Fill-The-Barn-Fever

W and I are serious about using our new home and land to homestead, as it aligns with so many of our personal values. In and of itself, a complete (and long!) post, so I will leave the “why” for later and get straight to the point: we got pigs. Yep, sweet, little, strong-willed piggies. Frankly (haha), on my part, I’m sure being pregnant opens up a depth in my heart where things which before were cute now are achingly so, so I don’t pretend to be absolutely level headed about them (for example, I’d entertain knitting them a sweater, as per the influence of my friend N). I’ve got W for the level-headed part, and he was the one who found the Craigslist ad.

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We’ve been planning on adding a milk cow and perhaps a steer to raise for meat to our burgeoning livestock, and almost did, this past weekend. But I messed up the time we were supposed to meet the farmer and later, some breed advice from W’s brother’s girlfriend, who is in vet school, made us happy we did. She pointed out that the two breeds we were to pick from – Jersey and Holstein – were notorious for unpredictability in males or used for meat by Taco Bell. Clearly, neither of which we wanted. We’re still looking, and plan on talking to our nearest neighbor, who has about 20 head of mixed colored cows and steers. We learned quickly from a chicken acquaintance that we definitely don’t want the trouble of raising a bull (our initial idea, we’re learning here) just to mate with a cow and then use for meat – there are far easier AI options; we’ll ask our neighbor.

Saturday night, W showed me an ad he found while browsing CL and the pig idea was born (did I ever doubt we’d get a pig eventually?). We spent precious hours in the wee part of the morning doing extensive research on the breeds and found they – Guinea Hogs and Kunekune – are literally the gentlest pigs you can find. The Kunekune is a New Zealand breed, which is exciting to me because, as some of you know, all of my graduate field work was in New Zealand and I have a great affection for the country. Both Heritage Breeds are exceptional for raising as family pigs because of their temperament and because they are not porkers, so to speak – they are smaller than the average hog.

We drove out to the farm in Providence Forge; 4 acres of happy pigs with a trailer in the middle. The older couple who lived there were so nice and pleasant and very knowledgeable – giving us lots of tips and tricks on where to get free bedding shavings, bread, and milk for their feed. All their pigs were named, and the woman kept saying things like, “Violet, stop shoving,” and “Stella where are you?- S-T-E-E-E-E-L-A?!?” Her ad had said that they only had 15- and 8- week old males, no females, but it turned out they did have females, and we on-the-spot retooled our plans: get a breeding pair (the litters were unrelated), and keep them to breed. We’ll keep a pig or two from their litters for meat and sell the rest.

20140120_082836Three days in and we’re in love. For now they are situated in our large chicken yard/coop (they are very social breeds and enjoy inter-species company). The little boy is twice as big (15-week litter) than the little girl and much more headstrong. He lives for corn treats and will not stop “snurffling” me until I give them to him (he figured out right quick there’s always corn in my pocket). The little girl eagerly follows him around, wagging her little piggy tail, and paying attention to the finer details – where he uses his snout, she uses her brain.

On their first full day here WV and I went to play with them early in the morning. We ended up panting over our misadventures. According to what I had read, they are natural and adept foragers, preferring grass in most cases to other food (perfect, we have a lot of grass and intend to fence off an acre to be used by them and the goats that are a-comin’). “Oh, I’ll let them out and they can follow us around on our usual red wagon rides while eating grass.” Wrong. The internet lied. And piglets are not kittens (oops!). They preferred freedom to grass and lit out across the field towards the woods with downright surprising speed! Dang, little piggies can run! I saw our investment melting away should they reach the forest, so I hauled my pregnant you-know-what after them, managing to reach them at our property line, and herd them back up the slope. Thank goodness I had corn in my pocket. We need a fence.

20140120_152028So, welcome to our new little piggies, Abe R’Ham and Beth L’Ham. We’re so glad you can help fill our barn with endless hours of amusement and generations of sweet little piggies, just like yourselves.

We’re linking up with The Prairie Homestead blog for her Homestead Barn Hop today! Head on over there for great recipes and self-sufficiency tips.

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