Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Morning Pig Feeder

Husband and I have become Pig Farmers... and it was no accident.

What it is though, is actually something of an experiment.
It's not that I have always aspired to be a Pig Farmer, even though growing up on a "gentleman's farm" was one of the best things about my own childhood.  I loved feeding and visiting the various critters (not the human kind), playing in the barns, even putting up hay.  My siblings and I would snuggle baby bunnies, play with the barn cats, hypnotize chickens, ride the cows and occasionally even the pigs - even though we had horses for that.  There was always something to do on the farm, and usually "someone" to do it with.  And yet somehow, even after spending so much time with them, I was still able to eat my former playmates with no qualms. 

Husband grew up in similar circumstances, and though we both left our respective farming communities, you can't take the country out of the kid.  That's why we choose to live in the boondocks like we do, despite college educations and somewhat citified tastes. Up here on our mountain we have plenty of space, though no barn. 

We are, however, both quite dedicated to providing our children with opportunities for enrichment, like the benefit of chores and the idea of knowing where our food comes from - a fact attested to by the size of our vegetable garden. And we have raised chickens before somewhat successfully.  (I was the Grim Reaper of Fowls in our family since, though we both have a dislike for butchering, I was better at disassociating.) But we have never tried raising larger farm animals.

(The dog doesn't count as I have no intention of eating her despite Husband taunting us with "dog is good eatin'!")

So, this year Husband took it upon himself to read up on raising pigs.  (A few years ago it was peppers.  That experiment went well as none of us developed any emotional attachment to them, but we just don't have the growing season...)  Anyhow, after extensive research into the matter, he asked if I was willing to give pigs a try.

"Sure" I said, knowing full well that he and I would end up doing all of the work....well, okay, mostly he would.

He cleverly converted the former chicken coop into a three-sided shelter and put up electric fencing.  He built a slops trough.  We even found some free dog food self-feeders alongside the road, which he carried with his arm hanging out the window for two miles because they wouldn't fit inside the loaded van - perfect for livestock grain.  Then, on VanONator's last full day with us, Husband removed the center seat to accommodate the dog's crate, and we hauled home two little piggies.

There was much debate over names.  Originally, they were to be called Hamlet and Biscuit, but the Critters (this time the human kind) quickly decided that wasn't dignified enough.  Several options were put on the table.  Theoden & Persephone were my personal favorites (Husband refused to name his food), but eventually Dorrit and Romie won out. 

That is not, however, what we ended up calling them.  

As Morning Pig Feeder, and due to the simple fact that I am home most often, I spend the most time visiting them. And I tried, I really did, to call them by the names my Critters had chosen for them, even though Romie sounded like a diminutive of Romeo and was supposed to be the sow's name.  On the second or third morning they were here, I carried out the slops - by then they needed no encouragement and came running. As they over-enthusiastically snuffled my bright green Crocs, what came out of my mouth was "Hey!  Knock it off, Dori & Grommit!" - and it stuck.  Those were their names, and though I explained to my Critters that they were free to call them whatever on God's green earth they wanted to call them, that's who they were to me.

Because besides being Morning Pig Feeder, I am also a Pig Whisperer. 

Again, it's not an occupation I sought.  I'm just a natural.  I can't help but coo and praise them - "good Pigs!" - and scratch behind their floppy sails-for-ears.  They are so happy and excited to see me even when I come slop-less, that I can't resist.  I love to watch them speed along on their stubby little legs, kick up their heels and root around in the rich soil for who knows what treasures.  (No truffles in this neck of the woods.)  And I swear they smile when they look up and see it's me...

Firstborn wanted to know if we should get them some toys when she saw one of them playing with a rock.  (She is our almost-vegetarian, and this experiment may inadvertently destroy all desire for the one type of meat she still craves.)

Husband just shook his head.  "I don't play with my food."

Kinda gives it a whole new meaning...

To their credit, the Critters have not thus far begged us to reconsider butchering the pigs this fall.  They all realize why we got them - except for the littlest, who thinks they are here for a vacation - and even agree with my position:

Just because their destiny is the dinner plate, that doesn't mean they shouldn't have happy lives.

And as the official Morning Pig Feeder (and unofficial Pig Whisperer) I solemnly vow that they shall...

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