Posts Tagged ‘tia’

As happy as pigs on fresh grass!

Yesterday, B and I moved Tia and Bailey onto some fresh ground, so that they can take care of the Himalayan Balsam that’s threatening to take over. It starts to flower from June onwards, and then goes to seed, popping violently to spread its seeds. Each seed can travel up to 7 metres, which makes Himalayan Balsam (aka Policeman’s Helmet) a real threat to anything else that tries to grow, like grass! What happens is that the balsam plants clump together and then spread out their leaves like umbrellas, creating dense forests and blocking the sunlight from reaching anything below its thick canopies. Come autumn, anything that couldn’t grow taller than the balsam (which, growing unchecked, reaches the dizzying heights of six or seven feet) has long since died so when the balsam itself dies, the ground is left bare and barren, leading to soil erosion over the winter. Come spring, the balsam can grow with no competition… and so the circle continues, devastating the countryside and forcing birds, insects and wildlife to look elsewhere for their requirements.

Tia - 12 June 2009

Tia - 12 June 2009

But there is good news!

If you can stop the balsam in its tracks before it flowers, it can’t reseed. If it can’t reseed, problem solved. Well, it’s not that easy, but that’s the theory and so I’m trying to halt this bloody weed in its tracks, no easy task as its been growing unchecked for several years and has really taken hold in the field. The pigs are rooting it (and occasionally eating it) and I’m cutting it and pulling it … and we seem to be getting somewhere.

So I have moved Tia and Bailey onto the biggest patch where the balsam has been thriving for several years, along with bracken which nobody wants growing in their fields as it’s toxic to livestock. Unfortunately, the pigs love it, especially the rhizomes (the roots), so I can’t cut back the amount of pig nuts they’re eating as I need to make sure they’ve got enough Vitamin B in their systems (bracken leads to Vit B deficiencies, which in turn can lead to death). Still, the cost will be worth it if I can stop the bracken growing as well.

Bailey - 12 June 2009

Bailey - 12 June 2009

In a few weeks, I’ll move them to the middle of the field, which gets very boggy in the wet but is consequently extremely fertile – the grass is currently higher than my waist and shows no signs on stopping! They’ll graze there for the summer and then I’ll move them back onto the (hopefully balsam and bracken-free) perimeter of the field come autumn.

Enjoying the sunshine

Forgive the picture-heavy post. I don’t seem to have woken up yet. Uploading photos from yesterday seems like the most sensible route to take, if a degree of coherence is ……. nope, can’t finish the sentence. Need more coffee!

Snail - 23 May 2009

An early morning visitor

Scrumpy tries to get to Perky's food - 23 May 2009

Scrumpy tries to get to Perky's food but doesn't get very far!

Bailey - 23 May 2009

Bailey enjoys the fresh grass

Tia - 23 May 2009

Tia enjoys it even more

The chicks and Xander - 23 May 2009

The chicks and Xander have finally become friends

Looking back

It’s been a while since I posted any photos from our year living at my mother’s smallholding in West Wales, so I thought I’d break my blogging silence (no reason, just busy) with some of my favourites pics. There are quite a few, sorry about that!

The view from mum's front gate - 8 April 2008

The view from mum's front gate - 8 April 2008

The view from mum's front gate - 15 April 2008

The view from mum's front gate - 15 April 2008

The view from mum's front gate - 17 April 2008

The view from mum's front gate - 17 April 2008

The ponies, pigs and chickens all get their breakfast - 29 April 2008

The ponies, pigs and chickens all get their breakfast - 29 April 2008

Snipe decided to help us replace the guttering - 29 April 2008

Snipe decided to help us replace the guttering - 29 April 2008

Queenie - 4 May 2008

Queenie - 4 May 2008

The view from mum's front gate - 5 May 2008

The view from mum's front gate - 5 May 2008

Tia and Bob decide to use the entrance to the chickens' yard and house as the perfect snoozing place - 8 May 2008

Tia and Bob decide to use the entrance to the chickens' yard and house as the perfect snoozing place - 8 May 2008

Shutterfly the Section A yearling meets Stella the Kune Kune - 10 May 2008

Shutterfly the Section A yearling meets Stella the Kune Kune - 10 May 2008

Stella makes the perfect wallow - 10 May 2008

Stella makes the perfect wallow - 10 May 2008

Some of mum's Section A mares and foals - 13 May 2008

Some of mum's Section A mares and foals - 13 May 2008

Ted, mum's Section A stallion - 13 May 2008

Ted, mum's Section A stallion - 13 May 2008

Oh, Bailey!

