Author Topic: Question about pigs  (Read 8364 times)

lysistrata

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Question about pigs
« on: December 19, 2013, 11:00:45 AM »
Hello, long-time lurker, first time thread-starter, here. OK, so this might be a bit of a weird question:

My husband and I own a smallholding (homestead). We're quite young for doing this sort of thing, and have just finished building our first home with our own hands and with help from my Dad. We've got a small amount of land - 4 acres - and we're moving in this week!

My husband's parents are very excited about us having this land, which is awesome. They have been a tremendous help to us and we are very grateful. They helped us get the mortgage. They brought us a car, my father-in-law has been up most weekends helping us on the house.

The problem is, they keep buying us stuff, and it keeps causing us problems. For instance, they don't get around as well as we do, and so they bought a farm bike to drive around our property. We don't need a farm bike because it is four acres and we can walk everywhere. But now, of course, the bike is our responsibility, so we need to pay registration on it every year, and had to build a shed to store it, and that is taking up money, and time, we need for finishing our house. And they keep asking us how it is and if we're using it, and seem a bit put out that we don't really use it.

They got us a car, which is amazing, but they got it as a surprise and so it is not a car we would have chosen.

So this weekend they surprised us with some pigs for our farm as a Christmas present. Two kune kunes - they are very cute! But my MIL seems to have a big problem with us eating the sheep we're raising (despite being a meat eater), and so she has declared that these pigs must be our pets. We are super-stressed out trying to get the house finished in time for Christmas, move out of our rental, look after our land, and now we have to a) transport these pigs to our land, b) decide where they will live and build strong fences for them, and c) build shelter for them. In, like, a week, because my in-laws have them at their house, which is heavy residential and someone might complain.

We'd talked about MAYBE getting pigs MAYBE in a year or two when we were settled, but they would likely be for eating. I am trying to be very grateful, but I wish they had not given us these pigs. They are basically going to cost us money and time to feed and house, and we will not be able to eat them. They will be housed on land I wanted to use for other things. I wish we'd been able to choose what animals we had on our own land, and for what purpose. I think it's wrong to surprise people with a pet.

I think the time is come to have a talk to them about "surprising" us with gifts for the land. I think they have got into the mindset about thinking what THEY would want on the land, and buying that. Do you guys have any suggestions for how we might do this? I don't want to be ungrateful, as they have spent a lot of money on us this year, and have helped us a lot, but I don't want any more surprise gifts for a while.

Also, has anyone kept pigs as pets before? Any advice?
« Last Edit: December 19, 2013, 01:07:24 PM by lysistrata »

senecando

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2013, 11:21:19 AM »
That seems rough. I don't get the sense that the smallholder has a lot of extra time for pets. It's totally whack for someone to buy you a burden like that without talking to you.

One way to put them to use which (hopefully) will not frustrate the MIL is to have them work the land. I've heard they are great for finding any lost potatoes in a bit of land and in the process sort of rototilling it. Edit: It looks like they actually aren't much of a rooting breed, but that they are expensive in the states. So, maybe you could sell them without the MIL being heartbroken? Looks like you're in NZ.

Maybe make it clear to them that smallholding only really works if you're being utilitarian about your choices and are planning for everything to work together. The whole idea of a smallholding is trimming (and eating) the fat. It's about turning land into calories.

Sounds like an otherwise very fun and exciting venture.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2013, 11:33:07 AM by senecando »

mrsggrowsveg

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2013, 11:38:40 AM »
As someone who raises pigs on pasture for meat, I would say that if they cannot be used for meat they need a new home.  Pigs eat a ton and continue to eat more as they grow.  Also, they are not great pets.  They can be aggressive and mean.  They can be used to till land, but after that aren't of much use.  Good luck with your small farm!

Frankies Girl

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2013, 11:58:00 AM »
I know you didn't specifically ask this, but I'm gonna go ahead anyway...

You have an inlaw problem. It will only get worse as time goes on unless you stop accepting help/gifts that come with strings attached.

That means sitting down with them and telling them that while you love them and appreciate them thinking of you and understand that they may enjoy giving gifts and surprises, that you need to make it clear that if they want to give you things, that they understand going forward that if it is a gift, then what you choose to use (or not use) and how you choose to use is is up to you - not them. If they want to attach any requirements or restrictions, that you most likely will not be able to accept the offering. None of this has to be mean or rude, but it should definitely be done in some form.

