These piglets came to me in mid-October at 4 weeks of age. Their mother had rejected the litter of 11, and most of these were fostered by two other sows who had given birth within a few days. These three, however, didn't compete well with the other piglets and so were instead bottle fed with raw goat's milk. The piglet on the left in the video was stepped on by her mother in the chaos surrounding the birth, and couldn't use her rear legs to walk. She dragged her back end around in a twisted, sitting position, legs to the left, but was able to kick them along in a swimming motion. For the initial three weeks after I received them, I kept them in a pen deep with sawdust, and the deep bedding seemed to help support her and she would occasionally be able to stand briefly before her back end flopped over to the right once again.
Common sense said to cull this piglet, as it seemed unlikely that after weeks of dragging itself along, anything resembling recovery was remote at best. I opted to give her the chance to live as fully as possible--on the condition that she not appear to be suffering at all. My criteria were that she eat, drink, remain interested in her surroundings, and not shiver or otherwise seem miserable, or I would choose to put her out of her misery (and into the smoker, by the way...these are, after all, meat animals). Moving them to the greenhouse was a big step, and I watched like a hawk to see if the dirt floor would be a problem. She seemed to carry on without any further challenges, but still my expectations were low. Meanwhile, her brothers exhibited explosive growth, while the little female grew sizeable shoulders but tiny, flat hams.
In late November, I noticed she was on her feet more and more over the span of two or three days. By December 1, she was on her feet almost full time and moving better and better. In less than a week, she was a fully mobile pig: running, rooting, competing well at the feed trough. Now, in the last week of December, you would never know she'd ever been so limited. She has a little hitch in her step with her left leg, but otherwise is a fully functioning pig, living out her life alongside her brothers in the ecstasy that is digging and rooting and moving dirt. She is about half the size of her brothers, but is gaining in size quickly as normal pigs do.
I am grateful for the lessons I've learned through this experience. I could have followed my head and put her down, but instead I followed my gut and gave her a chance. I'm really glad I did...seeing her run and dig and chew makes me smile. Not all farm stories have happy endings, that's for sure. But sometimes the "tincture of time" is just what we all need when the going looks bleak.
Mid-November is a time when many Kodiak residents spend most of their time indoors. The wet and windy weather is simply not conducive to much enjoyable outside work. There is still food to be had, however, as many of us know well. Deer hunting off the road system is still open, and the cod season is ongoing for those intrepid fishermen willing to take on the wind and waves of this time of year. The kelp is piled up in deep windrows on the beach, waiting for the willing to load up and spread on their gardens to feed next year's crops.
Here at Bounty Farm we have transitioned away from most vegetable growing, as the daylight is now well below the requisite 10 hours per day that plants generally require for growth. The remaining kale, lettuce, collards, beets, and Brussels sprouts are hanging on, thanks to the mild temperatures we've had thus far. These plants will be consumed throughout the winter as long as temperatures don't get too cold. The spinach is small, but will wait for that 10 hour mark in mid-February to put on new growth and make this family very happy in March. The garlic was planted last month and sleeps beneath a bed of straw, sending exploratory roots into the cold soil, getting their feet beneath themselves in preparation for an early start in late winter. The dahlias have been dug and rest in bags of sawdust, awaiting spring and another season of beauty.
There is still food to be grown here, however. The chickens have slowed their egg production in the shortening days, but still provide a trickle in spite of the darkness. The milking goats are still giving over a gallon a day, even as new life gains a foothold inside. The young does are frisky in the frosty grass and never miss a chance to be naughty, as goats do. The rabbits are in the greenhouse now, in their spacious quarters side by side, and they relish in the "salads" I bring each morning, from the old broccoli and Brussels sprout plants. The piglets are in a greenhouse now, and have installed their own racetrack around the truck topper that serves as their "house." Their boundless appetites and the speed with which they grow never cease to amaze me.
This time of year, we are all reminded to be thankful for our many gifts and for the great fortune of having what we need. I strive to keep this feeling of gratitude at the fore as I make my rounds on my little focal pinpoint on this great big earth and care for those who feed me. I am honored and humbled by the opportunities before me and with each bite of the bounty grown here, I give thanks.