The Scheckels were considered diversified farmers because our income came from our wide variety of animals: milking cows, chickens, beef cattle, and hogs. Hogs were an important source of revenue for us. We raised over 150 hogs a year. My brothers and I had a lot of fun tending the hogs, especially when they were first born, during “farrowing.” Piglets are so soft and vulnerable, with their little pink nose and wiggly tail.
Farrowing is the process in which a sow gives birth to baby pigs. Farrowing was a time of concern for Dad and Mom. Each sow had her own pen. Some sows would have a litter of six or seven piglets, but many would have ten or 12. The number was announced at the breakfast or supper table. There was constant worry that momma sow would lie on her babies and crush them. The pen was designed to prevent that from happening, but it didn’t always work.
Often, a piglet did not get a “spigot,” or a mother’s teat. Perhaps the piglet got pushed aside by the other pigs. Mom or Dad would wrap the piglet in a towel, put it in a box, and bring it in the house and place the box by the furnace register. At other times, the baby pig stayed in the warm basement.
All the kids would gather around the box with straw in the bottom and a sickly newborn pig. We would touch the pig and feel its soft nose and carefully examine the eyes and eyelashes.
Mom got some warm milk and a spoon and held the mouth open and poured warm milk into the pig’s mouth. The piglet might stay in the house for a day or two, and then be returned to its mother.