(and this should be coming from your husband ideally as his side of the family = his responsibility)

You and your husband I assume are adults at least age-wise, and need to make sure that your inlaws understand that they don't have the right to impose rules and regulations on how you live and what you can do with things that are supposed to be yours. If you can't do that, then you might want to tell them that you can't accept these types of gifts any more. (and honestly, a gift with strings attached isn't a real gift)

And you might just want to seriously rethink the message you are sending them and internalizing yourselves - accepting all these gifts of big ticket items with them telling you what to do isn't necessarily a good precedent to set going forwards. Accepting help on a mortgage, a car and livestock and the like means that you aren't being very self-sufficient or independent. Being that beholden to someone else is not a great way to live.

In other words, sell the bike and raise the pigs to become meat if that's what you want to do. Either they'll get mad and not get you things any more, or they'll understand that some things might need to be run by you to see if you genuinely want them, or given without the strings.

lysistrata

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2013, 12:21:11 PM »
Maybe make it clear to them that smallholding only really works if you're being utilitarian about your choices and are planning for everything to work together. The whole idea of a smallholding is trimming (and eating) the fat. It's about turning land into calories.

Sounds like an otherwise very fun and exciting venture.

Thank you! It is very exciting. We are looking forward to getting cracking now that the house is finished. You are exactly right. We need to get them to understand this - we thought we'd explained what we want to do, but it doesn't seem as if they understand it yet. I'm hoping it might become clearer when we're actually living there.

Greg

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2013, 12:22:25 PM »
I agree with Frankies Girl, you don't have a pig problem you have an in-law problem.  I think by husband's in-laws you mean your in-laws or his parents.  He needs to set some boundaries.  A good way to do it is to lay out the burdens they've created and let them know that you don't need that kind of gifts.

I would sell the bike thing and the car and use the money to get the kind of car you want, if you want one.  This will send the correct message.  And from now on refuse things like this from the outset, or at least at first and say you both need to think about it.

You should be able to find new homes for the pigs.  Do these things and don't be shy about the reasons and they might get the message.  But the real message needs to come from your hubby.

I had to go through a slightly similar issue with my MIL.  She moved nearby and thought nothing of coming over and walking into the house.  After this happened when we were enjoying our privacy (or so we thought) the limits that we had assumed were understood had to be set directly.  It's been fine since.

lysistrata

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2013, 12:34:02 PM »
As someone who raises pigs on pasture for meat, I would say that if they cannot be used for meat they need a new home.  Pigs eat a ton and continue to eat more as they grow.  Also, they are not great pets.  They can be aggressive and mean.  They can be used to till land, but after that aren't of much use.  Good luck with your small farm!

Thanks for your insight! I am worried about this, also, but apparently this breed are kept as pets a lot (certainly here in NZ) and are meant to be quite wonderful. Which is fine if I wanted pets, which I hadn't made up my mind about.

We're getting some temporary fencing this week (solar since we are off-grid) and are going to use them to keep down our grass that isn't in our sheep paddocks for now. That will at least put them to some use :)

brand new stash

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2013, 12:48:31 PM »
Your husband (not you, him, because they are his parents) needs to immediate bring the pigs back to his parents and say "thanks, but no thanks". 

The longer you both wait for that to happen, the worse it will be. 

Take a stand.

jba302

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2013, 12:49:36 PM »
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-live/roast-suckling-pig-recipe/index.html

Pretty sure that would solve at least one boundary issue.

lysistrata

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2013, 01:03:25 PM »
See? I knew posting here would be a good idea. Frankie's Girl and Greg, you are both exactly right. You've pretty much hit what I've been thinking about, but framed it all up for me nicely :) Thank you!

This "gifts with strings attached", now that I think about it, is a recurring pattern. I just hadn't noticed it before now as the gifts have never been this large or expensive before. They have never had much money before, but have over the past few years been building up their own business and been doing extremely well. We are good savers but not high earners. I think they are excited to see us building our life together, and keen to help out in any way they can. And they love surprising people - I think that's half the fun for them. I think they just think about what THEY would do with the land, and not quite see that we are very different.

I was always taught to just accept gifts and say thank you and appreciate what you've been given, so have been operating on that policy. But you're right, it's time for a different approach.

We did try to refuse the car. But that wasn't happening. They framed it as a safety issue - we used to have an old shitbox of a thing, a good reliable car, but pretty crappy-looking and definitely on her final year. We would've only been able to afford to replace it with something similar. Husband might have said to his dad one day in passing that he was worried about the car crapping out while all our funds were going towards the build, and now we have a shiny new tank in the drive. And so it goes. Being beholden to others is the exact opposite of what we wanted, in fact the whole purpose of this smallholding thing, so the fact this has been happening drives me bonkers. We just haven't been sure how to approach it. We are worried we are just sounding like ungrateful, spoiled brats. "Oh, will you listen to those two - they were given a car and they are complaining about it!"

