Thursday, July 9, 2015

Everyday Honesty

I hate being wrong.  I really do.  It's one of those things that I've always struggled with.  My first reaction when discovering I'm wrong is to immediately figure out how to turn things around so I'm not really wrong, so much as just not 100% right.  I know, it's one of my shortcomings, and it's something I do try to work on.

That being said, for the past several years, everyone has told us that there would come a day when we would lose our angel of a boy, and instead find a dumb, slow, lazy squatter who eats us out of house and home.  We didn't believe it.  We laughed it off.  Our son was so awesome.  He was brilliant; far too brilliant to fall victim to Teenager-hood.  He was a hard working young man; far too hard working to fall victim to Teen-laziness.  We thought, certainly, that we had the exception to everyone else's rule.

It happened.

It happened this past week.  Like a switch flipped.  Suddenly, Levi was gone, and a male version of Aergia was living in our house.  With the laziness came the dishonesty.  With the dishonesty came the heartbreak, fear and panic.  It was a downward spiral of despair.  I'd like to think that the change happened at Boy Scout camp, and that this was a result of something positive gone horribly wrong, but the reality is, this happening the week after Boy Scout camp was probably sheer coincidence.

Now, this is not to say that we had not been lied to before.  Levi was famous for telling us that he brushed his teeth, only to fail a tooth-check, and then twist it to say, "Well, I didn't brush them very well."  After telling him so many times that not brushing them well was the same thing as not brushing them in the first place, we gave up, and quit asking.  Instead, we'd tell him to brush his teeth, and if he complained that he already had, we'd simply thank him, and ask him to do it again, anyway.  We have toothbrushes at home, his grandmother's, the shop, and Colgate Wisps in every vehicle.  Those teeth WILL be brushed.

No, the occasional untruth would pop up here and there, but this week was different.  This week, he lied and lied and lied and lied.  He lied about filling his rabbit's water bottles, he lied about taking a shower, he lied about feeding his dog, he lied about eating his dinner, he lied about how much he had read, and he lied about telling us that he'd quit lying.  We were reeling.  Our world felt like it was spinning out of control.  There were declarations that we'd not go through what we went through with her; that we refused to live with another one of her.

We ran through the gambit of how our parents addressed the 'change' in us, and I yanked every 'Love and Logic' parenting book I had off the shelves, their spines wrinkled and worn from endless referencing with her,  and read through them in record time.  We had little parenting pow-wow's, discussing in hushed whispers how we were going to react to the latest lie, or not react in some circumstances.  We had a game plan.  And just when we thought it was working, he'd change it up with a swithcheroo that would knock us off our horses.

After a looooong night of chores that took five times longer than they should of, incensing both his father and his grandfather, I finally told my husband, "It's over.  Let's face it.  We have a teenager."  It hurt almost as much to say, I imagine, as if I had told him we needed marriage counseling, or some other similarly life-shaking declaration.  Yes, we have a teenager, again.  After four blissful months, we have another teenager in our home.

The thing is, every child is different.  He wasn't lying maliciously, like her.  He wasn't making up a story about someone to hurt them, or lying for the sheer fun of it to see how much smarter he was than we were, or how convincing he could be.  He was lying, because he enjoyed being lazy.  He is at a point in his life when he truly can be entertained just by his thoughts, stare off into space, and let hours slip by without realizing the day had come and gone.  These were not creative lies that he was telling.  These were not lies that he had stewed on, and crafted, and spun into fantastic yarns that he was eager to have the opportunity to test the moment we gave it to him.  No, these were simple lies.

This morning, as he got dressed to go hang out with more teenagers to work on a Boy Scout Eagle Project, I didn't know what to say to him.  We were so depressed over the idea that we had lost him.  You can only spout Thou Shalt Not Lie, and Honor Thy Mother and Father so many times before it begins to fall on deaf ears.  The fact is, when it comes to teenagers, God has often lost them too.

