Sunday, 29 April 2007

A beautiful day

The bottom photo was taken in our wood this spring, it's wonderful to be able to walk amongst the wild flowers with just the sound of birds singing and the occasional bark of a deer as it takes off in fright. Sometimes I am quiet enough to see a group of two or three deer grazing close by but usually I have the dogs with me which sends any wildlife fleeing in panic. There are Red squirrels in the wood and the mad March hares have been having fun. I wonder sometimes why we are moving when we live in such beautiful surroundings. But I know the answer and it is time to move on to pastures new.

The top photo is my two horses taken in the field in front of our house.
Not a bad life really!!

Friday, 27 April 2007

Daisy does it!

Congrats to Cally you were pretty well spot on although I think Caroline and Ms M were on the right lines, although I did give you a big clue. Yes the pretty curly pink thingamy is for introducing the sperm into the sow, and yes apparently Boars, as well as having curly tails have CURLY WILLIES!!!

The AI man introduces the tube into the sow using a clockwise[or is it anti-clockwise] movement, another little known fact for the uninitiated and possibly where the phrase `a good screw` comes from!!!!!!!!!!!,the sperm is then squirted in from a small plastic bottle on the end of the tube. It's all over in seconds. Not exactly romantic and poor Daisy hardly knew what had happened.

When I asked the AI man if he had a photo of the Boar so that Daisy would have something to remember he gave me a very strange look. He wasn't sure if I was being serious or not!!

The whole process has to be repeated the next day and normally the AI man would leave another tube of sperm for the farmer to do himself, but he said as it was our first time he would return himself. I think both Daisy and I were quite relieved.

We then had to wait 3months 3 weeks and 3 days, or thereabouts, for the arrival of the piglets, assuming that all had gone well with the little PINK THINGAMY! We could expect a litter of anything between 2 and 20 , but 6 to 10 would be more likely for a first litter.

In the intervening weeks Daisy and I read the book from cover to cover and did all the breathing exercises and watched her diet. The OH put a farrowing bar in the sty where she was due to give birth[to stop her inadvertently squashing any little piglets] and all seemed set for the great day.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

What is this object?

Answers on a postcard to Sheepish or better still please leave a comment, but I reserve the right to censor!!!!!

As a clue refer to previous post!!!!

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Riding Miss Daisy

Finally back to the pig tale! Daisy spent the Winter in a paddock at the back of our farmhouse. We made her a shelter from breeze blocks and a corrugated tin roof and filled it with straw and she seemed very happy. She had a voracious appetite and we were glad of stale bread and windfall apples that our friends continued to supply, Daisy of course had top quality feed!!! She spent her days rooting around in the undergrowth and the nights tucked up in her little house.

The only time we were concerned for her was when the temperature dropped to - 12 centigrade, however she had plenty of fat to keep her warm and the only inconvenience for her was walking on the frozen ground, imagine a large pig on stilettos and you get the picture.

Spring arrived and it was time to think about a nice young boar for her. We went to see the Pig farmer and he told us that Daisy would have to make do with AI[artificial insemination] no nice boar for her. She was disappointed of course but there was no choice. The farmer also told us how to judge when Daisy was ready for the AI man to call.

Now a sow will only accept a boar [or AI man] for approximately 2 1/2 days so its vital to call him in as soon as the sow is ready. This was when we began to suspect that the farmer was having a joke at our expense!!!!!

Apparently you know when the sow is ready when SHE LETS YOU RIDE HER. OMG. Did he really think we'd fall for that one. After we had fallen about laughing the farmer assured us that he was not joking.

Now you all know who gets the really plum jobs on this farm!!!!!!!! Yup the OH was going to do the pig riding. He had to go out each day and attempt to RIDE DAISY. This was another instance when we were so pleased not to have any neighbours, as we were not entirely convinced it wasn't a "blague" and that Candid Camera were hiding somewhere closeby.

