Mythical Creatures – Friends or Food

by Cedar & Sage Farm | Aug 13, 2017 | The Farm

It’s crazy the difference a couple of years and leaving the city scene for life in the country can make. I have experienced a lot of soul-opening transformation as I stretch my wings past the once cramped confines of my previous urban existence. Embracing a lifestyle that always tugged at me, but seemed just out of reach has swallowed me whole for the better. For the most part, I have ditched the staple Lululemon attire that morphed into my mom uniform for a top-knot and a pair of jeans that may or may not smell like a goat in rut. But, if someone would have told me three years ago that I would be coveting the different lines in rare imported heritage pig breeds I would have told them that they needed to get their head read. Fast forward to our farmhouse on a hill and well it’s true; I have fallen in love with KuneKune pigs (pronounced Cooney Cooney).

 

 

So after much research and an eternity of waiting (or so it seems), I have chosen and selected which lines of this unique breed that I wanted on the farm. In the process, I have met some amazing women who have taken me by the hand and walked me through this new and exciting journey. A journey which has led me to be able to call myself an Alberta Pork breeder. Insert a shiver of wtf, and that can’t be right – or can it?.

 

So here is where this gets interesting… I decided to raise and breed these Heritage Pigs for their unique qualities. They are known for their calm and social nature and sweet fairytale looking faces. They are considerably smaller than commercial pigs and make great companion animals and have even been known to be called orchard pigs; as they happily clean up fallen fruit and keep the grounds tidy and ‘mowed’ without rooting like their relatives. They are originally from New Zealand, and the first Kunekune pig born in Canada was just in 2013. Cool, right? This isn’t your ordinary run-of-the-mill pig.

 

Our vision is to integrate, preserve and work to improve this once nearly extinct breed, while educating and sharing them with farms, acreages, orchards, zoos/petting zoos and gardens. Our hope is that people can learn about them and enjoy them as much we do.

 

 

The kicker is, they are primarily bred for meat. It is said that “the natural marbling in these Heritage pigs is far superior to commercial pork sold in stores,” and that has made it a coveted delicacy for farmers (we’re choosing to take their word for it). Now, I am an Alberta girl through and through, and we are all about sustainable living (and yes we eat meat – even bacon) but I just can’t eat something that lives and hangs out with us on the farm. Now I am not at all condemning those that can; without them, Alberta wouldn’t be Alberta, and our agriculture industry wouldn’t be recognized around the world…. But, I am the girl that takes the broken bird — who has mistaken my kitchen window as his flight path — to the vet at mock 10 in rush hour.

 

So while we intend to raise and sell these amazing creatures for companion animals to families and businesses, we also have a passion for maintaining and improving breed standards which means that we will also be selling breeding stock. These piglets I know will go to happy and really kind farmers across the country that will raise, love and care for these sweet pigs and then, in turn, butcher their babies. I will just pretend the later part is not happening and wish them well on their journey of ham and bacon and sausage creation. I think I may look more forward to sharing stories with the customers that purchase our pigs for their acreages, vineyards, and orchards. I mean, who wouldn’t want a sweet bat-faced pig greeting them as they enter the property?

 

*photo courtesy of Whispering Winds Farm

What I didn’t know, is that this would all mean that I, yes I, would need to get an Alberta Pork number! I thought the lady was going to pee her pants laughing when I called to inquire about obtaining a pork number even though I personally had no intention of creating any pork whatsoever from these new farm friends. But, suffice it to say, if I want to breed and sell Kunekunes, a pork number I shall need. So, I filled out all the documents and submitted it so that my pigs could get on the truck and make their trek across the country to their new home.

 

I just about forgot about all the political and necessary documents I had submitted, and when the pigs arrived, I was so focused on how unbelievably sweet, friendly and calm these little ones were that that became my only focus. Despite my months of reading and research, I was not expecting these soft dog like pigs to be as mythical and wonderful as they are.

 

Then, today the reality train arrived and hit me square between the eyes. I received a giant envelope in the mail from Alberta Pork. Non-suspecting, I opened it, excited to see that I was now meeting all the requirements to breed and sell these magnificent creatures and what did I find? This is what I find!

 

 

So, thank you Alberta Pork for the lovely trifold of butchering graphics and not one, but two cookbooks. I will be sure to let the “flash-frying” and “slow-cooking” buyers know that they have a plethora of tasty meat treat options when they breed for farm to plate satisfaction.

 

So, while I may be quickly morphing into this whole country girl gig quite naturally, for the most part, there are still a few hiccups in the road. I have decided to embrace the new challenges and celebrate them with some prosciutto wrapped asparagus and a nice glass of rosé.

 

 

Meet Ashleigh

I have somehow been blessed beyond measure; I am married to a wonderful guy who shares in the great joy of raising our three amazing children. We recently picked up and left the city to follow our hearts, with the intention for a more simple and natural lifestyle. Both my husband and I are native Calgarians who have always been awed with the wonder of looking out at the Rocky Mountains. For us, transplanting into the foothills just made sense and we couldn’t wait to get here. It wasn’t until I was removed from the hurry of the city; that I was able to settle into my purpose and accept and celebrate the things that make me happy. Combining my love for bringing life into a neglected space, and filling it with a marriage of old and new, has enabled me to take on the challenge of rebirthing this 1980’s farmhouse. Being able to do this from home, while tackling the daily chores of caring for our farm animals is pure bliss and sits comfortably in my heart. I am chomping at the bit (along with our horses…) to continue to watch the evolution of our space take shape… And I can’t wait to fill this home with love, memories and the smell of Sunday dinners for years to come. I believe that the greatest gift in life is family, and I have been placed amongst a beautiful tribe (my late grandfather’s endearing term for our extended family). I yearn to give my children and their friends a place to melt away from the hustle; in a comfortable and pretty space, which I hope can be a refuge from a complicated and sometimes messy world. Although this move and new direction was not written down in my master plan (and I am a list and plan girl through and through), I am thrilled that the happenings which brought us here have unraveled just the way they did. I have dedicated this year to being grateful for our many gifts while also accepting my limitations with grace and courage. In addition to my home and family, I love camping, iced tea, Volkswagens and a good book… in no particular order. I hope you can find inspiration, relatability or even just a good laugh by following my blog posts as I figure out just what will unfold next.