Quietly, we sat in the car as I drove to Lewisburg.  Then, from the backseat, he says, "I just need to not put myself in situations where I want to lie."  This was a good sign.  He obviously wanted to talk about it, and he opened the door to the conversation.  I told him, "You're talking about temptation.  Do you know what temptation is?"  He said not exactly, and asked if it was a feeling.  I explained to him that temptation was want and desire.  We used candy as a benign reference.  I held up a sucker.  I asked him if he wanted the sucker, to which he responded yes.  I asked him if he wanted a sucker before he saw I had a sucker to offer, and he said no.  That was temptation.  I agreed that his idea of removing himself from temptation was a good one, and definitely a good start back to the right path.

Levi said he wanted to be a good kid.  It broke my heart to hear this.  Levi isn't a BAD kid.  He was just behaving badly.  We talked about the difference between BEING good, and TRYING to be good.   Trying to be good is a good thing.  Removing yourself from temptation is, in my mind, TRYING to be good.  However, when faced with temptation that you can't remove yourself from, making the right choice is BEING good, and being good is a GREAT thing.

We talked about how dishonesty is the ultimate betrayal.  I know some of you are thinking, "What about stealing?"  Well, think about it.  Would stealing hurt as bad if you didn't have someone there saying they didn't do it?  If the person who did it stood up and said, "Yes, I took that."  Yes, you'd be angry that someone took something that didn't belong to them, but you wouldn't be nearly as frustrated, wounded or confused as if you had no idea who had done this horrible thing.  Some of you will probably think, "What about adultery?"  Again, a horrible, horrible sin.  But, I ask you, would adultery hurt as much if the person who was cheating on you wasn't lying, telling you they weren't doing it, that you're seeing things, that they still love you and only you?  I dare to think not, because while yes, your heart would be breaking, you would not be questioning YOURSELF.  You would not be questioning if there is anything there to salvage, twisting your brain into ignoring the little signs that point to a cheating spouse, ignoring the gut wrenching fear that you're a rube too stupid to notice when a relationship is dead, believing what you're told to be placated by a scheming adulterer.  Lying really is the ultimate betrayal.

While discussing why it was important to tell the truth, naturally, the biggies came up.  It was important to tell the truth so someone doesn't get hurt, or be 100% honest when answering about details, such as whether or not you even saw them.  If you didn't, just say you didn't.  Don't fabricate.  These were all good things.  He was solid on what I'd call Urgent Honesty.  He wasn't making mistakes with Urgent Honesty.  Urgent Honesty are like the cords a rope is made of, by which your relationships with your father, mother, step-mother, friends, etc hang by.  Levi's mistakes were with Everyday Honesty.

Everyday Honesty are the tiny strands that each cord is made of.  Every tiny fiber is a truth, and when you lie, that fiber is cut.  It may take many tiny lies to sever a cord, but while they are tiny, they are still compromising that relationship.  Lying about brushing your teeth, lying about filling a water bottle, lying about taking a shower.  All of these little lies are cutting tiny fibers in the cords that make up your rope.  And while it's very very hard to take a pair of scissors to cut a whole rope, it's not that difficult to nip away at the fibers in the individual cords and eventually cut through.

Recovering addicts wake up every morning and say, "Today, I'm not going to drink, smoke, etc."  This declaration is a conscious 'reset' every day.  Lying, to me, is much the same thing.  Waking up and saying, "Today, I'm going to tell the truth."  It starts the day off with a mindset of honesty.  Eventually, the honesty will become habit.  Yes, the truth may not be pretty.  Yes, the truth may hurt.  But the truth also heals.  It heals those fibers.  It heals relationships.  It builds trust, and bonds.  It's the Everyday Honesty that relationships are predicated on.

And the thing is, we HAVEN'T lost Levi.  The fact that he can talk to us about his shortcomings, and see that he needs to improve, that's our Levi in there.  Sure, maybe he makes mistakes, but our Levi is still in there, and while we may not see immediate return on this investment in parenting, and may even think it's falling on deaf ears, my mother assures us that when he's 20, he's going to say something, or do something, and it will be a giant beacon to show that it stuck.  And like God, we need to not give up on him just because he's a little lost right now.

