Monday, December 28, 2009

Slowing Down Time

A second way in which we can slow down time is by making a conscious effort to be ‘mindful’ of our experience. There are some people who seem to be as affected by familiarity than others, and see the world with something of the fresh, first-time vision of children all through their lives. These are the kind of people – sometimes seen as eccentrics by those around them – who often begin sentences with phrases like ‘Isn’t it strange that…?’ or ‘Have you ever wondered…?’ They’re the kind of people who might stop in the street to gaze up at a beautiful scene of the sun breaking through clouds or a silver moon above the rooftops; or they might stare intently at the sea, at flowers or at animals, as if they’ve never seen them before. Poets and artists often have this kind of ‘child-like’ vision – in fact it’s this that usually provides the inspiration for their work. They often have a sense of strangeness and wonder about things which most of us take for granted, and feel a need to capture and frame their more intense perceptions.  The Speed of Life:  Why Time Seems to Speed Up and How to Slow it Down
We are clearing an area of land for the greenhouse and the garden.  It's a large parcel I'm hoping we'll fence in as part of the winter farrowing area for the Large Black Hogs come autumn.  Our entire family is out in the snow and the sunshine, my husband cutting down trees, the kids and I dragging branches to the brush pile and stacking the logs for splitting into firewood for the next winter season.  My lungs fill with the fragrant scent of pinon and juniper.  It feels good to be here together, the four of us.

My breath hangs in white clouds in the frigid air and dissipates like the veil of thoughts I've been swaddled in without even knowing it, until I come to myself here once again on this same piece of land I've been tromping about for years now.  The same pine covered mesa with its back humped up against the sky.  The same curl of smoke coming out of the chimney from our ranch house.  Pecos mountains the same blue gray purple red slate gray emerald ochre.  The same sun making his way in what seems an increasingly breathless race over the mesa top, so fast I can't seem to keep up any longer.

I bend down to pick up a fresh cut juniper log, and find myself examining the snow encrusted bark, while the rest of my family is working industriously around me, shaking off the sleepiness of a lazy morning by the wood burning stove.  I'm turning it over in my insulated gloves to catch what's left of the solar rays in frozen silver shards when the chainsaw chews up the silence in a single high pitched whine and my hands are suddenly filled with every shape and size of diamond.

The alchemy of snow and sunshine.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Snow Plow

6-month old Large Black Hog gilt Dear Prudence plows the snow bank against the barn.

Some hog indeed.

A Force of Nature


We are walking through the dirt and straw aisle between paddocks filled with well-fed and contented looking hogs.  We're up north, near the Colorado border, March of this year, at the farm of a very nice woman who is selling feeder piglets.  And we've come to pick up two--a gilt and a barrow.

This small hog farming endeavor is my idea.  Let's try our hand at raising a couple of hogs, I tell my husband, because he loves pork, and I'm thinking this is something I can talk him into, the lure of bacon and barbecue and all, not to mention the liberating idea of growing one's own food.  After he reminds me about ten or twenty times that I can't keep one single hog as a pet and that indeed the hogs must go to the processor when they grow to size or the great hog endeavor will be over, he buys into the idea.

And here we are, smack dab in the middle of a herd of hogs the size of shetland ponies and my husband's little Arabian mare, and I'm thinking that I should be more careful about what I ask for.  I'm looking around surreptitiously, suspecting to see at any moment now at least one hog the size of my percheron draft horse.

And this one is mighty close.  My husband and I cast each other nervous looks as we are introduced to a black and white boar named Daddy.  Daddy smiles at us from over the fence, cloven front hooves on the bottom rail, eyes shining.  I am imagining rows of crocodile teeth in that mouth, and wondering if in pig language those bright eyes are friendly or simply a prelude to taking a big bite out of me.  I notice that our 11- and 12-year olds are maintaining a respectful distance.

The farmer scratches Daddy's head with great affection.  Daddy grunts and snorts back.  I had no idea they were this big I'm saying, trying to sound not scared nearly to death, and the farmer tells me that farm hogs can weigh 700 or 800 pounds or more.  I'm betting Daddy is near the top of the scale.  We just don't usually see them anymore, she's saying, something about how they are all raised on the big confinement operations.  I only half hear her as Daddy is straining further over the fence, snout searching towards me.  I can almost count the bristles on his head.  I'm thinking it will only be seconds before that rail that's currently heaving under Daddy's immense girth breaks, leaving only the high mountain air between me and grinning boar, at which point I will revert to my natural flight instinct.

