Their last Wednesday

Happy Wednesday from our piggery division. They won’t be around for the next one.

Sometimes when the girls are snoozing in their beds I will sneak out and shoot the breeze with my pigs. I know that makes me a total weirdo, but on days like today, it’s actually pretty relaxing.

Once the pigs figure out it’s a social visit and that I’m not bringing them milk or tasty scraps, they ignore me and go about their business. The sound of a pig rooting up the soil is similar to that of a cow ripping grass from the earth. It’s a very rhythmic crunch and a soothing evening soundtrack for this ol’ pig farmer. It’s a privilege for these pigs, though they likely do not regard it as such, even though most of the animals that live for food production never experience dirt or grass, roots or grubs. I’m not looking for an argument on animal husbandry right now. I’m just sharing my experience, so sit with me a moment. I enjoy observing the animals who live and die and provide meals for my family, and soon, for a dozen other families around Ohio.

Summer. They’ve figured out the feed pan since then.

We’ve raised pigs before, but usually they arrive when they’re weaned and mini-monsters. These are the first pigs to be born at Six Buckets Farm. I remember how we worried and worried about whether Black Betty was actually pregnant. I remember how I took pictures of her backside and posted them on Facebook, seeking wiser sources to determine whether we’d get piglets or not. The hours I logged staring at that hog’s belly for a sign that it was dropping … ugh. And then a month after her “due date,”  just minutes after a unannounced summer storm  blew through and knocked out our power for almost a week, I sat with mama pig Black Betty and moved eight piglets up to her snout when they’d roll down the pile of hay where she had made her nest. They looked like gross little elephants. And they’ve been hilarious ever since. I always get a little sentimental about the animals that make the trip to the butcher under our watch, but these guys and gals occupy an extra mushy quadrant of my heart.

Itty bitty piggy butts.

Today I sat with mama and babies – well, her 250-pound babies now – and watched as they each made a burrow to sit down until mama came over and groomed each of their ears, digging her snout under those huge umbrella-sized ears as they plopped down to snooze. Life was good. And mama pig has been a good mother and has done well for us and for her piglets. Pigs are so smart and such social animals that I’d be lying if I didn’t admit, at that moment, I was searching for a way they wouldn’t HAVE to become bacon. Maybe there could be another purpose for these hogs. But then one of the boys wandered over and started eating my shoulder, and I remembered his place and my place in the world. They don’t make the best pets. They were bred for a purpose. Some will think this makes me a softie, others will say I’m a horrible person, to eat these animals that I’ve watched grow from the minute they hit the ground. Both may be accurate.

But I look at the way that they’ve lived, and I’m very proud of it. I’m proud of the way they have eaten, slept and played, out in the open, with access to sun, shelter and grass. Not to mention all the milk and garden veggies they stole from us. These pigs have lived like kings. And I enjoy eating meat, so really, it’s the least I can do.

Pigs CAN fly!

I know mama pig will be depressed when she finds herself alone again in a couple days, but we’ve got two little gilts on the way to the farm keep her company. They hopefully will grow up into nice mamas with piglets of their own, and we can start this whole process all over again.

In the meantime, let’s raise our glasses for these pigs, on their last Wednesday. They’ve been good pigs, and that’s not me tearing up a little … that would be embarrassing  There’s just something in my eye, that’s all.

It’s a privilege raising animals for food, for seeing to it personally that they have a good run.

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  • http://twitter.com/earwigtheband Lizard McGee

    Those are swell heart-felt comments and all. Those pigs look very sweet. I couldn’t kill them. I wouldn’t. That being said, I have laid down with pigs before and it only takes about 30 seconds of lying completely still before their investigative nibbles become ravenous chomps. Eating is their business.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gerald.murphy.98 Gerald Murphy

    Absolutely nothing wrong with liking the animals you raise–even if it is for food.

  • Nicole Schnarr

    I’m just on the cusp of having to get to that reality myself……………we are about to put our first 48 eggs in the incubator……so the reality is that 50% or more could be roosters, and we won’t be needing any more than one of those around here. So up until now I have named most of my girls and they, along with Ruckus the trusty ( horny as hell ) guard rooster will be providing us with said 48 eggs……………I need to wrap my head around the fact that it will be rooster soup or roasted rooster from here on in, maybe that’s sexist, but that’s just the way it has to be……………and I will justify that with the fact that they will have one hell of a ride along the way with fresh air, room to run and good food including all the goodness that my garden has to offer that I can’t deal with along with a good portion of my Hosta collection. 
    This is how I will get through this.