Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Escaping Pigs and Mother Nature

And so our attentions have turned to pork.  With the Good Housekeeping Award tucked under our belts we are doing our best to promote our fantastic pork and get some restaurants on board.  To this end I met with the lovely Nick and Christophe of the Cotswold Food Club last week when they came to visit the farm and meet the pigs.  Nick and Christophe own five fabulous restaurants, one is acutally a hotel too.  Each restaurant is dedicated to providing great local produce and the couple scour the county in search of the very best ingredients for their tables.  Regular guests at the restaurants can join the Cotwold Food Club, which for an annual fee, gives the member fantastic discounts in all of their restaurants and hotel as well as the ability to buy wholesale wines and meat to enjoy at home.  It's a brilliant concept and one which we are really excited to get involved with. To find out more click here

Other than that, we have two tiny trouble spots on our Park Mill Farm heaven.   The first one is pig shaped - in fact there's three of them - they just keep on escaping.  They don't seem to have any fear of the electric fence and are the 'hard nuts' of the pig world.  They 'eek' when they come under the fence and then 'eek' when they go back into the pen and just seem to bear out the short zap and braisen through it!   Yesterday, Olly called me to let me know they were in the front of the Cow Shed (a far distance from their pen) and needed me to herd them back in... easier said than done let me tell you!   When pigs don't want to do something there is little you can do to stop them.   It was when they started heading off down the driveway that I really started to panic!   Finally, we got in to a routine of leaving a trail of pig nuts for them to follow which eventually lead back to their pen - I have a horrible feeling though that this won't be the last time this happens and I expect to see them running up the driveway everytime I look up from my desk!

Our other little trouble spot is the weather - in fact, it's not really a trouble spot and there's little I can do about it so I really shouldn't worry that much, but I do feel a little cheated.   Living here can be a case of extremes.  In winter, life can be quite harsh with no central heating and a big old damp house.   The pigs make loads of mud and you constantly feel cold.   It's not easy sometimes, but the thought of life in the summer makes it all worthwhile.   In the summer, life at the farm is idyllic, it's absolutely gorgeous.  The farm is beautiful and alive with colour and life.  BBQ's are abound with our great pork.  We eat well, work hard and play even harder - it's great.   So when summer arrives and you are still knee deep in mud, still feel constantly damp, there are no BBQ's in sight and the flowers have been trampled on by the incessant rain you are bound to feel a little cheated.  Where's my pay off?  Where is the break from the mud?   I don't know Mother Nature that well, she's the sort of person I would greet with eye contact and a casual 'hello' at a party and be able to hold a conversation knowing her husband and childrens names but we wouldn't arrange to go and have supper together (do you see where I'm coming from with this analogy, because I have to say, I've lost myself a little here!)  What I'm trying to say is, I think she's a fair woman and I would like to think that because she is a fair woman we are going to have a beautiful Indian summer in September and October and I will no longer feel cheated..  What do you think?
May have to split this blog into lots of little blogs for fear of this entry turning into a novel.   It's just under a month since my last confession and there is so much to tell.  
Let me start with my proper job.  For the last four and a half years now I have been working for a company in London assisting with age related mystery shopping (not in person, I hasten to add, I look far too haggard to pass as a thirty year old, let alone an 18 yr old).  It has been a job which I have been able to do from home, in my own time with only the occasional trip to London for meetings.  In short, it has been a fantastic job and one which has allowed me to devote time to the farm and my family whilst bringing in a nice little earner...  The only thing is that it makes life 'comfortable'.   Although the farm still has to pay it's way in order for us to live here, my London income has made that quite easy.   It takes away the absolute need and driven hunger to survive that gives a lot of small businesses the edge they need to make them work.   We have spent the last three and a half years juggling both employed jobs and the farm in order to make ends meet but it is now time for the farm to spread it's wings and flutter it's way to it's first flight of self sufficiency.  To really mix my metaphores..  I'm taking the stabilizers away.   And I'm scared to death!  As from the end of August I will be working full time on the farm.  As I say the words out loud I am filled with an enormous sense of excitement and anxiety at the same time.   I know we can make this work but now I have to prove it!

In other news, I was bemused a little when a book I ordered through Amazon came through the post the other day.  As research in how not to rear chickens for meat I brough a book called 'Planet Chicken - the shameful story about the bird on your plate'.    I brought it as a way to renew my vows to the high standards of animal welfare that we have here and to steel charge my resolve to not eat chicken from a restaurant,supermarket or shop unless I know how it was reared and where it came from.  You can imagine the irony when the book came wrapped in a Tesco bag!

Lastly, the end of June, and a small break in the weather gave us the opportunity to work with a local photographer to create a wedding shoot for country styled weddings.   The day was a huge success with the front orchard being turned into a perfect wedding venue - even the chicks got to play a role!  My friend, Kay, and I styled the event which was brilliant fun and we both giggled like typical 40 something women, when the very gorgeous, young, male model undressed in front of us!  We tried our best to concentrate on folding up the bunting but it just wasn't happening!!