Wednesday, October 19, 2011

...from the rooftops, shoat it out!

I pulled up the Rice Mansion before dawn. Tara, who had flown in from Texas the day before, was sitting on the porch waiting for my arrival. We'd planned to take this road trip since a few days before Antlerstock. We literally planned it in the comments section of a previous post. Pulling up to the mansion was one of those weird moments when the internet and reality fuse into one actual experience, and I think we were both a little nervous meeting a new person we only know from our desktops.

But there was no weirdness, Tara and I quickly learned we were cut from the same cloth. She's a goat herder from Texas and I'm a shepherd from New York, livestock and proximity aside, we were sister suffragettes in our freedom-to-farm life. The entire trip to the pig farm was easy laughs, stories, and taking in the morning drive. She noted that the northeast seemed a little more gentrified than Texas, but she was certain the sky was smaller here. I smiled hear that. I think I would turn in a few edged sidewalks for more headspace myself.

The ride north flirted with rain and wind, but the weather was unusually warm. I'm not a fan of that. If you're going to be October, act like October, I say. So when we did finally reach the hard scrabble homestead up north, I was warm and anxious. Excited to take home the pigs, but nervous about all the preparations ahead of me. I had yet to bake a loaf of bread or fill a pie pan and 30+ people were about to expect brunch. I wanted these porkers locked and loaded. I had a hay-lined dog crate in the back of the truck, and a plan to stop at Saratoga Apple on the way home. I was a woman prepared for hogs and half pecks.

I was also about to commit an act of superb haggletry. Since I started out in this country life, I have grown in my skills to make a deal. This man wanted 60 dollars a shoat, but for winter pigs that seemed high. I told him I wanted two and would bring cash, but I didn't say how much cash I would bring. I brought eighty dollars. As we were in the pig pen looking at the stock I told him I only had so much to spend and would either take two for $80 or the one at the agreed original price of $60. I have learned that deal making with livestock has to happen at this point. If you do it over the phone or emails, no dice. But if you wait till the last possible minute with the gumption to walk away, you nearly always get your gilt. he sold me the pair for 80 dollars. That means for just twenty more dollars than last year I got double the pork! hooooo Doooogggy!

The shoats were Berkshire/Yorkshire crosses, about twenty pounds each. Mostly pinkish white, in that classic piggy way, but covered in cow splotches of brown and black. We helped the gent load them into the dog crate and within moments they were pooing and sleeping on their bed of fresh hay. I watched them settle in and was happy I ended up with two. They snuggled into each other, and would continue to keep each other warm company through the North Country winter.

Tara was good company the whole ride. A good sport with me getting lost and missing turns, and in high spirits. She would be doing a soap making class on Saturday and had mailed me some supplies in advance. As we rolled south back to Cold Antler, we talked about the planning ahead. She and a few others had offered to help set up the night before. Christina and Brian from Wooden Plow Farm in Maine, Brett, and my friends Raven and Mikaela would also be coming to the farm around 3:30 for chili, fresh bread, and a pie-baking marathon. It was only 11AM and I was already bushed.

Tara and I got the pigs settled in at the farm and then I took her back to the hotel for a short break before the bake off. I headed home to vacuum, dust, make beds for the guests and mow the lawn. None of the work was hard, but it was constant. And I was rushing through it, too. So excited to have the place bustling and alive, with classes and kitchen smells, and trees crashing into the brush while cheese curds formed indoors. Tomorrow would be a big deal, a collaboration and a celebration. I could hardly wait....


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haggling is a good skill to have! At least all of my family members and even me, are pretty good at it.


October 19, 2011 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger Lynnanne said...

you're livin' the dream with your eyes wide open. hey… when i go to get piggies, you want to come along? i could use you in my corner! ;)

October 19, 2011 at 2:48 PM  
Blogger Goat Song said...

Hehe, whenever someone in my family wants something, they always make me look for one. I'm the resident haggler, and LOVE making deals with folks. The most memorably barters I've done would probably be the 200 year old spinning wheel I got in trade for 10 pies, and the 14 rabbits I recently got for $75 instead of $150. :)

That is wonderful that you were able to get such an awesome deal on your porkers! :D

October 19, 2011 at 2:48 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

It was a good time, the pig-getting! And haggletry might be my new favorite word. :) Barter is more my area. We've traded every kind of crazy thing for every other kind of crazy thing - up to and including learning how many (nice, modern) cloth diapers a goat will buy.

October 19, 2011 at 3:44 PM  
Blogger kandy Gray said...

tara- cloth diapers make great quilts when you dye them and take the layers apart. just don't do natural dyes, because, for some reason, they don't set well in the diaper material.

for all those saying "ewwww" right now, you do have to bleach the heck out of them before hand...

October 19, 2011 at 4:28 PM  
Blogger Mindy Smith said...

80 bucks for two shoats is a pretty good deal. I'm sure you know this, but your second pig doesn't just cost you 20 bucks - depending on what you feed them and from where it can be like an additional 300 bucks. All worth it though if you can turn a profit.

Good luck on your new pig journey. They are fantastic animals.

October 19, 2011 at 4:52 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

I get butterflies just hearing about the preparations, Jenna! So exciting!

October 19, 2011 at 8:40 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

A SPINNING WHEEL!!!!! For 10 pies, that is awesome and amazing. You traded a creative piece for something that will further your creativity. Wow, that makes my day just thinking about it!

Tara, I somehow missed that you were from far away. As a presenter I thought you were from around the corner! Can't wait to use my soap!

October 20, 2011 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger Bovey Belle said...

They sound like they would be Oxford Black and Sandy pigs if they were in Britain. You got a great deal pricewise.

October 21, 2011 at 4:09 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Pigs will grow better in pairs as well b/c they will compete for food. Learned that from my 9 years in the 4-H Swine Club. Found your blog from Charity Farm and have enjoyed reading.

October 24, 2011 at 8:37 PM  
Blogger Zev said...

Where did you find this photo of pig racing? It's hilarious. :)

November 2, 2011 at 11:07 AM  

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