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A Superfood for Today’s Busy Lifestyles

A Superfood for Today’s Busy Lifestyles

As winter gives way to spring in nature’s seasonal dance, keep one superfood recipe handy all year: bone broth. Not only for winter, bone broth’s incredible flavor and nutritional profile should ensure its place at your table year-round.

In addition to stewarding a diverse farm with unusual animals from ancient breeds, Dr. King is also a doctor of naturopathy and chiropractic who has prescribed bone broth to his patients for 40 years with remarkable results. Bone broth is an ancient healing food that has been used in traditional cultures for millennia. And with today’s busy lifestyles, we need all the super-nutrition we can get!

Healing properties attributed to bone broth

  • Excellent source of bioavailable nutrients in an easy-to-digest form
  • Rich in minerals that support a healthy immune system
  • Heals the gut lining and reduces intestinal inflammation*
  • Provides amino acids needed for collagen production, which strengthens hair and nails and speeds their growth
  • Bioavailable collagen keeps skin smooth, firm and reduces wrinkles
  • Contains Arginine, which is helpful for muscle protein synthesis

*According to Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS)

How to use Bone Broth

Bone broth is extremely versatile, and many chefs use it as a base for soups, gravies, sauces and more. In addition to using bone broth as a base for everything from soups to stews, you can enjoy it in a mug as a nourishing warm drink, or you can cook veggies in it for added nutrition. Our Chef Greg likes to pour his bone broth into ice cube trays and freeze it to use in his dishes as needed. He pops 2-6 cubes out every time he cooks, to add extra nutrients to any meal.

Use a large crock pot to make it safe and simple, whether you’re at home or not. Here’s how…

Get recipe

Romance, Farm-Style

Romance, Farm-Style

February may be the month of love for people, but animals have their own cycles.

The bison, elk and whitetail on the farm are only concerned about romance in the fall, when the animals have grown fat on the lush summer grasses. As the leaves turn colors these animals go into the “rut” which is when the males forego their normal routines of eating and sleeping and become amorous toward the females and aggressive to each other.

Bison bulls can be very tender to the cows at this time. When a bull singles out a favorite, he stays with her, standing by her side, nuzzling her flank and giving the stink-eye to any other bull that comes near her. He doesn’t eat, drinks rarely and love alone sustains him through this time. This is when the bulls will fight in earnest, using knowledge gained from half-hearted summer tussles against each other. Dirt flies and the bulls bellow at each other, roaring like lions in the Serengeti. Luckily the rut doesn’t last very long and after a couple of weeks there is peace in the pasture again.

Bison in a fieldThroughout the winter, the bison concentrate on eating and resting. The calves are growing inside their mothers, and the herd gathers close for warmth and waits for spring. It is a peaceful time for everyone on the farm. When the occasional snowstorm blows in, the well-insulated bison seemingly take no notice, as their heavy winter wool is so dense that the snow drifts on their backs rather than melting.

As winter warms into spring and the grass begins to grow again, the cows, now heavy with calves, nibble hungrily on the new growth. The growing grass, a nice change from the hay they have been eating all winter, will help those babies grow and provide the cows with the sustenance they need to produce the rich milk that bison calves thrive on.

By the end of spring, when the nights are warmer and the grass is lush, the babies are born.  Due to the concentrated timetable of the rut, most of the calves are born within a few weeks of each other. The green hills are dotted with little fuzzy red babies tottering along next to their great, shaggy brown mothers. The new calves are so small, only about 35 pounds when born, that compared to the cows they don’t even look like bison! In fact, a nickname for them is “red dog,” as they have no hump nor the characteristic bison shape or color. All legs and flicking tails, they follow their mothers over the green hills, tasting the grass and stretching out to relax in the warm sun.

Summer rolls on peacefully and the calves grow quickly. They shed their fuzzy red coats and grow the dark and shaggy hides they will wear their whole lives. On a diet of rich milk and green grass, they will be almost half the size of their mothers by fall when the bulls start to bellow again. When the new calves come the following spring, last year’s young will be on their own and the cycle will continue, as it has for millennia.

