When I started farming, I had a lot of people tell me about how my new farming venture would affect my sleep.
“Boy, I’ll bet you have to be up before the sun, right?”
“Early to bed, early to rise!”
“Hope you’re a morning person, because those farm animals will get you out of bed really early!”
I have actually discovered that my pigs are not morning creatures. When I first got them, I rushed out the door and to their pasture before the sun was even peeking over the horizon. I figured they would be impatiently waiting for breakfast, snorting and grunting and pacing the fence line.
However, when I got out there, panting and sweaty from running around and filling up buckets while avoiding the now-awake cats and chickens running in front of my feet, I noticed how quiet the pig hutches and the entire pen were. There was not a pig in sight. Did they escape? Did a growling, slobbering band of coyotes come along and murder my helpless pigs in their sleep?
I went inside the pen and peered into the first hutch, expecting to see a giant empty space or a murderous bloody scene.
Princess poked her head out from underneath a large golden swath of straw and looked at me with one eye open, grunting sleepily. Shortly afterwards, Charlotte peered at me grumpily from the other end of the hutch, wondering why I woke her.
My pigs are definitely not morning pigs then. Since that adventurous first day, I have discovered that they usually don’t wake up till well after 9 am. Now that the babies are here, I notice they follow the same schedule. If I’m out by the barns before 9, I can peek into the pig barn and see a giant undulating ball of pork and straw snoring away without a care in the world.
The same holds true for the evening. By 6 pm, especially now that it’s winter time and the sun goes down at 5:30, the pigs are getting ready for bed and the chickens are already roosting. Nobody wants to be bothered by the human at that time of day, unless that human is bringing a late night snack.
I normally try to get up around 6:30 am. Tom is up a little sooner, around 5:30, partially because he has to leave for work by 7, and mostly because our German Shepherds expect him to be awake then. They always wake him first. No alarm clock is necessary.
Unlike our pigs, our dogs are early morning risers. Actually, dogs are diurnal, meaning that they are very lively early in the morning and again close to dusk, with multiple German Shepherd naps scheduled inbetween. They have their entire day pretty much planned out and will remind us when it’s time to do the next thing.
Since I currently head out to do the morning chores between 9:30 and 10, the dogs will start to pace around by 20 after. They will come and see what I’m doing. They will take turns peeking around the corner of the kitchen or office doorway to see how far along I am with my other chores. They hope I haven’t forgotten. When I finally put on my socks and sweater, all hell breaks loose. They gallop en masse to the front door, peering often over their shoulders to make sure I’m still trudging along behind and still planning to go outside. The phrase “go do the animals” sends them into a happy howling frenzy. Who ever said that dogs don’t have a sense of time was dreadfully wrong.
The pigs and goats have since also learned that when they hear the happy barks of our pack of German Shepherds and a Pug, that breakfast is on its way. If it’s just me sneaking around outside, I never hear pigs grunting or goats howling. Once the dogs let loose with their yips and barks, everyone else on the farm stirs and wakes and starts to make impatient hungry sounds. This scenario is normally repeated twice a day, and up to four times a day if it’s really hot or cold and the livestock need extra water or hay. I stumble out amid a chorus of barks, yips, peeps, howls, snorts and grunts, lugging buckets of feed and then buckets of water.
All of the animals know their schedule, and they all know me, the tired bringer of the food. And with everybody’s uncanny built-in sense of timing, they never let me forget them. I’m just thankful that all of the livestock wait for the sun to come over the horizon first.