All About the Calerin Forge Pigs

The Fence that Eugene & Spencer Built

Hello friends!

     So many of you have written asking about the Calerin Forge pigs, and whether the fence Eugene and Spencer built us has held the pigs!  The answer is - sort of.



Really loves to "Ham it up"!


Dot on the side of her ham.

Can't get enough water.

Last years pigs - Larry, Moe, and Curly Tail were escape artists equal of being porcine Houdini's! We chased them so many times that when the guys offered to fix the fence, we jumped on it.

Sadly the days they spent working on it were some of the coldest we had here in the NC mountains last year. Brrrr! Makes me cold all over again just watching them on TV. That was in the episode "Tomahawg".

We went on to butcher the boys and commence curing and smoking. In the episode "Waste want, Want not" you can see a couple of the hams hanging in the smokehouse out back when Spence and Eugene come by to ask for help on their wood splitter. All that wonderful wood will be used this year when we smoke the new pigs.

Additions to the Calerin Forge Pig Family!

This year we got 6 little girl piglets (2 different litters) for the farm. At our farm, we kind of co-op the meat. We have 12 families who each bought 1/2 a pig, and contribute to the feed regularly. David does the daily work of feeding and tending with help from our 2 apprentices when it comes to cleaning out the hog house.

Anyway, Lucy and Ethel came from a relatively small litter where they got plenty to eat and got a great start. Rusty, Pinky, Dot, and Spot came from a litter of 12 so they were on the small side. This is where the fence issue came into question.

  Lucy and Ethel were large and well contained. HOWEVER: the little ones were so tiny, they literally walked through the rungs of the fence! This means they were smaller than 5 inches when they were 8 weeks. They would walk through assuming that this narrow path led to greener pastures. And it did!

Sophie, Great Herder of the Calerin Forge Pigs

Fortunately the Lord brought to us a precious puppy last February. Her name is Sophie and she is mostly Border Collie with a portion of what the vet suspects is Great Pyrenees. (Great! I can ride her around the farm but how will we ever feed her?!?!) At this point we are thankful for the herding instincts of both breeds in this medium sized dog.



The first time she saw the Calerin Forge pigs was when we brought them home. All their squealing really excited her so she barked a lot as well causing it to be a very loud move.

The first time she saw Spot outside the fence, she went from cute awkward puppy to BORDER COLLIE HERDER! (Imagine her if you will with a superhero cape flying in the wind behind her at this stage.) She zeroed in on that little runt and leaped into action, running her all around the pen until she found/smelled the escape hole. Then she held little Spot down with her paws and licked her all over Spot's head and shoulders, then nipped her on the pork butt to send her through.

She continued to do this whenever they went walkabout. I think they just like looking for her and playing this lovely game.


Camera Hog!


  The Runt, but knows how to use it. She's a charmer.

   At any rate, they are getting to be a size that is more containable, thanks to all the feed from the local microbrewery and the championship hog feed from the local farm supply store.

In addition, a gentleman from our church picks up fallen apples in his yard for the girls as a treat. They already love "Uncle John".

Soon this month we will go up the mountain to a friend's house where the acorns lay thick on the ground. We will shovel these into 5 gallon buckets to add to their diet. They will of course,"pig out"!

  So the final answer is that the guys built a great pigpen for large porkers and Sophie handles the rest of them.

Hope you all enjoy the update about the Calerin Forge pigs. 

God Bless, Cecilia Burress of Calerin Forge.

The Pig Saga Continues...The Slaughter

Well, without getting too philosophical, what IS a pig’s destiny?  Here at the farm, our pigs’ destiny is to eat, live happy, and become fuel for us and our friends. As soon as David saw the long range weather forecast in the almanac, he decided it was TIME!

Letters were sent out informing all our investors (co-op participants) of the plan and what they would need to do/bring. Several men came on Saturday morning (January 18) to help with the last minute prep work.

First they all helped finish the pig processor that David built. This involved a lot of lifting and holding in place while large screws were bolted. (After last year’s processing happened, David began planning how to improve the processing process!) After assembling everything and being assured of its fit, this was taken apart and reassembled down by the pig pen.

While the processer was being put into place and cemented, Clint and Donovan paired up to build a pig house door, Kaleb and Matt (the appren-tices), built the pig run and connected the panels, and David L. and son Chris started cutting wood for the scalding tub. What industry and activity. The pigs and dogs were very curious.

David spent Saturday evening making a couple of cleavers and a sticking knife for cutting the jugulars. Pictures of the cleaver and Sticking knife. It is so handy having a blacksmith on the farm!!


