Tag Archives: hogs

Guest Post: The City Girl That Dreams of Being a Country Girl

Those of you that have been following my blog for a while remember my adult 4-H program. I asked the Ladies to write a guest post for me if they felt like it. Again, I have a tendency to take my life for granted, cows and pigs and horses are my daily life. I love when I can get into someone’s head and see my life from their point of view, it helps me understand what and how I need to speak to people.

Shannon was not an original 4-H member. At the beginning of this project she was busy! She was in law school (!), has a family and a fulltime job, (having dropped out of law school, I know what that stress was like (OH SO SCARY! Run away, run away!)), anyway, Shannon wanted to raise a pig, but couldn’t. So I told her I would do it for her and she could come out as much or as little as she could.

Well she ended up coming out a lot, helping with the hogs and cattle. And she was darn good help! I’ve noticed some people have a natural knack for working around animals, she is one of those people. I got to know her and her daughter Olive, better as well, and I’m really glad I did. I’m looking forward to many, many  more fun adventures with both of them (also: keep your eyes open for a pony for Olive, she needs one out here)!

I am super stoked to share with you Shannon’s guest post, enjoy!

Disclaimer: Megan called me up and asked if I’d be willing to write something for her blog. I was hesitant at first; I’m not much of a writer. In fact I’d rather be doing calculus problems then writing. But with the advent of the internet and everyone else thinking they are writers, how bad can it be?

I had the pleasure of helping Megan out with her Adult 4H pig project. She pretty much adopted me into the program. I work fulltime, was in law school at nights, and I have a family at home. So I initially told her I’d pass on the project as I had no more time to give to anyone else. But I ended up taking my daughter out to see the pigs on a number of occasions and helped Megan make them food. I found Megan, her Ranch, and the pigs to be so relaxing that I had to keep coming back to escape the crazy, hectic life I had made for myself.
Some background about me: I grew up in a suburb of San Diego in a basic 3 bedroom, 2 bath house. I loved gardening and my family had a variety of pets from dogs, rabbits, birds, and fish. Each year we’d go to the Del Mar Fair (now called the San Diego County Fair) and I’d marvel at the cows, pigs, sheep, and goats and all the young kids rising and taking care of them. But I never had to chance to do anything like that. I am thankful to Megan for giving me that opportunity.

Me, circa 1990

Me, circa 1990

I met Megan about 5 years ago at a mutual friend’s birthday party. She brought meat cupcakes. We talked grass-fed beef. And eventually I bought a half-cow from her.
It has become more important to me over the years for my family to eat healthy food. And a big part of that is knowing where our food comes from. I like knowing what goes into making my food. We grow most of our vegetables, we eat very little breads, starches, and sugars, and I like knowing that the meat we eat was raised humanely and fed well because what the animal eats, my family will eventually be eating. It just gives me peace of mind in this crazy world.
Side story… On one of our trips to visit the pigs Megan let my daughter and I herd cattle. Oh…my…gosh…I LOVED it. Basically the cattle already knew what to do. They’ve been walking from one huge field to the next for the fresh, better grass for years. There was one older cow and you could tell by her body language that she wasn’t too interested in moving. She walked slow and was unimpressed by the 4 wheelers coming her way. She was the last cow we needed to get into the neighboring field. So what did she do? She crossed a rather large creek to avoid us. It felt like she just gave us a cow’s version of, “F-you”. Megan got out of the vehicle and convinced her to cross back over the creek and into the adjacent field. I have 100% respect for that cow and Megan!
Back to the pigs… The first time we visited the piglets, I brought the whole family: my significant other, Jason, and our daughter, Olive. We had a great time and Olive got to feed the pigs and pet them. When we came out additional times, Jason didn’t want to come. I finally asked why. He grew up on a ranch where they raised pigs, chickens, and goats for his family’s food. He’d been through the raising of the animals, helped with the slaughter, and helped put the food on the table. (His grandma actually did most of the work, killing the animals and all. She’s currently 99 and a half. She told me you get to count the half’s when you get to be that old.) Although Jason is thoroughly enjoying the pork, he didn’t want to get attached to the animal that he would eventually be eating. I can respect that. Ranch life isn’t for everyone. And he’s been there, so he knows. In fact I would say it isn’t for most people. It’s easy to walk into the grocery store and buy the attractively wrapped meat that doesn’t have a face. It’s much more difficult to feed and care for these animals every day without a vacation, and then eat them. That takes a different type of person to do that day in and day out.
So Olive and I would still come out and bring the pigs treats. We’d also help Megan with cooking all the food. She would spend all weekend cooking up vats and vats of food for the pigs to eat for the week. I really don’t know how she did that all especially with her full-time job during the week. What a crazy time commitment. And also why I’d make a bad rancher…I like my vacations!

