Dec 27, 2022
9 mins read
A pig tale gone wrong.
I told myself I would start blogging again after the holidays but thought I might have a few days of reprieve before farm chaos insued. No such luck. A sad pig day for Bad Baxter Farm.
Back in 2015 I had the pleasure of learning to better my Butchery skills via Meredith Leigh, author of The Ethical Meat Handbook & now, Pure Charcuterie. This is where I was introduced to the IPP and KuneKune. I immediately fell in love with the concept of a smaller homestead hog that can be raised on pasture alone. With a docile reputation & small farm footprint, I set out to know more, search for good breed standards and soon squash the reputation of being a "lard pig".
Their popularity had not gained hold yet, big pig breeders laughing at the idea of raising such small "fatty" pets. I found a litter available in Dallas and excitedly drove to pick out my first little girl, (gilt, for the title police). My sweet little ginger KuneKune with the ewok face, rode in our car with us the 3 hours home. She did not stop screaming the entire trip. She screamed, I screamed & by the time we had arrived to her new Homestead, I had dubbed her, Miss Road Rage.
We had some gifted & "rescued" Pot Belly Pigs at the time. These Asian Heritage Hogs had less acceptable behavior qualities & we slowly started putting them in the freezer as Road Rage gained quality family members. We gained another gorgeous Gal and soon started breeding with my sweet boy, Harry Ham-lin. The breed was everything we could ask for in a grazing pig & the team of bacon makers grew as well as my love for the breed.
Along the way there haven't been many catastrophes. Loose piglets always returned to Mama's and our boar, the sweet protector. I had one bout of parasite problems & knew it was my fault for being busy during a move to our new farm & leaving them in one space for far too long. I got back to rotational grazing as all hooves should naturally be. They have been a dream, feasting on grasses in Spring & Summer, Acorn, persimmon, hickory, in the Fall & Winter. They produced a perfectly lean meat with the darkest red hugh I've seen in pork with an ample, but not overbearing, amount of lard, all with minimal outside inputs or cost.
One very hot summer day, we had planned an outing at the lake. Up to do chores early we topped off waters. Our spoiled Kune Kunes always had tubs and kiddie pools near whatever treelined section they were grazing at the time. All was good when we left & my mistake was made in not checking everything in the dark when we returned home. At some point the pigs had put a hole in their pool & flipped their other water tub. I'm guessing early in the hot day to make a muddy cool place to lay. The next morning I notice & as I'm trying to rectify the situation, I realize all the pigs were fine other than Road Rage. She was acting "off". Not hungry, seemingly confused, flighty eyes & a staggered walk.
I went to Dr Google & then a Facebook group where people said everything from parasites to fear mongoring & shaming me as an awful pig mom. A man who had started the group & had a huge following as well as a wealth of information on his own website, immediately said "salt poisoning". Lack of water creates salt build up in toxic amounts due to pigs inability to sweat. He was kind but said the damage is usually irreversible & that all you can do is try to hydrate them. With it being so hot, we did not want to shock her system too quickly but I started syringes of water and ran some on the mud for her to cool but not plunge into the pool right away. She had progressed to head bobbling & walking circles. I didn't stop trying. We were able to save her & she did recover from most of the symptoms. Although she wasn't completely normal after that episode, Mis Road Rage went on to give us many large litters of healthy Kune Kunes & still lived a fantastic pig life.
Fast forward to Christmas Eve. Our pipes froze this past cold snap. We were decently prepared but circumstances always make you know how you failed or could do better. After 2 days without running water, we decided to spend Xmas Eve in a hotel. Our cattle trough was heated just fine & we had been lugging water to all the smaller livestock from gallons we had in our storm shelter as well as melting more in the trough. We had plenty & knew with how fast water was freezing it made no sense to over water until it rose above freezing on Christmas day. Before we set out for our own showers, I gave the pigs 4 gallons of water. They drank most of it. I gave them 2 more, uninterested, I'm sure it froze before being consumed. Christmas Morning, we returned home. Our registered Sow, Tequila, was acting "off". It happened that fast & I immediately knew exactly what it was.
