Posts Tagged ‘grow your own’

Sometimes, you just have to abuse your overdraft

When I sent the five pigs off for slaughter, the sale of one paid for all the slaughter costs, one went to the guys for the rent on the field and the other three were divided up between five friends. I’m still waiting to be paid for one and a half, but the rest of the money went into the bank, and I originally intended to use it for useful and practical things like buying food or paying off debts.

But then I had a thought. (Yes, just the one. You at the back, stop giggling.)

Since I have this whole panic-attack-when-I-leave-the-house thing going on, I need stuff to keep me busy and/or occupy my mind when I’m in said house and there’s only so many times a day that you (ie me) can do the washing up – or any sort of cleaning, for that matter.

I’ve always loved reading, and rarely need an excuse to cram some more novels onto the bookshelves, and so I spent a wonderful afternoon browsing the book sections of some local charity shops, in addition to the ones I got for my birthday.

However, I’m having a few concentration issues, in that my mind tends to wander after about twenty minutes or so, so reading isn’t always the answer.

DVDs, on the other hand, are spot on, especially TV series.

And that is why I recklessly and shamelessly abused my overdraft and am now the proud owner of, amongst other titles, the complete Friends box set, the complete Buffy box set, seasons 1-5 of NCIS, the complete Band of Brothers, and season 4 of Bones.

Yes, I know. But in my defence, each and every one of those was a bargain!

What’s more, every penny I spent on them has been justified. I already owned the complete West Wing box set and have worked my way through that, leaving the final season for another time, just to make it last (*sniff*). I’ve watched seasons 1-3 of NCIS and the same for Friends.

I’ve decided to give crime and comedy a break and am now making my way through Band of Brothers, a show I wish I’d watched much, much sooner.

However, my timing was slightly off as I didn’t realise it starred David Schwimmer. The last I saw him, he was picking between Rachel and Bonnie at the beach house, then I went to cook up some sausages and scrambled eggs and hey presto, Ross had gone back in time and was Captain of Easy Company. And no, I don’t know what I put in those eggs…!

It’s where I go next that’s got me puzzled. Should I sit down with Bones, or go back to NCIS, Friends or The West Wing? Alternatively, I also own seasons 1-3 of Bad Girls, which I haven’t watched for years, so I could always settle down with Nikki and Helen…

But what about Buffy, I hear you cry…

Well, Ally’s husband, B, has been muttering something about his data projector and the rather large wall in their living room. Which sounds great to me, just so long as he realises that I saw Willow first. 😀

Ah, that’s better!

I only managed two hours sleep last night but today is already a better day … my head feels quite clear and I am more or less ready to take whatever the day throws at me.

So … what to blog about?

The pigs, I think.

It’s two weeks since I sent the five Kune Kunes off to the abattoir and ten days since the epic trip to collect and distribute hundreds of kilos of pork. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a Picasso sink to its knees and beg for mercy, but mine came close. The boxes of meat just kept coming … and then there were the bags containing the “bits”. You know – heads, trotters, ribs etc.

Thankfully, we were able to leave three pigs (who shall remain nameless) in Wales and returned back across the Severn Bridge and down the M5 with just two.

I didn’t keep any, still having a freezer full of Bailey, Harold and the last bits from Vicky and Albert, but I have been sampling Ally’s pork and home-made bacon and ham, which has simply reaffirmed my belief that Kune Kunes are the ideal smallholder’s pig. Yum!

I miss my pigs. I miss having pigs. I miss giving them belly rubs and watching them eat. I miss the sound of them snuffling in a fresh bed of straw. I miss their curiosity and intelligence. I miss their friendship.

But I know that I am not in a place where I can look after myself, right now, let alone livestock. I can just about cope with the dogs. But that’s my lot.

So giving them up was the mature, sensible and wise decision.

I can even cope with the thought of selling my Eglu Cube (see here if you are interested) but the thought of selling the pig arks hurts too much at the moment. Maybe I’ll keep them – maybe not. We’ll see.

The five adults and Snipe - 27 November 2009

The five adults and Snipe - 27 November 2009

Curly, Pinky and the piglets - 21 December 2009

Curly, Pinky and the piglets - 21 December 2009

I do know one thing: after delivering all that meat and sampling the end result, my days as a pig keeper are not over by a long shot.

Finally, some news about Fergie and Brini. Gardening girl, who is looking after them has described them as “the BIGGEST time wasters ever 😆 Everyone loves them, they talk to you 😳 The OSBs that are going on Thursday just don’t have such characters.”

Good news!!

Farewell to the pigs

Yesterday was not a Good Day.