And the bike is technically theirs, not ours. It is my MIL's bike, so she can get around our farm. But we are allowed to use it, and we have to store it and take care of it. Yeah. I can't really sell it as she can't walk that well and wants to be able to get across the farm. Geez, when I write this down it sound even more ... urgh. I wish we'd done something about this sooner!

We've said to them multiple times that they have been more than generous already, and that they are not to buy more gifts or spend money on us. We've said to them that we need to do our own thing and build our own future, like they did. I distinctly recall the discussion where we told them not to buy us Christmas presents this year. And now we have pigs.

And, you are right Frankie's Girl, this talk will mainly come from my husband, as they're his parents and he knows how to handle them best. And how you frame the conversation is exactly how it needs to go. It's just building up the courage, I guess. I feel so ungrateful, like I'm going to throw their extremely generous gifts back in their faces.

lysistrata

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2013, 01:06:42 PM »

brand new stash

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2013, 01:08:37 PM »
It's just building up the courage, I guess. I feel so ungrateful, like I'm going to throw their extremely generous gifts back in their faces.

They are expensive gifts, not generous gifts.  There is a huge huge huge difference.


MissStache

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2013, 01:29:22 PM »
It's just building up the courage, I guess. I feel so ungrateful, like I'm going to throw their extremely generous gifts back in their faces.

They are expensive gifts, not generous gifts.  There is a huge huge huge difference.

WORD.

lifejoy

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #13 on: December 19, 2013, 01:42:17 PM »
I grew up on a hobby farm. When I was 12 I had my own calf. It was a learning experience. I bought the calf myself, and I was allowed to buy "cow insurance" from my dad, which would cover the cost of the animal if it were to die. I named the calf. I bottle-fed it. I LOVED it.

When it came time to sell Blackie, I was not interested. I wanted to keep him forever! My dad patiently explained to me how much it would cost me per/day in order to keep Blackie alive. Then he explained to me how much money I would make if I sold Blackie.

A 12 year old cannot afford to keep a cow. A couple starting out on their own cannot afford to keep two huge pigs as pets. Are you vegetarian? No? Well, then take good care of your animals and know that you are giving them a better life than most factory farms would, and then complete the food chain and eat them. Sad, I know, but your options are limited.

I like the idea of selling the pigs or giving them back. I would probably do that if I were in your shoes. Do you know people that have pigs? They eat a LOT! Also, sometimes they need REALLY secure fencing. Are there predators that you'll have to worry about? And I don't see this breed being the cuddly kind... so what's the point? Get a dog! :) Or a teacup pig:

Argyle

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #14 on: December 19, 2013, 01:55:45 PM »
They should never have surprised you with any pet, let alone pigs.  But unfortunately they will persist until you make yourselves crystal clear.  You need to refuse the pigs.  "You're kind to think of us, but we don't have the time or the money to prepare to keep pigs right now, and we might never.  And if we did, they'd be pigs that we'd eat.  So we have to say no.  I imagine the people you bought the pigs from will take them back.  Okay, see ya later!"

I would also get rid of the farm bike.  Sell it for $$$ and put the $$$ to a good purpose.  You simply can't take on expensive stuff just to be polite, and it sends the wrong message.  Holding the line means saying no to expensive obligations you never signed up for.

Jamesqf

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #15 on: December 19, 2013, 01:56:37 PM »
Thanks for your insight! I am worried about this, also, but apparently this breed are kept as pets a lot (certainly here in NZ) and are meant to be quite wonderful.

I assume New Zealand has Craigslist, or a local equivalent?  Then just put a ad in for two pigs, best offer accepted. 

If you want a pet, get a dog.  Humans and dogs have have spent over 10,000 years evolving to live with each other.  Pigs, to be blunt, have spent the last few thousand years being bred for meat.

lysistrata

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #16 on: December 19, 2013, 01:57:01 PM »
Oh, Libraryjoy, that pig is just ... there are no words for the cuteness. See, if I got to choose my own pets ...

When my husband gets home today, we will have a talk about what we're going to do if not keeping them (return, sell, eat), and we will talk to the in-laws and I shall let you all know how we go. Thank you for your responses - sometimes just hearing the opinions of total strangers can help you get some clarity.

