B&Q really are branching out!

Jo, have you seen this? B&Q are planning to start stocking pigsties (it sounds more like they’ll be pig arks like Jo’s actually) because of the number of people expressing an interest in growing their own dinners now. Hmm, I wonder if they’ll be any good? Apparently they’ve been selling chicken coops for some time. Does anyone here know anyone who has bought one? If so, would they recommend it?

Photo updates

To finish off my updates from the past few days, I have some photos to share.

sulky pigs

This is of Pinky and Curly, sulking because we had taken their ark away from them while we were in the process of moving them to fresh grazing. They decided to nap on the straw that we had left behind and pretend that their pig ark was still there!tail

This wasn’t intended to be a picture of a pig’s bottom, but ended up being one by the very nature of what I wanted to show you. Isn’t the curl in Curly’s tail just gorgeous! He has the perfect pig tail, with the perfect twist! I love it, and couldn’t resist taking this picture!

black chick

Mama Silkie had three chicks recently, and this is one of them. Jo is hoping to get them to be friendlier and more approachable by handling them regularly as chicks, so this was me holding the black chick at feeding time one evening.

2 chicks

And here are the other two. Aren’t they just the cutest things? I really hope I don’t turn out to be allergic to feathers!

dark bay

Obviously, this wasn’t taken at the farm, it is of course Cardiff Bay at night. Ten o’clock last night actually, when Jo, handsome and I were on a wild goose chase, trying to find out where the Doctor Who filming was happening. We didn’t find it in the end, which was disappointing for us all. We had been given a tip that the crew were parking in a particular car park in the Bay, and we found all the trailers and suchlike, but no sign of filming. So we thought we’d check the actual Bay area and the ‘Torchwood Hub’, but no sign. Ah well, c’est la vie!

fab

And finally, this gorgeous boy has been my constant companion for the past few days while I’ve been diggin the vegetable patch, never leaving my side! He’s a lovely dog and it has been lovely to have his company. His name is Fabulous, and I really think he lives up to it!

Quick question…

…do any of you think that I could be allergic to chickens or pigs?

I’ve been having various blood tests recently, which show that I’m allergic to something, but the doctor can’t put her finger on what. Jo said that I should ask whether it could be pigs or chickens, given that I frequently cuddle members of both species when I spend time at the farm. I didn’t really think anything of it, until this evening when I’ve got a really runny nose (sorry if that’s too much information!), a sinusy type headache (seems to be focussed on the front of my forehead and behind my nose) and a general feeling that something’s not quite right. Or am I being over-sensitive to my symptoms, and just tired from a busy day, headachey after unaccustomed time in the sunshine (I did have a headscarf protecting my head from the worst of the sun) and sniffly after moving the straw from pig ark to pig ark?

Any answers/advice?

Cheers!

Gardening fun

So, I’ve been largely absent from cyberspace for the last couple of days, due to the demands of Jo and her budding vegetable garden! I’ve had a lovely couple of days, spent entirely outside in the health-giving fresh air and sunshine, picking at the ground with a fork when the mood took me, or otherwise watching Jo do the hard work while I commented and made general encouraging noises. A very satisfactory state of affairs!

Friday was a day off for my children, due to a teacher training day, which meant we were able to spend the whole day with Jo. Handsome spent a lot of time becoming Midge the Dog’s best friend, while Cheeky manfully stripped to his vest and trousers and hacked away at the ground with all his four year old strength! We had a picnic in the sunshine, and Jo and I ended the day with large omelettes made from her own chickens’ eggs and flavoured with sausages from home-reared pigs. Yum!

Yesterday (Saturday) was an unexpected treat for me, as at the last minute I offered to spend the day with Jo again, leaving the children with GG to prepare Mothers Day surprises for me (more on that later). She picked me up after breakfast and we had another really lovely day (which she documented here), making some small progress on her future vegetable garden. Digging really is harder work than I had pictured it would be!

I wasn’t a huge amount of help for the actual digging, due to the cold that I think is much, much better after all that fresh air, but she says that it was helpful to have me there to groom Snipe (who is moulting profusely) and help make some of her other jobs go a little faster. And anyway, I got to spend time playing with all the pigs and making friends with some of the chickens, so I’m happy!

I really have too many photos to write a cohesive post, interspersing them here and there, so I’m just going to put them in a big splodge here. Sorry!

 Handsome and Cheeky get gardening!

Handsome and Cheeky get gardening!

The weaners arranged themselves in size order ready to be fed!

The weaners arranged themselves in size order ready to be fed!

I looked to my left whilst eating my lunch...

I looked to my left whilst eating my lunch...