I took two loads of pigs to the abattoir, Curly, Pinky and Perky in the first load, then Tia and Scrumpy.

I pick the meat up on Friday.

Brini and Fergie were saved, because Fergie is too small and Brini makes an ideal companion for her as she is (a) kind to the little pig and (b) is not a natural-born trouble-maker. They are now living in luxury in east Somerset.

I cried when I got home.

Not a Good Day.

It’s a good thing I like sausages!

I got Bailey back yesterday: approximately 50kg of sausages (pork and apple, pork and leek and plain gluten-free), 10kg of minced pork and 4 leg joints!

I had originally intended to get just sausages and mince, as older boars, especially those who have been used as working boars, have a very strong flavour which can be unpleasant in a roast, but perfect for sausages and burgers. However, J, who lives at the farm where I keep the pigs, talked me into keeping a leg or two as he reckons you can slow roast them for the perfect flavour. I thought that was nicely volunteered, as did his partner, C. As it turns out, I have run out of freezer space, so the leg joints are now residing in their freezer anyway… Fate, I think!

I have, naturally, sampled the sausages and think they’re delicious. Very delicious. Too delicious. If I start oinking, it’s not because of swine flu!

Thanks, Bailey. You were a good old boy and I promise you won’t go to waste.

Bailey - 4 June 2009

Bailey - 4 June 2009

(Actually, this post reminds me that I never wrote a review of my first taste of Kune Kune meat, when I sent Harold and Scratchy off in March. Must do that!)

Getting ready to say goodbye to Bailey

It’s an early start this morning as I’m taking Bailey to the abattoir in a few hours. After my last blog post on the subject, they rang me and said I could have a slot on their first “pig day” since reopening.

Today is the day.

I’m dreading it.

But I can’t afford to keep an infertile boar. Well, I can feed him but I simply don’t have the space.

But he has had a good life, especially (I like to think) in the time he has been with me.

Bailey - 30 September 2009

Bailey enjoys his Last Supper

I confess, I was somewhat soppy last night and gave him a Last Supper to make any pig happy: his usual pig nuts with some of his favourite treats added it for his pleasure. And pleasure it was! I took what was meant to be a short video of him noming down, but it ended up being over ten minutes as that pig took his time, savouring each and every mouthful! Poor Tia wasn’t at all happy, especially as Bailey chased her away several times!

Then, after the sun had gone down, I sat in the field with him, giving him one last belly rub, making peace with the fact that I’m sending this big hearted pig to his death, and that in a few days, I’ll be tucking into Bailey sausages…

This is the side of the so-called “Good Life” that isn’t pretty. It’s harsh and unfair and exposes the grim reality behind the sanitised meat counters in supermarkets where a pig is nothing more than selected cuts and sausages, where consumers can pretend that their pack of bacon fell from the sky, ready sealed for freshness.

The difference between Bailey and every other older, now infertile boar in the world, is that Bailey is loved and will be missed.

Does that make it easier or harder to turn him into sausages?

I’ll tell you in a few days…

Not quite the Triffids … but close!

Thanks to my work commitments and the various chores and duties around the farm, with the exception of digging up several rows of potatoes, I managed to ignore my vegetable garden for a week. Possibly more. Well, definitely more. Call it ten days.

This was, it turns out, a big mistake…

Why?

Because the last time I checked, there were a couple of courgettes, similar in size to this:

The humble courgette - 7 September 2009

The humble courgette - 7 September 2009

Yesterday, I remembered the courgettes.

B and the monster courgette - 7 September 2009

B and the monster courgette - 7 September 2009

Ooops!

What a day!

As days go, yesterday was one of those…

It started well enough, a bit chilly, but not enough to make me want to put a jumper on. Why would you, when the sun was shining bright in the sky for the first time in, well, ages?!

View of the field - 5 September 2009

View of the field - 5 September 2009

I started feeding the pigs, but only made it as far as Perky, Fergie, Scrumpy and Brini when I discovered that Brini was lame. Her appetite wasn’t diminished: in fact, I spotted her limping when she had finished her food and was making her way over to steal Perky’s!

Using the offer of a belly rub as bribery, I persuaded her to lie down and examined her off fore leg (front right), suspecting a thorn. The thick mud obscured things somewhat, so I tentatively cleaned it off, all the while keeping up the belly rubs with my other hand, wishing (not for the first time) that I had an extra set of hands. However, it came as a shock to discover the true cause of her lameness. Not a thorn, but a deep cut where she (or one of the others) had obviously trod on her foot in the night.