Sticking Knife

Our son-in-law Tyler (Signs and Design) supplied the wood and rough-shaped the handles, and our friend Brian Bartel (Second Nature Woodworks) attached the handles, finished them and put fine cutting edges on them with his Japanese water stones. “Thanks guys!”

Sunday night, Kaleb, Matt, and friend Luke, as well as Matt, a friend of David’s from the University, came out to tend the fire all night. This was to get the scalding tub of water (about 150 gal.) to a temperature of 140°. The outside air temperature that night was in the teens!

Last year, we read tons of books and articles, and watched online videos by the score to prepare for this event. Even so, with 30 people, it took us 12 hours to process 3 pigs! We were determined to reduce our time since we had twice the pigs this year! Our friend Daniel Cloer (K & B Meats) came to help/teach us how to process the pigs. This was his Christmas gift to us!!

Folks started arriving at 7 the next morning; some because they had a pig and were thus obligated, and some because they had never been to a pig killing and wanted to learn how. As the day progressed, people left or came after work, (or in the case of 1 investor who had a parent in the hospital) brought lunch.

After a quick prayer to thank our Father for His provision of both pig and help, and the request to keep us all safe, we began.

The First

The 1st step was to open the door and entice 1 pig out. She was ready, since she hadn’t eaten for 24 hours. She ran to the small pen, more than likely surprised by the small audience that awaited her. She was used to eating with her sisters and to David’s quiet voice and Sophie’s enthusiastic snuffling.  Daniel took careful aim and dispatched her.   Then several guys picked her up and carried her the 20 feet or so to the rig David built.

She was lifted by 1 hind foot, and bled.

We caught the blood in a bucket to add to compost.

Next, she was rolled forward on the trolley and lowered into the scalding tub. This water has to be at a temperature of 140° to remove the hair. Too hot or too cold and the hair will set. While in the vat, the carcass must be kept moving so as not to stick to the sides and again set the hair.

Once the hair easily pulled loose, she was again raised out of the tub, and moved to the other end of the beam.  A gambrel hook was inserted above each hind hoof and she was disemboweled, saving any organs we might want.

Next the carcass was cut in half...

...then the halves brought to the butchering table where David and Clint (and later, Rick) cut them up. 

Val, Erin, Lindsy, and Cecilia packaged and labeled the cuts in zippered baggies or freezer paper.

The hams and bacons were hauled quickly up to the smoke house and
salted down.  Each investor helped to salt their own meat so they were aware of that process too.

Erin is proficient at cutting away fat, and this was placed in a bucket to
render for lard. Cecilia finished that out the next day.  Reuben, Val, Donovan, and Stoney cut meat into small bits for sausage which Cecilia, Donovan, and Stoney later ground. They also mixed and packaged the sausage for the freezer. (No Nitrites or Nitrates here!) 

Meat was packed into coolers or storage tubs for the journeys home, some going as far away as Murphy (1 ½ hrs. away). Our videographer, Stoney, recorded the whole thing for us to study for next year!

With our careful planning and preparation, with the cooperation of 16 people, and with the expertise of Daniel, we killed the 1st pig at 7:30 am and finished the last by 1:00 in the afternoon.

Clean up was finished an hour later, making our day only 6 ½ hours long!

We were resting and reminiscing on the back porch of the shop with
friends by 2:30. This day exemplifies one of our FAVORITE proverbs: “Many
hands make light work.” (John Heywood)

The whole thing was perfectly timed, because cold weather hit the next
day. The meat has been salted down 3 times total at this point, especially
around the bone of the hams since this is where the meat will start to go
bad 1st  if allowed to. The weather has been consistently cold –either severe freezing or plenty of snow daily ever since. Everyone has been kept informed of the progress. Wonder if they will think it was worth it?

When we started last April with the girls – Lucy, Ethel, Rusty, Pinky, Dot,
and Spot – the pig pen was grassy with a few volunteer squash plants growing.

Our local brewery supplies spent grain which David picks up whenever they
call. (Anything leftover goes to our chickens.)  Kaleb’s folks gave us some sugar cane seeds, which we grew in the lower garden. The pigs LOVED eating that and the seeds are drying in our corncrib.

After November, our son-in-law Tyler and we offered to haul away peoples decorative Fall pumpkins which we again fed to the girls. John L. picked up windfall apples which we again picked up. The local grocery store put apples on sale at 5 pounds for a dollar so we grabbed several pounds there for a treat as well. Our friends’ acorns and some organic protein feed from our favorite feed store Bryson’s Farm Supply ensured that these girls were well fed, and even pampered. They were petted, scratched, and conversed with daily, not to mention played with by Sophie regularly throughout each day.