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Slaughter day… I left Olive home for this one. She is only 2 years old. Although I think it’s important for her to know where her food comes from, this wasn’t the right time.
We waited around for the slaughter truck to show up. I wondered how I would feel about this. I’ve fed and petted these pigs too; will I feel bad or sad? I wasn’t there every day like Megan was so my attachment is much less. I was more nervous about my reaction then the actual event.
The truck showed up and the butchers got ready. A small caliber rifle was brought out. The butcher walked into the pig pen with some food. A pig came up and BANG, the deed was done. The butcher quickly cut a small hole in the pig’s jugular and the pig bled out. I was surprised how fast it was. There was some shaking as the body released its energy. But it was all pretty tame under the circumstances. If I had to choose a way to go, that would be it. Quick and painless. Then what surprised me more was the next pig that walked up to get food, completely unaware and uncaring that his buddy no longer existed and was laying there right next to him. BANG! And repeat the quick jugular cutting.
The two pigs were brought out of the pen and were put onto tables so the cutting process could begin. They were washed and cleaned up. Their hooves were removed and they were skinned. Then the organs were removed. The butchers walked us through the process and showed us everything. It was all quite fascinating. I looked over at the other pigs while all of this is happening and they are milling about in the pen like nothing occurred. Like it was any old day. I don’t know if they were oblivious or just didn’t give a shit, maybe a little of both. Pigs aren’t the nicest of animals.
So how did I feel? I felt honored to be a part of this process. The butchers respected these animals. There was no malice or disregard that these were living beings. These pigs were treated with respect and kindness the whole time. These pigs were here for us to eat and this is just part of their life and they had a great life. I feel that their happy, joyful lives gave me better meat. If an animal is stressed, that goes into their muscles and tissues. Just like humans have adverse health effects from stress, so does an animal.

Olive and her piggies

Olive and her piggies

I really enjoyed the process of helping to raise my own animal for food. I liked knowing what it ate and that they got exercise and rooted about and dug things up and were basically being pigs. Thanks Megan for giving me this opportunity to help you, and I look forward to our next venture together.

Yummy pork chop

Yummy pork chop

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, Beef, family, Guest Post, photos, Pigs, Ranch life, Uncategorized

13 Thursday – My Answers

Sometimes I don’t understand when people are asking me questions about the Ranch. Because this is all I have known, I assume (I know assuming only makes an ass out of you and me) everyone knows what I know. One of the best things I ever did for myself was disconnect from the Ranch for a few years in my mid-20’s. It gave me perspective, and made me realize that sometimes farmers and ranchers live in our own little bubble and speak our own little language of sorts. I am constantly working at bettering my communication with non-aggie people because I feel like that is the only way our industry will be able to continue. Because I am so passionate, and this way of life is such a huge part of who I am, and how I identify myself, I can become defensive very quickly when people question our Ranch’s practices or my motives. It took me a very long time to realize that often these people are not trying to insult me, they just don’t know! Because of the disconnect between farm to fork and the certain people/movements taking advantage of that fact.
I made it my business to openly share what I do, the good, the bad and the ugly. Surprisingly, this has cause a lot of drama and hurt feelings in my life. But the longer I do it, the better I handle the positives and negatives this blog has created for me. However if not for a certain core group of people I probably would have abandoned this blog long ago. Instead with their kind words, encouragement and support, I continued and will continue. One of those people is Ian from the An Irish Male In America. People like Ian are starting to make a huge impact on farmers and ranchers, they reach out to us when they have a question, they want to know! Ian continues to amaze me, but now he’s made it super easy for me to share about what I do! I mean, he gave me a list of questions! I totally stole these questions from his blog, thanks again Ian for everything you do! Please keep it up.

Ian sent me this t-shirt for St. Patrick's Day (so I could properly celebrate my heritage).

Ian sent me this t-shirt for St. Patrick’s Day (so I could properly celebrate my heritage). Also this is me with no make-up (full transparency here people!).

13 Questions I want farmers/ranchers/AG people to answer (or even blog about!)

1: What is the worst time of year for you?
The worst time of year is the middle of the summer, because it is obnoxiously hot and there are bugs and stickers here and fire danger. Fire scares me. It seems like once a year, we have a fire scare, and it just really sucks because there is nothing you can do. I hate the feeling of being helpless while the ranch burns.
2: What is your favorite farm job?
My favorite farm job is anything outside. I like feeding hay, actually because the cows are really happy to see you and they buck and dance. It’s fun to watch. I also like feeding the pigs, pretty much for the same reason. I like happy animals and just like me, they are happiest when someone puts food in front of them. I love working on the Ranch because everyday is different and challenging.

3: What is your least favorite farm job?

