Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Oh my goodness!   There is so much to tell you, I hardly know where to begin!   Let me think… pigs… I’ll start with pigs.   Well, the back orchard is completely trashed!!   With four pigs having spent four months in there over the winter there was no chance it was ever going to be anything else!   But my plan was always to take them off it in Feb so it has a chance to dry out, I can then tickle it with the rotovator and sow beautiful wild grasses and flowers in there, so come late Spring no one would ever know.    And so far, so good.   Olly and I moved the pigs at the weekend to Front Field.  In our naivety we thought this was going to be an easy job and that we would just be able to shake a bucket of pig nuts at them and they’d follow us like rats to the Pied Piper.    In reality, it wasn’t quite that simple.   Firstly, we had not taken into the fact that the electric fence had such great retention powers.    Even with the thing off and lifted up out of eye shot of the pigs they did not want to cross the line where it had been.   We tried coaxing them with pig nuts, apples, nudging them over with our hips, tapping them lightly on the bums with sticks…. Nothing.   They were not budging!    Eventually, however, the lure of the green grass beyond become too much.  The girls were the bravest coming out first and being really quite easy to then walk to Front Field – the trick, we found, was to keep them between the hedge line and yourself.    After we had put the girls into their new pen we went back to the boys which is where our troubles really began – bearing in mind we thought this would be a half hour job, at least 45 mins had gone by and only half of the pigs had been moved!    The boys were a lot more cautious but after a while they too came out of the old pen.   The difference being then is that all they wanted to do was to trough down on the lush green grass that lay just beyond and not bother to move any further, and let me tell you – to try and move a 100lb pig that does not want to move is not as easy as it seems!   Oh, we must have looked comical, the two of us.   For ages we could not get these pigs to move and when we finally did, they were off!   Eventually we got them into Front Field which brought us on to our third challenge – we had two pigs in and two out – was it possible to get the two that were out, in, without letting the two that were in, out?   The answer, dear reader, is no.    We got one boy in, a girl came out.  Boy that was not in decided it wanted to go to the other end of the field to where the pen was and the girl was in hot persuit.   Olly had a dustbin lid that he was using as a board to try and direct the pigs in the right direction – I was using my knee – the dustbin lid was more effective, although not much!   And… pigs can run fast!!!    By the time we finally had them all in the new pen safe and sound chomping on the pig nuts that they had so resolutely refused to acknowledge during the move, Olly and I were exhausted.    It was all we could do to grab a couple bottles of beer and sit out with them and enjoy their new home.

The Back Orchard after the pigs!

The pigs enjoying their new location

In two weeks time the boys go off to make our delicious pork packs.   Being really happy with the slaughter process last time, but a little disappointed by the butchery, we have sourced a great new butcher who will go and pick up the carcasses for us and butcher them.   Not only that, he will let us be there when he does which means we get to know a lot more about the different cuts of meat and how the whole process takes place.   It also means we can get the butcher to joint the meat exactly to our specifications which is great.

In other news, the geese have laid their first eggs!   I was beside myself with excitement when I first saw them – they’re huge!  We had two so Olly and I decided to have them for breakfast on Saturday.   Olly wanted his fried whilst I had images of boiled egg with giant Marmite soldiers.   Of course, it was only once I had boiled the egg that I realised I didn’t have an egg cup big enough so cracked it over a Marmity toast.   They were delicious and very filling.   We wait expectantly for the next one!

Our First Goose Eggs!

Mrs Goose summoning up the energy to lay another delicious egg!

Our first guests  have arrived in The Stables and seem to be having a lovely time.   We try and keep out of their way as much as we can as I think there is nothing worse than the feeling of someone breathing down your neck so I have to say we haven’t seen a great deal of them.  But of the times that I have they say they are happy and loving the place which warms my heart immensely!

Sadly, I said goodbye to Gloria at the weekend.   She (he) was living quite a solitude life with me as her only friend.   Pavarotti our lovely cockerel kept chasing Gloria as soon as they were in close proximity so she never had a chance with the other hens.  As a result, Gloria took to chasing the ducks for a little action, which, as you can imagine, didn’t go down well with the ducks!   In the end, some lovely friends with a little boy who fell in love with Gloria and had 6 hens of their own took Gloria for a new life in Leominster.    I hear she is settling in well and I am sure she will be a lot happier there than she was here.   I cannot admit that I won’t miss her though.   She became a good friend and we could usually be heard speaking chicken to each other around the farm.   She followed me around and was the first cockerel I could pick up and put on my shoulders with no problem at all.   Here’s to you Gloria.  I hope you’re very happy!
(forgive my torrent of pictures - a little shrine to Gloria!)

Chicken in a Basket..

From little chick....

First time seeing her (his) reflection

My mum!!

Messing around with the boys!

Not your best side!

Caught asleep!

Peck on the cheek!

To her last day on the farm.  xx

Beautiful girl (boy!).   Best tranny cockerel in the world!!
Lastly, the Cow Byre (I think I may change the name to Cow Shed as more people know what I’m talking about then) is coming along very well.   We are converting it to an office/kitchen and I have to say it is going to be a beautiful building.   We were restricted by Conservation as to how much we could rebuild against simply repairing it and it is great that the old walls remain albeit strengthened and that most of the original tiles will go back on the roof.

Nothing at the farm is straight - not even the Cow Byre!

The root damaged caused by years of ivy was incredible.  The builders have done a fantastic job.
So, we are in March finally and although the nights still have the bitterness of the winter we are emerging from, the days are crisp and clear with a hint of warmth.   The bulbs are coming up, the birds are building their nest and the plant pots are being unearthed from their winter hiding for another bumper growing season.   Life is good here at Park Mill Farm.