And then there were none.

Mirabile Dictu! We’re pig-free!

They say that every day’s a school day and that has certainly been true of the Batch 1 experience.

Whilst in large part our Tamworths were supremely easy to look after, one thing which they all had in spades was intelligence. All pigs are bright but these guys were in a league of their own – an attribute which, in turn, made them both a joy and a nightmare to be around.

With reference to the latter, Number 3 proved to be a master escapologist with a strong sense of what was and was not an acceptable pastime for a young pig about town – and the trailer (or ‘charabanger’ as we’ve come to know it) was absolutely not on the approved list.

On the scheduled D-Day, whilst her larger brother and sister quite merrily climbed aboard the bus for the abattoir, Number 3 decided that this wasn’t the smart move and – much to our chagrin and the general disgruntlement of her siblings – kicked-up an unholy stink which concluded with a mass-reversal down the ramp followed by a sprint for the safety of the ark.

Fast forward a week and, after a solitary sojourn with extra bed-space and prime pickings from the Mexican hat feeder, Number 3’s behaviour was even worse than before. Given that by now she was weighing-in at over 130 kilos (every last gram hell-bent on not going into the trailer) the second attempt at despatching ended in an unscheduled and highly unwelcome workout for yours truly, plus another week of splendid isolation for our unruly gilt.

As well as being super-smart it would appear that most pigs are also nothing if not capricious. This being the case, and having hassled our chum and local farmer friend Steve Palmer to turn-out on a rainy Monday morning to help with the titanic struggle which clearly was going to be loading attempt number three, our errant porker decided that instead she would nonchalantly saunter up the ramp to grab a final breakfast of pig nuts & chopped apple, all with next to no assistance required.

The bloody creature clearly revelled in making us look like prize chumps!

Nevertheless, chumps or not, I have used the past tense here and so I can confirm that, after a short trundle down the A38 followed by the most casual and stress-free of trailer decants, Number 3 finally shuffled off this mortal coil at around 9am this morning. Next stop, a spot of the Butcher’s art at the redoubtable Cox & Laflin and the last of our sturdy troop will then reappear in a few days’ time as chops, bangers, steaks, and sundry other cuts. A magic trick of which I wholeheartedly approve.

It’s gratifying that the feedback we’ve received thus far has been universally positive, with friends and neighbours who invested in a box of our organically fed, hand-reared Dartmoor pork telling us that it’s some of the best meat they’ve ever tasted. Certainly, from the extensive product testing that’s been going on around here [agreed: it’s a hard life] I can confirm that it really is delicious stuff, with a sweetness to the meat which we’ve not tasted in the previous flavours of pig that we’ve kept in the past.

Undoubtedly, we’ve had our trials and tribulations with the Tamworth but nevertheless the end product (whilst a little fatter than we initially had in mind) is proving to be entirely excellent in every way, and so it’s a breed which will definitely be on the agenda again when we’re ready to re-stock.

For now though, it’s time to scrub down the ark, dismantle the electric fence and clear away the small mountain of bedding straw which has accumulated at the bottom of the paddock. Time also to get serious about a proper business plan for future batches and to start making the necessary moves to acquire the parcel of woodland next door, which we’re keen to expand our production into. Exciting times.

So, expect no further pig news for a while. But fear not! There are other equally fascinating things going on here (he says, with tongue firmly fixed in cheek) so do stay tuned. If you’re keen to try some our rather splendid porky produce, then please feel free to drop us a line at hello@greedypigspantry.co.uk and we’ll add you to our ever-growing meatbox waiting list.

Next project for completion… THE POLYTUNNEL. Ooh, the drama!

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.

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…