Lucy, Lucy-Loo, I Love Lucy
The sweetest pig on the whole planet. She is the very center of what makes our farm a farm.
“How does this one sweet little pig make such an impact on a farm that has been raising pigs for years?” You might ask. “What so special about Lucy?” Well, let me share her story and our big farm dreams with you.
A Few Years Back
Our relationship with pigs started almost 10 years ago. We were living in Harrison Maine on about 6 acres in an old farmhouse my parents so generously allowed us to move to. On the land was an old pole-shed that was used for storing boats and was not really being used for anything. We didn’t know at the time that we would ever be raising pigs in that shed until we went to a class on raising chickens at our feed store. At that class we sat next to an old-timer farmer who raised pigs. He asked about our interest in farming and said, “If you have any interest in farming, pigs are where’s it's at!” We asked him a million questions, ignoring the class on chickens. I’m pretty sure the entire drive home all we talked about was pigs. It was settled, we were going to get some pigs!
We had lost the contact information for the guy we met at the class so the search for pigs continued. When I went to my local feed store to get grain, I noticed a post at the counter about some spring feeder pigs and inquired. I was able to reserve 2 pigs right through the grain store and they would let me know when they were ready for pick up. We immediately went out to get a gate, fencing, hay, water troughs and everything else we would need and anxiously awaited the phone call that our pigs were ready.
Finally, our pigs were ready to come home. Two perfectly beautiful Yorkshire gilts. We named them Thelma and Louise. We raised them with love and intention, and we learned so much about pigs. One pig we butchered ourselves and roasted in the ground for a summer party we were hosting. She had an umbilical hernia so it was important to process her as quickly as we could. The other pig we had picked up and delivered to our butcher. We were so pleased with the quality of the meat that we got back. We were asked so many times if it was hard for us to raise them and then butcher them and the answer is always “YES!” Why would it ever be easy? These are beautiful soulful creatures, and we love every single one of them. With careful research and study of the commercial way of farming (in large covered concrete facilities where these animals are confined to small feeding stanchions and are forced live their lives being treated like “livestock” and never have the chance to play around in the grass and dirt) we decided if we were going to eat meat, we wanted our animals raised differently. Not that we don’t understand or appreciate the commercial farming industry, just that we would rather not eat meat unless the animal was raised in a way that we appreciated more. This was the beginning of our farm ventures and our profound interest in raising pigs.
We have raised so many pigs from that time on I have lost count but there are so many pigs that have provided a very fond and impactful memory. We tried to name them all, love them all and get to enjoy everything little bit of personality they each offered but the result was always the same: off to the butcher. There was one pig, Wilbur, that we planned to keep. He had developed a severe case of pneumonia when he was being transported and never really recovered. We didn’t want to risk sending him to butcher due to his health, so we chose to keep him instead. He died out in the field, and I was devastated. He and few other pigs from that same year had died, the first time that has ever happened, due to illness and parasite issues they had prior to bringing them to our farm. We vowed to never purchase pigs from backyard “breeders” and could put our livestock and farm at risk again. We were so unimpressed with the living arrangements of mud and “slop” (a mixture of fermenting feed, urine, and feces) and pig shelters being made from tarps and truck caps. We knew we could do better and to do this we would have to consider breeding our own pigs.
2020 was the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic and farmers were hit hard. For the first time as a farmer, we were having a hard time finding piglets, feed, pine shavings, hay… pretty much anything agricultural. Stores were closed, shipping was at a standstill and EVERYONE in rural America went out and started buying up pigs, chickens, cows… pretty much anything they could their hands on. This was also a great year in terms of food sales. Our farm teamed up with other area farmers and created an online shopping tool for our local customers to shop for local meats, produce and dairy and we would deliver their foods directly to their doors. It was called “New Hampshire Farm to Door TM.” Our farm participated in several farmers markets, filled about a half dozen freezers of pasture raised pork, chicken, turkey and duck. We were setting the standards high for the years to follow and kept reaching out to fellow farmers for livestock and packaged meat. We worked tirelessly day and night to get enough meat to meet the needs of our community.
By 2021 we found a breeder to get our spring piglets for our farmers market season and she happened to have a new litter of Idaho Pasture Piglets. We knew we wanted to breed pigs but we were still researching breeds that we felt would be a good match for our farm, landscape and lifestyle. Idaho Pasture Pigs (IPP) were one of the options we had considered. I told Jared to go to the farm with an open mind and we would ask questions and gather information. So we loaded up the trailer, hit the road and off to meet our new farm friend to pick up our piglets and meet her Idaho Pasture Pigs.