I thought it could be grounds for divorce. But one morning he came in with a smug grin "come and see this, it's amazing!" The farmer had been telling the truth Daisy was more than happy to be ridden. We then knew that we could call in the AI man 21 days later when Daisy would be ready again. And that's another story!!!!!

Monday, 23 April 2007

Back to normal!!! Well almost.

I was all set to get back to normal posts last week after the disappointment of the sale falling through when we lost the internet for two whole days!!!!!

It's not until you haven't got something that you realise just how much you rely on it. And trying to get through on the phone for help can be a nightmare and add to that the problem of me looking at a screen in English while the procedures to be carried out are in French and even worse the fact that I am virtually computer illiterate and it wasn't much FUN.

I love computers while they work but absolutely hate them when they don't.

It all means that I haven't made any progress with my WIP or done any 'proper' blogs, but I am determined that I shall get back on track this week.

I refuse to let the set back with our proposed move interfere anymore.

LIMBO is good, long live LIMBO. I will be creative in limbo. Is it a place? No it's a state of mind and I am in charge of it!!!!!

Now I'm off to check out some of the other Novel Racers to see how they are doing.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Farm sale collapses

I feel really depressed because the sale of our farm has fallen through. The prospective purchasors couldn't come up with the money. It wouldn't be quite so bad if it hadn't taken 6 weeks to get to this point. Now we have to start all over again.

I find it really hard to keep the house gleaming and then there is the garden, everything is growing like mad at the moment and gardening essentially for other people is not one of my favourite pastimes.

Once you have made up your mind to move on then all you want is to get on with it. It's hard to concentrate when all you can think about is the next viewing.

Anyway enough moaning. Back to normal posts tomorrow or Friday. Easter Bunnies and lambs.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

The Three Big Pigs

First a word about the house sale. SCREAM no news!!!!! We still don't know whether the sale will go ahead, but we will definitely know by the weekend. This is proving very unsettling and is affecting my ability to concentrate on anything, and thats bad enough at the best of times! So fingers crossed for good news soon.

Back to the Three Little Pigs.

By October we had three BIG pigs and as I said last time all good things must come to an end. We had found a retired butcher who had already slaughtered some lambs for us and he would come to the farm to slaughter and butcher two of the pigs .

Caroline, vegetarians and people of a sensitive nature should read no further!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As I mentionned before I like to read up on a subject first and killing a pig was no different. I was however rather worried by the description in the book. I know that pigs in slaughter houses, after being killed by a captive bolt, are dipped briefly into boiling water to get rid of the bristles. The book gave the slaughter method as follows: place the pig on the slaughter table and slit its throat, catch the much prized blood[for black pudding] in a bucket, then using a block and tackle lower the pig into a large oil drum full of nearly boiling water to remove the bristles, having heated the water by means of a large wood fire round the drum to a fairly specific temperature!!!!

I could see immediate problems with everything except the block and tackle[we had a front end loader on the tractor which would lift the pig carcass with ease] everything else looked like the stuff of nightmares!!!!! I have already said that a pig will squeal if you just look at it so the thought of trying to manhandle a large screaming pig onto a table seemed an impossibility. And how could we find a large enough oil drum let alone get it filled with nearly boiling water? The Butcher had not asked for anything special for the day he was due to come so I had to hope that he would bring whatever was neccessary, but I spent many sleepless nights worrying about the whole terrifying scenario as described in the book and the thought of a nasty end for our two pigs.

The day finally arrived, we had bought one of the pigs in to a pigsty overnight and we awaited the Butcher. I felt awful, my imagination was running away with me and it seemed impossible that the pig could be dealt with humanely, my main concern was that the pig should not suffer because of our ineptitude.

Not for the first[or last] time I had worried for nothing. The most traumatic moment of the whole event was the OH trying to slip a rope round the back leg of the pig. Not because the pig objected particularly but because the OH is left handed or should that be cack handed and made a real meal of this simple task. After that the pig followed me out of the sty and as she was eating an apple the Butcher dispatched her instantly with a captive bolt. She didn't feel a thing and hadn't squealed at all. Removing the bristles was equally simple, he used a large gas powered blow torch!!!!

