Saturday, March 26, 2011

Piglet Zen

Nothing has taught me patience like farming, and nothing more so than living with pigs. On March 5th, a majority of the third and fourth litters of Red Wattle piglets left Ecotone.  While nine went with Andy Roddick of Blackbird Heritage Farm in Franklin, two went with Bill and Cynthia Trew of Trew Organic Farms in Ocoee, Tennessee.  
That morning, in preparation for their arrival, I began to wrangle the piglets.  Alone.  There was a steady, heavy rain as I rounded up the materials and my patience.  I sat cross-legged in front of a bowl of grain under an adolescent maple, my head bowed in dissimulation.  One by one they would approach, and one by one I would grab them by a single leg, wrap my arms around their entire body, and give it all I had to get them into the trailer. 
If you've never tried it and are so inclined, I cannot but recommend that you try wrestling wet, hungry piglets in the mud at least once in your life.  One of the litters was a month older than the rest, and while this may not look like much of a difference with four hooves on the ground, I can promise you in retrospect that that difference in age does indeed make a difference in weight.  At one point, having underestimated the size of a particularly large gilt, I initiated the contest and she pulled me - holding onto her two back legs - clear through the porcine soup.  Having at times been a competitive judo player, this young porker was not to have the best of me.  I held on, dressed now in the finest spring mud Tennessee has to offer, and won. 
But - besides being soaking wet, muddy, and taking all day - it all otherwise went off without a hitch.  Bill Trew and I traded piglets, with he bringing two very nice Berkshire gilts from his sounder in east Tennessee.  Thanks to Stella Hansen who named these newest editions to Ecotone.  Welcome Peggy Rae and Ellie Ann!  In the future, these girls will begin the experiments with hybrid heritage pigs, hopefully giving the gene pool some much needed diversity, as well as your pork chops some added agrarian vigor.

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