Tails from the Farm – No Bones About It

Tails from the Farm – No Bones About It

Bone BrothThese days so many food fads are just a “flash in the pan,” so to speak. Grapefruit diets, diets based on the colors of food, diets that limit what you can eat based on your blood type, diets that only allow you to eat at a certain small point in the day…you get the idea. These diets are the new modern panacea, here to solve all your problems and give you energy, make you skinny and more attractive, according to whatever standards you may prefer.

The problem with fad diets is that they are hard to commit to, because of the odd restrictions and whatnot. Couple that with the fact that oftentimes these diets do not provide all the nutrition a human body needs, so the animal brain curled up in your head will send overwhelming signals to crave the things the body is starving for. This combination means that fad diets remain just fads and people continue the binge-and-starve cycle as they quest for the Holy Grail of health and happiness.

The good news is that the newest “fad” food is anything but. In fact it is one of the oldest cooked foods humans ate at the dawn of culture, right after the discovery of fire. Unless you grew up on Mars you’ve had it, since every single culture on every single continent makes a version of this food and it is very commonly consumed. What is this ancient food, you ask?

Bone broth!

Yes, bone broth. Also known as just broth or stock, it is the product of cooking bones for a long period of time at moderate heat in order to extract rich flavor and abundant health benefits. Bone broth can be made with fish, poultry, beef, lamb…you name it! Bone broth is the base of most of the soups, stews and sauces enjoyed worldwide.

So why has bone broth suddenly come into the limelight as a health food since it is such a ubiquitous thing? Recent studies have proven what grandma already knew when she gave you chicken noodle soup when you were sick. Bone broth is very healing for the gut and a nourishing elixir that is easy to digest by people with delicate systems. In addition, cooking the bones in water for a long period of time leaches out minerals and healthy collagen and glucosamine into the broth, making them easier to consume and a lot more pleasant than gnawing on a bone like a dog! There are many sites online going in depth about the health benefits of broth, so I will leave that research up to you and just say from experience that it really does a body good.

Bone broth is easy to find in powdered and liquid forms, but did you know that it is really easy to make? All you need are bones, water and and a crock pot, as well as whatever herbs and spices make you happy. Being a hands-on kind of person, I definitely prefer my broth fresh and being lucky enough to work on a bison farm gives me a good source for healthy, grass-fed bison bones. I make a batch every couple of weeks and sip a hot mug a day, which is an especially nice pick-me-up on these cold and grey winter afternoons.

Since I have been doing this daily for my own health and feel great, I will be adding a selection of our healthy, all natural, grass-fed bison bones to our website soon, along with a simple to follow recipe. You will be able to conveniently order bones in five pound bundles, which is just perfect for a batch of broth, and get started on your own culinary adventure toward delicious health!

Bon appetit!

Reflections on Health: Past, Present, and Future

Reflections on Health: Past, Present, and Future

As a new year begins, many of us reflect on the past and look back on our journey to our present moment. As I sit here overlooking these beautiful great beasts grazing peacefully in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains, I am struck by how far humanity has come in order to rediscover the need of reconnecting our ties to our ancient selves.

Dr. King started this journey long before he ever set foot in these mountains. His first experiences raising animals came as a child growing up in a farm family. In the 1970s, as he learned more about health, nutrition and sustainability, he transformed his family’s 450-acre farm from a conventional to an organic and biodynamic one, long before it was trendy.

As a young doctor, when he realized his health improved after he added bison meat to his diet,  and how it also dramatically improved the health of his patients, he knew that raising bison was part of his destiny.

He relocated to North Carolina with his first small herd of bison more than thirty years ago. He used the same sustainable practices he developed on his family’s farm to raise bison on the rolling green mountainsides in Leicester, N.C.

A tireless researcher, Dr. King studied the traditional diets of ancient peoples and the various health benefits gained from stewarding ancient livestock. He is convinced that products from ancient foods help to reawaken our genetic potential and allow us to be our healthiest selves.

Because of this passion for researching, our farm has grown in size and diversity over the last thirty years so that not only do we have bison from the plains and woods of North America, but we also have Watusi cattle from East Africa, yak from the Himalayas and milking camels from Asia and the Middle East.

