I had a fun thing occur this past week. I had contacted two of our local farmer-rancher neighbors, and ordered some meat from them. In the form of...two lambs, and a half-hog. So the farmer-rancher men took my paid-for animals to the processor to be...butchered, and I got the call this week that my meat had been processed. And THAT is to say, I now have cuts of meat that I personally requested from the meat processors. I have ground lamb, legs of lamb, lamb chops, shoulders and shanks. I have pork chops and bacon, ham roasts and pork ribs. There are sausages and bratwursts. Suet for the birds, too! The chops were personally ordered to a specific width. And all meats packaged to a specific amount in each package. Ditto the ribs. I asked for the lamb shanks to be cracked: they only fit in my pot if they are cut in half. I am not a chef, but I do love to cook. And I do love to get my meat from local friends. Give them our business, know what kind of environment in which the animals were raised, and be able to special-order exactly what and how I want the meat to be processed.
Our hog was an organic-raised hog. We, that Spouse o' Mine and I, went to the hog farm today to pay up for the pork. We got to visit the pigs and piggies in their domicile. It was so interesting. I was of the assumption that all pigs are mean and vicious. (If you ever watched Wizard of Oz, you might think the same. Or if you read anything about modern agribusiness pig farming, you might catch glimpses of pigs in restrictive farrowing crates and such. And often the pig raisers explain that they are necessary because pigs are vicious.) Mr. Parks ambled over to the field where pigs and piggies could be seen, and motioned me over the electrical fence. "It's hot." he explained. I asked if the sows were mean, and he said "Generally not." Hmmm...
Omigoodness! Many baby piglets, not a week old! Unafraid. Mama sow could not have cared less if we were there or on Mars. Little, clean, Wilbur-looking piggies! None of the 40+ sows showed any interest in us. At one point, a mama sow ambled over toward me. I kept my gimlet eye on her. I didn't want to be taken out of this world on Christmas Week by a sow. As it turns out, the farm cat who followed us around on our tour was the object of curiosity. The speckled sow followed the black cat around, until the black cat realized it was being followed by a 300-lb mama pig. The cat made an exit underneath the hotwire.
Ok, here are the organic pig facts as I learned them this afternoon:
- Organic pigs are fed organic corn, wheat, and such. Such is raised by Mr. Parks himself, and if he runs low of a season, he searches out other organic farmers in the state of Kansas. (They are not just next door...)
- Sows farrow year-round, when bred. (I always thought them to have spring babies only).
- Sows can farrow ~ 16 piglets.
- 90% of piglet deaths are in the first 24 hours, from inability to thrive, inattentiveness from mother, etc.
- Our farmer, Mr. Parks, showed us his insulated farrowing sheds, which he built. He has fashioned a shelf alongside both sides of each mini-"roundtop", maybe 12" high, which allows the piglets to be birthed and fed by mama sow without being squished by mama sow. Restrictive farrowing crates do the same job, but perhaps with not as much comfort and well-being and happiness to the mama sow. In my opinion.
- Pigs go to market ("To market, to market to buy a fat pig..") at about six months.
- Mr. Parks has about 3-4 sows farrowing baby piglets every month. That's a whole lot of cuteness.
Tonight, to celebrate a thanksgiving of our full larder, I am making a smoked ham roast, along with a pumpkin puree from our summer garden, in addition to some collard greens from my Autumnal Garden (nobody believes I can grow a garden after October!), and some Christmas chocolate.
No: I did not grow the cocoa beans.
Happy Holidays, still!