When Jonathan went to collect acorns from the big oak tree in the front yard earlier this week, he came back with an empty bucket. Between us and the squirrels, they are all gone. We do have other oak trees, but they're out in the pastures. We'll have to start collecting those now, but I'm amazed and impressed that the pigs have been feasting on acorns for a few weeks already. They've also been getting some corn, but the acorns have definitely cut down on the feed bill, and we have several large bags saved to ration out over the rest of the fall.
We also have a couple of hickory trees in our front yard, and I looked around the ground to see if I could find some hickory nuts for the pigs, since they are also a good source of nutrition. Unfortunately, I only found about a dozen. Shagbark hickory trees are on Slow Food's Arc of Taste, and the nuts are very tasty, although small, which is why they'll never be a big commercial product in this country. None of our hickory trees look all that healthy though, so I also wonder if they are just not very hardy.
Moment of serendipity: I'd never heard of mast-finished pork until this summer, and then a couple days ago, I received my newsletter from the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, an organization dedicated to preserving heritage breeds of livestock that are in danger of extinction. (They're the big reason we moved out here!) Anyway, right here on page 5 is the cutest litter of piglets, and the caption says,
The characteristics of the Tamworth reflect the breed's centuries of selection for an outdoor life. Pigs of this breed were expected to find their own food, especially mast (or acorns) of oak and beech forests. Long heads and impressive snouts enable these pigs to be efficient foragers. Long, strong legs and sound feet give Tamworth pigs the ability to walk for considerable distances.Our Tamworth pigs are pictured above, eating acorns.