More wild winter weather here in western Massachusetts. I can’t say I mind it – everything looks beautiful - like a picture postcard. The snow isn’t stopping. We thought something was up this November when Cookie and Ginger, two of our cats, grew incredibly fluffy, long coats. The Farmer and I talked about it, saying we must be in for a rough winter and so it is. Compared to 2007 when it was 60 degrees in late December, I will take this anyday.
Farming continues, no matter the weather. Animals need to be fed and cared for. But Friday was the day I have been dreading. It was the day the appointment was made for my three, now big, pigs. I have raised pigs for four years and know that with the arrival of each new set of piglets, they will then leave about five months later as much larger animals. They live very happy, if short lives rooting around in the earth and eating well. This year’s pigs even began as pasture raised pigs and grazed with the sheep for about a month until they began doing lots of damage to the pastures with their snouts.
The past month or so has been an adventure for them. They have been busting out of their confines and visiting the neighbors up and down the road. They have been exploring the apple orchard, grazing on fallen fruit. Luckily our neighbors are rather patient. Todd and Jess down then road call them the Visiting Ladies Auxillary – three pigs digging around their yard in the frozen earth not finding much. Alicia's pumpkins were mighty tasty.
But then winter hit. They haven't wanted to venture too far. This past week has been mightly dicey walking out on the ice with a large bucket of grain and a large pail of hot water, trying not to fall on my butt while hiking out to feed them. We had a foot of snow Thursday which was going to make moving the livestock trailer difficult to say the least. Luckily, some of our neighbors are also farmers and they came down with a plow and helped The Farmer load the pigs. It went smooth as silk and we got them to the slaughterhouse in New Hampshire and were back in time to pick Julia up from school.
I always feel very sad the first few days my pigs are gone. I'm so used to hearing them snorting and cavorting in their pen everytime I come out of the house. I will miss them and the daily task of talking to them each morning and feeding them. But my chickens are still here and I should be getting some eggs soon as the days become longer. Tonight Julia and I will pick up the pigs and they will feed us and several others for the year to come. In a few weeks the hams and the bacon will be done too.
If you are interested in learning more about raising pigs, here are a few good websites: Sugar Mountain Farm in Vermont, British author Hugh Fearnley-Whittenstall's River Cottage, and Jimmy Doherty's Essex Pig Company.