Monday, 28 May 2012

Award Winning Pork!

WE'VE WON AN AWARD!!!!!!.. and I'm just a little excited about it!   Got a call from the Food Editor of Good Housekeeping magazine on Wednesday saying that she's really sorry but had sent the invitation to Good Housekeeping Food Awards to the wrong address and only just realised... could I be up at Lancaster House in London that evening to accept an award from Prue Leith?!   'Hell yes!' was my reply.   Donned my party frock and off I skipped!   Unfortunately, at such short notice, Olly couldn't come with me which is a real shame.   It was really nerve wracking walking into such an amazing venue on my own with all these foodie celebraties there!

It all started around early March when I got an email saying we'd been nominated for Best Small Meat Producer at the GH Food Awards 2012 by Slow Food UK and would we mind terribly sending some sausages and pork chops up for the lovely people of GH to taste.    This I did and then heard nothing, until Wednesday!   How cool is that??    Of course, Olly and I cannot take all the credit.   The pigs are the real winners but it is great to be recognised for high welfare standards and great tasting pork.   To quote the July issue of Good Housekeeping 'Hand reared to the highest welfare standards, these pigs lead a happy life in an orchard with plenty of space to forage and root around.  And wow, does the meat taste better for it!'

In other news, the farm is certainly hotting up!   We've had a magnificent bout of sunshine and we seemed to go from torrential rain to blazing heat in the blink of an eye.   Quite bizarre to wade around in a quagmire of mud one week with the rain hurtleing at you sideways to go to really strict water management and watering wallowing holes for the pigs the next.   However, after all that rain the fields are looking amazing with the grass tall and lush and the buttercups at their peak.

The chicks are also doing well.   With this weather it's great not to have to worry about them getting too cold and they stay outside from dawn til dusk.   I'm still bringing them into the house at night though but hopefully they can live outside sometime soon.

Life just seems to be a continual rota of weeding and mowing to keep the farm looking good.   It's exhausting but it really is the most brilliant place to be when the sunshines!!    Long may it continue (with occasional rain showers to fill up the water butts!)

Sunday, 13 May 2012


Hoorah!!  Sunshine!   And lots of it.  It is amazing how fantastic this place is in the sunshine... I LOVE IT!  All the animals seem happier - no one more so than the pigs.   Their pens are drying out and they no longer have to slop around the place, although there are patches where it is still quite quagmireish and it catches you unaware when you are feeding them.   All of a sudden you sink and at the mid point of drying out the mud is really sticky.  I had to physically try and lift my foot out of the mud with my hands yesterday evening and let me tell you, dear reader, that's not as easy as it sounds when you have a 80kg Large Black bearing down on you wanting her supper!

The grass is that illuminous green that it becomes when it's been well watered and happy - you can almost see everything growing before your eyes - it's great.

We also have the chicks, who, like the grass, seem to sprout wings and feathers overnight.   The big chicks that hatched a couple of months ago are now big enough to go free range around the farm and are loving the freedom.   The grass is as long as they are big and it's great to see their bright red combs bobbing along amongst the buttercups and lush green sea!   Unfortunately, the batteries have gone on my camera so I haven't got any photos to show you but I will get some and post them later.

Monday, 7 May 2012

When will it ever end???   The rain, I mean.   Here we are at the beginning of May with no end in sight!  April wasn't too bad as you could put it down to April Showers and for once the climate seemed to be doing what it was supposed to and when, but now we're in May and it's still bloody cold.  It just seems wrong.   I really don't mean to moan - especially about the weather - we Brits seem to be a little too good at that, but come on!  And when you have pigs as well, it makes for a lot of mud.   When I go to feed them now I get fully kitted up with waterproof trousers, coat, wellies and gloves and with good reason - I come back absolutely covered!   Having said that, it is fantastic exercise and I am sure I will be able to crack walnuts with my inner thighs soon.  Wading through mud trying to dodge 8 hungry pigs who'd sooner trample you down face first to get to their food than look at you is a fantastic workout.. especially when your wellies get stuck in the mud and no amount of lifting will release the suction made in the ankle deep quagmire you are in.   It's at that point that the pigs come bearing down on you in search of the contents of the bucket!  

We had Walter arrive at the farm today.   Walter is a very handsome Oxford Sandy and Black boar who has come to visit Nelly for three weeks.  I'm not sure Nelly is that enamoured at the moment and thinks that Walter has no use except to be a minor irritant at feeding time when she's trying to ram as much food down her throat as she possibily can, but I am hoping that her feelings towards him will change as she gets used to having a man around the house.   We have put Nelly and Walter in a seperate enclosure right near the house, mainly so we can keep an eye on them but also to keep Walters keen sense of smell away from Daisy, who is our other gilt who will also be coming into season at some point over the next three weeks.  I'm nervous enough about having one pig 'in pig' but to accidently get them both pregnant at the same time would be a handful to say the least.   Daisy is not amused that she's been left in Sunset field with other six little pigs that we've got - I get the distinct impression that she finds them extremely immature and just a little rowdy for her.  However, I know she will see the benefit of Nelly being elsewhere when supper time comes around and she won't be bolstered out of the way like she normally is.

Walter giving Nelly a kiss!

In other farm news, my favourite apple tree succumbed to the storms last weekend.   It was such a shame to wake up on Sunday morning to the sight of it twisted and knarled and on the ground.   The blossom was just about to come out too, and it would have looked beautiful.

We also moved the chicks that hatched earlier this year to a bigger enclosure.   They are loving their new spot and the inside of their shed looks like a proper front room!   We put some old garden furniture in there for them to roost on and it looks very homely!   Unfortunately, out of the 16 chicks that hatched 11 of them are cockerals!  What are the chances??   At least it means we'll have great chicken as well as pork in our freezer this year.    The next lot of eggs in the incubator are due to hatch over the next couple of days so I'll post pictures as soon as they've hatched.  Hopefully the boy to girl ratio will be a little more even this time!

The Chicken House