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“Broken Chicken Feet”

If you live on a farm with chickens and any other livestock over 200lbs, chances are sooner or later you’ll see a limping chicken with a munched foot.  Pigs, mules, horses, and even very large goats can easily crush a chicken’s foot with one step.  Most of the time they are oblivious to the chicken’s thrashing screams and might not lift their foot right away.  When the large livestock is being grained, and thus the chickens want to be right in the trough with it eating, the chances of chicken-foot-pudding being created are even higher.

So what do you do when your chicken’s foot has been pancaked into oblivion by a giant hoof?

So far I’ve only lost 1 bird to this injury.  I’ve had it happen a few times, and I’ve heard it happen to  a few folks I know as well.  The first time our 500lb boar munched a chicken foot was one of my black copper marans hens.  The first day I saw her, it looked like she was dust bathing on the ground.  She was hunkered down in a little chicken dust-bath-bowl with one leg sticking out funny like she was sun bathing.  She let me walk right up to her.  I thought “Wow!  You tamed up nicely over night!”  I patted her on the head and continued on my way.  But the next day she was still there. Okay something was definitely wrong now.

I shooed her out of her dirt-bowl it was obvious she wasn’t using one of her feet.  She wouldn’t open the foot or set it on the ground, so her hobble was desperately slow.   I scooped her back up and inspected her foot.  The ankle joint where the toes meet the leg was mush.  Just total mush.  Poor girl!

I isolated her in a special, specious run I normally put broody hens in.  It’s quiet, secluded, and has feed and water and fluffy soft bedding.  I know chickens heal fast.  All birds do.  This kind of break was not something that could be splinted, either.  So I gave her a no-stress environment with food and water within reach and let her rest for a few days.  She began to limp gently on the ankle and move about in her pen after several days of R&R.

But then I noticed her ankle was exaggeratedly swollen.  I would think the swelling would go down, not up, as she got better…  So I picked her up again and inspected her ankle.  It was blown up with pus.  Dang!  We all know what that means…  Time to get a razor blade…

I drained her ankle abscess with a single 1/4″ incision and milked the pus out.  A little touch of usnea tea plunged through the pocket helps to keep infection at bay.  Chickens are particularly resistant to infection though.  They have to be!  They’ve been raised for hundreds of generations in poop-infested barnyards.  The smallest cut or puncture on a chicken is bound to get poop in it in the average barnyard.  They’re out scratching through feces for seeds, crapping on their own feet, and mucking about in filthy mud.  

Anyway, this hen was right as rain within 2 weeks, and she promptly when broody.  Woohoo!  She’s still with me to this day, I can tell her because one of her ankles is more bulbous than the other from the healed break, but her mobility is totally normal.

Another time I had a buff orpington get her femur snapped.  Her foot probably got stepped on and she probably thrashed around so hard she broke her own leg.  Femur breaks on chickens aren’t common.  The Mangalitsa sows were around 600lbs at the time and they loved ‘bowling for chickens’.  The chickens choose to hang out with the rowdy pigs, there’s not much we can do to avoid the occasional injury unless we wanna lock the whole flock up, which is a huge drop in their quality life and prevents them from feeding themselves as they rummage around the barn.

To check for a break, you have to very gently test for unnatural flexing of the bone.  Hold the joint stiff and very, very gently move/wiggle the bone.  Nothing should move if you’ve incapacitated the joint.  If the limb flexes or shifts anywhere but at the joint, the bone is broken clean through.  I have to stress that precious little pressure or movement is required to diagnose this, don’t go wrenching a broken leg to a 30º angle before deciding it’s broken!

