Friday, September 10, 2010

I've read articles about how you could use pigs to till up an area prior to making a garden. I've also read articles about "Pastured Pork" being the greatest thing since sliced ham. (See what I did there?) Because the pastured pork people also talk about running cows and pigs and goats all together, then I would assume that the pastured piggies don't tear up the grass. I've never been able to wrap my brain around those two disparate premises. (Just throwing out some big-ish words to counteract the redneck image with which we're increasingly becoming associated.)

Experimentation was in order!

The area that houses the pigs is approximately 40 feet by 60 feet. It also includes a little pig house (sticks, not bricks unfortunately, but with built-in Big Bad Wolf alarms) that is about 10' by 6'. It took around 30 days to turn the area from this:

To this:

That's some definite pork plowing power!

The minute we put the pigs in the pen, they had snouts to the ground, looking for buried treasure in the form of acorns, grubs, roots and whatever else they could find.

When they're not rooting in it, they're rolling around in it.

Raising pigs has been an interesting adventure. First off, they're creepy smart; there's no fooling them by hiding a bucket behind your back or attempting to distract them by waving one hand and grabbing them with the other. They're all like, "Hmmph, seriously?"

And they're fast! I don't mean like "deer leaping" fast, I mean more like a '69 428 Cobra Jet. Don't expect to do a goat-style feint/grab to catch a pig. Forget the "greased" part, I couldn't even grab one that wasn't slippery!

They're also very tricksy. Look at this little red piglet. Doesn't she look sweet?

And shy?

She's a stone cold witch. Truly. She's always fighting around the food pan and nipping ankles to get us to hurry up with the clabber* bucket. I don't think I'll go into the pig pen after she gets much bigger.

Although the two girls are a bit stand-offish, the boy loves him some scritches. Some fast fingernails along the back make him start to grunt in ecstacy and go weak at the knees. Eventually he just can't hold himself up any longer and flops on his side so you can scratch his belly. All the time with a huge smile on his face. I've found that scritches are the way to just about any animal's heart. Even the wildest goat baby can be brought around if you can just get some scritch time. It works on husbands too.

The water hose was a huge hit during the hotter days of late August. What started out as routine cleaning of the water trough became a pig party remniscent of when the fire hydrant was somehow opened on your street when you were a kid. The pigs would run up and shove their faces in the water hose then make a hysterical, "Eee...Eee...Eee!" sound, then run away. They'd come back for more over and over again. I even saw one push another one into the hose spray when she wasn't ready, and then laugh about it! I think if we had turned the hose off sooner they'd have thrown temper tantrums.

But mostly it's all about the food for the porcine pranksters. Although they run up eagerly to greet us when we walk down or even drive past, they quickly lose interest if there's nothing in it for them. They're not a lovey animal, but they sure are a funny one!

I suppose in the end it's all about the food for me too. Ham is good. And bacon... 'nuff said. But it's good that they're having a happy and healthy life which eases my conscience a little because I know the stuff in the foam trays and plastic wrap at the store didn't have anywhere NEAR as good.

* In addition to a bagged pig feed and vegetable peelings and watermelon rinds and the 15,734th zucchini from the garden and whatnot, we also feed about two gallons of "clabber" every other day or so. This is just milk in a 5 gallon bucket that I pour a few ounces of either yogurt or buttermilk into to culture it into something a little less liquid. We get 3 to 5 gallons of milk a day from the cow and goats, and the pigs have been a great way to magically turn the excess milk into bacon. The chickens also get some clabber, which then turns into eggs. Abracadabra! Breakfast!

P.S. All alliteration (oops) in this post was entirely coincidental. There are apparently lots of words that start with P. (Ok, except for one intentional groaner. Cookies if you guess which one.)