In the spring of 2016, we decided to raise our first pig to fill our winter freezer. Part of our progression towards self-sustaining living included developing the ability to raise and harvest livestock for sustenance, which is an essential protein staple during long cold Vermont winters. If we couldn’t do it, we’d stop eating all meat. When Hazel, aka ‘Hazel Razzle Dazzle Bodazzle,’ arrived in early June, we were instantly blown away by her intelligence. Small, cream and pink-colored, with dark polka dots, she burrowed into the hay and cautiously assessed our intentions from the doorway of her A-frame pig hut. Within a day, she befriended our curious shepherd puppy, Blue, and hopped excitedly on her bipeds as they licked and nipped each other through the hog panels. At 6am and 6pm, she waited patiently for us by her feeding trough and thanked us with happy snorts and grunts as we watched her quickly grow.
In mid-October, the eve of Hazel’s harvest day arrived. As the autumn leaves changed to hues of red and gold, Hazel snuggled her 200 pound bulk into her hut and enjoyed the last of the garden’s organic tomatoes. Since we neither have the experience nor the equipment (not to mention a sterile processing area) to harvest her ourselves, I scheduled time at a local USDA certified slaughterhouse at a local, community farm. The evening before her harvest date, we borrowed our neighbor’s homemade livestock carrier and discussed our plan on ways to coax Hazel out of her muddy, hay-filled lair with pasta and ‘salad,’ two of her favorite treats. Per usual, our strategic farm planning was based on logic, not experience.
As soon as we began to try to lure her into the carrier with her treats, she seemed to become aware of our intention. Her trust in us slowly faded. With us in pursuit, she ran to the farthest possible corners of her run, refused her treats, snorted loudly and angrily rooted her snout in the mud. At one point, she plowed through our blockades on either sides of the carrier, and we relied on Blue to herd Hazel back into her pen. Although I know I’m guilty of personification, I’m convinced Hazel sensed her fate. We did our best to keep ourselves calm and positive but her hour long, elusive dance tired us out and, after the night sky darkened, we left her in peace and opted to try again in the morning..