Friday, 23 July 2010

Bringing home the bacon.

Dogs look up to us,
cats look down on us,
Pigs is equal!

Jimmy Docherty last night finished his farm animal series on the television with a look at pigs. They really are quite noble animals - highly intelligent (to variable degree, as with humans) and very sociable (ditto). George Orwell recognised this by making them top of the chain in Animal Farm.

We don't have pigs here on the farm. There was a day when every farmer kept a 'house pig' which he raised, fattened and then killed for the table. Many country folk did the same. I well remember our family pigs from my childhood.

We once had a lovely old sow Large Black. Each morning, before going off to work, my father would mix up her mash feed. During the day all vegetable scraps - including potato peelings - would be kept and boiled up in a bucket on the copper. That would constitute here evening feed. Every time we passed the pig sty we would give her titbits - an apple, a biscuit - she would come to the door and call when she heard us coming. She was the family's cossetted pet.

Until, that is, the day she was walked the 100 yards to the butcher's yard to be killed. The next time we saw her she would be strung up on a wooden tripod in the garden. Then my mother and my two aunts would spend a couple of days doing what they always called 'getting the pig out of the way.' This involved cutting up the joints (no freezers in those days), salting the legs of ham and the flitches of bacon, stuffing the chine, making sausages, chopping up meat for the pork pies and then making up twenty or so 'parcels' of the bits and pieces (always called pigs' fry) to take round to all the neighbours. At the time I thought it was a yearly event full of excitement.

Now I am sure that any meat from a family pet pig would turn to sawdust in my mouth! Much as a I love a rasher of bacon for my breakfast and a ham sandwich for my tea, I presfer that they come from some unknown, unloved piggy source.

But yes, looking at those pigs last night, it is easy to see why they are 'equal'.
Such knowing, intelligent eyes; such response once Jimmy learned to speak piggy language.

As for the ryhme, above, well there is no doubt about it - our cats do look down on us from a superior position. If they want milk (or preferably cream if you have it, please) then as I walk up the farm yard they will do their best to trip me up.
They don't just ask, they demand. And when their food is put down they will either deign to eat if or turn their noses up and go and catch a baby rabbit just to show me that they can quite easily look after themselves and that they only choose to eat what I give them.

As for dogs - well, as far as Tess is concerned the Farmer is her world. I might have bought her, I might feed her, she is ostensibly my dog. But who has the best, most exciting walks, who goes round the fields several times a day, who enjoys a rough and tumble in the evenings? There is no contest - that she looks up to the farmer as her world I have no doubt. Poor old muggins is just here to open the tin of dog food.

21 comments:

jinksy said...

You never fail to make me realise how different a townies childhood was to a country lass! You make me homesick for something I never experienced...

willow said...

We're on the same wave length this week, Weaver!

ewix said...

Apparently this was one of Winston Churchill's favorite quotations. I believe he kept pigs himself.
Big piggery near my childhood home.
Not a good place to be downwind of...........

steven said...

weaver it's sausages, eggs and bacon for breakfast tis morning so i'm especially happy that i didn't see the program you mention!!! guilt!!! wracked with guilt i am!!! have a lovely day in the dale. steven

Pondside said...

I well remember a visit to The Great Dane's family on the island of Aero when a pig was being slaughtered. All of the subsequent business was done at the house by an aunt and other family members. I couldn't watch, so I was given buckets and buckets of eel to skin and chop in sections for frying.
I'll never forget it!

Jayne said...

I also watched that programme last night, and thought the 'pig whispering' was brilliant! But oh your story of eating the family pig... I too prefer my pork from an unknown piggy source. But it is interesting how in your childhood it was perfectly normal and ok to say goodbye to Pet Piggy!

lakeviewer said...

Lovely! It pushes me to think hard about becoming vegetarian for good.

Heather said...

I remember my grandparents keeping a pig during the Second World War. When the time came for it to be killed, they were only allowed to keep half - the other half had to be relinquished to some Authority which escapes me now. They also kept goats mainly for milk, but I'm sure we had a nice 'bit of lamb' when a billy kid was born and no use for milking. There was a more down-to-earth attitude to food years ago but I'm sure I couldn't eat anything that I had got to know and love. If I had to kill it myself - well, I'd become a vegetarian.

Crafty Green Poet said...

When I was based at Gorgie Farm i used to love watching the pigs (and all the other animals). There was a policy that no animals were named if they were to go to market, so none of the pigs had names, as they were all destined for market.

It must be very difficult to eat a family animal...

Mac n' Janet said...

My Grandparents always kept a pig and fed it with table scraps just like your family did. They also had a smoke house where much of there meat was smoked and stored. They raised most of their own food. It was always an adventure to visit them.

Derrick said...

The thing is, Weaver, when you woz little, reality reigned! We've got a bit soft over the years. That's not to say I'd have my sleeves rolled up at the kill but I reckon I could manage a ham sandwich!! We should be glad that folks like Jimmy or Hugh Fearnley-W give the animals a good life first.

Reflections said...

When I was a child, one of my friend's father was a butcher and we would often stop by to see him... Years later, I am still like you that I would rather not know the source of my meats.

And like Jinksy, your stories make me homesick for a world I only got to visit as a child. Thank you.

Reader Wil said...

Thanks for this lovely post. Cats are said to have a staff and dogs have masters, but pigs... that's another cup of tea..
We have a lovely video about Babe, an Australian sheep pig, who does the work of a sheepdog.

angryparsnip said...

Goodness what a great post but like many other I would not be able to eat the family pet pig.

cheers, parsnip

Leenie said...

We never had pigs on our farm either, Weaver. Probably for a lot of reasons. But I think one of them was the fact that they have such personality and can turn into pets. It would be difficult to eat a friend even if your knew that was their purpose.

jeannette said...

That's one thing, Weaver where I'm a terribly citykid (but had plenty of friends in childhood whose parents had farms, so it's not that I wasn't exposed to it) -I couldn't eat my animals!
BTW since I know that you've been in China - they don't eat their dogs anymore, and there's now the same fashion as in the West for little dogs:)

Gramma Ann said...

Thanks, but no thanks. You brought back many a memory of taking care of the pigs. I even had to help deliver a few in my day. However, we took ours to the local Locker Plant, where they did all the butchering and making of ham, bacon and sausage. And we froze the yummy pork chops and roasts. I had some delectable ham for lunch today.

Enjoyed the "Bringing Home The Bacon" today.

Titus said...

Oh, sorry I missed this! Thanks for the review and thoughts - my Uncle's farm used to be a pig farm in the good old days of swill rounds from all the local hospitals and hotels, and Grandpa kept a fat old tup and a very fat old pig as pets - they just used to wander about the yard.
His geese, however, I was not so fond of.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Sounds like a mother's lot. That dog may have fun with the farmer, but he knows where to go when he's hungry.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for your comments. Seems we are all a bit squeamish about where our meat comes from!
Interesting about town versus country - I am incredibly lucky I think in that I began life for the first twenty five years in the depths of the country, then lived in cities all my working life and then married the farmer back in the depths of the country - full circle you could say.

Penny said...

About Tess, male dogs always loved me, females were always Johns. Most of our working dogs are female!