On June 1, we got our first litter of pigs--8 Berkshire Hogs, birthed at our mentor farm, Hasselmann Family Farm. We welcomed these little balls of muscle, around 100 pounds each, with the same anxiety as new parents. Their training pen--where they learn how to pasture safely in the woods (with regard to the fences)--felt like a little play crib.
Sure, they took to those woods like it was there home country--kissing the very ground, repeatedly, it turned out, and with unending passion.
But then came the first night, and we had to learn all over again about what it means that everything that has breath must needs do its own breathing if it can. I kept asking Josh if he wanted to check on them again--offering the head lamp, etc. What if they got out? What if they got stuck in the fence? What if something was going to come after them? Eventually, we got to sleep--and the sight of them in the morning, repeatedly counted and checked, was such a relief.
And, it turns out, it was quite a joy. Josh has taken to spending quite a bit of time with the pigs--sometimes with Beckett--feeding them morning and night, refilling their water, and just hanging out, talking to them.
While they were skittish at first, running away from any approaching person, they got friendly fast. And by the end of the second week, they were doing this:
It's not every day you get to fist bump a pig. But wait, I guess that for Josh, it now IS an every day thing. And that means that he's happy.
And for me, that's a dream come true. I've been waiting for Josh to find his happy place for some time: who knew it was a pig pasture? Couldn't have predicted THAT when we got married--him all ready for bond trading and business, so much so that I nicknamed him CHB (Cold Hearted Businessman). But given that my view is like this of an evening, I'm pretty stoked.
But for Josh, the real dream come true is not that HE's happy. It's that the PIGS are. These pigs are being raised as happily as pigs CAN be. They spend their time rooting around and munching on various bits of mast and such in the woods--shaded from the heat by all sorts of interesting bits invasive flora, which they root up. Where pigs would have been panting and uncomfortable in barns last week in that 90s heat, ours pretty much enjoyed themselves (after the rains, they did have quite a lovely wallow, too).
They have access to organic feed morning and night, but they have enjoyed the mulberry leaves from the branches Josh trimmed (to remove squirrel access (and good news! They're out! Now, to get rid of that stench emanating from the hole in the ceiling...)) just as much as the feed. Here's one taking down another trimmed branch.
In order to treat the pigs and the forest well, we move their pasture every few days by moving the electric fence and luring them over into fresh space. Lush with walnuts and red and black acorns, this forest is a pig paradise. And there's even plenty of furniture.
And, it turns out, pigs fed on walnuts and acorns and woodland mast are some of the most highly prized and sought after pork in the world. (Check out THIS ONE from Spain!). We're bringing that tradition to a really small, local set up. Just 8 pigs this year, who will have, we hope, a life with us that needs no barns or crowding. Unlike pigs in barns, who have to sleep in or near their own latrines, these pigs choose a latrine site as soon as they enter the new pasture, and then sleep and eat away from it. These pigs get just community in the local landscape and the occasional 8 year old visitor to pat them on the head.
We'll be selling the pigs this year--mainly in whole pigs and half-pig lots--and the page for reservations is now live.