I knew this orpington wasn’t going to be walking any time soon, so I stuck her in a small space with a broody hen.  Feed and water were close at hand.  She got up once every day or two to stretch but otherwise stayed put.  I didn’t splint her.  Frankly she was destined for butcher.   Every time I get orpingtons I am reminded that I don’t like orpingtons.  They eat huge sums of food, lay tiny eggs, and have always been among my worst layers  and broodies.
 By the end of her healing she had actually decided to go broody with the broody I put her with.  Yay!  I gave her her own clutch of eggs and let her raise her chicks.  So her healing R&R time was extensive, sitting on the nest for 21 days.    That was the first time I’ve ever had an orpington go broody (which is crazy because they’re notoriously broody), and will probably be the last.  She was a terrible mother and lost all of her chicks within the first week.  This hen is still with me today, nearly a year later.  She has a pronounced peg-leg style limp and doesn’t roam as far as other birds, but she’s otherwise fine. If I ever get around to reducing the hen population, she and the other remaining orpingtons will be on the list.  I think I’m pushing 80 hens, I really do need to downsize…

I’m digressing though.

The majority of the time, birds recover from munched feet and broken legs just fine.  Care should be taken to ensure they don’t abscess.  Severely broken legs should be splinted to avoid undue risk of it healing in a crippling manner.  I wrote a little bit about bird leg-breaks in my post “Aspen’s Story: Broken Turkey Legs”.   Antibiotic herbs can be given as tea-water or the whole herbs can be cut up and added to their feed.  If an abscess is noticed, it should be drained quickly and the pocket should be kept clean, ideally flushed with an antiseptic, vinegar, or salt tea to help kill bacteria.

I did lose 1 bird to a mashed foot.  It was a young lavender Ameraucana, maybe 2-3 months old.  Her foot was pudding from a pig stomp.  The break was really bad.  It was deep winter and it was frigid out.  If it had happened in the summer I’m confident she would have survived.  But within a week of getting stomped she faded and died.  Her body could not effectively heal the chronic damage and fight the cold at the same time.  We have no heated outbuildings or way to isolate an animal in the heat.  That’s part of the nature of the beast when living in a remote, high-elevation location without most conveniences.  To some degree it becomes survival of the fittest on the farm.  But for the average chicken keeper, helping a bird through a major injury like this is a reasonable and successful task.

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“The Goat Poisoned Himself”

Aster and Isöl made a jail break, as goats are prone to doing.  They escaped their fenced area and indulged in some free-ranging around the mountainside.  I didn’t think much of it; I know they’re not going very far and I don’t mind them browsing new area.  A few hours later, however, something seemed amiss.  I couldn’t hear the bells on their collars jingling.  They were either very far away or holding very still.  Goats are like small children; when it gets too quiet, you get nervous.

After some scouting around, I actually found them hiding under the front porch!  I poked my head under the porch (which had a tall open face downhill) to see a very strange scene.  Aster is stalk-still, staring into oblivion, his and chest slathered in frothy green slime.  Isöl is pacing beside him, restless, sniffing his brother and stamping his feet.  
Isöl looks up at me with bulging eyes, “Jen, you gotta do somethin’!  You gotta help him!”  
Poor boy, he was more concerned for his brother than I’ve ever seen a goat choose to be concerned about anything else.

I got both boys back in their pen.  Aster was producing projectile vomit of green foam every so often.  He was unstable his feet and miserable.  

I went back home and had a think on it.  The only explanation was the poisonous bog plant False Hellebore, which grows in our draws.  I had destroyed it in their pen, but Aster must’ve gorged on a bunch while out enjoying his freedom.  Dadgum goats!  So I loaded up a huge syringe with hydrated activated charcoal and marched back down to the barnyard.  I flushed the full dose of AC down his throat and made sure it didn’t come back up right away.

I spent the rest of the day rampaging through the forest with false-hellebore-bloodlust, destroying every plant I came across, whilst intermittently revisiting Aster and re-dosing him with more syringes of AC.  By evening he’d stopped vomiting and seemed stable.  I’m sure he felt like crap.  He and his brother snuggled together in the loafing shed.  Isöl never left his side.  

The next day Aster was feeling much better.  His backside was caked in the crusty evidence of charcoal-black liquid poo.  His chest was a ghastly mess of crusty green

chunks and charcoal stains.  But he felt okay.  His breath smelled okay.  His appetite was healthy and he ate with a normal vigor.  He was up on his feet like nothing had happened.

