Carol’s Corner

The Dream Sequence…
By Carol Welcomb

Perhaps it is the fact that I’ve been living with pigs for nearly six years. Perhaps it is the fact that I’ve been eating before I have been sleeping. In either event, I’ve had some strange dreams lately, and I wish to share this one.

First, I must admit that Marcie started it when she said “Can you imagine…Lily saw something in a magazine she ate and she knew she had to have it.”

A statement like that, to someone who doesn’t have pigs, may cause a few chuckles, but not the type of laughter we suffered through for the better part of a half-hour. All right, I had the beginning of a fantastic dream sequence with the thought of Lily eating a magazine, but before she completely chewed it up, she found something in there she wanted to have. Pigs are smart (certainly I’ve learned this the hard way…they are like kids, you have to learn to use your brain to its full potential), they have excellent memories and it’s difficult to outwit them. Mostly I’ve learned to compromise. However, faced with Lily and her wanting something from a catalog she was in the process of eating, set off the whole puzzle of how this was going to come to pass.

First, there was the matter of opening a checking account. (See? I told you this dream was great!) No matter how terrible my own signature becomes, it’s better than Lily’s. So, I pictured the horror of taking her to the Secretary of State’s office…in order for Lily to have a valid picture ID to write her checks. (She absolutely can never have a driver’s license. No matter how the car could be equipped, her hooves would never be able to operate a moving vehicle. Plus, I would worry that she’d stop at every blade of grass to investigate.) I could see the person trying to take the photo for Lily’s ID say “Step up to the line” and looking through that silly viewfinder, only not seeing a person…not seeing anything, for Lily would be below the line of the camera. I’m disappointed she didn’t smile for the picture.

On other news fronts here, Tyler James has begun a cute behavior pattern with the cats now. When Tyler first came here, he not only was smaller (in height) to LennyCat, he was terrified of all the cats. Now it seems he’s learned this great way to have his snout and neck rubbed for him. He simply walks slowly up to a cat who happens to be on a chair or the loveseat in the living room, then he gently rocks the cushion until the cat sticks out a paw that Tyler can rub against. This scratching procedure has been beneficial for Tyler’s social interaction with the cats and it also puts him in a trance.

Louise just had her fifth birthday the other day. All three of the girls here have their birthdays in April. That makes it handy for me to remember and it certainly makes Tyler feel very special, since his birthday is in October. The kids all got baby carrots as a treat.

Last month, the pigs were all telling me they wanted to go outside and play because it was so sunny and warm. This month, we’ve been having the weather we should have had last month, so all of them have been rather content to stay inside and snuggle in the huge pile of blankies. Hopefully, it will be warm enough soon to let them have a great time outside.

Seasonal Porch Pigs
By Carol Welcomb

Just the other day I was watching the pigs out in their pen. Garbo was lying in front of the door on our little stoop…catching the rays of sunshine that she normally misses in the summer due to the trees in the yard. I was fiddling around with something for about ten minutes and when I looked back up toward the stoop, Louise was lying there. It’s almost as if I believe they vote on how often they should change positions in order keep me wondering.

I love this time of year. It’s not only beautiful, but wholly unpredictable. Warm and sunny one day, freezing cold the next. I’m still amazed that the pigs want to go out in the morning, but considering that their pellets are scattered all over in their pen, it’s like they are playing and eating all at once. There have been about four times so far this past week that Garbo has missed the beginning of breakfast because she slept through it. She is the one who’s known for sleeping heavily. I have had to literally put the pail of pellets just above her head and shake them vigorously in order to awaken her. Once up, she will immediately strut to the front door and wander out to see what part of breakfast is left for her.

Lily has been brave enough to be outside in the rain. I’m not saying she’s too great at ignoring it like the other three seem to, but she’s willing to at least go out and try to entertain herself outside for as long as she can tolerate the temperatures. When I say “temperatures”, I’m referring to the fact that our high temperatures have been in the fifties for the past few days. Bleak, cool, gray days with rain aren’t Lil’s favorites. She’s being “brave” and withstanding the near-frigid conditions (in her estimations). However, around two in the afternoon, she gets right up next to the bottom of the door and begins to scream. You all know what I’m talking about, for I don’t mean she’s “complaining”, I mean she sounds like she’s being harmed in some horrid fashion. The first time I heard Lillian make this sound, I did react as if she was being hurt and raced to find out what the dire problem was. There were no marks on her, the other three pigs were oblivious to her complaining and too far away from her to be the cause of the complaints. As I stood there on the porch, I asked her what her problem was and she immediately came inside, walked over to the corner and fell asleep in her pile of blankets. Seems my biggest “pig baby” can’t really tolerate weather if it’s rainy or if the temperatures dip below sixty degrees. It’s important to note that Lily is now six and a half years old and she really is better than she used to be about cooler, rainy weather.

