Friday, 4 January 2008

See me after school

Listening to: Hung Up (Paul Weller)
Weather: grisly
Quiet night: in

Eric and Ernie have, like the rest of us, munched their way through Christmas and the New Year celebrations and, like the rest of us, a little exercise and discipline wouldn't go amiss.

So it was that I found myself taking a bit of time off from hefting slabs about for a little experimental training with the two not-so-little pigs.

I'm thrilled to bits with the way the lads have come on. Careful feeding means they've grown steadily without seeming to put on too much fat and, although a combination of the weather and issues with our antiquated electrics mean they can't get outside for now, they have a large shed and a regular supply of turf and rocks to play with. They seem happy.

But I'm also aware that handling them is not as easy as it was when they first arrived and I was able to catch, lift and shove them into the places I wanted them to go. I know I'm going to have to move them around when it comes to their date with destiny in the Spring and it's about time they got used to it.

The routine is that you guide a pig about with a board and a stick. You may have seen Jimmy "quick, the cameras are here, let's have a crisis" Doherty do it on TV's Jimmy's Farm (pictured left).

The theory is that, like my mum when she's driving, a pig won't go in any direction it can't see, so you block its vision with a board and urge it gently forwards with a stick.

The boards are sold at an extortionate price by firms eager to cash in on the middle class smallholder market, so here on Westray we are using a bit of old door and, in a move inspired by Royal Ulster Constabulary interrogation techniques, a piece of rubber hose instead of a stick.

I clambered over the barrier to where Eric and Ernie were just finishing the last crumbs of a hearty breakfast and, in my best Sgt Wilson voice, tried to coax the chaps into action.

I put the board to one side of Eric's face and tapped him gently on the backside. Just as gently, he pushed the board out of the way, turned around and looked at me with a 'what, exactly, are you trying to do?' look on his face.

Seeing as Eric - the larger and more laid-back of the pigs - didn't want to play, I turned to Ernie who was snuffling around the edges of the shed. He was interested in the pig board/door. . . very interested. In fact, it was so interesting he decided he wanted to keep it and play with it all by himself.

So it was that I found myself in a tug-of-war situation, trying to get a large piece of wood out of an increasingly excited pig's jaws, while, at the same time trying to use aforementioned wood to protect my lower parts (Ernie's got form).

Attracted by the commotion, Eric broke off from trying to eat a breeze block and lumbered over to see what his brother was up to and to offer filial encouragement. . . and to see how long it takes to knock a trainee pig farmer off his feet.

Like the Romans besieged on all sides by hairy barbarians, I crouched behind my shield, waved my rubber hose threateningly and backed towards the exit, tumbling out of the pen just as Eric was showing a taste for steel-capped work boot.

So the lads are in detention. If they think they're getting away with it that easily, they can think again.


fiwa said...

Ok, that would be worth filming... is Mrs. TPF bribeable? Scratch that... I just want to send a nice, friendly hello email to Mrs. TPF, can I have her email address? *snicker*

Oh, and it took me a few minutes to figure out the wax man reference, but that cracked me up. I TOLD you he was scary looking!

Z said...

Maybe you could try throwing some food in the direction you want him to go, then 'guiding' him with the board? After a few weeks of that, he (whichever pig is more gullible) might associate the board with the guiding.

I'm not even convincing myself, am I. Maybe next year you should start when the pigs are smaller.

Reg Pither said...

Sounds like a Tommy Cooper sketch - pig-board, board-pig, pig-board!!

Ginni Dee said...

Such smart pigs...they probably know the reason they need to learn to move about when you want them to and don't want any part of it...pigs are supposedly smarter than dogs and horses.

Good luck, and be sure to keep your important parts guarded. Pigs can also give you a nasty bite!


Dave said...

I do think it's about time you had a film crew in tow too.

ziggi said...

maybe you shoulda tried this when they were smaller??

I wish I'd been there! Can you set up a video next time and post that?

Thinking (not very hard mind) about it, this is probably a natural process so that by the time you ship them off you're relieved to see the back of them instead of heartbroken, bit like teenagers really...

I wonder if a board and stick would work with them ???

lettuce said...

hahaha, what an excellently entertaining post.

it sounds as though you had a great Christmas - happy 2008 to you, i hope you manage to work it out with the pigs...

Malc said...


Yes, she'll do anything for a couple of pints of Guinness and a bag of scratchings (that's pork rinds to you). . . well, almost anything.


The trouble is that when food's around there's no guiding, it's more holding back the stampede.
The smaller thing is fine in theory, but they were way too skittish and would squeak and run around like idiots if you went near them.


A woman tells her doctor, 'I've got a bad back.' The doctor says, 'It's old age.' The woman says, 'I want a second opinion.' The doctor says: 'OK - you're ugly as well.'


Guarding my "parts" (don't you just love euphemisms?) is uppermost in my mind. Ernie seems quite bright, Eric on the other hand. . .


The film rights are available for the right price. Don't think Channel 4 would be that interested as Mrs TPF and meself hardly ever argue and almost never cry, except at twenty to five on a Saturday when I hear the Wolves result.


The obnoxious teenager thing is exactly what you'll hear from seasoned pig-keepers. Apparently you do feel a certain relief when they "move on" (another euphemism).

And using a board and stick with teenagers? That's soooooo UNFAIR!!! I HATE YOU!! Why is my life so crap?

Malc said...


Happy New Year to yourself and the other salads. The pigs and I are going for counselling.

FirstNations said...

you are a brave man and a quick one. ever since an unfortunate incident when my shoes were consumed by swine i have been leery of pigs (i was on the wrong side of the fence when the pigs came running-i jumped but the shoes stayed.)
that said i think pigs are the most interesting animals on the farm. which is weird, i know, but they are. pigs have an agenda. cool post!

Anonymous said...





sigh. You and your pig farming ways :) I love the fact that I can perfectly imagine what a 'what, exactly, are you trying to do?' face would look on a pig...

Hannah Velten said...

Tell me again, Malc. Who's in charge at your gaff?! Perhaps another few sessions will see them under your control - but I won't bet on it; piggies are oh-so clever (and wilful)! But I enjoyed reading about it...brightened my morning - thanks. P.S The technique does work eventually :)

Malc said...


I know. I read Animal Farm. Orwell didn't forsee the shoes thing though.


Welcome back! How was Devon? Go easy with those exams and essays and stuff.


It's me, really, honestly.
I'm not giving up and I'm working on one or two ideas which may help. Watch this space.

Betty said...

I mentioned the thing about guiding pigs around with a board and a stick to the husband and he said "perhaps that would work for Dean Ashton". Dean Ashton is a West Ham United footballer.

Malc said...


So relieved someone made that joke about a team other than Wolves.