First Parity for Beans

Beans was the runt in a litter, yet we decided to give her a chance as a sow. She gave birth to perfectly healthy piglets with no pre- or post-weaning mortalities, no disease, no need for teeth clipping and no crushing. Beans is a wonderful sow.

Beans (born June 25, 2019) serviced by Pork on January 30, 2020
(Both 7 months of age)
Farrowed May 24, 2020 (115 days gestating) at 9:00PM

A brown piglet is born. Beans farrowed next to the creepspace. Somehow, she knew how to use the creepspace because she was born in this same pen.

May 24, Sunday

At 9:00PM I saw Beans moving nesting material near the creepspace, then she turned around and lay down. By 10:00PM I could see a big brown piglet. At 11:10PM, Beans got up, some piglets squealed then she lay down again. By 12 midnight I could hear Beans grunting as she nurses her piglets. She starts nursing again 15 minutes later. Another 15 minutes later, I heard some piglets fighting but Beans quieted them down by grunting louder (perhaps, producing more milk?)

Through the fence of the pen, it is possible to see the piglets nursing.

The fan was on throughout farrowing which I believe encourages Beans to farrow near the creepspace and at the same time discourages the piglets from wandering away from the creepspace. By 4:00AM I turned off the fan as the temperature became cooler.

Beans in her nest with her day old piglets.

May 25, Monday

6:30AM Beans ate a light meal, water then returned to nursing her piglets. There are 6 piglets. A small litter but I am happier about small litters because it is less stressful for the sow and crushing incidents are less likely.

Beans is agile and flexible and responds quickly to piglets squealing. At 3:50PM, a piglet was squealing because it fell over on its back and couldn’t get up. It managed to get up after a couple of seconds. Beans got up startled wondering what had happened. When she lay down, her backside pressed on a resting piglet, it squealed so Beans got up to allow the piglet to escape.

Early on piglets seem to have learned to avoid their mother perhaps for fear of crushing.

Beans nursing piglets in the nest she built next to the creepspace.

May 26, Tuesday

Beans ate much better today. Her appetite is back to normal. Temperature is not elevated. I applied iron supplements on her teats while the piglets were nursing. I saw Beans panic a bit when she accidentally stepped on a piglet.

May 27, Wednesday

I saw Beans playing! She was running playfully after the piglets. I was worried she might step on them but she is very agile and careful. The piglets also know how to use the creepspace for protection.

Pinky Boar’s tusk trimming was scheduled for today. Despite the presence of people and the noise, Beans was not badly affected. She stayed in one corner of the pen protecting her piglets. I gave them food and forage to distract their attention from the tusk trimming.

Piglets sleeping together.

May 28, Thursday

I saw Beans playing again, which is a good sign after the noise and stress of yesterday’s tusk trimming (the nearby pen about 10 meters away). Beans mode of play is by jumping in the air and turning at the same time. She seemed to do this to attract the piglets’ attention.

Piglets in the creepspace are excited to go out the escape hatch.

May 30, Saturday

Beans was playing again, running around the pen and barking. The piglets have just discovered the different and more attractive soil found just out the escape hatch. I noticed that one of the brown piglets had a “gash” on its left flank. The gash looks like a skin had been pulled away and the wound already healing/drying. It is very difficult to tell what it is or what caused it. Could’ve been an accident with the sow or a sharp object in the pen or the escape hatch/piglet confinement area.

Piglets come out through the escape hatch and have a safe confined area that opens to the garden where they can forage and play.
Piglets playing just outside the farrowing pen.

Some important observations

Teeth clipping was unnecessary. We had no nursing difficulties. Fighting took place as usual amongst litter mates, but the sow was able to control the fighting. Piglets were very adventurous, not afraid of our presence yet careful and wary when wandering outside the pen. Once the piglets start wandering too far towards dangerous sections of the garden (for example near the neighbours where there are dogs), I start to close the piglet pen. This is at around 3-4 weeks of age. By 3 weeks of age the piglets are eating whatever their mother eats, testing new things to eat.