Come and see for yourself! Only ten minutes from Asheville, Dr. King’s Farms is a legacy of his 40-year journey researching humanity’s past in order to bring that ancient health knowledge into the future.

Food for thought … and definitely something to reflect on.

Kids and the Scoop on P – – p!

Kids and the Scoop on P – – p!

Kids 2

Taking people on a farm tour is always fun, but having children on the tour is always an adventure. The questions kids ask truly keep us on our toes. Sometimes we have to devise very creative answers just to keep up. One indelicate thing that all kids are fascinated by, which requires a strong stomach and a sense of humor is…

Manure!

Bison are big and unashamed regarding bodily functions. Children laugh, squeal, and gross out with delight when the bison, to put it delicately, answer the call of nature. Kids compare various “piles” and debate who made what. Sometimes it’s hilarious to sit back and listen to kids’ varied discussions about bison manure.

One interesting thing about our bison manure, which fascinates children and adults alike, is that our animals produce waste with little to no smell. Visitors sniff the air and smell nothing unpleasant. Why is that?

Well, first of all, bison are very efficient at processing their food, and they use all the nutrients in their diet, which allows them to grow so big and strong. Secondly, all the bison on our farm are entirely grass fed so they are as healthy as they can possibly be. In fact, the hay we feed our bison is actually wild grass that we have cut in the Dakotas and shipped to North Carolina to ensure that our bison eat the exact diet they evolved to eat. The result? Happy, healthy animals.

Dr. King teaches that to be in prime health, we also need to eat what is best for our bodies. Nutrition is one of the Eight Essentials of life that he discusses in his book, The Healing Revolution. Humans evolved eating fresh foods, close to nature, not refined, boxed, preserved, and canned foods. Natural foods include wild meats such as bison and elk as well as ancient grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits.

As mankind has continuously altered cattle genetics (which were never native to this continent), the nutrition that their products provide has changed, too. Dr. King is convinced that the closer our food sources are to their prehistoric genetics, as bison and elk are, the more beneficial their meat is for our health. Studies have confirmed the nutritional superiority of grass-fed meat.

Even as we steward the land and the animals grazing on the wild grass in fields, they, in turn, fertilize that land with their manure (which kids find so “interesting”), perpetuating a continual cycle of life, regeneration and health that benefits us all.

Tails from the Farm – A Film Shoot and “Hollywood,” the Man, the Myth, the Legend

Tails from the Farm – A Film Shoot and “Hollywood,” the Man, the Myth, the Legend

One of the most fun things about working at Dr. King’s Farms is that no two days are ever alike. Interesting things pop up regularly, sometimes animals and sometimes so much more. For example, last week I was contacted by a local film company who needs to shoot some scenes for an upcoming film with a camel “extra.” Since we are the only people in town with camels, we got the job.Filming at Dr. King's Farms

The day of the shoot dawns and fortune is smiling on us as it is a truly glorious fall day. The sun is shining and not a cloud mars the perfect blue sky as the film crew rolls into our pasture. People mill about setting up camera angles, adjusting make-up and clothing and handing out snacks. Actors review their lines as Terry and George pull up in the truck toting the oversized camel trailer containing “Fancy Nancy” and her six-month-old calf, Penny.

Fancy is a Bactrian camel originally hailing from northern Asia. She is pure white with two big beautiful humps on her back, standing almost seven feet tall and weighing close to 1,800 pounds. Upon seeing this, the film crew realized that the actor chosen to play the “Black Cowboy” in this film is not prepared to handle such a magnificent, huge animal. Terry, our trusty, grumpy farmhand, is quickly ushered into a black duster and matching ten-gallon hat, and before he knows what hit him, he is acting in a movie! He is given a few lines and some direction on where to stand, and the rest of us gather behind the camera and laugh at his predicament.

CowboyFilming goes on for most of the day while Terry leads Fancy about, trying to hit their marks for multiple takes of the scene, and Penny wanders in and out of the shots grumbling and honking the way a baby camel will, I suppose, when faced with a film crew. Finally, the perfect shots are recorded, everyone cheers and starts packing up the camera and props. The camels are loaded back into their trailer for the short ride back to the camel barn. That is also when the ribbing begins.

