Last week, we did over 3000km to collect pigs and sheep. We are now a proper smallholding!
We collected the 4 kunekunes from Normandy in 2 large dog crates in the back of the car. We went up the night before, then picked them up in the morning and headed for home. After 6 hours in the car, boy did it smell! But the piglets were brilliant – as soon as the car started, they settled down to sleep and slept all the way home. At one point I insisted that we stop to give them some water and I had to poke them to check that they were still alive.
All current animals came down to the sty when we got back to see what was going on – there were some feline eyes out on stalks! We had filled the sty with straw and when we put them in, they snuggled into the straw and went back to sleep!
We have one girl – Rosie, who we hope to breed from. The 3 boys, in size order, are Pate, Terrine and Tiny Tim (he’s too small to even look like food at the moment – more cocktail sausage than chorizo!)
Tiny Tim was obviously the runt of the litter, but he was the only other boy that they had. We have to feed him separately to make sure that he gets some food, and, as he fits into the feeding trug, he gets elevated out of the fracas!
They learnt very quickly to come when called – like Labradors they are totally motivated by their stomachs!
When food is around they squeal excitedly, but at other times, when we just go down to be with them they snuffle around making calm little friendly grunty noises. Rosie loves to have her tummy tickled and now rolls over for more!
Pate is putting on weight in front of our eyes and is the largest (but Rosie rules the roost). He is always first to the gate but is very friendly and gentle.
Terrine is still shy, but I love his markings and he is the hairiest of the 4.
TT is the lagger behind, but is the naughty one. If he grabs a piece of melon or tomato – his favorites – he legs it with his trophy to go and eat it in peace!
The Stone Fairy/Guttering Guru has a 1/3 share in the 3 boys and happened to meet an ex pig farmer and talk pigs. The next thing we know, there is a knock at the door and a stranger introduces himself “I’ve come see about castrating your pigs”. A charming chap – it is amazing how you get to meet people! Having had commercial pigs, he used to do all of his piglets himself. He wanted to check our boys out because if they are too big/old, they need a local anaesthetic, which he couldn’t do, so it would then have to be a vet job. Having declared them little and good to go, and checked for no undescended testicles, he pulled a new, sharp razor out of his pocket and said “lets do it”. Fortunately, in readiness for the animals coming, I had unearthed the box with medications etc in and had to hand the blue antibiotic spray and the dreaded purple spray. (Dreaded by David, Eds and Sam! Having originally acquired the iodine spray – with aloe vera! – for the horses, it was used on all the other animals too, and then, in extremis, for scrapes and grazes on the boys as well).
So, to the pigs. If male and/or squeamish, you might want to skip to the next paragraph, as the Biologist in me describes the subsequent scene. Rod held the piglet, head and shoulders between his legs, tail and nether regions pointed upwards and exposed. A bit of wiggling and grunting (piglets, not Rod) but no squealing. One small incision on the scrotum, a gentle squeeze and out popped the testes. That did elicit a quick squeal – and a definite wince from Rod. A quick cut of vas deferens and sperm duct and one testicle done. Surprisingly no blood. Repeated on the other side, a quick spray of blue, and all done! It was all impressively quick and clean, but I don’t think I’ll be trying it myself. The testes were discarded – unlike Sam, I was not going to saute them in butter as a starter. They say you can eat everything from a pig bar the squeal, but I draw the line at that!
All of the sheep are girls. We have two pure-bred and registered Dartmoors, who we have named after fictional Dartmoor heroines – Demelza and Beatrice. They have very sweet faces, with big Labrador eyes – I think it is because they look as though they have eyebrows. As they have been sheared, they are otherwise looking a bit like an advert for specsavers, but their curls will soon grow. The other 3 are charolais/texel lambs for bringing on. We shall probably also keep Monique for breeding, but Cutlets and Hotpot are destined elsewhere!
Again, food rules, and already they come running at the shake of our bucket – an essential habit to instill as we don’t have any other way of rounding them up!
Pixie has had another absence – this time I really did think she’d gone for good as she disappeared for 6 days. I’d love to know where she goes, but I don’t think anyone else is feeding her. She returns too thin for that.
Animals apart, it has also been quite a momentous fortnight build wise. I am the Queen of Calcaire! We finished barrowing it round to the pool terrace, thumped it down and then put the gravel on top. I started with one barrow, just to see what it would look like…………. 90 mins later we had it finished! We then levelled and raked the “spoil” so that it is flat (ish) around the pool – you can now see the field beyond whilst swimming – I just can’t wait for those sunflowers! Every day now we are on sunflower alert – watching and waiting!!!!!!
The other job of major significance was the completion of the fosse septique for the summer house.
We had the official inspection yesterday and we are now good to go (literally “go”). Bravo pool man!!!! He has been a real treasure. The pool is wonderful, and finished to a high standard, with everything done properly. No corners cut. (Two couples, seeing ours progress, are so impressed that they are having him do pools for them too). He then stepped into the breach when we were abandoned by the previous builder and has done the fosse – which makes the summerhouse habitable. (Yay!) And then dug a trench and run a water pipe to the covered terrace and paddock. And put in a field drain for our new guttering. And last, but not least, rather taken with the piglets, volunteered to dig a pig wallow!!!!
We have been so involved in other projects that we failed to notice that the potager had become over-run. It now resembles a jungle. But, midst the weeds we have been surprised to find that we are ready to harvest!
So at least we have had some produce. The lettuces are like trees, the courgettes are marrows already, and the tomatoes – planted a la UK, close together, obviously need MUCH more space next year – it’s like virgin tropical forest in there – I need a machete to get in!
The main problem is how many ways to disguise the courgettes to fool Rod into eating them!
As I write, I am taking shelter. It is HOT! The pool has come into it’s own – every day we have to stop and pinch ourselves to believe that it is real. With temperatures in the high 30’s the pool, at 26 today, it a lovely respite. It still feels like total luxury, and we marvel at it every day.
The last big job is to construct the pergola’s and fix them to the house so that we can have some welcome shade. Every time we look at the boxes, full of so many pieces, we find another job to do instead. It is now the time to get on with it!
And then decorate in the summerhouse ready for our summer visitors.
Less than a month now until David and Jess’ wedding. Then I’ll have all three of my boys in the same place at the same time. I can’t wait to see them all. And my eldest is getting married – how exciting is that. Afterwards all of them are coming out to France, even D and J for 3 days before going on honeymoon. And Jules. And my brother (and maybe his girlfriend???). Bring it on!!!
And finally…. because the last photo comes up on Facebook link…..