Ever since we moved to our farm, I have had the desire to provide more for my family. I’ll be honest, I have no idea where this desire came from. Farming is hard work. I wasn’t raised doing a lot of hard work. I was fairly spoiled. I’m not sure if it was the occasional visits to my grandparents farm that did it, or the romanticized version of pioneer life painted by Laura Ingalls Wilder (malaria is romantic, right?) but somehow I started to contract the farming bug.
It hasn’t always gone well.
It turns out that on a farm, things die. Like a lot. When we were first figuring things out, it seemed like more things were dying than living. It was pretty frustrating. Also, gardens are hard. Gardening is mostly pulling weeds and pulling weeds sucks. A lot. I totally blame Adam and Eve.
One thing that we’ve always had pretty good luck with though, is pigs. Pigs are pretty easy. We buy them in the spring and butcher them in the fall. This is a horrible idea to some people. Some people say Snarky, how can you possibly raise your own meat? Isn’t it just horrible? I mean, what kind of monster eats something that they raise?
This is kind of a confusing question to me. “Oh, are you a vegan?” I will ask. I have a lot of respect for vegans. They are really taking a stand for something they believe in. Also, they are super healthy. I could not be a vegan because I know about bacon and butter, but vegans don’t care about butter and bacon. Vegans are stronger than butter and bacon. I admire that.
The problem is that most people who think that it is horrible for us to be raising animals for food are not vegan. They are mostly just people who don’t want to think about where their food comes from. This is something I don’t really understand because I have seen where your food comes from and it is not pretty. I was recently able to tour a commercial pig farm. This pig farm sells tens of thousands of pigs that eventually end up in the grocery store. This pig farm is also recognized as one of the most humane pig farms out there. I like humane.
The pigs at this farm are very lucky for commercial pigs. The farm is exceptionally clean and the pigs are actually given just enough room to be able to move around a little. This is a big deal because this is not the life most bacon gets.
I didn’t think they were so lucky, though. “When do they go outside?” I asked. Apparently this was a stupid question because everyone knows that factory pigs don’t go outside. They live their entire lives on a metal grate in a mostly dark building. It is dark to keep them from attacking each other.
Wait, Snarky, pigs attack?
Yes. Yes they do. Imagine living your entire life in a crowded elevator. After a couple of months, you would probably be rather unfriendly too. You might even resort to violence.
This is not how we wanted to raise our pigs. Pigs have snouts. Snouts are made to dig in the dirt. I felt that if our pigs were going to sacrifice their lives so that we could have bacon, that I was going to do my best to make their lives pigtastic.
We started spoiling our pigs by raising them on pasture. Some people told us that raising pigs on pasture was silly because pigs don’t eat grass. Those people were wrong. Our pigs have constant access to commercial pig food in their pasture, but they still spend a lot of time munching on grass and weeds. They also eat just about everything we eat with the exception of pork because this is not some horror movie about cannibalism. Pigs seem to really like people food. They seem to especially like milk, bananas, and hard boiled eggs.
This year was a little different, though.
This year we picked up seven baby pigs. Five and a half for various friends of ours, and one and a half for us. They were pretty cute. These pigs were from a farm that also raises their pigs pretty naturally, but, for their own safety, these pigs had never yet been outside. If you’ve never seen an animal released to the outdoors for the first time, I would highly recommend it. The level of frolicking is very high.
After these baby pigs hit the pasture and frolicked for a while, they started tasting the grass. They went a little nuts. You would have thought it was chocolate. After a little while of grass chomping I pointed out their grain feeder. They looked at me like I was insane. Why would we eat grain when there is perfectly good grass right here?
I didn’t really have an answer for that.
A week or so later we butchered some other animals. Usually the pigs find scraps of meat to be an incredible treat. Not these pigs. These pigs wouldn’t go near the meat. We eventually had to bury it.
“I think these pigs are vegan.” I said to The Pastor.
“I don’t think so.” said The Pastor. “Pigs are omnivores. We’ll find something they like.”
Next, I tried hard boiled eggs. Pigs like hard boiled eggs and I had several extra. I put the boiled eggs in the bowl and watched as the pigs came over and smelled them. They then looked at me as if to say You don’t actually expect us to eat that, do you? Um, yes. I kind of did. The pigs then walked away. This is unheard of. I have never had a pig turn down a boiled egg.
We continued to feed them all kinds of fruit and veggies. They adore bananas. They devour watermelon. They can’t get enough bread. Then, I tried the ultimate pig treat. I tried the one food that all farmers know no pig can resist. I brought the pigs milk. I brought them two whole gallons of milk.
I confidently poured the milk into their bowl and stood back. The pigs tentatively approached it. Three of them started sniffing it. Then, one by one they started to sip it. Suddenly, one of the pigs gave me the dirtiest look a pig has ever given and tipped over the bowl! He looked at the other pigs as if to say We are vegans! We have morals! We do not exploit other animals for our own pleasure!
Then all of the pigs resumed their grass eating.
I respect vegans. They are healthy. They have strong morals. They are even stronger than butter or bacon. My vegan pigs will be on a vegan diet of their own choosing for the rest of their lives. This means approximately next November because as much as I respect their choice, I am not stronger than bacon. Not even moral bacon.