the neighbors might have anything interesting to eat. That NEVER goes well.

How do you move a huge hog that doesn’t want to move?

Well, I’m going to solve that riddle today. My first guess is that I need to move Bob back to the donkey pasture.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about Bob’s seemingly uninventive name after reading names like Spamela Anderson and Jerry Swinefeld? Well, he named himself.

Baaaaaahb. Baaaaaahb.

Stay tuned…this riddle is very likely to turn into a full-fledged joke.