We’ve embarked on our second foray into pigkeeping! This magnificent Oxford Sandy & Black sow belongs to Dave and Linda Aldous, breeders of our next pair of little porkers, which we visited last Saturday. I’ve started with the image of this impressive beast as, since becoming smitten with all animals of the porcine variety, I consider even these hefty creatures utterly beautiful but have found that others don’t often share those feelings – including even James, who looked at me with bafflement as I admired her girth and cooed over her cute lop ears and lovely big snout.
When it came to the piglets, however, beauty was no longer in the eye of the beholder. The litter of five scampered about in the pen – to a chorus of oohs and aahs – on Linda and Dave’s idyllic smallholding in Wethersfield, a village towards the Essex-Cambridgeshire border, north west of where we live. They nipped under the fence, from the run where they are gradually being weaned from their mother, to visit the boar that sired them, and even the Border Collie popped in to see them (note the piglet with the pink stripe across its shoulders – looks like there must have been some Saddleback somewhere in the line).
It was a harmonious scene, with the livestock and pet dog mixing together nicely, set against a sunlit range of low lush green hills and arable land. Complete with a stunning thatched cottage, the set up did inspire pangs of envy in us both, I must confess. Linda talked about her and Dave’s three years’ experience of pig-breeding and we gleaned plenty of tips from her, watched the young animals and began the tricky business of choosing two.
However, the fact that it is boys we were after again (due the theory that it’s meant to be harder to become too attached to them!) narrowed it down, thankfully, and we followed Linda’s advice, picking the largest piglets, one with a smattering of spots (pictured above) and the other splodgier (below). In fact, the selection process, was very much along the lines of the way we plumped for our Gloucestershire Old Spots.
It was a delightful way to while away an afternoon and we left the smallholding counting down the days to next weekend when we are due to pick them up. Back home at our miniature ranch, Young Jeffrey, who we keep with the dozen-strong flock down the end, is managing up keep his end up – despite our misgivings – and is even perching alongside his ladies in the coop. His fellow Araucanas, the three black ladies, continue to socialise as a elite trio and, more or less, shun the other hens’ company.
The Ixworth cockerels have been crowing in unison at an increasingly high volume and James and I are stealing ourselves to build them a new house and run down the end of the garden, well away from our neighbours. They also like our small veg patch a bit too much, so the relocation will do us all good, just not sure if we can quite face a whole Saturday and Sunday of poultry DIY, when there’s still so much to be done on our own house! Perhaps we’ll see what the weather holds. Happy henkeeping, whatever you do this weekend!