Today saw the realisation of a dream/fantasy Nick has had for over 35 years – that is to own a pig! They are our first livestock and we hope that they will lead a good life, eat well and enjoy themselves digging up large areas of our land (and manuring it as they go) so we can plant some great crops that will feed them and us and all the other livestock and poultry.
“Once upon a time there were four baby girl pigs. The piggie sisters were born on a friendly little farm on the edge of a village called Palamartsa (near Popovo) and they lived with 20 or so other little piglets on the farm that belongs to a very nice, friendly and kind couple called Lisa and Paul. One day a big hairy faced man with funny wellies and a funny hat on, from Alekovo near Svishtov, turned up at their farm with his son and bought the 4 sisters, and stuck them in a big wooden box in the back of his car, together with a few bags of baby pig food.”The four little pigs - an Alekovo Anecdote
“About an hour later the little piggies arrived at the funny man’s home. They were lifted out of the box and put into a pen in a field that had strange white tape around the edges – and boy did that tape give the pigirls a shock if they touched it! The man and his son (and some friends) had built a nice big house for them, all filled with a thick layer of straw and some juicy hay, which they seemed to love.”The four little pigs - an Alekovo Anecdote
There’s no doubt that at this age and size they are very cute and playful – I can watch them for hours – and they already enjoyed being scratched behind their ears or down their flanks. Feeding them 3 times a day at the moment provides lots of opportunities to observe and learn more about them and their behaviour. As they continue to grow it will be important to try to get them to bond with us to make it easier to move them around or follow us or simply behave when we are around them. I can imagine a 100kg pig that doesn’t want to do what you want it to could be a real pain!
“Later that day the man’s son crawled into their house and started feeding them apples that their lovely old neighbour lady, Nyedelka, had given them. They loved this and one even started to take some apple from the young man’s hand.The four little pigs - an Alekovo Anecdote
They are definitely not going to be raised in the traditional Bulgarian way (in a pigsty with no space to roam or root or run). Our goal is to use the pigs natural instincts for finding food and keep moving them around to “plough” and fertilise areas ready for planting – maybe moved to a new area every week. We also hope in the spring to put them in a much larger area – about 3/4 of an acre that is pretty wild and uncultivated – with a few goats and the poultry all ranging together. That’s the dream, we will see!
By the end of the day the hairy faced man and his son had named each of the piglets: One was called Black Betty (‘cos she is black and its a name from a good song) and the others they called Snap, Crackle and Pop – because those are the noises that bacon and sausages make in the frying pan!”The four little pigs - an Alekovo Anecdote
Before anyone asks – yes, at least 3 of the pigs will eventually be humanely slaughtered and all that hard work, and lots of food from the land, will be converted into delicious joints, chops, bacon, sausage, hams and other stuff (hopefully, when we learn how). Once again, unlike our Bulgarian pig owner friends (and indeed many pig owners) we don’t want to set an age to slaughter them, or a specific weight – we will see how things go. But certainly next Christmas (2017) I plan to have a ham hanging from the kitchen beams!
And, depending on how her character develops and our general experience, we may keep Black Betty and try to raise our own litter of piglets next year to see if it is worth the trouble, and whether we can cope/manage or not. Like so much that we are learning to do, we are very happy to wait and see how it all turns out. Anyway, must go – time to feed the pigs!