I may be brave or stupid or just stubborn enough to make the point to myself and family that I'm not backing down on this piglet raising plan.  After all, I am a woman who can stop a big horse in his tracks with a word or a single look, like when my percheron thinks he will sneak into the open barn behind my back at feeding time, or ride on his broad back across the Pecos wilderness.  Working with creatures much larger than me has always been a joy.  You've just got to start to learn to speak the language of whatever force of nature you are wanting to talk with.  Relieved to be remembering this, I reach out a hand and give the black and white boar a rub on his shaggy forehead, which is as about as hard as a cast iron skillet beneath my palm.  And I may be kidding myself, because at this point, I know absolutely nothing about hogs, but I am surprised to see that brown eye that's trained on me soften.

Now that's something I recognize.  And I'm thinking this might just work out.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Unusual flavor of heritage Large Black pigs has gourmands wanting more

LAUREL, Miss: “Wow! What’s this?” was the immediate reaction of Sue Moore after her first bite of a pasture-raised pork from a heritage breed known as Large Black Pigs.

Moore serves as meat forager (finder) for the world-famous Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California.

She and Bay Area restaurant consultant, Larry Bain, happened upon the obscure breed at a Cleveland, Ohio, heritage pork tasting in 2005.

Moore said the meat flavor is quite unique and incredibly delicious.

Bain described it as “deep flavored and unctuous.”

The pork Moore and Bain ate came from Ed Snavely’s Curly Tail Farm in Ohio who bought his breeding stock from Ted Smith of Stillmeadow Farm in Laurel, Mississippi.

Laurel is in Southeast Mississippi near Hattiesburg.

Smith, a third generation racehorse and sheep breeder, happened upon the breed on a visit to England in 1957 where they had been popularized by Sir Winston Churchill who raised them on his Chartwell Estate.
In 1963, Smith bought three gilts and a boar from a North Carolina breeder. At that time there were 52 purebred breeders of Large Blacks in the USA.

Today, there is only Smith and one breeder in New York State. It is currently estimated that there are only 300 Large Black sows in the whole world.  “A recent Foot and Mouth epidemic largely wiped out the breed in England,” Smith said.  He said the primary role of the breed in America was as a cross to put marbling into lean Tamworths.  Tamworth was a very popular pastured breed in the South.

The Large Black breed is known for its docility, prolificacy and ability to farrow unassisted on pasture.
He said mature sows, which weigh in excess of 500 pounds, often have as many as 10 to 13 pigs per litter.
The sows are described as careful, quiet mothers and a farrowing crate is not needed. Smith plants annual ryegrass and oat pasture for the pigs in the winter.

An unusual feature of the breed is that their large elephant like ears cover their eyes. This allows the pigs to forage in briar and bramble patches.

He said the shift to confinement feeding largely wiped out the breed as they become too fat when fed high grain rations.  “Many people think the bacon from Large Blacks is too fatty,” Ed Snavely said. “They are primarily famous for their loins and hams. These are smaller than modern breeds but the taste is different and the meat is very fine grained.”

Snavely plants supplemental winter annual pastures of turnips and rape that allow his sows to pasture for seven months out of the year in Ohio. He direct markets the Certified Organic meat to three restaurants and also sells it at a local farmers’ market.

He supplements his pastures with a high fiber ration of corn, oats and clover hay. He said the pigs require about seven months to finish versus five months for modern breeds.  “Their meat really has flavor. It’s not cardboard like modern pork,” he said.  Smith said until the recent rediscovery of the breed’s unique meat by pork gourmands the primary buyer of his pigs had been wealthy New England estate owners who liked their unusual look.

“Most of them never even bred them. They were just lawn ornaments,” he said.

Recently, California artisanal meat consultant, Mark Keller, bought a group of gilts and boars from Smith to establish the breed on the West Coast for the first time.

Keller who has been working with many of the West Coast’s top grassfed and organic beef ranches in marketing their meat hopes to establish a no-grain pork line of products as well.  He said it was Sue Moore’s enthusiasm for the meat’s flavor that brought him to Mississippi to buy breeding stock.
Smith, 71, maintains the breed’s registry out of a home office and plans to pass it on to his son David.  “There’s some folks who would like to get this registry so they could jack the prices up to thousands of dollars a gilt but I believe that would be the surest way to finish the breed off.

“I want prices to stay low so that real farmers can afford to buy breeding stock and sell good eating pork,” he said.

