Listening to: Christine (Siouxsie and the Banshees)
Drinking: very cold Heineken
What's for tea?: Lamb and chickpea curry
Weather: quiet and bright today, wind getting up tonight
I've just stumbled back indoors after spending the best part of an hour with the pigs. It's become a small ritual to end the "working" day and it has become one of my favourite times.
The lads get their tea around 4pm and I check they have clean water and enough straw. I tidy up any droppings and dirty straw adding it to the pile in the corner which I clear out every week (leaving it all in one place encourages them to keep everywhere else clean).
Then I lean back against the wall and watch them. I don't do a lot apart from give them a scratch behind the ear or a back rub. Eric likes that kind of attention better than Ernie and leans against my legs snuffling happily. Ernie has always been the more skittish of the two and is especially so since being mugged by Spike last week. Nevertheless he was happy enough to let me have a look at and clean his injured leg today.
They're nice animals and Eric, especially, is turning into a terrific pig. He has deep red hair and is a good six inches to a foot longer than his brother. His hams and shoulders are developing well and he is growing impressively.
There's nothing much wrong with Ernie who is much the leaner of the two, but he is still a good size for his 13 weeks.
Of course, this all brings us to the prickly subject of attachment. It has been suggested that I'm getting a little too close to the lads (see?) and that, being generally "softer than a soft thing" (R. Pither Feb 2007) I'm going to struggle when "the time" comes.
It's something I've been aware of from the moment I decided this pig farming thing might be a good idea. I know a dairy farmer in Devon who has a herd of 200-plus cattle and is generally as tough as old boots, but he was devastated when he sent the two pigs they kept in the back garden to slaughter and has vowed never to keep them again. Pigs can get youn like that.
I was told umpteen times not to name them, but I did. The truth is that I would have named them in my head anyway. So, I reasoned, I may as well go public. It's more fun and, I hope, if I'm having fun the pigs may be that little bit better cared for.
But I have always tried hard not to lose sight of what they are for. They are farm animals who exist only to be converted into meat. When I'm giving them a fuss and a back rub, I'm also checking out the state of their shoulders, backs and hams. Sure, it's going to be hard when they go to be killed, but I'm determined to see it through.
I love looking after the pigs and I was on the phone this afternoon planning to bring in another half-dozen early next year with a view to starting a breeding programme by the end of 2008. They will all get the same treatment and care. A porker's life may be brutally short (Eric and Ernie will go to slaughter some time in March), but their existence doesn't need to be brutal. That's the whole point.