Just When You Think You're Out of the Pig Business...

20130914-132109.jpg  So we were JUST having a conversation the other day about our pigs - specifically how our boar, Tim, had been declared "ineffective" during his visit to a neighbor's sow.  Still, we thought possibly one or maybe two of our girls was looking a little "baggy" but maybe we were just being hopeful.  Tim had spent a great deal more time with the neighbor's sow than with our girls and if he couldn't get it done there, what chance did our girls have really?  But, alas, it appeared that we simply weren't going to be in the pig business this year.  We briefly considered keeping one sow, because they are such a nice heritage breed (Duroc-Berkshire cross), but finally decided that Tim and the girls would go to the Great Beyond (the freezer), allowing Frank to hone his butchering skills. We'd start over next year and, hey, won't winter be a little easier for us without four pigs to feed and care for?  Great plan.

Then we met up with that same neighbor the next evening at a fabulous party celebrating a group of women who all turned 60 this year.  He said, "Hey, I meant to tell you, I was about to load our sow up onto the trailer to go to the butcher and I looked at her and thought, 'Wouldn't it be stupid if I put a pregnant sow on that trailer?' So I decided to wait a little longer.  She had eleven piglets the other day.  Turns out I wasn't giving Tim enough credit."  Well, I should say so! Of course, we had doubted him, too, and had to apologize...

Turns out we had three pregnant sows.  (Thank you, Tim. Job well done.) There was discussion about where the sows would farrow, and when, but other big chores took precedence over building another pig house right away. Of course, as soon as a huge storm was headed our way Cinnamon chose to farrow with a litter of seven perfect little piglets.  Those are her little red piglets above and the exciting story of dropping a house on her is here.

Two days later, Eunice began pacing and by the time Frank was doing his evening chores, she was delivering piglet number two.  Frank and Maddrey hurriedly prepared the existing pig house for her, and separated Tim and Lucy into another area.  By the time dinner was cooked, Eunice farrowed eight little piglets.  The hard lesson of farming was restated this morning, however, when I went to see the piglets myself for the first time.  Seven little piglets were happily climbing over one another while one little piglet lay lifeless in the straw near the entrance.  I picked her up quickly, hoping maybe she was still warm and Maddrey could work some miracle, but that would not happen.  She had clearly died shortly after being born; her tiny body unable to handle anything more than her delivery into this world.

So we're up fourteen piglets in four days and watching Lucy for signs of another litter.  Frank is tearing apart an old shed for spare parts to create another wonderful pig house, while Maddrey gives tours to friends and neighbors who want a little piglet cuddle time.  Fortunately, all of our pigs are friendly, affectionate and don't mind people one bit as long as somebody gives them a butt scratch or a bucket of goodies.

The lesson here, of course, is that with farming, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.  And just when you think something isn't going to happen, it just might...

 Eunice's seven little piglets - they look just like her!


 Aerial view of Cinnamon's piglets.


Oran wanted to see the piglets as well, so he got a ride on Mama's back.




 This is our little herd (also a group of pigs can be a drove or a sounder.  I rather like sounder, and Frank insists that's the only term that is correct)... Eunice, Tim, Cinnamon and Lucy.

Oh, and the reason they're in a muddy enclosure is that we're using them to tear up old roots and thatch in our pasture, and it's been raining a lot lately.  We move their electric fence every couple of days to a fresh spot, and they dig in - literally - using their snouts to shovel up the soil, tear up the thatch and clean up our pasture to allow the grasses to return in the spring.





Our first year garden

A few shots of the progress of our garden. From little starting out plants to a bounty of veggies! We have one hoop house with tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Plus, we've been harvesting kale for weeks now, along with broccoli, peas and lettuce. Corn is coming - we had an early taste for dinner a few nights ago. And potatoes need to be dug soon. Maddrey tries to get an hour or two a day in the garden but with a just-turned-four-months-old infant, she doesn't always get that much time. Yet, she has managed to make this garden produce a bounty. Frank is able to help between his other projects. And my job has mostly been to keep the potato beetles at bay. Mostly, there's simply nothing better than food you've grown yourself.