Thus ends the life of Mr Wu. All that is left to do is tell the story. I have been avoiding thinking about this all year. Putting down my 600 lb pound friend and filling a freezer. On the way to the abattoir, tears started to come but I choked it back. Maudlin by nature, its easy for me to only focus on my failures or the experiments that didn’t live up to my expectations. This miffs MrsC5 sometimes. She says I don’t focus enough on my successes. Its true, of course. One of my skills is that I consistently do the impossible with nothing. Its my only real skill. Nothing motivates me more than to be told it cant be done. My usual response is, “Just watch me. If you don’t have any helpful advice, get the fuck out of my way”. But today, my thoughts were that we will most likely never try pig breeding again. We may have a pig again to do field clearing and tilling and freezer within the year. Having a bakers dozen plus a huge boar overwhelmed our abilities. But without the ability to breed ongoing generations, this was a survival Fail for me. It was not an experiment I could afford to fail in. I’ll explain why latter. More so, we lost friends in this endeavor. We also learned the people that had moved onto our land were not the right fit and had to go.
I had been psyching myself up to shoot Mr Wu and attempting a piss assed butchery. I had already culled one of his siblings as well as one of his offspring…but this would be different. He was my friend. MrsC5 would have nothing of it. She demanded a proper abattoir and butcher. It seemed I had dodged responsibility but I was relived. When he stepped off the trailer and into the final pen, the abattoir was preparing for the usual potential chase. When Mr Wu followed MrC5 out the trailer and into the pen, the abattoir commented, “Wow. That is not something you see. You must have been very hands on with him”. Other than seeing he was OK, I didn’t want to spent any farewell time with him. That would have been too much. As I turned away, My final thoughts were the cheezy Babe movie lines, “That’ll do pig. That’ll do”.
It was the Abattoirs words that made it easier on me because I realized he had had a very good life. Now every body says that but in Mr Wu’s case, it was definitely true. The proof was in his graceful end. He had spent his last year getting strange pussy and having many piglets on another farm while we were away in Peru. More so, he was totally free range, wandering the hills as he pleased (Not something I would recommend, by the way. Feral pigs are an environmental catastrophe).
When he was with us, after his harness phase, he was left in an orchard we wanted to reclaim surrounded by our ancient dead hedge experiment. This was mainly a Failed experiment. (Another Post…) Torpedo shaped, Pig Headed, little eating machines can push though or rip out of the ground, just about anything you can build, (including buildings) yet word was getting around about this huge pig behind a stick fence and they came miles out of their way down a dirt rode to park their car and stare at this pig.
But the BIG number of people that knew about Mr Wu came from an article I wrote first at Permies.com and repeated over at the International Preppers Network. Someone from Permies recently asked for More to his story. I said yes….but it should really start by re-posting the original article…and tweaking it into a Redux, more polished version. Its an important article. So, without further Adue. (He looks so tiny in these photos)
The Post-Apocalyptic Permaculture Pig
If I croak tomorrow, I owe the Prepper and Permaculture world a brief synopsis of what we have learned about raising a pig on a harness. This is outside of most North Americans idea of how to raise a pig. I won’t try to sell you folks that this is “The Way” to raise a pig. Just “A Way”. This was a problem solving experiment, mainly to deal with the incredible expense of fencing or lack thereof in a wold of diminishing resources, both materials and financial. If we screwed up this experiment, we simply would have filled our freezer early and “eaten” the loss.
O.K. That’s way too serious of a way to start one of my posts. I’ll start again with the words of one of our farm sitters. “Taking the pig for a walk was the high point of all my farm experiences. I was frightened at first but then it was fun.” Mr Wu (bonus points go to anyone that guesses why we named him that) grossly outweighed her at less than a year of age. At this point, I don’t even leash him when taking him for a walk around farm with the dogs. It’s something to see, a huge pig, galloping across the fields with the dogs. It’s a little more intimidating when he is charging towards you like a small buffalo. I’m sure glad he likes me. This is one happy pig. Clearly we did something right…in spite of that certain people told us that we were doing something bad and this might even be cruel for the animal. I had worries, myself. These worries began to flow away the first few times he rolled over onto my feet to have his belly scratched…or when, one time, he broke out of his pen, he didn’t run off into the forest but sauntered up to the front door with a “What are you guys up to” look on his face.
Now, I take great pride in that I could beat most large dogs in a fight if they attacked me. I trained myself for that. I’m a little rough around the edges. A couple days ago, I came to the conclusion that I would not be able to win in a fight with this pig. Just like the dogs, he was born to fight. Just like the dogs, he likes to rough house as play. A couple of days ago he hit me with a sneak attack. He likes to drive himself between my legs from behind in an attempted to knock me over. My usual defense is to sit on him and ride him around for a while like a bronco buster. This time, he caught me off guard and after a few seconds on the ride, crashed down into a bush in a winded huff without any of my secret ninja pride intact. I looked over to him and realized if he attacked me now…I was done. Instead, I could tell he was doing the piggy equivalent of at laughing at me and his triumph. My point is that this is a happy pig that likes me and has a way better life than most animals we raise for food. At the moment, he is harnessed to a large tire in the garden, tilling up the garden and weeding or working in mulch. He is a pig with a job. A permaculture job. A post-apocalyptic permaculture pig.