Smith maintains four separate linebred families so that buyers can achieve hybrid vigor by crossing within the breed by buying boars from different families.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Solar Boar

"Then Brokkr brought forward his gifts: ... to Freyr he gave the boar, saying that it could run through air and water better than any horse, and it could never become so dark with night or gloom of the Murky Regions that there should not be sufficient light where he went, such was the glow from its mane and bristles."  Prose Edda
Our young boar Tater has dug himself a pretty good hole next to a big juniper tree this morning.  And I swear if that Large Black Hog hasn't oriented it right towards the ecliptic and then settled in for a good, sun-baked nap.  While the sun traces its low path over the mesa top, across the bright arc of winter sky, the hog snores, black bristles all lit up by the sunlight, a barnyard Gullinbursti

In the adjoining field, our appaloosa mare is lounging on her side, drenched in molten gold.

Several red hens cluck to themselves from their sweet patch of sunshine in the south facing shelter, protected from the harsh Glorieta Pass winds that have blessedly stopped for the moment.

Early day chores finished, I sit in the red New Mexico dirt, back against the barn, to warm myself at the solar hearth.

It doesn't get much better than this.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pot Pie

This is Pot Pie.  A banty rooster with a serious chip on his shoulder.  He makes The Little Man look positively tame.  Luckily, I can hear him scrambling and scratching across the dirt in hot pursuit when he gets his dander up and launches himself at me like a heat seeking missile.  Most of the time, when I spin around to face my tiny attacker, Pot Pie has the nerve to try and act nonchalant, like he wasn't really chasing me and how could I possibly think such a thing. 

If this diminutive dude doesn't change his attitude, he will soon be learning the meaning of his name.  He won't be such a bad boy when he's baked up in a flaky crust with rosemary and red potatoes.  I have been telling him this for months now, but I'm pretty sure this rooster's not buying it.

Pot Pie seems to know I find him far too entertaining to ever cook him up.

The Little Man

This is our banty rooster The Little Man.  He is not nearly as nice as he is handsome.  This morning he is thinking about opening up a pint-sized can of whup ass on me.

Boy am I scared.

Pig Tails

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Trailer Training of the Hogs

I mentioned in my previous post that butchering a hog on the farm where that hog has been raised is the least stressful approach to the task that must be accomplished when they are grown to size.

Well, when our two feeder pigs from the spring had reached approximately 300 pounds, I didn't have the wherewithal, the facility, or the skills to undertake the task.  So arrangements were made with a local processor, and the date was set.

This was the first time in my life I'd endeavored to raise an animal for food.  And I think the fact that the first animals I raised for that purpose were pigs made it all the more challenging.  Because pigs are smart and playful and affectionate and some of them even have a sense of humor. 

Qualities that made the reality of the fact that they were food and not pets difficult for this first-timer.

We raised these wonderful animals with kindness and compassion, room to roam and sunshine, and the opportunity to exercise their natural herd instincts.  And the only way I could come to terms with the fact that I was raising them to eat was to remind myself, whenever I was scratching their bristly backs (much to their delight), that I was now a farmer intent on raising natural, grass-fed pork.  That I was raising these animals outside of the factory farm model, and the only way to change the way food is being raised in this country is by individual people learning to do exactly what I was now learning to do, as hard as this part was for me, frankly.

Finding a good processor was a big piece of the puzzle.  Figuring out how to load two 300-pound hogs up into a trailer to get them to the processor was another piece.

So began the week-long trailer training of the hogs.

Now, mind you, I am a lifelong horsewoman, and I've trained many horses to hop easily in and out of trailers, and I take my time doing it.  None of this forcing business, because that simply doesn't work with a thousand pound animal, and it's also a good way to get yourself or the animal hurt.  And if you've spent any time at all around pigs you will soon learn that you do not force a pig to do anything that pig doesn't want to do.  They are far too intelligent for that.

When my husband pulls the truck and trailer around to the hog pasture, I am standing there admiring his ability to maneuver that big rig with such skill and dexterity and thinking that I never could have foretold that the side ramp on the Sundowner Stock trailer would have come in so handy.  Back when we bought it for hauling horses, I had no idea I'd venture into pig farming.

So, down comes the ramp, with makeshift fencing on each side, creating an extension to the pig paddock.  And I start the only place I can think of--because you've got to start somewhere--crouched down on all fours at the top of the ramp on a sun scorched New Mexico afternoon, persuading.

I cajole with bread.

I beg with a bucket of milk.

I urge with muffins.