Terry did an admirable job as a reluctant actor, but that still doesn’t save him from getting a new nickname, “Hollywood,” or being teased about giving us his autograph or what boots he plans on wearing when he leaves his prints in the sidewalk outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Rena asks if Terry needs to take a nap after lunch so he can be fresh for his close-up and George teases him about keeping an eye out for paparazzi lurking in the bushes. We can’t help it. That is just who we are. Terry takes the fun and games in stride and laughs along, knowing that he will only be on the receiving end of the jokes for a little while longer … that is, until the movie is released in the spring.

 

Farm Recipe – Elk Shepherd’s Pie

Farm Recipe – Elk Shepherd’s Pie

One of the fun things I get to do on my time off here at Dr. King’s Farms is play with recipes using bison and elk. I love the flavor of these meats, and I’m always looking for interesting ways to cook them that doesn’t hide the taste. As the weather cools down, I love eating hot soups, stews, and one-dish type meals that stick to the ribs and warm from the inside. This week I made a truly delicious Shepherd’s Pie (using our ground elk) that everyone raved about. My daughter had three helpings in one sitting! Taking that as an official seal of approval, I wanted to share this recipe with you.Shepherd's Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground elk
  • 1 red onion, medium-sized, diced
  • ½ cup frozen corn (or cut from 1 ear of fresh corn)
  • 1 ½ cup peas, frozen
  • 8 red potatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • Cream
  • Butter
  • Salt & pepper
  • Paprika (optional)
  • Cheddar cheese, shredded

Instructions

  1. Cut the potatoes into quarters and boil with the skins on until soft.
  2. Drain potatoes, return them to the pot and mash, adding cream, butter, salt and pepper until they’re exactly how you like them!
  3. Stir corn into the potatoes (optional, or add them into the elk mixture later).
  4. Set mashed potatoes aside, and preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  5. Brown elk in a pan with a little olive oil along with onion, garlic and salt and pepper to taste until onions are translucent and everything smells amazing.
  6. Add peas (and corn, if desired) to pan and mix well.
  7. Put browned elk mixture into the bottom of a lightly oiled baking dish and spread evenly.
  8. Spoon mashed potatoes carefully over the top, smoothing the top with the back of your spoon.
  9. Sprinkle mashed potato layer generously with shredded cheese, and cover with a lid before putting in the oven. Sprinkle lightly with paprika for garnish if desired.
  10. Bake at 300 degrees for around 15-20 minutes until cheese begins to melt and the potatoes bubble along the edges of the dish.
  11. Remove lid from dish and bake another 5 minutes to lightly brown the cheese on top. Then remove from oven and let rest another 5 minutes (that’s the hard part!) before serving.

Enjoy with a crusty bread and butter to help mop up the hearty juices…

~ ~ ~

This was a big winner at my house, and using elk instead of beef added an entirely new and fantastic dimension of flavor to a tried-and-true dish. You could also substitute bison in place of the ground elk and it would be just as great.

I hope recipes like this will help you on your journey of exploring the world of flavorful and healthy wild meats. Happy cooking!

Tails from the Farm – Maranda the Watusi

Tails from the Farm – Maranda the Watusi

When I first came to this farm I was pretty familiar with bison and camels, but I had never seen African Watusi cattle. Color me shocked at these grand animals with massive horns both in length and diameter. Longhorn cattle might seem as if they could come close in weaponry, yet these cattle blow them straight out of the water. Needless to say I was a bit cautious around them at first, with scary visions in my head of me skewered on a giant horn, but then I met Maranda.Maranda the Watusi

Mellow Maranda

Maranda is a mature cow and her horns are quite impressive. She is dark red and white and speckled all over and has a gentle, knowing gaze in her golden eyes. Maranda will walk right up to our tour trailer and stick her head in as far as those giant horns will let her and eat range cubes out of your hand, reaching out with a tongue as spotted as her nose. She will stand and let me scratch her between those horns, which I assume is a pretty hard place for her to reach, and half close her eyes while I am doing so. I look forward to seeing her every day and always go out of my way to slip her a treat or a loving pat when we venture into the pasture. Terry, our gruff farmhand who loves these animals more than most people he has ever met, teases me and calls her ‘my’ cow, which I don’t mind one bit. We all manage to find our favorites after a while.