Beans nursing her piglets. Beans is happy, relaxed and content.

July 18, Saturday

Beans appeared to be in heat. She was anxious, made deep but soft growl-like vocalizations, and kept looking towards Pinky Boar in a pen about 12 meters away. So I decided to separate her from her piglets July 19. I took her to the pen next to Pinky and she seemed very excited about it!

Playing with the weaned piglets!

A day before weaning, I gave the piglets a herbal concoction to prevent diarrhea. The piglets usually get diarrhea 3 days after I’ve separated them from their mom. But this time, no diarrhea at all. Herbal medicine works! I didn’t need to give them any anti-scour medicine or antibiotics.

This is ABC, Avocado, Bayabas (Guava), Caimito (Star Apple). Coffee leaves ma be used instead of Caimito. Leaves from these trees are cut up and boiled. A decoction is made and given to piglets. I started giving ABC to the piglets a day before they were weaned. Usually, when piglets are weaned, they suffer diarrhea on the third day, and depending on the situation, may continue on until 7-14 days. This is detrimental to the piglets’ health. Without mother’s milk which has natural antibodies, the piglets’ digestive systems may become colonised by bacteria from the environment. Often, anti-scour medicine containing antibiotics are given to piglets. However, natural remedies such as ABC are better.

The Bohol Lechon

I got a pig roasted for Trevor’s birthday. A roasted suckling pig is called ‘Lechon.’ This is how it’s often done on our island Bohol. Just backyard roasting. Our butcher Yokyok and his assistant Noel do everything, from slaughter to roasting. Normally, a small pig or weanling is best for roasting, from 15 to 25 kg. 40 kg is also OK. But that wasn’t available. So this is what I got, a 54 kilogram pig. As of now, live roasting pig costs 130-150 pesos per kg (US$2.50-US$3.00), and can get up to 160-180 pesos/kg (US$3.50) during peak season (such as fiesta and school graduation). This one was 140/kg so that’s 7,560 pesos (US$148). The smaller the roasting pig, the more expensive the live weight. Yokyok charges 500 to 800 pesos (US$9-15) for slaughter and roasting. If you order a roasted pig, this size would cost about 9,000 pesos (US$177). It is delivered to your house ready to eat.

Prices may be different in other provinces in the Philippines.

Because this pig is quite heavy, Yokyok needed to make sure the pig is secure. The pig is tied to the metal spit from the inside of the pig (traditionally, people used a straight bamboo spit). The spit Yokyok uses is just a G.I. pipe, about 8 feet long, with a handle attached to one end for manually rotating the pig. There are kits specially for pig roasting, including an electric motor, but we don’t have those. This is the simplest and most primitive but effective for us.

To secure the pig to the spit, it is tied via its spinal column and ribs (shown in photos). Raffia twine is used. To do this, a rib is removed on each side (not sure if that’s obvious in the photos). Legs are also tied to the spit. Seasoning is prepared and rubbed all over the pig, inside and out. If the pig has way too much fat, sometimes the butcher will remove some fat. I think it is more difficult to roast an overly fat pig. Pig is also stuffed with lemongrass, garlic, onion, onion leaves, chopped lemon, fermented black beans. Then the belly of the pig is stitched up really tightly. Notice how sexy the pig is! This process is crucial to ensure the pig will not fall apart or move when it is rotated. Especially a pig this size. Yokyok has roasted a pig of 115 kg! It was not easy and not really recommended! The smaller, the easier and better for everybody.

Anyway, the roasting took 3 hours. During the last hour, a piece of cotton cloth dipped in coconut oil is rubbed all over the skin of the pig to crisp up the skin. After 3 hours, the pig was perfectly cooked all the way through. Awesome flavour, soft meat, and remarkable crispy skin! The skin remained crisp even after the lechon has cooled! Amazing!!