For my readers, I had originally planned a long drawn out tirade on social media, the ridiculous nature of some people to posture on Facebook, how birds of a feather stick together, and how a lot of those birds are the pathetic kind that eat poop...  But, this seemed more apropos.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Naturally, it would be ironic that Garth Brooks would come out of retirement and release a new album right about the time we got the great idea to add sheep and goats to our menagerie.  A great idea, I might add, that we had while we were sober.  Usually, those kinds of ideas hit you after a long night, hanging out with your friends, doing things that are often prefaced by, "Hold my beer, and watch this..."

Those days are long past us, but those brain cells never grew back, apparently.  As a result, we now are the proud owners of 10 sheep... and a goat.

Now, we thought we were pretty awesome little farmers.  We were diversified.  We were no longer subject to the whims and fancies of the meat market.  We were liberated from the shackles of limited culinary options.  We were free... and so were they.

You know that scene in X-Men, where they inject the senator with mutant DNA, and he suddenly can squeeze through spaces?  Yeah.  THAT'S SHEEP AND GOATS IN A NUTSHELL.

These diabolical little fuzzballs are capable of restructuring their DNA to allow for skeletal displacement, and therefore squeeze through the tiniest cracks under fences, gates, through walls, and I'm pretty sure, through chicken wire.

Now, the sheep are cool.  They're all like, "Hey, wazzup? We got out again.  It was over here this time.  Here, let me show you."  And in response, I'm all, "Cool, awesome. Here's some food. Let me go get another post, and another 330 feet of woven wire..."

And trust me.  There's no question when they've found a hole.  You'd swear your herd grew by a thousand while you're trying to fix it, because they're all curious what you're up to, and have no fear, because you, in another one of your moments of genius, decided let's give them treats so they'll like us every time we show up.  DUMB DUMB DUMB...

At this point, I think our family emergency code phrase is, "SHEEP SHEEP SHEEP."  That's all it takes, and hanging up, and within 15 minutes the entire posse shows up with posts, wire, drivers, and the cavalry, prepared to put those wooly buggers back in.

However... GOATS ARE NOT COOL.  Goats run.  They run fast.  They do not like you.  They're like, "I heard you say I was meat goat.  You think I'm stupid?  You think I'm going to stick around?  I distinctly heard the word KEBAB!"  Note to self, in the future, call them milk goats.  Then they'll only run away if they get offended from being fondled...

We had the goat for EXACTLY 5 minutes.  I had just got done saying, "Well, we made it 5 minutes, so we must be good."  WRONG.

Goats think fences are fun.  That they're a puzzle that must be figured out.  Whoosh, under the fence she went, out she was, and off she flew.  Six men proceeded in a break neck run after a little red headed goat, 300 yards, then up a straight cliff, then they all fell off, and then proceeded to run back 300 yards, and swan dive on her.  That's when we figured out what that collar was for...

These are all learning experiences for us.  Some day, we'll have figured out about half of it, and that will either gain us the ability to keep them in, or make it to where we just don't care.

But, horses schmorses, Garth.  The song would have been more convincing if you had said that Wild Goats kept dragging you away.  I've seen horses held back by a fence.  You're not fooling anyone.  The jig is up.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Red-head Named Bernice

Sometimes, when things seem most stressful, it seems that God sees fit to bring distractions into your life to remind you that you have value and importance.  I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say, our daughter has found herself in some legal woes which have put a considerable financial strain and concern on our family.  Some people can be told that A+B=C, whereas some people have to do A, take B, and be hit over the head with C.

When everything seemed so bleak, my father to top things off, thought it would be a good idea to blow up a rock next to our farrowing house 1 week before a litter of pigs was due.  He's a former SEAL who is a demolitions expert.  The rock went boom, and the piggy popped, and we had a litter of 11 premie babies born.  Three weren't done cooking, and the others were all small.  We took one piglet home to bottle feed as she was just too little, her legs were soft and bowing, and she wasn't able to compete for a nipple.  Seven, however, nursed to weaning, as their Hereford mother was insanely gentle and careful with them,  Truly amazing, hereford pigs are.

