Thursday, August 11, 2011

One Pound Tomato Gulp

                Early in 2010, one of my brothers sold his property at the corner of Stone Road and Murkle Road to Kirk and Jen Robertson. At least five years earlier, that parcel was included in my organic certification situation. While no synthetic products touched the property the following five years or so, it was, nonetheless, no longer part of my “operation”. When the property was sold to Kirk and Jen, I was told that they were interested in getting the property “certified organic”. In order to do that, they would have to contact the previous people who used the property for an affidavit stating exactly what was added to the fields and when…
                Kirk called me when the four feet of snow that was dropped on us had melted to… maybe three feet ten inches? It was hard to tell. Anyway, and to skip to the meat of the matter, if you will, Kirk and Jen had purchased a piece of property that at that time, they had no idea would be of great benefit to them, as in, its actual locality. And not to jinx this situation, the great benefit expressly is designated toward their pigs.
                While for ten years, I have personally slaved/labored relentlessly attempting to produce organic vegetables, Kirk has spent more years raising animals, that is, chickens, pigs, and especially cattle. What Kirk did not realize when he purchased that property at the corner of Stone Road and Murkle Road was that while he intended to become certified organic with his pasture, and eventually his animals, a 100% certified organic vegetable farm lie .7 miles away. (That would be my farm, or more accurately, my parent’s property on which I farm on the dirt portion of Hughes Shop Road.)
                Anyway, again to fast forward this entry, it is now August of 2011. It would be impossible to estimate how many times Kirk and I have talked about our two operations over the past year and a half. Nonetheless, what we both discovered early on was how elements of each of our farms could greatly help the others. And again, in order to curtail this assessment, what I noticed rather quickly was that the “weeds” that I pulled from my many, many vegetable rows were by no means considered “weeds” by Kirk’s pigs. In fact, THEY ABSULUTELY LOVE THEM!!!
                What actually led up to the discovery that pigs love, well, organic farm weeds, was a discussion with another farmer a year ago, who, when hearing me gripe about the endless chore of pulling purslane from the vegetable rows, (purslane is considered a “weed”), the other farmer mentioned how he knew another farmer who fed his pigs purslane. After hearing that, in fact later that day, as dusk was settling, I pulled a bunch of purslane from Field 4 and gave it to Kirk to feed to his pigs. He called back a little while later to state that those pigs devoured that purslane like there was no better treat on earth. (Oh, but there is, pigs, just you wait…)
                Thus started Kirk and my deliberation over… weeds, organic vegetable production and organically feeding those weeds to pigs (and sometimes cows). Kirk and I did not know each other all that well at that point. We were more congenially helping each other without truly realizing what lie in the future. The point of this, I guess, is that it struck me quite early how almost all of the “weeds” pulled from my organic vegetable fields, which would normally be placed on a compost pile, is enthusiastically devoured when offered to pigs. They “tear it up”, so to speak! I was particularly struck by this when I witnessed the devouring process of the pigs upon vegetation that had grown very annoying to me. Again, at that point, Kirk and I were still well-meaning neighbors, but I could not ignore the situation… Why compost my farm’s “weeds”, when Kirk’s pigs LOVED them?
                Now that was about a year ago. We have since aligned our farms in such a fashion that we constantly help each other out. And one of my constant chores is to “feed the pigs”. After weeding the many rows of organic vegetables, those weeds are taken to Kirk’s farm and given to the pigs to feast upon…
                All of that introduction leads to the “one pound tomato gulp”.  Unfortunately, Idyllia has still as yet not landed on my farm. As a result, there are often many, many crops that are tainted in such a fashion that they cannot be sold. The focus here are the Pineapple tomatoes. Pineapple tomatoes are HUGE! They are often over a pound in size. To describe this a little clearer, it takes two hands to handle those tomatoes properly. The diameter of those gigantic tomatoes can be eight inches! However, and inevitably, some of those tomatoes split, and by the time harvest arrives, bugs, beasts, whatever, have nicked or feasted upon a small section of those beautifully delicious tomatoes to the point that beyond being unsellable, it is also not worth the effort for, say, me to personally devour.
                As a result, and instead of allowing those fruits to rot on the vine, they are picked and bucketed, then carted to Kirk’s pigs. To pause here, witnessing those pigs “tear up” the vegetation thrown to them is one thing, to see them devour tomatoes is quite another. Ravenous is a poor description of those pigs’ approach. Now to pause, there is more than one pig, and some react differently than others. In one paddock, at that time, Kirk had a boar and two sows. One of the sows was smaller than the other two pigs, and when the tomatoes were dumped into the paddock, she would secure one of those huge Pineapple tomatoes and scurry away from the other two, then somewhat slowly devour that delectable feast. I have witnessed that numerous times amongst human children, when the smaller child gains a treat, they have to resort to similar tactics less the larger children steal that nugget from them.
                But that is also an aside. The point here is the one pound tomato gulp. And here is how I witnessed it. I like to tease the pigs a bit, by first throwing in a few buckets of fresh “weeds” to them. They root through the green vegetation searching for the tomatoes they can smell, but have not yet been delivered. They toss the green vegetation with their snouts, then come back to the fence where I stand with their noses high in the air, all the while snorting, “Hey, where’s the good stuff?” At least that is how I hear it. Then, I toss in a bucket of the tomatoes…
                Again, ravenous is a poor description. When I threw that bucket of pineapple tomatoes into their paddock, there was enough for all, and the boar seemed intent on devouring ALL! With incredible rapidity, tomato after tomato was munched… and there is no chewing involved. The terms “scarfing down” or “ingesting a meal” adequately equates the situation. And then that boar found one of those one pound pineapple tomatoes. Now to describe this, the mouth of the boar does not appear nearly large enough to attack that tomato straight on… but that is exactly what it did! With its lower jaw, it flipped that eight inch diameter tomato into the air… only a couple of inches, that is, just enough for it to “open wide”, and with one gulp, one second of time… that tomato was gone!
                What an amazing sight! It would take me a minute at the minimum to devour that juicy treat, even with all that juice spraying and dripping all over me. And yet, with one quick gulp, that boar devoured that entire tomato… and then it was off to the next one!
                Again, it is quite the sight to witness those pigs truly appreciate that which humans view as unacceptable produce. For me, there is a definite sadness involved, as I think about all of my effort, my labor that was negated by bugs and beasts, thus netting me no profit, yet again. But to see those pigs relish that nectar! At least those creatures truly appreciate what nature can provide… bug damaged or not!
                In closing, the other day, after dusk, I drove my truck over to Kirk’s to drop off some more besmirched tomatoes. The lights on my truck could not significantly illuminate the pig paddocks, but I could definitely discern the activity! Seemingly as soon as I dumped a bucket of tomatoes into the paddock, my legs were instantly sprayed with tomato juice as those joyous pigs chomped away! Wow! Somehow I think I have witnessed pig heaven!

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