The next few times I took the boys hiking, Aster would sniff false hellebore and quickly turn the other way.  Yay!  Then I made the mistake of scolding him for giving it a curious nibble.  Everything is a game to goats.  It only took one reaction.  So now they will seek out false hellebore stalks when we’re hiking and they’ll wait until I’m looking, then quickly put it in their mouths and wag their tails because they know it’ll get a reaction out of me.  
And it will!  Dadgum goats!  
Thankfully though, false hellebore is only toxic in larger quantities (that’s relative; while I’ve read 4oz. of leaf can kill a sheep, the point is that

 one nibble isn’t going to hurt, but a whole 3 foot stalk will) and I haven’t had another goat pull the same stunt on me.  In the mean time I’ve mercilessly ravaged the false hellebore in my immediate environment.  I normally don’t like eradicating a species like that, but you know 

what, they can grow everywhere else on the mountain, just stay out of my barnyard!

Normally goats can be trusted to not kill themselves while foraging.  I assume this was the first time Aster had ever interacted with falsehellebore.  The goats and pigs both nibble it incrementally, but I assume they each individually experienced eating enough to get a stomach ache and learned to avoid it.  Aster just made the mistake of gorging on the plant without first learning how it would affect him.

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“Nova’s Tribulations: The Eye Wound”

It had been a cold winter.  We were lounging in the upper deck of the ‘upper greenhouse’, as we call it.  We were having a spot of sunshine and it’s always warmest at the top of the greenhouse. My cats Nochi, Nova, and Mario were lounging with me.

Without warrant, as he was prone to doing, Mario looked sideways at his sister Nova and began terrorizing her in classic cat fashion. They had a momentary brawl and both cats bolted away.

I didn’t think anything of the spat. Mario has always been mean to poor little Nova. The next afternoon I was opening a drawer in the greenhouse and jumped back in surprise- there was a big grey animal in the drawer! I quickly realized it was Nova. I teased her and greeted her but she didn’t respond. She was curled up tightly in a ball. Very unusual. So I pried her up and out of the drawer, only to find myself in a mild panic at the sight of her left eye; it was a giant mat of blood!

I rushed Nova inside, nestled her into the covers on the bed, and took stock of what needed to happen. Foremost in a situation like this, the blood needs to be cleaned up. So with many changes of warm, wet towels I washed the caked blood from her face and eye. I had no idea what I would find under her eyelid- was her eye destroyed? How bad was this? In the moment I wasn’t sure what could have possibly happened!

Once the excess blood was out of the way, I made a hot tea of holy basil (antiseptic pain relief) and usnea lichen (antibiotic). I laid with Nova and loved on her while holding the hot, juicy tea compress over her eye, making sure the tea could seep in and around the eye, which was caked shut with blood. I didn’t want to pry it open because I didn’t know the extent of the damage I was dealing with.

Nova was miserable. She slept day after day, only getting up a few times- which signaled me to whisk her outside so she could relieve herself. Twice I let her out to do her thing and she didn’t come back. It was frigid outside and I still didn’t know how bad her condition was. I set about calling her and searching high and low for her. Eventually she reappeared, waiting by the back door for me to let her in. Phew!

About a week passed before the constant daily tea soaks had un-crusted her bloody eye. She was squinting out of the eye ever so gently. Her eye was solid blood red. I was overcome with sadness for her- surely she had lost vision in the eye if it was so full of blood!

My treatment for her remained unchanged. Usnea and basil flushing and compresses to the eye. Around day 10 she was improving greatly.  It had become apparent that when Mario jumped her, he had raked his claws across her eye and actually sliced her eyelid open from the back corner of the eye up towards her ear. It was pretty gross and I was highly displeased with Mario for it. I was still unsure if Nova’s eyesight would recover.

Once the majority of the healing was complete and her pain levels dropped, Nova became restless and I evicted her once again from the house. She stayed close to home and I kept an eye on her. She seemed to be doing quite well.  After a few weeks her eye was open again fully, her eyelid had healed without the slightest hint of infection, swelling, or complication.  Her eye, however, was a deep dark brown color from all the blood, and her pupil was pronouncedly dilated at all times.

It took a few months for the dark coloration in her iris to fully disperse. I tested her eyesight thoroughly (laser pointers do have their practical applications!) and she appeared to have no loss of vision in her left eye. Phew! To this day though, her left pupil is always slightly more dilated than her right. A legacy from Mario that reminds me of him every time I look into Nova’s eyes.