Anything that involves illness or premature loss of an animal. I feel like I failed them. I really hate it when you pull a calf and it is dead or dies, and the cow dies too. That is just the worst feeling ever. Even if you KNOW you did everything you possibly could for them, I still feel tremendous guilt. But honestly, any job can become my least favorite, it depends on who I am working with. There are certainly some people that rush jobs, or are mean to me or the animals. At this point in my life, for my mental health and physical safety I will refuse to work with those people.
4: What type of truck do you drive (on the job) and why did you choose it?
I drive a Toyota Corolla because I drive so much it made more sense than buying a truck. I commute to my town job and in between the two Ranches (we summer in the mountains and winter in the valley). Whenever I need a truck I can use my Dad’s full-sized Dodge or my Mom’s Tacoma. My Dad has a Dodge because I guess Ford changed something and he thought the Dodge was better. I miss his Fords though, I liked them. The Dodge is all fancy and stuff, and I’m afraid I’m going to break something. My Mom has a Tacoma because we need a little truck around the Ranch and we needed it for our kayaks because both of them won’t fit on top of my car!
5: What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned in your line of work?
Life isn’t fair. Not even a little bit. And like Dr. Grandin says, Mother-nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be.
6: What do you think is the most valuable tool you have, the one you probably couldn’t live without?
The internet. It has given me access to so much knowledge. If I have a question about anything I can find an answer, if I need a random part for a tractor, I can find it! It also shortens the distance from farm to fork, I am able to directly speak to thousands of my consumers. They can ask me questions and I can ask them questions, it’s a win/win! I’m trying to develop new markets, so I can hopefully work on the Ranch full-time within the next few years.
I remember pre-internet, while it was certainly nice to not be connected 24/7, access to information and knowledge was severely limited, especially in rural areas. I like knowing and learning!
7: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your business?
That we are just a bunch of dumb hicks that get all kinds of government money. Actually that is tied with we all all corporate slaves, or huge corporations. Both of those I get a lot. Some of us are very tech savvy, something like 98% of farms are family owned, and despite what you have heard, it’s still a free market and farmers and ranchers can choose what we raise.
8: If you could invest in a new piece of farm equipment tomorrow, what would it be?
A pig set up! I would love to raise hogs on a larger scale. I would love to have a barn, fencing and a water system. These are the things that are holding me back. Mainly the water situation. I could build fence and a shelter fairly easily compared with drilling a well or fixing our spring. I want to raise heritage hogs because I am in love with the pork I raised this year. It’s sooooo good and I want more people to have access to it. Plus if I had a hog set up I could probably retire from my office job, which the older I get, the better that sounds. I’m meant to be on the Ranch.
9: What was the most serious injury you ever suffered in the line of work?
I fell off my pony when I was 4 and broke my wrist but didn’t know it until a couple weeks later, it was a glorious temper tantrum in the hospital (ask my Mom). Other than that just your average bumps, bruises, cuts, broken toes, and sprained things. Oh, actually I got walking pneumonia when I was on a cattle drive when I was like 10. That sucked big time, mainly because I got sent home, and ended up being allergic to the antibiotics they gave me. And I was certain someone else rode my horse (grumble, grumble).
10: Least favorite animal to deal with?
F**king, damned dirty, goats. And mean roosters.
11: (excluding all of the above) What’s the dumbest question you’ve ever been asked?
Leather comes from cows?
12: Favorite beer? (come on, out with it!)
I’m having a love affair with Sierra Nevada right now. I really like the Snow Cap.
13: Thing you’d most like the public to know about what you do!
That I have nothing to hide, I want to share what I do. I love my way of life. And just like everything in life agriculture is not as simple as black versus white, big versus little, good versus bad. Talk to us! Ask us questions! (Seriously!)

Go check out J.D.L. Photograph’s answers here! I’ll try and add more links as more farmers and ranchers (ahem!) do this!

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, Beef, Humor, Media, Pigs, Ranch life, Rants, Uncategorized

Adult 4-H: Processing the Hogs

This morning I had the pleasure of going to the Locker and watching my hog get cut up. Like watching a master musician or artist create a masterpiece, watching Craig the butcher break down these hogs was just breathtaking.

Linda holds your hand and very nicely walks you through your cuttinh order. It's so fun!

Linda holds your hand and very nicely walks you through your cutting order. It’s so fun!

The best thing about raising your own meat, or buying from people like me, is you get to decide how you want your meat cut and wrapped. That means you can decide what meat cuts you want, for example a pork loin or pork chops. You can decide how many chops you want in a package, how thick you want your chops, or bacon. For a foodie, it’s like a dream come true. I like it because it makes my life convenient – since I live alone, I only got two chops per package.

The whole pig. It took less than 30 minutes for them to break it down.

