Thursday, December 30, 2010

Celebrating the New Year with Pigs and Pomegranates

Source: Beliefnet.  The pig is the symbol of good luck in Vienna, Austria. Pigs are let loose in restaurants and everyone tries to touch them for luck as they run by. In private homes, a marzipan pig, with a gold piece in its mouth, is suspended from a ribbon and touched instead. In Greece, it's customary to throw a pomegranate wrapped in silver foil on the threshold, to spread the seeds of good luck for an abundant year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Large Black Hog Boar Rodeo

Our Large Black Hog boar Tater is the size of a Shetland Pony.  A fact which proves to be too much of a temptation for this boy.  Tater takes it all in stride, then gets a wild hair, what with all this snow thawing and deliciously warm wind, and decides to romp.  And rolick.  Just a wee bit.  But enough to send this  er ... "wild" ... boar tamer sliding off to the safety of terra firma. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

There's Always One ...

First thing I do when I go down to feed the herd of "little" pigs in the morning is count snouts.  One ...  Two ... Three ...  Four ...  Five ...

And then I have to look for number Six.  There's always one pig who is lagging behind.  Snoozing under a tree.  Holed up in the straw in the hoop house.  Investigating something of great porcine interest. 

These Large Black Hogs show up in stark relief against the bright white snow.  But you should try to feed jet black hogs in the pitch dark of early early in the morning before you have to drive into town to go to your day job.  I crawl over the fence with a bucket of feed in hand, Coleman lantern dangling from a post, straining to see.

Then I hear them.

A dozen cloven hooves coming right at me until they are bunched up in a heap, a low lying storm cloud, a squealing mob of onyx pigs around my knees.  Plus one straggler.  I do the math, and realize that I am surrounded by at least a thousand pounds of very very hungry hogs, pressing their snouts against my shins and wringing their tails.  I should probably be worried as they cling to me like keening remora fish as I make my way to the feed trough.  Instead, I am thankful for good balance.

On this winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, I am very happy to think of the sun beginning to trace a higher arc across the sky as the days begin to get longer, a little bit of light at a time.

I am also very glad that my large Large Black Hogs have much better manners than this unruly, but positively lovely, horde.

Our Hog Hoop House Design Proven in the Snow!

We got dumped on with over 2 feet of snow, and the Large Black Hog Hooch (hoop house) we built weathered it like a champ.  The little pigs were cozy as could be. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010


These six-month-old Large Black hogs lift their dainty hooves as they prowl about through the brand new snow, which just reaches the black bristles of their chinny chin chins.  They hold their snouts aloft, sniffing in wonderment at all this white stuff.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ebb and Flow

These "little" pigs (now 6 months old) rush out of their hoop house when I call, investigate the snow, decide that getting a little back scratching is not worth wading through two feet of snow to all the way over here where I am crouched with my camera, and rush back inside.

Large Black Hog Hibernation

Two feet of fresh snow outside.  Tater and Prudence are in hog hibernation.  They remind me of bears.  Or walruses.

I love the peace, the utter contentment, of the barn on a snowy winter afternoon.

Smiling Large Black Hog

What's not to smile about?  This is the first snow this Large Black Hog gilt has seen, and she thinks it's pretty cool.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Iron Clad

Large Black Hog Tater is one handsome boar.  He is also a complete gentleman.  Which is a good thing, because at a year and a half he's the size of my kids' old pony (500 + pounds) and has armor.  No kidding.  This big pig is as iron clad as the Black Knight himself.

This being the first boar I've ever had, I was surprised when I was scratching Tater's various itchy spots about 6 weeks ago, which I am pretty much politely requested to do every morning at breakfast time when he sidles up alongside of me, rumbling and grumbling, and discovered that this big critter has grown armor plating, a thick protective layer, along his neck, his shoulders, and down his ribs.  No wonder ancient peoples had boars on their coats of arms.  No wonder today's wild boar hunters talk about the armor of their prey.
This Large Black Hog boar is a rugged creature.  (Who will flop over on his side in a heartbeat for a good belly scratching ...)  The kids are no longer in grade school, or I would be tempted to take this boar in for show and tell, like we did with their old spotted Pony of the Americas.  (Not!)  What a good impression we would have made.

Tater's tusks are starting to peek out as well.  Now that's going to be truly impressive.

How the Little Pigs Grow

May 2010

November 2010

 And more little ones on the way!  (I've got a feeling Large Black Hog Prudence is eating for a dozen this time around ...)

The King of the Large Black Hogs

Autumn Hogs

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gandar and Large Black Hogs

Our gandar spends nearly all of his time with the Large Black Hogs, specifically, our boar Tater.  My husband has taken to calling him the ranch manager.  He thinks he is in charge of every pig on the place.

Piglet Cam: Large Black Hogs at 3 Months old

These Large Black Hogs love their zucchini!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Farming surges in state with new crop of devotees

Boston Globe.   DRACUT — Midway through her first growing season, Rachael Potts, 31, pointed to long rows of thriving peppers, scallions, and Swiss chard. The tomatoes, however, have been “a challenge,’’ she admitted, adding “and the heat has had its way with my arugula.’’

