becoming us

Wednesday, November 21:

Last Wednesday, November 14, at approximately two-thirty p.m., we Arrived.  We became one of “us”.  No acceptance into the most elite country club can compare with this membership; more meaningful to us than the most exacting background check and black-ball vote was our unsolicited, untutored enrollment into a native farmer’s first person plural.  V., our feed man and source of wisdom in all things pig, gave us our admittance.  We planted our pig turnips at his advice, and now we were telling him how they were working out.  “Most people don’t have time,” he observed.  “Better for them they should just buy the formulated feed and put it in the hopper.  I don’t tell them all the things they could be doing; they aren’t like Us, they don’t want to know the real way.”

Our heart swelled like that of a girl given her first dozen roses.

V. learned his art from a man born before the turn of the nineteenth century, an old hillsman named Arnet Buzzard (I’m not making this up); Arnet knew V. was listening to him, and would talk to him by the hour.  “I never laughed at Arnet.  Folks thought he was crazy; he’d just shut up and let them think so, but he had been raising pigs since before their granddaddies were born, and he knew all the ways to do it around here.”

“Arnet told me to feed the pigs coal.”  (Coal?  Yes, coal, just plain black coal, about as big as an egg.)  “Just throw it in, he said, and let ‘em eat it; gives them their sulphur.  I threw some coal in there and it sounded just like a rock grinder.  The old ones taught the younger ones to eat it; pigs do that, learning from one another like people do.  Arnet would feed them oil, too, ground oil from the wells around here.”  (“Pour it on ‘em, too, for parasites,” agrees V.’s brother.)  “Yes, he would give them oil for minerals, thick and sticky; if he had to he’d just scrape it up with the dirt in it and give it to them.  People thought he was crazy, but old Arnet sure could raise a pig.”  Arnet is in his grave now, but we will throw some coal in to the pigs from the heap by the forge in S-1’s barn, and ground oil, too, if we can find any.  V., our wise man, is our link to a hundred years ago and more; we will catch each piece of knowledge from him with anxious fingers, hoping when we lift these from the top more will rise to the surface.

And treasure as our costly university diplomas that unsolicited inclusive pronoun.

In this world, in our experience, few things are an unqualified success.  The five pigs foraging on the big monastery garden, while they demonstrate their good appetite for beets and turnips are going through the root vegetables at such a rate that soon all the beets and turnips will be converted into pig.  We resolve next year to put out the seeds for our pigs’ winter food much earlier, and to have the right sort of seeds:  mangel wurzels instead of sugar beets and table beets, shelling beans instead of Kentucky Wonders and Blue Lakes, and Golden Bantam field corn, and winter cabbages.    In fact, when the people crops are harvested from either of the big gardens we want to set out fall and winter fodder crops for the pigs in long parallel rows; then in late fall when we put the pigs into the gardens we can just move a line fence up the rows, letting them feed on the array of crops free-choice.

2 thoughts on “becoming us

  1. Oh, such wonderful pig advice! We just got a new breeding pair of Tamworths and have been feeding them pumpkins, all the while talking about growing mangels for them for next year! And coal…who’d have thought! Can’t wait to try it! Thanks for sharing the highs and lows to encourage and inspire us like minded folks. Happy Thanksgiving – much, much, much to be thankful to the good and gracious Lord for.

    1. Funny — when one dies I look at all the others and wonder who else is going to surprise me! It gives me the willies. Both animals looked fine until they looked dead. Interesting note: the pig that died is one of the ones we raise with our wonderful neighbors, with a self-feeder full of commercial feed. Q: how does a farmer with self-feeders know if one of his animals isn’t eating lately? This pig wasn’t thin, it’s true, but I think I will notice if one of the pastured pigs doesn’t push his way to the trough and get his nose down, while the dead pig might have been off his feed for a day or two and no one the wiser. Not that I’d have had a vet in or anything if I knew he wasn’t eating for a day. God is good. Happy Thanksgiving! Beth P.S. I looked at your blog — what a blessing to have such witness out there. I know what “orthodox” means in RC circles, and I know what “Orthodox” (big “O”) means (as in “Russian” or “Eastern”) — what does it mean in Presbyterian circles? Sounds like I’m trying to make division between Christians, but I’m trying to make connections instead — Ignore this Q if it doesn’t fit with our interface — Beth just for the record, we are “orthodox” RC meaning we follow our church and don’t pick and choose —

      Shawn and Beth Dougherty The Sow’s Ear


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