Meet Bernice.  For little more than a week, she got to wear popsicle stick leg braces because her ankles were turning in.  She was the perfect distraction for us during the court appearances, probation office meetings and constant updates from a high school counselor, who no doubt at this point, probably has prayed more for our family than most pray in their lives.  It took a tremendous amount of patience on her part, and prayers.  Lots and lots of prayers.  I believe strongly that the prayers helped.  At 10am on Graduation day, we weren't going to be attending, because our daughter was not passing... but by noon, the grades showed she would graduate.  Needless to say, we were very relieved.  Hopefully, it will give her the launching block needed once this whole thing is done to move forward in her life.

About a week after Bernice was farrowed, disaster struck.  A brand new pipe fitting that we purchased from Lowes, manufactured by Mueller Industries, had a casting defect, and cracked.  It flooded the swine barn, and as a result, the litter we were expecting with great anticipation all drowned... save one.  Little Noah.

She was beautiful.  Now, normally as farmers, we try to treat our animals as much as possible without going to a vet.  My father always says that we can kill them for free.  Vets have access to a lot of knowledge and medicine that we don't, but when your patient can't tell you what's wrong, it limits your abilities.  For five days, it was touch and go.  Bernice worked very hard to keep Noah alive.  When she'd start to fade, Bernice would nudge and nudge and pester and pester.  After some lameness and swelling in Noah's hocks, I believed her to have Strep.  Normally, we'd hit with high doses of penicillin.  But, because I was afraid to lose this pig, I took her to the vet.

Now, in the veterinarian's defense, Draxxin is a pretty awesome drug.  But, it's not what most would use to treat Strep.  Penicillin is still the go-to for it.  But, she had a little crackling in her lungs, so he treated her with Draxxin.  Sadly, she passed away about 6 hours later.  Bernice came down with swelling of the hocks as well, and we hit her heavy with penicillin on the advice of another veterinarian, and she recovered perfectly.

I wouldn't have taken her to the vet, except she was the last one.  The only one.  And I really wanted to save her.  It was a $135 lesson, and one I won't repeat.  As for Mueller Industries, they have absolutely no interest it would seem in doing anything to make it right.  I have been forced to seek remedies through other means than being nice.

My Aunt and cousin were kind enough to send Bernice more toys than I think I had when growing up.  She loves her monkey.  But, she has an uncanny knack of piling them up in the corner of her pen, and climbing out.  One morning, with eyes shut, I was groggily roused from my slumber by oinking.  I thought to myself that the oinking sounded really loud.  Then I thought that it sounded CLOSER.  I rolled over and looked down, and sure enough, there was a little red pig staring up at me.

I can't cook.  I can't clean.  I can't even use the bathroom without that little red demon pig leaping out of her pen, running down the hallway, and jiggling the door until it opens.  The cat is not pleased.  The pig thinks she's a cat.  After a trip to pick up some sheep, we came home.  We opened the door, and there sat the cat, and next to her was Bernice.  BERNICE.

And you can't punish a pig.  There's nothing to take away.  There's no way to scold them, aside from playing whackamole when they try to jump out in front of you.  We are being held hostage by a tiny porcine terrorist.  Send help!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I'm THAT crazy Chicken lady.

It occurred to me one day, while standing in the bread aisle of Walmart, when my cell phone blasted at full volume the repetitive rooster crow that I have set as my ringtone, that I am the crazy chicken lady that my friends and I used to giggle about.

You know the lady I'm talking about.  She's the one that has the t-shirts with the funny sayings, like, "I've got OCD: Obsessive chicken disorder."  She may, or may not, have a bumper sticker proudly declaring that the wheeled people mover is transporting a crazy chicken lady, who likes chillin' with her peeps.  There's a good chance that her kitchen is decked out with feathered fowl parephenalia, including but not limited to salt and pepper shakers, wall paper, cookie jars, egg stand, pictures of her favorite hens on the fridge, dishware and crockery, and custom painted kitchen aid stand mixer...

She is also likely to buy cheese on sale, with a coupon, during the 10 for 10 dollar weekends, but will not bat an eye at the $42.99 price tag of a 50 pound bag of Nature's Best Organic Layer Mash.  While she's at it, she'll add a $7.99 chicken toy, a Flock Block for $15.21 and a bag of meal worms for $26.49.   Sorry little Timmy, those braces will have to wait until next month.

