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Wait, You Have To Meet Our Kune Kune Pigs, Barb And Elisha!! + The Official Henderson Farm Animal Update

Kaitlin asked me the other day when we were out in the paddock, chasing around the pigs with a camera if I would have guessed 10 years ago that Brian and I would be doing life like this. I knew what she meant. “Yes,” came out quickly – my mouth opening before my brain even processed the question. While we moved here to have a simpler life, that doesn’t mean it’s gotten “easy,” just less (in a good way), but adding animals complicated our lives in the best of ways. It’s such a different life than we had 4-10 years ago in LA (after 10 years in New York). I have become increasingly aware of my identity contradiction even if it makes sense to me. Most days I live in workout clothes or gross farm clothes, unkept from the Zoom-shoulder down, with mud stains on the back of my calves from the pig’s snouts (a telltale sign you have a pig). Then come Thursday, I’m ON. I get my hair and makeup done for back-to-back campaign shoots and multiple blog posts in cute clothes. It’s not a “performance” because it is a version of me, but it’s a stark contrast to the day before or the day after. Most people aren’t just one thing and I feel like most of us could happily lead multiple types of lives.

Maybe in 20 years, I’ll write about how this search for simplicity while actively on social media (a toxic cesspool if you aren’t careful) was never going to work, that the two are intrinsically at war and fated to fail. Or maybe (and this is my hope), this pseudo-countrified suburban mini-farm-life that we chased and now have was/is, in fact, the only way that I can sustain this career (which I love) and family (which I love more) while staying mentally healthy. It forces my feet firmly on the muddy ground, tethering us to our home and each other (currently in the best of ways). It’s more work but not stress if that makes any sense. But y’all, I love the simplicity and also the challenges of this pseudo-suburban farm life so much (right now at least) and feel really really grateful to be raising our kids here.

Ok, Thanks For The Existential Update Now Show Us Those Piggies!!!

YOU GUYS. You’d think I would have shifted into full pigfluencer when we got Barb and Elisha but for whatever reason (rain and other shoot priorities) we didn’t shoot them properly until this month. So I’d like to officially introduce you to Barb (white with black markings) and Elisha (black with white markings). We adopted them in July as little bitty piglets, picked them up in August once they were weaned, and chose them because of how affectionate and funny they were even as piglets. They are Kune Kune pigs (which means fatty, fatty we are told) and are now 7 months old and at least 200 lbs of hilarity. LOOK AT THEIR FACES!!!!!!!! Those cute little flat noses! And they are 100% just pets (we are not raising them to be bred, but honestly if one of them got knocked up I’d be PSYCHED).

Can you believe that was only 7 months ago???? They have honestly brought so much joy into our lives because they are so cute, affectionate, and HILARIOUS. They are always ravenously starving, truly only caring about food all day, every day. They run so fast when we are coming because they hope to be fed and then knock each other over getting to the food. They fight, snort, squeal and we just laugh and laugh and laugh. The kids LOVE them in every way and look forward to feeding them (I swear, right now I’m on the flight home from spring break and they can’t stop talking about how much they miss the pigs).

How Do You Take Care Of Them? Are They A Lot Of Work?

Brian and the kids get almost full credit for the real work. We researched and asked a lot of questions before we adopted pigs – we knew that they would be work, but we also felt confident that the work wouldn’t be too annoying or more accurately, worth it because the love would be there. We don’t have any regular farm help (we have someone who is helping weed right now, but no crew of yard folk yet). Brian and the kids do all things animal.

How Do You Feed Them?

They have to be fed twice a day – morning and night, but the timing is pretty flexible (because they can always graze outside). They eat pig food from the farm store and the best part is leftovers from our fridge (not meat) and then any and all greens they can get their snouts on. Every Sunday I clean out our fridge of about-to-be-too-old veggies and fruit and it’s a real win/win for everyone (essentially what you can compost).

