Monsoon season’s here!

Whilst this picture might not entirely drive-home the nature of today’s weather, the set of dripping waterproofs and mud-covered wellies sat in the hallway are testament to the fact that our otherwise fairly pleasant summertime has taken the day off. It’s like Rangoon out there this morning.

On the whole, rearing pigs is both a fascinating and rewarding occupation, and one that we’re wildly excited about pursuing in a more substantial way as the months progress. All that said though, there are some mornings – potentially those where a tincture or two may have been enjoyed the previous evening – when being forced from a warm bed to trudge miserably through mud and poo to clear out a sludge-laden Mexican hat feeder whilst being assaulted by sweaty, screaming, drooling pigs is simply not top of the pops, even for the biggest fan of all things porcine.

Given that we’re now only ten days from bringing the 2017 batch experience to a conclusion, close attention is suddenly being paid to the long-range weather forecast, in the hope that their final morning is a dry(ish), clean(ish) and relaxed(ish) affair – rather than becoming a Benny Hill blooper reel featuring three crap-covered pigs running around a mudbath being chased by a dung-encrusted, well-upholstered bald bloke.

Clearly, offerings to all of the relevant household deities will be made in the coming days… no point in taking any chances.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls…

… it tolls for the pigs.

The deed is done – the abattoir run has been booked and the butcher is already sharpening his cleaver in anticipation. End of the month = end of the pigs. Luckily for us, it will also signal the start of the sausage-scoffing season. Woohoo!

Time to start running down the freezer in anticipation of our pending porky payload.

How big?

Well, the weekend didn’t go quite according to plan, and so we’re playing catch-up now. Ear-tagging still needs to be done sometime this week but there’s another job that needs doing first.

Before I can talk with the butcher about our cutting list, we need to know how much porker we’re talking about processing, and so today’s lunchbreak was spent fondling mud-covered pigs whilst waving a tape measure about the place. [Note to self: measure pigs before/during their first feed of the day, when they’re fresh from a night’s kip on new new-mown hay. Do NOT wait until lunchtime when they’ve been rolling in dung, widdle and various other forms of beastly mud and oomksa].

Anyhoo, the results are in and I can officially confirm that these guys are mahoosive! They’re averaging-out at 128 kilos each at present, with a couple of weeks to go… how did that happen? Given that the usual estimate is 64% of dead weight ending-up in the freezer, that means we’re looking at 245 kilos of pork – that’s a lot of bangers!

Portion control is an art…

…which I’m not sure I possess in any great way.

We’ve over-shot the runway a bit in terms of how long we’re keeping Batch 1 versus the store of food we calculated we’d need… it’s not going to get us through to the end of the month.

This being the case, we’ve used the opportunity to try another organic feed provider – just as a comparison. Thus far, all the pigs we’ve kept have merrily dined upon tucker from the chaps at Hi Peak – purveyors of fine organic fodder at more the reasonable prices. “So what were the results of swapping the nosh?” I hear you ask. Well, I’m not sure whether it’s down to the fact that the stored Hi Peak food was getting to the end of its shelf-life, or that this new grub from Allen & Page is just fundamentally made from more appealing stuff; however, either way, it’s clearly the piggy equivalent of crack-cocaine, as the gang nearly killed me in the rush to get to the Mexican hat feeder when the dinner gong rang yesterday evening.

So, all’s well in the nutrition department – next job this weekend is to work out where all that feed’s going, so it’s time to break out the tape measure and calculate latest weights. For those of you that aren’t entirely au fait with gauging the poundage of a pig, you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s all very simple. Essentially it’s the circumference of the body just behind the front legs (or the ‘heart girth’, as it’s known) squared and then multiplied by the length from ears to tail – the sum of which is divided by 400 to give the overall body weight. Easy when you know how; however, it does rather beg the question “who the hell was it that woke up one morning and decided it was a good idea to go around squeezing and measuring pigs in an attempt to guess their weight?”.

