Yesterday we visited the lovely folks at Phoenix Farm in Marlboro, NH, to meet and purchase our newest member of the family: a female Guinea hog.
We have wanted to move away from standard, commercial breeds and into all heritage breeds for a long time. When we first started out farming five years ago, it was with various hand-me-down (ahem, "I hatched these for my kids, but now the fun is over; please take them!") flocks of chickens, all of various barnyard mix origins. When we moved into ducks and geese, we made more deliberate choices to find heritage breeds that are best suited to our climate and our farm's needs.
Last fall, we once again fell into the hand-me-down trap when we received an offer we could not refuse: three Yorkshire cross piglets at very low cost. We knew we wanted to raise Guinea hogs eventually, but figured we'd take these three for cheap winter meat. With the availability of grocery-store castoffs (a godsend!), we were able to raise them fairly economically, but winter pigs are still difficult. They can't get outside easily, and these three grew FAST, so their additional food intake was off the charts.
One of the three, the female, endeared herself to me mid-winter when she began coming to the fence for attention. She was calm, loving, and I just couldn't bring myself to see her slaughtered. I knew the pigs were food, and I don't have a problem with that concept at all. But after years of disinterested poultry, our first farm mammals were hard for my heart to resist, especially this one. When Elodie Reed did astory of our farm for the Concord Monitor and featured Blossom's snout as one of the photos, I decided her celebrity was cause enough for her salvation, and told Sam "We have a keeper."
Fast forward to March, when Blossom's brothers were sent away to their inevitable fate. Blossom was moved out of her winter barn stall to the relative Valhalla of a pasture patch and a pallet palace. She spent one day frolicking and running, then stopped eating. She stood by the fence, calling to me from across the yard, and moping. I went through a litany of disasters (it's what I do), each one culminating in high vet bills and massive guilt for bad pig parenting. They ranged from plant poisoning to malnutrition to cancer (I told you, it's what I do!), some more quickly dismissed than others. Finally I sat with her in the pasture for longer than normal, and noticed that once she had had her fill of belly scratches, she went over to her food trough and... well... pigged out.
BINGO. I went inside and told Sam we needed another pig, pronto. Blossom was lonely and depressed.
Sam is nothing if not a stellar researcher. Within two days he had not only found local Guinea breeders, but had talked to two and tracked down an adult male and female, at separate farms, that were ready to go as breeding stock. Yesterday, we traveled to Phoenix Farm and picked up the first of them.
Zuzu is adorable. Her little face is squished like an Ewok, and she is half-grown at 8 months old, but only the size of a (very fat) spaniel. Her original farm name was "Ouch," but that didn't seem to fit the new role she was purchased to fill. The kids went through a million names on the two-hour ride home, and we finally settled on naming her after the youngest daughter in It's a Wonderful Life, who brings joy back into her father's life just by being herself.
Blossom is beside herself with joy at Zuzu's arrival, and has spent the last 24 hours pacing at the fence, snorting and grunting. Zuzu, for her part, has spent every second since she walked out of her crate either eating or sleeping in her makeshift shelter, an old doghouse, and pointedly ignoring poor Blossom. However, I think this bodes well for a non-aggressive introduction. We will give it another day or two before we open the gate, just to be sure.
Stay tuned for more photos and updates as we embark on this new chapter of our heritage animal husbandry journey!
Ray is part of the Ray and Randi duo, who actually don't live on the farm. They have a micro-homestead in Gilmanton, but are VERY active over at IFP and are guest bloggers for them.
What Have You Missed?
Inheritance Farm Permaculture