The kids do 80% of the work, yes, even before school. It was not easy or awesome during the winter when it was dark until almost 8 am so they were out there with headlamps and huge coats. I was extremely proud of them. They honestly rarely complained because they really like seeing the piggies, but specifically in the winter we would let them off the hook because gearing up and finding the flashlights would take too long (yes, we need landscape lighting, still).

What About The POOP?

No need to show you photos, but if you’ve ever had a large dog, times the size by 2. It’s constant, huge and unlike dogs, they have no discretion on where they dump. Like they just walk and dump. Eat and Dump. Drink and Dump. We are fine with poop (remember I was a professional dog walker in NYC) but this is next level. Brian spends 2-3 hours most sunny Sundays (or whatever the dryest day is) shoveling it all. If he doesn’t then all the animals (and kids) walk in it all day in the paddock and it mixes with the mud and becomes total poop/mud sludge.

There’s Big Barb – she’s very assertive and knows what she wants and how to get it (by knocking aside anyone in her way).

Elisha is a bit less aggressive and more affectionate. Brian calls her his girlfriend and she will sit for food and let him pet her behind her ears for a long time. Brian and the kids spend more time in here than I do (per our original agreement) not because I don’t want to but because life responsibilities have to be divvied up and I couldn’t take on the role of being in charge of these two.

How Are The Alpacas? Any Drawbacks To Having Only Boys?

This photo is from June when we adopted these boys. They were newly sheared and now have MUCH longer fur as you can see below. They are easy, awkward, skittish and like the pigs, make us laugh a lot. The only negative is that we adopted three boys (which we knew) and let’s just say they take the gender stereotypes to the extreme. A lot of establishing dominance, alpha stuff and let’s just say they don’t ask for consent, even from each other. It was kinda odd/funny at first, but then we would find Milo (our favorite and the smallest) underneath both of the other two, and Birdie and I were NOT OK WITH IT. I would spray them with a hose to break it up and both of us were crying and screaming for them to get off of him. Again, they told us this would happen (this is why male alpacas can’t be with female alpacas, they are not very smart, and yet their male desires are unquenchable so they will even mount their mom or sisters… yes, ewwww). So we hired a guy to come out and castrate them (which took 5 minutes) and it’s been MUCH better since September.

They have warmed up to us all so much, coming to Brian and yes, Bert even gives him kisses. They love the kids (because they are shorter), but are still scared of most adults if they don’t know them.

Are The Pigs And Alpacas Friends?

YOU bet. But not at first. When the piggies were little they were fast and they scared the alpacas (which was very funny to watch). But now they all get along, cuddle in the barn at night and graze together. It’s very wonderful to watch them all be a little family.

Admittedly we are not winning any 4-H awards with these 5 – it’s a funny farm y’all and they are often covered in mud and hay (like always). The paddock is gross, full of plastic pools and an old cast iron tub that six dudes can’t move. The animals eat the grass before it grows so we might need to start rotating them… Oh, and we are going to shear the alpacas this spring (maybe watch YouTube videos, maybe hire someone to teach us this year so we can do it ourselves next year?). And I guess we need to start cutting one of their teeth that grows to a dangerous length? That sounds like a Brian problem…

All in all, it’s going very well (THANK GOD) and we made it through our first dark winter. I was nervous that we were biting off more than we could chew and while I was pretty clear that they weren’t my responsibility (because I’m full up), I still wondered/feared that they would become my problem. But not at all (obviously this is due to Brian coaching the kids to help and him having a lot of flexibility). These 5 animals (7 with the pups) are absolutely enriching our day-to-day here and are responsible for making us laugh a lot. Having to prioritize other living beings, of course, adds work but similar to kids (but not, ha) it’s also strangely fulfilling.

But to be clear, Brian still wants miniature goats and I’m still very interested in chickens for the fresh eggs (shout out to a reader Marlee in SW Portland who convinced me to reconsider chickens). Part of me thinks we should stop while we are ahead but Brian keeps making a case for having more… And what is the difference between having 6 or 7 kids? Not much! We really love the lifestyle and while of course it limits us and adds work, we are thankful to feel tethered to our home and hang out with the kids and this crew on the weekends. I think this is middle age, y’all, and we are here for it.