All Christmas day I syringed her and gave her warm water enemas, much more confident this time & sure we caught it fast. She would be ok. Right before I went to bed, I treated one last time & had to convince her to get in the shelter with her clan.
I woke up the next morning & in farm style robe & muck boots set out to check in on Mis Tequila. She was clearly blind, shaking & unable to stand. I spoke to her & her deep sighs made me know what needed done. I apologized.
Her pig family knew. Our Boar, Taco, sweetly nudged her to get up. Aware of his tusks & clear senses of what was happening, he nudged me. I'm not sure as a warning, or a plea to fix his companion but he was definitely in the moment with me. I was careful around him but also taking in this moment of a family saddened over their sick Sow, myself & all of them. Timid, shy to the trough, Tequila was suffering.
Day after Christmas, I put down my pig. Until Christmas Day, I gave her a good life. Day after Christmas, I broke down her carcass & made space in our freezer. A few tears & lots of silent contemplation goes on in these moments. My body ached, my bones cold, in lack of normal preparation & just needing to get the job done quickly yet properly. The thing that is truest for me is that she was loved, & she will not go to waste. I had the solemn intent to honor her by utilizing her to fuel my family, as much as it hurt to know my choices in a chaotic holiday led to killing her.
I posted a humorous meme on Christmas Eve, about eating "Pigs in Blankets". It's still funny & according to your reactions, over 300 FB & IG followers found it to be, as well. But as social media goes, we had one "Sad Face Sally" 😠 make a comment about how I don't "value" my animals. Well, I still stand by my sarcastic response to Sad Face Sally, even now knowing that hours later, I would be harvesting a pig I intended to have for many more years.
As I sadly break down a carcass I wonder if "Sally" eats meat on her high horse or if she eats factory made veggie patties,made to resemble meat, while burning up fossil fuels, stealing nutrients from our soils with monocrops killing thousands more lives than I do? I wonder if Sad Face Sally grabs grassfed beef from a shelf, not knowing that all beef is grassfed & that styrofoam tray marked "product of the US" could have been a feedlot cow from another country, shipped via freight & treated terribly. I wonder if Sad Face Sally knows her farmers, knows they looked every animal in the eye so much & so often that they sensed when something was wrong or knew they were healthy because of that daily bond.
I believe she made a comment about eating meat in "reverence" .
deep respect for someone or something.
"rituals showed honor and reverence for the dead"
I know no better reverence than to be so bonded with my food chain that I can raise a pig from piglet to table, name her, look her in the eye & feel her last calm breath, on her own soils, in her own comfortable space, with her own family of pigs. I know no better reverence than to utilize nose to tail to nourish our family, our garden & other livestock with every single piece of her, having never left our farm.
Do I make jokes, heck yes. Laughter is a great way to balance the tears that every raiser of livestock knows so well. That doesn't mean at all that I don't value our food supply more than most people will ever understand in the same intimate way.
Any meat eater should experience this connection. Mother nature is brutal sometimes. The circle of life is relevant.
Any vegan should aknowledge their hands are not free of the same blood. Any owner of livestock not only, better know how to take a life, but to honor that life by utilizing every single piece of it so that death isn't devalued as that vegan "burger" or cellphane wrapped steak. We are all guilty. Myself & even Judgy miss Sally of zero sense of humor. Sally, social media isn't safe for you but neither is any food choice on the planet.
We all have death on our hands.
It's what you do in those moments that matter the most. Don't own a chicken if you can't dispatch it quickly, and don't pick up a ribeye off a grocery shelf or yes,even a beyond burger if you're not comfortable seeing the eyes of the cow or the degraded soils full of murder, that created it.
So, we shall soon be nourishing our family over pork chops named Tequila. Heck, I may even add a dash of her namesake in the marinade for celebration of a life well lived & properly honored. In that choice I am proud. I knew my food. I named her. I loved her. That's reverence.