(What is this alien creature? Are we supposed to kill it?) (Touch training. He did not like me. I was the big bad wolf. To eat, he had to risk me touching him)
So, how did we get to this point of me on the ground with a pig laughing at me and why should you consider this option, especially in a survival, prepper, permaculture, collapse of western, business as usual, society context. And why should you listen to me besides that I am so charming? I have no pig raising experience. I have no farm experience other than the last few years. I am something of a Survival Expert though that means little. A C5 Rule Of Survival is- “There is no such thing as a Survival Expert. Anyone claiming to be is just trying to sell you something”.
Like I said, I had been trying to figure out a way to deal with small livestock raising without the expense of easily sourced or debt financed fencing of our fields. We just can’t afford to fence our fields. We can afford electric fencing and solar batteries as a mobile option…but these are a short term solution to a much larger problem. If you need to feed yourself but the money is gone or that fencing or batteries are no longer available…well, that whole C5 survival expert status means I have to solve that little problem for the next generation of have nots. People have probably seen tethered goats. One online friend had faced the same problem with her cow. She solved it by tethering it to a tire. The cow could eat its pasture and pull the tire further into the field for fresher grass…but couldn’t run off down the road to run amuck.
The big Lightbulb moment for me was visiting Cuba. For those not familiar with the subject, Cuba is often referred to as “The mini Peak oil” With the embargo in place and the collapse of the Soviet Union ending their oil supplies, Cuba had to adapt to non-Big Ag, mass production food systems coming to a complete stop. When we arrived, it was the end of the dry season, the rains hadn’t arrived yet and grazing was withered. Lots of animals were looking pretty thin. They were also all tethered, tied to anyplace there was grass. Instead of bringing food to the animals, they brought the animals to the food. Oh good. It wasn’t just me waxing all survivalist with this little problem.
Then we saw a pig out in a field. A couple of piglets were hanging out with it. Why was this pig so far away from people? Did it escape? Was it wild? Then I pointed it out to MrsC5, “Are my eyes deceiving me? That pig is on a leash. I didn’t know that was possible. The little ones aren’t even running off. They are all staying with the big one…unattended.” Then the little wheels started spinning in my head. Might I have just solved our pig fencing dilemma. A day later I explained to MrsC5 that we were going to have a pig on a leash. Luckily, she was immediately on board. Whew. Thank goodness I didn’t have to explain this nutty idea to her. It would be a hard sell to most people. The next insight while walking around in the rural hinterlands of Cuba is that all the houses had fenced yards…but the fences were often hodge podged together from any scraps they could find. A rusted piece of metal from the beach was wired in with scrap wood, boulders, cactus’s, whatever could be scavenged. Most likely to keep pigs out…or in. I never asked. But my theories about fencing in a world with severely limited resources was there in front of my eyes. It was the small, excessively rusty beach metal, carefully woven into the fence that sticks with me to this day. (Put’in him to work young, tilling in the garden)
There is another C5 Rule of Survival- “There is a big difference between KNOWING in the Biblical Sense and KNOWING in the Porn sense” Unless you have first hand experience in it…assume it doesn’t work…no matter what you saw on youtube…or what you read in my self proclaimed survival expertlyness bloggeryness
We wanted pigs because pigs were going to be the only way to get the necessary fat intake to survive a Canadian winter without slowly starving to death. We had already learned that chickens weren’t sustainable here, in spite of just assuming we could raise chickens as a survival assumption. A belief I’d had all my life. Knowing in the biblical sense knocked that right out of me. I can’t grow the food they need to get through a winter in this location with limited machinery. I tried. I failed. But I could grow rabbit or pig food. Perhaps you have read the old stories of people that had all the rabbits they needed but starved to death anyhow. Rabbits don’t have the necessary fat. Neither do deer for that matter. Bear, geese and beaver, yes…but we had already given up on the idea that any wild food source would still be around in a collapse setting. Most of the wild animals we take for granted almost went extinct during the Great Depression. It will be worse now. Think of hunting on the very last day of hunting season. Your chances are slim. So that leaves domesticated pigs. If you want cooking oil, it’s going to be lard.
But with everything else going on around the prepper farm…it had moved into the category of “Next Year” jobs. Next year became next year the next year and so on.
Then one of our Prepper friends made the decision for us. We got a call, “Guess what? I Just bought three pigs. Berkshire, Tamworth cross”. I jokingly replied, “One of those is for us. Right?”
I didn’t actually think he would say yes. OK. It took a few weeks. He was using the old reasoning. If you raise three pigs and sell two that pays for your own pig in the fall. But I think he got curios about how we were going to raise him with this whole tethering idea. We were caught off guard because we wanted to start with a much cheaper breed. It was after all, a practice pig. If we screwed it up the first time, we would just eat what we did wrong. But our friend had already chosen the friendliest and least skittish of the three for us. The one that was most curious and didn’t mind being scratched. The more Berkshire of the three. This put us into a panicky scramble. I had a day to whip up a small enclosure out of recycled fence material I already had on hand. I had to make sure he couldn’t dig underneath. I don’t know how to raise a pig. I butted it against the chicken coop to break the wind.
