Dark, short winter days and wet, cold weather mean we’re far more likely to greet our hens and pigs in the morning when we go to feed and let them out around 8am at the weekends. During the week, there’s no chance that Audrey and Mabel will even consider emerging from their warm nest of straw (why perch when you can sleep in comfort?!) to see me at 6am when I go into their run to put down their food and water and open their door. The hybrids are a little more enthusiastic, although I think they may be duped into thinking that the temporary light afforded by James’ torch belongs to the rising sun. They’re probably baffled once he’s left them to it, as hens can’t see at dusk let alone in the dark.
And, until now, our pair of Gloucestershire Old Spots have raced each other to the feeder as soon as they heard me coming, even before their pellets are poured into the feeder, but not at the moment. The other day I actually had to go round to their ark – which still smells clean and fragrant – and check they were OK. It turned out that they were just snoozing and soon stirred when they saw me peering at them from the entrance. Lately, it’s been quite a challenge to walk or, rather, wade across the quagmire that is their run and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before my boots become stuck and I fall over – or get knocked over. Dainty pigs’ trotters are designed for these conditions and there’s something quite alarming about the porcine pair racing towards me as I remain almost knee-high in the mud. Hopefully, the colder winter weather forecast to come our way will harden up the terrain this weekend. The time for their dispatch is just ten days or so away, however, so I’m going to be making the most if them, swamp or no swamp – our microholding will be a sadder place without these delightful characters rootling around.