Friday, July 11, 2014

Piglets Have Arrived!

It was my 32nd birthday and a pig was peeing on me. At this point, it didn't really matter nor did I flinch. The pants I was wearing —the first pair of new jeans I had purchased in a year on sale at a workwear factory story—were already covered in mud and poop. An hour before a the piglet in my hands decided to add some final touches to the once beautiful jeans I was picking her out among all her brothers and sisters at a small hard scrabble farm in Fort Ann. When I knew which of the fifteen pound gilts I wanted, the breeder reached in and picked up the little gal by the back legs and handed her to me - a hock in each hand. I took them without hesitation and carried her upside down the short distance to the truck where I had a dog crate lined with hay waiting for her and her sibling to come back to Cold Antler. What I didn't expect was the amount of mud and slop all over her and as I carried her my entire front side was covered in what smelled…. like a pig pen.

Everything I know about pigs has shown me that a swine is an animal that likes options. They love mud and water, but they also like the option to stay dry. These pigs had access to a grassy pasture but apparently this muddy shed was where they wanted to be on a hot day. I couldn't blame them either. It was wicked hot and a mud bath sounded kinda great.

So I got one, thanks to the two pigs carried over to the truck. Gibson was with me and loving every second of it. He circled and smiled at the pigs, one of which was quiet and the other screaming his head off, like all pigs do when a human being dares to ruin their mud bath. I shook the man's hand and handed him the cash. I was grateful to pay it, too, because piglets are so hard to find this year. A disease had really hit the industry, at the industrial and small town, backyard level. Basically, piglets were getting bad diarrhea and dying from dehydration, usually in the first weeks of life. People who raise large hot farms had to buy in pigs wherever they could get them to make up for their losses and it was very hard to find a breeder who would sell a hog or two at a tailgate like this. But I found Patrick and I was happy to be here.

I chatted with him and his son for a bit and then brought the piglets home. I stopped at a country store on the way back to my place to get a cold drink and I'm sure I wasn't looking very presentable, but heck, this was a country store wasn't it? What is more country than a woman in a cowboy hat covered in pig crap with a border collie riding shotgun? I decided that any self esteem issued related to how I smelled were beat down by the level of verisimilitude I granted the establishment. I bought two things: a cold soda and a tall can of hard cider for later. (I'll explain that later in a bit. ) Chatting with the folks at the store the pigs in the back of the truck came up. The girl working at the desk thought piglets were adorable and wanted to see them, so I took her outside. The shop owner asked what I was going to do with them? And I explained that I raise them to around 200 or 250 pounds and then they are butchered for pork. She made a face, and I pointed out that they sold BLT's on the shop menu. She laughed and said she knew she was being a hypocrite but she just didn't like to think about it. As a woman with two piglets to raise for others folks to enjoy, I tipped my hat to her and said that was okay by me.

I got the piglets home and set them into their pen in the woods behind my barn. They had mud here too, but also a dry place to sleep with a metal roof, grass and plants to munch on, two bowls of feed (right now they are on a mix of goat milk and piglet chow) and clean drinking water. It took a few days to weed whack down the pen, rewire the electric, set up the grounding rod and run out an extension cord but I did it all in a matter of an afternoon. Last year this set up grated me nearly 600 pounds of pork and with these two little ones I was well on my way. I would get at least two more and then in the fall, two more again. Sharing pork out is an important part of this farm. And I have a respect for the porcine I never thought I would have.

later that evening when chores were done I carried out the goat milk canister to the new piglets. I poured it over their dry chow and they did this wonderful thing where they stick their whole snoot in there and blow bubbles and drink. With the rest of the animals fed and watered, and Merlin tied to the hitching post out front for grooming and tacking up (He was taking me out to dinner in a bit), I went back into the farmhouse and pulled that can out of the fridge. I poured it over a quart jar filled with ice and the pint of cider danced and swirled. Lord and Lady, that is my favorite drink! I poured a splash of bourbon in it too, and brought it out to the pigs. I watched them there for a while, taking sips of the drink and celebrating the new arrivals.

I love pigs. I never thought I would, but I do love them. This was always going to be a sheep farm with some extras like chickens and turkeys, but the pigs really shine here. They are so smart and clever, so funny and hedonistic. They are a joy to watch and as they wandered over to my side of the fence I poured a little bit of the haymason into their bowl. A small offering and bit of luck. When a new ship launches you break a wine bottle. When a pair of new pigs arrive on your birthday, you offer them a nip of cider. They snarfed it up and I toasted them. 'Welcome to the farm," I said as I raised my glass to them, "You'll do just fine. "


Blogger Carlos Rodriguez said...

sounds like a great way to ring in your birthday!have a great one jenna, you surely deserve it :) also by any chance would you be willing to give me some sort of price range for young pigs? in my area they price bounces around alot!

July 11, 2014 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

They were $90, most around here are 85 at the lowest. In winter you can find them cheaper, but right now that is standard here~!

July 11, 2014 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger Frenchie said...

Happy belated birthday Jenna, wish you the best year ever!

July 11, 2014 at 11:00 AM  
Blogger Su Ba said...

After reading your exploits with pigs I decided to take the plunge and get two myself. Boy, I've been having a blast with them. They are as smart as a dog. My two are mostly feral with some domestic in them, so they're quick, can jump, and are leery of strange things. But they are real fast learners, they come to me when I call them, follow me around like puppies, roll over for tummy rubs. It hasn't taken me long to become a pig lover. After these two are in the freezer, I plan on getting two more. I'm hooked.

July 11, 2014 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger jules said...

Happy Birthday Jenna! What a wonderful way to spend a birthday! Blessings for many more!

July 11, 2014 at 2:56 PM  

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