O.K. Less story telling. Just the facts. Lets start with what I did wrong right off the bat. You have to start this process at a much younger age than we did. Your pig needs to be touched, scratched and handled as young as possible. Our relationship started with me having to wrestle him down. It turns out I was good at this because of the dog fighting I mentioned above. Just pin it to the ground, pick it up and put it in the truck. I had to do it again a few days later to get the harness on him. Big mistake. To a pig, the only thing that pins it down is a predator in the process of killing it. It didn’t trust or like me again for quite a while. Pigs never forget. MrsC5 hadn’t been the one to pin him so she had to take over trust building with the pig. I was the big bad wolf.
Trust got rebuilt as he realized there was benefits to this arrangement. In fact, we are onto a new phase of his training. While I write this, he is off leash outside. This is new and has had its own problems we are working out. He gets a few hours of wandering free now.
Back to early raising. He started in a small enclosure. Two days later, the entire enclosure had been tilled. We were amazed. This little pig was a tilling machine…and the wheels in my head started to turn once more. Anyone who has ever tried to till a garden by hand knows that is not as simple as first envisioned and your first real fear of possibly having a heart attack. People try to get around this back breaking work with deep mulching or cardboard mulching on any other way to avoid tilling. We suddenly had a non gas powered tilling machine. A single minded eating machine. The implications were huge.
(this new enclosure was tilled in about a week…but he was much larger at the time)
Then came the next training. Getting a leash on the pig was the next problem. Remember, he didn’t trust me now…and I once again had to wrestle him to get the leash on. But I did and then walked him over to the new enclosure. He went right in and started tilling. Pigs are smart. He knew the enclosure was his safe place. We had to leave the leash on him and he just dragged it around for several months because it was easier to grab the leash than try to pin him to get it on. What a change to today. Now he comes up to the fence to say, “Please leash me because I want to go out. He is easier to leash than my dogs. It only took about three days for the pig to figure the leash thing out. He figured out that I was taking him to a new place for him to till. Let the healing begin.
Slowly his leash got longer when we tied a rope to it. He got attached to the fence or a tire. Unlike most pigs, he got to go places. It wasn’t long before the next big experiment. After a few beers I decided it was time to walk him to the top of the property. The pig, the dogs…and the cat. The cat had already embraced these walks. She knew if she walked in the fields she was hawk food so to explore further she would have to chase the dogs for safety. This was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. A small multi species commune on a walk, bound together for mutual support. The pig was curious enough to follow on this new adventure. It was going fine…until the kitty decided it would be fun to stalk the pig. Understand, the pig had grown fast…but even with this huge size difference, the pig’s instincts kicked in. Instinctualy, pigs seem to know that big cats are its major predator. This tiny kitty was death incarnate….and he yanked me home at a run to the safety of his safe enclosure.
As spring turned to summer and heat increased, we knew we had to get him out of the sun as leaving him tied in the field was cruel. Apple tree training had begun. We wanted some of the undergrowth under the trees cleared out. Air flow for tree health, a soft place for apples to land and ease of access, and eventually the goal – bring the pig to the food instead of bringing the food to the pig. As a bonus, interrupting the worm cycle of them surviving in the ground again after the apples fall. We still had to trim out all of the undergrowth to keep him from getting tangled…and boy, can that pig ever get himself tangled.(its hard to see but he is attached to a branch )
Which gets us to one of the down sides of this type of pig raising. It’s way more labor intensive. A pig is a social animal. It’s sort of cruel to have a single pig unless YOU are willing to be its social pig herd. You have to be around. You have to check up on it regularly. You have to adjust his harness every few days because they grow so fast. If you don’t…that harness will strangle him or chafe his skin causing cuts and lesions so you really have to invest the time of touching and handling him.
And you have to be there to hear him squeal when he gets himself tangled, which he will. If we go out someplace, he has to go back in his stall so we don’t come home to a strangled or panicked, traumatized pig.
Your main garden will need a sturdy fence because the pig is going to escape occasionally. Pigs are uber smart and driven by hunger. Mr. Wu learned how to open the fence gate within a short period. He pushes open doors, lifts raised gates, tests every possible escape route. I’ve even seen him try to lift the rope that ties the gate shut because he knows it slides into place.
Your pig WILL escape. Getting him back in his pen takes some simple training that is easy. Tie a bear bell to the feed bucket. He knows if he hears that bell, glorious food awaits and food is his single driving force. The bell sends him frothing.
