It was a big day. We got our pigs today. Plus one. The original plan for adult 4-H was to get 3 pigs. One for each of us. Then I had a few friends ask if they could just avoid all the work, have me raise the pig for them so they could just buy a pig when its ready to slaughter. Ok, so then, I planned on buying four pigs, one for me and one for lazy friends (KIDDING, you guys) and Mahina and Kristen’s pigs. I figured I might be able to make a few bucks to invest into buying some more pig panels or a, *cough* *cough* sow. But somehow by the time we came home today, we had five pigs!
Mahina and Kristen met me bright and early, here on the Ranch. We borrowed my Mom’s truck, put a foam bed-liner and pine shavings in the back, opened the windows in the camper shell, and duct taped all the lighting wires up and off we went. After much searching the internets for heritage pig producers in Northern California we found Jamie at High Mountain Hogs. She is located out of Mad River, California, which is about a three and half hour (and a very curvy) drive from the Ranch.
My social media friend Amy Sipes is the person who first brought red wattles to my attention. She has a slaughterhouse in Kentucky and has taught me much about, well, meat and meat safety (thanks Amy!). Last year she kept posting these RED pork chops on her Facebook page. Like most of you, I am used to store pork, and while store pork is great, I missed having really wonderful, succulent, amazing homegrown pork. I haven’t raised our own pork since my 4-H days, which, let’s just say was at least over 10 years ago. I saw these beautiful pork chops Amy kept posting, and I found myself having major pork envy. If you know me in real life, once I get an idea in my head, I’m like a dog with a bone, good luck getting me to give it up (you’ll lose a finger!). My mission in life became getting red wattles, and today it happened.
We got on the road bright and early. Of course, a Starbuck’s and gas stop was made and maayyybeeee a short stop at Lucero when we got to Corning.
After that though, we made excellent time. The drive itself was a lot of fun, we saw a lot of agriculture and animals on our way there, including several does and fawns and a roadrunner!
We followed Jamie up to her hog barns and met all kinds of pigs! From red wattles to landraces to berkshires, we met sows, boars, piglets, guardian dogs and pig cats. It was glorious. I was in hog heaven (see what I did there?). Jamie was wonderfully patient as we pelted her with hundreds of hog related questions. We ended up buying red wattle/tamworth cross pigs. Since we are not breeding these pigs, we thought it was a great idea to use hybrid vigor to make some great pork. Red wattles are known for red meat and tamworths are know as the “bacon pig” – can you imagine a better melding of genetics? I can’t.
Jamie caught our barrows (castrated male pig), and taught us the correct way to handle them. And then she gave us a runt! We couldn’t help it you guys, he was super cute! The runt she gave us was from a different breed of pig, a hereford. We’re pretty excited to have a taste test of pork when we are done – hereford vs. red wattle/tamworth vs berkshire (our friends raise them) vs store pork. Yeah, that’s going to be a bbq you want to be invited to.
Unfortunately we had to leave High Mountain Hogs way before we wanted to because we were chasing daylight. We still had to get home, get the pigs situated, and fine tune our hog pen! The piglets were great passengers, despite my very best efforts of driving slowly and pulling over for rests, we had some car sickness from the little guys (and me!). When we got home it was a race to get the pigs in their new pen, set up the water system (Char was too small to use it), and clean the pig poo and puke out of my Mom’s new truck.
While we were gone, my Mom added sides to the pig’s house, which was a really good thing, because Char is soooooo little he could have slipped right out.
We safely unloaded our piglets into their new home. We had piglet chow and apples ready for them, they were pretty excited about that. Hoot dog supervised with intensity unmatched, we’re sure Hoot is ready to step up and be the piglet’s new guardian dog. It got dark and we had to let the pigs go to bed. I just did an 10:00 PM welfare check and the piglets had half their pen rooted up, but were happily asleep. I have my alarm set for daylight for another welfare check and Mahina and Kristen plan on being here tomorrow too. Adult 4-H has officially begun.