Brief encounter


The hens often look wistfully through the fence that divides them and the three Oxford Sandy & Blacks. It’s not that the grass is greener – in fact, the pig run is mostly covered in thistles, nettles, comfrey and the occasional bramble – there’s barely a blade to be seen. But the hens can glimpse all the bugs and other treasures that the porcine trio turn over as they rotovate the land with their magnificent and powerful snouts, rootling free.  I have a special fondness for that word as it’s my CL nickname – like to think I’ve attracted that moniker for it’s similarities with my Christian name and that it suggests journalistic, investigative qualities and not so much a likeness to my miniature herd, but I don’t know…

rootle, v.
[‘ trans. Of an animal, esp. a pig: to root or grub (something) up or out.
Also in extended use: to bring to light; to extract by searching around or rummaging.’]
Oxford English Dictionary


photo.JPGBack to livestock! Occasionally, we’ve found a cheeky brown job (who says the hybrids don’t have personalities?) slipping into the pig pen close behind us to chance her wing at foraging in their wake, like gulls after a plough, gleaning all the shiny insects that the larger animals ignore in the pursuit of roots and other delicacies. Although chickens can move fast, I’ve been surprised at the speed of pigs, too, and, at this age, as they’re still fairly slim and small, they’re remarkably quick on their trotters. So when James and I were heading out of the garden and down to the river to take the dogs swimming on Sunday and one of our pretty Ixworth girls flew over the top wire and landed in the porcine wilderness that lies the other side, we stopped in our tracks and dashed into the run to flush it out. The Oxford Sandy & Blacks were somewhat excited to find an invader in their midst and so while attempting to keep them at bay, we acted like a pincer movement to try and usher her out of the gate and back to the safety of the flock. She’s a flighty little number and it took a good few minutes of us to-ing and fro-ing before she sped out, with that hilarious poultry gait. Despite not having spent very long with the boys, she was decidedly shaken. James had his first cuddle with her since she was a chick, due to the fact that the poor bird was exhausted by her ordeal. She sat in his arms for a good ten minutes while her fellow feathered friends fussed around her. We finally headed down to the river with the dogs.

Later that day, we discovered that the hose had gone missing from the tap by the pigs’ drinker and found it the other side of their run! They’d plucked it from through the squares of stock fence and dragged it over a distance of around 60 feet to presumably stash it away. Our Gloucestershire Old Spots did this, too, and I find it very endearing. It’s as if they’re gathering treasure or perhaps putting together a collection of useful belongings, ‘just in case’. Practical and industrious – just two of the fine qualities that porcine characters possess. They’ve so many that I now can’t imagine not having pigs on the plot.


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