Makin Bacon: Part 5: Gates Delayed

My corral has seen better days but it was my intended pig containment area. It is ugly but basically sound. Oh whoops, didn’t I mention the gates? The locusts took every gate out of the corral! (When I say they took everything not nailed down I mean it. Hinges are no obstacle to the eye of a near looter.)

Bastards!

I don’t know what the original purpose of the corral was but it had gates everywhere. The reason for all those gates, like the purpose of Stonehenge, is lost to time.

I went to the feed store to buy a gate. Hopefully I can be forgiven for thinking a fence gates should be no big deal and they’d be reasonably cheap.

Curmudgeon: “I need some gates. How much?”

Feed Store Guy: “How long?”

Curmudgeon: “Twelve feet.”

Feed Store Guy: “It will cost THIS!”

Curmudgeon: “Ouch! That’s my left arm you just ripped off!”

Feed Store Guy: “Yeah, gates are expensive. I blame the weather.”

Curmudgeon: “The weather makes gates expensive?”

Feed Store Guy: “We’re farmers, the weather is the cause of every ailment. Also I’m going to take THIS!”

Curmudgeon: “Ow. You just tore off my leg. How much can a handful of gates cost?”

Feed Store Guy: “Oh, you want more than one?” He began to cackle with glee.

Curmudgeon: “Good gravy, I want to fence livestock, not put ‘em through college.”

Feed Store Guy: “Not to worry. We can extend farm credit.” He wheeled out a vice. “Stick your nuts in here and I’ll crank this…”

Curmudgeon: Running for my life, “Aaaaaahhhhhhh!”

Feed Store Guy to Other Feed Store Guy: “Must be a city slicker?”

Other Feed Store Guy: “Yeah, or maybe it’s the weather.”

———

Having fled the feed store I hunkered down at the nearest diner to drown my sorrows with coffee and a hamburger. I started drawing lines on a napkin. Soon I’d sketched out a wooden gate. Remember, it’s gotta’ be strong enough to last a while. That means crossposts and lag bolts and hinges, and six or seven pieces of wood about this long and several about that long and…

Well shit! That looked like a lot of work.

Ten minutes in a lumber yard confirmed that I’d be spending plenty on materials. Eventually I came to the realization that “pre-fab” farm gates, despite costing plenty, are just about cheaper than buying the wood to make your own. Plus making your own gate sounds like fun only if you make one. Making several sounds like a gold plated pain in the ass. It would kill a weekend at least.

Plus I really wanted red “pipe” gates like all the other farms. Yeah, yeah, if I were a real homesteader I’d go all Atlas Shrugged and chop logs out of the forest and lash together something with ropes and nails and make it work out of pure spite. I could do it and it would keep pigs in but it would be stupid and slow and ugly. Plus, I’ve got a day job.

This was a moment of weakness, I just wanted for once to have real equipment like a real grownup instead of screwing around with junk and a budget of zero. I couldn’t let it go.

It took weeks before I finally bought the stupid gates.

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Satire Only Takes Root Where It Belongs

Yesterday I posted satire:

The satirical ad was utterly ridiculous. We all laughed. Why? Because the target is prime for it. Congress needs an enema.

Watch this:

It’s a video of Rep Hank Johnson (D-GA) March 10th, 2010. He’s asking if putting additional military staff on Guam will cause the island of Guam to capsize. He was a sitting member of Congress when he said it. (I salute Admiral Robert Willard for responding with a straight face. Well done sir.)

Rep Johnson might have be a genius who made a single errant statement but nobody really believes that; dude’s as dense as a brick. So what does that mean about satire? Does Congress need an enema? Rep. Johnson won his first election (to the House of Representatives) in 2006 and won reelection in 2008, 2010, and 2012. The man who thought an island might capsize won most recently with 73% of his District’s vote. So, yeah. They’ve got it coming.