Things are not looking good for Bailey. He’s been with Tia since the beginning of February but although he has dutifully covered her every time she’s come on heat, something obviously isn’t working as she’s come back into heat right on schedule, every three weeks.

This is not good news for Bailey.

I know he’s getting on and accepted that this would probably be his last year, but it looks as though last year was his last year and this year is just expensive for me.

Bailey - 18 April 2009

Bailey - 18 April 2009

You see, the problem is that I’m currently feeding three sows and a boar with no return. And the longer the sows go without having a litter, the harder it will be to get them in pig again.

So I’ve had to make a very difficult decision, one that I should have made a couple of months ago but couldn’t bring myself to.

Bailey, my lovely, friendly, gentle giant of a boar, has to go. And there are limited options for an infertile boar, even one as docile and sweet as him.

I’ve been offered a fairly decent amount if I sell him to someone who will cull him and, sadly, this is probably the most likely course of action.

I then need to decide what to do next.

I could get a replacement boar but I’ve made a few other decisions as well.

I’m going to sell Brini and Scrumpy, and just keep Tia and her daughters, Perky and Fergie. Fergles is, obviously, just a pet, but Perky has her mother’s temperament plus much much more. Combined with her impressively long back and overall size, I think she’ll make an excellent breeding sow and would suit me much better than Scrumpy. I never thought I’d say that as Scrumpy is wonderful but I guess that’s the way it goes.

There’s someone who is interested in the pair but I’ll advertise them if they don’t want them. Of course, there’s always a chance that I won’t be able to sell Brini as I’ve never had a litter from her, in which case she’ll accompany Bailey on his Final Journey. Kind of romantic: they adore one another so it would suit. You never know, I might find someone who’ll take the pair and Bailey…!

Scrumpy and Brini - 8 March 2009

Scrumpy and Brini - 8 March 2009

If I want a litter of piglets weaned before winter sets in, I need to get Tia in pig when she next comes into season in a couple of weeks, so finding a boar to lease or a “stud” that will take her ASAP is my first challenge.

Next year, I’ll lease a boar for a couple of months in February and March, putting him with Tia first and then Perky. If Tia has an autumn litter, it’ll be hard work for her and she’ll need lots of TLC but from then on, it will be one litter a year for them both.

Having made this decision, I feel horribly guilty whenever I look at Bailey, Brini and Scrumpy, but what else can I do? There were a number of other options I considered, but this plan ticks every box so it must be the right choice.

Unless I win the Lottery! Piggies, cross your trotters!

Trying to think good things about the rain

Over the past week, I’ve been spoiled rotten with the good weather. So much so, that I didn’t even look at replacements for my leaking (as in massive rip in the sole) wellies when I was in the my local animal feed store yesterday.

Today is not going to be a nice day. It rained overnight. It’ll rain for most of the morning.

This is good for the newly planted veggies.

This is good for the newly sown grass seed in the field.

This is good for me as I won’t have to carry endless buckets of water across the field for the pigs. They all get a scrubbed water bowl and a fresh bucket once a day as a matter of routine but on hot days, they knock the bucket over to make a mud wallow, and I obviously need to make another trip to refill it. Sometimes, this happens two or three times. It never puts me in a good mood so the other morning, I decided to pre-empt them and changed everyone’s water in the morning, carefully tipping it over to get the ground nice and muddy.

Now, I always change Tia’s water in the afternoon as whenever I change it in the morning, she knocks it over within an hour. If I don’t touch the water, neither does she. I don’t know why.

But I decided to take the risk on the grounds that she might be tricked by the newly softened ground.