I coax with cheese.

I call the names of those hogs as sweetly as you please.

And those hogs stand rooted at the bottom, front hooves on the ramp, ears pricked up like stiff antennae, sniffing the air, snouts quivering, all worried about their footing, because pigs are rather picky about that.  They get sidetracked too, completely forget that I am up there, and nibble and snuffle on the wood palettes we've used for the temporary fencing, as if they are the most fascinating things in the universe.  After several hours of trying to convince two hogs that a veritable nirvana exists at the top of the ramp, I nearly give up.  And then I fall back on the age old horsewoman's tactic--if asking one way doesn't work, then ask another way, until the animal you're trying to persuade will understand, and can actually do what you are asking.

I resort to alcohol.

My sweet husband retrieves it ice cold from the refrigerator for me, shaking his head, not at all convinced I can pull this one off and thinking that he's going to have to learn the fine art of butchering hogs pronto.  I crack open the frosty can of Murphy's Irish Stout, which the pigs have enjoyed a sip of here and there on rare occasions this summer--the nectar of the hogs on a hot Saturday afternoon.  You can just smell the barley and the hops or whatever stout is made out of wafting along the thin mountain air.  And up comes the barrow.  He gets his big swig of ale and then proceeds to root with glee through the straw in the back of the trailer.  And then fifteen minutes later up comes Big Gwyn, the no longer reluctant gilt.

We spend a week practicing getting in and out of the trailer, where there are good things to eat and lots of back scratching and an occasional sip of beer.  Sometimes the hogs are having such a fine time in the trailer, they refuse to come out.

And when the day comes, those hogs are eager to trot up the ramp lickety split, where they settle into the straw, all sleek and round and fine and just as bonita as that kind man at the processor tells me they are when we arrive with two pretty mellow hogs in tow.

It's a much longer ride to the processor for me, this first time, I'm pretty sure.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

When belonging to a farm co-op or buying groceries from a greenmarket is no longer enough ...

For some diners, belonging to a farm co-op or buying groceries from a greenmarket is no longer enough. Taking concepts like nose-to-tail eating a step further, a new generation of carnivores is learning to butcher, and in some cases, slaughter their own animals — think of it as do-it-yourself meat.

Read the entire New York Times article here.
We are fortunate to have an excellent USDA certified humane and organic processor only an hour away.  However, I'm looking into a course at the community college on butchering, just because this is a skill I would like to have, and it would only increase my ability to be able to provide clean, natural, humanely raised food for our family as well as for others in the future.  Being able to butcher livestock on the farm saves the animal a lot of stress.

Monday, December 14, 2009

That's Some Hog

I'd ask you for just a moment to squint your eyes and pretend that Tater is not slobbering and Dear Prudence is not barking and keening and shrilling and tail wringing (for want of an egg, of course), but instead to look at the utter bristly shininess of these handsome Large Black Hogs.

The sun simply glints and winks right off of those stiff black hairs.

Never thought I'd stand around admiring hogs.  Never thought I'd be so prone to outright bragging.

Some pigs, indeed.

Pampered but Hardy, All-Weather Large Black Hogs

This is the strangest December I've ever experienced in Northern New Mexico.  I'd swear it's 10-15 degrees cooler than usual and wet.  Within 2 weeks we've had a blizzard followed by more snow followed by a balmy 38 degrees, more snow, followed by near tropical 42 degrees, and then last night rain, then snow, and now another bitter, bone-chilling freeze.

But the good news is that I did awake to a sliver of moon dangling over the mesa top and the sun rising in all his glory as I drove the kids in to school.  And at 7,000 feet, that sun will warm things up around these parts pretty quick.  One of the reasons I think the Large Black Hogs are perfect for my part of the world is that their dark pigment will protect them from sunburn.

I've worried about wintering over these Large Black Hogs, but they have a nice, dry warm place away from the wind in a corner of the barn with a deep nest of straw.  Not to mention a layer of fat that keeps them toasty and makes them the hardy stock they are. 

Frankly, I think I worry too much.

I have been amazed to see them roto rootering through the snow drifts against the barn.

And digging with glee in the glistening mud.

There was a rollicking game of chase around and around the juniper trees yesterday, while the whole pasture seemed to be melting, but those hogs didn't care.

Our Large Black Hog boar is getting woolier by the day.  He's practically growing a forelock to rival my draft horse's on top of his bristly head, smack dab in the middle of those elephant ears.  I'm expecting that he's going to be shaggy here in just a matter of days ... and then Tater the boar will kind of resemble a miniature wooly mammoth.