First let me start off by saying how impressed we were with the farm we were visiting to pick up our pigs. We are always nervous when we make the trip around the corner to see if the farm is clean and organized or a literally dumping ground of trash, feces, and animals. This farm was such a pleasant surprise!!! The owner, Michelle, was incredibly friendly and had our pigs all sorted and ready to load, something else that has never been done for us before. We are usually running around in slop trying to scramble pigs on our own. (Have you tried to wrangle a young piglet before? Let's hear your story!) She first brought us to meet her IPP boar. Jared was mesmerized. This boar has huge furry ears, an upturned nose with jutting tusk, his body was covered in a coarse black coat. He was like no other boar we had ever seen. Next, she walked us down the field to meet her breed sows. One of the sows had her little piglets scrambling around in the shelter. They were all spotted with orange, white, black, and brown spots. They were about the size of a watermelon and likely only weighed about 8-10lbs each. There was only 1 little girl in that litter, and she was the only one that was mostly orange and had this unique white blaze around her jowls. Michelle pointed to her and told us that if we were going to consider a future breed sow, that one would be one of the options for us. She would be ready to come home with us in a few more weeks. Oh, my goodness, I wanted to scoop her up and bring her home so bad. I looked at Jared and I know he already knew what he was going to be faced with. He knew that I had decided, and it involved getting this little piglet and his list of “chores” just got a whole lot longer.
April 8th, 2021, and we were on the road. We planned a road trip to Virginia to pick up a Belgian Hare Rabbit, Pendleton (his biography is coming soon), and we told Michelle we would be by in the afternoon to pick up our little Lucy. Our ETA was around 5pm which was completely messed up with traffic, a near accident in New York City, getting lost and pretty much every other roadblock you could think of. We arrived much later than anticipated but either way, we were not coming home without our little Lucy. We had waited long enough. The transaction was quick. Lucy was still as small as a little puppy dog and fit in her carrier in the back of the Suburban. We planned to keep her quiet on the drive home figuring she was likely scared and tired from her day of trying to be caught.
When we arrived back at the farm, we had her spot all set up in Cash’s doghouse. Cash is our livestock guardian dog, and we start all our livestock with him to get them introduced and keep them warm and safe. Cash’s doghouse has a wall that we installed to contain Lucy, a heater, soft bedding and food and water. It was late that night, so we tucked her in and made out way back to the house to go to bed.
I woke up right with the sun and quietly snuck out to the doghouse to check on Lucy. She was sleeping but seemed safe and comfortable. I made my way back to the house to tell Jared all about how cute was when she was sleeping and started to get ready for the day. Jared left for work, and I started my chores for the morning. My first stop: Lucy. But this time, Lucy was GONE!!! The wall was 3 feet tall; did she jump it? Then there is Cash’s dog door, did she go through that? Then there is a wire mesh fence around the yard, clearly, she must still be somewhere in the yard. I started walking the perimeter and there she was. Furiously tossing herself against the fence trying as hard as she could to get through. I called Jared in a panic! “She's OUT! She's going to get through the fence! I don’t know what to do!” Jared told me to stay with her and keep my eye on her and just as we were devising a plan, she was gone. She pushed under the wire mesh fence and took off. Just typing this has my emotions in a tailspin. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Jared turned his truck around and drove back to the farm.
At this point in time, I had no clue where she was. She was complete camouflage and blended in with all the dried leaves and sticks. She moved so fast I wouldn’t even know which direction she took off. I was already feeling helpless but Jared’s determination to find her was just what I needed to stay focused. He spotted her in the woods and tried to chase her in my direction. I had a net to try to catch her with. She comes running towards me and I take my chance to scoop her, but she escapes. It was so tragic to see how scared she was. Lucy was running for her life, and we were the predators challenging her very survival. We could not give up. The idea of her out in the woods alone this time of year was far worse fait then the idea of scaring her at this point. She would easily become lost, hit by a car, a meal for a coyote and who knows what else. I don’t think I could have slept at night not knowing where Lucy was or if she was safe or alive. So, we kept trying. We chased her all over the woods, our neighbors’ woods, and through our field. We were exhausted and tripping over sticks and downed trees. Navigating to find her or move her was taking its toll on the both of us and we weren’t getting any closer to catching her. Then she simply disappeared. Lucy was gone and we couldn’t get any sight or sound of her.
Jared and I met back at the house. I was in tears fearing we lost our little Lucy. Jared was upset about the time and money now wasted on our missing pig. How could this have happened? Mourning our loss of our beloved Lucy, Jared was preparing to get back on the road to work. We agreed that we would take the side-by-side and drive around the permitter of the farm and take one last look. We parked and walked on foot in a few areas. We drove into the woods and stopped to listen for any sounds of dried leaves being rustled around. No signs of Lucy. Just as we were beginning to turn back to the house, I saw a little pig running up and down the fence line to where we kept the other pigs, way up at the top of the hill, I was sure it was her! I jumped out of the side-by-side and started to make my way up the hill. Jared was going to go back around and try to walk up on her from the other side, hoping we could corner her somewhere along that fence. We both met at the fence line and Lucy still seemed busy running and charging at the fence with the other pigs. Jared closed in and blocked her escape and I knelt in the mud ready to catch her. It worked. I had her in a net between high tensile hot wire and durable woven wire mesh desperate to hold her and keep her running lose again. I was zapped so hard by the charged tensile wire I lost feeling in my arm, but I help her tight. Jared helped to pick her up and over the fence and we carried her back into the doghouse.
