June 14, 2012
We are now pig people.
One of our pig books makes very clear that pork producers never EVER say “piglet”. We’re not sure how we feel about this. But for now, we are trying to stick to “little pig”.
Yesterday was our first day back on the farm since our five-day weekend in Albuquerque for my Dad’s wedding. We really enjoyed spending time with family and friends and getting to know all of the wonderful new relatives. The event was held at a winery that was quite picturesque–I kept waiting for Antonio Banderas to walk around the corner, smoking a cigar and wearing white pants– and we enjoyed spectacular food by our new friend Chef Kim. We were able to relax and enjoy our trip, but it wasn’t easy. Farmers (especially dairy farmers) don’t really don’t go on vacation, and now we know why. Taking on all of the responsibilities of the farm is a lot to ask of someone, but our landlord was willing to hold down the fort.
After writing several pages of lists, instructions, and emergency contacts, buying an extra week’s worth of feed, preparing all of the necessary milking and bottle feeding equipment, moving around all of the poultry in order to streamline the chicken chores, and separating the pregnant sheep just in case they decided to lamb in our absence (which they did not, so it is bound to happen any day now), there was nothing more we could do. Everyone was alive and well when we got home, but it was still stressful, for us and for our landlord. New Mexico was beautiful and we had a really great time, but we missed the farm. It’s good to be home.
We put a deposit on two Tamworth pigs a couple of months ago, before they had been born. Bailey and I were first turned on to this old heritage breed when we attended a woodlot pork raising seminar, organized by PASA and held at Forks Farm last summer. They are quite handsome, very rugged and hardy, excellent at foraging and grazing, the sows have good maternal instincts, and because they do not develop much fat, they produce some of the best bacon. Being a rare breed, we were fortunate to find a Tamworth breeder living just 15 minutes from us.
Every animal has its “people”. After meeting Bailey, I started to get to know chicken people. A lot of them are crazy. I’m not even going to talk about duck people. Then together, we entered the world of goat people and sheep people (which are more or less the same, with a few exceptions). Most of them are pretty cool and we’ve made some good friends. Rabbits don’t really have a people, at least not outside of little girls. But of all the peoples that we’ve met so far, pig people might be my favorite. There is just something about them. Very sincere, kind, attentive, and a little silly. They are a nice group to be a part of.
We pre-ordered one barrow (castrated male) and one gilt (a young female that hasn’t produced a litter) (side note: I just love how we develop a new vocabulary every time we get a new type of animal!) and they were weaned last week. Yesterday, after settling back into the swing of things and catching up on chores, we built them a ramshackle shelter out of pallets, plywood, and other wooden bits that we found here and there. It doesn’t look like much, but it is sturdy and will provide shelter from the elements… until they outgrow it and we need to figure out something else.
Riding home in a dog crate in the back seat of the Taurus, the little pigs kept making cute little pig noises. Sure, it’s what they do. But we got excited every time we heard a squeal, oink, or grunt.
We have not named the male yet, and we’re not sure that we will. In late October/early November, he’ll be ready to be processed. We’ve tossed around some ideas of clever names that allude to bacon, pork, ham, meat, etc., but we may just end up calling him Meat. We named the female Pippa.
In the coming months, we will also be getting a Gloucestershire Old Spot boar (an intact male), along with another gilt (or two, if you ask Bailey; but I think that one is enough). They are a big, docile, lard breed that crosses nicely with Tamworths.
They are such fun to observe. Already, they are developing their own personalities. Pippa (on the right) is very energetic, yet extra sweet. Meat is quite curious, but easily startled.
I think that we could talk about these little pigs all day long, but it’s feeding time.