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“A Post About Today: February 1st, 2021”

It’s a bright, sunny Monday morning.  My orders are in the post and I’m now hiding in front of the computer.  The thermometer says it’s 38ºF in the greenhouse.  The top of our greenhouse today will likely reach 50ºF, whilst the draw below the cabin is likely in the teens or single-digits.  It’s a comfy 70ºF inside after a busy morning of frying up sausage, pancakes, and onions.

Why am I indoors in front of the computer?  I fractured my ankle and I’m trying to stay off it.  It’s been a blessing in disguise, considering I got THIS done!  This website!  The thing you’re looking at right now!  I get to busy my time indoors writing posts like this and migrating my inventory into this fancy new shop.  Once I’m up on my feet again I won’t be getting quite as much computer work done.

How did I fracture my ankle?  Walking.  I was walking, then I was on the ground.  I don’t know what happened.  My body glitched and fell down.   I soaked my foot in a series of foot bathes during the first few days.  Featured herbs included horsetail for tendon and ligament healing, comfrey/hound’s tongue for healing the fracture, and birch bark and marshmallow to reduce inflammation.
 It hurt for 2 or 3 days and then I was fine for about a week.  I puffed myself up with pride; “Ha-HA!  Take that fracture!  I heal you instantly with my herbs!”  Then I spent a day mechanicing on the ever-broken vehicles.  My front right brake caliper was seized up completely and I had to take the caliper pins out, strip the grease and rust off, re-grease them, put them back in, and replace the caliper.  We had the car completely blocked and suspended since it’s all wheel drive and we can’t test the steering and wheels with just the front end jacked up.  I was prepared to change a CV axle, but because of the seized brake (which had apparently been seized for some time be we didn’t notice because we’re just crawling up and down the icy mountain roads, not driving around town), the brake pads and ball joint on that side were trash.   So we needed to get the ball joint and new pads before tearing everything apart again and replacing stuff.  May as well do as much as you can in one sitting while you’ve got it in pieces!

Anyway, a few hours of crawling around on cardboard mats on the snow and ice in 25ºF, moving tires and cranking on wrenches, and my ankle was starting to scream at me again.  That day really lit it up with pain.  Now for the last week I’ve been laid up and barely able to walk on it.
I got too cocky and confident!  I stopped my tea bathes when the pain stopped.  Of course fractures aren’t going to heal in 4 days!   So it’s back to soaking in tea bathes and minimizing my walking.

But more about today and recent events!  Well, Andy recently built a bathtub out of wood, that’s super cool.  I mean, I have no qualms bathing in a plastic tote, but I realize not everyone is lucky enough to be so small that they fit in a storage tote.  Sometimes I pity the tall, I really do.  
The bathtub was made out of a single length of 16″ lumber that he milled with a relative’s saw mill.  We’ll likely never see boards like them again. The massive tree they came from was gifted to him, we certainly don’t have trees that large on our farm.  So the tub is roughly 16″ tall, 16″ wide, and 4′ long with a nicely sloped back rest.  He filled with with ultra-fine saw dust from the table saw and then filled it with water; as the water runs out of the seams, it sucks soggy sawdust through it it and clogs all of the leaky joints.  It’s sealed well enough in this way that, if left filled with water, it will only leak about 1″ of water per day.  To empty it we scoop the water out with 5 gallon buckets and water the plants in the greenhouse with it.  Even in winter, they still need water delivered!

He now wants to make bathtubs for everyone he knows with the last of this magically gigantic lumber we have.  So far no one is interested in a wooden bathtub.  I can’t fathom why!  A 100% natural, raw material bathtub with no chemicals, plastics, sealants, or other harmful crap!  What’s not to love?  I mean, yeah, it’s gotta be spritzed with some thyme or other antiseptic teas to keep the mycelium from moving in and eating it.  But hey, maintenance is maintenance, whether it’s wood, metal, plastic, or porcelain!

