Monday, June 20, 2011

Spring Pignic 2011

My goodness, what do we start with first?
It was a perfect day for a pignic.

The weather cooperated and we had a beautiful, sunny, warm day.  We got to the Bowl at noon to discover several people had already arrived and settled in.  The first hour was rather insane as I tried to get a handle on the situation, instruct people in building pens and get the check-in table set up.  I was not as prepared as I usually am and had not expected to find people there already!

This was one of our largest pignics - roughly 70 people and as many pigs.  Old pignics were predominantly sows, but we probably had an even amount of boars and sows on Sunday.  The Pig Patrol was there in force, which was great.  Lots of pigs to inspect, cages to watch, people to help, questions to answer.  We did lots of nail clipping and even a demo of boar cleaning.

Pretty pink nails

There were the usual unanticipated events:  Several pigs were hauled off to time out pens.  Two boars got into a fight and they both ended up with split lips.  One pig showed up with pink nail polish on her nails!  And we had a big surprise for one owner when she found out her sow was a boar.  She had been looking for a new sow companion since his old one had passed.  Good think we did a sex check! 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Bertie's Birthday

How shall Bertie celebrate her second birthday?  How about with a Boston Pignic?  All the other pigs would be jealous, except they're going to the same pignic.

Bertie definitely takes after her namesake: Bertram Wooster. She's as cute as hell, cheerfully goes about her business and is extremely entertaining, but you can tell there's not a whole lot going on upstairs.  Such a little dope.

Bertie has calmed down a lot in the last year and actually enjoys getting her shoulders scritched.  She's still not quite sure if being held is a good thing.  Bertie has been in and out of trouble with her beloved hay rack since last summer and has been been the star in several videos on YouTube with her general goofiness.

I love listening to her run laps in the cage, running up and down the levels and doing donuts on the bottom floor.  Thumpa-thump!  Bertie is so full of energy when she gets wound up.  She's terrified of so many things, but loves to be in the yard, munching grass and smelling the breeze.  So the pignic should really be a treat for her.  I hope she gets to run laps in the big pen.

Happy Birthday, Bertie of the Star-Toes.  May you have a wonderful day of grass and sunshine.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pen Improvements

Whenever I'm tinkering, I occasionally (heh - often?) need to adjust my plans as I see the final product taking shape (like when I miscalculate the yardage in a sewing project -  D'oh!).  But sometimes flaws only appear once final product gets used.  I really liked my new guinea pig pen, but the cover was not as sturdy as wanted it to be.  The wire hooks would unwind and the cover sagged if a lot of pressure was put on top.  It seemed a bad idea that it was the weakest part of the structure.  I wanted to ensure that if a hawk or one of the neighborhood cats parked its butt on that cover, the pigs could taunt it with impunity.

I found a heavier gauge of wire and redesigned the hooks for the PVC so that the won't come undone.  I also added another bar to the frame so the cover has more support in the middle.  The difference was dramatic - putting a lot of weight on the cover will cause the grids to start bending before anything else budges.  Much better.

As a bonus, with a little rearranging, I can make the same cage an attached pair of 2x2 pens.  Perfect for time-out pens at the Boston Pignic.  I hope to be giving this cage a good workout on Sunday, with setup up, take down and ease of getting the pigs in and out of it.

I've posted instructions on how to make the hooks and the frames as well as assembling the cage.  If you're interested, the instructions are on Outdoor Pen How-To.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bag Lady

Once again, I'm going through the "why make one when you can make twice as many" thing.  This time, instead of oven mitts, its shopping bags.  Yup - I foresee oven mitts, tote bags and shopping bags for people's Christmas presents this year.  I hope you like them!

Part of the reason for this sewing spree was that I can make two bags in less than twice the yardage of one.  Intially, I was replacing a pair of existing shopping bags that were falling apart (I've already sews the straps back on twice).  Then I fell in love with two different types of material.  They were in the red-tag aisle and everything was half off.  How could I pass up a deal like that?  I saw the pink material first, but on my way to the cutting table the retro pattern caught my eye.  I thought: perhaps I will keep one bag of each?  Since then, the retro fabric has really grown on me, so I might have to give away both of the pink checkered print bags.  Oh, the choices I must make!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Chick Yoga Weekend IX

This doesn't really fit under any of my blog headings, although it does begin with a C:  Chick Yoga Weekend.

