Thursday, 31 January 2008

Clean your room

Listening to: Loads of girlie stuff (Sal's been at the iTunes and you can't move for Alanis Morrisette complaining about how horrible her last five boyfriends were.)
Weather: Giving it some. High wind, freezing rain.
I used to have a cold, but: now I've got chapped lips, a bright red nose and a strange ache in my neck. . . and there's goo in my ear.

The boys eyed me in the way schoolkids eye an ancient, strict schoolmaster after a week with the easy-going supply teacher.

I had the bucket and there was breakfast in it, so that was a good start, but they seemed to know I wasn't too impressed. The place was a messier than a teenager's bedroom (OK, I exaggerate, but it was close). Straw everywhere, mud all over the place and that was least of the trouble. The barrier that keeps them in their fairly spacious shed was on the point of collapse.

There was a hole in the middle of the floor where the lads had snuffled out the cement between the slabs and there had clearly been some kind of Long Kesh-style dirty protest. Still, collect it up and in a few months it'll be good for the garden.

Pigs are, by and large, the cleanest of farm animals. They tend to do the stuff in one area and never in or near their bedding. Eric and Ernie don't mess their own bed, but they have got a bit slack lately despite the best efforts of myself and Sally.

While I was away they also took to bullying Sal. They are quite big now and hefty with it and Mrs TPF is around 5ft 4in. Sometimes a no-nonsense attitude and extensive command of ancient Anglo-Saxon are not enough.

I'm 6ft, I have equally good Anglo-Saxon skills and I'm a dab hand with a shovel (Irish roots). So, after a good deal of kicking, pushing and swearing, I got in the pen and spread their breakfast out on the floor.

While they were occupied (the rule of thumb is to give them enough food for 20 minutes eating, so 20 minutes is what I had) I had a look at their bedding which was spread out over half the shed.

A lot of it was looking very tired and it was a bit damp. The lads had possibly been trying to weed out the stuff they didn't like. Well, it's a theory, so, once I'd cleaned everywhere else, I replaced half the bedding with nice clean straw which, breakfast over, the chaps pounced on and decided to play.

I let them get on with it while I reviewed security arrangements, nailing another piece of wood to hold the hurdle in place and winding some barbed wire around to discourage them from playing with it.

Next job was one I should have done weeks ago - pick out a spot for an outdoor run. The pigs were fine in the shed when they were small, but they are clearly bored. I've been putting it off mainly because of the weather and the fact that plugging an electric fence into our creaking fuse box may plunge the entire island into darkness.

Still, it's time it was done and there's a little area of land at the back of the farm, about 70yd long and 10yd wide which would be perfect. Once the horizontal freezing rain stops, I'll get to work with the barbed wire, set up the spotlights and build a machine gun nest.

For you piggy, ze war is over. I'll be suspicious if they start practising gymnastics with a wooden horse. . .


Jay said...

I kind of hope I neverneed to use any of this information myself!

There must be a reason my family grows crops.

Dash said...

Oh Malc, you do make me laugh. Thank you for that!


mig bardsley said...

Bored pigs sounds bad.
Now I knew a man with two wolfhounds who dragged their dinner round a field with a landrover so they got exercise before eating - perhaps a similar technique could be applied to relieve boredom for pigs? Until the freezing horizontal rain stops.

Ginni Dee said...

I'm still laughing at the 20 minutes of feed = 20 minutes of time to do things in the pen!! I know your boys would love an outdoor runout pen. It makes all the difference to get livestock outside!

I, still, like the views said...

aren't pigs supposed to be really quite intelligent

perhaps you could put some toys in their new run for them. . . or hide the food in diferent places, so they have to snuffle it out

or is that sounding too much like I've been watching too many educational/natural history channels about dolphins and apes. . .

erm, do well entertained pigs taste better?

(I think all this comment shows is how little I actually know about pigs: will be taking proper notes from now on and not dishing out "advice")


Dave said...

Will they be ready to become sausages when I come up in May?

Malc said...


Hello there. You never know when you'll need to know all about pig defecation. If it all goes wrong, I'm switching to spuds.


Don't mention it - and thanks.


Good idea! Just off out to fire up Lennox.


The only snag is that they'll eat more to keep warm. Still, I reckon it's worth it.


They are a lot brighter than cattle, hens and sheep (last one goes without saying).

They already have toys (rocks, slabs, footballs), but the idea of hiding their food appeals. I'm hoping they will be able to root around outside, digging up worms, roots and so on.

And happy pigs, free of stress, do taste better. Stress releases a chemical into the meat which makes it less palatable. Also, a pig that is brought up humanely is less likely to be pumped full of water and cattle hormones like the supermarket meat (ooops, did I say that?)


The plan is they will be sausage by then.

Anonymous said...

So that's what happened! I remember seeing a night-time satelite photo and there was a dark spot north of England... probably some other pig farmer plugging in his electric fence...

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Hi Malc ...its Ok I'm off the table at the mo! I dont think Norbury was one for the chop...have just been reading back through your blogs seems we must have been in good old New st Station on the same day Jan 22nd!!! Off to get back on the table for another rant.....

I, still, like the views said...

(I almost suggested a football, but then thought they might eat it)

dave is visiting in May. . . I've missed out something big time!


Richard said...

While staying in a hotel in Llangollen, we watched one of the pigs in the field next door clear out all the crappy straw from his shelter and then drag in a large piece of dry cardboard that had blown into the field. Almost puts me off bacon.

Malc said...


Puts a new angle on Brief Encounter.


They've tried, but it's quite a toughie. They also like my rigger boots.


Almost. . .

elizabethm said...

Hmm, this is interesting. I too am 5ft 4 with the requisite no nonsense attitude and Anglo Saxon skills but had thought that would be enough for pig control. it's not? mmm.

Malc said...


I ought to point out that we have a knack for producing animals (and children come to that) who are forthright, a little unruly, loud, but not without charm. I think things will even out once I've finished the outdoor run. This week, weather permitting.

lettuce said...

haha - LG and I enjoy Alanis' moaning too.