And, naturally, standard living room decor will accommodate 3 incubators and a brooder, scattered on all of the end tables and coffee table for a period of not less than 3 months, using the justification that they've got a greater chance of surviving than those 100 tomato seeds you planted 3 months too soon.   

My husband insists that it has ruined his movie-watching.  I'll admit, it does sort of mess with the mood.  Meg Ryan's epic performance in the restaurant scene in When Harry Met Sally just didn't have the same effect with the peeping in the background.  My apologies, Mr. Reiner.

And, when people ask how things are going, before I talk about the kids, they will hear about the chickens.  Poor Princess is egg bound, so she's getting warm baths every day, and Henrietta may be turning broody, so we are pretty excited about that.  Rooster Cogburn is having an attitude problem with Roosco P Coltrane, and I just don't know how to get those boys to get along.  

So, yes.  Yes, I have become that crazy chicken lady.  It's not without it's perks.  Naturally, I justify my fixation like any other addict.  There are eggs, and meat, and chicks, and the wonderful experiences my son has.  After all, guess what!?


Monday, December 8, 2014

When the fire goes out.

One month ago, I was one week away from posting what was going to be a very happy post.  You see, I was five months pregnant with my first biological child.  Those five months were filled with anxiety, fear, hope, excitement, and dreams of the future.

But most of all, there was a bond and love like I had never felt or imagined.  I love my step kids, but honestly there are days that I would sell the teenager to a Persian rug man in a heartbeat just to get a moment of quiet.  After what happened a month ago, I would gladly live a life of racket.  

I can't give you all of the details due to pending legal action, but on November 7, my son was born and he didn't have to be.  4 weeks away from being able to breathe, he passed away.  My life has been forever changed.  I miss him terribly.  I had just begun feeling him move.  Every day, I would listen to his heart beat.  

When he was born, he looked so much like his father that Kevin had to grow a beard just so I wouldn't collapse into sobs every time I look at him.  I haven't been paying much attention to anything on the farm.  My very supportive family has picked up the slack.  

Probably won't be any show litters this spring.  I am grieving.  I can say that I have moved to the Anger phase of grief and I'm dedicated to doing everything I can to make sure what happened to me does not happen to another hopeful mother in Greenbrier County.  

One day, I will tell you about it.  For now, just know that his name was Thomas, he was perfect,  he was mine, and now he is God's.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

5 Life Lessons

When we last left our heroes....

Parenting reared its ugly head last month when my husband and I were reminded (as if we needed to be) that we have in our possession a teenager.  That's right.  A teenager.  One of my favorite definitions is that a teenager is a person who is more prepared for the zombie apocalypse than tomorrow's math test.

Teenagers are special.  They really are.  They're coming into a period in their life where their ability to adapt coupled with their ever increasing vocabulary allows them to somehow justify and explain their complete and utter lack of good judgment.  It's uncanny.  Every parent thinks of their darling little girl like this:

Only to one day get that phone call from the school that rips that rose colored pair of glasses you've got on, to reveal this:

It's a shock, sure.  You are reeling from the news.  Your child; your precious, wonderful, brilliant little child was caught skipping class, lying about it, grading her own papers, and not just once, but 5 times.

You think, where did I go wrong?  How did I fail at parenting?  Well... here's the truth.

You didn't.

That's right.  You didn't fail.  We thought we had, but nope.  We didn't fail.  The fact that our child did something wrong isn't what makes us a failure.  It's how we react to the situation that would define whether we failed or not.

First impulse:

Pros:  Free heat, bonfire, s'mores.  Cons:  Too crispy to have learned anything.

Second impulse:

Pros:  Naturally air conditioned, know where she is at all times, makes friends with mice.  Cons: Mildew.

Third and final impulse:

Pros:  Learning life lessons about what minimum wage that's the result of no education will get you... Cons: Not enough deodorant in the house for what was about to come...

Helen Keller said, "Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood."  She was one smart cookie.  Taking that thought as our beacon, we set out to impart upon our 17 year old daughter a few life lessons that we hope she will take with her for the rest of her life.