Well, possibly, I exaggerate.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Patch of Sunshine

First thing in the morning, this warm, sweet square of sunshine generally belongs to Miss Pinon, our quarter/thoroughbred cross mare.  Ruby, the tenacious adventure hen, sneaks around behind the opinionated, somewhat high-strung horse, seeking her own patch of sunshine.  Good thing that most of the chickens are smarter than that.

Once, Pinon nearly drop kicked a turkey who had the audacity to try and eat alfalfa with her.  I held my breath as I watched her lift a powerful hind leg, flatten her ears against her head, and cast a look that all by itself could render that chattering, clueless turkey deader than a hammer. 

 As I was gauging if I had time to rescue that bird from a pummeling (although Pinon has never kicked, or threatened to kick a person in all the years we've had her), Pinon, apparently overcome by a moment of benevolence, ambled off to dine elsewhere.  Or perhaps she decided that a turkey wasn't worth that much of her attention.  Or maybe the horse remembered all of the flies that turkey had gobbled over the course of the summer, making for a much more comfortable summer for Miss Pinon, and decided she deserved a break.


The first day we brought home our feeder piglets last Spring, the little red and white gilt escaped beneath the gate, squeezing through as though she was covered in grease, as I've often read they can do, if you don't have things buttoned down tight, and nearly drew the ire of Pinon, who I doubt had ever seen a piglet in her life.   I had to run interference that day between enraged mare protecting her turf and piglet frozen in place, bristles standing on end, electrified with fear at 1,000 pounds of equine fury thundering straight at her.

I watch the gates very carefully around hogs now.

So this morning, after Pinon decides to vacate the square of sunshine, the guinea squad moves in and hunkers down to claim this spot.  But only at the pleasure of Pinon.


I've just come out of the hen house.

And these Large Black Hogs are pretty sure I might have one or five or twenty of these in my pocket.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Piglets in the Woods

This is a charming video of a Large Black Hog sow and her piglets from Truefields Farm in Texas. Be sure to check out their YouTube Channel. Thanks for sharing this online!

Mythology and symbols are passions of mine, so I'll share this with you from the Dictionary of Symbolism by Hans Biedermann:
One look at a pigpen makes it clear: the sow is an eager, happy universal mother of the muddy realm, many-teated, heavy set, surrounded by her brood . . . . Today as always she appears in our dreams bathed in the shimmery light of her motherhood.
If everything goes well, we'll have our first litter of Large Black Hog piglets in the fall.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Tao of the Hog

I lean over the stall, considering my two Large Black Hogs.

Now, as a horsewoman of approximately 35 years, I am used to appraising the line of a fine horse, enjoying the fluidity and grace of a horse at liberty or under the guidance of an experienced equestrian.  It's not hard to watch my husband's Arabian mare skipping across the paddock, her pretty hooves barely touching the ground, neck arched, tail held aloft, and feel that I'm in the presence of some wondrous creature, some miracle of god's creation.

Over these three and a half decades, I have become quite fluent in the language of horse, and I don't believe these beautiful animals will ever cease to have an effect on me at a very deep and profound level.  Heck, if you want to learn about what it means to be still and listen to the universe or practice what it means to live in the moment, if you want to get back in touch with what it means to trust your intuition, well, I'd suggest you just spend some time with a herd of horses.  The ancient, blue-eyed, POA pony we brought home for the kids when they were four and five was a Zen master.

My boar Tater, is standing tippy toed on the edge of his feeder, quivering snout aloft, snorting, snuffling, chortling at me, curly tail wriggling.  If I get out the one brush I stole from the horse grooming box weeks ago and run it across his wiry back, as I am increasingly prone to do, the big lug will fall over on his side in a swoon, close his eyes, and become transported to a place of utter hog contentment.

Jet black and almost as bristly as a Brillo Pad, Tater is no Friesian stallion, but he sure makes a silly smile break out across my face, nearly each and every time I see him--even when he follows me around and gives me a gentle nudge with his snout (the hog High-5) just to remind me that he's hanging out with me, my piliferous porcine shadow, when I'm trying to clean up the place--and it's for that very reason that I will linger here a while longer, because this little corner of the barn is where god whispers and murmurs to me in a brand new language of happiness.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Slap Ya Mama" Heritage Pork Chops

Was it the seasoning, a nicely balanced mix of salt, red pepper, black pepper and garlic? Or was it the high-quality, lean, all-natural, heritage breed pork?
I love a good mystery.  

