Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hog Heaven

When I met John Unger I knew him as the carpenter who was coming to my house to install my new wood storm doors.  The day he came out to the house I was chit-chatting with him on the front porch as he was working.  We were talking about how George (hubby) studies birds and how I love animals when he mentioned that he raises show pigs.  I was immediately intrigued and started plaguing him with questions.  Not only was he not annoyed with all the interest, but you could see he was crazy passionate about the subject.  By the time John finished installing my front doors I had wrangled an invitation out to his farm to visit the pigs.

So the first week of March George and I made our way out to southern Indiana to visit John's farm.  The light was fading by the time we got there and when we got to his house his son told us to head down to the barn.  It had been rainy lately so we sloshed our way down the hill towards a low barn.  As we approached you could hear something that sounded like a mini stampede that would abruptly start and stop.  I knocked on the door and John let us in to a warm, cozy room containing one gigantic mama pig and about 40 piglets ranging in size and color in various pens.  

At first the piglets were scared of us and would nervously run around.  It is amazing how much noise a scared pack of pink and black piglets can make.  But they soon calmed down and a few started to warm up to us.  The pig above kept trying to chew on my jacket when I was turned the other way.

But the most amazing event of the night was watching the 500 pound sow nurse her little ones. At first she was standing but then she very carefully laid down to let them nurse.  And then when they were nursing she made what I would describe as "contented, grunting sounds."  It was an incredible thing to witness. And John told me not only had she nursed her own young, but she also took on another litter from a sow who had rejected her own.  Now that is a good mama pig!

As I was photographing the pigs George and John were talking about feed and what it takes to make a good show pig, and what to do when they get sick, and when they wean, and all the million things it takes to raise a good pig.  If you've got a question about raising pigs John's got an answer.  There is a certain energy around people who are passionate about what they do and John exuded an affection for his animals that was contagious and a wisdom that only comes from years of caring for his animals.  I've never met anyone with such a passion for pigs and it was quite a treat to visit his farm.  Thank you John for such an amazing visit!

Also, anyone who has advice about shooting in dark conditions I am happy to hear it!

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