Lesson #1:  $1.00 = $0.40 = -$0.65   The lesson of math in today's economy.  Our daughter was told that for spring break, she'd be working for us, full time.  That regretfully, her lack of a high school diploma pegged her at a top earning wage of minimum wage.  Less deductions for Medicare, Social Security and Income Tax Withholding, her take home pay was roughly $4.37 an hour.  However, her daily expenses for rent, electric, water, phone, car payment, insurance and gas was about $58.60 a day.  Result was for an 8 hour day, she'd still end up owing us about $20.00 a day.  In other words, minimum wage isn't going to cut it in the real world, unless you live in the city and are living in some cheap dive apartment, and don't need a car because you can walk to work.

Lesson #2:  Food portion size changes drastically when you're working physically vs. sitting in a desk in class.  Because she was unable to get a better job due to her lack of education, our daughter pretty much was relegated to manual labor jobs.  She was given $8.33 a day allowance to go grocery shopping and buy her food for the week.  That included breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Sixty bucks doesn't go far.  First day's lunch, she packed a sandwich and a bottled water.  First day's labor was digging out a dog kennel and spreading 5 tons of stone.  Day two's lunch was 3 sandwiches, 4 bottles of water, 3 granola bars, and a bag of chips.

Lesson #3:  It pays to be nice.  Being hateful to your employer does not endear you to them.  Same with being hateful to your teachers.  You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.  Trying to get a teacher in trouble, because you couldn't follow the rules and want them changed to benefit you isn't going to fly.  Won't fly when you're out in the real world workforce either.  Instead, you get saddled with jobs like this, if you're not fired first.  PS:  That's not dirt...

Lesson #4:  A desk chair is a lot more comfortable than blisters.  The whole "Work Smarter, Not Harder" really sort of hit home with our little experiment.  Long sweaty days of shoveling manure, clearing fence rows, spreading stone and cutting brush from sun up until past sun down, working long days and barely breaking even, eating dense cheap bread, cheap bologna, and oatmeal every day really made that school desk more appealing.  An education, while boring at times, and kind of a hassle, is our way of ensuring you've got a future free of labors like this.

and Lesson #5:  Your family loves you.  Lessons like these are hard ones.  It's hard to combine punishment with a lesson.  Too often, the child feels the punishment, but doesn't see or understand the lesson behind it.  Kids need to feel that they have value (A lesson learned from Grampy Bubblebuster).  They need to understand that the only reason you get mad is because you KNOW they're better than their behavior.  The only reason you render consequences is because you KNOW they're capable of better.  You don't think it.  You KNOW it.  They need to hear that you KNOW it, because if you believe it, then they'll believe it too, and they'll be less likely to re-offend in the same manner.

The Pros for us:  A brand new kennel for the dogs, the pig sties cleaned with new stone down, about 100 feet of brand new fence where there previously was none, a cleaned garden and a handful of other menial jobs during her spring break.  We also got a kid that hasn't skipped class since, and has been diligent in turning in her work.

The cons:  About 30 dollars in deodorant, soap, and laundry detergent.

We think it was worth it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


That's the sound of a Renco Preg-tone II Pregnosticator/Ultrasound handheld telling you that you're about to be a grandma...  These little handhelds are awesome.  If you're anything like me, you're a nut when it comes to looking at piggy vulvas at day 21.  These handy tools allow you to check on day 18 to see if they're going to come into heat or not, so you can order semen for AI or make arrangements for a boar.  On Day 30, they're 100 percent accurate at detecting pregnancy.

For about 250 dollars, you too can be saved from scrutinizing the 'business end' of your gilts and sows, for hours on end, wondering if it's getting bigger, or pinker, or anything out of the ordinary.

So, a little over a month ago, we AI'd our two sows.  Today, we were thrilled when we touched our PT2 to them, and it was screaming a solid tone.  It didn't matter if we pointed that thing at their shoulder (like you're supposed to), or between their ears, or at their back, or anywhere.  It was screaming that they were both pregnant the minute I touched it to them.  The three gilts that we knew were open also sounded open, with persistent beeping.  Why did I check them?  I couldn't believe how quickly and absolutely the sows toned.  But there's no denying it.  They's preggers!

