Tuesday 21 June 2011

....and then Tess died

And so it came to be the evening of the day. It had been a hot day. After several weeks of cold and wet weather the sun was welcome. That is, until late afternoon when it became so hot that I was beaten back into the house, all  effort expired.

Out to to our Tamworth Pig Paddock. Max up and waiting for his evening meal. Tess down. 'Twas not good, you could see that, 'twas not good. Nothing we could do. Except that I gave her a scratch round her ear just to let her know I was standing by, and she responded by snortling. And that was that. Her journey now.

A midnight check and she was quiet, calm, and sleeping. Into the deep sleep she must have gone soon after that because I was up at five to see her, and she was no more in this life. Max was chatting away to her, telling her to get up but she was never going to do that ever again.

Off to tell Hubs. Cup of tea, then swing into action, that's what we did. Max separated from Tess, seduced away by a super duper bucket of food. Best not to have him anywhere near the scene of the Tess Recycling Project. He would have interfered. He is always irate when Hubs is nearby. Looks upon him as a possible challenger for Tess's affections. Anyways he was away in the other paddock, with the entrance between the two paddocks blocked by my kitchen table, that being the only large block of wood we had to hand.

Chains, rope, tractor. Hubs fretting. A big task this, the Tess Recycling Project. All I could do was stand about feeling useless. She was starting to redden. Chemical reactions starting to break down her body parts, the energy of the Universe at work. Needed to get a move on. Hubs into paddock. Rope around her back legs. Chain around her front legs. Back out of the paddock. Up onto tractor. Put lifting mechanism on. Up she came. Down again she plopped, the front chains having slipped. Expletives darted through the air as Hubs clambered back into the paddock. Chains repositioned. Up on tractor again. Up into the air Tessy came. Down the path she went, jiggling about a little bit as the tractor bounced over the furrows of the path.

A little distance away, the fire pit. It was not intended as a fire pit. It was originally a huge hole our builder made with his digging machine, into which rubble from the house was supposed to go, but it was never finished. Good job really. It has served up well, that fire pit.

Now the gathering of the wood. Masses of it. All our dry wood for next winter's fires. Not to worry. Needs must. Build the fire. Last year's sheep fleeces. Anything. Fire must burn hot hot hot.

Tessy put on log pile. Rolled off it. Yelled instructions from Hubs sent me scrambling up onto the seat of the tractor. Pulled a lever. Shooting upwards came the lifting arm of the tractor. Ah! Too enthusiastic! Nearly made Hubs fall over. He was in the firepit with Tess, trying to position her better. Lower the handle now. Did so. Too quick again. Hubs nearly sent into a sprawl with Tessy, who was starting to inflate a teensy weensy bit. Instructions  yelled at me again. Up, I got the arm up, and gently this time.

Then I went and made a cup of tea whilst Hubs carried on with fetching wood. Fire lit. Flames dancing high. No smoke though, just a very cheerful fire. Did a visit to my neighbour over at the Chambre d'hote, to tell her to close her bedroom windows. Just in case an aroma pervaded the air during the burning of Tess.

And it came to me that Tess had been looking life-tired for some time. Hubs thought that we had caused her demise but I think not. Yes, the heat was fierce and she probably over heated. Pigs can't sweat the heat out of them, which is why they need a wallow: the mud cools them down. And yes, the wallow had dried out fast and was the driest it had ever been. But I think that Tess had had enough in life. She was sleeping for longer and longer, and had been declining in the effort to show interest in life. But it is only in hindsight that I recognise this.

My overwhelming feeling is that she is glad not to be here any more, and all I have is a sense of relief for her. I think the heat finished her off, but she was not in good health anyway when she arrived just under a year ago, this I now recognise. And bless her for contributing to one of our many learning curves here. This learning we shall take forward with us while her chemical constituents get recycled into the chemical banks of the Universe.

Did you know that we are all made from the same chemical bank? That bits of you could have been all sorts of things before your parents came together to make you? That DNA gives you the roadmap for the construction of you, but that the chemicals needed to build  your physical structure comes from the same chemical bank which every single living being on Earth uses for its growth as well. And that the chemical bank is derived from the stars of the Universe. Stardust, then.

So fare thee well, Tessy. We did the best we could for you. You never gave us piglets, but then I don't think you were ever meant to. I think you came here to teach us about the gracefulness of nature which a female pig can have. Burn you well, and let your spirit fly high in the sky. RIP.

