Hog Slaughter

Before I move forward on this distressing topic (for me), I must step back a bit. I grew up on a hog farm. I learned early how to say “sueey” at the top of my lungs and held the pigs’ back legs when my dad was “cutting” them – this is a nice euphemism for castration. I have a strong memory of slipping in the pig yard when I was about 6, and falling on my back in the pig shit, which had to be about 4” thick. I could fill a book with hog stories from my youth, but will save those for another day.

I love pigs, everything about them, including, alas, the flavor of their meat. Everyday this fall Clare and Jonathan and I had one piece of bacon each and then the scrambled eggs and veggies that were fried in them. I have found that lard is my fat of choice for cooking almost everything. Pigs are ornery, they are social, they are lazy, and they are industrious. They are affectionate and they are no nonsense. If I could talk pig language I would be elated to know what they are saying with their various grunts and snuffles and squeaks.

This year we have really almost looked forward to the weekly pig move. The hogs cheerfully pile into their mobile home lured by a dish of grain, and usually wait rather patiently for the move behind the tractor. This move is always accompanied by lots of vocalizations, especially by the ones who end up in the “back of the bus.” But once we get to the new location, they immediately start to uproot the turf under their house while we restring the electric fence and let them out. They go joyously to their new pasture, running from one end to the other, shouting to each other about all the fun it is going to be to investigate what is under the surface.

As slaughter day approaches – and it is only 2 days away, I get a little more heartsick and guilty about taking another’s life. When the truck arrives from Adams, I usually go into the house with them and sing to them as I push them out to that step up into the next world. It does assuage a little bit of guilt.

We all take another’s life every time we eat, whether it is the life of a lettuce plant or that of a cow with big beautiful brown eyes. I am glad that I “know” my food -often very intimately, but it just doesn’t make it any easier to kill it. I know that I must have a sense of reverence around the food that I eat, and do my best to raise it with the best of intentions and practices. Yet I wonder if the day will come when I don’t put those pigs on the truck.

Perhaps they knew something was up, but 7 of the 8 pigs on Sunday morning made a fast track over the fence and out to the woods. Dan, Raffi, Doodle and I hustled out after them. Dan cut them off before they made the swamp and we all ended up in the Fisheries and Wildlife land on our property edge. Though 3 of the 7 pigs headed dutifully back into their enclosure, the other 4, and finally the female leader all by herself, put up good resistance for another 20 minutes or so.

Highlights of the experience were when 6 year old Raffi herded one pig back in with a fence pole and then Dan tackled one and threw it over the fence. Eventually all were back in and we clocked another farm family event for the memory banks. Maybe I won’t be that upset to see them go on Wednesday!

Farm Videos From Last Week

Three-part showing of leafing and chipping our new strawberry bed for 2023

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Putting bird houses into the parking lot

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Moving the old water heater out and putting in a new one

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Prepping a new area for grapes in the annex

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CSA Updates This Week

Join the 2023 Summer and Fall CSA Early

We will be raising prices for 2023 for both the summer and the fall share, but between now and December 31 you can pay 2022 prices. This provides savings for you and helps us hopefully squeak by with our break-even budget. Financial solvency for farmers is elusive at best. You can follow this link – https://mhof.net/csa-share-options/

Been thinking about joining our CSA but not yet made the commitment?

Reason number 4 for joining the 2023 CSA

When you join the MHOF CSA you are supporting excellent environmental management. Our vegetables are grown in a no till, carbon sequestering, water recycling fashion that improves the soil structure and supports biodiversity in plant, animal and insect life.

Reason number 5 to join the MHOF CSA before December 31.

At MHOF we pay very fair wages that start at $15/hour, and our employees and volunteers receive our “health insurance” that includes a weekly share, breakfast and lunch – true health insurance.

Reason number 6 to join the MHOF CSA before December 31.

Join the MHOF CSA and change or enhance the way you eat. We load on the vegetables, many of them health-giving greens, and as the season progresses ample fruiting crops and roots. We provide recipes and instructional videos to help you on your way.

Reserve a 2023 CSA Share

Working Shareholders Always Welcome

Yes, you can still add yourself to the MHOF workforce. Starting the first full week of December we are hosting working shareholders on M and F mornings with a modest pay check of 1 dozen eggs, a quart of frozen apple or pear sauce and greens from the hoop houses while they last.

Scott showing off his modern art installation of hoop house wiggle wire

Volunteer at MHOF

Farm Doin’s

It snowed twice this week and I had my most challenging moment for a few when all the staff, Stetson folks, working shareholders and the new plow guy Mike Valley all showed up at the same moment. Danny nicely set up a parking area and Mike dodged chickens while Matt and Clare moved bags of leaves over to the west field. Things did calm down and we proceeded with our two main events on Monday of mulching the new strawberry area and moving 9 bird houses back to the edge of the farm. Meanwhile, Jonathan and Stu put up canoe and kayak racks and took apart another end-of-life bird house. Some snuck in a little wood splitting, cutting away at our ever-shrinking pile of firewood to manage.

Wednesday Mike Russ showed up to help us change out our old water heater and replumb the new one to our wood cook stove water heating system. We managed with no stove for 1 ½ days with the handy hot plate and basement wood stove.

Thursday, we prepped a new grape trellis with cardboard, newspapers and chips and mulched half of our annex blueberries with chips.

Friday was a great clean up day. Jonathan and Laurie cleaned up the shed and Laurie, much to Clare’s great pleasure, found the mushroom bit for our angle grinder. Scott, Clare, Paul and I worked some magic on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the barn. We now have wide open spaces up there. In the afternoon Clare and Jonathan made up our holy basil tincture, ordered some seeds and prepped spices for our sausage, and Jonathan turned his hand once more to networking Clare’s and my computers.

Julie showing off a harvest of greens from the hoophouses

What is this white stuff?

Stu manages the repair of the big barn door that slipped off its run on Monday

Asher takes an “angel” break during house moving

Houses all in a row

I thought I might have an emotional breakdown when the guy delivering the new hot water heater showed up on Monday too

Dan and Jack filling some holes in the back of the stove


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