In other news, only 6 more weeks until baby goats!  And do you know what that means?! 7-8 more weeks we can go back to milking the goats!  😀  I swear I’ve been dreaming about fresh milk and cheese since we stopped milking a few weeks ago.  It’s important to dry a doe off before she kids.  Not only do want her to focus her energy on growing the kids instead of producing large sums of milk to humans, but milking too close to her due date means you could start milking out colostrum that the kids need to develop their immune systems when they’re born!  We’re toying with the idea of selling 1 doe’s kids as bottle babies so we can milk her for us, and letting the other raise her kids.  It will likely depend on the genders they have.  Several of the neighbors are interested in buying the kids, so who knows, they might want every one we get and we’ll end up milking both does!

I’ll leave it at that for today. Thanks for reading 🙂

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“Coral Root as a Healing Herb”

I wanted to talk a little bit about the medicinal herb Coral Root.  Members of the Corallorhiza family are many, and most of them are endangered.  In our forest we’re lucky to have a variety of coral root that is not state or nationally endangered.  Coral root is an orchid.  It’s entirely parasitic.  It produces no leaves and contains no chlorophyl.  It survives by leeching nutrients from the roots of the plants around it, as well as being fed by mycelium and other generous members of its ecosystem.

The ‘root’ of coral root is what we harvest for medicine.  Coral root doesn’t actually have roots.  It has an elaborate network of finger-like rhizomes that grow in segmented fashion, curling in on themselves and encasing anything they curl around.  The root ball then, which is technically a rhizome ball, is a tightly-knit wad of little segmented fingers.  Anything from roots to rocks become encased in their grasp.

The rhizomes, unfortunately, smell like urine.  Both fresh and dried.  I really wish they didn’t, because I love this herb.  And I dislike drinking my “cup of hot urine” when I need to take coral root.  Thankfully the flavor is easily masked with mint, pine needles, or other strongly aromatic herbs that combine well with it medicinally.

The harvested rhizomes are a PAIN to clean.  If I wanted to get paid a living wage for selling coral root I’d have to charge $20-30 an ounce for it.  I’m not going to do that because I want folks to have access to this herbs that has little or no industrial production and is not widely available.  To clean the rhizomes, root balls anywhere from 5 inches to 10 inches across must be completely broken apart.  Every last little segment of rhizome (each segment is less than an inch long, there are thousands of them in a small ball) must be broken apart, since their style of growth means they have encased huge quantities of substrate and forest debris.  The amount of substrate they can harbor is astounding.  So the entire ball must be tediously picked apart in a container of water, and thousands, if not millions, of little segments must then be washed and virtually scrubbed free rocks and soil.  It took me many back-aching hours to clean about 10lbs of coral root rhizomes in 2020.  And sadly they dried down to just 1 pound of dried rhizome.  It didn’t

leave much to go around, and I ended up gifting the majority of it to friends in need of herbal anxiety relief.

 

Moving on, though, to what coral root actually does.
First, as it’s more known for, coral root addresses cerebral tension and can help quiet racing thoughts, agitated moods, and anxious states.  It works via the central nervous system to calm and quiet the mind and body.  I find coral root very useful when I feel overwhelmed, over worked, and bordering on states of mental anxiety.  It’s a reliable way to turn the volume down on all of the mental ‘white noise’ and regain the ability to focus and think clearly.

Coral root is also specific to lung infection recovery.  Weakened immune systems and long-standing lung infections specifically indicate oral root.  One friend I sent coral root to in 2020 found drastic improvement in his condition.  He got COVID in the spring of 2020 and even though he had otherwise recovered, he had a persistent lung infection he couldn’t clear up.  I now know of at least 3 people who have this same complication, where 6-9 months after

recovering they still have deep stubborn lung infections.  This particular friend saw an immediate movement and expulsion of the long-standing fluids with each cup of tea he drank.  I likewise use coral root when I have lung complaints or stubborn fluid in the lungs after an incident or illness.

 

Additionally, coralroot can be mildly stimulating to menstruation, so best to exercise caution if One is striving for pregnancy.

