Monday, December 20, 2010

secret missions

There was a big vanilla sheet cake in the break room around 4 this afternoon. I checked to make sure no one was coming down the hall, and then wrapped up a giant piece about the size of my hand in paper towels. I stuck inside my sweater and snuck away with it like it was so sort of larceny. The cake was out for the taking of course, but not for what I had in mind. I put the paper towel wad in a plastic mailing envelope, shoved it into my messenger bag, and left the office like the secret ops smuggler that I was. I had a bounty of cake and I wasn't about to o home and binge either. I didn't want to eat it. I didn't want to save it. I didn't even want to compost it with a bucket of earthworms. I wanted to delight a pig.

And delight her I did. She nuzzled and chomped on the day-old baked good as if it was manna from heaven. Sure, I could have enjoyed the cake myself, but my own fleeting gustatory desires would have nothing on the joy I got out of watching my little girl root and lap up that frosting and yellow cake. It covered her snout and she sneezed to get it out of her nose. Then she ran ate the cake snot off she added to the feeder bin. I poured on some cracked corn and she squealed with delight. Her little curled tail wagged. Her little hooves lifted up and down. I leaned back against the stack of hay and looked at the Yorkshire shoat I was growing. She was easily as long as a Labrador now, and at least seventy pounds. In just a few weeks she doubled in size and her attitude around me has turned into a Labrador's as well. When I scratch her head she lays down in bliss and when I rub her tummy she kicks her legs the same way Gibson does when I hit a sweet spot. She's clean, tubby, generally quiet, and between the food from work and her few bags of feed: really inexpensive. So far there isn't even a hint of odor. She uses one section of the barn as a bathroom and since I cover it up with hay and wood chips, it never seems to fester. I'm actually shocked at how swell it's been going. Why doesn't everyone have one of these in the garage?

24 Comments:

Blogger doglady said...

It is probably too cold for too much odor to develop. I've been using peat for litter in my rabbit pans. No odor, good absorption and much better for the garden than sawdust or wood.
You'll miss that pig when she goes to slaughter.

December 20, 2010 at 7:44 PM  
Blogger Tami said...

No pig in the garage because of all the city regs. We live in a small town 30 miles north of Portland, OR and as of Feb could finally have chickens. It's regulated but looser than most cities. I think on our .22 acre lot we could definitely have a small dairy goat (I've had them before) and a pig. Here it's a fight. You weren't supposed to sell any produce if you are sitting on anything under 2 acres. So glad the pig is growing and going so well.

December 20, 2010 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I will miss her. I'll miss the lambs when they go too, and the turkeys, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

December 20, 2010 at 7:55 PM  
Blogger google@westvon.com said...

I just got done reading City Farm by Novella Carpenter and she fed her two pigs with pretty much nothing but what they found in all the urban dumpster diving expeditions! I wonder why they don't have some sort of urban situation where they have pigs to help with the terrible food waste issues that all cities have.

I think you're right... everyone should have the chance to have a critter or two like a pig or a goat or a few hens. I think the world would be a better place as well when it gets all the children out learning about their food and helping to raise it instead of just doing video games and txting 42,000 times a day! Haha...

December 20, 2010 at 7:56 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

We are working on the Mountain Boy. Right now he thinks pigs are out of the question. He grew a couple of hogs when he was a kid. He's not sure if our brood is ready for a sweet piggy to put in the freezer, all the mellow drama at harvest time. But we have a couple of months to work on him yet! I think home grown pork is in our family's future!

December 20, 2010 at 7:58 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

it's been much to long since i checked in on your blog...delightful! so happy about your pig...we enjoyed ours when they were here. and oh my, but you should be proud of your farmer's market experience! your yarn will do well as people hear about your table.

December 20, 2010 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger Mansfield knitter said...

Jenna, your cake and pig story brings back memories of my first pig in South Dakota. I was a St. Louis city raised girl who always wanted a farm and when my husband accepted a job in SD we bought 5 1/2 acres where we lived happily for 11 years. I raised all our meat (chickens, turkeys, pigs, geese, ducks) and raised all our veggies which I canned. I learned all this by reading many books. My first pig, Oscar Mayer, was my learning experience much like yours. I baked her cake and that is how I taught her to follow me. When it came time for butchering, my elderly bachelor sheep farmer brought his truck and ramp but insisted loading the pig was part of the raising process and he would just watch. His jaw dropped and a few colorful metaphors sprinkled the air as he watched me lay chocolate cake squares in a path from her pen, up the ramp, and into the truck bed. We no longer live on our acreage in SD as my husband followed his career to Texas. Now we live in the suburbs where zoning laws prohibit even keeping a few chickens so I content myself with a large garden and living vicariously through your blog.

December 20, 2010 at 8:37 PM  
Blogger Reese said...

I would have to become a vegetarian.

December 21, 2010 at 12:37 AM  
Blogger Chance said...

My farmer pal raised a Tamworth for me and updated me with pictures of her playing in the field, her glossy coat, her adorable little snout. Because of the documentation, I assured myself that the pig (named Dinner) was having a fine life, and later, a humane expiration date.

But still, I was a little dubious about eating Dinner - I grew very attached. Last Sunday, we had divine shredded organic, pastured pork from one very happy pig named Dinner, in a rich red mole sauce. So good.

I too wouldn't have it any other way.

December 21, 2010 at 5:16 AM  
OpenID clemscritters said...