There are regional variations, but here, the seasoning usually consists of: lemongrass, garlic, onion, onion leaves, chopped lemon, fermented black beans, salt, soy sauce, black peppercorns, salt. The most important aromas that enhanced the pork are from the garlic, lemongrass, black peppercorns and lemon.We are still under COVID-19 Community Quarantine. So we cut this up and packed in lunch boxes with pork blood stew, vermicelli and egg noodles and steamed pork buns and distributed to people. Normally we would have a party at home. Still, everyone in the village had lots to eat!

Local Government Help During COVID-19 Lockdown

Distribution of COVID-19 relief packages to residents of San Roque, Baclayon. Quite well-organised, each Purok (or “Ward” in English) is assigned a specific time for pick-up of their packages. One package per household. This is the third instance I have witnessed in our Barangay since March, coming from Barangay, Municipal and Provincial government. The first consisted of 5 kg rice and 4 tins of food. The second was a cash grant of 500 pesos. The third, 5kg rice, a pack of mung beans, 1kg cuts of frozen chicken, vermicelli noodles, and tinned foods.

Since March 16, 2020, the country has been under a state of calamity which brings into effect, for six months, the following: price control of basic needs and commodities, granting interest-free loans, distribution of calamity funds, authorization of importation and receipt of donations, and hazard allowance for public health workers and government personnel in the fields of science and technology.

Community Quarantine: Visit to our Public Market

The Dry Goods area of Baclayon Public Market

9AM, Monday, Baclayon Public Market. This is probably just about a kilometer walk from home. With my Quarantine Pass, wearing mandatory face mask. Dry goods available all days and most times, while wet market goods have display times (always fresh). Livestock are available only on Market Day.

I got some veggies, fruits, ‘panakot’ (saute vegetables like garlic and onion), mais rice (corn grits, for an experiment on making fried breads), squid (the thin pink ones, 180 pesos per kilo), vinegar and sugar (for making pickled green papaya), St Francis Bread, hopia, a faucet (the one in the kitchen might give up at any time), paint thinner and brushes (I still have to finish painting the bathroom), bleach, cheap second hand cooking oil (for a DIY wood floor polish recipe), and fresh Ramen and dry noodles.

The last time I went was 2 weeks ago, at 1PM, hot day so there was less people. I like going at odd times. Market Day for Baclayon is Wednesday.

After 14-Day Quarantine…

Plaza Rizal in Tagbilaran City up ahead.

March 25, 2020 – After our 14-day self-quarantine, I finally managed to go to the big city of Tagbilaran. We often go there to get items not available in our Municipality. These would be such things as German whole wheat bread (only white bread is available locally), cheese (real cheese, not “processed cheese”), milk (fresh milk, not powdered and fortified milk), butter (margarine is often what’s locally available), and that beef I’ve been so long wanting to get my hands on. The fresh vegetables and fruits are available in the local public market. Fresh pork and fish are also available in the public markets on certain days and hours.

I booked a tricycle to bring me to Tagbilaran City and back. We often use a tricycle for transport and I’ve been saving the driver’s names and mobile numbers over the past several months. It can be a very difficult getting transport where we live, especially in an emergency. Usually, we walk about half a kilometer to the highway where public utility jeepneys are available. But it isn’t easy these days with the entire island is on enhanced community quarantine and social distancing imposed. This means only 8 passengers in a jeepney instead of the usual 16 (or more!), and only 1 passenger in tricycles. No more ‘habal-habal’ (a popular local transport – back ride on motorcycles) for now.

When I arrived at 8:30AM, Tagbilaran’s streets were quite deserted, few people and vehicles. A few businesses still open. Cyber cafes are closed, some restaurants are closed. People 65 years old and above, below 18, are not allowed out unless absolutely necessary (i.e. medical, emergency etc). Barangay officials (local council or district) will soon be handing out Quarantine Passes.

I wore a mask. In Bohol, everyone is required to wear a mask when going out in public. I also wore simple, easy to wash clothes and tied up my hair. When I got home, I washed my clothes and had a bath before touching anything… And while I was at it, I decided to clean the bathroom as well … 😉

COVID-19 Case Update as of May 6, 2020 from the Philippine Department of Health