We brought home this year’s weaner pigs this weekend. A male & female pair of Berkshires, named BB & Q. Our last pig was a typical crossbreed, Duroc & Hampshire. Crossbreeds often have what is called ‘hybrid vigor’, which means superior offspring resulting from desirable parental traits. But healthy heritage breeds retain unique characterisics in flavor and texture of meat, so we’re looking forward to seeing how these piggies will compare to Patty.
Setting up pig digs takes a little thought & labor, but once it’s done there are no worries. Pigs like to root, and we’re hoping they root up a brushy area we want to turn into grazing and orchard. But that means we need to set up a strong perimeter fence reinforced with a low strand of hotwire. Since we don’t have a water line run out that far, we use a rain barrel with attached water nipple. We try to give them a comfortable habitat, with shade, food & water, shelter, and something to keep them busy. We also keep them safe from predators and well-contained. Pigs need a certain level of nutrients, so you can’t just feed them random garbage and hope to have healthy critters making tasty meat. They get good-quality pig chow and lots of table scraps and garden goodies. Having a sustainable and healthy source of meat has become crucial to the humans of Seven Trees since our recent change of eating habits. After some serious research and experimentation, we’ve found that eating ‘primal’ is the way to go. Low-carb, high-protein diets have been around a while, the most recent incarnations being the Atkins & South Beach diets. But they rely on restrictions that are unnatural and hard to maintain, not to mention a lot of processed foods. Some folks do well eating Paleo-style, which doesn’t include dairy, among other things. Primal eating is a relatively relaxed way of eating that includes dairy (if you’re not lactose-intolerant), lots of protein and healthy fats, and limited carbs from vegetable sources. No grains or sugars.
It only took a few weeks of eating this way to decide we wanted to go ‘whole hog’. Better sleep, more muscle gain, less digestive issues, and more energy are some of the benefits so far. Weight loss is happening as well as better skin and just plain general vitality.
But quality protein & fats are expensive to buy. So we’re repurposing crops orginally planted for human-consumption and feeding them to the pigs and chickens. Corn, potatoes, rutabagas, beets, squash, wheat & beans. Not only will this help with the feed bill (which will skyrocket given the poor drought-affected crop outlook this summer), it’s also pretty cool to close some input loops by growing our own fodder.
There is some solid hardcore science behind the primal foodway, including how grains and sugars mess up insulin sensitivity to help cause diabetes, obesity, and even Alzheimers. For the hardcore techie version, check out both of Gary Taube’s books. For a more accessible discussion of primal eating check out the Primal 101 page of Mark’s Daily Apple.
Newt, of course, always lives primally. Here she is enjoying herbal relaxation in the wildflower patch, which also includes catmint.It’s been a busy week at Seven Trees. We enjoyed a lovely river-walk with the dogs and made 99% homegrown tamales, more about both later…