The whole pig. It took less than 30 minutes for them to break it down.

If you want a more in-depth explanation of these pictures please read Jenny’s post here

This is MY half. It will live in my locked freezer. It's MINE.

This is MY half. It will live in my locked freezer. It’s MINE.

The hog has been split into two sides. They will process one side at a time.

Kidney lives in the leaf lard, if that gives you an idea of where it is.

Kidney lives in the leaf lard, if that gives you an idea of where it is.

The first thing Craig does is remove the leaf lard. This is supposed to be the best lard ever for making baked goods. I’ve never had any before so I requested them to save it for me. I will render it down in my oven and then make heck of pie crusts and tortillas! Yum!

Kidney lives in the leaf lard, if that gives you an idea of where it is.

BACON

Check out this video of Craig cutting my beautiful chops.

Pork chops! Glorious chops!

Pork chops! Glorious chops!

This is the one time you will hear me say "look at all my beautiful fat!". Don't be jealous, I might share some if you ask....

This is the one time you will hear me say “look at all my beautiful fat!”. Don’t be jealous, I might share some if you ask….

This is a whole pig, granted he was small, but it is still pretty cool he's all there.

This is a whole pig, granted he was small, but it is still pretty cool he’s all there.

This is my Dad’s pork. It’ll get him through a summer of BBQing, it’s nice to change it up with some pork! We love beef, but variety is the spice of life!

This will be sausage.

This will be sausage.

All the scraps are saved for sausage, I wanted my sausage “southern style” because it is my personal favorite and makes the best biscuits and gravy. For reals. Come over for brunch, I’ll blow your mind!

Again, it's mine! It's all mine! It even has my name on it like an adult!

Again, it’s mine! It’s all mine! It even has my name on it like an adult!

Yeah, I’m excited. This was a lot of work right here!

My bacon and ham. Yum.

My bacon and ham. Yum.

The bacon and ham will take longer to get, because they must cure it. They said I would have my ham in time for Easter! YAY!

The Man, the myth, the legend. Mr. Dewey. Thank you so much for being so transparent and awesome! I love you guys!

The Man, the myth, the legend. Mr. Dewey. Thank you so much for being so transparent and awesome! I love you guys!

So my next blog will be what this whole project was about – pork!!!! I cannot wait to try it. Even though I raise animals for a living, I’ve never had this caliber of pork before. I’ve been dreaming about it! What should I try first?!

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, family, Field Trip, food, photos, Pigs, Ranch life, Uncategorized

The “Appointment”

I’ve made the “appointment”. The pigs are going to be slaughtered March 8. I’ll admit I’m already a whisper sad about it.
I grew up raising my own food animals. I did 4-H and FFA. Every year I watch as our commercial calves are loaded into trucks to become food. I watch the custom exempt slaughter of our personal freezer beef. Heck I even worked in a slaughterhouse. I’m not new to this lifestyle, but for some reason I am already bummed out about the pigs.
Maybe because this was my project, my idea, my money, and my time. It was the first time a bright idea of mine worked out successfully (ask me about goats sometime). Since October, I have spent every day with these pigs making sure they were the happiest pigs they could be. In December I started making their food. I’ve cooked for these pigs more than I’ve cooked for myself.

Happy pig

Happy pig


I realize that is their “job” to be pigs and if they didn’t have a “job” they probably wouldn’t exist. I know I have provided them with the best pig life I could. I know they are happy and healthy. But I am still going to miss them; I think I would have no soul if I didn’t.
Treats!

Treats!


When I would have a bad day at work, or someone poked me with a stick, I would simply go out and hang with the pigs. They are always super excited to see me, even more excited when I bring treats and the most excited when I brush them and give belly rubs. They run and grunt at me when they see me, just like I sing them silly pig songs and talk to them when I am in their pen.
This project has been a success and we haven’t even tried the pork yet. It was wonderful doing adult 4-H and having so many visitors to the Ranch. It was great having something my Dad and I could talk about everyday, where I could ask for his advice. And best of all it was wonderful to bring awareness to this pork. I have a waiting list for next year.
This project reminded me that my place is on the Ranch, not in an office. Over the past three years I have worked in town from 8 to 5. I worked on the Ranch during my weekends and free-time; so I have not noticed how “soft” I have become until recently.
When we first got the pigs I noticed it was hard for me to pick up the 50 pound sacks of grower feed. My arms were sore after I started cooking their food all weekend (it takes my whole weekend to cook enough food for them). I had blisters on my delicate little office hands. I have to make two trips to feed them because two full five gallon buckets were just too much for me.
But after 6 months of taking care of the pigs every day, twice a day (except for like a month at night, when my Parents fed for me because it was too dark by the time I got home) I have upper arm strength again. I can pick up their 75 pound sacks of feed like it is nothing. I now fill their slop buckets as full as I can get them and “pump buckets” on the way to their trough. I have calluses. It feels good and I’m thinking of becoming a bouncer with these guns, lol.
My "man" hands. I've very proud. I missed them.

