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It's a boar! And three gilts!
My story this week about the endangered American mulefoot hog and the people trying to save it ended unresolved with Linda Derrickson and Mark Kessenich's very pregnant pig Crystal, who shares a grass paddock with another gilt named Cherry, ready to give birth to her first litter any day.
I'm proud to say that Crystal farrowed (gave birth to) her first four piglets right on schedule Monday afternoon--one day after Mother's Day (more pics attached below).
At present Crystal and Cherry each have separate hutches in the paddock. Shortly before the birth Linda said she noticed Cherry building a hay nest in Crystal's hutch, which made her suspect that she might be the one ready for piglets. Turns out Cherry was just helping out. Kessenich says Crystal farrowed fast, easy, and without human intervention, which is typical of mulefoots. "I checked them about 11:30," he says. "I've been mowing grass and throwing that in there and Cherry was begging for that. So I came down about 3 and mowed and threw it in and when Crystal didn't show up I said, 'Oh, I'd better look.' I stuck my head in there and she still had her head buried in a whole pile of hay, but I could see three or four heads."
The little things are impossibly cute: black, shiny, silky, about the size of guinea pigs, and though they're sticking close to mama, or burying themselves deep in hay to keep warm these first few days, they're already distinguishing themselves--the boar has tiny white feet, a deviation from solid black allowable under the breed standard.
We at the Food Chain have been scheming for months for a way to make our own bacon, and our own contribution to the burgeoning pig lit genre. So we've put a deposit down on one of the Hillspring Eco-Farm mulefoot piglets, and in the next few weeks, as they start to grow, we're going to pick one out, name it, and raise it. Well, farmers are going to raise it.
It'll take anywhere from 10 months to a year to bring our piglet up to slaughter weight. During that time we're going to check in on a regular basis and examine every aspect of what it takes to raise your own food--the ups, the downs, the tears, the laughter, the squeals, the meals. When the time comes we--and a very talented chef to be named later--are going to prepare every part of the pig possible. No piece will be butchered in vain. And we're going to give you--the reader--a chance to partake of a feast in honor of what we hope will be a magnificent animal.
So keep checking in. Next week, to whet your appetite I'll blog the results of a mulefoot vs. factory-farmed pork chop-sausage-ham steak-bacon throwdown.