Ol' McDonald Had A Farm...

… And on that farm he had a goat. No wait, that’s not a goat, that, that’s a pig. Wait, we have pigs now? Seriously, how did that happen?



Or maybe the question is how did it not happen sooner? I mean, after all, there’s been a pig on our logo for about a year now. Was it always the plan? I don’t think so, I think we just flirted with the idea and added a pig to our logo, so we didn’t have to change it later. But it was something we talked about. Also, we technically had a hog for 20 minutes last year. I meal prep like a madwoman when I have the time. And I use a lot of chicken and pork in those meals. So when farmers weren’t able to process their hogs, they started selling them for cheap, like cheaper than cheap. We ended up getting a hog for $0.50/pound!! Guys, that’s a ridiculous price, these things are expensive! But at the time it was more expensive for the Farmers to keep feeding the hogs. So we jumped on it. We also had no clue what we were doing, so naturally we turned to YouTube university to learn. After hours and days of watching people process these animals we were confident. We can do this! Chris found counter tops on sale at Menards, and made little butcher counters for us. Next, I hooked up a TV and my fire stick and positioned all of our equipment so when we were ready, I would hit play and we could follow along with how to get the cuts we wanted.


We located a farmer who was selling his hogs, and we arranged to meet him, we had a great conversation and he gave us some pointers. So we loaded up the hog and off we went, kind of excitedly unsure of what we just got ourselves into. 20 mins later we were home, and now it got real, for me at least. We’ve processed chickens, and rabbits, and each time Chris gives me a pep

talk of what’s going to happen. This was no different. Except this thing was five foot long and 300 pounds. From my culinary school background I know your meat is much more tender when it’s not stressed, so we let the hog relax and fall asleep. In the meantime we prepared the 55 gallon food grade barrel with water and got the propane tank going to heat it up. We had the tractor ready to hoist this beast into the water barrel. Once we were ready to scald him we realized the tractor wasn’t tall enough. And he was so heavy the tractor couldn’t hold him. So we had to hook up the rope to the tractor and pull with the 4-wheeler. It was a sight to see, and one the FedEx guy got a good chuckle with. YouTube University taught us that the water needed to be between 145-150F and we needed to submerge him long enough to loosen his hair. How long is long enough? No idea because we didn’t do it right. We could not, for the life of us, scrape off the hair that everyone in all the videos made look so easy. We spent hours dealing with this issue. The only reason we didn’t just skin him is because we planned to make prosciutto and you need the skin on for that. So we kept on working. We finally gave up and used a blow torch.


Next we moved into the pole barn and hit play, our carefully selected video guided us through the process of getting all the cuts we wanted. We hit pause, we replayed it, we took breaks, but we did it. And yes, we had some amazing bacon, and I have used the lard in basically everything


we’ve eaten. We’ve talked about getting another hog here and there. We even went out and purchased material to assist us in an easier process, but we haven’t done it. Mostly because it’s too hot, but also because we’re busy. So we just kept buying pork in the grocery store. No big deal. But I’m my adventures of being a Farmer’s Market vendor, I met a fellow vendor at the Plainwell Market who mentioned she was looking at pigs for her farm. “Wow! That’s so cool”! She told me about the Mangalitsa pigs and how they are super hairy and don’t smell and are more like dogs than hogs, and they take like 16 months to grow. I immediately said, “nope, I’d get attached and then we would just have these hogs that were supposed to be dinner”. She said, “but you can keep some to breed, and just process the others”. Hmm, so I can fall in love with two and the rest I just can’t get attached to. That’s something to think about. When I got home I mentioned the conversation to Chris who immediately started looking them up and looking for farms with these pigs. We found out that Mangalitsa or Mangalica pigs are originally from Hungary and were almost extinct but Monte Nevado in Spain started breeding them and they became one of the most popular pigs in Europe, in 2007, they were imported to the US. Michigan is the #1 producer of Mangalitsa in the US. Plus they’re hairy and would go well with the Fulffy Butt theme of our farm.