I was actually going to go out and measure the exact size of the front porch. I can’t call it a porch, really…it’s just a cement stoop with two steps to make getting in the front door possible. Since it’s a crummy day, let’s just say it’s about five feet wide and four feet from the front door before the first step. It also serves as a very hard bed for four weary pigs to pile on during the evening hours. I tried to tell the pigs that we were going to be gone until it got dark one night and they didn’t seem motivated to come in prior to us leaving. Boy howdy! By the time we got home, all four of them were on the porch and more than ready to go into the blanket pile.

Speaking of reasoning with a pig…I find that if I really sit down and talk with them, they do seem to understand me. Perhaps they just take pity upon me for being a mere “human”. We are going to try something very unique around here this winter…I’m really going to see if the pigs want to continue to go outdoors for as long as they wish. It might be only to rush out and go potty, but it will be their choice. Funny thing is that Lily and I are very much alike. If I could hibernate until April rolls around, that would be all right with me, too.

Oatmeal # Three & The Feathered Alarm Clock.
By Carol Welcomb

Sure, I know what you’re thinking. The title of this month’s article seems rather bizarre. What’s funnier is the concept of me trying to explain it all to you, but I promise to do my best. First, when I write about the pigs, I keep saying they are such creatures of habit and routine. What I’ve forgotten to mention is that we humans are creatures of habit and routine. Marcie loves oatmeal. When we went to the store she bought a small tub of oatmeal and we placed it on the lower cupboard shelf next to the stove. (Never mind that she cooks oatmeal in the microwave.) I should have known that the lower shelf might become a problem. That’s Tyler’s favorite cupboard to open and I thought that since he hadn’t found anything in that cupboard for a very long time, he’d pretty much leave it alone. I was wrong. One day, he got in there (so quietly that no one heard him). He helped himself to the oatmeal (pretty much the entire small tub) and was wagging his tail the entire time. In fact, he couldn’t understand why I was trying to get him out of the kitchen at all. Fortunately for me, Tyler didn’t create a large disturbance which would have alerted his three sisters to the potential of goodies.

I wish I could tell you that we two humans learned something valuable from this experience. We did not. Within a few weeks, we’d bought another tub of oatmeal, the bigger one this time, for I thought of baking cookies and a cake. We placed the large tub of oatmeal in the same cupboard. Tyler left it alone, but then we’d gone out for the morning once, only to come home to four pigs in the kitchen (how they opened the gate is still a mystery to me). Four very happy pigs, with very waggy tails were in the kitchen. The problem was that I had only spotted three happy pigs and was worried about the location of Louise. After all, I didn’t know that Louise had hidden herself behind the island in the kitchen and was busy with her head in the bucket of oatmeal. I had to do a great deal of shooing in order to remove the pigs from the kitchen. The important thing here is that I wasn’t angry, for it was more my fault than theirs. I’m very proud to say that we two humans have learned to place the oatmeal in an upper cupboard and now we haven’t had any more kitchen cupboard break-ins.

As for our wonderful feathered alarm clock…

Marty is our Nanday conure. He’s a very beautiful, bright green color with blue- tipped wings and orange legs. He’s larger than a parakeet, but smaller than a parrot. One trait that Marty possesses is that he can make the loudest bird noises that I’ve ever heard. I believe that Marty and Tyler have some sort of arrangement together, despite the fact they are in separate rooms. If Marty hears Tyler get up in the morning (Tyler is always the first one up in the morning because he thinks Marcie is going to give him her banana peel), Marty begins that one shrill sound that sounds like a blue jay on steroids. It’s the type of alarm clock I need. Perhaps Marty gets so loud because he wants Marcie’s banana peel. I’m not sure, but the fact remains that this bird can literally make the shingles on the house rattle.