Frankies Girl

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #17 on: December 19, 2013, 02:02:52 PM »


And, you are right Frankie's Girl, this talk will mainly come from my husband, as they're his parents and he knows how to handle them best. And how you frame the conversation is exactly how it needs to go. It's just building up the courage, I guess. I feel so ungrateful, like I'm going to throw their extremely generous gifts back in their faces.

See, it's not about being ungrateful - I'm sure ya'll really appreciate the fact that they are helping you out with things like this. It is about them telling you what to do with the said gifts and you feel burdened rather than getting something that you are 100% happy with. Not that we all haven't gotten gifts that aren't exactly what we wanted... but usually we're then free to give away, or donate or otherwise exchange the gift afterwards. And if it's not something that you can actually use but aren't allowed to use the way you want, it's not really that generous. See the original origin of a white elephant and it's kind of like that (although I would hope not as malicious an intent!)

I do understand exactly the sort of thing you're dealing with as I was in a similar situation many years ago. My mother used to be the queen of gifts with strings. I finally had a talk with her about it, and there have been instances where I've refused gifts because she put some sort of limitation or hoop to jump through, and mostly things are much better now since she's stopped that and treats me a bit more like an equal rather than a kid.

Rehearsing the talk helps. Mostly just focus on the fact that you both love them and appreciate them, but that sometimes you will have to make a decision on things that they've gifted you that is not what they might have wanted, but is the best for your situation. And you can always tell them up front that you can't accept a gift because you have no use for it (or can't follow their wishes for its usage) so they have the opportunity to keep it, but if they insist, that you'll go ahead and use or donate or sell said item and thank them for the thought.

Good luck, and you do have my sympathies - I know it's going to be awkward, but just go into it with calmness and kindness and hopefully you'll do just fine. :)

senecando

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #18 on: December 19, 2013, 02:05:49 PM »
If you want a pet, get a dog.  Humans and dogs have have spent over 10,000 years evolving to live with each other.  Pigs, to be blunt, have spent the last few thousand years being bred for meat.

As far as pets go, both dogs and cats can earn their keep. To me, half the point of raising sheep would be to get a sheepdog.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2013, 02:14:34 PM by senecando »

nz

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #19 on: December 19, 2013, 02:11:36 PM »
As a fellow life-styler with a couple of acres, 2 sheep, 2 beefies, 8 pigs and numerous chickens,welcome to the good life.

Regarding the pigs, they will definitely COST you money unless you can find a free food source. I am lucky enough to have neighbour who is a milkman and he can supply dairy products all year round.
Try your local restaurants, supermarkets, market gardeners for their waste food.

Pigs will eat just about anything.......including mother in-laws:)

Richard3

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #20 on: December 19, 2013, 04:49:38 PM »
Sell the farm bike, use the money to build a pig house and a smoking cabinet.  :)

I think you should gift your mother in law a selection of books / DVDs explaining just how bad the factory farming process can be and how raising animals yourself to eat them is better for everyone. I'd suggest Food Inc and the Omnivore's Dilemma for starters (pun intended).

It does sound like you don't have a pig problem, you have an in-law problem. Gifts with so many strings aren't so much gifts as bad business deals.

Rural

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #21 on: December 19, 2013, 05:32:04 PM »
Worst case scenario, you can arrange for a piggy accident. ;)  The only trouble with that is it only solves the pig problem, not the bigger problem.

lysistrata

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #22 on: December 19, 2013, 05:50:23 PM »
Went over to talk to them with husband, who came home early. It was a good talk. I am getting a lot better at speaking up for myself, and he was very calm and kind about it. We just explained the situation, and said a lot of the things said here.

We have agreed to take the pigs for now, they were pretty insistent, but that if they do not work out for any reason, they are happy if we sell them on, and less happy, but grudgingly accepting, that we may also choose to eat them. In the meantime, they can eat down and turn over our garden area, which is a useful thing.

And we have put our foot down and said, "NO more spending your money on us. We want to be independent. We want to do this thing on our own. We want you to save your money for yourselves, as you deserve it." And they have said they will respect this, and that they will clear any future "surprises" like this with at least one of us first so that everyone is happy with the result and they still get to surprise one of us. I didn't bring up the bike, but will give it 6 months to see how often it is used, and if I have a case that we hardly use it and she hardly uses it, we should be able to flick it off.

Richard3, I like your suggestion a lot, about gifting books and DVDs. Although they already watch "River Cottage" and all that makes MIL realise is that she can't handle the thought of eating animals she's watched grow up!

Rural - we thought we might just tell them the homekill guy made a "mistake" when he comes to do our lambs :)

So thank you everyone for your advice! I'm feeling a bit better about the situation!