Once we had her back in the calm warm confines of the doghouse, we were able to check her out for wounds. She had a few cuts here and there and seemed utterly terrified from the overall experience. We made the wall even taller and screwed a board to create a “lip” she wouldn’t be able to get her feet over. She was not happy. She kept jumping and tossing her tiny little body against the wall.
Jared eventually left for work after the several hour-long pursuits. I gave Lucy some time to relax and settle back down before going to check on her. I knew she was lonely, like a puppy that was taken away from its mom, and now her wall was so tall that even Cash couldn’t really be with her. Our other pigs were way too big for her to be mixed in with them. There was only one option: spend as much time with her as possible.
Getting to Know Lucy
My first time climbing into Lucy’s little area in doghouse was nerve-racking and exciting. I didn’t want to scare her, but I also didn’t want her to be isolated. I brought some carrots and raw honey with me and found a corner to sit down and just patiently wait for her to come to me. It didn’t take long. She came to me, sniffed me, and climbed right into my lap! I started snapping photos and sending them off to Jared. I have never ever had a pig climb in my lap before. Sure, they have rolled over for belly rubs or allowed me to put my arm around their neck or shoulders, but this was way more intimate. I sat with Lucy until I lost all the feeling in my legs. She had a few carrots, she slept a bit, she let me scratch her all over and she seemed very content with all of it. When I finally got up to leave, she would start jumping up at the wall again. She just didn’t want to be alone. I still don’t understand why we didn’t just move her into the house.
I made a point to spend as much time with Lucy as I could. Jared would sit with her, our niece and nephew got to sit with her. Everyone we knew was given the task to bond with Lucy. She was starting to get bigger and the bigger pigs in the yard were finally off to the butcher. Lucy could soon be moved outside with a lot more space. Obviously, we were apprehensive about moving her outdoors. What if she were to escape? We put electric fencing in front of the woven fencing, which was behind even more fencing. If she were to get out, she would likely get out of anything and keeping her confined just was not an option any longer. So, Lucy had her big moving day. She ran and ran and ran. She zipped, ducked, and dived all over the place. We had food, water, and toys for her to play with. Now she could see Cash and Cash could interact with her through the fence. We were waiting for her sister, Mabel (from another litter) to get old enough for us to pick her up and bring her home so Lucy wouldn’t be so alone anymore. Things were finally going well for little Miss Lucy.
Lucy-Loo Turns 1 Years Old
February 24, 2022, we are celebrating Lucy’s 1st birthday. She is quite larger than the adorable fragile little pig she was when we brought her to the farm, but her adorable loving nature remains. She will still try to climb in my lap, which just about the only thing that will fit in my lap is her very large head. Lucy will allow you to rub her all over and will guide your hand where she wants the scratches the most. Some days she wants her jowls rubbed, others her forehead and eyes, most of the time her lower back needs a firm scratch. We have been able to put her on fresh green grass and boy does she show you how much she loves that. She builds a nice tidy nest from her hay, keeps her house very clean and is very respectful at feeding time. Sometime when I feed her, she looks to me first looking for a scratch or a simple touch before she dives in for her meal. Lucy is constantly looking for your affection.
We do have plans to eventually breed Lucy but now we are on the hunt for a boar. I know this might sound kind of strange to some, but we are super picky about a boar for her. He must be gentle, absolutely must be good looking and he needs to be able to get the job done so we can send him off to the farm he came from. So far, Lucy has not gone in to heat so we will just take our time with her. Her long-term plan on our farm is to remain Lucy, the lovable pig that she is and nothing different. We hope to build a large facility for her and some future pigs for our farm. This spring we will be installing more fencing to ensure that Lucy and Mabel have plenty of fresh grass to forage on.
When I say Lucy has made our farm a farm, I mean Lucy has single handily fulfilled our dreams of having an official lifelong pig mascot on our farm. Lucy will not be going to the butcher. She will remain here as part of our long-term goals of farrowing and raising our own piglets in the most ethical and humane way we are able to offer. She will remind us of the fragile emotional needs of our animals and set the standard high for their accommodations. She will be a constant reminder of the gift these magical animals offer and remind us daily why we farm. To some, a pig is just a “pig”. To us, a pig is a lifelong celebration of stewardship and tradition, a dedication to our heritage and an absolute display of hard work, dedication and passion for farming.