Nope. Pigs are far more intelligent than humans.

One empty water bucket! 23 April 2009

Tia didn't even wait for me to leave the enclosure before she knocked over her water!

Tia makes her wallow - 23 April 2009

Tia makes her wallow, commenting that two buckets of water makes things much easier than with one. Hmph!

Tia in her wallow - 23 April 2009

Tia settles down in her wallow

Bailey wants a belly rub - 23 April 2009

Bailey looked longingly at Tia in the mud but obviously heard me telling her off, so decided to be cute instead!

Muddy Tia! 23 April 2009

Muddy Tia! 23 April 2009

Muddy Tia wants a belly rub - 23 April 2009

And then the cheeky so-and-so lay down for a belly rub!

See, there’s always a silver lining!

When the pigs are moved, there’s time for snuggles

Hurrah! I’ve finally moved all eight pigs onto fresh ground, which is a massive relief for me and them. Ok, I’ve cheated a little with Tia and Bailey and have only moved the 100m of electric netting that makes up their enclosure, not the ark, but it means that 70% of their enclosure is now made up of fresh ground, including a soft area for them to make a wallow if required, and the cover of several trees to give them shade. If I get a chance, I’ll move the ark this week, so the ground in front of its current spot gets a chance to rest, but there’s no rush.

Tia and Bailey - 21 April 2009

Tia and Bailey approve of their new patch

So, eight happy pigs.

Which meant I could take some time to administer belly rubs and receive some piggy loves in return:

In the pig ark - 21 April 2009

In the pig ark with Perky, Scrumpy, Fergie and Brini

Perky and Jo - 21 April 2009

Perky thinks she's a lap dog

Thanks to Jennie for taking those photos (!!!!!!!!!!!) on your much needed (and deserved) break from planting all those potatoes!!

4 + 2 – 1 = CHAOS!

Driving to the farm on Easter Sunday, I slowed down as B and I passed the two pig arks by the fence. Pinky and Curly were out and about in their enclosure, enjoying the sunshine, but further down the field, there was no sign of Tia and Bailey. I laughed and explained that those two are the laziest pigs on the planet and that I could count the number of times they were awake before breakfast on one hand.

Once we’d parked, the first thing we did was peer through the fence to see if Fergie and Perky had plucked up the courage to sleep in the pig ark with the adults, or if they were still relegated to their temporary home, the pig trailer.

I saw Brini in her usual place at the entrance of the ark and saw a creamy coloured pig behind her, leading me to get excited in the belief that Perky had slept the night with her adult companions.

However, I was slightly confused when I opened the field gate. The water bucket was on its side, the dogs’ water bowl was turned over (and cracked, grrrrr), and the cardboard that I use to keep the worst of the mud by the “shed” at bay was ripped up and spread around. My brain was trying to make sense of all this when I saw that the electric fence for the 4 pigs was down in several places…

Uh oh!

Who was missing?

I popped my head in the trailer and was relieved to see Fergie and Perky, both fast asleep and unaware of my presence.

Um, hang on. Perky?

So who is the cream pig in the ark?



As I swore in surprise, Brini woke up, as did their companion… Tia!

There was no sign of Scrumpy so leaving the three grunting pigs in the ark, I ran back across the enclosure, hastily put the fence back up as B tried to stop Perky and Fergie leaving the trailer and then shot off down the field towards Tia and Bailey’s enclosure to see if I could find my missing pig there.

Nope, no sign of her.

My heart in my mouth, I ran towards Pinky and Curly’s enclosure. Remembering just in time that their electric fence was switched on, I headed to the far side of their pen, where I found an upset Scrumpy who couldn’t have been more pleased to see me if I’d turned up with a whole box of bananas just for her. She’d clearly been evicted from her pen by either Bailey or Tia (probably the former given my previous disastrous attempts to match make) and had tried to get in with the pair of weaners, whose current ark and enclosure is on the site where Scrumpy lived before moving in with Perky and Fergie. In other words, having been beaten up in the middle of the night, she tried to go “home” but couldn’t get in thanks to the electric fence. There’s a large holly bush by the enclosure and I could see a shallow scrape under the bush where shed slept the night. Why she didn’t just go in the trailer with Perky and Fergie, who were presumably left undisturbed the whole night, is beyond me!