Now, the next big problem. All this hands on relationship completely changes the relationship. It had always been, I pop this guy in the fall and he goes in the freezer. Then that day came when he plopped down onto my feet and rolled over to have his belly scratched, exposing himself in the same way my dogs would. The second time he did it…I went, “You Bastard. You are going to fuck me up. How can I shoot you?” Now that was always the intention. He was always food and had a time limit. I am “Survivalist enough” that I could shoot and eat my dogs if I had too…but doing so would hurt my soul and I would have to carry that. I carry too much already. Now the pig trusts and loves me as if he were one of my dogs. I can do it if I have to…but don’t ask me to. I need a friend that is not invested emotionally in him to pop him for me. I can handle the rest. I just can’t handle betraying him. This is a common problem for pig farmers. Because of this, a common practice is to trade pigs with another farmer. Killing and eating a pig is fine. Killing and eating the one you became emotionally involved with can be difficult.
Then Mr. Wu got a lease on life. An execution reprieve. The same prepper friend that we got him from was so impressed with his size and personality…that he encouraged us to keep him for a few years as a breeder. He had decided to go purchase a sow and together, we would breed our own pigs. To cover our loss of winter food, he would share half of his own boar. Now we are going from zero experience to pig breeder. There will be much more to learn.
Speaking of learning…or our lack thereof, we found out just yesterday that our pig is not suitable for rotational grazing. We would need a different type of pig for that. Grazing pigs will eat grass. Mr. Wu has never been interested in eating grass. He is a rooter. If you want to have grass fed pigs…you need a pig that eats grass. Ours isn’t it. Grass is just in the way. He wants the worms, grubs and field mice. Rotational Tilling…probably. We are really disappointed by what he won’t eat. Our intension had been to winter him on carrots and Jerusalem artichokes. He is not interested. The experiment continues. So know your pig. Until then he will partial winter on apples and squashes we have stored all over the house. And pig rations but the goal is to get him fully off pig feed. We need food that we don’t have to drive to. Food produced right here on the homestead.
Ours roots so we are using him as a rooter. He is a cold weather breed so he will be out for the winter with a shelter he can go into as a dry place to sleep and escape the wind. We fenced a temporary winter enclosure that our intention is to be an extension to our garden. We wanted to move the garden closer to the house so we have to walk less which really does take up a lot of our farming time. Walking back and forth really does consume time when added up over the year so we have to streamline our calorie and time expenditures. Of course that means expending more time to build him a new area next year.
(Running free with the dogs. This is where we break out into a rousing chorus of Born Free, As Free as the Wind Blows…..)
I wanted to give a word of warning. Safety stuff. Remember, I said I am an amateur at this pig stuff. Not an expert… and we are talking about a Boar here…so you do have to keep in mind that it is sort of like making friends with a bull… or me for that matter. We are complex bundles of ancient instincts, hormones and luggage.
We also learned what the term, Pig Headed means. When he is at something he wants…he is all instinct and cannot be dissuaded. Slaps, punches or kicks will not change his mind. He is just too solid to feel any of that…and he will only get bigger.
So it is important for us all to not “Babe, The Pig” this story too much. There is a reason why pig farmers bring a pointy stick when interacting with there hogs…and occasionally a pig eats a farmer…or a child.
Someone sent a note that is worth you all reading as a cautionary tale to put some balance into my story. It read,
“Hey, really enjoyed your post about MR Woo
I have a friend who had a very very nice boar who would do the roll and scratch thing
Mine did that too.
But one day his pig went into “rut” (that’s what they call it)
And his friendly li’l 80-90kg pal sent a tusk UNDER his KNEECAP and chased him up a pecan tree
he escaped, eventually and spent 10 days in hospital
He advised me to dispatch my uncastrated boar, and I did, once he got scary (which was after his lady friend gave birth)
Maybe if you never breed with him, he’d be ok, I don’t know.
But I just wanted to give you this heads up.I have a four month old uncastrated boar which I am going to swap with another neighbor who has the same
and after I’m sure the work is done, I’ll dispatch him, which will probably be in six months.I’ll be sad, but me and my kids will be safe”
Well, My public service announcement is done. Like most things, You have to weigh the risk to benefit part. You have to assess your own abilities and manage risk. A chainsaw is extremely dangerous. Its also damned useful. So, it has to be used with caution and respect.
When I first started writing this, I was in the middle of a health crisis. I figured I had a responsibility to pass this on fast. C5 Rule of Survival- If your only goal is Survival…You have a ZERO percent chance of success. Live a good life. Its far easier to live with.
Rumors of my demise were greatly exaggerated.
Soooo. I still have a responsibility to continue this post. Good news. Mr. Wu cruncher on some Jerusalem Artichokes or Sunchokes recently and…finally…decided he liked them. With winter approaching, I guess a complex carbohydrate and starch became appealing. Double good news because sunchokes are highly invasive. They are an ultimate survival food for guerilla gardeners. Old School survivalism. Plant and forget. But highly invasive. You will never fully dig them out.
Now that he recognizes sunchokes as food…he IS digging them himself. Pig to the food instead of food to the pig. Still, I’m storing them in buckets, for the winter, of half sunchokes and half dirt.
Now, another commenter had written,”This is where, as a permie, I would take a serious look at the dietary diversity and history of the native cultures of your region. Somehow, all of those indigenous cultures were grooving along just fine without Euro foods.” I will add that many survivalist leaning “A’hunin and A’fishin like granpappy and the brave frontiersmen” types will say, “Why bother with all this work?”
I thought I would nip this in the swollen, unwashed anus.
