Thursday, September 11, 2014

Isaac's Bad Luck with Hogs

Isaac B. Werner was not lucky when it came to raising hogs.  For several years he had no livestock on his claims.  Eventually he bought a horse, the mare's purchase price and some extra for implements being his first indebtedness.  (See "Isaac's Dolly Varden," 2-28-2012 in the blog archives.)  He also began keeping chickens, (See "Isaac Builds an Incubator," 8-22-2013, and "Isaac Raises Chicks with a Broody Hen," 8-29-2013), and at last he traded some of the grain he raised with neighbors for hogs.  It was the beginning of his bad luck with hogs. 

On April 2, 1888, he wrote in his journal:  "Dix sow died from pigging.  Fed [her] since 12th of December about 6 bushels of corn.  'Yellow Jersey' about same amount of corn & still lean.  Vosburg brood sow now about a year on hand.  Eat about 17 bushels of corn.  Time to be pigging (112 days [according to] Garvin), about up & no signs."

Not only did his own hogs give him trouble but his neighbors hogs got out and ate his crops.  A few days later he wrote in his journal:  "H. Bentley helped me stretch 5 wire around & by eve W. Goodwin hogs inside eating corn again."  Isaac became so annoyed by how often his neighbors' livestock got out and ate his crops that he suggested it might be more efficient if he stopped trying to fence the livestock out of his fields and instead just went to his neighbors' farms and repaired their pen and pasture fences!

By the 11th of April he had given up on the sow he traded grain for with Vosburgh, and he asked Will Goodwin to help him butcher the sow.  He was concerned that the weather was getting too warm for butchering, and he had never killed a hog before.  Will loaned him a barrel and helped him butcher the sow, and they found no signs of piglets inside her.  He asked his neighbor, Mrs. Ross, to render the lard for him while he "cut up the swine and salted same in cellar."

Hedrick's Racing Pigs leave the gate!
Although he continued feeding the 'Jersey' hog, by August it was still lean and he decided to butcher it, despite the warm weather.  Again, he asked Mrs. Ross the try out the lard, but he decided to salt the pickled meat himself.  Unfortunately, the packed meat started going bad, although he "dipped out brine, cut bones out of those hams & salted into a jar by themselves, other meat back into barrel with heated pickle repacked & salted." The hams had to be discarded and the fermented, repacked meat had to be rendered for lard to get any use from it.

An article in the Sept/Oct 2012 issue of "Capper's" with the subtitle "Revisit the virtues of your grandmother's secret ingredient and get cooking,"  included directions for "Dry Rendering" lard and praised the benefits of fats from both animal and vegetable sources.  Citing lard, tallow, duck and goose fat, as well as vegetable fats from olives, coconut and flax, the article claimed the fatty acids "keep our bones healthy (adding calcium absorption), and they enhance the immune system," contrasting the absence of these benefits in engineered fats.
Pig 3 takes the lead at the corner, cheered by the crowd!

The article acknowledged that "The amount of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids varies in lard according to what the pigs have eaten, making fat from pastured or grass fed hogs the best choice."  Of course, it was all the corn that Isaac had fed his hogs that made him most resentful of their failure to thrive and produce neither meat nor piglets!

The article warned that "Most of the lard you find stocked on the grocery store shelves has been harvested from 'factory farmed' animals; it's been hydrogenated, bleached and deodorized, and emulsifiers and other chemicals have been added.  Stay away from it!" the article declared.

A new leader in the straight-away excites cheers!
The year of 1888 was not the last time Isaac tried to raise hogs, but he was never very successful.  He was not much of a pig farmer, and he had to admit that he would have been better off hiring out his labor and selling his corn than getting into the hog business!

The photographs accompanying this blog were taken at the 2014 Kansas State Fair.  You may wish to visit blogs posted during Sept. & Oct. 2013 featuring the exhibits at the Kansas State Fair that year.  A special thank you to the Hedrick Exotic Animal Farm (and Bed & Breakfast) located near Nickerson, Kansas for the photographs of the pig races.  The announcer, her helper, the 'volunteers' drafted from the crowd as cheerleaders, and especially the clever little pigs made for great entertainment!
We have a winner and a triumphant cheerleader!

As you can tell if you look more closely, there were actually three races, so the apparent lead changes were really different little pigs among the twelve racers.  The final group slipped through the gate as they were being assembled before their race, and perhaps the fact that they had already had a taste of the trophy plate filled with piggy treats made them slow down a little in the straight-away.

The fair continues through this weekend, so you could still catch the Hedrick's Racing Pigs at the 2014 Kansas State Fair if you check for starting times!  Maybe Isaac's pigs that refused to fatten for butchering really saw themselves as Racing Pigs and were 'staying in shape!'


The Blog Fodder said...

Sounds about like my father's pig production methodology. We used to go out after supper and by lamp light pick out pigs that we thought were heavy enough to ship (200 lbs in those days). In the morning we would then weigh those we had picked and invariably would have several too light to sell. which is where I learned at the age of 10 that "pigs and women look better in dim light"

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

You must have had the light on or have done your selecting in bright sunlight, since you seem pretty happy with your wife!

The Blog Fodder said...

Between my father's Irish proverbs and my mother's Ogden Nash-isms I got quite an upbringing.