My sisters Jenny and Katie both work and live in Scotland, and I haven't seen them together at the same time for a few years. I admit to longing for precious family time with them, but at the moment it is not to be and farm life goes on.
To take my mind off the potential fun I am missing out on, I decided to secure our Christmas Lunch 2022. I like meat, my husband does not think a meal is a meal without meat, and we all love a good braai (cooking meat on a grid over hot coals made from wood).
We often joke that when the time comes, hubby’s headstone will be inscribed "where's the meat?”
Many years ago, I decided that if I want to eat meat I need to take responsibility for where my meat source is coming from, and be prepared to raise and slaughter the animal.
Why Organic farming is important
With the ever-increasing cost of fertilizers and the damage they do to our soil, it's important to keep livestock for fertilization and working the soil. A good meat source is part of the whole eco-farming circle, with pigs free-ranging on the land ploughing it up as they go, giving manure and getting rid of loads of unwanted weeds.
Pigs are all a part of that cycle, with their excellent noses made of cartilage which allows them to root up weeds and insects. I learned about this first-hand when one of my first pigs, Posh, was kicked on the nose by a horse. Blood gushed furiously and she screamed blue murder. I ran to the house in hysterics and phoned my vet, expecting him to say it was over for Posh. Instead, he calmed me down and sternly told me to "get a grip - pigs have amazing noses - make some tea and go see later”. Well, it took a few days but her nose was right as rain again.
Pigs are omnivores and eat anything you give them, or they forage for themselves. They have large litters of piglets and you can go very quickly from having one boar and a sow to having a whole farm full of piggies. A sow can go from being tame and loving scratches to becoming enraged and murderous if you mess with her piglets.
Enjoying the journey
Raising a few pigs on the farm for our (almost) organic free-range lifestyle has been the farm tradition for many years. We haven’t had pigs since Covid, so I decided to find two sow piglets. I found Duroc Piglets for sale on a local Whatsapp group, booked two piglet sows, and circled the collection date on my calendar.
At last, the day dawned for us to make the drive over the mountain and around the coast to collect the piglets. It is always an adventure to drive somewhere off the farm and it usually involves a few hours on the road. I invited my best little travel companion, Indi the mini dapple dachshund along for the drive - who might I add has had plenty of piggery experience.
Bringing home the bacon
My route took me through the beautiful city of George, along the Garden Route and its gorgeous beaches, and past the forest area which in the day was home to the great Knysna Elephants. Traditional woodcutters' lives were always in danger from elephants, and whoever could imagine that in a few decades there would only be one remaining solitary elephant cow.
I love going to other farms, not only for the scenery but also to get a glimpse into how they operate, how they live and provide an income for themselves and often many more families on the same farm.
I appreciate the diversity of the different types of farms in the area - some produce timber whilst others are green grasslands for dairy cows. There are also some small homesteads dotted between the big farms, eking out a self-sustaining and off-the-grid life.
Once I reached my destination with the help of Google maps, I met the pig sellers and we chatted a while and exchanged ideas. I had taken along a big rabbit cage with some lucern and other treats for the piggies to make sure they were comfortable on their road trip.
The way to catch a pig is by its back legs. They are low and fast, have gnashing jaws and scream so loudly when you catch them that one often lets go of them in fright. On this occasion, I was beyond relieved to see the piglets already loaded into a trailer and it was only a matter of transferring them into the rabbit cage. Even this takes nerves of steel, with me thinking "please don't bite me," in my head (yes pigs can deliver a very nasty bite) and trying very hard not to show the farmer man I was secretly a bit nervous.
I took one look at the beautiful little red sow piglets and named them Jenny and Katie, after my two sisters of course.
Home sweet home
The sisters soon settled into farm life. We initially let them free range, but they do tend to go for your veggie patch and anywhere else you don’t want them to go - like digging up your new rose bush. We made them a nice little area with a den and they will be given ample time to grow. We feed them corn, house scraps and the odd chicken eggs. Tending to them is a twice-daily task of keeping them watered and fed, cleaning their sleeping quarters and making sure they are at all times healthy and parasite free.
A week ago, one of our neighbours called and offered us manna from heaven - three truckloads of carrots! The pigs, horses and chickens have enjoyed them immensely, and the green tops will be used for compost.
What you put in is what you get out
Eating meat is not just about eating meat. It's about taking responsibility, and being kind to your future energy source. It's empowering to know what goes into your body and know that you can provide for yourself in a kind and ethical way.