Goddess bless the First Nations. In My Blessing the First nations…we really have to ditch the myth of returning to ” dietary diversity and history of the native cultures of your region. Somehow, all of those indigenous cultures were grooving along just fine without Euro foods”. I have written about this recently enough but should badger it again. Those food sources ARE GONE…and have been for quite a while.
Example. The First Nations in my recently adopted region…in pre colonial invasion days…a staple food source was the passenger pidgin. I bring it up because most people recognize the name and that it is now extinct….but that doesn’t really paint the real picture. Try to imagine the sky so thick with passenger pigeons and other fat filled foul that it would occasionally block out the sun. Imagine Fish stocks so thick that they would occasionally stop fishing boats against a wall and fishermen reporting they could walk on them. Seals in the billions…etc
Those day are gone. Trying to return to those days is a false narrative. The forests are now mono cultures…ad a shitload of people. I’m not dissing traditional skills…just pointing out the obvious. Most of the species we take for granted almost went extinct or actually did go extinct in areas during the Great Depression and had to be reintroduced with the hunting rules we have today. There is ALOT more people today. I use American Numbers to get my point across.
C5 Rule of Survival- “30 million Deer in America. 350 million people. One deer per person per month strictly rationed. You do the unworkable math and Prep accordingly.”
I’m not trying to be an argumentative dick. Im trying to save peoples lives that are looking at …being a fake indian…as a survival fall back option. The First Nations have plenty to teach us. Philosophy. Community. Endurance. Unfortunately they can also teach us about starvation…and the near death of a culture because of it. The invaders destroyed the food source to destroy the culture.
Now imagine 350 million hungry people deciding that going after 30 million deer is a good idea. In a real modern crisis….Ild give the deer about two weeks before they were extinct….forever. Other species follow.
Another commentor added, “I see your point, but the way I see it , after I look around at most of those 350 million folks, I am betting that 3/4 of them will be gone within a couple of months as they have no idea how to live without everything being delivered to their front door. Maybe the deer will stand a chance after all”. I have heard several versions of this excuse before. Its sort of like the “I want to be under the bomb” excuse.
Humans are tenacious. That’s how we find ourselves at this piece of history, finding ourselves the victims of our own success. Consider the Syrian Refugee crisis. They didn’t go quietly into the deep. They moved!
Its only the beginning. Future climate refugees will make this look like some boring historical subnote that most without history professor credentials will yawn at. We are really only getting started.
I’m not the only one that figured out the wilderness calorie problem. Hey. Most of my early survival studies were solely based around historic First Nation lifestyle arrangements… But about the same time I was beginning to question this (can my survival experience produce Actual Survival)…other random people were coming to the same conclusion. There was a “Hundredth Monkey” thing going on. While I was pointing out the C5- 300 million problem…others put it better…and I wish I could take responsibility for the far better way of looking at it that floated around several preparedness communities. …and it was directed at Hunters that were very good at hunting. Not the rest of the people with a gun or bow or pointy stick that plan on hunting for survival . “Consider Hunting on the very last day of hunting season. Your chance are slim”. Now add everyone else with the same plan.
So……Pigs……and community or villages. Its why I make my life harder than it has to be.
A pig on a leash. A pig with a job. A pig I can take places. A pig I can release to intimidate trespassers. A pig that produces life dependent winter fat. A Post-Apocalyptic Permaculture Pig. That’s all I got. I hope you can make use of this information
And that ended the article…but it didn’t end the story.
Then the Girls showed up.
With those words, many a man has been destroyed. “And Lord, I know I’m one”. Sure, they seem soft, warm and inviting….Then you find out the cost. By then you are usually already trapped. The simple and straight forward bachelor days are over.
Mr Wu was a chick magnet…
Clearly, so am I. This girl piggy used to be soooo sketchy, trusting no one. Now that is gone completely. She looks at me with loving eyes and is first up to be scratched. Mr Wu taught her how to like humans, now that she sees that Mr woo loves me. Mr Wu taught her how to like humans.
And he taught her what to do. She now follows me. If not me, then at least the feed bucket when she is less interested.
(He teaches them to dig sunchokes)
(just a great shot, hiking with the dogs)
The second female was more problematic…and would eventually sow the seeds to the loss of a friendship…but I am not going to use my pulpit to point fingers. The second sow was stunted, bit us, didn’t breed, wasn’t smart and instigated breakouts. The general rule with pigs is to cull deep and often. You slaughter the pigs with traits you don’t want before they breed those traits into a new generation. That, and an unproductive animal just consumes costly food. In this case, Mr Wu didn’t like her much either.
But the simplicity of tethering was also coming to an end. Too many animals. especially when the piglets would arrive. It wasn’t even worth considering. That sent me scrambling onto the next experiment. A huge experiment. An experiment that failed monumentally. The Dead Hedge. An ancient fencing method. Not really a failure. As MrsC5 points out, its too easy for me to only focus on things that didn’t turn out to be a miracle cure. It did work. the area looks great now. This would work for sheep. Just not for pigs…as they can tare through almost any fence.
