On Celebrating The “Pigness Of The Pig”

It’s been rainy lately, which means the ground is muddy…which is how pigs prefer it. And they don’t want stinky, feces-filled mud – they like “clean” dirt (oxymoron?) that’s been carefully mixed with water into a perfectly-pastelike consistency. The mud also helps keep them cool, and protects their skin from the ample biting insects out here. All hail mud!

The piglets like to dig small wallows, into which we pour water so they can roll around in it. Yes, those holes can get deep, but are easily backfilled with the tractor. A shovel and some muscle would work, too.

Mei (Mama) also spends a good portion of the day in her wallows (she likes to move around a bit), but the one under the mulberry tree has it all: well-mixed mud, shade from the branches, and occasionally-dropping berries. Spa time with a snack!

It’s been such a rich learning experience having the pigs – they’re smart, strong, willful, and sweet. They have as much personality, quite honestly, as dogs, and are very curious. They love food, including their supplemental fermented feed, and are happy to consume our organic scraps so we don’t need to compost or otherwise dispose of them. They also love fresh greens (more than hay), with the pasture forbs being favorites. And I no longer need to dispose of yeast slurry and spent fruit from winemaking – that nutritious “waste” goes to the pigs, too.

We’ve also been surprised by how fastidious the pigs are about elimination. They generally defecate and urinate in the same area, away from where they eat and sleep. They don’t wallow in their own droppings – as long as there’s room for them to get away from it, they will. Since they eat a vegetarian diet, their droppings are like herbivores’, breaking down into basically plant fibers and not malodorous (just a slight fragrance of “barnyard”).

Much like our dogs, the pigs enjoy a nightly dessert – but, instead of organic biscuits or turkey jerky, the pigs’ is comprised of fresh fruit, often sliced bananas (with peel) and apples or carrots.

Looking into Mei’s eyes as she gently takes the pieces from my hand, I see her happiness, and it reminds me to really focus on being content with the small things – the caress of cool rain on a hot day, butterflies joyfully flitting by, the depth of unbelievably vibrant color in a flower, the wonderfully rich taste of homemade cake – and be fully present in those moments.

And while I’m consciously working on being present, the pigs will continue to enjoy their mudbaths, maybe nibbling a bit of mud while they soak. Those guys know how to live!