Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thinking of Eating: Roger Grows Up

I got a call from Clare the other day saying that Don and Roger were growing much faster than she expected and would reach their ideal slaughter weight a couple of weeks before she'd anticipated.

You might remember the last time I went out, the pigs weighed in the neighborhood of 200 pounds. Don has always been the larger of the two, outweighing Roger by ten or so pounds, and he's definitely the more food-oriented. It was obvious when we went out to feed them table scraps and vegetable trimmings—Don went right for their food bowl, while Roger stood and leaned against me, insisting on getting scratches before he joined his brother.

After playing some piggy tag with them, Clare suggested feeding them some of the blackberries from the bushes just outside the pasture. Now, these are big animals, at least three times the size of the biggest dog I've played with. Even Walker has surprised well-meaning guests when they've proferred a treat and in his excitement he's taken their whole hand into his mouth.

But when I offered Roger a juicy blackberry, rather than chomping down, he gently took it from my fingers with his lips and swallowed, grunting appreciatively. After several more he ran off to play with Don, who'd decided that he was through with this dainty exercise and had gone to the grain bucket for some real chow.

While Don was munching away, we gauged his weight by measuring him with string. Yes, you heard me right. You take a five foot or so length of string, put one end between your pig's ears and run it down his back to the base of his tail (illustration, right), then mark it with tape or a knot. Then you measure his girth by putting the string around him just behind his front legs. Measure the marks on the string with a tape measure, use the following formula and you'll get a weight that Clare has found accurate (on pigs…not so much on people or dogs) to within five pounds:

Weight (lbs) = (Length x Girth x Girth) ÷ 400 (inches)

Which put Don at about 285, making Roger's weight around 270, confirming her suspicion that they were going to be ready for slaughter any time in the next couple of weeks.

Not to get off track, but we had a delicious posole verde the other day, made with pork shoulder that had been simmered for several hours till it was fall-apart tender. Served with rice and a cabbage slaw it was fabulous. I no more thought about the pig that shoulder came from than I thought about the plant the tomatillos came from.

Which is where this whole thing gets complicated. I find myself thinking at odd moments about Roger, who's definitely a people-oriented guy, and I'm getting kind of attached to him for just that reason. It's hard thinking he's going to be killed in just a couple of weeks and I'm frankly not looking forward to being there.

Having been through this several times before, Clare says she find it helps to replace the sadness with feelings of gratitude, so I'll be working on that in the coming days. I'll keep you posted.

Read the other posts in this series: Roger and Me, Saying Goodbye, The Day Finally Comes, The Meat of the Matter and Pasture to Plate.


peterpdx said...

Beautifully told. Kudos to you for getting to know the face that one day soon will be on your plate.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks, Peter. It's hard to write about this stuff, and I don't want it to sound maudlin. Always appreciate your feedback!

Clare Carver said...

roger says hi.. he cheated on you tonight with another woman you should know : ) ...

Kathleen Bauer said...

We both know he's got more than enough love to go around!

Clare Carver said...

oh BTW way to make matter worse I was scratching roger yesterday and then reached around and rubbed his belly and he immediately flopped over on my feet and begged for more belly rubs... he's too much... now the belly rubs are part of the routine... sigh

Kathleen Bauer said...

Oh, Clare…that is so cute and so heartbreaking at the same time!