Click here to find out.

Heritage Pork -- The Other Red Meat

People's first instinct is that it's the genetics that make it taste so good, and that's partly true, since the marbling, the intramuscular fat, hasn't been bred out. However, the taste mostly comes from the way we raise them: slowly, outdoors, with great respect. They're outside getting exercise, getting minerals from the soil, getting fresh air and clean water, and they live without stress. All that combines for flavor.
Occasionally my mother, who is in her seventies, will reminisce about hog butchering day when she was a girl in Oklahoma.  Her dad raised a lot of their meat on their small place, because, well, that's just what you did.  And she swears there was nothing like it.  No wonder the hogs I raised last Spring and butchered in the Fall are so delicious!  Mind you, last Spring's hogs weren't a heritage breed, they were a lovely Hampshire Duroc mix.  I purchased them as feeder pigs from a farmer up near the Colorado border, and frankly I've never tasted anything quite like that pork.  (Happy naturally-raised pigs do produce excellent tasting pork, by the way.)  Beats what I've been buying at Whole Paycheck Foods, hands down, I must say, and I happen to think they do what they do quite well, but their pork chops don't hold a candle to the ones in my freezer.

Here's an interesting and informative point of view:

A few scant years ago, pork was just pork, generically marketed as "the other white meat."

But today, diners can find Berkshire pork chops in Kansas City, Red Wattle pork-shoulder meatballs in San Francisco, Tamworth pork chops in New York City and Yorkshire pork prime rib in Minneapolis. Such heritage breeds increasingly are capturing the imagination — and stomachs — of a new generation.

Heritage pork is nothing new. These breeds were popular before World War II, when pigs were raised outdoors on mixed-use farms. Because of the exercise they got and the fat they needed to get through winters outdoors, heritage breeds produced pork that was darker, meatier, more tender and more marbled than what is commonly available today.

Ignacio Mattos, chef at New York City's Il Buco, is one of the new wave going whole hog with more unusual breeds. He uses Tamworth for his specialty porchetta alla Romana and dried Italian sausages, or salumi. And he occasionally cooks with a rare breed of once-feral pig from Georgia's Ossabaw Island.

"You get a totally different product depending on the animal you use," he says.

The darker, redder, wilder meat from an Ossabaw pig imparts an intensity to his salumi that he can't get any other way. On the other hand, when he roasts the well-marbled Tamworth, pockets of sweet fat make the meat creamy as custard.

"Sometimes people freak out when they see the amount of fat on the heritage pork, but it's my favorite meat. The complexity, the creaminess, the depth — I don't know how anyone can resist it."
But many people did during the low-fat diet revolution.

"When pork was losing market share, they bred out the fat to make it 'the other white meat,' " says Tony Bettencourt, chef at suburban Boston's Tomasso Trattoria. "But after years of tasteless meat, people realize the fat has to come from somewhere. You can drown tasteless pork in cream sauce, disguise it with barbecue sauce or stuff it with cheese to give it some fat and some flavor. Or you can go back to the real thing."

That's what Michael Yezzi, proprietor of Flying Pigs Farm in upstate New York, does. A supplier to Mattos and other chefs, he raises some of the world's rarest breeds of pork.

"People's first instinct is that it's the genetics that make it taste so good," Yezzi says. "And that's partly true, since the marbling, the intramuscular fat, hasn't been bred out. However, the taste mostly comes from the way we raise them: slowly, outdoors, with great respect. They're outside getting exercise, getting minerals from the soil, getting fresh air and clean water, and they live without stress. All that combines for flavor."

Read the rest of the article here:  Heritage pork: A swanky swine to dine.  USA Today.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Large Black Forest Hog

The Large Black Forest Hog (Hoggus Blackus Forestuhs) is a shy and reclusive creature.


The Calm After the Blizzard

In Praise of Large Black Hog Ears

In the gale force of this morning's blizzard, my windblown Percheron Tobi stands rooted like an oak tree,

while Large Black Hog Prudence prepares for takeoff.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Heart Healthy Large Black Hogs

A recent trip to my doctor revealed that my blood pressure is a little higher than it should be.  And to tell you the truth, I was expecting that, because I've let myself become 20 pounds overweight in the last couple of years, middle-age and all that.  In discussing some ways to address this, my physician told me that part of the health problem is the food we eat and the way that our food is grown/raised.

