Today Mike, our most awesome local on-farm slaughterer, came to harvest our 3 pigs. He’d called to come while I was at Angelica’s working last week, and I am so glad we were able to re-schedule so I could be there when he arrived. Raising animals for meat is INTENSE, and part of seeing that process through entirely, for me, is to witness their ending.
Back in May of 2013, we went to pick up 3 little piglets from a man raising mostly Duroc pigs. He did an awesome, ethical job, and we were really grateful to find such a very conscientious breeder. Our 3 five week old red haired piglets were as tiny as could be. They cuddled in a box the size of small dog kennel together on the drive home. We got them settled in once we arrived back home, but then had to get back to all the garden work of getting transplants and seeds in because we had had such a late, snow-filled spring. In between the garden work and caring for all our other animals, we frequently checked in on the piglets, making sure they were adjusting ok to their new surroundings. I also had a customer coming to buy one of my goats in the late afternoon. When I went to do my fourth check on the piggies, they weren’t there. High and low I searched in their overgrown paddock, snorting to call to them, trying to find their hiding place.They were so small that they must have walked right through the 6” x 12” openings in the hog panel fence we had set up as the perimeter of their spacious paddock. I briefly looked around the pine forest and saw no evidence of them being anywhere. I had to make a choice- do it myself and try to find them, or go get Andrew so we could search for them together. I decided on the latter, so it would not be all my fault if we didn’t ever find them.
Andrew was on the other side of the property, tilling the sweet corn beds. I yelled and hollered, but he had headphones on, so I RAN as fast as my german thighs could carry me down the sloping hill and back up to where he was walking slowly behind the dirt-churning machine. “THE PIGLETS ARE GONE!” His face went slack and his mouth opened with a “Waaa-haat??” As we ran together back up to the farmstead proper, a big truck pulled into the driveway. OH NO, the lady is here to buy the goat!!!! What horrible timing!!!!!!! Andrew said- you deal with her, I’ll go look for the piglets.
I ran up to the massive truck in the driveway and said something crazy sounding about our piglets escaping and how I wish we could have more time to chit chat but I had to make this quick. We went over to the goat area and she liked what she saw and we got her goat loaded into the truck. I grabbed her cash, said thank you and high tailed it over to where I imagined Andrew would be searching for the piglets. I tromped over the tall grasses and goldenrod, calling for him, hoping by some miracle, he wasn’t far away. Then I spotted him herding three tiny piggies in the pine forest, back towards their paddock. What a relief! It was quite magical actually, the three little oinkers moving together through the forest floor, guided by my husband. We got them situated and their fencing reinforced until they grew up a bit.
These 3 pigs were such a joy to raise after that crazy first day. They grew like weeds, they were intelligent and sweet goof balls who loved to play. Even this morning, as we said our goodbyes and had one last rabble rousing session, they were grabbing our mittens, racing around and coming back for back scratches, biting our boots and instigating more playtime. Mike said they looked REALLY good and were really big porkers. So extremely enormous, to think we brought them home in the Subaru and they ended up together weighing nearly the same as that car! He said they probably weighed about 325 pounds each- that’s their live weight- after gutting, skinning and cutting up we’re looking at about 160-200 bs of porky goodness from each pig. We held a silent auction for these precious porkers last summer, and each bidder is getting half a pig, or splitting a half. We kept one half for ourselves. Usually we butcher and wrap our own pig into cuts, but decided this time we wanted to see for ourselves how Mike cuts and packages our pork. I feel a bit empty not getting to be involved with this part of raising pigs, butchering our own amazing pork, but I have a feeling he will do a much better job than we ever could.
Such good pigs. A place is vacant in our hearts. Raising beautiful animals to become beautiful ethical meat is really an honor, and to do it well, to our own high standards, well- that is a calling. We couldn’t do this without having customers who GET IT and then pay us cash money to do it right. Thank you, dear ones. Thank you for caring so much. Thank you for all your support in more ways than one.
After Mike left with our dead pigs, we were both jittery and quite sad. Life leaving this world is nothing short of the most intense thing ever. We will each experience our own deaths in our own time, but witnessing a death of a loved one, whether they are a human or an animal, is exceptionally personally introspective. Live your life, do what you need to do. It can end at any moment. If you think it is weird for me to be comparing our own mortality to that of a pig slaughtered on our farm, so be it. I think embracing the full cycle of life, including the harvest and eating of our delicious, happy and wonderful piggies, is a huge part of my own calling in this precious life.