At this point, Brini decided that enough was enough and scrambled to her feet, snorting in disgust at my probing. Watching her limp off through the mud, I realised what my first course of action must be: get them off that patch, onto somewhere drier. Cleaning it would be a waste of time if she had no means of keeping it clean afterwards…

Unfortunately, the only mud-free (ish) patch of land was Tia and Bailey’s enclosure, to the east of the field, where they were helpfully grazing down the long grass before winter. What’s more, there was a large area to the west of their enclosure, which could be incorporated into the pen by adjusting the electric netting. This would be perfect for Brini, as the long grass was still wet with the morning dew, which would do a great job of cleaning the cut out naturally, making my job that much easier.

It took of a bit of skilful manoeuvring, but I eventually swapped the two groups over, despite Fergie’s insistence on leading the way, despite not actually knowing the way…

The four pigs were thrilled with their unexpected move:

Perky, Fergie, Scrumpy and Brini - 5 September 2009

Perky, Fergie, Scrumpy and Brini - 5 September 2009

Tia and Bailey were not as happy. In fact, they were downright miserable and Tia spent the rest of the day giving me *that* look. The look that says she’s going to cause trouble. And judging from her previous behaviour, I believe her… I just wish I had somewhere for them to go! Even though the pair had the largest run with the best grass, leaving the four pigs a much smaller ratio of space and grass per pig, the “unfairness” of this was overwhelmingly compensated by removing Tia’s urge to roam whenever she had less than perfect grazing…

Oh well, the electric fence is on, the battery has been recently charged, and they’ll just have to put up with the mud for another week. *Gulp*!

Moving the six pigs and adjusting two hundred metres of electric netting took me over two hours so it was late in the morning by the time I had the opportunity to re-examine Brini’s foot. As I’d hoped, the long wet grass did a wonderful job of cleaning the cut and it was virtually mud free, and that meant I was able to see that there was no blood and that the cut was the porcine equivalent of cutting the skin around your nail. Painful, but not as bad as cutting anywhere else on the finger.

Even better, the heat and swelling had both gone down considerably (so much so that I had to double check I had the right foot) and watching her walk, it was evident that the she was feeling much better, as she wasn’t limping nearly as much as she had been.

I (finally) headed back to the feed shed, checked the chickens, who were most indignant at being ignored for so long, popped to the loo (note to self: always, always go before feeding the pigs!), grabbed my wonderful Purple Spray, and walked back to the pigs, intending to settle Brini down and spray her foot to (hopefully) kill off any infection that may be lurking.

As plans go, that one sucked. Scrumpy wanted belly rubs, Fergie wanted belly rubs, Perky wanted belly rubs … Brini told me to go to hell. And continued to do so for the rest of the day. I know because I went back every hour or so and the pattern was the same. Every other pig was thrilled with the idea of belly rubs in the afternoon sun. Not Brini. In fact, she was so determined that she never did get her belly rub and I never did get to inspect and spray her foot!

Having said that, not only did she make a break for Perky’s food again that evening, but she actually ran after me when she got a whiff of the contents of the their veggie bucket and realised that bananas were on the menu.

I’m hoping that yesterday’s recovery continues and that her foot heals itself without any further problems – or infection. I’ll obviously try again today, hoping that it’s not a case of bolting the stable door after the fact, and will keep all fingers crossed for a speedy and trouble-free recovery.

And the rest of the day? Well, having lost the whole morning, in the afternoon I culled and plucked the three bantam cockerels, checked Brini, cleaned out the chicken houses, moved the Pekins and Silkies out of the horrible old wooden ark and back into the Eglu, which had been acting as a temporary broiler ark for the boys, collected the eggs (four today, bringing the total for 2009 to an astonishing 1003!), checked Brini, cut the grass around the chickens’ electric netting, had a very late lunch, checked Brini, walked the dogs, dug up a row of potatoes, checked Brini, cut up the pigs’ fruit and veg, fed the chickens, fed the pigs, checking Brini one last time as a I did so, then headed for home, knowing that I still had the three chickens to draw and one to cook, putting the other two in the freezer.

The Trio - 16 August 2009

The Trio - 16 August 2009

I hate drawing (aka gutting) chickens, and never seem to do a neat job. Still, practice makes perfect, and I’ve now done the grand total of five cockerels and therefore know one thing to be true: big chickens are much easier than small ones…

I decided to try poached chicken, intending to make a chicken and vegetable broth. B’s away at her parents, so although I know the broth was missing something, I don’t know what that something was (B’s a skilled cook, I just cook…). It was still tasty though, and there’s plenty in the freezer, not to mention some extra stock!

I eventually fell into bed with a well-deserved bowl of chicken broth at about ten o’clock.

Phew!

Dusk falls over the field - 5 September 2009

Dusk falls over the field - 5 September 2009