I listened while she continued to tell me all about how factory farming is contributing to the poor overall health of those who eat factory farm food.  I didn't say a word when my doc, who was clearly passionate about the ethics of food, began to tell me how animals in the feedlots are fed animal protein in pellets, given lots of antibiotics and hormones, live in often inhumane conditions, etc.

Well, needless to say, this woman was preaching to the choir, and I didn't interrupt, because I'm always up for learning more.

After listening politely, I was able to tell her about my grass-fed Large Black Hogs that are being raised sans hormones and antibiotics.  Her initial response was, "Well, Kimberly, how do I get one of these from you!"

And then we had a lively discussion about the merits of grass fed meat.

I'm going to share some of that health information with you here.  Let's start with the fact that my grass fed Large Black Hogs are not only good for my heart because of the sheer enjoyment I get from raising them, but also because of the high Omega-3 content of grass-fed meat.

And I certainly can't blame my 20-pound weight gain on the ranch-raised pork I've been eating.  This little roll around my middle is due to my love of crisp Challah bread, bagels, dinner rolls, and piping hot morning muffins.  I'll eat bread rather than cake any day.  So, per my doc's recommendations, I'm now on the South Beach Diet (which encourages eating healthy proteins and fats, and that of course is the perfect description of grass-fed pork).

Extra Omega-3s.  Meat from grass-fed animals has two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain- fed animals. Omega-3s are called "good fats" because they play a vital role in every cell and system in your body. For example, of all the fats, they are the most heart-friendly. People who have ample amounts of omega-3s in their diet are less likely to have high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat. Remarkably, they are 50 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack.  Omega-3s are essential for your brain as well. People with a diet rich in omega-3s are less likely to suffer from depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder (hyperactivity), or Alzheimer's disease.

Another benefit of omega-3s is that they may reduce your risk of cancer. In animal studies, these essential fats have slowed the growth of a wide array of cancers and also kept them from spreading.  Although the human research is in its infancy, researchers have shown that omega-3s can slow or even reverse the extreme weight loss that accompanies advanced cancer and also hasten recovery from surgery.

Omega-3s are most abundant in seafood and certain nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds and walnuts, but they are also found in animals raised on pasture. The reason is simple. Omega-3s are formed in the chloroplasts of green leaves and algae. Sixty percent of the fatty acids in grass are omega-3s. When cattle are taken off omega-3 rich grass and shipped to a feedlot to be fattened on omega-3 poor grain, they begin losing their store of this beneficial fat. Each day that an animal spends in the feedlot, its supply of omega-3s is diminished.  The graph below illustrates this steady decline.
Omega 3s vanish in the feedlot
Data from: J Animal Sci (1993) 71(8):2079-88.
When chickens are housed indoors and deprived of greens, their meat and eggs also become artificially low in omega-3s. Eggs from pastured hens can contain as much as 10 times more omega-3s than eggs from factory hens.

It has been estimated that only 40 percent of Americans consume an adequate supply of omega-3 fatty acids. Twenty percent have blood levels so low that they cannot be detected. Switching to the meat, milk, and dairy products of grass-fed animals is one way to restore this vital nutrient to your diet.  Source:  Eat Wild. 

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Black Pearls

Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift a stone, and you will find me there.  - Gospel of Thomas.  Nag Hammadi Library.

I see you here this morning as I'm chipping the ice from a frozen water trough.  Tossing hay to Large Black Hogs, horses, and chickens.  Being nuzzled by a shaggy mare.  Surrounded by a herd of horses with icicle whiskers.  Snorted at by a stout little gilt jam packed full of opinions.  Stealing eggs from a cranky hen who gives me a sound peck.  Dogged at every step by a boar growing nearly right before my eyes, like some kind of wild and wooly weed you couldn't stop if you tried.  Watching the smoke curling slowly from the chimney of our ranch house against the slate gray sky.  Smelling the pinon wood we cut ourselves up on the mesa.

And I'm happy for such fine company.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mountain Hog

Greetings from 6-month old Large Black Hog boar Tater.  I am amazed at how this guy can scale this fence like a funny looking goat.

I think I'm going to have to have a strand of electric fence.  A cattle panel will simply collapse when he's put on a few hundred pounds.  If he's still a climber, that is.  We're enlarging their field/paddock/corral (not sure what to call it) this Spring, so that may help.

After raising two feeder pigs in the Spring and seeing how hogs love to run and play, scratch against trees, wallow in mud, rest in a cool shady place, dig, root, sun themselves until they bake, play with an intriguing stick, enjoy the wind, smell a summer thunderstorm coming, I am sure being penned or crated is a dismal life for the many that spend their lives in the confinement of a factory farm operation.

