Saturday, 24 April 2010

The big, bad. . . pig?

Chris pulled the door to his shed aside and what I'm reliably informed is a pig trundled out and strolled into my trailer.

I drove back the mile or so home and had a proper look at the fella from the safety of outside the trailer. I peered in and found a face peering back at me. Not just any face, but. . . well, this. . .

Apologies for the lack of quality, but Ifor Williams rarely fit their otherwise excellent pig trailers with studio lighting.

And I was a bit scared.

What (or who) came to mind was the great Lon Chaney junior, star of the 1941 film The Wolfman.
I'm right, am I not?

"Blimey," I thought. "Little Kim's not going to be happy."

Little Kim is the best part of two years old and has yet to have a litter. She's about a year late starting working, but she's kind of a pet, Molly and Kim have been adequate for our needs so far and the pig farmer couldn't organise a smoothie in a juice bar.

So the Tamworth boar from up the road has been called in. As it happens, he seems amiable enough, but Little Kim wasn't having any of it.

First she tried a head-to-head confrontation, leaving himself with a cut behind the ear and Little Kim with scratches and a nick on her leg. Since then they've been mostly avoiding each other and are in separate beds, a state of affairs that will probably go on until she comes into season.

I'm just popping out to check if there's a full moon.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Seconds out

It all started so well. I was up out of bed at 7 o'clock sharp (why sharp?) in a particularly good mood, washed, dressed in my best going-tae-the-toon clothes and ready for a day out.

Coffee and toast made and consumed, I loaded up a bucket with barley and tatties and went to see the sows. At this point things started to unravel.

The first sign that something was wrong was that Little Kim was where Molly should have been. She was snuffling around the hut while Molly cowered inside. Then I noticed a loose strand of electric fence wire. . . and a couple of broken plastic fence posts. . . and a twisted section of stock fencing.

I put some food on the ground (in two separate places - sows aren't good at sharing) and the girls tucked in. Then I spotted the blood on Little Kim's ears. And on her cheeks. And on her back. Molly had a cut on her ham and scratches on her face.

You didn't have to be Sherlock Pig Farmer to work out that Little Kim had bust her way through a line of electric wire, a stock fence and - from the lacerations on her back - a barbed wire fence. The lengths some people will go to to start a ruck.

With only 15 minutes until the ferry left for town, the day out was abandoned, purple spray was liberally applied and the rest of the morning spent repairing fencing and adding extra security measures.

I'm now going to Kirkwall on Wednesday. . . possibly.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Cough please

It wasn't a terrific day for Merlin the pony and the pig farmer found himself surprised that he had quite a bit of sympathy for the croft's cockiest and, at times, most troublesome resident.

Merlin is not what you'd call a prime specimen. . . hardly in the class of a Badminton winner or a Gold Cup contender. Come to think of it, there are donkeys on Blackpool beach that compare favourably.

Not only has the lad got short, fat, hairy legs, but he has a pronounced "underbite". His bottom jaw sticks out so that his teeth don't line up. This means, as horses' teeth keep growing, the two sets don't wear each other down.

So the vet - out from Mainland on his monthly tour of Westray - came to call, brandishing a large file. Merlin was good as gold at first and vet and Mrs Pig Farmer were able to cope comfortably. However, Merlin finally decided enough was enough and started playing his face.

"We need to hold him in the corner," said the vet. "Do you happen to know any fat bastards?"

A fat bastard was humming along to The Undertones' Here Comes The Summer while he did some repairs to a pig shed which has had a hard winter. Summoned to help a damsel and a big hairy vet in distress, he shoved Merlin into the corner, leant over him and pressed him to the wall while trying not to wince as the filing continued noisily.

Job done, there was one final conversation - will gelding him (Merlin, not the fat bastard. . . or the vet) improve his behaviour. See? I told you it was a bad day for him.

"Probably," was the answer. The fat bastard squirmed in sympathy as Merlin had a thorough examination.

I daresay there are places where you can pay good money to have your bollocks squeezed by a 6ft 7in Scotsman with a beard, but it's not my thing and it's certainly not Merlin's.

The vet departed with a promise to send us an estimate for the job. I'm finding it hard to remain objective and, just for once, I'm standing shoulder-to-shoulder (in reality shoulder-to-knee) with Merlin on this one.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

I'll play the joker

The back of Geordie's old lorry was tipped up about as much as it was going to go without removing the roof of Marcus's nice new shed, but about a quarter of the barley was refusing to budge.

The pig farmer happened to wander in at that moment, seeking a minor favour.

"Malcolm's young and athletic," said Marcus with a remarkably straight face, "maybe he can help."

So it was that 15stone of pig farmer, shovel in one hand, rope in the other, was slithering up and down the virtually grip-free floor of the back of lorry, set at 45 degrees. Having landed on my arse several times, I managed to reach base camp and, with a few shoves of the. . .err. . . shovel, dislodged the recalcitrant grain.

As I swept the last out (Marcus hates waste) I was reminded of two sounds - Stuart Hall's laughter and the click of a Health and Safety Officer's red pen.