Monday, April 06, 2009


My husband decided that the recent stock market plunge was an optimum occasion to use the knowledge of farm animals he gained by growing up on a pig farm, and to begin our conversion from "Haus Shirefeld" to "Shirefeld Farm." So we cashed in on what was left of one family savings fund, and, as my husband put it, "sold our stock to invest in livestock." With the money, we bought baby chicks, ducks, and a formidible two-hundred-pound pig, whose ultimate destination will be our deep freezer.

Suburban Girl that I am, I was mostly unaquainted with live pigs (though I am very familiar with my favorite food, sausage), and I was amazed when the first thing our hog did once he came out of the livestock trailer and into his pen was to start rooting up the ground with vigor. Within 48 hours, he had reduced his 16-x16ft grass pen to nicely-tilled soil. Since we had struggled to rotatill a garden on the other side of the property earlier, our kids were quite impressed, and named him "Mr. Tiller."

It didn't take long for my husband to plot out a new, larger garden near Mr. Tiller's pen, and last week, we moved him to a new grassy spot, and he joyously began to till again. I saw echoes of Eden in his energetic activity: of the time when beasts and unfallen man worked together in harmony. It was yet another reminder not to take the food we need to live for granted: being nose-to-snout with the animal we will one day eat forces us to realize we live at the cost of a life-sacrifice, whether that life comes from a farm factory far away, or from our back yard.
May we always be truly grateful.


Leila said...

I've read (I *think* in the Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery -- did you ever read this book?) about actually using your pig to till your garden rather than doing it the sweat-equity way.

If I had a pig I would try to do this, but I would end up with an entire yard of churned up dirt, most likely :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Regina! : )
Great post for the Easter-time.. I love that you have a moral for each of your posts. ...Yes, let's be truly grateful.

Omy goodness. How lucky you are to have a rota tiller. and chicks! great for waking up in the morning when they get bigger.
love from France
have a wander-filled and artful Easter Liturgy
and love to you (and to yours of course).
ps: I saw your book in a christian bookstore in Paris. in the sixth. hooray! hooray for culture of life in Paris.

Laurence (from France) Dubois

Anonymous said...

Living in the city, it is so fun to read posts like this. Do you have any concerns that the children will develop an attachment to Mr. Tiller, making it difficult when it comes time for him to go from pen to plate? I mean, he is SO cute and all. :)
As you said, it will be a good lesson for them in how God provides. Good for you guys that you took a leap of faith to do this.
Christy S.

Kristyn said...

My hog-wild children are very, very jealous. They consider your husband a very wise man. :)

Chris said...

Hi Regina---I found your "What I do with old scapulars" post while looking for info on the Brown Scapular...then I noticed that you are the author of Angel in the Waters! I just bought your book a few weeks ago and recently read it to my 5-year-old son for the first time. Thank you for such a beautiful and poignant story! We love it. :)

Hummingbirder said...

I love it! Can he come and visit our garden spot? JK!

Anonymous said...

Have you considered renting out Mr. Tiller? Locally the going rate for a 7 x 10 plot (never previously tilled) is $40 with a mechanical tiller...

Charge the neighborhood kids to feed the pig.

Maybe you could train him to find truffles as well...

Roxie700 said...

I am not judging you by any means. I am just saying I could not eat the pig. Every animal I 'meet' is a pet to me. Our neighbors behind us (yes, in city subdivison) have a pig they rescued. (not sure from where, and it is not a pot belly pig but a full size pig) His name is Mr. Bacon. He is so smart. My dogs love him. My grand children love him too. He runs to the fence (chain link) when we are outside and sticks his snout through the fence for attention.
When I was a girl my Uncle raised rabbits for 4H. One Saturday afternoon my grandfather got a telephone call. I was sent to the back yard to get Grandpa for the phone and just when I walk up to tell him about the call he lops off the head of a rabbit. That poor rabbit ran around without his head for a long time. Now I have hand fed each of these rabbits and I was young and did not know they were food. That night grandpa tried to tell me it was chicken. I knew it was not chicken and I could not would not eat it.
Yes, all things God gave us for food. I know, but if I know the animal I can not eat it anymore than I could eat my dog.
Blessings to you. Like I said, I am not saying you should not eat your pig. That is why you brought him. I am just saying I could not do it.

regina doman said...

Well, despite the picture, Mr. Tiller is not actually very cute or cuddly. He's not a Babe or a Wilbur: he's a 200+ muddy hippo of a pig whom the kids know not to go near because he'll bite their fingers right off, thinking that they're food. I don't think that most of them have much of an attachment to him, and nor do I. The only person who is somewhat attached to him is my oldest son, who takes care of him, and he's remarked frequently what good sausage he's going to make. :) When we send him to the butchers, there will probably be a sigh of relief on my part.

But on the other hand, I think it will be somewhat penitential to eat Mr. Tiller, a pig we saw and knew as opposed to an anonymous sow killed on a factory farm. It might perhaps begin to cure us of the carelessness we moderns have towards meat: an indifference to what we shovel into our own mouths. We like to think that we slip through life like anonymous shadows, harming no one, eradicating nothing. But it's an illusion. We all live at the cost of a life-sacrifice, and it could be that if we see that sacrifice in a more concrete form, we will be a little more thankful, a little more thoughtful, and a little more careful about what we do with our life that was bought at the price of an animal's life.

Ah, how eloquent I can be. We'll see how we fare with the next pig, who will be younger and smaller, and probably not as intimidating as Mr. Tiller.

regina doman said...

PS: Laurence Dubois -- we are talking with the Beatitudes Community about doing a French translation of Black as Night or one of the other Fairy Tale Novels! So perhaps next year you'll even have a little more of the culture of life in Paris! Please pray!

Anonymous said...

I appreciate what you have to say about respecting the food you eat when you raise it yourself. So much food is wasted in our society. When you raise it or grow it you realize the true cost of what you eat. This was really driven home when we went to cull our laying hens for the first time two weeks ago. Our first two meals (chicken-vegetable soup and chicken enchiladas) were eaten slowly and thoughtfully - with more leftovers than usual at each meal.