Maranda’s Surprise

One day not too long ago, Terry came running into the farmhouse where I was working to clean up before the next day’s tour and yelled, “You’re a grandmother!” and then proceeded to tell me that Maranda had calved that morning. Of course I ran out to the Kubota, a four-wheel drive, all-terrain vehicle that we use to get out into the fields, to go check. Sure enough, she was standing in the field with a beautiful female calf by her side, just as speckled and lovely as her mother. The calf tottered about on her new long legs to follow Maranda back to the herd, and when they stopped, the calf took a nice long drink, ensuring that she will be strong and healthy.

Peace & Quiet, Watusi Style

I’ve been watching that little calf grow over the past few weeks. We are all still debating on her name and since we are all pretty stubborn she may end up with three or four different ones before too long. She has put on weight and playfully jumps about in the early fall sunshine with the other calves until they all lay down and nap together in the afternoons with their mothers standing guard about them. There really is nothing more peaceful than a field of cows and calves with their swishing tails and the sounds of tearing grass and chewing, except that this scene is also punctuated with the occasional “clonk” of two massive horns as grazing neighbors accidentally bump each other. Honestly, I think it makes the whole scene better.

Carolina Bison on UNC TV

Carolina Bison on UNC TV

Earlier this summer, UNC TV gave us a call and asked if they could visit our beloved bison ranch here in Western North Carolina. They wanted to learn more about the bison that Dr. King and all of us here at the farm have worked so diligently to repopulate, and to showcase the rise in popularity of bison in our state as part of their television series, “Flavor, NC.”

Bison Family

Well, we couldn’t say no to that! The show is dedicated to preserving and celebrating North Carolina’s agricultural heritage, and gives an educational peek into local farms and the work farmers do to bring all their delicious foods to our dinner tables—a true farm-to-table insight from start to finish.

The first episode of Flavor, NC, which aired earlier this week featuring our farm, is available to view online. It beautifully captures the landscape of our lush farm, the amazing animals here, and, of course, Dr. King’s passion in sustaining these ancient breeds here in western North Carolina.

“Our state’s natural habitat is home to all kinds of animals—from the black bear to the bobcat, weasels, wolves and even flying squirrels,” said UNC TV show host Lisa Prince. “But the rolling hills of Western North Carolina might be the last place you’d look to find an iconic symbol of The American West—the bison.”

Watusi in field

The show goes on to feature Isa’s Bistro, located in the heart of downtown Asheville. Chef Duane Fernandes prepares three delectable meals on camera using our Carolina Bison meat, which you’ll perhaps want to take note of for a future meal of your own. What a treat!

Don’t miss these upcoming Flavor, NC Show Dates:
Friday, October 7, 11:30 am on UNC-EXPLORER – READ MORE
Friday, October 7, 06:30 pm on UNC-EXPLORER – READ MORE
Saturday, October 8, 04:30 am on UNC-EXPLORER – READ MORE
Saturday, October 8, 11:30 am on UNC-EXPLORER – READ MORE

Would you enjoy learning more about our farm and Dr. King’s passion for what he does? Stay connected with us via Facebook and consider stopping by for a tour the next time you’re in Western North Carolina!

Farm Recipe from Chef Greg – Two-Bean* Bison Chili

Farm Recipe from Chef Greg – Two-Bean* Bison Chili

Nothing warms the insides and welcomes the cooler season better than a tasty, comforting bowl of chili. Last Saturday we served this Two-Bean Bison Chili to rave reviews during the Cycle to Farm® tour. Let us know how you like it.

*For a unique twist on this recipe and a salute to our former bison office manager (and fabulous chef) Carla Burleson, here’s a delicious tip she shared. If beans are not your best friend, try cutting two medium-sized, raw, peeled, sweet potatoes into small cubes, and substitute them for the two cans of beans in this recipe.