My “man” hands. I’ve very proud. I missed them.


Since this was a success my Parents have agreed to let me start raising pastured poultry this spring. When I take my vacation next month I am going to build a portable coop and get chicks. I have fond memories of being a small child and slaughtering chickens and turkeys with my Dad (he would always give me the sea glass from the turkey’s gullet). Very exciting stuff is happening for me!
Work. Lots of work. All weekend worth of work. I need a weekend from my weekend.

Work. Lots of work. All weekend worth of work. I need a weekend from my weekend.


Be prepared Dear Readers, even though I will probably be sobbing, I am going to video and take pictures of the whole slaughter process just like I did with my beef all those years ago (Industry groups, if you are concerned about this, please contact me NOW, I don’t want another Beef Council incident).
Thank you to all of you that have kept up with our pig adventures. I’ve really enjoyed all of your comments and feedback! I’ve even met new “friends” through this project, it’s just been such a wonderful experience. However I am a little excited that I can start to sleep in and have weekends again after these pigs are gone. It has been a lot of work balancing my town job and my pigs.

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, family, food, Humor, photos, Pigs, Ranch life, Recipe, Uncategorized

The Silver Dollar Fair Jr. Livestock Auction v Meg

About two years ago, I had a Boss that sent me to our local fair’s junior livestock auction to buy a hog. Not just any hog, a special hog. The young lady, Lilly, whose hog my Boss wanted to purchase, had done a superb job at raising this hog, writing buyers letters, and even gave a presentation to my Boss about pigs (of course I provided my Boss with supplemental hog questions to throw at her, but she was not thrown, she knew her stuff).
Being trusted to buy this important hog for the office was a huge deal to me! I was determined to do the best job I could! Nothing was going to prevent me from my responsibility. Nothing.
The night before I had gone to one of Daniel’s shows at a local venue, I was excited about going to the auction the next day and told a couple of my NEW friends about it. I had met these friends through Daniel, and since he was close friends (and band mates) with their husbands I was eager to have them like me and get to know me. I thought inviting them to see part of my world would be a lot of fun and a great opportunity to get to know each other better.
The next morning my two girlfriends met me at Daniel’s house and us girls carpooled to the fair, it was going to be a great day filled with free food (buyers get snacks!), cotton candy and farm babies! We arrived early, staked our claim to good seats in the auctioneer’s eye-line. I had practiced my steely auctioneer gaze and head nod. We had our buy’s guide; we knew our lot number, and I had coached the girls about giving dirty looks to people bidding against us (come on, 3 pretty girls giving dirty looks? Scary!), we were ready.
We watched the auction and chatted, as our lot number came closer and closer. I spent years working and showing at that fair, so it felt like being back in the saddle again. It was like a reunion of sorts – former 4-H and FFA leaders, members and buyers were everywhere, I had spent the majority of my youth with these people. It was glorious. Until.
Our lot number came up. I was expecting a petite 11 year old girl with a pig, in the ring was a large, male, teenager, with a goat. Not the right 4-H member, not the right species, but the Auctioneer said it was our lot number. I was shocked. One of my friends asked what happened. I didn’t know! I was confused and scared. I was convinced I was going to be fired for failing to do the ONE thing my Boss told me to do. I wanted to cry and puke at the same time.
We sat in the bleachers for a few more minutes as I frantically texted my Boss that SOMETHING BAD HAPPENED. My Boss gave me the phone number for Lilly’s Dad, so I was able to call him and meet up with him to decide what we were going to do.
By this time we had realized what happened. The ring hands got ahead of the auctioneer and had pushed poor Lilly through the ring before her time – basically they skipped her. It wasn’t her fault at all, she was where she needed to be, at the right time. Being the polite 4-H member that she is, she just did what the adults told her to do.
I went to the livestock office and calmly explained what had happened (reminder, I had shown at that fair for a good 9 years and worked at that fair for 5, I was no stranger there). The livestock office manager (who trained me) tried to blame Lilly. I assured her that it was not Lilly’s fault, and again tried to calmly explain what had just happened in the sale ring not 10 minutes before. I even had a picture of Lilly in the sale ring, proving that, indeed, Lilly was where she needed to be. Again, Lilly was blamed. I was told that Lilly would have to wait all day and re-sell at the end of the auction (when there are no buyers left and the prices suck). Nope, I wasn’t going to let that happen. It wasn’t her fault. What kind of example are we setting if the adults won’t even accept responsibility for their errors?
Let’s be frank for a moment. We all know that life is not fair. We all know that whether it is 4-H, high school football, after-school soccer, or room-mothers, there are favorites. There are last names that ‘mean’ more than others. There are people willing to do shady things to make sure their kid wins, or is “the best”. This is a fact of life, and it is no different in the land of agriculture. I have always hated this, I was never that kid with the last name, and my Parents weren’t shady, I hated the unnecessary injustice that tainted positive things for kids. As an adult I do my best not to be a part of this cycle and try and “fix it” if I can.
When Lilly was blamed and punished for something that wasn’t her fault, after I had evidence that proved she had done nothing wrong, and had vouched for her, I absolutely lost my shit (it needs to be noted that Lilly was calm and polite during this whole thing, I think that made it worse for me, she is just so sweet!). Sometimes adults forget that 4-H is about the kids, not about our power trip.
My two girlfriends had never seen a Megan-meltdown before. They had only seen happy, bouncy, giggly Megan (and sometimes the sad, quiet, panic attacky Megan). I scared them. With huge eyes, they politely as possible basically said, ‘omg you are nuts and we are scared, we’ll be at the farm babies exhibit’. By this time I was in phase III, bring it on, I will win, white hot fury. I was so mad I had stopped cussing. That is serious.
I had spoken to every buyer, 4-H leader, auctioneer, runner, member that would listen to my story. I had Lilly’s Parents and Grandma trying to reason with the livestock manager. I left a voicemail with the auctioneer that had skipped Lilly’s hog (he is like a brother to me). Finally I called the fair manager (we were pretty close friends in college and I had worked for him at other fairs), and told him to get over to the livestock office now, he tried to explain that he was busy running the fair, but I wasn’t having that. I was one step away from launching an all out personal war complete with signage and revolting FFA members. I have never had to work so hard to buy a 4-H animal in my life!
Before I made it Office Depot for poster board, I saw the man I knew could fix everything. My former teacher, boss and mentor, Mr. Doug Flesher.
Mr. Flesher is that person that has been involved with 4-H longer than anyone can remember. He’s lead generations of 4-H kids, watched generations of us grow up and go into production agriculture, he’s taught more of us to drive heavy equipment than I can count. In short, he is the most amazing, supportive, positive force in our local ag community and I can only hope to make him proud. I knew if Mr. Flesher got involved he would fix ‘this situation’.
Once Mr. Flesher heard what had happened, he sent me to the corner to calm down, while he spoke with the Powers That Be. The Powers That Be, at that point, realized they had a problem. They said someone else had already bought the hog (I knew that was bullsh*t because we watched the auction, no one even BID on her hog) and I was just told it was Lilly’s fault (PROTIP: get your story straight before you start explaining to me). When the auction runner spoke to the supposed buyer he said no, he bought a goat, not a pig. It was all I could do to not say, “I F’ING TOLD YOU SO”, but I did have a very sassy look on my face.