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Makin’ Bacon: Part 4: Wrath Of The Lightbulb Locusts

The hook had been set and the Foxinator had landed me checkbook first. Bacon was arriving; some assembly required.

It was time to prepare for the new arrivals. In fact it was past time… I was late!

Lucky for me, my homestead came with a “corral”. It would be a perfect place to raise pigs. Unfortunately for me, the corral had been pillaged.

Many years ago, I bought my homestead from the cheapest skinflint known to man. He was only the most recent in a line of leeches. I only found the place after the poor dump had been auctioned and cycled through a series of increasingly cheap bastards until the farm was a shell of it’s former self.

Buying an “abused” property is rough. No regrets; I knew what I was getting into. Even so, the damage a gaggle of cheap bastards and shortsighted nimrods can do to real estate is as impressive as it is hard to rectify.

After the locusts were done (and before I bought the place) anything that was not nailed down was long gone. This mystifies me. How dumb can an owner (any owner) get? If I had a property (which I do) I’d try to keep the place properly maintained and outfitted (which I do). Should I choose to sell it (which I won’t) I’d endeavor to sell it as habitable, functional, and complete. Who is so foolish they’ll wind up selling a gutted wreck?

Don’t say anything because I know precisely who’ll wind up trying to market a wreck; the people from whom I purchased the place. I know darned well they weren’t happy with the price they got. But it was self inflicted. If they hadn’t trashed the place they wouldn’t have painted themselves into a corner. The place, in good repair, would have merited a fine price; well out of my league. Instead they had to sell cheap to a bottom feeder like me. Morons.

Not only the house, but the outbuildings and even the adjacent forest was raked over the coals. Various (presumably well meaning) relatives brothers, uncles, aunts, in-laws, and probably random strangers played their role, each one taking some “minor” item with them. Each doing a little more damage. You can steal a city a brick at a time.

Collectively they literally took every object, large or small, that could be conceivably construed as potentially having value in this or any possible universe. They took stuff I wouldn’t have considered worth the effort to pick up if you dropped it at my feet. The place was picked clean. (The good news is that farms accumulate garbage, old cars, tires, etc… most of this was carted away too.)

One example was light bulbs. When you’re dropping eleventy zillion dollars on a house and land, the price of a light bulb doesn’t mean shit. It wasn’t a deal killer for me. The house had lights enough for a real estate agent to show it, but not one single unnecessary fixture had a bulb. Why? Apparently there are people so goofy they’ll go through a chunk of real estate hoovering up used light bulbs. That’s a level of cheap beyond logic and reason. An old bulb is worth what? Maybe a dime? Who has time for that? My theory is this; losers.

Included in the pre-sale bloodletting was the corral. In times long gone the place had a superb corral. It was likely proud in it’s heyday. I imagine it filled with big fat profitable cows that (because it’s my imagination) all look like Ferdinan the Bull.

This is exactly what my farm looks like... in my imagination.

This is exactly what my corral looks like… in my imagination.

Whomever was raising cows long ago didn’t screw around. He put up an agricultural Stonehenge. I’m not a farmer, I’m not even sure why one needs a corral. I presume a good corral makes managing cattle a easier but I could be wrong. It sure looks cool.

The corral builder (who is clearly a better level of individual than the lightbulb locusts) built it from used railroad ties. They’re sunk deep in the ground. (Not set in cement of course. Nobody in my rural county would spring for a bag of cement for a fencepost unless you put a gun to their head, and probably not even then.) Even so, railroad ties are bad ass!

Most of the corral fencing, as ancient as it may be, is still more or less straight. This makes me happy. Sure, one section tilts like it belongs in Pisa but the rest is fine provided you can accept a certain about of graceful lean. I can.

Despite the wood being pretty rough, it would take some serious doing to remove the ties. The lighbulb locusts couldn’t pull them out without a backhoe. So the ties remain.

The crossbars are good news too. The long gone and totally forgotten farmer went all out and exceeded the usual standard of barbed wire. He hammered up beefy planks with big friggin’ nails.

