Piglets Part I

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Good morning from Hidden Penny Farm!

And a good morning it is. It’s 9 AM and I’m writing the weekly email...12 hours earlier than I usually do! So far this morning I’ve worked out, done two loads of laundry, baked one loaf of zucchini bread and two dozen zucchini muffins, read 10 pages of my new book, “Wild Fermentation”, and done some journaling. I drank a cup of espresso this morning. A rare beverage for me, that gets me zooming around and talking a mile a minute and changing subjects left and right. It leaves Andy laughing and me wondering why I don’t drink it more often!

Before I get into Piglets Part I, I thought I’d kindly ask you all for your cardboard. If you have any laying around or planning to recycle, we’d love it and actually kind of need it. We’re happy to come pick it up!

Also, online orders close tonight at midnight. I added more tomatoes and zucchini to the site yesterday!

Here’s what we’ve got this week: head lettuce, lettuce mix, arugula, tomatoes, kale, collards, Swiss chard, pac choi, hakurei turnips, yellow squash, blueberries, and plums
Where you can find us: Port Angeles Farmers Market, Saturday 10-2. Or you can Order Online! Pickup Friday at our farmstand, or choose delivery!

As promised, I am going to tell you our story of our sow, Shima and the birth of her nine piglets. I’ve never seen anything be born, and, sorry for the cliche, I honestly feel like a different person than I was before. I feel more aware of birth and motherhood, closer to death and loss, and an overwhelming sense of belonging...like the birth of these piglets further cemented us to this land. Everything this season has been about rooting in and finding our place, and the experience of raising these piglets seems to be the ultimate expression of that.

Andy and I knew nothing of raising farm animals before we got these pigs. Let me tell you the surprise and “oh shit” moment of realizing Shima was pregnant. I was working out in our living room, the pigs in a pen in our front yard, when I actually saw the conception happen. Andy walked in the door and I said “I think Shima’s pregnant!” He asked how I knew. I told him, in detail, exactly what I saw. (I’ll spare you the details)

We went back and forth for a long time trying to figure out if she was actually pregnant. Was she just fattening up quickly? We did some layperson internet searching and decided she showed some of the signs of pregnancy, but not all of them. One night we asked my brother, who knows nothing about pigs, to tell us if he thought our gilt was pregnant. He took one look at her and gave a very affirmative yes. That was confirmation from three people who knew very little about pigs. It was good enough for us. So we marked her due date on the calendar (3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days) and prepared ourselves.

It’s incredible to me that a pig’s gestation time is so exact. How? Why? What is this magic? I didn’t believe it could actually be exact, and so 3 months, 3 weeks, and 1 day after her conception, I set the tent up outside her barn and waited. I wanted to witness the birth so badly and couldn’t trust that it would be exactly 114 days.

Well, it turns out it is exact, and in the two days that I waited I saw incredible things. Shima knew her babies were coming and, although she is not even a year old and has never been a mother before, she somehow knew to began preparing. A mother’s instinct is not something I know or understand yet, but as I watched her build her nest for her babies, I realized how powerful it is. What unknown power informed her? I read that even pigs who live in concrete pens with no bedding at all will push their snouts along the ground or find any crumb or speck of dust that they can attempt to build their birthing nest with. It breaks my heart to think of an animal being denied what they feel they so badly need to do.

Watching Shima prepare got me thinking about instincts. I wonder if we humans have been living without the need to follow our instincts for so long that we hardly feel their pull any longer. Perhaps we are not so far from our own instincts as I think, we’ve just become skilled in denying them, so that it is not so painful when we cannot actualize them. Are we like the mother pigs in birthing cages, grasping as dust to make our nests, the natural pull still there in our hearts? Or are we so far beyond having instinctual needs that we no longer feel their pull at all?

I am not a mother; I hope to be someday. I wonder, for you mothers, what instinctual pulls you felt? What could you not deny or stop yourself from doing? What did you just know was right? In a world so full of strong, loud opinions, I wonder how one quiets the noise and listens to her heart. And for those who are not mothers, what instinctual pulls do you feel in everyday life?

“Listen to your heart” “Follow your gut”...there are many ways to tell someone to just follow their instincts, but what does it mean and do we really know how to do it? Watching Shima get ready for the birth of her litter inspired me to find ways to reconnect with that internal pull, to attempt to silence everything “out there” and listen more closely to what’s “in here.”

I’d love to hear what you think. I've attached a picture of the piglets, taken last week. They're already so much bigger! Stay tuned for next week when you'll hear more about them.

All the best from our tiny farm,

Melissa and co.