*Photos by Kaitlin Green

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Emily
1 month ago

I was hoping for a farm update one of these days! Since I have severely limited my Instagram usage the past year (what a difference it’s made!) I miss this type of glimpse into daily life content.
The pigs and alpacas are adorable and farm animals are indeed hilarious! It’s sounds like a positive move for everyone.
We just bought a house that has a chicken coop and I’m considering chickens… I worry about the smell and taking on too much. We don’t have 3 acres of land.
How’s the smell from the alpacas and pigs?

Lindsey
1 month ago

A+ work, Henderson’s. Animals are the best!

🥰 Rusty
1 month ago

This made my heart sing!!💗
Yaaay! 😊
That sounds like a Brian problem…” Haha!🤣
Brian…you look SO happy! Principal Henderson has had a careeer change to Farmer Brian!
Those piggies are about as cute as the rest of your (now 11 member) family.
Bring on the goats (BTW, I lurve goats…you’ll find that they are THE funniest animals!) and chickens.
PS: someone on another site commented that they missed me commenting here, at EHD.
In all honesty, it’s felt a tad “beige” and overly ‘curated’ lately, so I’ve skimmed and not commented.
However…this….THIS kinda authentic post? Well….I was compelled to comment!🥰

Jennipher
1 month ago

Curious how they are cared for when you travel? You mention both being on spring break and not having farm help in this post, but I’m assuming you must have something in place?

Monika
1 month ago

The dream!! What happens when you travel? We currently have two dogs (the dream is to add chickens and goats… and pigs if I can get hubs on board)… but our summer travels give me pause! We’re usually away for a few weeks every summer. I’m assuming you’ve found someone you trust to care for the animals when you’re away? It stresses me out so much and we don’t even have animals yet!

Amanda
1 month ago

Love this post. Thank you for the update!

LANE
1 month ago

Hilarious! All of it looks like fun to me. i don’t like the smell of pig poop, but I guess you get used to it. My hens don’t smell. They have “deep litter” of pine shavings, chopped leaves etc, and it all composts itself. Monica, Rachel and Phoebe are very happy in their pen, and I do let them out under my watchful eye, guarding my garden at all times. The eggs are super. The mamas get a lot of greens which makes the yolks a nutritious orange-yellow. They are really no work at all.

Kitty
1 month ago
Reply to  LANE

Anyone wanting to know more about keeping chickens, ducks or geese should check out Fresh Eggs Daily blog by Lisa Steele!! So informative and funny!

Amanda
1 month ago

What a wonderful dream you’re all living! So nice to see them all. Now, how about some cats!?

Kitty
1 month ago
Reply to  Amanda

Absolutely need cats!!!!!! They had 2 cats before in L.A.

Carol
1 month ago

Aren’t the two piggies brother and sister? Are you going to let nature take its course, and if Barb gets knocked up, you’ll have piggies? I’m confused.

Kitty
1 month ago
Reply to  Carol

Elisha is a girl also. Above it says Brian calls her his girlfriend.

Elysha
1 month ago

Just to say that I greatly appreciate you naming your pigs after me and my mom, Barbara. 💗🐷

Pamela T
1 month ago

This is just so sweet! Memories that will last forever.

Tara
1 month ago

You say “adopted”, but these are not typical species and breeds that have a surplus of unwanted offspring. Curious to know if they are just breeder culls?
Mini goats are a HUGE PITA! All goat stereotypes are true of the cute little ones. I’ve had 5 or so species of goats and Boers have been the easiest, but they are big and not cute.
Im glad you’re considering chickens again. I love having chickens!!
sincerely,
small farmer in north Texas 😊

Kate
1 month ago

Amazing!! The pigs are adorable! Loving this for you and your family, and right on, there can totally be the version of you that’s comfortable at home with the animals and the version that gets dressed up for photo shoots. I mean, just one version would be boring? I can’t wait to see more!

Alex
1 month ago

My husband cares for our 15 chickens and I think it’s meditative for him. If you do it buy a Fort Knox coop that doesn’t require that they be let out frequently to have a good life. If you do that less heartache and wonderful eggs.

