Oh the pigs.  While these are hands down the most delicious animals on the farm, they are also the animals I doubt I could maintain if something ever happened to my husband (I know, it’s weird that I think about things like that, but such are the practicalities of farming).  These are huge and intimidating animals.  They are the only animals on the farm that require twice a day feeding.  They are also the only animals that could accidentally kill me (one bad slip in the mud and a misplaced hoof of these nearly 500 pound beasts would be the end of me).  Which is all to say that I am intimidated by my own pigs.

Nonetheless, we will continue to raise pigs at Red Row Farm.  They can live in a part of the property that would otherwise go unused (the woods).  They eat any and all kitchen and garden scraps.  And their meat is so versatile: pork chops, barbecue, bacon, sausage, ham, lard… our little family of three could survive happily on the takings from one pig for quite along time.  My one druther with pigs is the sheer amount of input they require – we spend so much on pig feed each month that it feels rather unsustainable.  That and the whole being totally afraid of them thing.  And maybe a little bit the smell.

But back to 2011.  We decided to buy a boar, and Will headed down to Roanoke to pick up the gentle giant we dubbed Barney.

In February, we relocated our gilts (girl pigs that haven’t yet had babies) Wilma, Betty and Blossom from the pond plot that they had been tilling and fertilizing for us since their arrival in October to their new digs in the woods at the top of the pasture.  If you really want a good laugh, read the post about moving day… these may be my favorite pictures from the entire year of farm blogging.  It also blows my mind to see the size difference in these animals only ten months later.

By April, the gender separated dorms were no longer working for our pigs and so they broke into each others enclosures and so we marked our calendar for piglets.  Wilma had the first litter in early August.  The four that survived are the four piglets we still have today.

Blossom gave birth in a flood, so half her babes drowned and the rest lived in our kitchen overnight.  Only one survived (Wilbur).

We tried to get him adopted by Betty when she gave birth a few days later, but complications with her labor caused her to accidentally step on and kill all of her own piglets, including Wilbur.  It seems we are less than skilled in animal husbandry (or at least animal midwifery), as our survival rates for piglets was 4 in 17.

Given the amount of money we were pouring into the pigs in the form of grain, and the paltry piglet situation (we’d hoped to sell our piglets to another farm to be raised there, as a way to recoup some expenses), we decided to take Blossom to the abbatoir.  The very good news here is that we raise amazing pork.  And Will makes some kick-ass bacon.

Barney is back with Wlima and Betty now, mostly because he broke in back in October (we would have preferred to wait until November to breed them, but I’m not about to argue with a horny half ton boar).  We’ve weaned the four piglets and they now reside in Barney’s old compound.  Wilma and Betty could be due with more piglets as early as February 1st.  Not exactly an ideal time for giving birth, but that’s why Southern States sells heat lamps.  The four piglets should be ready for processing in late March.  Depending on how well piglets attempt No. 2 goes, we should rebreed Wilma and Betty in May, meaning more piglets come September.  The restaurants will be taking the lion’s share of this meat, as it’s been two months since we slaughtered Blossom and we’ve barely put a dent in our pork-filled upright freezer.  And the small dent we have made is currently residing on my thighs.