Whilst we’re in essential maintenance mode, there’s another task which needs to be performed this weekend – one that could either be an absolute breeze or, on the other hand, could as easily turn into complete Armageddon. It’s time to dig out the pliers and stick identity tags in the little darlings’ ears. A two-person job this one, so wish us luck!

We’re on the home straight!

The plan is to send the 2017 batch to slaughter at the end of this month and so we need to get to grips with what to do with the resulting several hundred pounds of juicy joints, chompworthy chops and scrummy sausages which will be heading our way in the very near future.

If anyone’s interested we’re thinking of offering meat boxes at around £75 per quarter pig, £150 per half and £275 for a whole carcass (lovingly prepared by our friends at local butchery Cox & Laflin). There will potentially be an additional charge for courier services which we’ll know more about soon – but in the meantime, if you’re looking to fill a spare corner of the freezer then do let us know. It’s a first-come-first-served kind of thing and we already have a few orders which have come from folks known to us locally, so pipe-up if you’re keen!

While you’re positing potential pork-based pursuits, have a think about this one. Looking to next year and the potential expansion of the Yarner herd to fill-up the woods next door, we’re looking into the possibility of setting-up a pig club, where folks invest in meat pretty much in the same way as oenophiles invest in ‘en primeur’ wines.

The idea is that people who are looking to enjoy high-quality, free-range, organically fed pork buy a share in a pig which we then acquire for them, feed, nurture and, ultimately, despatch and ship-out – butchered, packed and ready for the freezer. We’re still working on a pricing structure for this but the ball-park figures are going to be similar to those above – possibly a little less if we can attract enough customers and make the numbers work.

Everything’s at the dreaming / outline planning stage right now; however, it would help us enormously to know what people think of this idea, so do let us have your thoughts on the subject (whether they be good, bad or indifferent) by dropping us a line at hello@greedypigspantry.co.uk.

OK, that’s a worry dealt with.

As batch 1’s ‘big day’ gets closer, so the number of unresolved issues seems to build. What are we going to do with all this pork that’s about to land on our doorstep? What’s the cutting list going to look like and how will we stop it getting so hopelessly complicated that we can’t sort through it with the butcher? How on earth do we get consignments of juicy chops, succulent joints and scoffable sausages safely to those folks who have shown an interest in purchasing supplies from us? And more importantly than all of that stuff, how the hell do we take our pigs to slaughter in the first place?

With our previous sorties into the world of pig-keeping we always had the help and guidance of a good friend who, along with a wealth of experience and seemingly endless supplies of patience, also had a rather handy livestock trailer which he was happy to lend to us as and when we required it. Given that we’re now at the other end of the country, it seems a bit much to be asking the redoubtable Mr Bryan (aka Seabass) to pop down with his trusty Ifor Williams, and so yesterday the bullet was firmly bitten as we finally purchased a trailer of our very own. A proud moment in any would be micro-farmer’s journey toward self-sufficiency and one that rather confirms we’re in this for the long-haul.

So, the Yarner Lodge livestock charabanc is up and running, which means there’s one problem at least which won’t induce any further 3am ‘wake up in a panicky sweat’ moments. No doubt though, there’ll be plenty more waiting just around the corner…

So… WordPress then.

As some will already know, I’ve been playing about with the idea of a blog for some time – thus far primarily doing so by boring people rigid with monosyllabic burbles and accompanying photos on Facebook. The results have been less than earth-shattering, which hardly surprises me, as it’s really not a great way to wax lyrical about the stuff we’re up to. And let’s face it, there’s only so many pictures of pigs and chickens eating breakfast / dinner / lunch (delete where applicable) that your average person can stomach.

Having built a few websites in the past I thought I’d have a go again; however, given that we live in such a connected world nowadays, with so many platforms through which to consume content and so many devices with which to access them, it very quickly became apparent that I was wildly out of my depth. Time then to abandon all hope of ever becoming a technical legend and call instead upon the social media professionals… ho hum.

So here it is, the opening salvo in what will hopefully prove to be a relatively rewarding experience for all concerned. Let’s start with a picture of pigs eating breakfast / dinner / lunch (delete where applicable). Plus ca change…