So back to YouTube we went. Who here in Michigan raises them, do they have videos, how do they do in winter, what kind of housing do they need? And the big question, how much will it cost us to feed them? Well surprisingly there aren’t many videos about these pigs, or how people care for them. What we did discover was the truth behind the meat. Did you know pork isn’t supposed to be “the other white meat”? It’s naturally red, like steak! In fact, everyone who is raising the Mangalitsa pigs compared their meat to Kobe beef. That’s when we got really excited. Everyone also talked all about the amount of fat on the hog, which is great for lard, but also that leaves you with less meat. Which is actually why the pork in the store is so popular. It’s lean. These commercial hogs are bred to be leaner, with more meat, less flavor, and to grow fast. In our YouTube University classes, we also discovered a few other popular heritage breeds, Old Spots, Red Wattle, and Tamworth. One family did a taste test between these four hogs. Their discussion and decision helped guide us on our decision. The whole family and their kids voted, there was more red meat, and the growing time was much less than the Mangalitsa, plus, this hog would also do well in Winter.


So we decided to go with Red Wattles as our introduction to hogs. Chris looked into a few more farms, made contact with them, looked up the fencing and asked around, “who wants pork”? So we landed on 4 hogs. We found a man not too far away, we scheduled a day and time, set up the recommended electric netting, bought a feeder, found housing for them, and that was that. We were ready! We drove to Nashville, MI to pick up our new farm animals. This is where I learned how to pick up a pig, and let me tell you, I wasn’t expecting it. You just grab them by the back legs and lift them. Also, pigs bite, so I can see why you pick them up this way, but a little warning would have been nice! The breeding hogs were HUGE!!!

The pictures do not do it justice! They also had calves just wandering around. No seriously, they were just wandering around the property, and a couple of donkey's. We got the four easiest to catch girls, loaded them up, and we hit the road. We were so proud of ourselves, so excited about this new/next adventure. Still not sure if we plan to breed them at this point, but really excited about the opportunity. Then we got them home.


So, here’s what you’re supposed to do when you get your new pig's home. Leave them in the trailer with only water, for the night. Then the following morning when they’re nice and hungry, you take one at a time and put them in the electric netting you so carefully set up. An even better idea would be to have some visible food waiting for them so they immediately go to that, then grab a beer, sit back and wait for them to learn the fence. Have you ever seen the TV show Nailed it? If not, it’s a fantastically hilarious show of people who can’t bake but are trying to recreate a beautiful professional work of art. The outcome is always a disaster, some are actually not too terrible, but for the most part it’s not even close to the original project. Our experience is the farm version of that show. Here’s what we did; we got out of the truck, ooh’d and awe’d over the pigs, the kids looked in the trailer, we walked away and then went back and looked again. We added food to their feeder, made sure the fence was still looking good. Then Chris said, “what do you think? Should we test one out”? My first thought was, ‘well they do seem pretty calm’, “sure”! Plus I didn’t really want to keep them in the trailer all night.

So we put the dogs inside, Chris opened the fence and we used a team work method to get the pig. I manned the doors to the trailer while he caught one. He hoisted it up by the back legs, I opened the door to let him out, and immediately closed it behind him. He walked into their new enclosure surrounded by electric netting and carefully set the pig down. (Now what he had read was, if a pig is shocked anywhere in front of it’s ears, it will immediately back up). The pig was inside the electric netting enclosure for about 20 seconds before she decided to challenge the electric netting. She sniffed it, got shocked, and jumped through the netting. Here’s where we both had the same thought, “huh”. We never even considered the fact that she might start running away from us down the hill and through the woods.


Within a minute, she was gone. Not a sight or sound to help us locate her. Chris ran after her as I casually made my way behind him after I made sure the trailer doors were locked. I finally caught up with Chris who silently pointed her out up a hill. We decided we would divid and conquer her by coming at her from two sides. So I went up the hill and he went around the back on the low end. Not a sound other than my footsteps could be heard. We met at the top, and neither of us had seen her. Just like that, she was gone. We walked back to the house thinking of all the potential ramifications this could have. I called my mom, who has a pet pig, let a friend know we already lost her and then we started to feed the rest of the animals. Right about that time a neighbor pulled in rolled her window down and asked, “are you missing pigs”?