Richard3

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #23 on: December 20, 2013, 01:29:53 AM »
She may be beyond hope then - Hugh Double-Barreled is such a good example of a thoughtful carnivore.

senecando

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #24 on: December 20, 2013, 08:37:41 AM »
She may be beyond hope then - Hugh Double-Barreled is such a good example of a thoughtful carnivore.

+1

Though I think even HFW can take a while to work his magic. For me, too, actually being around pigs made them feel a bit more eatable, which seems counter-intuitive.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2013, 08:41:54 AM by senecando »

Richard3

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #25 on: December 21, 2013, 02:44:58 PM »
I think I know what you mean, I was eating less and less meat until my parents bought their land. I'm much happier when I can trace the supply chain. I'm doubly happy when the whole of the supply chain is sitting around the table with me.

Whenever I eat at my parents house I like knowing that the meat comes from an animal that I know for a fact to have been very well treated throughout its life. The duck(s) that I will kill on Tuesday morning (so we can confit it in time for Christmas dinner) spent its entire life wandering around eating grass and insects and getting daily feeds of grain (which is like freaking Christmas to a duck - they get so excited by the rattle of the feed bucket). It's going to have as quick and stress-free an end to its life as we can manage (it will get some grain, then get picked up, held upside down, and then nothing (since I'll have taken its head off with a hatchet). That's a pretty good deal compared to just about every other duck on the planet.

I also like knowing that I'm not just shoveling down some anonymous plastic-wrapped foodstuff. I know that this isn't "Duck leg $14.99 /kg" that I bought from a large refrigerated lineup, it's "the black one with the white chest". That gives the food more meaning and so much of the pleasure of eating is in the ritual / symbolism. I'm not saying I take pleasure in killing - it's a physically and emotionally unpleasant task. But I'm a grownup and that means I face the consequences of my choices (including the choice to eat meat) and that feels satisfying / honourable.


Fuzz

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #26 on: December 23, 2013, 03:17:14 PM »
Since it looks like this thread is ending happily ever after (and good for you for having that tough conversation with the in-laws!), I want to ask: what's a farm bike? How can someone who can't walk well ride a motorcycle? Is it tricycle of some sort?

marty998

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #27 on: December 23, 2013, 03:49:52 PM »
Guessing it's a quad bike?

lysistrata

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #28 on: December 24, 2013, 05:52:03 PM »
Richard3 - exactly. This is one of the big reasons why we purchased land. We wanted to be more closely attached to and involved in the preparation of our own food. We both trained as archaeologists and I think the process of raising and killing our own animals - along with learning the skills associated with that - appeals to our anachronistic minds. Plus factory farming is quite sickening, and I don't want to be a person who says that's ok. Got two lambs outside with their mamas who are hanging out, eating grass and being all lambs, and next year they will be in the freezer, but they will have had a good life outside enjoying the life of a lamb.

Fuzz and Marty - it is a four-wheel quad bike. I am legally blind, hence not being allowed to drive. I can see enough to boat around my land on a quad bike though. It is quite fun - I just don't like wasting money on gas/maintenance/ insurance for it when I have two perfectly good legs.

Richard3

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #29 on: December 27, 2013, 12:56:03 PM »
So are you going to try butchering with flint tools? If so can you make a video, I'm now interested in how well they'd work.

How much land do you have that you have room for a quad bike? My parents have three hectares and I suspect I could walk to most or all of it quicker than having to walk to the bike, put on a helmet, start the bike, get off, open a gate, get on, ride through, close the gate, get on, etc. I walk quickly, but still...

electriceagle

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Re: Question about pigs
« Reply #30 on: December 27, 2013, 03:55:44 PM »
In medieval times, kings and such would give their enemies white elephants as gifts. They needed so much upkeep that they could bankrupt a small kingdom (a small kingdom could be approx 200 people).

Not that your in-laws have any such intentions. In fact, they're probably slapping themselves on the back about how much money they're spending on you... which brings me to the point of this badly remembered history lesson. Would you consider telling the in-laws about all of the great, detailed plans that you have for every inch of the land? This might show them that any more gifts would be complicated and thereby discourage them without suggesting that you don't appreciate their efforts.

Baconating the pigs would get the point across as well, but they might feel a real bit of heartbreak around it, so I suggest against it. If they really feel that the pigs are pets, they might have the same reaction as if you'd eaten the family dog. Instead, you might want to say that you appreciate them, but that you aren't quite sure what to do with them... could they hold them for 2 more weeks? And 2 more weeks? Another month, we're working on how to use them, really....