PS. We didn't recycle her into the freezer because my instinct was that she was not well enough for us to do so, but we thought about it and would have done so had she been sound. As I say, on reflection, I think that she had been in declining health for some time.


John Going Gently said...

well written vera...
I hope our little gilt will give us piglets next year or she too will be following number 12...
a nice balanced post

Anonymous said...

Truly sorry to read about your Tess. Message from above - "Turning a tight corner - hang on in there. Help is at hand. Long straight road ahead."

Duta said...

Sad. I always feel sadness when a life is lost, be it that of a human, or an animal.
I agree with John Gray - this is a very well written post!

Vera said...

Thanks John. We have two gilts as well, but at the moment Lester (Hubs) is erring in favour of putting them into the freezer in the autumn, having fallen off the bicycle in regards to keeping pigs! Hopefully he will change his mind! For me, at this time, giving up is not an option!

Anonymous, (whoever you are!), thankyou so much for those words - they brought a tear to my eye and struck a deep chord within me, arriving as they did when I was having a bit of a downer!

Jean said...

Oh, what a shame, so sad. But living with animals is hard at times, I think, and I suppose that you learn to get used to it.

SueC said...

sorry to hear about Tess - I do admire your courage and tenacity - hang on in there!!

Ken Devine said...

Hi Vera
That was so well written that I hung on every word. Don't give up!

Roz said...

Oh Vera I am so, so sorry to hear that - at least you have given her a good life - life with animals is a series of ups and downs. Big big hug and keep your spirits up xxxx

Horst in Edmonton said...

Hi Vera, sad to hear about your Tess, it was best to cremate her. Go luck with the others.

Vera said...

Duta, bless you!

Jean, I find it helps if I think of those chemical bits going back into the Universe, and drill it into my mind that nothing is forever and that includes animals and people, and to bless the time that they share my life. It is still sometimes hard though!

SueC, hanging on in there we are!

Ken, we won't! Glad you enjoyed the read.

Roz, yes, we did give her a good life, that I am certain of. Hard though, as well you know!

Horst. I think that cremating her was the best thing - it was a really magnificent fire as well, with hardly any smoke and a very bright flame!

Diane said...

Sorry I have not had time to keep up but just had a quick look at your last posts. So sorry about Tess, loosing an animal is always difficult especially when you have had them as 'pets'. Hope the queen bee is doing well. Will catch up with you properly very soon. Diane

Unknown said...

I am certain Tess knew you would learn something from her and she got a good life with you. Don't give up.

Vera said...

Diane, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your kind words. Hope all is well with you.

Nancy, will keep going on, and hope you find the energy to do the same!

Wylye Girl said...

Oh I'm so sorry about poor Tess but you are right, it is very difficult keeping pigs in the heat. They dehydrate very quickly and hate any fluctuations in temperature and I hear that spring and early summer in France has been a story of cold and wet one minute to baking hot the next. Not at all ideal for our porcine pals. Bon courage x

Vera said...

Wylye Girl, the weather indeed has been just that, and it is probably what finished her off. But everyone else is OK except Max, the boar, who is a hell of a mood at the moment, but then so would I be if my partner was removed out of my life suddenly!

The Return of the Native ... sort of. said...

Poor Tess - however she is now in Pig Heaven.
Definiely not for the freezer as you don't know caused her demise.
Some years ago I was ready about pigs (as one does) and human and pig foetus in the early stages of pregnancy look spookily the same.
Why do I retain all this sort of stuff?!

Vera said...

...because you are interested in things, Return of the Native, that is why you 'retain stuff'! And you must be a very interesting person to talk to as well!

The Return of the Native ... sort of. said...

Well done me - another typo which should have read 'reading' and not 'ready'. Sorry about that - bit of a long and difficult day but the Girls are well but not laying (moulting is in the air).

Vera said...

....our Girls are fiddling about with laying as well! Not moulting though, just gone on egg-laying strike!

cottage garden farmer said...

So sorry to hear about your pig Vera, it's always hard to lose an animal, but it does sound like she had been on a bit of a downward spiral, and I think it's often quite hard to do much about it however hard you try. Keep going with the bees, I stumble about with mine, you learn as you go along,but they seem to survive bless them and give me lots of honey too. Kathy

crafty cat corner said...

Havae just found you through John and so glad that I have.
Thank you for a beautiful blog so gently told.
I will be reading more in future.

Vera said...

Kathy, thanks for the encouragement about the bees and thanks for your kind words about Tess.

Briony, thankyou so much for spending time with me, and I am just going to pop over to your blog for a return visit.