Friday, 27 February 2009

Time of the "month"

Listening to: The Futureheads

I found myself backed into a corner trying to placate a very grumpy sow. For some reason, visions from my first marriage sprang to mind.

I'd made the rookie mistake of bothering Kim when she was quite content quietly snuffling around her pen. Charm and sang-froid, not to mention a big stick, were going to be needed to get out of this one.

I had been trying to tell if she was in season - something any half-decent pig farmer can tell at a glance. Kim is due to go off to the boar on Mainland next week and it would help to know when she's likely to welcome Boss's advances. She's stands waist-high to the pig "farmer", weighs around 400lb and takes no shit. I wouldn't want to be in the Boss's shoes (trotters?) if he chose the wrong moment to climb aboard.

She'd seemed a bit "off" - lethargic and not as enthusiastic about breakfast as usual - so I tried what is generally recognised as the best way to test whether a sow is in the mood. I got behind her and pressed down on her hind quarters. Try explaining that one to the wife when she comes home unexpectedly early.

A sow in season should stand stock still, as if welcoming the. . . err. . . opening gambit. Kim was far from still, she got quite mobile, turning around, grunting angrily at the pig "farmer" who selected reverse gear and hurried away only for his retreat to be blocked by the far corner of the shed.

It could have been nasty, but Kim and I have got used to each other over the last 12 months and I know she's a sucker for a tickle behind the ears. So, tickling as I went, I edged away from the corner and leapt into the next pen where a heavily-pregnant Molly was eating her bedding. Terrific.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Long John Pig "Farmer"

Listening to: this
Belated RIP: Lux Interior (The Cramps)
Good news: Another richly-deserved award for Elbow
Bad news: it was a corporate, credit-card-sponsored Brit
Speaking of which: did you see Seasick Steve at the ceremony? Denim jacket and baseball cap amid the suits and fat-arsed record company execs.

"Have you got insurance?" asked Dr Karl as he poked at the football-shaped blob that was once the pig "farmer's" knee.

"Why, are you branching out?"

A few days earlier I'd been looking up at the pig shed roof, wondering just how badly I'd hurt my back in the fall, whether I was glad my fall had been broken by a large pile of pig crap and whether I'd imagined that wrenching sensation in my right knee.

As it turned out, I had three jumpers on which had protected my back, the pig crap would wash out and, yes, I'd buggered my trick knee for the umpteenth time. I tried to "run it off", then a weekend of total rest while Sal worked herself to a state of exhaustion, but after two sleepless nights I waved a metaphorical white flag and went down to the doctors.

"You have damaged the medial ligaments. This could take up to six weeks to heal. You need rest and a little light exercise, but be careful on uneven ground," said Karl, more in hope than expectation. "Some farmers have insurance which would cover them."

I had visions of the pigs at teatime. . . "sorry everyone, my knee means I can't feed you, but the good news is I'm insured - see you in six weeks."

I promised I'd be careful and get help when necessary and Karl - a decent bloke and by some distance the best GP I've had - took the precaution of thrusting a pack of very strong, slow-release painkillers into my hand before I left.

So, I've spent the last few days hobbling about the place like a Robert Louis Stevenson pirate - minus the parrot, of course. Arrrrrgh!

Monday, 16 February 2009

Merlin's not having a wizard time

Listening to: Inside of Love (Nada Surf)

The snow's gone and the rain and mist have descended on the island and everyone's feeling just a little bit fed up.

Feddest up of the lot is Merlin the pony who's definitely missing a little magic. As it happens, he's nursing a broken heart - or whatever the equine equivalent is.

Jessika the Hung-g-garian horse has gone south to join Amy at her new job in Aberdeenshire and Merlin is sulking. Merlin is about the size of a large dog (a rottweiler perhaps), but nobody's ever thought to tell him.


No, when the boy looks in the mirror he sees the reincarnation of Alexander the Great's Bucephalus or maybe one of those nut-hard, shaggy jobs that Attila the Hun climbed aboard whenever he fancied putting the wind up the Roman Empire.

What everyone else sees is the shortest boy in the class, bustling around in a too-big coat with a "lookatmeI'mfantastic" air about him.

Jess is a leggy blonde, so it was hardly surprising Merlin adored her from the word go. What was far more surprising was that the feeling was, at least partly, mutual. It's fortunate Merlin would have needed a strong pulley system or a hoist to consummate the friendship. Two sets of step-ladders with a strong plank across perhaps.

Anyroadup. . . while Dotty, the easy-going Irish mare, and Teddy enjoy the peace and quiet in the absence of a pushy Eastern-European, Merlin is down in the dumps.

