|Pig Memories, Fly Rub Tips, Fast Grass and Snake Savvy|
"I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals."
We raised hogs when I was growing up on the farm. The closest to death I’ve come was when a sow with piglets cornered me inside the barn when I was about six years old. She bit, stomped, butted and slung me around until I began to loose consciousness. The last thing I remember hearing was, "Tong!" "Tong!" "Tong!" I thought I had died and was hearing church bells. Instead it was our neighbor, high school student, Frankie Gay, bashing that sow in the skull with a shovel until she released me from her fury. I credit Frankie with saving my life that day, and I learned to have cautious respect for even domesticated animals.
Pigs have been around for quite a while. Supposedly, Hernando DeSoto brought the first swine to the New World in 1539. Before that, the Chinese were the first to raise wild pigs for food, domesticating them around 6,000 years ago.
Pigs not only give us food in the form of sausage, bacon and pork chops, their heart valves can be used to replace faulty human valves. They don’t sweat, so they wallow in mud to keep cool. The coarse hair of the hog has even been used to make hairbrushes.
My favorite thing about pigs when I was growing up was when we would take them to the sale. Birmingham and Guntersville were the two hot spots for selling hogs in those days, and it meant I would get to stay out of school. It was the only time I could "lay out" if I wasn’t sick. We would get up at three in the morning, sort and load the hogs, eat a huge breakfast prepared by my Grandmother, spray the hogs down with water to prevent overheating and be on the road one hour before the sun came up.
On one of these trips to Guntersville, just as we pulled into the lot to unload the hogs, a 500-pound sow jumped over the cattle panels on our 1972 Chevrolet ton truck, landed on her nose, bounced up and ran through downtown Guntersville traffic creating general havoc. Fortunately, a few brave travelers jumped out of their vehicles and helped us herd the crazed animal to the loading zone before anyone got hurt. Shortly after, hog prices fell through the floor and we got out of the business, but it was fun while it lasted.
June can be a difficult time for cattle when they have to deal with summertime flies. A backrub placed between two posts in a gap, barn hallway or gate opening where the cattle are forced to enter works well to reduce fly numbers on cattle. To avoid getting insecticide and diesel all over yourself when charging the back rub, use a three-gallon sprayer.
You can simply set the sprayer on the ground or hold it while you charge or recharge the backrub. With a mixture of diesel and insecticide, it takes about two gallons to saturate the rub for the first time and one gallon of solution to recharge. Recharge the rub about every two weeks so the base of the back rub stays greasy. If face flyps are attached to the back rub, gravity draws insecticide into the fabric strips. This gives extra protection against face flies. You can purchase your fly control needs at your local Co-op.
Small, square bales of hay are easy to manage and convenient when feeding a small amount of livestock. Any time the bale is in contact with the ground, there is a chance for rotting. When stacking square bales of hay on the ground inside a barn or unused chicken house, start the first layer of bales on their edge. If you can keep the strings off the ground, they won’t rot. This will prevent the aggravating process of grabbing a bale that splits apart and spills hay all over the ground. You have to work hard for those square bales. Save all the hay you can.
Fast Summer Grass
It’s summer and you’ve cleared new ground for pasture or you’ve created a fishpond and need vegetation to quickly take root to prevent soil erosion on the pond dam. How do you get plants to grow in the heat of summer? The answer is seed choice and plenty of mulch.
A quick-growing, easy-to-germinate seed in the summer is millet. Brown top or white millet will germinate in the presence of very little rainfall. In addition, even fescue will germinate and grow in the summer if the mulch is thick enough. Using hay or wheat straw as mulch, a thick cover over the broadcast seeds holds in enough moisture to cause the seeds to germinate and grow. In addition, when the rain does fall, the thick mulch of the hay or straw will hold the newly-germinated seeds in place while they develop adequate root systems and will help prevent erosion.
The copperhead is a poisonous snake with some of the least toxic venom. I photographed the foot of a 12-year-old girl who had been bitten. She was walking along the sidewalk in front of her house at night wearing flip flops when the copperhead struck leaving two small puncture holes in the side of her foot.
The foot swelled and had a darkened, bruised appearance, but the bite was minor and she didn’t have to receive any anti-venom. The doctor simply cleansed the bite marks with iodine and gave her a tetanus shot since the mouth of most snakes can contain contaminants. The young lady told me, when she received the bite, it burned like fire and felt like being stung by hornets.
This June, use common sense and ingenuity to stay safe when you are on the farm or in the outdoors.
John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.