Saturday, 14 August 2010

Eye eye

"That's excellent," said the optician. "This is going to be a very quick eye test. Your sight is up to pilot's standard."

"Does that mean I'll be able to fly a plane after this?" said the pig farmer.


"Funny, I couldn't before."

*drum roll* *cymbal* "Thank you, I'll be here all week, try the pork."

As it happens, my sight is degenerating. That's the bad news. The good news is that it's degenerating slower than it should be for my age.

I can't tell you how grateful I am to be a 49-year-old with the vision of someone aged 47.

After a good 40 minutes ("quick"!!) of lenses, computer read-outs, a strange thing that squirts air at your eye-ball, ever-so-slightly uncomfortable places to put your chin, the upshot seems to be that I need reading glasses.

I've ordered some of the half-lens thingies which will let me look sternly over the top of them should I hear something that displeases me, such as a failure of the hop crop, a drop in the price of pork or a new album by The Killers. I may even post photographic evidence.

Friday, 6 August 2010

About a boar

The lad emerged from the trailer, snuffled around the paddock and went over to the fence to introduce himself to the four remaining porkers - all clearly very interested in the newcomer.

Our new boar arrived home this week and has already charmed us all. After much debate over his name - during which time the female members of the family firmly overruled any attempt by the pig farmer to call him Brian O'Driscoll, Derek Dougan, Robert Plant or Che Guevara - he's ended up as Alfie.

He's just over three months old, so won't be ready to 'work' for while yet, but he's a smasher and I'm chuffed to bits with him. I just hope he's as fertile as he's good-looking. ("Good-looking" as far as pigs go, that is).

Sunday, 1 August 2010


It's been a slow year for the veg. Spring was cold right up until late April and even then the wind kept swinging back to the north, bringing a chill from Faroe, Iceland, even the Arctic.

And there hasn't been what you'd call a lot of rain, although we are a long way from being under drought conditions as some further south are.

The carrots are a good month behind schedule - let's hope the Autumn King variety lives up to its name - while the salad crops are in the process of bolting and the beetroot has been a virtual dead loss.

So it came as a whopping great relief this morning when I took a gamble and lifted the first potato plant of the year, finding a clutch of firm, pale cream tatties begging to be scraped and put in the pot.

That is where they are now, with the smell of roast pork filling the kitchen, our own cabbage in another pot, a few small neeps ready to be roasted alongside the joint and a handful of baby carrots, thinned out from the rest of the crop this afternoon. I love Sunday dinner.

We've the best part of two-thirds of an acre set over to potatoes and turnips, the hope being that there will be enough to feed us and to make a decent contribution to the pigs' feed as well.

Last year I planted 100kg of seed tatties by hand. Well, when I say I, I mean it was me, my son Will, stepson Pat and Sal's brother and sister-in-law Martin and Kathy, who were foolish enough to believe that a trip to Westray was in any way a holiday.

This year I planted about double the amount in a patch of the bottom field where the sows had spent most of last year. Well, when I say I, I mean Jimmy and Alistair from down the road did the ploughing, rotovating and allowed me to help with the actual planting, sitting behind the tractor on a precarious sort of stool affair above a sort of plough thingy and next to a tub for the potatoes and a chute to drop a tattie down every time the little bell on a wheel at the back rang.

The snag was, as Alistair advised me, that the bell often gets clogged up and won't ring. There was nothing for it but to take a leaf out of the Captain Mainwaring drill manual, so I was bumping along trying not to fall off while muttering: "One-two-three-plant-two-three-plant-two-three," and so on.

Still, the result is a lovely patch of dark green plants that have not yet, touch wood, succumbed to blight or mildew. And, of course, the pot of fresh new tatties that will go down a treat with a hint of salt and a little butter.