The first time Kowhai jabbed me in the leg with his tusk, it hurt. The second time, a week later, it bled. Both times he was just nudging me, but a gentle nudge from a 300 pound kunekune boar with long tusks is a bit like a friendly slap on the back with a grizzly bear claw. We had to do something about those tusks.
In fact, Kowhai’s tusks were making it hard for him to eat. His front teeth don’t line up, so to eat grass he has to tip his head to the side. The long tusks were making it hard for him to graze, and he was losing weight.
“That’s it,” I said to him. “You need a visit from the dentist.” He just looked at me and grunted for more food.
Naya the superheroine vet
I immediately texted our friend Naya and asked if she could come trim Kowhai’s tusks. She’s a pig farmer and a vet, and she has a superhero’s ability to show up whenever an animal is in need.
As luck would have it, this was right around the time when we were organizing our annual Thanksgiving dinner. These dinners used to be huge (150 people one year), but the city friends who helped in the kitchen staged a mutiny. So now we keep them smaller.
Back when we were living in Chicago, if a psychic had told CJ and me that one day we’d be having Thanksgiving celebrations in New Zealand, we wouldn’t have believed them.
If they’d gone on to say that after the meal we’d be trimming the tusks on our 300 pound pet kunekune boar, we would have thought they were absolutely mad.
That weekend the city friends started showing up on Friday night. Everyone got hugs all around, and city friends Debbie and Cody pulled out the ingredients for the stuffing.
But when we pulled the turkey out of the refrigerator to stuff it, we got a shock. In spite of the fact that I’d transferred it from the freezer to the fridge four days earlier, it was still frozen.
In a last-ditch effort to thaw the turkey, we tried to put it in the sink with cool water. But it wouldn’t fit. This is how we ended up with a giant turkey carcass floating in the bathtub.
At one point, our friend Steve held the turkey to the bathtub faucet and shot water up its backside. It wasn’t pretty. The entire episode traumatized several of our guests, and almost made them go vegetarian.
Nevertheless, the turkey thawed beautifully, and Thanksgiving was saved. On Saturday morning I was up at 5am to put it in the oven. Throughout the day more and more people showed up.
Our house is like a commune. Everyone is in and out of the kitchen, chopping, stirring, and helping. Nobody is in charge and everyone is responsible. I love this about our friends.
We sat down at 1 o’clock to a fabulous meal. Golden brown turkey, rib-sticking mashed potatoes, stuffing with mussels and wild rice and chorizo, beautiful roast beetroot and carrots, broccoli stir-fried in sesame and olive oil, cavolo nero cooked with onions and walnuts and topped with homemade garlic mayonnaise, roasted kumara (Maori sweet potato) with garam masala and coconut, scallops in garlic and butter, and several fresh green salads. For dessert we had pecan pie and a fantastic pumpkin mousse creation. During the meal we went around and everyone said what they were thankful for.
Afterwards people lingered – sitting at the table, lounging outside on deck, sipping beer and wine and tea. Everyone was talking and laughing.
Eventually Jeremy said, “Well, about that pig.”
“Yeah,” I said. “About that pig.” It was time for the tusk trimming, and I was a little nervous. Would it go okay?
“How do you want to do it?” Naya asked. “Sedate him or snare him?”
To sedate or to snare
Naya explained the risks with both options. Whenever you sedate a pig, there’s always a chance that something will go wrong. Getting the dosage correct is not a perfect science. And when the pig comes to, they’re groggy and stumble around a lot. They could easily hurt themselves.
Snaring the pig is safer for the pig, but it can be upsetting for everyone – the pig as well as any onlookers.
“So snaring is technically safer,” I said, “but sedation makes everyone feel better, even though it’s riskier for the pig?”
“Pretty much.” Naya nodded.
“I’d rather be uncomfortable than put Kowhai at risk.” I said.
With that, Jeremy got on his pig farmer clothes and a crowd of us headed out to the paddock. We were about to snare a giant pig…
Check out the thrilling conclusion: Boar tusk trimming party
Have you ever snared a pig?