When my family lived in the country, it was because my mother was the principal of a school. The school was over the road from the house, and had lovely, well-appointed grounds. As for the house, someone had spent an inordinate amount of time getting the gardens up to scratch and keeping the lawns in good condition, no doubt to make living a forty minute drive from civilization an attractive prospect. Of course, being that this was the backwoods of New Zealand, the house had a number of additional features that were glossed over.
There was an old chicken run, full the kind of jungle in which any sensible person would expect to find no less than two lost Mayan cities, an inaccessible plateau full of dinosaurs, and a lost tribe worshipping a terrible, bloodthirsty chicken god. A beautiful stand of pine trees promised to be an excellent windbreak, but turned out to cut off most of the light in the winter. They also fell over to block the driveway in wind storms. There were two paddocks that had to be grazed by sheep because of the impossible slopes - Evidence of the damage livestock can cause to grassland was apparent even before we were loaned sheep to graze these perilous inclines. Incidentally, grass really does grow greener over a septic tank, but sheep will not eat it.
There was also a long-disused pig pen, which consisted of a little shelter for the hypothetical pig and an open space for it to run around in. After a few months, some bright person on the school's board of trustees decided that a way to make money for the school would be to raffle off a pig. Naturally, we got to raise the pig, since the basic rule for running a country school is to farm off the work onto the principal and their family. The upside to this was we had an easy way to dispose of household scraps.
One day our pig was delivered. It was a little pig: A piglet. Piglets are very cute at a reasonable distance, but this one had an uncanny ability to get out of its pen and snuffle around in the gardens. While this was slightly destructive, Piggy's love for the front path was slightly worse. It wasn't that it was a huge problem to come home and find the little piggy-wiggy asleep on the warm concrete. All things considered, that was quite reasonable. The other problem, however, was not reasonable. For some reason the little pig wanted to crap all over the concrete, too. Perhaps it preferred the sound of its excrement splattering on concrete. Maybe it liked the artistic patterns that were formed, a sort of oinking Jackson Pollock. Or maybe it was just a pig, and didn't care where it went to the bathroom.
Getting Piggy back in her pen was not so easy - piglets are fast. Faster than you think. They can also see people coming a mile away and will run at high speed, squealing all the while. Here is an important fact: We lie to small children. Piggies do not go, "Wee, wee, wee! All the way home". They go, "Wee, wee, wee! All the way everywhere but home!". This is probably good entertainment for small children with too much energy and an irrational urge to chase things, but frustrating when you really just want to get the damn pig back into its pen and be done with it so you can get on with hosing down the patio.
Over a surprisingly short amount of time Piggy got surprisingly large, and these escapades ceased. Now, a large pig is no longer a cute little thing giving high-pitched squeals of joy and appreciation at the arrival of their dinner. They become horrid, monstrous behemoths who - judging from the behaviour of the older, huger, greedier Piggy - probably only know two phrases in Pig: "About time!" and "More!". When you've seen a pig throwing its trough about because there is no food in it, you realise there's going to be no tip when you bring their evening meal out. You also give serious consideration to the merits of Piggy's food going in a trough versus Piggy's food going on the ground - particularly when you're the one who might have to risk being mistaken for lunch while trying to set the table.
The pig pen itself wasn't a muddy bog, it was mostly dusty and dry due to proper drainage. Nothing grew there because the previous piggy residents of yore had spoiled the earth so no plants could survive in the harsh, arid landscape. There is no need to sow the ground with salt after razing a peasant village - just herd a number of pigs in for a month and agriculture in that area is never going to be possible again. However, the pig was happy in her dusty enclosure, and seemed to be enjoying herself immensely. She started to get extra food when the children at the school were instructed to stow the uneaten bits of their lunch in a bucket. School children never eat all their lunch. I think there is some kind of union regulation.
The second part of this story is not much fun. Quite why I watched this, I do not know.
The time came for our pig to be butchered. The local lunatic pig hunter was summoned for the task. The preparations included dragging an old bathtub out of the shed, and setting it up under the swing-set made from industrial pipe. Then he shot Piggy in the head while she was eating. I was slightly disconcerted that Piggy did not get to finish her final meal, nor was she offered a blindfold and cigarette.
Piggy fell over and twitched, and received another bullet in the skull for her trouble. She was then hung from the swing set - the swing set I used to have fond memories of - and had her throat slit to drain the blood out.
There is a lot of blood in a pig. So much blood.
Reprising the procedure after a break for a cup of tea, next step was to open up Piggy and remove her internal organs. They all come out in one clump. My little sister was greatly amused by this and wanted to poke at all of them in turn while they were still steaming. I'm surprised the horrible little monster didn't take a bath in the blood afterwards.
After this, all that's left to do seems to be shaving the pig, cutting it into sections, wrapping them, and hanging them in the garage to cure. The sound of someone hacking a swine carcass into pieces is a lot noisier than you think, even if they're not using a chainsaw. In fact, a chainsaw would have been preferable because then you wouldn't hear the gristly sounds.
For the next few weeks, if I wanted any of my books that were stored in the garage I had to brush past a hanging lump of pig. You'd think it could have been hung down the back, but no, it had to be at the front of the garage so anyone going in to fetch things had to confront one third of a pig, suspended in mid-air and shrouded in gauze. The real problem wasn't so much the chunk of dead pig. What really got to me was the fact that after a while a faint odour of ham had permeated the whole space. Thankfully by that point I'd decided to move any books I didn't want to smell faintly of bacon into the house.
Despite still being omnivorous at the time, I didn't particularly feel hungry when my family got their share of the pork products. I can't imagine why.