We picked up five mixed-breed pigs earlier this winter to join the guinea hogs that have been with us since August.
These pigs are a mix of Berkshire and Chester White, so they’ll be larger and leaner than the guineas we sold last year. (We’ll still be raising guineas as well!) Berkshire heritage should give the meat an especially good flavor.
These hogs are pink with black spots, and after growing for a while at our place now, they already they dwarf the solid looking, furry black guineas.
We’re very happy with how they were raised before we bought them — free-range with outdoor pens, hand-fed, and without hormones. The farmers at Pig in the Patch, who bred these pigs, have raised hogs for a very long time and are a wonderful resource.
Picking up those new pigs was a mellow experience that involved driving to the next county, visiting with a friendly farmer and then pulling home a trailer full of pigs nestled in straw. Although they were cautious about exiting the trailer, a little corn convinced them, and they were soon settled in their new abode.
Buying guinea hogs is not so easy, and realistically, we’re going to need to start breeding them if we want to keep offering them, (which I really want to do).
To bring home our current batch of guinea hogs,(the rare black breed) I drove a minivan home from Iowa filled with five pigs, three kids and a generous heap of luggage.
We picked up pigs in Iowa because it is hard to find the rare guinea hog. They are absolutely lovely pigs – notoriously gentle, easy on the feed budget and especially delicious.
Late last summer we found some for sale near an Iowa town we planned to visit anyway, so we arranged to pick them up on our way home.
We met the pigs just south of Des Moines. They were black, furry and about the size of cats except instead of being lithe, they were heavy and solid as logs. We settled them into our straw-lined dog crates, repacked our luggage around the crates and we were on our way.
It was a hot day and the air-conditioning was running. Soon cries of protest rose up from the back seat. I want my kids to take these things in stride, so I encouraged them to be philosophical about the smell. Pigs themselves don’t smell. Pig manure smells, of course, but they’re not unique in that.
Then the odor reached the driver’s seat. Mercifully, I found a way to keep fresh air sweeping from the front of the vehicle to the back and then out. It didn’t smell like potpourri, but the smell diminished to the degree we could all cope with it by being philosophical.
We stopped a couple of times to give water to the pigs, leaving the back of the minivan open so it would not get too hot. As I was buckling my toddler into his car seat at a rest stop, an elderly woman pulled behind us and shouted questions at my daughter.
“What are those?” the lady hollered.
“They’re just little babies!” my daughter gushed.
“They’re little baby WHATS?”
“Where are you taking them?”
“Home to our farm!” my girl answered. Apparently satisfied that nothing awful was happening, the lady pulled away.
At our next stop, my fourth-grader carried a half-gallon Mason jar into a gas station to fill with water for the pigs. We were in the entryway when the jar slipped from his hands and shattered with an explosion that sounded like a gun shot.
For what seemed like forever, I stood immobile, as did the large line of people at the cash register.
When I glanced up, I saw a dozen faces staring at us in silent horror. I tried to look normal and reassuring, telling my stricken son that it was OK, and then explaining loudly to the cashier that we dropped a jar.
Mercifully, we were on the last leg of our journey at that point and did not take any more breaks.
Those pigs arrived safely and are doing well. I think they are marvelous, and I am delighted that four of the five are females, which means we may be able to breed them and keep them with us longer. Really, I think I’d better breed them. I don’t want to drive more pigs home from Iowa if I can avoid it.