Three (not so) little pigs

2015/02/img_4589.jpgYou can hardly tell our porkers apart now, which is a real triumph for James who’s been taking the time every morning and evening before and after work to feed them separately. While Porky pig’s been on a diet in a bid to lose a few pounds (he was looking distinctly flabby a few weeks back), Skinny and Naughty are siphoned off into a corrugated-iron enclosure to have slightly more than their recommended daily portion so they can play catch up and eat in peace, without their greedier brother pushing them out of the way for extras. Devoted to the cause – no doubt inspired by the bacon and sausages he’s going to enjoy as a result – James spends a good 15 minutes each time watching over them to ensure that Skinny and Naughty are playing fair and don’t chance their trotters and escape into the garden.
So, now they’ve more or less equalised, we’re expecting to take them to the abattoir the week after next. Alison, Country Living’s Food and Drink Editor, and her husband Keith will be coming to collect their half pig the following weekend and we’ll enjoy delivering a fair amount of meat to friends and family, too.
Still, there will also be a tinge of sadness when we head down the garden and see the empty arks and all is quiet – no enthusiastic grunting or waiting at the fence for a fuss. It’s been a pleasure keeping Oxford Sandy & Blacks and we can see why many other smallholders are so smitten with the breed. So no doubt we’ll be collecting another miniature herd of these ‘plum pudding’ pigs in the not-too-distant future, but only once we feel able to tackle more fencing as the next ones will need to be kept on fresh land. With the nitrogen-rich run going spare, we’re tempted to grow a crop such as fodder beet and store it as extra sustenance for porcine residents. But we’ll see… We’re good at coming up with these plans and trying to fit too much into our precious spare time, like a lot of people! Happy weekends all.


Gone to the dogs

Our three canine residents seem to be perpetually hungry despite the fact they have their recommended daily amounts of kibble as well as biscuits and carrots, which are the only vegetable they seem to care for. So why the two 12-year old Labradors Megan and Amy and their younger brother Darcy, a five-year old German Shepherd, are ravenous at all times is beyond me. Just recently it’s led to some quite desperate acts that have had DIY consequences for James. Firstly, our taller Lab Amy was caught red-pawed the other day when discovered in the henhouse helping herself to a buffet in the nesting box. We hadn’t had any eggs to collect from the hybrids since around December time and assumed this was down to the high number of elderly flock members and, of course, the lack of light and warmth that affects all layers during the winter. We’d always known to keep an eye on Megan, Amy’s shorter if chunkier counterpart, when she headed down the garden with us – she could swagger through the girls’ pop-hole no problem and demolish a good half a dozen freshly laid offerings if we weren’t careful. But Amy could only have been contorting herself to quite an alarming degree in order to enter the coop (little wonder she has a bad back).

James settled the matter with a smaller pop-hole on the outer door (pictured above) – we’ve had some satisfaction from seeing the bafflement on the delinquent dog’s face when she’s attempted entry and failed in her mission. Since the discovery, we’ve been collecting around three eggs a day – goodness knows how long she has been helping herself for. Though, thinking about it, her coat has improved no end – the fur’s had a lovely lustre dating back to around Christmas time!
On his day off last week, James received a phone call from our neighbour Gloria to say there was an Alsatian going through her recycling and thought it was Darcy. Sure enough, he’d managed to eat a hole in the chicken wire (!) the other side of our hedge and break free to commit the rather embarrassing act of seeking out any remnants of food in her plastics and tins (luckily with no cuts to his mouth). Up went the spare poultry netting fence we have to foil his dastardly doings.

2015/02/img_4602.jpgIn total, these extra jobs took James most of a day – no wonder that the Henmobile and the spare room aren’t finished yet! Needless to say, both canine culprits were in disgrace for a short time, while Megan and Beau the Bengal were declared pets of the week for their good behaviour. Happy henkeeping all!