The planks are delightful. They were obviously locally milled by an amateur. The boards are rough cut and sized in actual dimensions of inches. None of the “nominal dimension” horseshit us hapless rubes accept as our fate. When you see a board that is honest, hefty, solid, thick, strong wood, of generous dimensions you know that most of the crap they sell in a lumber yard is abhorrent even before they perversely shave 1/16″ from random surfaces. I love those boards!

The lightbulb locusts were just barely sane enough to refrain from attacking the fence with a crowbar to get the wood. A close call indeed.

So the corral, built tough in an era when people meant things to last, persists amid real estate that’s been picked over by vultures. I tip my hat to the unknown farmer. I wonder if he raised bulls? Based on the construction I suspect he raised velociraptors.

There’s even a chute. I’m not sure what to do with a chute. I’m guessing they herded critters through it? Presumably cattle were shuffled through the confined space and  injected with some sort of veterinary voodoo? For all I know they just groped ‘em for the heck of it. Isn’t that what the TSA does?

It makes me happy to own a chute. Who else has a chute? Nobody. That’s right folks, I’m a studly chute owner!

At any rate, it was time to undo a wrong that had marred our fair world. Someone, I don’t know who, decided to tear out the corral gates and cart them away. I assume he’s in hell where he belongs. It fell to me to rectify the mayhem. After all, a corral is an asset and a tribute to the entrepreneurial spirit. A corral without gates is just an empty promise that’s a bitch to mow. My gateless corral, all show and no go, was an insult to agriculture and as far as I’m concerned, civilization itself.

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A Campaign Of Honesty

Hat tip to Borepatch and Silicon Valley Redneck.

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Makin’ Bacon: Part 3: Livestock On Social Media

I was regretting my decision to expand my homestead activities by ordering up piglets. I was no more prepared to care for a pig than I would be for a rhinocerous. Meanwhile Mrs. Curmudgeon fired up the time sink of doom otherwise known as Facebook. Up popped an image of a litter of pigs.

I paused. “Um, what’s with the critters on Facebook?”

“They’re our pigs.” Mrs. Curmudgeon smiled; clicking through several photos. She was still chatting on the phone with the Foxinator.

“Pigs…” I muttered. I was suddenly feeling very obsolete.

“Oh the little spotted one is extra cute.” She declared. I can’t deny that ‘cute’ is a valued contributor to the decision making process. The cute one got put on our list. The next one was apparently not cute and therefore skipped. Loser!

I can roll with this. No man should complain about a pig being ‘cute’ if he can emote that a 1950′s Buick tailfin is ‘sexy’.

Cute is fine, it’s the concept of livestock on Facebook that bothered me. I’ve got an attitude about Facebook. Facebook (in my humble opinion) is as desirable as lite beer, socialist university professors, hashtag weenies, or resurgent measles. All are undeniable facts of life in the early 21st century. Humanity could have avoided any of them given greater collective wisdom. Facebook will someday fade. Like leeches in medicine and Tab soda, it will someday seem weird and tasteless. I may be the only person on earth with this theory. This doesn’t make me wrong.

Facebook also short circuits time honored traditional social limits to gossip and busybodying. Before Facebook, someone who was going to get all up in my business had to show some damn dedication. For one thing they had to actually be present to act inappropriately on a local scale. Kooks and lurkers in past decades would have to leer at a window or stalk around parking lots. Activities which underscore the unseemly nature of their interest and can be stopped (at least in my experience) with a crooked smile and a few words. “I’m a forgiving man so I’m going to give you give you three steps before I…” See? Stalking in the old days could be handled “manually”. This is why older generations, no less nosy than the current, at least pretended to keep to themselves. As for sharing information, gossip with the nearest bored housewife was excruciatingly inefficient. Every tidbit and detail came at the price of boring stories about grandkids and gout. Who has time for that? Before Facebook, someone wanting to pay too much attention to me had to get their hands dirty, live near me, waste lots of time, and risk getting their teeth kicked in. Facebook ruined that. How am I to shout “get off my lawn” on Facebook?

