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Love Song for Swine

January 11, 2010

November 28, 2008

I fell in love with a pig. I tried very hard not to. Alison told me there are ham pigs and there are bacon pigs, and I remembered reading the same. But no one told me the ham pig would be black belted with white and with big, soft dark eyes rimmed with lush black eyelashes. Writing this makes real what I’ve tried to ignore; that pig is gorgeous.

I’ve raised “meat chickens” before, a whole flock of fluffy white balls on Tyrannosaurus legs and with boring eyes. Bags of feed lined up and waterers were filled daily, and after a couple of weeks they seemed to excite only at the thought of more mindless consumption of water and grain. I treated them as a collective mass of future protein.

The catalog made it seem so painless. In eight weeks they were to be four pounds dressed, at 10 weeks they might be six pounds. Someone on the review section of the online catalog pushed them to 15 weeks and had 10 pound birds in the freezer.

The pigs are another story. I tried to make myself aloof. My first slip-up was filming their very young shenanigans. The electric fence was carefully run to repel their rooting under and their barging straight through. They were so small at first they slipped through the common fence they shared with the goats. After a day lolling about in the sun with their caprine neighbors, they were herded back through the fence and smartly chose not get shocked again.

I got back to the business at hand; throw the feed, check on their conditions, say hello to make them comfortable with my voice – thereby facilitating handling in the event that medication needed to be administered and to make it easier to load them into a trailer at the terminus of their stay.

But I couldn’t ignore their gregarious personalities. Shortly after they were introduced to our land, a spider built an elaborate web between one of the fence posts and the fence. Charlotte? They reminded me of puppies; running around, investigating everything, playing, and looking for interaction.

I tossed feed, said hello, and one morning, groggy from being up late with the baby, it happened. My defenses were down. I communed with a pig. She captivated me with her sweet and friendly and curious ways. Soft, dappled light filtered through the trees and I couldn’t help but love that pig. Life is busy, I got on with things, but I would always admire that rotund little lady.

Then the other pig got sick. I saw a goat go down the previous spring with some unknown mortal injury or blockage, so I was prepared for the worst when the pig wouldn’t rise from her bed. We fed her electrolytic solution from a turkey baster; little children in Halloween costumes ran around gathering supplies. We readied ourselves to move a 200 pound carcass.

After two days she stiffly staggered out of her house and drank from the water trough. Then she nosed her grain and ate some muffin and went back to lie down. The next day she was running around, looking every bit the robust pig she had been a few days before.

Somewhere in the shock of finding her stricken and nursing her back to health, we admitted the depth of our love for her too.

The slaughterhouse appointment has been made for November 29, with a trip to the smoker for the hams and bacon on December 13. We’ll see if we can eat something we’ve loved too much.

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