Yield: 4-6Bison Chili Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, minced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 1 lb. ground Bison
  • 1 can black beans, 15 oz., drained (or raw sweet potato cubes)
  • 1 can kidney beans, 15 oz., drained (or raw sweet potato cubes)
  • 2 cans fire-roasted, diced tomatoes, 15 oz. (save one empty can)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon, ground
  • 1 tsp. cumin, ground
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • Garnish of choice (e.g., grated cheese, sour cream, or finely chopped onions or fresh cilantro)

 

Directions:

  1. Take a deep pan or pot and heat the olive oil and sauté all the vegetables. Stir well. Add cinnamon, cumin, chili powder, salt, cayenne pepper, and brown sugar. Let it simmer for a few minutes and stir frequently.
  2. When the vegetables are soft and slightly caramelized (approx. seven minutes), add the ground Bison and stir until the meat is browned.
  3. Add the beans (or sweet potatoes) and tomatoes and stir.
  4. Fill the empty can from the diced tomatoes with water and add it to the pot.
  5. Add balsamic vinegar. Stir once more and let the chili simmer on low heat for about one hour, covered with a lid.
  6. Serve in deep plates and top with your favorite garnish. Enjoy!

Tails from the Farm – Bison and Bikes

Tails from the Farm – Bison and Bikes

On Saturday, October 1st, we are privileged to be one of the scheduled farm stops for Cycle to Farm®. This is a fun event, as cyclists travel throughout Leicester and Sandy Mush, stopping at farms along the way to meet farmers and sample the foods they produce. The ride culminates at New Belgium Brewing Liquid Center in West Asheville with a catered meal (made from ingredients from all the participating farms). This event has been going on for years but this is our first time as a farm stop.

Bikers pose with a camel

It should prove to be a busy and fun day on the farm with 300 riders coming through, plus who knows how many volunteers and support staff. Chef Greg and I are making a big vat of bison chili to share with the riders as they come through, and I sweet-talked him into sharing his fantastic recipe so that we can print it out and give it to anyone who wants to make it at home.

Join the Fun

We are greatly looking forward to participating in this event, as it will give us an opportunity to meet with lots of local folks as well as people who travel for this sort of thing. And since I never seem to run out of words, I’m always looking for an opportunity to try! Kidding aside, I’m so passionate about this place and these animals that I just want to share all the wonderful things we have with as many people as possible. I’m also eager to sample out our bison and show people how tasty and healthy it is, and share that through humane harvesting, we are actually helping preserve this grand animal for future generations.

As I write this blog, there are still a few slots left for riders and there is always a need for more volunteers, so dust off that helmet and get your cleats on if you want to spend a beautiful day in the countryside and see some great farms. I’ll put in a link below to the Cycle to Farm website if you want to get more information.

Happy riding!

http://cycletofarm.com/sandymush/about-sandymush/

Tails from Dr. King’s Farm – The End of Summer

Tails from Dr. King’s Farm – The End of Summer

It’s been a long and hot summer on the farm in Leicester, N.C.  June was uncharacteristically sweltering and dry, and by the beginning of July the grasses were losing their green and suffering in the heat. 

Thankfully, the rains came in mid-July and though we did have a few terrifyingly impressive thunderstorms that took out a few trees and flooded the creek, the majority of the rain fell in the afternoons as the steady, warm soaking that the fields desperately needed. 

Buffalo

Now at the end of September, the grass is tall and bright green and healthy and the animals are well fed and content. The nights are cooling down and finally the afternoon sun doesn’t beat as hot on your shoulders. Everyone can feel the shift in the weather and the bison have been more energetic and playful in the past week. 

Belle, the bi-tusi (part bison, part Watusi) comes running up to the tour trailer in the mornings now and leaps into the air kicking her feet like a calf in the spring. She even got a few older cows to join in with her and they ran along with the tractor jostling each other in a game that made the people on the tour laugh at their antics and take tons of pictures. 

To see silly behavior from such dignified animals was new to them, and I explained that we all get a bit giddy as summer winds down and the heat relaxes its grip.