Why would a pig be on Facebook?

“Pigs…” I stuttered, “Do not employ social media.”

“Look for yourself.”

I looked. Livestock. On Facebook. Livestock on Facebook can’t be good.

There was the Foxinator, holding a tiny critter. Less than a day old. Smiling for the camera. Both of them. Piglets, apparently, can smile.

“Is that…” I groped for the term. “…is that a ‘selfie’?” (Before Obama went to a funeral in South Africa I didn’t know the word “selfie”. I wish I could unlearn that bit of knowledge.)

I heard Foxinator laughing on the phone. Mrs. Curmudgeon agreed. Men are idiots.

I have reservations over any pig that’s been an Internet star. Call me a dinosaur or a moron but it is not good that livestock be on social media. Not good at all.

I’m just sayin’.

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Makin’ Bacon: Part 2

Last winter, as it always does, tried to kill us all. The weather broke just before I did. When I could take no more and the snowblower was dead and the pony trailer was on flats and the woodpile was almost consumed and I had a serious desire to set fire to my snowshoes, spring slouched into our lives. It arrived like a slacker teenager; late and hungover and with no good excuse for the dent in the family sedan.

I looked out the window at the melting snow and sighed. My dog looked out the same window and sighed too. Good dog.

Mrs. Curmudgeon was happily chatting about female things which happen on a different wavelength than I hear. On the other other end of the line was her good friend the Foxinator.

The Foxinator is also our pig supplier. Is that the right term? Pig supplier? I’d prefer “bacon pusher” but that’s just me. Frankly I wasn’t sure buying pigs was a wise idea. Maybe she’d forget last summer when I’d promised to buy piglets?

“Oh that’s awesome!” Mrs. Curmudgeon was saying.

I had other concerns. Should I get a beer? My dog seemed to think so. Good dog.

With no warning at all, Mrs. Curmudgeon hit me with the question. “Foxinator wants to know how many piglets you want.”

Shit! I was still on the hook. What had I gotten myself into?

I’m not sure of the protocol with pigs. All I knew is that little critters would arrive weaned from their mom. I was vague on the details. I expected them to be somewhere in size between a football and a laundry basket, information beyond that unknown. Eventually, and hopefully well before deer season, I would haul them to a nice man with a white apron who would turn them into bacon. Because bacon is the right and true path.

Like all farming, buying young critters is a gamble. How many did I really want? I’m a busy man. How much work is a stupid pig? Probably too much.

On the other hand the news said something about a swine illness. It might affect our tactical bacon supply. Dare I jump on it and hope for soaring prices? (A practice alternatively called “adaptation” or “gouging” depending on your political tendencies and proximity to the free shit army.)

Also bacon.

Piglets aren’t cheap. They take time and they eat like teenagers. Each additional pig is doubling down on labor and feed. For what? Is it really a horrible fate to buy bacon at the store? How much does feed cost? My fence would need a serious upgrade. Oh the complexity that bacon greed creates in the hearts of men!

We only need one pig for the freezer. Maybe just one would be wise? That would be enough to dip my toe in the water without working too hard.

“Foxinator says you should have at least two. They get greedy over food and will eat faster because they’re in competition.”

Damn it! So much for raising just enough for the family. How hard would it be to sell a second one? When I sell meatbirds (chickens) people stampede to shove money in my pocket and bitch when I can’t raise more. Bacon should be even easier. Should I say “fuck it” and buy a dozen? Is it possible to have too much bacon?

In a flurry of arbitrary random numbers I tried to focus on getting just two pigs. I couldn’t hold the idea in my head.

