The dreaded phone call

Every time I’m gone from the farm, my blood pressure spikes if my phone rings and the caller ID says its one of the neighboring farms. My worry of course is that they are calling me to tell me I have animals loose, and from time to time this is true. Last February (pre-pandemic) we were having a nice lunch with a couple and their young children, and my neighbor called me.

“Are your cows supposed to be in the woods?” He asked.

We said our goodbyes to our friends in quick fashion and got back to the farm to wrangle wayward cows as quickly as we could. (When the ground freezes solid and is covered in snow it conducts electricity poorly, and thus our electric fences aren’t nearly as effective as they are during the snowless months.)

Flash forward to this past Monday afternoon and I was about an hour away from the farm buying some building supplies when my phone rang. The called ID said it was Morgan, and so my heart rate was unaffected. But once I heard her breathing heavily, I knew something was amiss.

“There’s pigs all over the farm,” she said exhaustively, “and in our front yard.”

During my absence, a portable electric fence had fallen over because of the recent freeze/thaw cycles, and eight 300lb hogs had taken it upon themselves to explore areas of the farm that had always been off limits.

There was nothing I could do. I was an hour away, and sunset was in roughly 45 minutes, so both she and I knew she was on her own.Thankfully, my mother-in-law was at the house and able to watch our children.

Morgan put on a headlamp and boots and spent darn near an hour chasing pigs back into their rightful area. To her dismay she’d chase three pigs in the opening of the fence, only to have two others escape. It went on like this until it was completely dark out, when she finally got the last hog back through the opening.

She called me, out of breath and lungs chilled from breathing deeply the cold air. “How many pigs total are supposed to be in this area?” Because of the darkness, she couldn’t be sure she had gotten every last one.

“Twelve,” I said, after some quick math in my head. I could then hear her counting under her breath.

“There’s thirteen,” she replied.

“Oh yeah, thirteen I mean. Nice job.”

When I returned home I tried to re-frame the ordeal as just a nice cardiovascular exercise event, but she didn’t find it quite as humorous as I did, at least until the following day.

Hi-jinks like this are commonplace on a diversified, pasture-based farm, and thankfully we can nearly always look back at them and have a good laugh.
But because no one wants too much of a good thing, Morgan reminded me to make sure that all of our fences are secured are standing tall before I leave the farm the next time.

Duly noted.

 Thanks for reading!
-Farmer Andre

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