There’s always one.

A lot of our early thinking on the subject of rearing Tamworths was informed by historic news coverage of the once famous ‘Tamworth Two’, a duo a ginger pigs called Butch and Sundance who escaped their appointed abattoir to live as fugitives for a week or three before being recaptured and happily retired-off to a rare-breeds centre in Kent on the back of their new found celebrity.

“They’re clearly going to be escapologists… how will we keep them in their pen?” we asked ourselves when they first arrived; however, as time passed we began to realise that, far from suffering acute wanderlust, this lot were basically quite a stay-at-home gang. Just how much they loved their surroundings here in Yarner Wood was proved today when the time finally came to offer fond farewells to our latest lodgers and take them on a short drive to Ashburton…

Loading pigs, in my modest experience, is a bloody nightmarish job. Regardless of the so called ‘tried and tested’ opinions at large about making the job easier – either by having the trailer in the pen for a few days prior to removal, starving pigs the day before departure so that they’re more biddable, getting them used to walking around the pen at heel, so they feel compelled to do as instructed – all of this, to a greater or lesser degree, is hogwash. Pigs just don’t like trailers. They don’t like walking up gradients, they don’t like the booming noise their trotters make on the tailgate, they absolutely don’t trust the interior of even the most palatial trailer and they don’t trust you – no matter how well you were getting on the day before abattoir day.

And so today, after an obscenely early start to ensure that our little darlings were cleaned and gleaming when they met their maker, all three pigs were introduced to the temporary corral I had spent my Sunday afternoon lovingly crafting and gently coaxed toward the trailer, within which various piggy delicacies had previously been strewn with gay abandon – just ready for three well-balanced, contented, cheerful and hungry (no Sunday supper) porkers to take full advantage of.

Result? Complete chaos. After an overture of studious trailer avoidance coupled with furious destruction of the hitherto unsullied grass that the corral had been built upon, the tempo slowly rose (on both sides – loaders and loadees) to a crescendo of screaming, sweating pandemonium, which left all concerned feeling more than a little fragile.

And so Diane and I did what any right-minded people would do when faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem. We had a tea break.

Half an hour later, feeling a lot more ‘zen’ about things and considerably more ‘at one’ with both myself and my piggy chums, I wandered back down to the paddock, climbed inside the trailer with a trug-full of pig nuts and started to gently coo and ululate in an attempt to attract attention.

Amazingly, the effect this had on both the boar and the bigger of the two gilts (who we shall call Gilt01) was quite remarkable, with the pair of them stopping the mining operation they were busily engaged upon to slowly start ascending the ramp, as if hypnotised.

Five minutes later, we’re plus two passengers (busily tucking-into the aforementioned porky delicacies) and yours truly is suddenly feeling like the universal pig-whisperer. Even better, just at that moment the current Mrs Clayton-Smith arrived on the scene to revel in my skill and derring-do and to watch me masterfully guide the third passenger of our little charabanger to her seat.

Result? Complete and utter chaos on a bicycle. When the thick-end of roughly one hundred and thirty kilos of muscle and teeth decides it’s not having any, it is most assuredly NOT HAVING ANY. Not only would Gilt02 not even start to consider the idea of jumping aboard the magic bus, her already ensconced siblings started to decide that maybe this wasn’t such a great idea after all and, given that they’d finished the canapés and fizz, maybe it was time to head back to the comfort of the family ark.

Long story brought to a short close? I cut my losses and headed off to the abattoir with only two passengers.

The idea I had was that I could deposit the boar & Gilt01 and then make a fast dash home to try again with our lonesome traveller. Sadly though, the lairman at the abattoir had other ideas and so the upshot is that we now have a single pig in residence until next Monday, when the whole torrid nonsense begins again.

Suffice it to say that the Sunday starvation rules will be in full force, the trailer will be parked right in the middle of the pig-pen for at least a couple of days before lift-off, both myself and the mem-sahib will be doing our very best porcine equivalents of Barbara Woodhouse or Cesar Millan (take your pick, dependant upon your age/location) and I will be in the back of the charabanger again, pig-whispering like a good ‘un when Monday morning comes around.  Sheesh.

 

 

 

 

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…