Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Pig in a Poke

Notice that the title says "A pig in a poke" Know what it means?


An offering or deal that is foolishly accepted without being examined first.


'Don't buy a pig in a poke' might seem odd and archaic language. It's true that the phrase is very old, but actually it can be taken quite literally and remains good advice.

The advice being given is 'don't buy a pig until you have seen it'. This is enshrined in British commercial law as 'caveat emptor' - Latin for 'let the buyer beware'. This remains the guiding principle of commerce in many countries and, in essence, supports the view that if you buy something you take responsibility to make sure it is what you intended to buy.

A poke is a small sack or bag and is the origin of the word pocket. The word is still in use in several English-speaking countries, notably Scotland and USA. A poke is just the sort of bag that would be useful for carrying a piglet to market.

A pig that's in a poke may turn out to be no pig at all. If a merchant tried to cheat by substituting a lower value animal, the trick could be uncovered by "letting the cat out of the bag". The advice has stood the test of time and people have been repeating it for getting on for five hundred years, maybe longer. Fraser's Magazine (1858) reprinted a piece from Richard Hill's (or Hilles') Common-place Book, 1530, which gave this advice to market traders: "When ye proffer the pigge, open the poke"

Well..we too are buying our pig site unseen. Hopefully we won't get poked :-D

For a long time we have wanted to add either ossabaw island hogs or guinea hogs to our farm. About two years ago we found a breeding pair of ossabaw island hogs---but then backed out because we just weren't ready for something else to care for (and fence for). Always the thought of a rare pig/hog has tickled our mind though---a small one for our small farm. On waiting lists I have placed myself many times over but to no avail except for the occasional boar---which I do not want unless I already have a female.
Then when we went to Michigan we had dinner with some fellow Icelandic breeders: David Grote and Tom Jenson of Wisconsin. While having some good fun and fellowship David brought up the subject of how he would like to have some guinea hogs. How funny we thought!! Us too! So as Tom rolled his eyes, I laughingly went to get Francis Smith and Wendy Fast of New York (also Icelandic breeders) to show pictures of their guinea hogs to David and Tom. I figured we could live vicariously through them if they purchased some hogs---also thinking I could eventually get a female from them.
Well, when we got home the oddest thing happened---in my 5 day neglected emails there was an email informing me that Grace Ridge Farm currently had 4 guinea hogs for sale. Of course I procrastinated---there were so many things to do coming back from vacation I couldn't imagine adding ONE more animal to my farm. But finally---4 days later I emailed "by chance do you still have a female left?" and she replied----She DID. Well, obviously GOD or fate or whatever has intervened to force my hand I feel. So---a pig I am "abuying".
At first we thought we would ring her nose and run her with the sheep but after looking at my very weedy and overgrown garden---except for some spots that still have thick leaf mulch----I thought that she will make a great tiller. How much easier could it get than to have her digging up all those weedy roots and grass I can't seem to get rid of in the garden. Besides--she will add manure AND eat our table, veggie and garden scraps---yeah!
For those of you who have never ever heard of a guinea hog you can see the picture of a full grown one below. Now this is not me standing next to the pig in the picture below and hopefully Skyfire Garden Seeds will forgive me for stealing their picture to show you size of a grown guinea hog. They stay small---which makes them great for small farms.
Here is another link for many many pictures: Sullbar Farm
One thing about guinea hogs---we must sell some of the offspring for meat so that we can encourage people to keep raising them. A couple of pigs are not messy and stinky as people think. That is just a by product of confinement operations. Pigs are clean (unless their hot then they will get wet then cover their selves with "sunscreen" which is known as mud to us humans). Guinea hogs are "lard" pigs. The old fashioned style pig that was raised as much for lard as meat. Pig leaf lard makes the MOST awesome pastries ever---and is considered VERY gourmet (and better for you than the processed stuff). Maybe we may eventually even build that smoker I have always wanted. (one more Round To It to take care of hehehehehe)
My girl won't get to come home with us until the end of October--yeah I know it's a long time and a bummer. We could get her sooner but we are delivering a ram at that time in that area and will do both at the same time to save on travel expenses.
Anyways---I am excited and she will need a name. Anyone have any ideas? You can post it here as a comment or email me whichever you prefer (alandtc at catt.com) Which reminds me---I am having a terrible time naming some of my sheep this year. I think I will post pictures of them with a bit of personality description soon and see if anyone can come up with a good name for my sheep. Especially the rams---they seem to be the hardest for me.

Have a good day all---think rain for me we still don't have any.


Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Hi Monica!
If you want a book full of "pig in a poke" / "letting the cat out of the bag" explanations, get a copy of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, excellent entertainment for long winter evenings!
Great news about your hogs, or pigs as we say (or even cochons in French). We've got some Kune Kunes, a race that come from the Maori of New Zealand, which sound similar, in being smaller pigs and noted for being lardy!

farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

A Kune kune! I think I knew that you had kune kunes---or that you were going to get some anyways.
I would love a kune kune but alas---they are not "available" in the States. Too bad---I have heard they are wonderful farm animals--and pets too :-) Maybe I should be the first importer of them? Lots of paper work though I am sure.