Avoiding Getting Into a Rut

The rut will start soon. Tiny and the Twins are starting to court the cows, staying close by the ones they like and leaning in to catch their scents, all the while keeping their eyes on each other warily. The fighting hasn’t yet begun but they circle each other like boxers, sizing each other up and taking notes. 

Where earlier in the summer they would happily stand next to one another at the tour trailer waiting for guests to throw out handfuls of range cubes for them to crunch on, they now stand on separate sides, always careful to keep the tractor between them and never getting too close to each other. 

In a few weeks the drive of the rut will cause them to bellow at each other, roaring like lions, and they will collide in a fury of dust and hooves and power to see who is really the biggest and most worthy of the bulls.

When the rut is over it will be quiet again and the herd will contentedly eat the fall grasses as the leaves begin to change and the light slants golden across the mountains. For now, though, we still enjoy the warmth of the late summer sun and the songs of the cicadas in the trees as the spring calves grow strong in the fields of Dr. King’s Farm.

Tails from Dr. King’s Farm – Piglets

Tails from Dr. King’s Farm – Piglets

As summer comes to a close on the farm, one of our potbelly pigs, Gina, decided to surprise us with a litter of nine beautiful piglets one morning in late July. I have experience with many different farm animals but not pigs. So I got a crash course in pig!

Piglets

Pig Momma Superhero

First of all, pig mommas are VERY protective of their babies. Even a little potbelly, who stands only as tall as your knees, turns into a formidable force if you get anywhere near those piglets.

I watched Gina chase a half-grown bison across the field, and then stand up to an 1,800-pound camel who got a little too close to where she had stashed her litter in a shady corner of the barn. Needless to say, I gave her plenty of space and when I went to go see the babies. I made sure to be calm, quiet and soothing to her as well as making sure I had a ready escape route, just in case.

Tiny Truckin’

The second lesson I learned is that piglets are extraordinarily precocious. I am used to seeing bison calves stand within minutes of birth and follow their mothers almost immediately, but these little piglets were on their feet, chasing each other and fighting enthusiastically over the best place at the milk bar just twenty-four hours after being born.

Within forty-eight hours those piglets were trucking through the fields after Gina, and they were so small you couldn’t tell where they were except that the tall grass moved over their heads as they ran in a line behind her. They would grunt and squeal and fight and nibble at food and then pile up to sleep together in the shade during the hottest part of the afternoon. Never before have I seen an animal better equipped to deal with the world so soon after birth and I was very impressed.

Runt Wrangling

One of the piglets was a runt and she was half the size of her siblings. Due to the size difference and the number of piglets in the litter she was definitely getting the short end of the stick. She was being chased off at mealtimes, so after a week we decided to step in and “pull” her from the litter in order to help her survive. Rena has a great deal of experience in bottle raising deer, Watusi cattle, camels and bison, so of course she was chosen to be the pig whisperer.

After catching the little runt (which is a whole other story in itself) we brought her into the farmhouse and attempted to give her some milk from a bottle. Despite being tiny and dehydrated that little pig put up a ruckus like you have never heard and fought us like a lion. After a struggle we did finally get some milk into her but we also realized that this was definitely not a job for amateur pig handlers, so we called a neighbor with a great deal of pig experience, not to mention patience, for help. Happily, the little runt was given a new home, a name and a comfy bed, and she is thriving, so we were certain that we made the right decision in giving her a hand.

Muffled Mirth

The other piglets are now a month old, weaned and have been moved into the barn so that we can work on gentling them. You have to go sit in the stall quietly and talk softly and let them come up to you when their curiosity outweighs their fear.

Little snouts snuffling your boots and jeans and little eyes peering up at you trying to figure out what exactly you are make it hard not to laugh out loud because they are so cute, but if you do they all scatter and peer at you accusingly from behind the crate in the corner. Pigs are very smart and they remember everything, so you have to make sure that this is a good experience for them so they’ll learn to trust people. (Having treats in your pocket doesn’t hurt either.)

This experience has been wonderful and really made me appreciate pigs in a way I haven’t had the chance to before. Their curiosity, playfulness and ability to adapt at such a young age is definitely impressive!