“Laura!” Kara calls from the south wing of the 1919 Gambrel barn this morning. “Come here and hold a pig.”
Deloris, one of our black-and-white heritage Kunekune sows had just farrowed (had babies) last Sunday, and the little porkers needed their iron shots to stay healthy. Stepping into the barn beside her straw-festooned pen, I was greeted by a chubby little girl piglet, ready for me to hold, her tiny trotters waving in the air looking for a footing that wasn’t there.
I put my gloved hands around the chunky little rib cage to give her support while she waited her turn, blinking at how different her little world looked from this chest-high perspective. The tiny trotters continued to bat the air, cloven toes splayed, but she offered no squeals or squeaks. The black and white spotted-ness of her silky coat showed the little brown racing stripes along the back that will only stay while they’re little—camouflage remnants of the New Zealand breed’s wild ancestry.
Kara tipped a red-and-black spotted boy over while Mom administered the dose of iron with her practiced physician precision. Just a little squealing and squirming and then it was over. The little one was returned to its momma, who paid no heed to the over-dramatization of her son to the necessary process.
While the little piglets and momma need to keep their stress low right now, you can visit our two celebrity pigs of the same breed that have their own portable pen at Farmstead Creamery. Two white brothers of the Kunekune breed with the classic short snouts and chin waddles, we’ve named them after the Wright brothers—Orville and Wilbur (because pigs can fly, right?). Orville (the bigger, bossy one) and Wilbur absolutely love the wood-fired pizza farm nights on Thursdays and Saturdays because people bring them any extra crusts to eat. And being, well, pigs, these two are happy to oblige!
The name Kunekune comes from the aboriginal New Zealand language. If a word is repeated twice, it’s like adding the adjective “very” to the word. Kune means “fat.” So “fat-fat” means very fat. And these pigs do love to chow down, helping us recycle kitchen scraps, weeds from the garden, plant extras from the greenhouse, as well as some whole, local grains. Sour milk? No need to worry about what to do with that on this farm!
But Kunekunes, like other lard pig breeds, put that extra fat on the outside of their frame. This, along with their furrier coats, helps keep them warmer in our harsh winters, without making the meat beneath too fatty. A Kunekune to full market weight takes a year and a half to raise, much like a steer, and this added time and slower growth means that they take on a more complex flavor profile, enhanced by their varied diet. We never throw out the bacon drippings from our pigs. It’s way too tasty! Use that for cooking eggs and other goodies in the frying pan.
The pigs were featured this Thursday as part of our Spoken Word series in the evenings. Between listening to the works of local authors, we host a three-word poetry challenge. This non-competitive event involves picking three words from a hat and writing whatever you want, so long as it uses those three words somewhere in the piece. Here were my three words and the resulting poem I shared last Thursday.
Swine, Induct, Whine
The swine will dine
The swine will whine
If they haven’t dined—yet.
The tune of their tummies
They squeak and squeal
Induct the silence unto my ears
Feed the pigs.
So if you’re curious to meet some of our heritage pigs, stop on over and visit Orville and Wilbur on our animal trail at Farmstead. Come for a wood-fired pizza farm event, save a little crust, and you’ll be friends for life! By the end of summer, I’m sure they’ll be the most fat and sassy pigs on the homestead. Time to feed the pigs. See you down on the farm sometime.
Three little piggies in their portable pen. Photo by Kara Berlage.
Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. 715-462-3453 www.northstarhomestead.com
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