Today, I’m returning to Country Living HQ after a whole fortnight’s holiday during which James and I spent lashings of time with the hens, pigs, dogs and cat – as well as friends and family, of course. The two chickens that we raised for Christmas dinner went down very well indeed with our ten guests and, along with leftover potatoes, parsnips, chestnuts and sprouts, provided us with another half-dozen or so meals on which to feast after the big day. It was, quite frankly, heavenly, to slow right down to savour simple pleasures.
New Year’s Day began in a suitably leisurely fashion. We tended to the animals then returned indoors to enjoy a coffee by the fire. James tinkered with the new shelves we had finally got round to fitting in the sitting room cupboard and I did a little light laundry. Next, there was a huge rap on the door and Darcy barked furiously at the poor person the other side. We quietened him down and opened it up to reveal a distressed-looking woman and were horrified to be asked ‘Do you own some pigs?’ to which we, of course, replied ‘yes’. ‘They’ve escaped,’ she continued, ‘there’s one wandering down by the bridge.’ Naturally, this piece of news provoked pure panic and, after thanking the stranger profusely, we threw our boots and coats on and headed into the driving rain to find them. It was a huge relief to see that one pig was actually still in the run and the other was poking his snout through from the other side, so it seemed to be a simple case of luring him around three sides of the perimeter fence and encouraging him back in. However, he was obviously enjoying his new-found freedom and wasn’t going to relinquish it too readily. I grabbed the nearest thing we have to a traditional board (used at shows and by farmers to herd the animals about) – in reality, a heavy rectangle of wood – and tried, in vain, to move this vast animal back towards its mate, while he happily rammed into me. Seeing that this simply wasn’t working – ie, I was almost flattened by the hefty beast – I shouted at James to get some food as this seems to motivate them most of the time. Magic! A shake of the bucket and he practically galloped back to his porcine friend inside. What a relief! We then had time to work out exactly how it had all happened. And, yes, it was me who had let the pigs out! I’d like to share the responsibility with James, but it would be unethical! When we let them out to rotovate their extra piece of land, we’d switched on the electric fence but I’d forgotten to pull the corrugated-iron fence across which funnels them out into it, so there was a perfectly pig-shaped gap just waiting to be exploited.
A timely reminder that it’s probably best we don’t go far when our porcine pair are free-ranging in their extra enclosure – and to make sure we remember to secure every exit. But, of course, it wouldn’t feel right to have kept pigs and not have a story about an escape up my sleeve…
Did anyone else have some smallholding dramas amid the festivities?