While everyone contributed to the purchase of the protein feed, David
and I did the daily interaction with these sweeties. They were not just pork chops or bacon, but short term friends with distinct personalities that we enjoyed. I cried when Spot was killed because she was such a particular delight. We do not sell meat to folks; we raise their pigs at our farm and got to know them well. As Donovan said, “They fulfilled their destiny well.”

As we did last year, we will later can some of the meat for the canning shelves. This is another process that will be lengthy, but oh so worth it!

We look back over the last 9 months and are flooded with Scripture verses that assure us of God’s hand in what we have done.Psalms 104:23 tells us that “Man goes forth to his work and to his labor until the evening.” This is certainly true, since they were fed at 5:30 in the morning and 5:30 in the evening daily.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 says “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might (strength);” God sees all our work, which we commit to Him, as valuable.

We are reminded in 2Chronicles 15:7 to “Be strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded.” Enough said.

But my favorite is this: “Being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 1:6

Lindsy's Perspective

My first Pig Slaughter

My name is Lindsy and I work at Bob’s Mini Mart on the WCU campus. Working at Bob’s has given me the chance to get to know many of the employees at Western as they come in for their daily cup of coffee or quick snack through-out the day.

The brief “encounters” soon become friendly conversations with friends. David is one of the workers I have had the opportunity of meeting.  One day I was talking with Bob on how I was going to learn to skin a deer soon. I told him I wanted to learn this because you never know when you might need it one day; it’s like changing the oil in a car. I don't necessarily have to change it myself, but it’s a good skill to have if ever needed, and those are the kind of skills I want :)

Just as I was saying this David happened to walk into the store. Bob had known David would be slaughtering the pigs from earlier conversations and he formally introduced us by name. David then invited me to the pig slaughter. After a lovely conversation with Cecilia the details were confirmed. I would be on my way to my first pig slaughter!

I arrived at 7:00 am; freezing in the cold morning air but also warming my hands by the fire that was under a giant tub of water that had been kept at boiling temperature all night long by 3 tired young gentlemen who were also there helping out.  I was surprised to see how many people this
would take and how involved it was, but I knew I was ready. 

I was a little nervous about meeting everyone, but everyone was so kind and welcoming I was instantly at ease.  After introductions to everyone and many pleasant conversations, it was nearing time. We all gathered while David led us in prayer before we started.

Now when I say I want to learn about something, I mean I Really want to learn.  I made sure I saw each step the best I could.  Again, you never know.  After the first pig was shot, it was taken to the area of the large tub of water and hung up to be bled.  It was then placed into the water for just long enough to prep it for the next step.  After the water the pig is then cleaned of its fur.  It might seem worse to say than it really is.  The boiling water makes this task not as near as a chore as it could have been. Next the pig is hung back up to gut and butcher it.  I am not grossed out by seeing this however I will spare you the details.  Once the pig is split and ready, it is laid on the table to be cut down into bacon, pork chops and more.  Finally the separate cuts are wrapped and stored or taken to the salt house.

The first pig was a little harder than the rest.  I was not the only one who had never done this and most the others had only done it one other time. But after the first one, we got our rhythm and moved right on.  We all laughed, joked, and learned.  I not only know the basic steps to a 
slaughter but I also know what a picnic ham is and how to cut fresh pork chops.

After the last pig was done we all took a break to eat lunch and talk before cleaning up.  After some more great conversations it was time to go.  I was blessed with some pork chops to take home.  These were by far the best pork chops I have ever had.  Fresh, Tender, and the taste is indescribable!  Not only did they taste amazing but the fact I helped with the process made them taste just a little much better than they already did.

 I greatly enjoyed the experience and would gladly do it again however the best part was being around a great group of genuine, caring people.

Val's Story

My husband Reuben and I decided to raise a pig with the Burress'
because we wanted the organic meat. I was nervous about what to expect but my fears were unfounded. I had concerns about being able to handle the blood, but there was not nearly as much as I was afraid of.

I was worried I would not hold up for a whole day of pig slaughtering but again my fear was unfounded. There were so many of us, the work went fast. We all worked so well together you would have thought we had practiced together.

Also the Burress’ were so organized and had everything laid out so well, it made light the work. I also had a concern about how to have my meat cut. Cecilia Burress was a wealth of information about the choices I had in cutting the meat. I felt like I was a part of a professional slaughterhouse.

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