We were un prepared for pigs shear tenacity. As mentioned, we will cover dead hedging another post. I’m just pointing out that our main experiment was not just going from zero pig experience to having a consistent source of pork. It was to do this without reliance on financed industrial consumer products. Products that wont be around one day… like electric fencing or cement or brutally expensive steal wire fencing. Or even lumber for that matter. What is the point of putting in 20 thousand dollars of dept financed infrastructure and risking your land to foreclosure for a couple thousand dollar return. I see this happen all the time. Our food system is broken to the core. Only multi millionaires can afford to farm now days and they don’t do it by small holding happy, healthy pigs.
But before I tell you my woes, This is a good place to give a shout out to Permies or Permaculturalists. They have been diligently trying to find work arounds or re inventing old technologies, here at the end of the empire. The best news is that they share what they learn. Like here. https://permies.com/f/61/pigs
And this is the most impressive thing I have seen anywhere. EVER! Using pigs to make ponds. https://permies.com/t/38201/Progress-Gleying-Pond-Pigs
Permaculturalists have done some good work in rotational grazing pigs. This is usually done with with a mobile electric fencing. Its best if you only keep them in the same place for about 2 weeks, then move them to the next spot so the old spot can re grow. We could do that…and next time we probably will.
But here at the Dark Green Mountain Research Centre, our focus is always on a wold in collapse where you cant just BUY your way out of troubles. So, you can say we took one for the team. At least I feel better if I look at it that way.
But before our crash and burn, there definitely was a honeymoon phase. We birthed piglets without a single death. Eleven of them. MrsC5 was right in there pulling off placentas and moving them towards the tits so they didn’t wander off and freeze to death.
There is certainly something to say for the Tamworth sow. She was extremely good at not crushing the babies while laying down. This isn’t the case with other breads that flop themselves down, killing a large percentage. We had done it. We were officially pig breeders.
Then it all went to hell….
(so cute like this…)
(and this….but who am I kidding. By this point they were already becoming a nightmare mob of hourly break outs)
(I putt’em to work early tilling the old compost pile into garden space)(Of course, this is what we began to wake up to each day. They would break out and we would be having to assess the damage before we could even get in the morning coffee)
It went to hell in a hand basket.
Well, not so dramatic. It was the slow accumulation of 100 things. Death by 100 cuts. They required our entire effort. We were trapped. If you looked away, they would break something. Boy, could they break shit. Shit that I had built. Shit that I needed not to be broken…like my greenhouses. Like our garden fence. Like the garden for that matter. Like the pig fence. Oh the pig fence. That became a daily occurrence. They got under it. They got over it. If that didn’t work they just busted it. We kept reinforcing it. We then watched in amazement as they destroyed all our work. Mr Wu was pretty big at this point so if he got bored, he would just put his nose under the fence and rip the posts out of the ground and we would find him in the mud room with his head in the feed bucket eating a weeks worth of food. Slaps wouldn’t dissuade him. Even kicks wouldn’t work. He felt nothing when he was in feeding frenzy. I can now see the value of an electric cattle prod…though that is not a good idea to use regularly if you want a happy relationship. We would have to yank him out the door by the ears with one person pushing from the rear, with every ounce of both our strienth. As time went by and we were slow being broken, on more than one occasion I was ready to shoot the fucker and be done with him. All of them for that matter. They ALL found ways to find my last nerve and jump up and down on it. Our farm had become our prison and the inmates were running the asylum.
Part of the BIG problems was keeping them separated. Pigs are heard animals. They don’t want to be separated. Separating Mama before she gave birth was the start. She kept busting her enclosure. She tried to dig through the barn wall. Those outside tried to do the same to get to her. Their winter enclosure had now become one big mud pit. I had to expand fast, thus the excessive dead hedged orchard. That was my next all consuming task. Though they liked this new freedom, all the same fence busting problems continued. I could no longer continue the experiment. I eventually needed to run electric wire around the hedge. They still found ways to break out but they eventually figured out the electric fence. Yet they found other ways to piss me off. No matter how sturdy I built there water trough, they would figure out how to flip it, forcing me to to make watering them twice a day a huge job by wading through the mud surrounded by demanding pigs. I was constantly covered in mud and pig shit.
And we were right back to the problem of how to keep them separated. Mr Wu didn’t want to be separated from mama. Mama didn’t want to be separated from babies. The babies were escape artists. All of this involved alot of breaking of shit. Shit I had built. Shit I could not afford to have broken.
For those considering electric fencing, we missed an important step with the piglets. Electric fence training. While they are young, they have to be kept in a small but fully enclosed area with the fence wire around it. They learn very quickly to avoid the wire. Well, we missed that step so they just ran through the wire…which would panic Mama so she would face being zapped or break shit to get to the piglets. It kept going on and on.
It all came to a head when Mama came back into heat. This sent all the males into a drug induced orgy like fucking frenzy. At one point, we found one of the kids successfully plowing mama. This was a major disaster. If she got pregnant now, she would not have built up enough fat to get through the next canadian winter. She would give birth in the winter, with most likely, all of them dieing, including the mother. In desperation, we called out for help from the people we were supposedly sharing this pig breeding arrangement with. We didn’t get that help. Instead we got blame. The two sow’s owner had worked up a paranoid fantasy in his head that somehow we were abusing the animals. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was us that was being abused.
