Monday, 27 September 2010

Not just a pig farmer

I looked at them huddled by the fence in the top field. They stared back with a "you haven't the first idea what to do" look.

Which just goes to show how right sheep can be.

Last spring I foolishly mentioned to our neighbour Marcus that I thought it was about time we had a few sheep, partly for ground maintenance and also for the freezer. Fine, the best thing was to wait for autumn and pick up some of the smaller lambs not going to market.

So he turned up the other day with three fairly small (but not that small) sheep in his trailer. I climbed in and hauled them out one-by-one and. . . well, that's about it so far.

They're quite settled in the top field, spending most of their time by the fence near Alfie the boar, but I can't help feeling there's something I should be doing.

Pigs need attention, shelter, feeding and watering. Sheep need. . . well, not much it seems, so long as there's grass. Not that there's much chance of me doing anything with them. They haven't let me within ten metres of them yet.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Morale-booster on a rainy day

A Westray September is a moody companion. The equinox brought strong winds, first from the southwest, then from the cold north. Heavy rains have forced many of the pigs indoors. We've even had hail.

Yet there have been sunny days that have felt like small miracles as summer fades into the memory.

We've dragged ourselves out for walks on some of the island's best beaches, but only one of us has been in for a swim.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Left a bit, down a bit

"Stand over there and let me know if I need to stop," said Bruce, clambering aboard a digger the size of a Tiger tank and firing up an engine that could be heard 150 miles away in Inverness.

"Whaaaoooo!!" I shouted about seven seconds later, adding some frantic, flagless semaphore just in case Bruce hadn't got the message.

Pulling over a decrepit, old lean-to at the front of our house to make way for a lovely new extension with big windows to enjoy the view over the sea to Rousay and Orkney Mainland sounded simple enough - large cracks had appeared and the thing was already edging away from the house.

We hadn't bargained for one piece of timber not being quite as rotten as it looked. It was wedged under the strip of concrete (can't remember what it's called) at the end of the kitchen roof and began levering a good part of the roof into the air.

Fearing Mrs Pig Farmer's reaction to a large hole in the kitchen and, most important, damage to the Sky dish at such an early stage in the football season, I thought it best we went for plan B. A little use of the saw and we were up and running again, the solid concrete coming down surprisingly quickly.

What I hadn't bargained for was what was left. Somehow you don't notice pink when it's on the walls of a "room" used only for bringing on veg seedlings and sorting out the recycling bags.

Even more worrying was Sal's reaction. I can't imagine how the planning department is going to react to this one.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

It's cuteness time again

The pig farmer strolled into the pigshed on Monday morning, whistling a happy tune, full of the joys of late August and so on.

Little Kim - due to farrow on Friday - was having a lie-in, the black and white cliff-face of her back to the door.

There was a little blood near her back end. "Uh-oh," thought the pig farmer, hurriedly clambering over the wall and discovering that Little Kim had been full of surprises. Twelve of them, to be exact.

They were all clean and feeding well, getting that all-important first milk. Despite this being her first litter, Little Kim had done everything by herself. Pigs never cease to impress and amaze me.

As the piglets tucked in, mum gave a little grunt and the second afterbirth slithered out (sows give birth in two batches) and I made myself feel a little less redundant by cleaning up before putting food out for Little Kim and introducing the little ones to the heat lamp and cosy, clean straw where they settled in for a snooze.

As the week's gone on, they've grown in strength and confidence and now, at five days old, they are exploring the shed and even trying out Little Kim's food.

The video is all-too short and the quality a bit ropey - what do you expect from a secondhand mobile phone? - and the sound in the background is Little Kim enjoying her breakfast. Pigs may be amazing, but they have no table manners.