Hog Wild

our first year raising pigs
Our first year with hogs has been a wild ride, starting with the day we brought them home in feed sacks.

I’ll spare you the nitty gritty, but when we found a local breeder, we jumped on the opportunity to raise three little gilts. When I mean jump, we didn’t even have a pen for them, or a feeder. Rich stopped at TSC on his way home for a couple of buckets, and off we went to pick them up. We don’t have an enclosed trailer to transport livestock, so honestly we drove off fully expecting to have three little piglets running loose in the back seat of the truck.

Trying to look like we knew better, when the owner said “wanna put them in sacks?” we unknowingly nodded like we understood. We picked our gals, while his son and grandson helped us drop them (quite literally) into feed sacks and wrestled them closed with a quick knot in the top.

They rode in the bed of the truck, until one pulled a Houdini and wiggled out. Free Willy was feeling the wind in her snout until we quickly pulled over to re-bag her. We live in the sticks, but I’m sure the people looking out their windows questioned our sanity while we wrestled a squealing pig back into the bag on the side of the road. Quickly making our way home before the others got the nerve to escape, we released them in the outdoor chicken coop. And that was that. The start of officially being pig farmers.

 

 

A few days later we picked up some hog panels and t-posts, constructing a pen of their own. Naturally it was blazing hot, but we completed it in a day and successfully moved them from the coop. I maned the door while Rich caught each pig by the back legs and carried them over to their new spot where he heaved them up and over the fence (because there was no time to construct a gate of course). Lucky for us, our friends generously provided an old unused feed trough that worked perfect!

We rotated their pen once this summer giving them new grass to graze, along with 16% hog feed, kitchen scraps and a sweet mix of apples and molasses during thinning season.

They lived the good life, but let’s not be mistaken, their destiny was in our smokehouse. Here we purposely do not name our food and everyone has a solid “cycle of life” understanding. We raise our animals well, feed them even better, and humanely cull them.

We had the best intentions of butchering them ourselves, but with apple season in full swing, building a smoker, fall prep and 40 chickens next in line we decided to take them to the butcher this year. Thankfully we have a butcher who lives just down the road and has high praises for his custom cuts.

With that being said we still don’t have an enclosed trailer and had to slaughter the pigs ourselves to safely transport them. On this rainy Friday morning, Rich and I did the deed and got them to the butcher almost on time. If you’re curious, the “deed” did include shooting them, bleeding them, giving them a good rinse from the mud and loading them. Our only mistake so far was bleeding them incorrectly. We had found a resource online that said to best bleed them you could cut the artery behind the ear on both sides. We gave it a go, but didn’t see the results we had expected. We thought the initial impact may have been enough, but after delivering them to the butcher they showed us where to cut next time for better draining. Our meat won’t taste any different, but there may be some blood spots. Not the end of the world, but a good learning experience. 

In a weeks time we’ll be working to render, cure, and smoke in an effort to preserve our bounty. Even though there is work yet to be done, I have to say, there is a bit of relief in the air. The task of taking an animals life weighs heavy. It’s not something we look forward to doing, but it’s something that must be done. For us there is a strong bond between raising our food, processing it and enjoying it. We respect those who don’t see it the same way, but for us this is the story we are apart of.

If you’re interested in hearing more we’ll be sharing our journey through the preservation process on our Instagram stories and eventually in blog posts (if all goes well). Remember this is our first time raising hogs, and hope to inspire others as well as create positive discussion as we all learn along the way!

 

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