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Mangalitsa: A Birth Story

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The sisters crossed nursed and raised their piglets: I couldn't even begin to tell you which piglet came from which mother from the very first 5 seconds of life. They all spent the next couple of months nursing (lots of that), sleeping (lots of that), rolling in mud puddles, and playing in the tall grass. At one point they were with the sheep, cattle, and goats all in the same field and what a beautiful sight to see all species napping together under the shade. 

Mangalitsa: A Birth Story

MollyMike Peterson

In September of 2014 we invested in 4 Mangalitsa piglets: 3 females and 1 male (male unrelated to the females). We'd heard such wonderful things about the breed and immediately upon arrival to the farm, we were not disappointed. What neat pigs with loads of personality. Mangalitsa pigs originate from Hungary and are known often as "Wooly Pigs"; those who raise them often remark how intelligent and, most-especially, family friendly they tend to be. Chefs, true craft butchers, and bakers are also often quite pleased. 

The 3 females were named: Harriet, Virginia, and Matilda. The male: Halas - after George Halas, of course. Don't know who that is? Mike forgives you (I made a split second mistake of not knowing at first either!). 

We had planned to separate the girls from Halas before it was time to breed and we thought we had. Until one day Virginia started looking a little more round.

 "Is she? No, probably just growing and enjoying her food. Are you sure? Well. Maybe? Oh. Did you see Harriet? Is she? No. I don't think so...Well....what do you think? Oh, maybe, yeah...Huh. I guess we'll see."

Pigs are known to be pregnant for "3 Months, 3 Weeks, and 3 days" give or take. At some point in April it became very clear they both were expecting. Matilda didn't seem to be pregnant, but, after all, it was a little early for them to breed (so we thought, at least), but Virginia and Harriet were definitely expecting and would run up to you, flop down at your feet, and demand belly rubs on their growing bellies. And when I say demand, I do mean that. 

April 29 we hosted a writer who was writing about Mangalitsa's, in fact. We took her to meet the girls who were both panting in the barn in a nest of straw belly-to-belly as they were often seen in days leading up to the event. We thought, "Gosh, it's not that hot" - although it was unseasonably warm so we had planned to run and get them fans that evening to help cool them down. We knew they were close but since we weren't quite sure how close we thought we still had time. We finished the tour, I went to a photo job near-by (with the Cheri Woodard Realty Team!), and Mike went about his chores. I came back an hour+ later and Mike flagged me down, "5 piglets!!". I had my camera, FORTUNATELY - anyone who knows me knows that would have devastated me to miss that opportunity - and Harriet and Virginia birthed another 2 piglets right before our eyes for a total of 7 piglets: our very first piglets born as Heritage Hollow Farms. They labored belly to belly, softly grunting to each other, lightly pressing toes against their sister's belly with a contraction. It was what the ideal birth would look like: peaceful, beautiful, with ease. 

The sisters crossed nursed and raised their piglets together: I couldn't even begin to tell you which piglet came from which mother from the very first 5 seconds of life. They all spent the next couple of months nursing (lots of that), sleeping (lots of that), rolling in mud puddles, and playing in the tall grass. At one point they were with the sheep, cattle, and goats all in the same field and what a beautiful sight to see all species napping together under the shade (camera wasn't with me: darn it). 

The piglets have all weaned now. Matilda has spent her time with Halas and will hopefully have her piglets sometime in September. For now, Harriet and Virginia are back with the other sows and they are still demanding belly rubs. Our original four: the mothers and boar are now just a curly tail over 1 year old. The seven piglets have moved in with 30 Tamworth/Berkshire piglets of a similar age and after several days of trying to find where they were all getting out of their fencing, they now spend their days still eating, napping, and playing, and will do so for about another year. Halas lives in the bachelor pad with our Tamworth boar, Walter, and is one of the neatest boars we've ever encountered. Turns out he, too, likes company and belly rubs as several recent farm tour visitors experienced. 

Life on the farm is quite interesting and cyclical. It can stop you in your tracks with an overwhelming sense of awe while stretching your heart, body, mind, soul in a thousand directions. We cannot control life - not even a little bit as much as we may try - but while we're here we can continue to search for a deeper sense of the meaning of it. We can breathe deep, say a prayer of thanks for the abundant gifts surrounding us, and find a deep respect for the cycle of life. Because, most especially as livestock farmers, we need to honor and respect on the very deepest level. What we have been set on this Earth to do is to walk the path of integrity to shift the food system. We may not be the ideal for many who chose not to consume animal protein to nourish their bodies and I respect that, but what we can do is help show there is another way. There is a way that doesn't involved our current society's norm for meat production. As I often say, "little by little by little, with each $1 spent towards a different system, is another vote for a change."

The immense gratitude I have for moments and interactions with the animals on the farm - and especially these two sows for the patience and kindness they've granted US - doesn't even begin to describe how I feel. When one works so closely with them, it's hard to find the words to describe what you feel in your heart. But through my images, I will try. 

-Molly

Watch a couple of quick video snippets & photo stills below and you can search back on Instagram for some behind-the-scenes iPhone shots & videos - start by searching #heritagehollowfarms or search in our Facebook archives, too. 

 

All photos retain Copyright Molly M. Peterson. They may not be distributed, republished, or reproduced without prior permission although I do sell prints of my Farm Life images to enjoy in your homes. This is how I make my living and pay my bills; thank you respecting my wishes. www.mollympeterson.com