Butt for a dose of reality.
When you think of a farm, what are the three critters that immediately come to mind? C’mon. You know it. Cows, chickens, and PIGS! Every family farm prior WWII had these three animals. They might also have horses, mules, rabbits, goats, sheep, turkeys but… a milk cow, some laying hens and a pig behind the barn were the staple livestock no matter what else the farm might produce. So of course I wanted to add pigs to our farm. Not just because I have a flair for agrarian romanticism, but I LOVE pork. Bacon, ham, pork chops, ribs, Boston butt, shoulder roasts, fat back, grease… all the good stuff a growing boy needs, so long as it doesn’t include soy, GMOs, antibiotics, and torture.
So we started off with a pair of Large Black pigs to breed and a Tamworth to be our first feeder. All was goiung well until they started escaping. And they always did it while I was at the fire station and Katie had to deal with them on her own. The straw that broke it all was when Katie and the kids were rounding up an inordinate number of roosters destined for processing when one leaped into her face, gouged her cheeks and lip, and then both boars got loose. Yes, I was at the fire station when she called me hysterical and crying. When I got home, she had managed to round the pigs up, but for some reason the LB boar was literally raping the Tamworth. Why? Dang if I know, maybe he sensed that our stress levels were particularly high and he thought it would be a good way to add icing to the cake. They had to be separated and the only way was to just grab hold of one and drag him to another, slightly less penetrable pen.
I don’t know if you’ve ever wrangled a pig, namely a 200 pounder, but they scream as if they are being eaten alive. There we were. Katie with gashes in her beautiful face, blood running down; kids scared and crying; me in my uniform, dragging this pig, kicking and SCREAMING bloody murder. It was something like this video, only louder.
The end result was, we took two pigs off to be processed, and sold another to the same fate.
Did I learn my lesson? NOPE! Some friends had three barrows (castrated males) for sale and I couldn’t pass them up. My mother and I had already been talking some about raising pigs in the forest behind her house. So I paid a deposit on the three pigs and she paid the balance when we picked them up. Initially we brought them to our farm where I would train them to electric fence. If you are going to have pigs, electric fence is the ONLY way to go. I especially recommend using netting. There’s a reason the old timers say to build a fence “hog tight”. THEN, I was contacted by someone at another farm who was looking to get rid of some pigs and made me an offer, did I refuse? I think you know the answer. We (my mother and I) took a trip to Dacula to fetch some more pigs. On our arrival, I saw why she was getting rid of them, Pigs were loose and running amok. After a couple of hours of vain cajoling, chasing, and maybe a little cussing, we were considering just packing up and leaving. BUT, we caught one. So of course we kept at it and caught another. After this point in time, I did call it quits. I was done and really considering my lack of sanity.
So we get these two additional pigs home, and I was met with a grim stare from my lovely bride. She was already annoyed with the three, but since they weren’t getting loose, she’d held her tongue. Now two more (who were much bigger) were being added and she couldn’t hold back. “I thought they were all going to your mom’s” “Yes, once we have them all trained and we get things out there set up.” “Hmmmp.” Any lesser woman would’ve divorced me by now.
The condensed version of the rest of the story is that all five made it to Talla Glen Farm and were set out in about 4 acres of forest, contained with electric fence. Until. We had a visitor. A pot bellied pig from who knows where. A pot bellied pig who was not trained to electric fence and proceeded to destroy it. Now our pigs found there was a greater world beyond their patch of woods, and in that world they found the home of the lady who brings them food. I tried containing them but now that they knew where the good stuff came from, they would not be held. So now it was my mother having hysterical moments with pigs swarming her back door and cows in the road (another story I don’t have time for). Besides, the cost of feeding five pigs was getting beyond our means, so the decision was made to have the three barrows processed.
Now I had pre-sold two of the pigs to help pay for their up-front costs. After I took them to the processor, and got their hanging weights, I was very dismayed at what the final numbers were. We didn’t even come close to breaking even. Yikes. So my good people who had paid deposits, agreed to chip in some extra cash to pay for the processing fees (BTW, if I am ever so stupid as to sell a whole pig again, the person buying it will deal with the processor). I’m still in the hole but at least it’s a little shallower. So folks get me their money (and tell me they’re out of town, have plans, can’t make it Saturday but….sigh.) and I get on down to the processor. I get the meat loaded up and head for home. Now I have to start divvying up. I open boxes and start sorting when I find a huge slab. It’s a whole pork belly. Not the one pound packages I expected so folks could easily salt cure their own bacon. Then I find the hams. Monstrously huge hams that the average person would be challenged to find a pan to cook it in, let alone find enough people to eat it. Holy Moley. Then I found that certain cuts weren’t there and that we had THREE times as much sausage as I had wanted, hence the missing cuts. I got sick. I got angry. I even felt a little panicked. The only way I was going to get out of my hole was to sell some of the meat I had intended for me and my family, but the only cuts that were really marketable were the chops and a couple of Boston Butts. So we shall see, maybe someone wants a HUGE Christmas ham for $130.00.