I did my job! I had to raise hell, but I bought her pig!

I did my job! I had to raise hell, but I bought her pig!

Mr. Flesher and I walked over to the bankers table that financed the sale and arranged it so I could buy the hog. Lilly got a great price, a wrong was righted but I was convinced that A) my friends weren’t my friends anymore because they saw the angry Megan and B) I was going to get fired because I threw such a public hissy fit and my Boss was going to hear about it.

I tentatively searched for my friends in the Farm Baby barn, I was embarrassed they had to witness what they witnessed. But at that point they didn’t care, they found puppies! One friend decided she was going to take one home and gave her husband the best choice ever – a puppy, a baby or a goat. She got the puppy.

Scout the puppy, when she was still a puppy.

Scout the puppy, when she was still a puppy.

After all the excitement I had to go home and have a nap. Actually, let’s be honest. I was convinced my Boss was going to call me into his office on Monday morning and fire my butt, so I was sad, quiet, panic attacky Megan for the rest of the weekend.
Monday rolled around and I sheepishly slunk into the office and quietly put Lilly’s thank you card and picture on his desk. Before I could quietly slink out again my Boss caught me. In tears, I had to explain what happened again. Then, to my surprise he said ‘well, my buddy said I did a good job hiring you’ – I wasn’t fired! My flair for the dramatic had actually been beneficial! FINALLY!
Two years later I am still employed at the same office, the two friends I was sure were going to break up with me? Oh you mean adult 4-H member Kristen, and next year’s adult 4-H member Lesley? Yeah, we are still friends.

See we are all still friends! Plus some!

See we are all still friends! Plus some!

The actual 4-H member Lilly? Yeah, she is raising a steer this year and I get to help her! The puppy? Well Scout is getting ready to be a big sister to Megan Jr. So you see, despite my anxiety, things worked out! Yeah I was deeply sadden by some of the adult’s behavior in the situation, but I fixed it, and until these adults move on, I will support 4-H in other ways, like being a guest leader or support person.