Anyway, she was so distressed by the whole thing that she happily trotted behind me as I led her back across the field, even though I had nothing but gentle cajoling to entice her.

That’s when the fun started.

By the time I got back with Scrumpy, Perky and Fergie had pushed past B and had left the safety of the trailer (it only later occurred to us that we could have just put the ramp up!!). Brini was overjoyed to have her man back and strayed no more than two inches from his side. Bailey was thrilled at having doubled his harem but was not pleased to see Scrumpy and proceeded to chase her about. Her squeals set off the two weaners, who then got chased by Tia, who neither knew nor cared that the pair are her daughters.

Leaving B to keep the peace (well, stop Fergie being trampled, anyway) I chucked the pigs’ breakfasts together and we set about attempting to separate them into their proper groups.

Scrumpy kept offering to leave the enclosure and had to be shooed back in. Tia was tempted out but Bailey wasn’t so keen. When I finally managed to get him out, he was accompanied by Perky and Brini. In the confusion to get them back in, Tia managed to slip through as well. All six pigs were shrieking at the top of their lungs, which set Pinky and Curly off at their side of the field…

Finally, ear drums bleeding, we managed to get Tia and Bailey out and I rattled their bowls and set off back across the field. Thanks to all that noise, they’d worked up an appetite and followed me happily enough. While they were eating, I quickly put their fence back up and scooted back to B and the four pigs who had screamed themselves hoarse and had resorted to glaring at her instead.

We fed them and I stayed on Fergie duty while B fed the chickens and checked for any eggs. Once they’d finished, I went back across the field (again!) to feed Pinky and Curly, who really didn’t understand what the delay was all about and told me so in no uncertain terms. Loudly.

Animals fed and watered, I gathered up my gardening gloves, hedge loppers, the spare battery and the energiser and we made our way to Bailey and Tia’s enclosure, determined that the previous night’s wandering would not be repeated. We were a little late as we met Bailey en route!

I’m not sure how, but we turned him round and I managed to return him to Tia, using a combination of methods such as pushing him from behind and darting to either side of him to steer. We were both panting by the time we arrived, though he came off worse as he made a break for freedom… right into the deepest mud in the field! His grunts of indignation as he sank to his belly provided some much needed comic relief and we were able to enjoy the time it took to cut back the brambles and rearrange the electric fence in such a way that it could be safely switched on (which is why they were able to make their break for freedom in the first place. Oops.) to prevent any more escapades.

Bailey tried to get out once more as we were there, so once I’d finished, we made sure to connect the energiser in the same spot. As soon as it was switched on, he knew something was up and snorted suspiciously at the fence. He moved to a different spot and then inched his way forward, stopping to snort as though he was challenging the fence to come and have a go. Even though he obviously knew that something was going to happen, temptation eventually won through and he got zapped right on the tip of his nose.

He squealed like a, well, zapped pig, and rushed to the middle of the enclosure, snorting and protesting at the insult. Once he’d calmed down, he glared at B and I and thought about trying the fence elsewhere. This time, however, caution won through, and in the past few days, he is yet to venture closer than six inches to the fence. Tia, who was not the instigator of the breakouts, got zapped accidentally that evening, which is no bad thing.

As for the four pigs, Brini spent the day in a slump, depressed because I’d taken away her man. Again. She’s over it now, thankfully. Scrumpy, however, is still in shock over her rude eviction, and huffs and puffs to herself. She’s also spending a lot of time asleep, but as she’s fine and dandy when there’s food about, I’m not too worried.

How was your Easter Sunday?!

Snoring like… pigs!

This is the photo of my Kune Kunes last year:

The Kune Kunes - 27 March 2008

The Kune Kunes - 27 March 2008

Tia’s the one at the back, with Scrumpy on the left and Stella on the right.

They stayed like that for hours. In fact, they only woke up when I went to check that they were, in fact, asleep…!

Busy, busy, busy!