I said last month that the pigs were all cranky because they’d spent so much of the month of May in the house, due to large rains we had here. I was right when I thought we’d been deluged…we set a record of 9.59 inches for the month of May. Yesterday, we had over three inches of rain, but the pigs got out in the morning for their “outdoor time” before the rain hit. Which brings up another story about water and pigs. Garbo is not particularly fond of having her face washed. In fact, you can hear her a mile away say that she isn’t having a good time. However, she’s been known to stand outside in the pouring rain (despite the fact all the pigs have houses outside). If she’s let inside soaking wet, she gets dried off with a towel and she’s not very happy about that, either. I guess there’s no pleasing her.

To anyone wondering whether the pigs have bothered the flowers that I planted on the outside of their fence, the answer is no. They’ve been very good about not trying to eat them or even root toward them. I’ve given the pigs a lot of big rocks and pieces of concrete to play with in their yard. Garbo and Tyler have been the ones to really appreciate rooting them around. In fact, one day we looked outside and it seemed as if Garbo was building a pool.

Life with pigs is always interesting and certainly unpredictable. As I slowly get the basement painted, I wonder how they will like to have their living quarters down there with the cats. I plan on moving my computer down there, too…so I can be downstairs as much as possible.

Pigs in Blankets
By Carol Welcomb

Well, I knew it was probably going to happen sooner or later, considering we haven’t had much of a winter. Sure, we’ve had the cold temperatures outside, but no real snow storms. Whenever something big was forecast, it either went north or south of us. However, we’ve had a rather dandy one now but I can’t tell you how much snow…other than around eight to ten inches. All I know is that it’s pretty (and yes, I had to drive in it late last night which wasn’t all that fun, but at least with nearly a full moon, I could pretty much figure out where the roads were supposed to be).

In weather like this, the pigs tend to find all their blankets (and they have more blankets than I do) in order to curl up and fall asleep for the afternoon.

There is a funny thing that also happens at night if one of them decides to get up and “visit” with a human. So far, Tyler and Louise are the only pigs in this home that do so with any regularity. They all sleep in a big “pig pile” in their corner. If there happens to be an interesting noise in the kitchen or dining room, Tyler and/or Louise will extract him/herself in order to check out what is going on. Well, this happened last night during a card game (we humans were playing cards, not the pigs). First Louise wanted in the kitchen and she’s really subtle…she jumped up on the gate and made very loud pig sounds. Funny thing was that we weren’t eating anything, just playing cards (canasta). Then Tyler thought maybe there was something very interesting and he wanted in to see.

Funny thing…Lily actually woke up and decided to join in the possible event (this means there could have been a treat or a food potential). There we were…humans doing no more than playing canasta, suddenly surrounded by three pigs who thought there was something in the food department for them. I couldn’t stand it and gave everyone a carrot. I must tell you that I had to hand-deliver Garbo’s carrot to her, as she was still stuffed in the middle of the pile of blankets, totally unaware that anything was happening.

Garbo does tend to sleep through things. It’s almost as if she “hibernates” a bit in the winter, for she’s the one I need to “remind” to come get her dinner. While Tyler feigns starvation, Garbo sleeps. The contrast in these two pigs is very humorous.

Getting back to the funniest part of the winter blanket pig pile-up… Louise will very often come out of the middle of the pile to investigate human noises. Once she’s left the pile, the remaining three pigs scrunch together more, which keeps them all warmer. However, when Louise wants to return to the Porcine Pile-Up, there is a great deal of noise and the sounds of the remaining three (who were very much asleep) being extremely DISGRUNTLED. Does Louise gently try to worm her way back into the pile? NO! She rather heaps herself up on top (usually on top of Garbo who actually complains rather loudly) and then snuggles in for the night.

If Tyler is the one to leave the pile-up, then he relegates himself to sleeping on the outside of the pile. The only pig he will disturb is Garbo and she doesn’t mind him bugging her nearly as much as if Louise gets on her.