...then I looked to my right!
…then I looked to my right!
I know for a fact that Jo would never approve of this sort of begging behaviour – because as soon as she started to walk back up the garden towards us, the dogs assumed an air of nochalance and wandered off, as if expressing an interest in my sandwiches was the last thing on their minds! 
Speckle and I became good friends yesterday

Speckle and I became good friends yesterday

Once we realised how hard digging was, we set the weaners to work on the other segment that needed sorting!

Once we realised how hard digging was, we set the weaners to work on the other segment that needed sorting!

Sleepy dogs, at the end of a busy day. I love how friendly these two are!

Sleepy dogs, at the end of a busy day. I love how friendly these two are!

Campaigning

RSPCA pig campaign buttonI recently watched Jamie Oliver’s latest TV programme – “Jamie Saves Our Bacon”. I had heard before that about the British pork industry being in trouble due to foreign pork being imported in great qualtities, but I didn’t realise how hard it is for British farmers to compete with their European rivals. You see, in Europe, farmers are (for now, at least), still allowed to keep their pigs in horrific conditions where they can’t move other than to stand up or sit down, and are kept like this for the majority of their lives. In Britain, laws have already been passed to ensure a minimum level of pig welfare is achieved. And so it is pretty much impossible for British farmers to compete, and we are being tricked into buying foreign, unethically produced pork. Surely paying just a few more pence would, for most people at least, be acceptable if it meant that the animals hadn’t had to live in misery? Surely, if we will eat meat, the least we can do is to try to see that the animals have a good standard of living before they end up on our tables? I feel very strongly about this now, and my weekly shopping time has really increased while I spend time examining labels of many things I buy to find out where and how they were produced. And it is hard work. It is incredibly unclear sometimes as to whether the meat is British, or whether it has just been imported and then packaged here.

And so I’ve signed the Jamie Oliver Pig Pledge as well as the RSPCA Rooting For Pigs campaign. As you will see, I’ve put a link on my sidebar to the RSPCA campaign, and if I could find a button for Jamie Oliver’s campaign, that would go on there too!

egg guideI’m also looking for a badge for my side bar which promotes buying free range eggs, so if anyone knows of one, that would be great! I’m aware of the Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall ‘Chicken Out’ campaign; I was just wondering whether there is one specifically for free range eggs as well? I have found this one which I think aims to educate about ‘hidden eggs’ in food as well as conditions for chickens kept in cages. There are also links to e-cards to be sent to the government, and letters to your local council calling for a ban on caged chickens.

Reception committee

So, today GG and I went up to the farm to feed Jo‘s pigs. She had to be somewhere else and usually I don’t mind helping her out, so we made the trip after collecting the boys from school. That was where the problems started. Apparently, her pigs like to have their dinner at about 3.30, and so when we arrived, nearly an hour later than that, we had a surprise when we noticed Tia and Scrumpy waiting for us by the gate of the field. Normally, they are confined within their own, fenced, paddock. However, hunger (or boredom, or sheer devilment!) drove them to break out of their pen and come to find us. We have no idea how long they had been out, although we noticed significant holes, recently dug, along the path to the food container!

reception committee

This was not the only thing which struck us on getting out of the car and into the field. Have a look at the photo below; according to a phone conversation which I had with Jo after we got home, these used to be neatly stacked sacks of waste vegetables, waiting to be added to the compost heap or lasagne garden. Bless! We did our best to pick up the larger vegetables, but as it was almost completely dark we had to abandon most of the sprouts to their fate! Sorry Jo, but just think; those little sprouts will condition the ground just a little bit around the container van so that it will be that tiny bit better drained and the grass will be infinitesimally more luscious later in the year!

precompost

And just to prove (to Jo) that GG and I didn’t have a Machiavellian moment and chuck the veggies all over the place, here in the next photo I managed to (quite blurrily, I’m afraid!) capture a picture of the culprit!

the culprit

Bad Tia! I also have a photo of my husband, expressing his current opinion of the pigs using only one finger! I’ve deicded to refrain from posting that though, as this is a family blog!

Bailey the boar had also done a Houdini and managed to get out of his enclosure, although he was more concerned with trying to work out how to get back inside rather than in exploring the perimeter of the field. And I suppose I should say, in their defence, that all three pigs quite happily went back into their pens when we brought their dinner buckets to them!

I’m hoping that it will be a little while before Jo next asks us to pig sit, and that she will have taught them a). patience and b). manners by the next time I visit!

Confused pigs!

So, to add to Jo’s account of her ambitious cockerel, Captain Flint, I offer this photo of her confused sows, Tia and Scrumpy!

Tia and Scrumpy

While we were moving Bailey and Brini’s pig ark this afternoon, we noticed Tia and Scrumpy getting a little ‘familiar’ with each other. Just to clarify, they are both girl pigs (for any townies reading who don’t know what sows are!), but are both in season as well, and obviously desperate to continue their line!

I suppose the old saying really is true; any port in a storm!