Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hog Heaven

During my scavenging trip to the home farm, one of the garden items that I was going to bring back by hook or crook was the large ball pictured at the right.  And now you're wondering, "what the heck is that thing?"  And some of you are wondering, "how do I find one of those for my own garden?"

This, my friends, is a hog oiler.  As you can see in the picture below, it even says it's a hog oiler.  Long ago, when people bought their bacon "on the hoof" rather than in vacuum-packed sanitary packages at the grocery, a local farmer was raising those pigs and most of those local farms had a hog oiler.  You poured oil into the base of the oiler (plain old motor oil as I remember, in those halcyon days when we didn't realize that oil was toxic) and then the pigs rubbed against it to coat their skin with oil.  Evidently pigs liked that.  Oiling the hogs was supposed to keep the lice and other critters down on those free-range hogs, although its efficacy was questionable.  Mostly, we got only oily hogs and oily hog pens from hog oilers.

Our hog oiler was used on our farm until the late 1960's, after which it was retired along with the last pig and set to rust in a barn for 30 years.  It's a very heavy cast iron model, evidently rare today because many of the cast iron ones were gathered up in WWII for scrap metal.  If you want one, I understand they're quite pricey these days.  My father resurrected it for his garden about 10 years ago, painting it black, but after a few years it went back to the barn to partially rust.  When I got it 10 days ago, it merely looked like a neglected black ball.

I'd had my eye on this oiler for ages, sometimes lusting at the thought of putting it into my garden.  I've avoided the glazing/reflecting ball cliche in my garden all these years because I can't stand the things, but this hog oiler is going to grace the center of my daylily bed as soon as I find a large enough pedestal to elevate it a bit.  I've painted the ball silver, as you can see, hoping that it may reflect a little color and light in the Kansas sun, but if I tire of the shininess, I can always spray it back to matte black.  Or let it rust.  Rust would be perfect.  I'd be as happy as a pig in, well, oil, if my hog oiler would rust all at once.   I've got a shiver running right up my spine as I think of a big rusty ball as a centerpiece to my garden.  God knows why, but you feel it too, don't you?


  1. Never heard of such a thing! But, it is pretty cool. Rust, or no rust, it should make for a fab conversation piece during garden tours. :)

    Happy New Year!

  2. I have never heard of a hog oiler! Thanks for the education. And to think - I've even raised hogs before, but alas, they were oil-less! ;0 I think it will make a striking and fun conversational piece for your garden. Happy New Year!

  3. I can feel your shiver of anticipation, from clear out here on the Left Coast. Who knows why a certain object inspires such lust? For years my mother searched for rusty plow disks. Later I had to agree with her that they made fantastic containers for sand, rocks, and succulents. A gardener near me has countless colanders, filled with herbs. Though these examples are not quite the same thing as a purely ornamental, and perhaps best of all, cryptic object.

    My favorite such object -- and obviously it doesn't rate as many points as your hog oiler -- was actually handcrafted by ...... someone for the purpose of garden ornamentation. It was a small stained glass creation meant to stand in a container or garden bed, which I can only describe as a Crookneck Squash Fairy On a Stick. Sadly, it lost its colored glass panels one by one through the years, and even the solder holding everything together eventually gave up the ghost. But it was unique.

    1. A colander would provide great drainage for herbs, wouldn't it?


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