In studying the psychology of this winter pile-up, I have realized that none of the pigs really wants to be on the outside of this warm and cozy pile. Lily packs herself next to the wall, which is warm, then Louise is right next to her, followed by Garbo and Tyler (these younger two sleep in no particular order). I don’t know the dynamics of the warmth of the pile well enough, nor do I know how they communicate to each other regarding their sleeping habits, but I do really think it’s amazing when one of them decides to leave the pile, only to return and awaken the other three. The rearragements that they all go through to accommodate each other is fantastic.

What is also neat is watching the pigs as the light in the evenings is lasting longer. It doesn’t get totally dark here now till around seven, so they tend to stay awake longer, but aren’t thrilled because it’s not warm outside. In fact, if I have the nerve to open the front door and Tyler is in the hallway, he complains to me that I got cold air on him.

I can’t wait for Spring this year, for the pigs are going to get a totally new area all fenced in (actually double-fenced in!) and they will be given a new area to explore. This will give them a lot of fun, for I will make sure and have plenty of those wild blackberries in their pen.

Outwitting the Pigs (on Becoming a Smarter Human)
By Carol Welcomb

I’m not sure this story is more about the pigs or about myself. Of course, it’s rather silly of me to admit to y’all that I’ve gotten to the point where there are several things around the house that people would wonder about…especially if they have to go to the bathroom and find that bungee cord that is around the bathroom doorknob. It’s at that point where I must explain why there’s a bungee cord there in the first place. I became truly frustrated that I had to coax Lillian out of the bathroom at least once a day. Coax is the mildest word I can use, too.

She liked to spend her afternoons in the bathroom, lying in the winter sunshine, but she liked doing that alone. She wasn’t only alone, she would shut the bathroom door behind her. If the sun happened to go away, she would get up and lay beside the bathroom door. I’m not as young as I used to be, so I do have to go to the bathroom more often and it’s not always easy with a pig purposefully blockading the door. So, I actually thought about how I could either remove the bathroom door (it’s not like it would truly be a horrid thing, since there are only two adults living here) or get that bungee cord installed in a way that would prevent Lily from her private moments. I chose the latter option, knowing that people wouldn’t think I was as totally crazy.

First, I installed an oak towel rack behind the door (into the studding, so it would hold up to Lily’s attempts to close the door). Then I got a bungee cord and placed one of the hooks over the dowel and the other hook, I simply put on the first one. Then I grab the cord and pull till it’s over the knob. I was very impressed with my accomplishment. Of course, it’s still not easy to explain to friends that I have a bungee cord on the bathroom doorknob so the eldest pig can’t block the bathroom door. However, I’ve learned that the shorter I keep the explanation of that, the less I’m given odd looks.

Speaking of being proud of myself…this is the year the pigs will be getting a new, wooden fence. I’ve been looking for sales at the various home building places and the best fencing is already done in eight-foot lengths. This means that I simply dig the trenches for the fencing and pour the cement into it, then set the fencing into the trench. It sounds simple…and I’m sure praying that it will be. In any event, I will update y’all on my fence project.

The pigs are getting both anxious and obnoxious right now. This is the time of year they begin to bug me to go outside and it’s not really warm enough yet. However, I realize that if the fence were totally done, they could go out (except I doubt that Lily would, since she prefers to wait until it’s about eighty outside). Garbo, Tyler James and Louise are all giving me grief that I’ve not done the fence project and they are the main reasons I’m exploring those choices. Lily has always been very good about staying in the yard, yet she was the one last Fall who ended up in the neighbor’s yard. I can understand why she went over there, they had better grass then we did, but that’s no excuse for her to wander. I’m still adjusting to the fact that we have neighbors, but after twenty-five years of living in the middle of very secluded woods, you really can’t expect the school district would sell the FFA land. What’s worse is the fact that there are about thirty new homes…ten on this side of the road and twenty on the other side. I complain out loud if I have to drive north and see them.

I have a funny story to relate about Tyler James and his little, new obsession. Every morning when Marcie gets up, she has a cup of coffee and eats a banana in the television room, then she will share her banana peel with the pigs. Tyler knows this and waits for Marcie at the door. Marcie was gone for a week and he was very upset that his routine was wrecked. He was an extremely happy man to see her return home!

It’s that time of year the pigs love, when they get their blankies washed (they need them washed more in the months they go out more, just to keep them clean). I promise to report on how the wooden fence project goes and if the fence is something easy to accomplish. Have a good month!!