Fat fighters

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/dd3/22129845/files/2014/12/img_4437-0.jpgSo, it turns out that aptly named Porky Pig (pictured below) is around 20kg heavier than his brothers! That’s the weight of an entire sack of pig nuts. Clearly, his hoovering technique at breakfast and teatime has placed him in pole porcine position. Dave and Linda Aldous, the Oxford Sandy & Black breeders who sold us the trio of weaners back in August, kindly visited us on Saturday to assess whether we should attempt to slim Porky down or not and give the others a chance to catch up. Our concerns weren’t aesthetic, but based on James’s distaste for overly fatty bacon and flabby chops. Dave and Linda revealed the ultimate tool of their trade: a pig tape. Resembling a regular measuring tape, it is marked with centimetres on one side and kilos on the other. The latter being an estimate of the current slaughter weight of the pig were it to be sent to the abattoir. We fed the herd a small portion of pellets which distracted them sufficiently in order for Linda to place the tape around the significant girth of Porky. Next, James did the same for Naughty pig and while he weighed around 45kg, Porky was a stonking 65kg!

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/dd3/22129845/files/2014/12/img_4435.jpgThe plan is that for a few days over Christmas, when we’re around more, we’ll keep Porky in the old pigsty by the house so we can slim him down a bit on a lesser ration, while Naughty and Bully can put some pounds on. Anyone else have any unusual festive livestock plans?! Merry Christmas.

The joy of scrumping

IMG_3952.JPGThe pigs have done very nicely out of the hundreds of apples friends and family members have donated to us over the past few months. The trio have benefitted from at least two each every day (and, ultimately, we believe this also gives their pork a sweet flavour) until the last couple of weeks when supplies have started to dry up and the lower parts of trees are bare of fruit. So when we used James’ work pick-up truck to collect straw from a local farm the other day, he seized the opportunity to drive down a nearby lane and stand on top of the bales to access those otherwise out-of-reach loaded branches. We gathered a fantastic haul – and attracted some startled looks from passers by.

IMG_4404.JPGThe act of scrumping is rather moreish once you start, isn’t it? I suppose it gives us a sense of self-sufficiency and connects us to our ancestors to whom it was common practice. James and I picked up some lovely lengths of holly complete with berries on Sunday for use in our Christmas wreath this weekend and felt a similar enjoyment in the simple activity.

IMG_4418.JPGOdd how some years are great for certain fruits and terrible for others. There was barely a single acorn to give the pigs this autumn, but last year they feasted on them. Curiouser and curiouser. Has anyone else been foraging on behalf of their livestock? Would love to know what other wild foods pigs and chickens enjoy. In the meantime, happy weekends all.

Travelling hens and fat pigs

The brown hens seem to range more freely than the others
The brown hens seem to range more freely than the others
Who said hybrids are dull? I love our very ordinary-looking Black Tail and Goldline chickens just as much as our stunning pure breeds. Most of our ladies are in retirement now and haven’t laid an egg in some time, but while in their prime their yield were second to none. Now they scratch about at leisure and venture way up the garden in search of pastures new. In fact, one of our old brown girls has taken to roosting in Audrey and Margot’s undercover run. We’re not sure why, but wonder if her adventures far and away from hybrid HQ mean she gets caught out when the light lowers at around 3.30pm and simply makes herself at home with the pampered pair who live by our house. Each night James scoops her up and returns her to the perches in the coop down the end of our plot.
Sadly, Marek’s disease continues to take around one hen each week – and there’s nothing we can do about it. Last Saturday, we discovered one of our lovely old chickens had a limp and just a few hours later she had a dropped wing and appeared to be disoriented. That evening, she just lay in the long grass, no longer able to move and so we knew it was the kindest thing to dispatch her. The weekend before the disease claimed one of our black Araucanas and prior to that our beautiful Rhode Island Red. However, our plans to make a mobile henhouse, which would side-step the issue of over-grazed unhealthy wet ground (because we could wheel it up and down the garden) and outwit the rats we’ve had problems with lately (without a permanent site, they couldn’t dig underground – as soon as they started the house would be on the move again) are in progress and should put paid to such ailments. The shed’s arrived and James is just waiting for the wheels and related paraphernalia to come. That may well prove to be a project for Christmas time.
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Despite hopes that Bully Pig was becoming as large as Porky Pig, Porky is definitely still in the lead. I witnessed him bat the others out of the way at the trough yesterday in order to hoover up more than his fair share, so we now know why, too. The Oxford Sandy & Black breeders we bought our trio from, Dave and Linda Aldous, have kindly agreed to visit next weekend to take a look and help us decide whether to separate the rotund creature in a bid to slim him down during their last few weeks (James is worried about overly fatty pork). We’re wondering if it tends to happen when you have three rather than two pigs and there’s more competition to eat… If anyone has any pearls of wisdom on this topic, I’m all ears. In the meantime, happy smallholding all.