The Cycle of Pig
Six more pigs. Or piglets. They are only about the size of corgis, or were when we picked them up on Memorial Day weekend. I am sure that by now, after a couple of weeks rooting through the undergrowth and eating the pig food my brother feeds them — not to mention the kitchen scraps they gobble up in short order — they are packing on the pounds.
These little guys are very pink and spanking new, with curly tails and curiously scalloped ears. I have read these notches indicate the pig’s lineage and his or her place in the litter. Or something like that.
As before, the pigs have no names. They are just “the pigs.” Naming them is inching close to pet territory, and we don’t want to go there. We once had a farmer who raised a steer that his kids called Hamburger. Funny, in a ghoulish kind of way. Matt, who currently farms the land, has a sizeable herd of beef cattle and I don’t think he names them. He names all his dairy cows, of course.
My sister-in-law, Jill, wanted the pigs because they are champs at clearing land. She hopes to get rid of the scruffy, brambly woods on the slope in front of their house so it can turn into meadow. Dick will move the fence around, with the pigs inside it, and this way they will cover a considerable amount of acreage this summer. They leave behind a porcine version of scorched earth (I know, I know; it’s not “scorched” but I like the sentence).
I learned this time around that a castrated male pig is called a barrow, and a young female who has not had a litter is a gilt. I have no clue if the six youngsters snorting around at my brother’s are barrows or gilts, but I suspect there are a few of each.
On the day we got the pigs, Dick and Matt loaded a metal cage-like structure in the back of the pickup that Matt has for such episodes. Dick, Jill and I then headed for Pittenger Farms about 20 minutes away in Andover, New Jersey.
Lou Tommaso was waiting for us, with six little piglets just for Dick and Jill. First we toured his barns and paddocks where we saw the world’s largest horse — okay, that’s hyperbole — who was about 2,000 pounds and 19 hands of gentleness. We also saw chickens, sheep, goats, and pigs, all being raised humanely and carefully for meat. (Not the horse. Don’t worry!)
I’ll write more about Lou and Lori’s farm another time, but for now, here’s the website (still in its infancy): llpittengerfarm.com. You can email him to learn how and where to buy their meat and poultry.
Last year’s pigs were a grand experiment for my brother and Jill. They now have a freezer full of amazing pork, as do a number of their neighbors and closest friends. I sampled bacon and sausages over the Memorial Day weekend and am here to say the experiment’s outcome is mighty tasty.
This time, starting earlier in the year, Dick hopes to turn these porkers into pork butt and pork loin in the late fall, the traditional time to butcher hogs. By then they should weigh in at about 250 pounds, which is optimal for the finest meat.
But who wants to think about that now? Let the little chubbers snuffle and root to their hearts’ content all summer long and into the warm autumn days. They have plenty of time, plenty of space to wallow, roll and slurp in the mud, dig up tender roots, frolic, and sleep. And most of all to eat.
It’s a pig’s life.
copyright © Mary Goodbody