We had a lovely pig last winter, who had personality plus. My husband worked for a major cheese manufacturer and brought home the curds and whey - mixed with pig food she was in hog heaven. She loved us then, she continues to love us now, but I miss her. Let your pig till up your garden... great fertilizer and fun to watch!

December 21, 2010 at 7:45 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Pigs are sooo much cleaner than most people give them credit for. We had four boys the beginning of this year and we had them almost all the way through the summer. Even in the summer's heat their "house" never smelled and it was clean enough in there that I felt like I could have sat down on the bedding.
Have you chatted with any local restaurants or grocery stores about getting food scraps? We have an art studio up here that was able to supply a lot of the food for one of our friend's pigs. Just a thought. =]

December 21, 2010 at 8:01 AM  
OpenID offgridinwv.com said...

We plan to get 2 piglets this spring. In the mean time, we went to a local auction and purchased a 200 lb locally raised hog. It went from the pen to the butcher (40 feet away) and we pick up the packaged meat this Wednesday. That may be something to consider if you live somewhere that won't allow you to raise it or if you feel you would get too attached to the piggy. Just a thought.

December 21, 2010 at 8:28 AM  
Blogger City Sister said...

I've always heard that pigs are quite clean animals...however in the summer you do not want to be downwind...they do get quite ripe in the heat.

December 21, 2010 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger Zoe Tilley Poster said...

Yea! 'Tis the season... I can't think of anything more festive than delighting a little piggy with a big piece of cake.

December 21, 2010 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger sheila said...

Nice that it's winter, the smell would be much different in the summer! Summer time pigs have to roll in anything to keep cool (since they have no sweat glands) and that will be their own waste if they don't have access to clean water to make mud out of. Water, heat, humidity, pig waste... yeah that's right, stinks to high heaven. The real question is why don't more people raise winter pigs? Piglets are cheaper in the fall and the smell is negligible in the cold. The only thing you miss out on is all the garden and canning waste (if you do that sort of thing). Winter raised pigs are living off much more grain vs veggies/fruit than summer raised ones. Best deal would be to get a hold of discarded organic produce from the grocery store and feed that in the winter. Winter pig raised cheaply!

Just wait, the feed bill will increase exponentially as she gets bigger. Have you made a butcher date? Many have found they end up feeding bags of feed to add inches of fat while they wait to get into the butcher. Your plan to butcher at a smaller weight is wise. Unless you want buckets of lard then it's best to butcher young. Pounds of lean meat won't increase much after a certain point, but tons of fat will.

December 21, 2010 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger 6512 and growing said...

Jenna,
I respect your unflinching commitment to your animals having a good life and a good death.
Wondering, will you be the one killing that pig?
Thanks,
Rachel

December 21, 2010 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I will not be. Or, at least I don't think so. I am looking for a butcher who does farm kills and takes the meat to the smokehouse to be butchered and packaged. If not, I will drive her to Eagle Bridge on our appt date.

December 21, 2010 at 10:19 AM  
Blogger Rae said...

My brother raised a couple hogs for FFA when we were kids. Very clean and very sweet. He used to go out and lay in their pen with them when they were smaller, and take them all sorts of treats. Broke his heart, though, when they went to slaughter. He's a chef now, and said he'd come cook after we butchered our first hog... As long as he didn't have to meet it first. :) I love reading blogs where the writer values their animals as something more than just an eating machine and meat for the freezer. Not that they aren't that, but it's no reason for them not to have a great life while they are here. Keep up the good work!

December 21, 2010 at 10:32 AM  
Blogger ecogrrl said...

No pigs for me until I have the space for them long-term -- they're as smart as dogs, and I can't imagine not keeping one for the duration of its natural life. Someday...

December 21, 2010 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

To each his own, I say, but reading this makes me glad I'm vegetarian. My potatoes and beans have much less personality than an animal and are therefore much easier, emotionally, to harvest, lol. I can hoestly say I've never missed the personality of a potato plant I've culled in order to eat. As I said, to each his own though. : )

December 21, 2010 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger google@westvon.com said...

I've heard that when they are young and all, they can be very nice and personable, yet as they grow older and larger, they become a little less interested in you and much more dedicated to just being a pig and eating and all that pig stuff... I think that might help a person detach a bit, if that makes sense. Still respect the animal, but come to the reasoning that we can't really just have pig sanctuaries all over the place for all of them to live out their lives as pets.

By raising them humanely and treating them well, you can start the cycle again with another animal, and hopefully keep them from a life of feed lots or factory farm pens and inhumane lives.

December 21, 2010 at 4:17 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

I hope that you'll be able to find someone to harvest your hog at home because I think it's a much more comfortable place to die, don't you? Our quarter steer was field harvested and I feel good about that because there was no stressful ride to an unknown place. I'm glad you'll be getting cake-fed pork.

December 22, 2010 at 3:26 AM  
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December 22, 2010 at 10:17 PM  
Blogger Nancy K. said...

I do!
In fact, I have TWO pigs in my garage! It's my first time raising pigs and I just brought my girls home, last week. My plan is for "Holly" and "Ivy" to be breeding stock. They are American Guinea Hogs ~ a breed listed as critically endangered on the ALBC list. I do intend that extra males will become someone's dinner but hope to place most of the girls in breeding homes. MY, they are adorable! ;-)

December 27, 2010 at 6:22 PM  

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