I have been organizing a weekend trip to the Kripalu Yoga Center in Stockbridge, MA for nine years.  The group changes annually, but it often consists of my sister, my friends and their friends and a friend we met at Kripalu. We do the R&R program which allows us each to pick and choose what we want from a variety of courses.  Some of the sessions we took over the weekend included:  The Yoga of Shakespeare, Extraordinary Living, Mindfulness, Radical Possibilities, Healing Arts Sampler: Positional Therapy, Meditation and Good Gut, Great Health.  Of course there are yoga classes in the morning, noon and late afternoon. Yoga Dance on Saturday afternoon with live drumming.  I recognized a couple of wild women dancing to those drums!  Entertainment on Saturday was either concert or LED and fire hoop dancing on the lawn.  I'm pretty sure all of us spent some time in the whirlpool.  It's a great way to finish the day.

For the most part, we had a fantastic time.  The weekend was cut short for one member when she had an unfortunate accident during the guided bike tour when her bike hit a rather large pothole.  A broken bone and yoga do not really mix.  We were lucky to find another party that came from New Jersey, so she was able to have someone drive her home.

The weather was warm and sunny almost the entire weekend.  It was a hard choice between being outdoors or yoga.  People hiked, brought their reading or writing out to the benches and enjoyed the sun and the view of the Stockbridge Bowl.  We ate half of our meals outside and spent that time ooh-ing and ahh-ing over a pair of baby bunny rabbits that would eat the grass right next to the picnic benches.  They were pretty cute!

I think each of us got a chance to walk the labyrinth at least once.  We were all amazed at how it looks this time of year.  There are flowers!  Chick Yoga Weekend is usually in early May and the labyrinth seems so austere, with just shrubs and cobblestones.  But look how it appears in June!  Wonderful!

The long weekend flew by as usual.  Interesting and entertaining roommates (we found out that wrap pants and bicycling do not mix!).  Great food.  Fun classes.  A chance to unplug from the rest of the world for a few days.  I am always sad to leave and look forward to returning next spring.

Updated Outdoor Pen

For the last year, I've been using a 3x3 grid cage with a grid top to let the girls graze.  It's zip-tied and the top is all connected by grid connectors and it had a center support.  It is not intended to be animal proof, but I figured it was adequate to keep them in and slow down any hawk that thought it found dinner.

The design has several drawbacks:  it takes time to set up and take down; it is bulky even when collapsed; its hard to catch the pigs since the majority of the top grids were connected directly to the walls.  Anyone who has worked with those grid connectors knows what a pain they are get on or off the grids, especially if you're in a hurry.  I wanted something that had a quick setup and was still relatively compact so I could bring it indoors or throw it in the trunk of my car.  Which meant losing the connectors but somehow keep the rigidity that the connectors offered.  I also wanted a narrower cage so I wouldn't be required to run laps in order to catch a fleeing pig.

My first idea failed, but after some brainstorming, we came across the answer: PVC pipes.  Light weight and rigid, it offered the framing needed to keep the cage square and something for the lid to rest on.  The new design also allowed for flipping the top open either on the long side or the short side.  Bonus!

The sides remained zip-tied together, with connectors on the corners (it helps square the cage and the lid tucks under them).  I added hooks to the PVC, so they hang off the walls on the inside of the cage.  This helps keep the cage square and supports the lid.  The lid is one sheet of 10 grids, all zip-tied together.  A few binder clips help keep the top in place and prevent it from collapsing if something lands in the middle of the grids.  The new design is still not animal proof, but the cage is always in view/earshot.

The sides compress to a stack of grids, the top collapses to 2x2 square (and I'm sure I could stack it to a 1x2 pile).  The two pvc squares weigh nothing.  The whole thing can be hauled outside and set up in less than two minutes and taken down just as quickly.  Success!