Why the Hog Did We Do This?

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After binge reading homesteading blogs, images of children snuggling with happy pink swine in fields of flowers danced through my mind as I searched Craigslist for piglets in my area.  After learning more about the inhumane processes involved in factory farming, I was determined to be a better consumer.  It took only a split second for me to realize I loved bacon FAR too much to ever be a vegetarian, so the obvious (or not so) choice came to mind, we would raise our own meat!  After much research (a few hours on google) I determined pigs would be the best option for our Folly Farms homestead.

Michael, who is always on board with my crazy ideas, woke up early one morning before work to drive with me to Swannanoa to pick up our three precious piglets.  Our leftover electric fencing created a perfect pig pasture where our garden would be located in the spring.  According to the internet, the pigs would till up and fertilize our future garden plot, continuing the beautiful circle of life (cue: theme from The Lion King plays background).  As we drove through the country, the truck was filled with my excited chatter as I told my betrothed about all of the stories I had read where people, who also loved bacon, couldn’t bring themselves to slaughter their pigs because they had practically become family.  The blogs described the animals as friendly, intelligent, but mostly as delicious.  And besides, who hadn’t loved Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web or cheered for the little pig in the movie Babe?

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Three little pink sisters

The rose colored glasses I wore on our adventure into farming quickly fell off as we followed the GPS directions to the “driveway” (really a dirt track through the weeds and scattered household appliances) of the current pig owner.  Someone switched the theme song of this adventure from Simba’s Circle of Life to the banjo playing in Deliverence. We nervously looked at each other and considered turning around until the owner of our Landrace/Hampshire cross piglets pulled up in a 1974 Ford F150 and a cloud of dust, motioning for us to follow while spitting a wad of something out his window.  Collecting our courage, we followed the man down to a dilapidated barn in the middle of broken down construction equipment and barking dogs.

As soon as we opened the door to Michael’s truck we were struck by a wall of pig stink.   My mind raced as I scrolled the mental file of all the blogs I read that had described pigs as really clean animals.  Doubt began to waver in my mind.  The pig owner’s overall clad body disappeared in the recesses of the source of the stench and the barn. It took a minute for our eyes to adjust to the lack of light, but our guide mumbled something over his shoulder about showing us the pig’s parents.  Something large and wet was thrust out of a ragged hole in the left stall onto my bare leg:  it was a nose.  Not just any nose, but an 8 inch in diameter, massively round, hog nose.  Trying to keep my composure and not give away my complete cluelessness to the man ahead of me (because I am sure he hadn’t figured out that I was, in fact, clueless yet), I stifled a scream.  Our guide seemed to get a kick out of my terror as he snickered and explained that the nose belonged to our piglets’ daddy and that he was tipping the scales at about 1,000 lbs.

I was blessed to grow up with horses, so large animals do not scare me, however, I was too terrified of this snorting, grunting beast to even step up to the stall to look at him. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.  A quick glance showed the top of his back rounding over the edge of the four foot stall that contained him.  There was not much time to stare dumbstruck as we shuffled along to see the mom.  Although the mama looked more like the pink pigs described in all of my happy go lucky homesteading blogs, her personality did not fit the bill.  I think I would describe this pig’s demeanor as more of the “I just took bath salts and bad LSD and know you are here to turn my babies into bacon” personality.   This sow threw all 600 pounds of her screaming body against the already rickety stall door, tried  to pull her body through the barred stall top, and angrily chewed at holes she had created in the walls.  Our pig farmer stared on with a complete lack of emotion, calmly talking about how she always acted like this.  Taking a cue from his nonchalant demeanor, I assembled the last vestiges of my courage and managed to look over the stall
door to her and say “oh… wow.”

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You can see the handle of Michael’s revolver in his pocket… The terror was real!

At this point my panicked brain concluded that every homestead blogger out there was a dirty rotten liar and that pigs were actually the spawn of Satan sent to destroy our lives.  This was no Babe and certainly no Wilbur! We were dealing with Napolean from Animal Farm, come to exact revenge for the treatment of animal kind! With everything in my power I tried to telepathically communicate this message to Michael, who only managed to say, “So… how do we get the piglets?”  My heart sank. The farmer pointed to a stall containing about 15 squealing 35 pound piglets. The cacophony of mother pig heaving her body against the stall door while her babies squealed frantically, the grunts and snorts from dad whose nose was still trying to push further out of the ever growing hole he had created, and the ever-present “bouquet de bovine” was almost too much. But the pig owner mumbled through the wad in his cheek that we should just go in, grab the piglets by their back legs, and throw them in the back of our truck. Simple, right?  Michael and I peaked over the edge of the stall  to see all of the piglets running around in six inches deep of pig feces and urine. We then stared down at my feet that were clad in … Chacos. Yes, I had worn my open toed sandals and shorts in preparation to frolic through a field and pick up our farm additions.  Where were the smiling children?  Where was the pig pasture? And the flowers?  And the butterflies?  Michael, sensing my despair, took a deep breath (though his mouth, of course) and bravely stepped into the stall (after repeatedly verifying that the pigs did not, in fact, bite) and began the piglet rodeo.   A few terrifying minutes filled with unearthly pig screams and vast quantities of animal excrement later, the piglets were loaded, money exchanged hands, and the farmer drove off leaving Michael dry heaving beside his truck as I used take-out napkins to try to wipe the foreign matter off of his legs.

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Only a month later and our pigs have put on the pounds!

What had we done?  We looked at each other in horror.  We repeatedly checked that we weren’t being followed out the long dirt track from the barn (what better way to feed a thousand pound pig than with aspiring young farmers off of craigslist?). The windows remained wide open for the entire ride home (the stench that clung to us was literally nauseating) and we sat in stunned silence.  The entire event had been so terrifying that my stomach was in knots and my hands were shaking.  The occasional squeal or sudden movement in the back of the truck reminded us of the three future terrorists that were now in our care.  Finally, Michael broke the silence with, “Do you think we can just post them
on Craigslist now and resell them?” and I could only respond with “Can we just go ahead and slaughter them? Is eating piglets a thing like veal?” We were in way over our heads.

I am happy to report a month later that our piglets have not yet proven their demonic heritage (although it did take Michael a week before he would go out to feed them without his revolver).  The trio of girls, dubbed Spamela Anderson, Hammah Montana, and The Notorious P.I.G., enjoy romping around their pasture, rooting up the weeds, and chasing our chickens.  Recently, I even heard Michael talking about our “next” round of pigs, although I remain a little hesitant. I do still have nightmares of that mama pig getting out and exacting revenge on those who took her babies. But so far, so good. And unless a spider starts spinning “Some Pig!” in her web, we should have a freezer full of humanely raised meat sometime next year.

 

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