Andrea
1 month ago

I understand the temptation to preface any farming adjectives with “pseudo.” “Pseudo-farm” “pseudo-country” etc. I did the same thing, downplaying my work as a farmer because “it’s a small farm” and “it’s part-time” but at some point I realized that I’M A FREAKIN’ FARMER! Four days a week I am out there rain or shine, I’m mucking out chicken poop and collecting eggs, weeding and harvesting and composting and planting and seeding, feeding aquaponic fish, trimming banana trees, the list goes on. There is no ‘pseudo’ about it, but coming from a multi-generational farm family that worked monocropped land with tractors it took me time to realize that there are many types of farms and just because mine is not big and I don’t drive a tractor and I cannot be there every day does *not* mean I am not a full-fledged farmer!

And, Henderson family, I think y’all are farmers, too. No ‘pseudo’ about it!

ADC
1 month ago

Hi-love the update on the farm animals. Curious what happens with the pig and alpaca poop that Brian shovels weekly but where does it get disposed? Thanks.

Margaret
1 month ago

Chickens are so fun, and honestly so easy compared to what you have going on! Our really didn’t smell, and they’re kind of like cats in that you can leave them for a couple days without needing a sitter for them.

Emily
1 month ago

I live outside Portland and we have goats and soon will have chickens (our previous ones were picked off by an owl or hawk). Our 4 goats are wonderful, but one definitely needs to be ready for more escape attempts/providing entertainment for goats. They have so much personality though that it’s worth the extra work. Depending on breed just know they may be loud. Our minis were much more annoying/had a grating bleat compared to the full Nubians or Alpines we had.

Reanna
1 month ago

Loved this post. Inspiring because, even if the exact lifestyle isn’t for me, it’s a great reminder to invest in the things that make me happy.

Robin in NoCo
1 month ago

Come shearing time, it would be incredible if you could get the ladies off Right Choice Shearing to come! They sheared our sheep in Colorado for years during their annual shearing tour. Now they’re active on YouTube and travel much less outside of Texas. They deserve all the good things that come to them!

Yes to chickens!
Yes to goats (in lieu but not in addition to alpacas).

A.B.
1 month ago

Yes, where does all the poop go AND how do you clean them? They are out of control gorgeous.

Leslie
1 month ago

My suggestion if you really want to try shearing yourself is to find someone with alpacas who have experience and ask if you can assist them with theirs. Not sure youtube is going to be enough and other folks usually will be happy to have the help. With that experience we did pretty well shearing our two even though they were not very social. But I don’t think it would have gone that well without having some hands-on experience.

annie
1 month ago

that last picture! you’re living my dream emily!

Christina
1 month ago

What an excellent update! I”m glad it’s working so well and not adding to your personal load, Emily. I had doubts about the alpacas having visited someone who has some very skittish alpacas, and I’m so happy your guys are not scared of Brian and the kids. My family had chickens when I was a kid and it was awesome.

Kacey
1 month ago

I volunteer at an animal rescue that takes in unwanted, abused, neglected or breeder-rejected farm animals. A few of our piggies, cows and chickens are truck jumpers meaning they were on the way to slaughter and somehow got off the truck. My time with them has made it very clear that they are unique personalities that require a ton of time, patience, money and effort. Even the sweetest and funniest in our rescue destroy barn stalls, doors, fences and gates – it’s nonstop work and care. It’s wonderful that you have the land, resources and ability to give these cuties a lifelong home! Hopefully breeding isn’t in their future as so few people genuinely have the resources and dedication to give them a quality life as a true pet.

shannon
1 month ago

This is fantastic- just an update about shearing the alpacas, my aunt and uncle had pet alpacas for years and every year they’d shear them and toss the wool. Please don’t do that, maybe you already have plans for the wool but If not I guarantee your local spinning guild or mini-mill would jump at it. Hopefully you have a mill or something there to process the fiber so it can be used for spinning, but please just don’t waste it. Alpaca fiber is wonderful to work with.