Cheering-up ideas to the usual address.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Saturday night (just about) live

Listening to: Aretha

We're having a quiet night in, eating toad-in-the-hole, drinking Czech beer and kind-of watching QI on the telly.

The subject of rock, scissors, paper comes up.

"I've never really got the rock, scissors, paper thing," says Mrs P"F".

"What's not to get?" says the pig "farmer", still basking in the glow of four pigs-worth of pork sold and Ireland's 30-21 win over the French in Dublin.

"I don't see how it works."

"Simple, rock beats scissors, scissors beat paper, paper beats rock."

"Ah, but that's the bit I don't get - why does paper beat rock?"

"Err. . . oh yeah, I remember. Paper covers rock."

"Depends how big the rock is - or the paper. And if you put a rock on top of the paper then surely the rock has beaten the paper. Ever heard of a paperweight? What kind of idiot uses paper to cover rock, especially here? No, rock beats paper - always."

"Blimey babe, it's only a game."

"Bloody silly game."

To decide who's right we play rock, scissors, paper and do that annoying thing many married couples seem to have of knowing just about everything each other is thinking, the final result being Pig "Farmer" 2 Mrs Pig "Farmer" 1 with seven draws.

* I understand the discussion in the QI studio followed similar lines which just goes to show you can make your own entertainment if you try hard enough - or you're married to Mrs P"F".

Thursday, 5 February 2009

The White Stuff

Listening to: Asleep In The Back EP (Elbow)

I stumbled through from the barn in my dressing gown and slippers, peered out of the window and the bit of me that will always be six years old gave a shout of joy.

Jack Frost finally staggered as far north as Orkney and there was snow on the ground. Not much, certainly not enough to convert one of the pig huts into a giant sledge (one day!), but there was snow.

Westray's bus service ran without hitch (Boris take note). I saw it go past the house as Mrs Pig "Farmer" was clambering into the car. We drove (a little more carefully than usual) down to the morning ferry.

The view of neighbouring islands Faray Holm, Faray and Eday as we dropped down to Rapness pier was breathtaking. Mother Nature had her dark palette out, the fields all browns and dark greens, the sea gunmetal grey as the steely morning light picked out every fold of the land, every nook and crannie of the shoreline.

Sal safely sent off to Kirkwall, I returned home where Little Kim and Sock were pushing their snouts into the snow and blowing, the horses grateful for a feed of hay and the dogs curled up in front of the fire.

I put the coffee on and remembered I'd made scones yesterday. He shoots, he scores.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Baby it's cold outside

Listening to: a blast from the distant past
On second thoughts: all that screaming at the end is a bit much, so. . .
Now listening to: this performance of the best album of 2008 and (in the pig "farmer's" humble opinion) one of the best albums in many many years.

There are times when watching/listening to the weather forecast on our esteemed national broadcasting corporation and I can't help but feel like I'm not invited to join in.

Polar bears are stalking the streets of west London, mammoths have appeared in Berkshire, Wales expect to win several golds at the next Winter Olympics - the ice age is upon us (well, you anyway).

As usual, the weather forecast from the Blue Peter garden didn't seem to include us in the Northern Isles where it has been dry, if a bit parky - extra jumper time. No snow, not even a little bit. They've had some snow over in Scotland, but it's February.

Is it true that the buses in London ground to a halt? That's absolutely staggering. Hell's teeth! Surely it's enough of reason for that Tory clown* to resign.

I suppose the snow was a good news story, but the London media didn't half overdo it. It's not as if we're short of news, what with us being up to our ears in two wars and the economy having done a Bob Maxwell off the deck of its private yacht taking our pensions with it.

It never ceases to amaze me that the more airtime is made available for news, the fewer stories seem to be covered - or is this just me?

God! Listen to me. What a miserable old sod I am at times. "If you can't say anything nice. . . "

* that's not a tautology. Tory arsehole is.

By the way, Mrs Pig "Farmer" made it back to Orkney safe and sound and I was let off the hook on the pork front when someone rang to reduce their order. Hurrah!

And isn't that Elbow performance a cracker? I haven't enjoyed music so much in ages.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Businessman of the year

Listening to: the new Franz Ferdinand album
I was a bit dubious, but: it's not bad at all
I'm worried because: Mrs Pig "Farmer" is in the middle of Aberdeenshire somewhere and it's going to snow/is snowing (a lot).
And: The Boy is in the middle of Devon somewhere and it's going to snow/is snowing (a lot)

I just knew this would happen.

I've spent the best part of a morning sorting out who's ordered what pork from the four lads who went to slaughter last week.

I compiled a list, priced it all up and got ready to send it to the butcher, only to find I've sold a quarter of a pig more than I've got.

Bugger.

So if anyone has a rear quarter of a pig they don't need. . . seriously.