Drummer Mickey Hart wrote that everything has a sweet spot - a place where everything just comes together perfectly - a golf club or ball bat, a drum, sure, but also a work of craftsmanship or a relationship or a marriage or a walk in the woods. All of life has a sweet spot. That concept has stuck with me for many years, and I strive to acknowledge when I am in a sweet spot of any sort. Here at the farm we are currently renting, there is a paddock that I refer to as the Sweet Spot. The picture above was taken yesterday in that very place. Lush oats and forage wheat growing out in a winter pasture is a delightful sight for this pig farmer.
The Sweet Spot on this farm is almost 3 times the size of the regular paddocks. It doesn't go into the paddock rotation schedule often, and it is always planted generously with good things to eat. There's lots of good shade and some nut trees. Right now, the clover, alfalfa, vetch and radishes are coming up among the succulent grasses. In the beige and brown landscape of late winter, it is an oasis of vital, shimmering green. Yesterday evening, I opened the 3-wire electric gate and invited the hogs out to the Sweet Spot. Tentative at first -they are quite averse to hot wires - first one then another entered the lush green sward. Soon, they were all in the Sweet Spot, running from one spot to another, exploring, taking huge bites, kicking up their heels.
The Sweet Spot is also the place I turn the hogs out into near the end of their time on the farm before we take them to the processor and before they go to feed others. Yes, it is good for the flavor of the pork to do this, but that isn't why the hogs get to spend so many of their final days in the Sweet Spot. Here, they eat well and as much as they like; here, they get the choicest morsels; here, they have lots of room to spread out or to run or to lay in a cool spot in the sun and have a snack.
Here, in the Sweet Spot, I give them my gratitude for sharing their lives with me on our farm. They teach me a lot, every batch of pigs, every year. They share their vitality, their curiosity, their affection. I get to watch them play and wallow and sleep; observe their relationships, behaviors, and pecking orders; feel their warmth on a cold winter's day, or check their eyes to make sure they are healthy and thriving. I often sit on a 5 gallon bucket in the midst of their grazing or their lazing and allow them to approach. This has been our ritual for almost 7 months. Most will take turns coming to check in, snurffling me with their agile snouts, some will want a good scratching, or a little snooze at my feet. It is the finest part of my day, and they seem to enjoy it, too; they come trotting over as soon as they see me approach, though the bucket and what it may hold probably plays a larger part in their enthusiasm. These times more than make up for earth rooted up over the hot wires, or the times the large water tank gets upended and rolled back and forth in the pasture. Those are all small frustrations, and time with the pigs in any sweet spot more than compensates.
So, the Sweet Spot on this farm is a physical state of grace for all of us. It is a respite, a hog heaven, a free zone. It is elbow room with a buffet. It is an early morning vision walking up the hill of black hogs on vibrant green, wreathed in a light fog, bathed in the first rays of the sun. It is everything that Mickey Hart described, and our heart drums - the pigs' and mine - resonate to it.
Merry Schepers lives on a farm with her heritage pigs in Nixa, MO.