Sunday, December 6, 2009

Getting the Pig

So now we have a pig.

One fine day, Eamon rings up to wonder if we want to get a pig. Why he thought it would be a good idea for us townies to take on porcine husbandry I have no idea, but I'll take inspiration where I can get it; I immediately thought of the half-bowl ravine that plunges down from the driveway and was all a-flourish with weeds of various kinds: why not have a pig clear it? Eamon thought it was a dandy idea to give it the exercise of clambering up and down, and he even offered us an old apple bin that had fallen off the back of his ute, too trashed to move apples in but just able to be flipped over and support a tin roof.

...and so it was I found myself (after a trip to the rural supply store for chicken wire and miscellaneous other supplies) sawing and hammering and jiggering a rectilinear box into a door-equipped accommodation with a sloped roof rendered rainproof by some spare corrugated tin that was lying around the property. Also doing the first solo fencing work of my life: stapling chicken wire, driving Y-posts, stringing wire (complete with strainers!) and pressing odd bits of grid-wire into service, all to give Piggy (or "Squeal", as Eamon later dubbed it) a confined bit of freedom to roam and root.

Comes the big day, and Eamon brings the pig around in the dog box on the back of his truck. "Squeal" was a good name for it, mainly for its size, more like a generously proportioned puppy than anything you'd be eating any time soon. After trying to calm it down after its traumatic separation and drayage, we each took a pair of legs and escorted it to its new home while it generously justified its name.

Now this thing of naming. Notoriously, you shouldn't name an animal you intend to eat, doubly so for an intelligent animal and doubly so again for one that's basically living with you. The word is that even hardened New Zealand farmers don't kill their own animals (providing something like professional courtesy for one another) whether they have a name or not, so of course the first thing off the bat we provide not one but TWO names for the thing. Krys starts calling it Miss Piggy, I kid you not. I on the other hand take the opportunity to keep our attention on the endgame, and it's been Porkchop ever since.

And so our history with the pig begins. This was almost three months ago now. Three months of accumulating scraps and vegetable trimmings and all manner of shocking culinary effluvia and marvelling at how it fills a large pot pretty much every day. (Let me tell you, having a pig to feed your questionables to completely changes the dynamic of food wastage. Instead of guiltily slinking it to the compost heap, you can proudly offer it to the pig for its diligent conversion of garbage into pork--and believe me, the pig is VERY enthusiastic about garbage.) Three months also, coincidentally, of cheesemaking which dependably ends with enough whey to offer a liter of it a day to the pig. Three months of every morning gathering the day's offerings, calling the pig (or having the pig grunt and squeal a grumpy call herself, if she hears us first) and dumping the pot mostly over the pig's head because she's inserted herself into the trough in lunging for the first drop of whey.

Now, dispensation of the beast is another story...