Thursday, 30 July 2009

Piglet update

Pigs love weeds. All gardeners should have one.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Moving the pigs

The piglets are ten days old, and it's time to ear notch and turn the new pig family out into the big wide world. Well, into a large paddock with a spacious warm ark made tufty with straw.
Mum is encouraged into the stock box with a scoop of food, the door is shut and the piglets are gently contained in the barn. Each one is picked up and examined. Right number of evenly spaced teats (14)? Good shaped and sturdy body? Well marked for the breed? Properly formed mouth? All pass muster and there are a couple of exceptional ones. As each has their unique number notched into their ear I take them in my arms and cradle them. They sit in my embrace, snug, content, not struggling or squealing. I feel the most overwhelming sense of pride and pleasure. They have hot, strong little bodies and have quadrupled in size since birth. They are calm and happy. The sow is grunting softly, and one by one I put each piglet into the box with her, a separating hurdle between them so she doesn't trample on them as they are transported. In the paddock we pick up each piglet and put it into the back of the ark, deep in straw. The box is opened and Aunt Agatha sways out, looks about and then goes into the ark too. Text book.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

One hairy bat

A momentary respite from piglets. Can you believe the hairiness of this bat??
There it was, clinging to the bedroom curtain, upsidedown of course, one eye open, giving me the look. My, but you're hairy I said. I have no idea what it was thinking, but "you're one to talk" might have been in its mind.
There's enough of the fluffy matter there to create a decent portion of chest wig. I am now on the hunt for a small gold medallion to hang around its neck. Just to complete the outfit.

Friday, 17 July 2009

And finally....

...Nine piglets, popped out like corks from a bottle of fizz.
On the 118th day, at 6pm she started to nest. I was expecting 115 days, but no, the Berkshire likes to take longer than other pigs, (something I'd never read about before). By 9.30pm there were contractions. By 11.30pm there were two piglets, by 12.30pm there were seven, and sometime between then and 4am whilst I wasn't looking, two more had appeared. So here they are, no more than nine hours old.
Mother and small ones are sleeping for England between bouts of frenzied feeding. Haven't had a chance to sex them yet.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Aunt Agatha

In just a few days Aunt Agatha is due to farrow. After some military planning she was brought into the barn, and settled quickly to the deep straw, regular supplies of pea pods and frequent rubs. She shivers ecstatically under energetic fingers. When she lies down I can see the piglets move in her wonderfully large belly, and her rear teats are huge, the ones towards the front slowly filling with milk.
This evening I hung the heat lamp over the creep area and she came to investigate. She can't reach it, but she has sniffed and taken its scent into her memory bank. I turned it on to see how she would react, but after some minor curiosity she simply scratched her sides and arse against the creep bars and lay down once more. I've turned off the lamp, but I'm hoping that when the piglets come, she won't now be unnerved by the glowing red beacon.
The piglets probably don't need the heat lamp at this time of year but I want to make sure that they are attracted to the creep area and can retreat if they feel their mother flopping to the ground; inadvertent killing of small young piglets by huge ponderous mothers is not so much frequent as an expected part of every birth - no doubt that's why they can have so many in a litter.
I am all eager anticipation and nervousness, but for now we two commune, sharing oinks and snorts like a pair of biddies at bingo.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Cheerful creatures - for now

Another first. I've been and gone and bought some young turkey poults. Funny critters. They chirp and chirrup continuously, companionably, cheerily. Unlike most other birds they don't seem to show any signs of nervousness. Perhaps they are planning to eat me at Christmas?
Putting them to bed is a two person job. They happily come and greet you, but show no interest or understanding that they need to go into the cosy straw-filled hut as it gets dark. Ducks, geese, hens all learn after a few usherings that this is the routine, but the turkey's natural boldness means they don't move away from you towards shelter, they come to meet you instead.
When I was shown round the lovely farm where these Norfolk Blacks came from I was in absolute awe of the size of the stags, and chortled at the leather saddles worn by the hens. But stags can enjoy a bit of the rough stuff, and the leather is to protect the females from over amorous attention.
I've put the turkeys in the garden on fresh ground and I can hear them chortle through the window. The gobbling noise made by the adult stags is hilarious, so let's hope mine get a chance to do that before the roast tatties shout for a meaty accompaniment.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Bat splat

Remember this? I'm truly grateful the llama didn't make his mound on the windowsill. But the bats don't show the same reticence.
The front of the house and two of the windows are crusted and splatted with flying rodent (are bats rodents?) guano.
The photo shows the upstairs window sill, above which is the bat cave entrance. I hear hundreds of them squeaking and scuttling about in the loft, they then stick their arses out the hole, do a quick poo and then fly off into fly-munching land. Charming habits.
Most nights two or three whirl above my head in the bedroom, and each time you find a picture askew you can bet a bat is snoring behind it. I wonder if the bat splat is any good on the compost heap?

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Casserole mole

First it was polytunnel-toad, now it's casserole-mole. Where will it end? Bedroom-badger? Pantry-pig? Barn-owl?
"The cat brought in a mole" is muttered into my ear as I stuff my head more firmly under the pillow (not my turn to do the animals). Half an hour later I open the scullery door and a deep brown mole is scuttling about in the shadows. I shut the scullery door. I sit and think and eat my breakfast. I open the scullery door, grab a casserole and decide to carry said mole out in that. I have bare feet and vulnerable fingers. I shut the scullery door and go and get gloves and shoes. I open the scullery door and watch the mole choose between tins of baked beans and plum tomatoes before it decides to hide behind the shelving. It makes a hell of a noise rattling everything it bangs into. I shut the scullery door and finish the piece I was reading in the paper. Even louder rustling noises start. I open the scullery door (hopefully for the last time this morning) and watch Mr Mole wander across my path. Gotcha! I pick him up (gloves on), put him in the casserole and slam shut the lid. I carry the lot outside and put it in the shade while I decide what to do with him. The lid bounces off. I slam it back shut and stick a heavy weight on top. There is now a cursing and swearing mole inside my casserole.
What to do with him? We've trapped at least five moles in the veg patch this season and I don't want him anywhere near my swiftly growing foodstuffs. I could stew him without having to take him out of the pot. But because it's haymaking day and there is more than enough stress going round what with one tractor having to have new tyres RIGHT NOW, and the other waiting for me to pick up its box-fresh starter motor all before baling and carting can proceed, killing of the innocents is less than usually tempting. Casserole-mole is given a reprieve and is dumped in a field some way from the house and garden. No doubt he'll be back, and the traps are waiting.