“Yes”!

“I saw them running through my front yard”.

“We’re only missing one”, I was hoping there weren’t two additional pigs running around the neighborhood. "Oh, then it must have just run by twice" she said. So I yelled for Chris, and off I went with the kids trailing closely behind me. We ran up to the street and just as we got to the top of the driveway, another car pulled in and asked, "are you missing a pig"? I said, "yes, another neighbor just came and told us she saw it, where did you see it"? She told me down the road a bit and it ran into the swamp. So now this thing is crossing the road, going back and forth. What have we done? My biggest fear was that she would cross the road, or jump in front of a car or bike, and then we were sunk. So the kids and I walked down to the swamp, and Chris walked through the back woods. Nothing. Plus, how are we going to catch her even if we do see her? So we called it a night. We headed in started making dinner, and my phone rang. "Hello"?

"Hi, is this Fluffy Butt Farms"?

"Yes it is".

"Do you have pigs"? I started laughing, "Yes, we do and we're missing one", I replied. She told me it was down the in neighborhood, right down from us, so off we went. By this point, Chris had told me to stop saying it was ours. I laughed him off, I can't lie, I'm really bad at it, and I would just mess it up. ( Like Joey on Friends bad). All four of us piled into the truck and we drove down to the Dana neighborhood. We were met by some of the neighbors who had recently seen the pig, and even tried to catch it. She said, "that thing is faster than my cat". This time we officially gave up. Chris and I went to bed and talked about having to make a very hard decision, if we can't catch her. But so far, we hadn't seen her since the minute she ran off. We had left the other pigs in the trailer, gave them a very small amount of food, and hoped to lure her in with their noises. But how? We didn't know where she was.


The next morning, we got up, had breakfast and a good amount of coffee so we had the energy to deal with the day. Right away, another neighbor showed up to let us know he saw the pig in his yard this morning. He and Chris exchanged information and said they would keep each other in the loop. For now, we couldn't focus on her, we had to get the other three pigs out of the trailer and into our electric netting enclosure. But first, we added hog panel around the netting, you know, just in case. Once we had that set up, it was time to try another pig. This time we added food right in the middle, and these ladies were hungry. So we did the same thing, Chris got the pig, hoisted it by the back legs, I opened and closed the trailer doors, he got her into the fence, and this time, she stayed. And ate. We felt good about that, so we added the next one, and then the next one. All three pigs grunted and squealed, and stayed inside the fence. It was great! We were thrilled. About 30 minutes later, we saw the escape artist hoping through the woods in our backyard. OH MY GOSH!!!! I pointed her out to Chris, and we both froze, what's the plan? How do we get her back? How do we get her attention? And just like that she was gone again. UGH! So I decided to put food down in the direction she went in, and lead it towards the other side of the farm. She has to be hungry, and maybe we can get her close enough she will hear the other pigs and we can scoop her up and put her with them. About 45 minutes later, we saw her bouncing through the woods again, Chris pointed her out, was down in the woods fast. We can't chase her, but we need to attract her. He had a little food, and then I heard, "here piggy, heeeerrreeee piggy". She started trotting towards him, and then stopped. I was worried she was going to run again, so I waved my arms in front of the other pigs, who started grunting again and squealing. That got her attention! She ran up the hill towards the pigs, they saw her and got even louder. YES!! She kept trying to squeeze through the hog panel, she went everywhere they went, and they went everywhere she went. Chris tossed some food in the enclosure hoping to get her around the corner, she got closer and closer, so I opened the gate, and she walked right in. Wow! After all that, she walked right back in. We were relieved.



It's only been a couple of weeks since we brought the pigs home, but so far we're enjoying having them. We aren't sure if we want to breed them yet, it's not too much additional work (unless they escape), and we're really looking forward to trying the meat. We've decided next year we will get a few different kinds of pigs and see which ones we like the best. For now, we're just happy the escape artist is back and doing well. We also owe meeting a lot of our neighbors to her. If they didn't know we were here, they do now!!



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