Winter Pigs

Right now, as we sit with full freezers, have officially completed our licensing with the state, and are about to set out on selling a portion of our pork… I’m very thankful that our first attempt at raising pigs, went as smoothly as it did.   (and.. grateful to the pigs, for our happy full bellies)

Last summer we had spent a lot of time talking about trying out raising pigs, and debated quite a bit about whether to try for fall/winter or wait until spring.   Late September, a friend put us in touch with an opportunity to buy 2 pigs, at a reasonable a price to put things off any longer.

The pigs were extremely well cared for, but lived in a semi-wooded large open area – saying it made pick-up day “interesting” is quite the understatement.  There were some farmers there picking up a majority of the other piglets, and without their help, I think we would have returned home empty handed.   As it was, we couldn’t catch the two remaining girl piglets, and ended up with two boys – and an unexpected field demo in castration (because the litter had been a bit of a surprise to the owner, this was unfortunately not done when they were super tiny). 

Eventually, we returned home, and settled our two traumatized and tired piglets into their new home, and piles of fresh straw.  Come morning, they were bright eyed, and very happy when we let them into the outside portion of the pen, where they immediately started rooting up the grass.

Each morning the next few weeks, we’d get up, check for new holes near the fence… fill them in, and block the bigger ones off with rocks --- until the ground finally froze and they were too big to fit under the fence.  I knew the pigs would go from 40 lbs to the 250 lb range fairly quickly…  but it was amazing to see.  Plus.. not seeing many pigs in my life time, I couldn’t visualize what they’d look like at 200 lbs.

Photo from November

Photos from January

Towards the end, when they really started getting large, we started doing the method of estimating their weight by measuring their length and girth with a string, so we could start to have an idea of when to set a date with the butcher.

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2006/01/13/how-to-weigh-a-pig-with-a-string/

The other interesting thing to watch over the months, was how they went from semi-feral from their old environment, to no longer being timid if you went in the pen, to greeting us with happy grunts (or, at least greeting the food bucket we carried) – and personalities.

One day Corey sent me a video of them running happy crazy circles around their pen when he arrived home from work one day – My response?? [expletive] I’m going to have tears when we send them to the butcher.   

This has always been a journey to eating our own farm-raised food – and I’ve never seen them as pets – so this reaction was a bit of a surprise. From that point on, I stopped taking so many pictures, and visited the pen a lot less. 

Eventually, butcher day drew near, and I was focused on hoping the pigs would stay calm, and not get stressed over seeing the trailer, and being transported.  The day before, we pulled the trailer into the barn, filled it with hay, and opened up their pen.  Much to our surprise, they were so curious to explore this larger space that they ran in and out of the trailer all afternoon --  no tempting with pastries required. 

Heading to the butcher was a quite drive..  and we do miss hearing their greetings and banging the food dishes around…. But we’re both very happy to know where our food came from, to have raised them ourselves, and to have been able to provide them a place for a happy healthy life. 

Come fall, we’ll be ready to do it again.

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