Lilly is now a cool beef kid. The beef barn is way better than the pig barn at the fair!

Lilly is now a cool beef kid. The beef barn is way better than the pig barn at the fair!

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Update: Piggies

I’ve realized it’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a pig update. I’m sorry!!!! Let me fill you in.
We are still having problems with Harry Houdini pig, oops, I mean Char. When Char was a wee piglet he taught himself to escape the pig pen. He’d go hang out with my Dad and get treats. It was funny and cute to me for a long time until I started tripping in his holes. And then Dad started tripping in his holes. Now we are trying to fix this problem.

Char has been escaping his pen daily. I thought it was funny until I was taking a plate of prime rib home and tripped in one of his rooting holes. The prime rib was ok, but the au jus was a goner.

This is what Char escaping his pen looks like. I thought it was funny until I was taking a plate of prime rib home at night and tripped in one of his rooting holes. The prime rib was ok, but the au jus was a goner. If you know me, you know how serious I am about my au jus.

Dad got into his pole collection for us....

Dad got into his pole collection for us….

And added those pole around the bottom of the pen so Char couldn't slip under the fence.

And added those poles around the bottom of the pen so Char couldn’t slip under the fence.

This is what a sad pig looks like when he figures out he can't escape!

This is what a sad pig looks like when he figures out he can’t escape!

We have cotinued cooking slop for the pigs, I'm really getting it down!

We have continued cooking slop for the pigs, I’m really getting it down!

Sam from the Cardinal Rules blog had the brilliant idea of putting a lid on the slop as it cooks, therefore cutting my cooking time!

Sam from the Cardinal Rules blog had the brilliant idea of putting a lid on the slop as it cooks, therefore cutting my cooking time!

I'm saving seeds from the pumpkins and plan on planting them every where on both ranches! (Don't tell my Dad I plan on planting them on the edges of his hay fields!)

I’m saving seeds from the pumpkins and plan on planting them everywhere on both ranches, for next year’s pigs! (Don’t tell my Dad I plan on planting them on the edges of his hay fields!)

I had one of my twitter friends tell me about a study they did where they gave pigs beer to see if it would lower their stress levels. Pigs like beer!

I had one of my twitter friends tell me about a study they did where they gave pigs beer to see if it would lower their stress levels. Pigs like beer!

Like I mentioned before, I was able to get these pigs by promising that I would pay for and take care of everything and my parents would get a freezer full of pork out of the deal. Well, it hasn’t really worked out like that. It’s now adult 4-H/Parent’s having fun. They drove to Orland to buy us cheaper/better slop cooking materials. So nice of them!

Like I mentioned before, I was able to get these pigs by promising that I would pay for and take care of everything and my parents would get a freezer full of pork out of the deal. Well, it hasn’t really worked out like that. It’s now adult 4-H/Parent’s having fun. They drove to Orland to buy us cheaper/better slop cooking materials. So nice of them!

And the last pig pen improvement is a concrete feeding station!!!  My parents surprised me when I got home from work - isn't it awesome!?

And the last pig pen improvement is a concrete feeding station!!! My parents surprised me when I got home from work – isn’t it awesome!?

Happy pigs!

Happy pigs!

And there you have our latest pig update. They are fat and happy, and getting more so everyday!

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Adult 4-H: Piglets and Kidlets

Are you ready for some cute? Fair warning, some of these pictures are going to make your ovaries hurt. First off, a little backstory. Pigs love pumpkins, so do cows, and I’ve been told horses will eat them too. So in a quest to feed our piggies a pastured diet and cut down on waste I issued a call to my friends for their leftover pumpkins (since it was just Halloween).

My Dad went next store to the neighbor’s field and picked through their tilled pumpkin patch for the piggies!

Char got his own sized pumpkin.

The piggies ate their bucket of pumpkins pretty quickly.

The bucket of pumpkins had a few ears of corn in it. Those cobs were like gold! One pig would get one and try and run off and hide, while the others chased him down. I nearly peed my pants laughing so hard.

I had some awesome friends offer to bring me their pumpkins!

Miss Olivia was kind enough to donate her halloween pumpkins and she even helped feed it to the piggies!

The pigs really liked her after that.

After pumpkins it was time to root and play in the mud.

I was helping my future 4-H member Olive feed the pigs pecans.*

Olive and Char got along very well. Even old Nikki dog enjoyed the day and did her best to keep the pigs in a circle for the kids.

Olive was showing us how the pigs drink, I think she wanted one of these at her house.

Olive helped root too! I don’t think she liked it as much as the pigs.

