Pig ark constructed – eight hours not the two it says on the instructions – paddock fenced, feed stored in bins, trough procured (thanks Dave) just lacking weaners. On a mid May morning, Anna set off for east Devon to pick up a pair of rare breed British lops. On her return, two sleeping bundles lay inert in the back of the Landrover, gloriously unaware of their new surroundings. Still in the transport crate we moved them to the ark and opened the door so they could explore their home when they woke. A sleeping piglet is just about the sweetest thing in the world, closely followed by a piglet at play. So our weaners’ ultimate purpose was something not to dwell on. We tried to follow the advice we had received from various people – don’t name them, don’t look into their eyes, don’t pet them and so on. We failed on all counts – Hams (she had a serious pair of buttocks) and Lumpy (she had an umbilical hernia) were just too engaging. Two truths about pigs: they are clever and they are clean. Furthermore, they love having their bellies tickled and they do get boisterous if their food isn’t on time!
As to the many warnings that they would be constantly escaping, this was never the case. Whether we were lucky or (as we like to think) the pigs had plenty of space, interesting rooting ground and liked us, we don’t know. Our only moment of panic came one evening when Hams became listless and went off her food before collapsing in a major stage swoon sort of way. While I went to call the vet, Anna hand fed her and forced some water down her. By the time I returned, Hams seemed a little better so I went back and called the vet again and told her not to come out. Within an hour she seemed stronger and less agitated and as we gradually got more water in her, she continued to recover. The next morning she was back to being bossy big sister and very much on her food and we had learnt just how quickly pigs can dehydrate if they knock their water butt over.
‘You won’t be able to take them’ was a common observation by friends and, having ignored all advice about getting close to them, the day of dispatch arrived (six weeks too late due to poor research). Again, Hams and Lumpy were most obliging to load into the trailer (thanks to Nigel and Annie for the loan of said trailer) and off they went. Luckily for me, I had breakfasts to cook so Anna had the dubious privilege of driving them to the abattoir. It’s not something to dwell on but suffice to say there were a few tears and a bit of a hole in our day to day lives but also great satisfaction in knowing our girls had as good a life as any pig bred for the table could have. They’re in the freezer and have produced the tastiest pork (if a little too much fat due to their extra six weeks) that you could imagine. Would we do it again? Without doubt. Pigs are fabulous animals and deserve to be treated with the respect we feel we gave ours.
As for refurbishment news, by the time the girls went off, the guest side had been gutted and a blank canvas (albeit a dusty one) lay before us. Far more stressful than the pigs!