All my panicking had been completely unneccessary. The Butcher returned next day to turn the carcass into chops, joints, sausage meat and all manner of delicious goodies. The second pig was slaughtered a few weeks later leaving us with Daisy to breed from the following year.

Our friends were very happy to help us eat the large amount of meat that comes from a pig and were astounded by the flavour of naturally reared and humanely slaughtered meat. It has to be tasted to be appreciated and is far superior to mass reared meat.

I could accept the slaughter of our animals at the farm because I knew that they had a good quality of life and that the end was swift, painless and stress free. It was more difficult to send animals away to the Abbatoir but with the lambs it was unavoidable. When it came to sending a pig then that proved distressing, but more of that later.

For the time being we had a freezer full of delicious meat and a sow who would provide us with piglets. Now where is that book, what do we do next?

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

These little Piggies went wee wee wee!!!!!!!

In 1996 we decided to branch out from the sheep and get a Pig. Usually the choice of animals is down to me but this time it was the OH who fancied ,no wanted, a pig. I talked to the ladies at Travail Manuel and they told me there was a pig breeder in the village. I went to the farm and it was a very strange experience.

The farmer and his wife were quite young but lived in dreadful conditions, they were renovating an old farmhouse but that wasn't the problem. They allowed all sorts of farm animals to wander in and out of their kitchen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And their children were not renowned for cleanliness. As you can probably imagine it wasn't very hygienic and I declined a coffee.

However the pigs were free range and in good condition so I had no hesitation in ordering three little piggies. You may wonder why I said three piglets as we only really wanted one to keep for breeding and one to fatten to eat. I can point the finger of blame at the ladies. They were adament that if we had the piglets at two months[which was the age the farmer said we could have them] then we would probably lose one. So we ordered three little girlie piggies.

We went to collect them on 17th April and the first thing we learnt about pigs is the amount of noise they make. You only have to look at a pig to make it SQUEAL and SQUEAL and SQUEAL!!!!

By the time they were safely in their pigpen we were reeling from the assault on our eardrums. We had decided to keep them shut in for a few weeks while they got used to us and to keep a close eye on them for any signs of illness.

We had of course bought a book on pig rearing and were busy reading the relevant chapters on feeding etc. and diseases of pigs of which there seemed to be a large number. In the weeks that followed the piglets grew at a rate of knots eating vast quantities of food with no signs of ill health. It quickly became obvious that the ladies had been overly pessimistic and we had three very healthy piggies who were eating us out of house and home!!!!

We passed the word round to friends and neighbours that pork would be on the menu in 5/6 months and all scraps would be gratefully received to help fatten three rapidly growing piglets.
The photo shows the piglets at about three months when we had started letting them out into a courtyard during the day. The next things we learnt about pigs is how intelligent they are and how quickly they learn, and that they are also very clean and do not smell if allowed enough living space.
The spotty pig was named Daisy and we intended to keep her for breeding, the pink pig was Rosy and the black pig was Maisy. All three pigs spent the summer of 1996 in a large field enjoying their freedom and EATING, EATING, EATING to their hearts content. As the weather warmed up they enjoyed mud baths courtesy of the OH who would get the hosepipe out to fill up their wallowing place. They had a shelter built out of straw bales and corrugated iron, and luckily for them WOLVES are thin on the ground here so the shelter stayed up!!
This lovely lifestyle continued uninterrupted until the Autumn when all good things came to an end, well atleast for Rosy and Maisy. Find out more next post.

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Nothing to report!

We are still waiting to hear if the prospective buyers have got their loan. We hope to know by Tuesday until then there is not much we can do. It's very frustrating, life seems to be on hold.

I am finding it hard to concentrate on anything. And it's wet and miserable and cold, where is Spring, I need some warm sunshine.

Hoping for better news for next Sunday.