Adult 4-H has been such a wonderful experience so far. In addition to having a lot of fun with the pigs and the other 4-H members, I’m having a ball watching other people meet the pigs. Hopefully I’m influencing a few future 4-H members (I kid, kinda). Stay tuned for more pig fun.

*Photo courtesy of Shannon McCollum

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Adult 4-H: The First Week

We’ve been pig owners for a whole week now. It’s been glorious. I heart pigs. I missed having pigs! It has been an adjustment, for sure! I’ve had to wake up before daylight in order to feed them, take a shower, put on office appropriate-non pig smelling clothes, make-up and still get to work on time. On the plus side, I’ve been so paranoid about getting this done on time, I’ve been early to work all week, score!

Some updates. Char (the runt) is at Kristen’s house because he needed some TLC. He held his own, but the red wattle/tamworths out grew him. He is spending a few days with Kristen and then he will come home to his own little pen until he can run with the big boys. I’ve asked Kristen to write a blog post about being the hospital pen, so look forward to that. I believe Mahina is working on a post too, exciting!

This is why the red wattle are called red WATTLES (the wattles).

Kristen’s sister, Rachel, came over to meet the pigs. She said it was the first time she touched a pig (guess who is doing adult 4-H next time?!?!), she won for quote of the day. Rachel please don’t kill me for sharing this, but it was super awesome:

“It honked at me!!!” – Rachel (meaning it grunted at her)

The pigs are eating very well!

Right now they are eating about 1.5 pounds of this morning and night. And pretty much eating and growing more and more every day. YAY!

This is what their food looks like. They like to stand in it.

Like all kids, they eat, then nap;

Our little sausage links!

Kristen and her sister came over and fed them Oreos (we tried gummi’s, cake, marshmallows, white bread, and fruit with no luck), effectively ‘breaking’ the pigs. They now realize we are the bringers of food and attention and they dig it.

This piggy likes the filling. He’ll put his lips around the cookie, then expects you to drag it out of his mouth (notice the frosting lips).

His brother just liked the cookie part. It was perfect.

We want the pigs to be tame enough to like us, but not be pets. We want low stress, happy pigs when we move them and work with them, but not pigs that we get really attached to, it’s a fine line.

Just call her the pig whisperer.

After a week of living here we figured the pigs were ready to use their whole pen. The pen is about 3/4 of an acre, about half of which was scraped because the weeds were just too much to deal with for such little piggies. Mahina and I moved pig panels so they now have access to this whole area. Of course the first place they wanted to go was…

…into the weeds! Totally scared me! I was looking for foxtails in their ears and eyes, but they seemed to be ok!

It was the best day of their lives – so much rooting going on! I spent my morning picking pecans for them and hiding them in the dirt (it was better than therapy!), anyway the pigs think they have died and gone to heaven rooting up rocks and looking for pecans.

Pigs rooting and looking for nuts.

They will get another few weeks in this pen before we start making portable pens around oaks trees and pecan trees so they can graze and root during the days. We are waiting for them to gain a little more weight and for the weather to change a whisper more, so the nuts drop. I also need to borrow my Dad’s truck and horse trailer to get the panels, unless, you know, he wants to do that for me (hint). In addition to the pasture and nuts they will continue to get their pig grower feed.

Oh, this pork is going to be glorious.

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Adult 4-H: What We’ve Learned in Two Days

Now that we’ve been pig owners for a few days, I thought I would share what we have learned so far:

Proper pig handling is essential for not only your pig’s health, but your own.

Hoot LOVES pigs.

Jack does not love pigs, but realized that a little too late to his liking.

The runt (Char) is really cute.

Learning how to drink from the water nipple took a hot second…..

But they are quick studies.

The runt will always take care of himself.

Our pigs are rooting for us! (But really, these guys love to root, and it’s super fun to watch their pure piggy joy)

Naps are essential on rainy days.

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Adult 4-H: PIGS

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!

Our piglets.

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.

Our truck ready, pigs, our piglet’s Mom, our piglets ready to come home.

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.

Hog heaven! Guardian dogs and pig cats. I liked it there.

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.

This is hands down my favorite olive oil and vinegar place in the world. It’s so good. I make excuses to stop here, I can’t help it! Plus I had to get something for my Mom because we used her truck. I can fit 2 bags of shaving and 3 bags of hog chow in my Corolla, but I think 5 piglets and 3 girls would have been pushing it.

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!

High Mountain Hogs – started because Jamie missed having super good pork too.

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.

Hog farmer Kristen with Yum Yum.

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.

Hog farmer Mahina with Pork Chop.

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.

Pig house!

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.

Me with Char and Hoot lurking. My Boss’s kids are naming my two pigs.

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.

Hoot with her new friends.

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