Moving Pigs & Intern Revelations

Hi. My name is Graham Bradley and I am the current intern at Ferme Mélilot. I originally hail from a town of about 80,000 inhabitants called Nanaimo, located on the east side of Vancouver Island, about 2 hours North of Victoria by car.  I graduated in May with a degree in Geography and minor in Photography from Concordia University in Montreal.

Not so long ago we moved our seven pigs from their usual dug-up dug-out to a much larger spot in the side field. It is not just because they have tripled in weight since they arrived here at Mélilot that Jonathan decided to move them: they are cultivating and composting the corn in one and ploughing in one foul rout. They are fantastically strong diggers; they get down and pull up the roots or just about everything smaller than a hunched old apple tree (the only thing standing in their old pen). The layout of their new pen occupies about 12 entire rows of corn.  Jonathan bush hogged (lawnmower that goes on the back of the tractor) a few rows to make room for the electric fence. In order to move them we placed the trailer into their space and moved their tire/trough up onto it. As some of them are fairly cautious it took several days before the majority of them were willing to climb the short step onto the trailer; food is certainly magnetic for us when we are hungry. Only one female pig with big black spots was unwavering in her resistance to the trailer, patiently waiting the daily delivery of delicious veggie field scraps instead of the two feeding’s of germinated corn, peas and oats with a nice mineral mix (kelp, limestone, and salt with added selenium) sprinkled on top ; ) We could wait no longer and decided to move the first six

Coaxing some took awhile

and do a second trip to pick up the remaining guilt (a female pig that hasn’t had any piglets). We erected some boards with re-bar and T-posts to reinforce the funnel to the trailer and grabbed some extra boards to use for our planned ‘herd-her-in’ technique. Well pigs just aren’t herd animals it turns out. Jonathan and I aren’t even aspiring cowboys, but we needed some lasso skills asap to catch this very fast 170+ lbs pig.  She keep managing to push past us and our boards. Jonathan and I took our respective dives in the mud… It turned into a chase which ended in simply tiring her out (and me) to point where she made some bad decisions. She tried to get under the front of the trailer to get onto the other side of the trailer (away from us) and got stuck part way. It gave me time to get the rope (webbing (a kind of flat rope)) slip-not Jonathan had equipped me with around her head. As I did that she squirmed with all her might trying to get away… she slipped out from under the front hitch (cutting herself twice in the process) and then I jumped on top of her and grabbed one leg at a time and pulled the rope around her chest while Jonathan tied her back legs up, we final had her. Now try to imagine the intense sound she is making while we wrestle/drag her into the trailer… very loud squealing like I have never heard before, but hey I have never done anything like this before. Once she was on board she calmed down a bit and some tea-tree oil was poured on her cuts.   From there it was short trip to be with her drift (a group of pigs). She certainly didn’t need to be coaxed out of the trailer like the others did, one plus in the process. As we, ‘team pig movers’ high-fived in celebration I realized how sweaty I was and that I had ripped a huge hole in my right sleeve! Though the steady wear and tear of clothing comes with the territory: my straw hat is starting to unweave on one side, the button of my pants popped off last week, I’m on my third pair of gloves, 2ndpair of rubber boots, I ripped my raincoat on one side, and the dirt has worked its way so deep into my fingers that my prints stand out, not to mention the damaged thumb nail and knuckles that make me wince as I scrape them against something else… I’m really feeling like a farmer and I should add that most often I have a grin on my face : ) I started mon stage in mid-April and have had many new experiences whilst being the happiest of sponges, soaking up as much as possible. A particular moment stands out during my time here, perhaps the pinnacle of moments. It was a Wednesday morning harvest, the morning after the point-de-chute (delivery to

Kale with Mount Pinnacle

Montreal) and I was waist deep in the kale. I was updating Jolianne on the details of yesterdays veggie run and it hit me, I was in heaven. Perhaps it was the view of Mount Pinnacle from the top field that put me over the top, but I realized that this was what I wanted to do, at least for the next 25 or so years My internship has solidified my desire to become a farmer. Let’s not forget that I just spent four years getting a degree which at its crescendo suddenly shifted from mind blowing seminar classes to a hyper-learning environment as we understood and answered the intense call of the student strike – a big part of me was searching for a career path inside Concordia’s towers. University has certainly contributed tremendously to my life path, but now I look at my hands and realize how happy it makes me to live growing food and nourishing the soil.  I have been jokingly calling my degree a ‘degree in depression’, as when one studies geography you take a good hard look at the state of the world… it

me

doesn’t look to good right now.  I feel that small organic farms are an important part of improving the state of our little planet.  Despite my decision being made to become a farmer, we will see if I can deal with the responsibility that comes with stewarding the land and operating a business that actual earns an income! Regardless, I am excited for my farming future!

 

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