Potts, who has a day job as an interior landscaper in office complexes, recently joined a surprisingly fast-growing occupation in Massachusetts: She’s a farmer.  Continue ...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Piglet Cam: Large Black Hog Piglets at 9 weeks old

Prior to weaning the piglets, I used to watch poor Prudence waddle across the paddock, surrounded by a cloud of hungry, squealing, tail wringing piglets, all worried about their chow.

Now I know how she must have felt!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Piglet Cam: Large Black Hog Piglets at 8 Weeks Old

These Large Black Hog piglets are now 8 weeks old. We weaned them a couple of weeks ago. They were tiring their poor momma out! I'd estimate they are about 35 pounds right now, solid as iron ingots, sleek, shiny, and loving their hay, grain, and green "salads" we gather in armloads from around the fruit trees in the orchard.

Next weekend, we'll open up the paddocks, so they will be pastured again with their momma, who has regained her girlish figure back. She has had a much deserved rest, but will be ready for company. Once the barrows are a little larger, they will move in with their very big daddy. We may actually have everyone pastured together for a little while. Still working on the logistics of that one.

See how the piglets grow:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Piglet Cam: We're Eating What Momma's Eating!

Our Large Black Hog piglets at 3 weeks old! They have decided that whatever their Momma is eating, so are they. Prudence is such a good momma, she tolerates their sitting in the feed bowl, etc. Some even try to nurse while she's in the process of eating for eight.

See how the piglets grow:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Micro Oinkers

Rub their silky round bellies when they are fast asleep, and the piglets oink oink oink, stretching their little legs out front and back, lengthening like silver slinkies, luxuriating, without ever waking up. Very funny.

Piles of Piglets

First thing in the morning, when the sun is just starting to warm up things after our cool high-desert evening, I find piles of plump jet black piglets, lounging against the barn, basking in the rays.

The micro oinkers are 15 days old today.

I sit for a while and soak up a few rays myself, pleased to be in such excellent porcine company.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Piglet Cam: Large Black Hog Piglets at 10 Days Old

Eat and Play.  Eat and Play.  Sleep.  Eat and Play.  Nap.  Repeat.

Such is the life of a piglet.

Registered Large Black Hog Association breeding stock available and Heritage Pork Community Supported Agriculture Shares available. Details here.

See how the piglets grow:

Learning is Remembering: Fine Grass Fed Pork

Learning is Remembering — Plato

There's a lot to be learned about raising grass-fed pork from some of these old farming books.   Our Large Black Hogs have free access to all the fresh, high grade, alfalfa hay they want.

Alfalfa farming in America, Joseph Elwyn Wing, Sanders Publishing Company, Chicago, copyright 1912.

The Hog a Grazing Animal—The truth is the hog is by nature a grazing animal. While not a ruminant like the cow and sheep yet it has capacity to take care of a good deal of coarse herbage and is better for having it. There must be a certain amount of bulk in its food to distend the stomach and intestines in order to keep the animal in health.

Fine Alfalfa Pork—This matter is so essential that I here present part of a paper read by one of the Government inspectors before the Kansas State Breeders' meeting at the Kansas agricultural college:

As these alfalfa hogs came down the alley to the scales, they were certainly hogs for the packer, raised at a profit—thrifty and ready to yield good-grade pork, for a good price was realized. You could notice that they were well up on their expanded feet; their height, length, and bones all rounded out with even fat, covered with a glossy, glistening, heavy coat of hair, and keen eyes alert. Their backs were straight, broad and well curved into long, deep sides that had plump, pointed even-shaped hams at one end and arched shoulders at the other.

Their bodies were solid and the meat was of that marbled appearance of lean and fat, for the fat of an alfalfa hog is whiter, and here is where we get the two strips of lean in the bacon—rustling for a living makes muscle.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Girl Next Door is the Future of Food

I've been contemplating whether I can help make the world a slightly better place with a herd of Large Black Hogs.  Maybe so...
 RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Women farmers are key in solving world hunger, according to ActionAid, a nonprofit group that fights the causes of poverty around the world.

And while the concept of women in farming is super-hot right now (the Gap even started selling farm dresses and women's overalls this spring), the revolution that's taking place across the country—the feminine approach to farming—might be enough to save the future of food, according to Temra Costa, author of the new book, Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat (Gibbs Smith, 2010).

Read the whole article here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

In the Paddock Right Next Door

Our Large Black Hog Boar Tater is not happy with this adjoining paddocks business while Prudence tends to the little ones.  But he was really beginning to annoy her those last few days, wanting to romp and play as she was becoming increasingly serious and heavy with piglets, and she needed some space.

And he's not as isolated as he looks here in the photo.  He can talk to Prudence and piglets right through the fence.  If only I could explain to him that adjoining paddocks is a very very short term arrangement.

Today, one of the piglets ventured out of the farrowing house, and big daddy and little piglet had a very lively conversation, a snout to snout symphony of boar snorting and piglet squeaking.  Tater is beside himself with big boar excitement at all of the sounds coming out of the farrowing house.  And he nearly swoons with joy when Dear Prudence ambles out to say hello when the piglets are fast asleep in their bed of deep straw.  We'll recombine everyone when the piglets are a little larger.  Unfortunately for Tater, as we're just starting out building our herd, I don't have any other pigs to keep him company in the same paddock during this brief twin bed paddock period ...