Bailey, Tia and the dogs - 19 March 2009

Bailey, Tia and the dogs - 19 March 2009

While these guys have been relaxing and chilling in the sunshine, I’ve been digging. And digging. And digging. And yet it doesn’t feel like I’ve achieved very much!

It looks as though it’s going to rain on Monday so I’ll be spending the weekend with a fork in hand so please forgive my likely online absence over the next couple of days. But, if you’re like me, you’ll be outside yourselves during this spell of good weather and won’t be reading this until it rains anyway…!

Enjoying the sun

Well, hasn’t this week been a contrast to last week’s deluge? The field is almost dry enough to abandon my wellies though I’m not risking it as my leather boots are departing from the sole and I like having dry feet… Hmm, really must dig out my new pair!

Photographic evidence of the bright blue skies! Very odd seeing that backdrop for the winter-esque trees!

Photographic evidence of the bright blue skies! Very odd seeing that backdrop for the winter-esque trees!

Anyway, I’ve been spending most of my time outside, enjoying the feeling of the sun on my back as I’ve been doing those jobs I either couldn’t do because of the weather – or didn’t feel like doing because of the weather! I’ve moved Scrumpy and Brini’s enclosure, giving them a large amount of untouched ground, though I left the ark where it was, and also gave the weaners some fresh ground, which they are doing a great job of clearing. Bye bye, reeds and brambles!

The chickens’ Eglu and Cube have been well and truly scrubbed out and I’m making an effort to stop being so lazy and have been cleaning out their poo every day, though I’ll stick to scrubbing it out on a weekly basis. I will, however, be realistic and admit here and now that it’s quite unlikely that the poo trays will be emptied on days when it’s tipping it down… I also moved the chickens off the veg patch and onto fresh ground, ahead of tomorrow’s digging efforts. Jennie and her boys are coming to break ground with me, which will be lots of fun. It’s one thing doing all this on your own, but it’s something different altogether when you have company.

I’ve cleaned out the shipping container where I keep the animals’ feed. Well, I’ve cleaned half of it, but I’m also in the middle of scrubbing out all the feed bins as well. Now that the temperature’s warmed up, it’s become quite evident that I need better storage for things like rubbish so I have fiddled and faddled and come up with different ways of storing everything. When it’s finished, I should have lots more room and will hopefully know where everything is!!

What else?

What have they heard? Evidently *not* me calling them so they'd look at the camera!!

What have they heard? Evidently *not* me calling them so they'd look at the camera!!

I’ve enjoyed the company of the dogs and have been walking them down to the river where Midge happily follows the scents of animal trails and Snipe leaps in and out of the water, fetching sticks and just generally having fun. I really must find out when the spring/summer dog ban on the beaches comes into force and if there’s still time, take them one more time. Maybe that would be a fun way to end tomorrow’s day with Jennie and boys? Work hard digging and then celebrate with the beach and maybe an ice cream?!

Finally, I must not forget the pigs and since they drop to the ground and snore like roaring dragons the second they get a hint of sunshine, I have spent many a happy hour sharing their sun-worship. This is what life is all about!

Me and my man!!! 15 March 2009

Me and my man!!! 15 March 2009

The to-do list is, however, ever-growing and I still have to plot out the veg patch (made complicated by the fact that it’s a large circle, quartered by wide paths: great for a 4-year crop rotation but not so great as only one quarter was used last year, but it was quartered again so I don’t know what I should and shouldn’t plant in it. Another quarter was used for the lasagne garden, but only a third of that has composted properly! Hmm.

One soggy doggy, waiting for permission to leap back into the river!

One soggy doggy, waiting for permission to leap back into the river!

I also need to finish cleaning the shipping container and feed bins etc and sort something out for rubbish, recycling and the fruit and veg I get for the pigs, otherwise I’ll be experiencing a very stinky summer!

Finally, I also need to rake up all the long grass that the chickens have helpfully scratched out of the ground (a) so it doesn’t kill the new grass trying to grow underneath it, and (b) so I can use it on the lasagne garden.

A busy couple of days ahead: can’t wait!