When I told an old high school friend about our movement back to the land, I admitted to him that we were possibly thinking about chickens and goats, then awaited his shock. He was understanding: “Sounds good. Chickens, goats, horses. All normal. I think it’s when you start talking about pigs that you are crossing some sort of line.”
We’re at that point. And it’s Gordon Ramsay’s fault.
Andy’s been avidly watching British Chef Gordon Ramsay’s quest to show his children where food comes from. First, he dug up his wife’s beautifully manicured back garden to put in a turkey pen. Now that the turkeys have become Christmas dinner, he’s brought in the pigs. (See how the whole experiment brought him to tears.)
But it hasn’t deterred Andy: “We could raise pigs. And we could have our own killing shed and make sausages.”
Thank you, NO. My grandfather was a farmer. I know meat doesn’t grow in little styrofoam trays. My conditions for raising animals that we eventually eat is that we find a nice humane butcher with his own abbatoir — preferably a mobile one — and I can be off in Sonoma Square having a facial when the slaughter goes down.
But Andy’s fixated on pigs. And he’s almost winning me to his side.
For one thing, pigs gobble down acorns which are poisonous to horses. If we could have one or two pigs in the pasture scarfing down acorns by the bushel, we could stop listening to those people who are warning us we have to cut down all our oak trees.
Secondly, free-range pork is delicious. I’ll never forget the pork in Ireland where the pigs grazed out in the pastures. Lean but juicy and with incredible flavor. However, I’m not sure pigs will be too happy in our pasture. For instance, they have the skin of Swedish supermodels. They can burn in the sun just by thinking about it. Secondly, they have no functional sweat glands. That could mean a hog wallow, which I’m not willing to have. Or an air-conditioned pig house, which wouldn’t help our carbon footprint. And wouldn’t really be very fair since we haven’t included air conditioning in our living space. It’s a dangerous juncture where your livestock live better than you do!
The answer may be the heritage breed called The Large Black (pictured above). My research says they’re hardy, they thrive on pasturing, they are less susceptible to sunburn and they don’t have the nasty aggressive tendancies of some other pig breeds. You know, like goring you with their tusks or acting as a body disposal unit for serial killers. (See the second Hannibal Lecter book!)
So maybe pigs are back under consideration for Two Terrier Vineyards.
Andy’s polishing up his final argument. The clincher. Winston Churchill famously loved pigs:
“I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”
It’s hard to talk an Englishman out of something Winston Churchill liked. I’ve tried that with cigars. Ask my friends how that’s going.