Where to go next. This isn’t all about me whining about what went wrong. I will get around to lessons learned and problem solving near the end.
Friends were lost. Attempts at money making was lost. Attempts at community building was lost. Our garden fence was breaking down. Our deep mulch gardening method wasn’t giving us results. And now the pigs. The failures were starting to accumulate. Our successes were harder to celebrate. I was feeling like a fraud. I was feeling like I had failed. We were burnt out.
But as friends were lost, new relationships were beginning. Mythos and Logos entered the scene as well as a few others. What a contrast. While others wanted to tell us everything we were doing wrong or taking this opportunity for some dog psychology, a weak dog attacking a wounded dog to place themselves in a better pack placement position, Mythos came in, took a look at what we had been doing and said, “This place is awesome”. They got what we were doing here, them being permaculture specialists. They had gone through some of the same problems. And it turns out, we were inspiring them as well as them inspiring me.
So, fall came and the pigs went off to slaughter. Relief. Just one problem. One of them had escaped and a whole Keystone Cop episode ensued that included me flying through the air in football like tackles, getting his feet, then me being dragged along and repeatedly kicked in the face until I let go. Escaped pig had won this round. He wasn’t going…but this did impress the hell out of the friends that were helping. I would never have to prove my generally aging warriornesslyness to anyone again. The little torpedo shaped ball of muscle had won but I still walked away with my manliness intact. Facial bruises and all.
Suddenly the farm became alot more peaceful again. Only two pigs to deal with.
I saw this break out as an opportunity for further learning and community building. I had killed a few animals before and been there at the skinning but I didn’t really have much experience at butchery. Al least not butchery that gave you anything that looked like a steak. Believe it or not, European style butchery is not the only type of butchery out there. Now, I was inspired by a dear carcass I once found near a reserve. All the meat had been taken off without cutting through one bone. It was impressive. Skeleton filly intact. I figured this was my future. But a different opportunity presented itself. I had met a new person recently that I wanted to fold into the tribe. He had raised a pig before but wasn’t involved in the slaughter…but he had some meat cutting experience. I had killed animals before but don’t know cuts. It was an excuse for a man date. Another person came by for the learning experience.
This is my theory on the best way to build prepper community. Just figure out ways to get diverse people to hang out together. If you click, you click. If not, you now know. Introduce them to other friends. They might click. You might lose friends someday but like any good prepper, you know the rule- Two is one. One is none.- Built in redundancy. Have plenty of replacements. As I have said before, preppers are over rated. I have met plenty of people that self identify as preppers but few are actually prepared in the slightest. Most come with baggage that makes them have a hard time working together. I wanted to reach further afield, to those that would not identify as preppers and it would lead to one of my best C5 rules.
C5 Rule Of Survival- The single greatest survival skillset is…(envelope please…)The Dinner Party.
Just get people that are somewhat involved in food production, in the same place. I’ll cover this another time.
So, I shot him in the head and slit his throat.
The pig. Not the friend or dinner party participants. I’m just making sure you didn’t drift off.
Its never so crass or straight forward. I have an empathy for animals. Under no circumstance would I ever want an animal to suffer. A few people I have known, maybe. Hum… Should I delete that or not. How about that local sports group….
But an animal is my charge and best I can do is to make it happen as fast as possible. I had seen a pig kill go terribly wrong once. Somehow the bullet missed the essential part of the brain and it ran off terrified and in pain. I grabbed the rifle out of the hands of the person that suddenly realized he had fucked up and went after the pig, eventually finishing the job with one more to the head but from a challenging distance. I didn,t want something like that to ever happen again.
I determined that with my own pigs, I would double tap. One to stun so he dropped. One to make sure their was no mistake about it. I also decided to use the BFK I carry around the farm for daily tasks. For those unfamiliar, BFK stands for Big Fucking Knife. The moment the pig went down, I used the BFK to open the arteries in the neck. I didnt want to diddle fuck around trying to find the artery. The insertion and downward cut halfway took off his head. With a cut that size the body instantly drained of blood and he was gone. Three decisive forces of will. Those watching commented on how it happened so fast that they had almost missed it. One moment he was there. The next, gone. I had to do something ugly but left proud I had done it right. If only my death would be so fast. I find that hope highly unlikely.
So, lets go over the list of my mistakes, find some solutions, especially in the context of trying to handle all this in a world in the midst of collapse. Most articles you read tell you rosy stories, whether that is the Better Farms And Gardens, Harrowsmith, Martha Stewart fantacy world or Fake Frontiersman in raccoon cap sillyness. They never seem to go back to their Youtube clip and tell you how it all went sideways clusterfuck. Well, not here at the Dark Green Mountain Survival Research Centre. Research means being honest about mistakes and failures and not giving people false hope by prettying shit up.
The first mistake is obvious. All of this happened before we were ready…so we were always playing catch up. We were always reacting to each problem as it was thrust upon us. We were never ahead of it the entire time.
