The truth is you can never be prepared for, or know, everything. After years of learning through both study and trial and error, I am often reminded of how little I know. We all like to think of ourselves as an apex predator, as someone who can get the job done. We fix our own equipment, and we work tirelessly to keep our homesteads running. But every once in a while its time to call in an expert. It is so hard to know when to call in the Calvary, in fact most of us probably push it too far. This week we not only called in an expert, we learned a few valuable lessons about the difference between real farmers and what we do. It all started several weeks ago when one of our pigs developed what we thought to be an abscess on its belly.
As we usually do, we researched treatments and causes. We asked friends with more experience, but still were unsure of what we were dealing with. We toyed with the idea of lancing it ourselves and as it grew, so did our stress level. We did not have the knowledge of a pig farmer, who probably would have culled this pig as it was 100lbs or so and could have been of some use. This was the moment that we realized that it was time to call in the expert. We are fortunate where we live to still have a real country vet. A small but important side note: It also helps that his daughter and our son will soon be married. Doc Caucci from Orson Corners Veterinary clinic took time out on a 90 degree Saturday to come down and take a look at our pig named “Olive”, with the mystery swelling, Yes, we know, we should not name our food, but somehow it brings us peace when the “appointment” day comes.
When doc arrived he was ready for business, we had only seen him work on our cat before, and in all of our time spent together at BBQ’s and family functions I had never seen this side of him. He gathered his tools as a master carpenter would and went to work. First it became very apparent that Olive, our most skittish pig of course, would need to be sedated. Doc jumped into the pen like a veteran boxer and went to work. After several attempts, and with all hands on deck, we were able to corner Olive with some plywood boards. Luke, our younger son, was instrumental in this process. After she was sedated, we removed her from the pen and placed her on a clean tarp. Again having a strong 17 year old son was a blessing. As Doc plied his trade, the truth was revealed. It was not an abscess, but in fact, a hernia. It was at this point that I was very happy I didn’t try and lance it by myself. Doc, wearing his blue vet’s coveralls, went to work. We placed olive on her back in a chute that we constructed.
Luke and I held her legs as Doc went to work. The confident ease with which Doc worked was astounding. It made me think of a great guitar player, how their fluid movements make it look so easy, until you pick up the guitar and realize it isn’t. Within minutes Olive’s muscle layer and skin were stitched up. As we stood looking down at her I was again thankful for both Doc and my decision not to take matters into my own hands.
We then placed Olive in isolation in her own house with fresh hay to recover. It struck me how drained we all were after this experience, except doc, who disinfected his boots and looked ready for another round. I guess when you flip cow stomachs and deliver calves, a little hernia surgery is no big deal, but for us it sure seemed like a miracle. After several days she was back with the other pigs. I’m not sure she even remembers what happened. Homesteading blesses us with challenges, and teaches us solutions. It never is boring or just the same old thing over and over. So many people ask us if we think it’s worth it, or if it’s fair to the animals, but when was the last time you gave your pork chop surgery, or misted her tongue with refreshing water as she recovered from anesthesia? We care about these animals and give them a great life full of pets and treats. I am certain they are happier than any factory farmed pigs. We are also not naive, we know that there is no way everyone can live this way, but we are thankful that we can. The decision to call in an expert is never easy, and when we need to it doesn’t make us weak or any less, it makes us human.