Category Archives: Thoughts


pigs, pigs everywhere

Matt’s pigs are hard to contain. The  porkers are always hungry and since the grass is greener on the other side the five-strand, high tensile electric fence, who can blame them for looking for any weakness that offers egress to a bigger world?

And take my word for it. They do. Driving or walking down the lane that connects our house from the rest of the farming operation — a stretch of about a third of a mile — you are likely to come face to snout with a 700-pound black Berkshire pig. Very often this goliath is followed by four or five youngsters, each probably weighing in at well over 100 pounds.

a pig on the driveway.....
a pig on the driveway…..

I don’t begrudge the pigs their scavenging. There’s even a name for a small group of woodland porcine foragers: a sounder. But I don’t fancy a sounder in the yard or, perish the thought, my garden.

Still, when I drove up to the house this weekend, there was abundant evidence that a rampaging hog herd had made quick work of the lawn and the garden. And because pigs are social by nature,

a piggy sounder -- on the wrong side of the fence
a piggy sounder — on the wrong side of the fence

whenever a few of us were in the yard or even the kitchen, the pigs materialized, grunting, snorting, scuffling, rooting, and even napping.

My brother says that pigs constantly check in with each other with friendly shoves and jostles, accompanied by rude-sounding rumbles and snuffles and snorts. Matt’s beasts are so massive and rotund, when they group together in hoggish solidarity, they reminded me of a herd of hippos just emerged from the Zambezi River.

glad the garden is so comfy, pig. Sleep well!
glad the garden is so comfy, pig. Sleep well!

Full-grown pigs have very large teeth and use the choppers to worry any thing they can reach, including the birdbath and the decorative oversized metal sunflower in

Uh...make yourselves at home, porkers!.
Uh…make yourselves at home, porkers!.

the garden. As soon as the fatties moved out of the way yesterday, Dick and I transported these to the garage for the winter, out of harm’s way.

But that was about all we could do — except leave. I hope in our absence, the porkers looked for food somewhere else. Maybe a field well removed from the garden and our back yard.

why can't pigs be more like cows?
why can’t pigs be more like cows?

copyright © Mary Goodbody

Going for the Light

Esmé. What a little beauty!
Esmé. What a little beauty!

When I open the refrigerator, my cat wanders over and seems to want to climb in. She is going for the light.

These days, she lives under a kitchen stool, where I have made her a bed of towels and warm fleece. She comes out to eat ravenously and to beg for more. (She also comes out to use her litter, thank goodness.) When she walks around the kitchen, she bumps into walls, stumbles over the dog’s feet or walks under his belly. He pays no attention. Oliver, who is a three-year-old ginger cat, bats her, grabs her neck and makes her growl.

When I put her dish on the floor I tap, tap, tap it to get her attention. Clearly she can’t see it, but she wants her 9-Lives. Every night I pull her onto my lap and despite all the devoured food, she feels like skin and bones, an old lady who can’t keep any weight on her frame. Once on my lap, I jab her with a needle that is attached to a bag of saline. This hydration is keeping her very much alive.

This little cat is one of a pair of litter mates Laura and I adopted 18 years ago this month. We named them Ichabod Crane and Esmé (for Esmeralda), in celebration of Halloween. Esmé was so small, she could walk under the basset hound we had in those days. The two felines weren’t especially attached to each other, but they were attached to us and Esmé stuck like glue to Sam, the basset. When he was dying in 2001, she slept with him in his bed and stayed by his side as he stumbled about the backyard. I had never seen anything like it.

I was partial to Ichabod. He was a big, independent cat. Esmé was needier and once she started purring, she drooled. Seep-through-your-jeans kind of drool. Ichabod died last February. He was eating well and so it kind of snuck up on me. One day he wasn’t grooming himself and lost interest in his food. I called the vet for an appointment the next day. That morning he was weak and by the afternoon I decided he was dead. He was stretched out under a chair. I put him in a clothes basket and loaded it into the front seat of the car for his final trip to the vet. I chuckled at the thought of a cop pulling me over. Like a Monty Python bit. Officer, I have a dead cat!

Esmé has been more difficult. She’s been dying for a lot longer. She has some sort of infection or maybe cancer. She responds to the hydrating and the steroid shots, although I know one day she will stop eating. And that will be that. In the meantime, she is drawn to the light. Sadly for her, it’s just the refrigerator.

Note: Esmé died today. She stopped eating yesterday and then gave up walking. I took her to the vet at noon today and she gently left this earth. A little cat, a little life, a big loss.

copyright © Mary Goodbody

Horses on a Dairy Farm

The horses arrive in a gigantic horse hauler
The horses arrive in a gigantic horse hauler

Earlier this week, Kara arrived with 30 horses. Yes, that’s right. She owns 30 horses and they needed a home. We have the land, if not the horse barn, and so she and her husband Paul are stashing their equine in our pastures for the summer while they look for a more suitable long-term abode. A few of her horses need shelter and they are going in the old calf barn, hastily refitted for horses.

Kara and Paul walked the property at least twice before the horse vans arrived, yet even so some of our fencing, originally erected for cows, was inadequate for the horses. There were missing gates, electric wiring that wasn’t grounded and so didn’t work (or is it the other way around?), and two hissing geese sitting on eggs in the barn.

Another horse arrives in New Jersey!
Another horse arrives in New Jersey!

Horses don’t like geese. Or at least they don’t like anything that hisses.

And then there were the pigs. A few of Matt’s pigs were in the most secure part of the barn and Kara was not happy about it. Horses don’t really like to share their quarters and so the pigs had to go.

Matt is moving toPennsylvania with Tara, little Alice and his cows (but never the pigs) and there is some overlap between his leaving and Kara’s arrival. He got rid of the pigs and the geese. I don’t know how or where but as long as the horses are happy, I am not asking too many questions.

Walking to their new home
Walking to their new home

Kara’s horses include a couple of thoroughbreds who are not yet broken as well as some old, abandoned horses who are close to breaking. The thoroughbreds may well become racehorses, while the old chargers will live out their lives under Kara’s care. Twelve of the horses are rescues, looking for “forever homes.” The rest are hers.

Kara and Paul know how to train racehorses, which is exciting. I don’t think they will be trained in our pastures but they might start to learn about bridles, saddles and cinches this summer.

horses_-14Clearly I know very little about horses. Ours has always been a cattle farm.

Yet, when I was a girl, we had two horses named Sugar and Mexie. Big gentle nags that would allow a couple kids to straddle their broad backs as we wandered the fields. Later, after Sugar died, Corky arrived. He was a somewhat spirited palomino that I loved to ride.

horses_-15I haven’t been on a horse in a long time. I would love to try, although I will probably be frightened. Kara says she has a big, gentle giant of a horse I might want to ride. Really? What’s his name?


Looking forward to meeting you, Comanche!

copyright © Mary Goodbody