And I thought my big draft horse Tobi was hard on fences.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bringing Home the Bacon

SKY News Video report on the trend in England of raising pigs in the household garden to feed the family. This video features some good looking Large Black Hogs.

In response to the question I know I've heard more than once: "How on earth can you eat animals you've raised?", the farmer interviewed in the video responds with another question: "How on earth could you eat an animal that you don't know how it's been raised?"

Good point.

Hat tip: Large Black Pig Breeder's Club UK

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Doggin' Your Every Step

Tater and Prudence want to know exactly what is going on with this 12-year-old boy of whom they are extremely fond, and they would also like to know if they can they join in too.

I don't mean to brag, but my Large Black Hogs are extremely polite.

Dear Prudence


Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play 
Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day
The sun is up, the sky is blue
It's beautiful and so are you
Dear Prudence won't you come out to play

My 13-year-old daughter having some fun in the snow with our Large Black Hog Dear Prudence.  I was especially interested in Large Black Hogs because of what I'd heard about their gentle, docile nature, and from what I've experienced so far, everything I'd heard is true!  

Good thing as Dear Prudence will be 500 pounds here before we know it.

Got Gloves?

Now this is probably a face that only a Large Black Hog fancier could love.   Perhaps I should call him Sweet Tater the Boar of the Perpetual Grin.  Think he knows I lay awake the other night thinking about just how huge he's going to get?

I've managed to hang onto this good pair of winter gloves for a second season, a record for me, and regardless of what this Large Black Hog may think, he's not getting them, no matter how deliciously intriguing they may be.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Snow Pigs

This large black hog has her own built in sherpa hat.
If this large black hog plows enough snow, there's bound to be a delicious egg in there somewhere.

Large Black Hog in takeoff mode.  If she gets up enough steam, she just might clear the fence.

This is our first real snow, and this morning it was a frigid 7 degrees, and these two Large Black Hogs don't seem to be missing a beat.  That's one of the beauties of the Large Black Hog Breed.  They are hardy and thrive outdoors, which goes against the whole factory farm paradigm, and which is one of the reasons why these wonderful hogs are on the "Critical" list at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy

I feed before sunup, as I've got to get to the office in Santa Fe, and they come straggling out of their toasty stall in the barn nearly every morning to greet me, straw dangling from their ears and whiskers.  Also, to politely inquire if I have any eggs on me and could they please have one or five or six.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Serious Chow

 Dear Prudence relishing her free choice alfalfa hay that the horses are openly coveting from across the fence, having scarfed down their own breakfasts.

We're raising our Large Black Hogs the all natural way.  No hormones.  No antibiotics.  Room to roam.  And sunshine.  Here they can exercise their natural herd instinct, as hogs are naturally gregarious creatures.  The bulk of their diet is high grade alfalfa hay (the kind I feed to my horses).  In the high desert, even at 7,000 feet, there isn't exactly an abundance of pasture land.  We also feed them some corn each day.  They love fresh eggs.  Good thing we've got a whole flock of laying hens, and now I've got a ready use for all of those extra eggs.

These Large Black Hogs also enjoyed some leftover organic apple pie the other day.  They devour fruit and vegetables with gusto.  A piece of cheese or the nub from the Challa bread loaf is met with great excitement.  Nothing gets wasted around here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In Praise of Large Black Hog Ears

 When I call my Large Black Hog piglets or if they just get wind of the fact that I'm around (and I'm beginning to think they have some kind of built in radar) here they come, rollicking, frolicking, snorting, chortling, growling, ears flying in the breeze and flapping against their bristled heads like leather aviator hats, elephant ears, flap jacks ... bat wings?

I expect them to take flight any day now.

Boy won't that scare the neighbors.

I awake

It doesn't matter that one of my horses is a Percheron who weighs in at a cool 1600 pounds, and that I'm so used to the big gentle lug that his size doesn't remotely faze me, although his exuberant friendliness sometimes scares the uninitiated visitor, especially when he comes trotting down from the top of the pasture like a steam locomotive just to say hello.

I awake at 2AM the other morning with the realization that one day this cute little baby boar

will grow up into this--

And in one of those heart pounding, all by your lonesome (even though my dear husband is snoring soundly right beside me) middle of the night moments, when most people are contemplating their mortality or the nature of the universe, I resolve to become even better friends with sweet Tater.