So, for the matchups, here's what we are expecting in about 3 months:

Porkchop (Fame Monster x Hamp)  has been bred to Gopher Nation 88-1 (Stinger 8-4 x Fame Monster).  We're expecting black belteds out of this litter.  It's a Fame Monster on Fame Monster, so we're curious to see what we get, but should be fairly consistent in type.

Porkchop:  Porkchop was bred by Gary and Tina Tuckwiller of Asbury, WV.  She placed 3rd in her class at the West Virginia State Fair in 2012.  She has been the mother to several class winners and top placers at the Greenbrier/Monroe County Youth Livestock Show in 2013, and a 2nd in class at the 2013 West Virginia State Fair:

Gopher Nation 88-1:  Gopher Nation 88-1 was bred by the University of Minnesota, hence his funny name.  He is currently housed at North Iowa Boar Stud, and they donate $5 of every vial to the Randy Morris Memorial Award:

Fame Monster, who is the father to Porkchop, and sired the mother of Gopher Nation 88-1, is housed at Lean Value Sires  He was the $55,000 Champion Crossbred Boar at the 2010 STC and sired the 2012 Indiana State Fair Champion Barrow, amongst others.  Here he is:

In Porkchop's last litter, she weaned 12.  This will be her third parity, and we're hoping that it turns out to be one of her best!

Calyse (War Fare x York) has been bred to Blue Genes 69-35 (Blue Blood x Monster 52-4).  We are expecting an assorted colored litter, with hopefully some blues, some belteds, some white, and oddly enough, some red.  I'm pretty jazzed about the pairing.

Calyse:  Calyse was bred by Ray Showpigs in Cabery, IL.  Her mother was class winner at the NJSA Summer Spectacular in 2011.  She has raised a Heavyweight Cross Class Winner at the IL State Fair.  Also Calyse raised the 2nd in class behind the Reserve Grand Champion Market Hog at the Douglas County Fair in MO.  Calyse came to us by peculiar means.  We bought her as a bred sow, from a fellow who had used her, only it turned out she wasn't bred.  Sadly, she wasn't cycling either.  She had large abscesses on her rear legs, was lame, had a UTI and was severely underweight.  We got her in the dark, so when we got home after driving 19 hours, and got to see her in the light, we were surprised and disappointed.  After several courses of antibiotics, urinalysis, changes in her diet, supplements, tests and medical intervention, it was a true miracle when we managed to get her cycling again, almost a year after her last cycle.  We were told it would be truly a miracle if she conceived, but we wanted to try.  We're not a big operation, maybe because we don't give up on animals that probably need more intervention and care than it should take.  It's probably because we started with dog shows, and you would not believe the lengths we dog people go to when it comes to keeping our animals alive and healthy, even if it means we'll never get a litter out of them.  Or maybe it's because I have my own battles that made her circumstances that much more wounding.  

Blue Genes 69-35:   Blue Genes was bred by Sieren Swine Farm in Keota, IA, owned and operated by Jayme and Scott Sieren.  His sire, Blue Blood, was the Champion Cross boar at the 2011 WPX.  Blue Genes placed 4th in his class at the National Swine Fall Classic in Duncan, OK, and was purchased by North Iowa Boar Stud for $6,500.  

I can't vouch for this litter with regards to fertility, but Calyse had two litters of 7 and 9 before she stopped cycling, so I don't think fertility was a problem initially.  Only time will tell.  Irregardless, she's trim, healthy, sassy and pregnant right now, so thank God, our veterinarians and the staff at Virginia Tech, my wonderfully supportive and tolerant husband, and the Almighty Dollar for making it happen.  

War Fare was bred by Edwards Family Genetics in Dublin, TX  and was housed at Mike Fischer Showpigs in Iowa Park, TX.  

Blue Blood was bred by W-D Swine Farm in Turlock, CA, and is housed at Upperhand Genetics in Huntington, IN.  

We also bred our Hereford gilt, Lucy (Sycamore, bred by Cook Farms, Hillsboro, OH) to Hershel at Shipley Swine for a summer litter.  Will update to let you all know if she took or not.  Cross your fingers!!!  We had hoped to have a litter out of this paring this January, but Lucy got injured by being jumped by one of our much larger sows, and her placenta detached, causing us to lose the litter.  She's separated this time.