Greed took over. What about the swine illness? Would that mean spiking prices and the horror of bacon shortages? Would profiting from a bacon shortage be evil? Did I care? I’m not Google. Besides, Google really is evil and I’m just talking about raising pork. Raising bacon; wouldn’t that make me a hero?

Mrs. Curmudgeon eyed my suspiciously. She’s not quite as on board with this stuff as I am.

This brought me back to reality. Perhaps too many pigs would foment disharmony? There’s a line somewhere. Eventually I’d need to leave on a trip. Feed duty for too many squealing jerks might cause Mrs. Curmudgeon to rethink the free spirited and handsome stud she married. Would she pine for the lifestyle afforded by men who don’t worship bacon? Best not to risk it. Three seemed safe; the optimum balance between my desire for all the bacon and the limited labor I can put to the task.

“Three.” I said with more confidence than I felt.

Mrs. Curmudgeon, without hesitation, repeated it to Foxinator. The die was cast.

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Makin’ Bacon: Part 1 – The Pusher

Last summer I met my bacon at the fair. I didn’t raise it. I just bought it. I was particularly impressed to see my bacon happily frolicking in a pen marked with a blue ribbon. (See: Bacon: My Happy Moment)

It was mine! All that bacon. Mine, mine, mine! When you’ve got a pig ready for the butcher you’re a bacon king. Also, my bacon was raised by an earnest 4H kid instead of a stinky corporate feedlot. I hung around the booth gloating over the improbable fact that I had all the bacon a man could want! It was going to my head.

This is when a kindly soul would talk me out of whatever scheme was bubbling around my head. The Foxinator did nothing of the sort. Seeing me in a bacon induced moment of weakness, she struck!

You could raise your own pig.” She smiled, well aware she’d scored a direct hit on the combination of greed and bacon frenzy seething through my brain.

I dunno’, that looks like a lot of work.” I looked around for Mrs. Curmudgeon. It’s her job to talk me out of such things. Where was she?

It’s easy.” She waved at the ribbon, awarded to the 4H kid who did most of the actual work. “Even a kid can do it.”

I’ve met her kid, on a bad day her kid is more responsible than 80% of the adult population. Nor am I going to say which side of the 80% threshold I happen to fall on. I wasn’t going for it.

Nah, you’ve gotta’ keep ‘em all winter. It’s hard enough keeping the chicken waterer thawed. Forget it.” Ha! I was safe. I’d turned down the stupid idea du’ jour. Mrs. Curmudgeon would be so pleased.

Oh you don’t have to do that. I’ll have piglets for sale in the spring.” The Foxinator, who can talk me into damn near anything, was on a roll. The mark had been identified. Me and my greed for bacon. I was in deep water.

Pigs are a hassle?” I mumbled weakly.

I was doomed. My words lacked conviction. Even I didn’t believe them.

Aren’t they cute?” She pointed to a nearby litter of piglets which, as a display at the fair, were cleaned and washed and brushed and looked nothing like the average farm pig laying in it’s own shit. They were positively cuddly. Aside from cats (which are evil) I like just about any critter. I’m tragically prone to that ‘aw’ moment when I see a baby critter.

Awwww… they are cute.” Damn! I’d said that aloud.

Nothing could save me now.

Ten minutes later Mrs. Curmudgeon arrived. The boat had sailed. I’d agreed to purchase an unknown quantity of piglets the following spring at an “as yet to be determined” price.

The Foxinator couldn’t help giggling while I explained it to Mrs. Curmudgeon. Mrs. Curmudgeon had left me unattended in this, the barn furthest from the tractor displays, thinking this was safe territory. So I’d gone and bought livestock. There is no denying the power of bacon.

Then I ate a turkey leg; wrapped in bacon.

A.C.

P.S. I don’t hate all cats. A small percentage of them are neither retarded nor evil. I’ve had two cats I really liked and several I didn’t loathe. You might say a cat with the right personality is just as cranky as me and therefore we get along. Of course dogs are superior, everyone knows that.

 

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