Because I have rationed quantities of this herb, I typically make 16oz. pot of tea with a small pinch of about a dozen or so segments of rhizome in it.  These segments, once dried, are only a few millimeters in length.  Just a small pinch is enough to give me coral root’s anxiety fighting effects.  In a rush, I’ve even swallowed a pinch of root with water, like pills.  The effects were slower to kick in and not as pronounced.  But it works if making tea isn’t an option.  Back to making tea though- I typically steep the same pinch of rhizomes twice, with the second steep lasting as long as I can let it to leech every last bit of goodness out of the rhizomes.

Coral root is relatively safe and benign.  It provides a bounty of benefits that are extra applicable during this pandemic.  I’m not trying to sell you on COVID cures- I don’t even have any coral root for sale at the time of posting this!  My intent is to provide you with another tool in your arsenal of herbal healing.  If coral root sounds like it could improve your quality of life, find a good source to buy from, or better yet, go wander your nearest conifer forest, identify you local coral root variety, and if it’s not endangered, dig yourself up some anxiety relief and lung-healing rhizomes.

It’s worth noting, additionally, that when digging up a rhizome ball, I take all of the ‘buds’ and replant them.  These are thick, thumb-like nodes on the finger-ball.  They are bulbous and often have a small ‘spike’ on them, which is an immature shoot poised to sprout out of the node.  I try to leave these buds with a small amount of rhizomes still attached and replant them in the area so I don’t impede on my local coral root’s population.

 

I want to add one cool story about harvesting coral root.
When harvesting, I have found no correlation between the number of flowering stalks present above the surface and the size of the root ball below.  Some huge root systems sport only 1 stalk, and some tiny golf-ball sized rhizome clusters may sport 6 or more flowering stalks.
To-date though, the biggest and most healthy rhizome  cluster I’ve found was symbiotically functioning as an ant nursery!  This rhizome mass was over a foot across.  I mined out only half of it.  It took harvesting the first half to really understand what I was seeing.  I certainly didn’t want to rob the ants of this sweet relationship with the coral root, so I replanted the buds and buried the hole I dug open, leaving the rest of

the coralroot undisturbed.

In amongst the rhizomes were networks and caverns of ant brood.  Little nurse ants scurried through tunnels in the rhizome ball.  Tunnels in the substrate lead to and from the rhizome mass to their anthill a few feet away.   Angry worker ants eventually began pouring out of the tunnels as I disturbed the nursery.

I can only assume that this was a successful symbiotic relationship.  It was the largest, healthiest patch of coral root I’ve ever seen, and the ants seemed to be flourishing as well.  I have to wonder if ant feces or carcasses fed nutrients to the rhizomes, or if said waste fed mycelium that fed the rhizomes.  Or perhaps the ants themselves offered supportive nutrition to the coral root via bodily fluids or intentional delivery of physical nutrients.  I’d really like to know!  It was a fascinating discovery!

 

 

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“The Boar Has What? WHERE?!”

Ol’ Spotty Wattles the Kune Kune boar was starting to move a bit stiff.  He didn’t want to move around much, and when he did, he did this funny little dance with his back legs.  I thought at first maybe he strained a muscle in a back leg somehow.  A week passed and he didn’t seem to be improving.  He ate and drank well enough, but something was off about him.
One day we’re feeding the pigs and we take a closer look at him.  His back end looked all wrong.  His testicles were bulging out unusually far.  Curious, we went in for a closer look.  To our horror we discovered that this massive bulge was not actually his testicles, but some other hard mass about the size of a softball.