Meanwhile, we have to deal with poor Mr. Dejected as he stands at the fence line, snorting his soiltary song way out loud.  Our boar is always quite friendly, but now he follows me like a dog, nearly velcroed at my heels everywhere I go, rumbling his discontent, because he is in need of some company, and I'm making a point to be extra kind to him, as all of this is quite a change in his routine.  He's had lots of brushing, back scratching, and belly rubs.  The neighbors brought him a bag of vegetables the other day in an attempt to cheer him up.

Boars are, after all, quite emotional creatures.

Piglet Tails All in a Row

Silk Purses and Sow's Ears

Monday, May 31, 2010

Piglet Cam: LBH Piglets at 12 Hours Old

See how the piglets grow:
These registered Large Black Hog Association (LBHA) piglets available August 2010.  $300 each.  $150 deposit to hold.


    Prudence's Large Black Piglets only a few hours old in this photo. 

    Large Black Sow Prudence gave birth to a litter of healthy piglets on the evening of May 29, 2010.  She had 8 total.  3 boars.  5 gilts.  All 8 were born alive.  And all 8 look very robust and healthy. 

    She started building her nest at about 1PM on Saturday afternoon.  I noticed her rooting around in the already deep straw in her farrowing house, very busy busy busy, which Large Black Sow Prudence usually is, and initially thought she was looking for goodies hidden underneath, although we'd just thoroughly cleaned.   I'd given her two flakes of leafy green alfalfa in the morning, which she hadn't yet touched.  And when she proceeded to rend them apart with her strong jaws and carry the leafy green stuff mouthful by mouthful into the barn, burgeoning belly swinging from side to side as if to underline the purpose of her mission, we knew she'd entered full blown nest building mode.

    Dear Prudence seemed caught up in a methodical porcine whirlwind, gathering up loose alfalfa stems from previous breakfasts, lunches and dinners, carrying those into the stall as well, delicately lifting each jet black hoof over the bottom board we'd recently affixed to doorway to help keep newborn piglets in.  She carried in a few pinon tree branches for good measure.

    Just as I was wondering what she'd be carrying in next, the sow fluffed up her nest, plowing straw, alfalfa and pinon with her head, blueberry ears barely visible.  And finally, easing down onto her knees, Prudence lowered her hindquarters inch by inch in a delicate balancing act of rousing piglets and rushing teats, and laid down ...

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Hog Hooch (Cattle Panel Hoop House)

    This is the hog hooch that we built, out of cattle panels and other good stuff, on one of the windiest New Mexico weekends in the history of windy New Mexico weekends since the dawn of time, where grit filled our noses and our eyes, dirt was eaten, and the recycled CITGO billboard/tarp nearly blew away and carried us over the mountain tops in a real balloon boy incident.

    Large Black Hog sow Prudence took one look at this beautiful hog hooch, specially designed for her and her offspring, and proceeded to take a couple of snaggle toothed tastes out of the front door, charming porcine.   If I didn't love her so much and she weren't so full of piglets, I might have been tempted to make sausage out of her when she was dragging her teeth across that nice green paint. We did protect the sides with cattle panels.

    We learned so much about how to build one of these cattle panel hoop houses for our Large Black Hogs from looking at the blogs and websites of other small farmers, none of which really had complete plans, but provided us with several good ideas from the photos and descriptions.  So, to reciprocate, and say a big thank you to all of you who are so generous to share your ideas about livestock housing, here are the photos of the hoop house we built for our hogs in its various stages of construction. 

    My husband, who can build anything, says he really just made this up as he was going along, so I don't have any plans.  We got the billboard tarp from the Billboard Tarp Warehouse online.   This hog hooch is 3 panels long, about 13' long, and approximately 8 ' wide.  We've got it tied down with t-posts driven 2' into the ground (the one we built for the chickens withstood the 70 MPH windstorm we had recently) and snugged down with ratchet straps across the top, which really make this thing solid.  We'd guesstimate the total cost of construction to be approximately $300.

    We secured every loose end of tarp fabric and finished it up as the sun was setting last night, utterly exhausted, wind blown, and bleary eyed.  There was much complaining this morning about aching muscles and middle aged bones.  I am hoping that the hogs haven't devoured it by the end of the day. 

    Friday, May 21, 2010

    Don't Mess with the Prudence

    There's something positively earthy about hogs.  Sometimes I have to just admire the way Large Black Hog sow Prudence stands at attention with her diminutive hooves rooted firmly to the ground, belly full of piglets getting perilously close to touching the dirt.

    Sows will eat you, I hear, if they think you are messing with their piglets.  And these Large Black Hogs are reputed to be superb mothers.  Fortunately, everything I was told about their gentle nature is also true.  I am very pleased as we near the big day that Prudence and I are on excellent terms.  Heck, she let's me trim up her little cloven hooves, albeit with a bit of complaining.