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Crystal and Cherry's piglets are now a little more than three and two weeks old respectively and the paddock at Hillspring Eco-Farm has begun to resemble a "pig rodeo," says farmer Linda Derrickson. The piglets whirl and jump in the air and engage in a kind of sumo-style tussle in which they brace up against each other shoulder-to-butt and shove. The rambunctiousness has been so infectious that the sows get into it.
"The mothers were whirling around and jumping in the air," says Linda. "With these big bodies you don't know how they can levitate like that. I think its that the little ones are so playful. I mean mothers play with children. If you've got a child you get down on the floor and you play with it."
While the piglets have begun chowing on grass and weeds and even attacking the (organic) house slop (as Mark Kessenich's attached photos demonstrate), they're still weaning. They're big enough now to suckle standing up while the sows are grazing, and they've become less discriminate, with Crystal's piglets suckling Cherry and vice versa. One big happy family--but alas, it can't last. The piglets need to be weaned from their mothers at six weeks and put onto pasture. Prior to that, a necessary rite of passage takes place, perhaps the first significant trauma of their little piggy lives.
Linda is worried that soon it might become difficult to tell which piglets belong to which litter. So in a few more weeks they'll get plastic ear tags and names. Every year Linda and Mark choose a theme to name the animals that arrive on the farm. This helps them keep track of which was born when. Two years ago it was state capitals. Last year it was rivers--hence Crystal, Cherry, Churchill, and, less literally, Cong. This year they've chosen singers, a fairly wide open field, until you consider that the National Mulefoot Hog Association and Registry asks that owners name their pigs with a specific letter for the same reason. Two years ago it was "B." Last year it was "C." This year, of course, it's "D."
There are eight piglets to be named and registered--four males and four females. Linda and Mark had already come up with a few possibilities when I met them-Dylan, Dionne. I came up with a few--Dino, Desmond, Diamanda. Those few choices seemed woefully insufficient so I enlisted Reader music writers Peter Margasak and Monica Kendrick who came up with a bunch more.
Now, here's where you come in. Linda and Mark are offering the chance for readers to "sponsor" the piglets' registration with the Mulefoot Association. As I've written before, registration is important for the future of these rare heritage breeds whether the pigs are to be raised for breeding, feeding, or even as pets. For $10--to cover the registration fee and postage--Linda and Mark will allow readers to name a piglet, and in return they'll be issued a copy of the certificate issued by the Mulefoot Association.
Here's a list of what we and a few readers have come up with so far. Feel free to suggest more. As you can see there's a minority of female names. Extra points if your singers have Chicago connections, and a gold star for any castrati.
I'm on the fence about this but I think it might be bad luck to name a pig after anyone who died of a drug overdose.
If you care to name a piglet and sponsor its registration with the National Mulefoot Hog Association send Linda an email at email@example.com. Type "Name that piglet" in the subject line.