Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hog Heaven

Yes, I finally went and did it, thanks to my friends at North Mountain Pastures. Brooks Miller rolled into the driveway one Thursday morning with a trailer load of piglets and sows for sausage he had just picked up from Paul Fisher over at Otterbein Acres. Given that the temperature was hovering in the high 90's, there wasn't much noise coming from the trailer. It was even too hot for the pigs to squeal."Ok, how do we get these things from the driveway to their pen?" I asked Brooks who responded by grabbing the smallest pig out of the batch the his hind legs and handing the loudly squealing and squirming critter to me.

"Like this," he said as I grasped the thirty or so pounder by his ham hocks before walking him over to the hut that over the years has housed turkeys, broilers, layers, goats, calves, dogs, children and even a greenhouse with Brooks in tow similarly carrying a slightly larger pig.

But before introducing my latest addition to his new home, I had to cuddle him for one picture at which time I was thoroughly baptized in pig shit. This promptly put an end to my ham hugging days.They're quite the pair and there was plenty of joking and speculation as to their names, but eventually I settled on Elwood and Jake (as in the Blues Brothers). Now if I could only get them to wear sunglasses!
The first time I dumped my compost bucket into the pen I was amazed at their 'piggieness"--the snarfing and grunting as they rooted throughout the pile first picking out the empty eggshells and crunching them as if they were Gibbles Potato Chips.
Never having had pigs, I watched in amazement as they held down an ear of sweet corn past its prime with their little cloven hooves as their stout snouts deftly parted the husk to reach the juicy golden nuggets inside.
There's plenty of opportunity for me to pick up ripe and over-ripe produce that would normally hit the compost pile or dumpster after farmers market. My produce pals were more than happy to let me cart it home for the pigs instead of them having to transport back to their farm and deal with it. Plus, they know they'll eventually share in the bounty. I've often said that "You are what you eat eats." This means that the quality of the food eating by livestock and poultry is directly related to their diet on this earth before harvesting. It's no wonder that sickly people result from eating sickly animals so often found in industrial agriculture.
Not these boys! Theirs is a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables from neighboring farms and orchards, whey from a local dairy manufacturing plant and the overgrown vegetables in my own organic gardens which the porcine pair are "pigerating" as my rototiller needs repaired.
Since the pigs have arrived, I keep asking myself why I waited so long. I'm sure after their harvest this fall I'll be looking forward to producing more Painted Hand Pork.

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