Now, this is the normal survival learning process. You only learn from your mistakes. You adapt. That is why you want to be living your survival plan NOW. Nothing makes me roll my eyes and think, “Dead survivalist walking” more than hearing someone say, “When the SHTF, I am going to…..”. You have already failed. Go play more Call of Duty, watch porn and live a happy life while you can but please don’t call your self a prepper. You can tell a successful man, not by his success but by the number of failures it took . I am a remarkably successful man…… cough, hold on.Wahahahaha…… Let me get my breath. I think I pee’d a bit.
There were too many mistakes this time though. Part of the problem is that we were trying to make money. MrsC5 was trying to make money by small farming. I think she has FINALLY given up on that idea and got it out of her system. I always knew that was a fools errand but never stopped her because I justified the financial loss as not a total loss. She learned to work for a dollar an hour or less…and any trade still taking place as First World countries become Third World countries, is probably going to be a small return of that level. She now has post apocalyptic business experience. Plus, she was thinking in larger production for that inevitable day when we would have to feed a bunch more people.
If you were doing this for personal consumption, You would have eaten most of the piglets at a very young age. Have you heard of the term Suckling Pig. That means it was a weekend meal…while the piglet was still suckling on mama. One meal pig. You would have kept doing this until you had a manageable number of pigs. No worries of boar taint because the males would never make it to fucking frenzy stage. Most north amerikans would freak because it was baby pig shaped. Not a nondescript slab clearly grown on Styrofoam.
Next problem. Here in the not so new, New World, people wanted european farming. But over in Europe, old farms had STONE FENCES. A field was made by clearing all the stones and turning that into fences that a pig was not getting through. Same with their stalls to keep them separated. It was a multi generational job to move all that stone. I don’t have stones on my farm. Who knows where they ended up. Probably filling a hole somewhere. Pig enclosures would probably have to be built here with big, heavy, split rail logs. That is a huge job…and a temporary job. Wood rots fast where I live. Sunken log posts rot even faster here. Sunk in concrete so the pigs couldn’t yank the post out of the ground would be helpful as would concrete bases so they couldn’t dig underneath. Concrete is also damned expensive now days and sort of defeats the purpose. I have no solution. Just pointing out the problem.
This brings up another catastrophe we faced. When the pigs were eventually successfully contained behind the combination of of dead hedge and electric wire, they successfully tilled the entire area. I now have a cleared out orchard where once I could not get through it and all the apples were wasted and trees were being out competed by wild trees. They saved the orchard…once I put cages around the apple trees in a panic because the started to strip the bark off the trees I wanted to keep. But once it was tilled and the rains came and they sloshed though it all day, it suddenly became one gigantic mud pit. One day, once again in a panic, I realized they were standing in deep muck and couldn’t lie down so they couldn’t sleep. I got them somewhere else. Oh joy. More work. A concrete slab where they can get out of the mud would be a must. They had already trashed my mobile pig shed because they liked to tear out the walls and Mr Wu liked to flip it like a play toy. A shipping container, opened up for plenty of ventilation would work well as a pig barn because they couldn’t trash it and it would be easy to muck out but it seems a waste of a good shipping container.
Another insight that calls towards pig raising as not being a solo venture but a tribal or village or post apocalyptic group task. Back in the Ol’ Days… real old, like goats or sheep, Pigs would have a full time pig herder. That pig tending person would have saved us from all the damage the pigs did. I remember from those Hollywood world war II movies, the germans would insult people by calling them Swineherder. I have no idea if this was a true insult or merely a Hollywood characture. But I can see this job as being given to a slow person…or someone with no other survival skills to justify keeping him fed.
Now, after all of that bad news, here is some epic GOOD NEWS. In Peru…. almost ALL the pigs we saw on small farms or in back yards…were TETHERED!!!! That’s right. It was normal. But only one pig at a time. Bad C5 that I am, I have no photos. We were always being driven past with no chance to see how they did it up close. A metal stake was pounded into the ground and they were attached to it. Same with cows. I don’t think they were harnessed like Mr Wu. I think they were hobbled like you would do to a horse that you didn’t want to run off. Only one shot to give you an idea.
This may work better because a harness can be pulled against with great strength. A hobble, not so much. Thus the name. Hobble. But you would have to figure out how to do it right so you don’t hurt the animal.
I think that is all I got. I still haven’t figured out how to do it without electric fencing or excessive log builds. I’ll keep trying to find work arounds.
Only one friend ever got Mr Wu’s name. He went, “That’s Dark… but funny”. Mr Wu was a character in the Deadwood, TV series. Dead bodies in town were disposed of by going to Mr Wu’s pigs. It was my playful way of communicating to visitors or trespassers or poachers that if they fucked up on my property… that they would go to Mr Wu. Buduptup.
So, I guess this is Mr Wu’s Eulogy. All I can do is raise a toast to his memory and say, Thank you for the survival adaption lessons you have taught us all. Me the most, my giant, gentle friend.
That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.
As embarrassing as it is, please share this info so it gets around.
And you all know where the tip jar is.
It may be a couple weeks til the next post.