I dove into hours of research online to try and discover what this could be.  Our first fear was an inguinal hernia, even though from what we read it really only happens to developing piglets.  So we called a small town vet, who doesn’t see pigs, but was happy to give some delicate advise; cut it open.  If it’s a hernia, cut the scrotum open very carefully and try not to cut into the hernia itself.  If it is a hernia, and the hernia is that big, we’ll have put him down anyway, so stand by with a pistol just in case everything goes wrong.  If it’s not a hernia, it’s probably an abscess.  Best case scenario we open up an abscess and drain it.
After much discussion, stress, and preparation for all possible scenarios, we calmly and casually remove the sows from the barn so Spot is alone with us.  Take into consideration this is a 200lb Kune Kune boar that was hand raised on our front porch.  Ol’ Spot didn’t have a mean bone in his body and he loved us dearly.  I can’t say that about any other pig we’ve kept.
So my partner gets into position with a fresh, sharp razor blade on the aft-end of the pig, and I bust out the grain bucket on the mouth-end of the pig to distract him.  Thankfully we had a best-case-scenario.  We opened up a 1″ incision on his scrotum and copious quantities of cheese-puss immediately came bulging out.  Spot didn’t even flinch, he was busy eating grain.  The smell was absolutely nauseating.  We had a tiny window of opportunity with the distracted boar to drain the abscess as quickly as possible, which involved massaging, milking, and squeezing out the rancid mass.
I’m sure initially the draining felt rather relieving to Spot.  His testicles had been strained and squished far lower than normal (which we believe ultimately resulted in infertility, unfortunately), making it painful for him to walk.  He patiently allowed us to work until most of the draining was complete- then his pain receptors kicked in.  Thankfully he was small and gentle enough to hold relatively still so I could dive in with a 20cc plunger of warm antiseptic tea.  I had preemptively brewed a strong usnea and basil tea and added a healthy splash of vinegar to the mix.  I set the nozzle of the plunger in the incision and flushed the full plunger through.  Tea belched back out of the incision mixed with blood and puss.  It was really, really disgusting.  Really.  Really really.  But it had to be done.  I flushed at least 4 full plungers of tea through his wound until it was running out clean and clear.  By this time Spot had also decided he’d had enough of whatever we were doing to his back end and became unmanageable.
For about a week I continued to visit his back side with my plunger and quart jar of antiseptic tea.  I flushed his wound out at least once a day.  Within 2 weeks it was fully healed over with hardly a scar.  Our best guess is that the big dummy was scratching his butt on a sharp stick or stump and poked a small but deep hole into his scrotum.  The subsequent puncture became infected.  It’s possible there was woody debris encased in the puss we drained out, but we didn’t rifle through it to find out.  We didn’t notice he had a problem because pig testicles normally bulge out their back side.  It took the abscess brewing until it was so abnormally large that it became obvious to us.  Poor Spot!
About a month later though, Spot went down again.  This time he seemed like he had a serious issue.  For 2 days he didn’t leave the barn.  1 day we can chalk up to his love of sleep.  2 days without food-lust is a red flag.  And on day 2 the ravens began to gather.  They always know when a critter is down for the count!
We once again shooed the sows out of the barn and locked ourselves in with Spot.  He laid listlessly on his side.  We checked his back end- no new wounds, and the old abscess was totally healed.  So we got him on his feet and I knelt down to inspect his undercarriage.  I found the problem!
Ol’ Spotty had once again been scratching on the wrong forest debris.  This time he had an abscess around his sheath that was about the size of a golf ball.  The abscess was now putting pressure on his urinary tract.  He couldn’t pee.  And he probably hadn’t peed since the day before.  This was urgent.

So we swiftly re-enacted our procedure from a few weeks prior.  A simple cut-and-drain, but this time with even more sensitivity and care due to the location.  I let my partner do this cut as well, since his empathy for the situation was extra acute…   He cut the abscess on the top-most edge, the farthest possible place away from Spot’s delicate anatomy.  And once again Spot was a gentle, patient pig for us.  Once again the relief was probably most welcome for him.

We cut him, drained him, flushed him, and got him up on his feet.  He peed.  And peed and peed and peed.  And peed some more.  And proceeded to wander down to the food trough to join the ladies, like nothing had happened.  I kept an eye on him and flushed him only a few times over the next couple weeks; this was 

a location I couldn’t easily get to.  It’s one thing to sneak up behind him while he’s eating and give him a surprise flush in the scrotum.  It’s another thing entirely to have to lie down on the ground next to him and finagle a sheath flush.  So I watched for signs of re-infection and mostly just hoped his body would be able to heal without too much help from the usnea tea.
He did great and healed from both wounds without recurring infection or complication.
We did eventually have to butcher Spot, unfortunately he had a degenerative bone disease that was destroying his mobility.  Poor boy.  Bad genetics are a tough lot in life.  You are remembered fondly, Spotty Wattles!  Attached is a photo of the big lump snoozing with some chickens.