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Big pigs and seminars...

Emma Heseltine - 07 October 2012

We are creosoting all the gates at Wallacefield. There are quite a few wooden ones and it’s a nice messy job. Trouble is one of our tup’s, James likes to use the gate as a scratching post. Having carefully watched us paint it he then ambles over for a lead/scratch. We only notice later when we go past and there is a suspiciously striped Suffolk in the field. Silly boy.

The pigs are getting bigger and today is veg day. I’ve upped their food and I’m taking them a fabulous selection of odd shaped carrots, a melon, ends of greens, a tiny reject aubergine and squishy pears. They have a great time with the melon, maybe I should have chopped it up but I’m sure its more fun this way. They definitely have their favourites; carrots always go down well, nice and crunchy. Pears are fought over so I have to make sure they get one each. Cabbage is popular as is anything big and roll able, game and food all in one. Celery is a big no-no, as is fennel. I completely understand. I’ve cured the pigs irritating and painful habit of trying to bite the top of my wellies with a few nose taps and yells. Today I’ve made a mistake though, there is a bit of string hanging from my pocket and being a curious pig Albie goes to chew it to find out what it is. Unfortunately she misses and takes a chunk out of my leg. Pig teeth are sharp and pig bites hurt. She got a slap on the nose for that and I think I turned the air blue.

I’m off to my first seminar this weekend, we are covering pigs, poultry and then having a day at the college doing some tractoring, I head down to Abbey Home Farm near Cirencester and meet the new apprentices. I’m now a second year, scary thought. I have to be ‘pig-free’ for 48 hours before my first seminar and I don’t want to miss out as it’s at Eastbrook farm, home of Helen Browning. We have a great day looking at all the pigs and discussing the best systems, I get lots of good tips which I need! At lunch we are treated to a meal at the Royal Oak in Bishopstone which is somewhat attached to the farm. We have a slap up Sunday dinner, some excellent pork of course. In the afternoon Helen joins us and gives us the low-down on running a successful pig business, sharing some of the highs and lows and answering all our questions with great patience!

Our second day is dedicated to Poultry in all its many shapes. Our tutor is Pammy Riggs a poultry expert of great renown. We have a good look around Abbey Home Farm’s meat birds from chick to processing room and have a chat with the layers who are a inquisitive and lively bunch, as you would expect from organic free ranging birds. I think my favourite idea I take away is that the chick worth a few pence doesn’t know any more than the million pound race-horse its monetary worth. So let’s treat them equally well.

Day three is tractor skills and we head to Pershore college to give their Massey’s what for. As there is only the three of us we get to do quite a lot, basic driving, reversing with a trailer (something I need to practice!) loading up with a bucket, three point linkage and PTO (power take off) and finally get a go with a power harrow. We all come away without having damaged anything seriously, although I do manage to clatter the trailer with the bucket. Its not like the grabby toy machines you get at the seaside, not that im any good at them either. Ive got a long drive home and my exhaust pipe has decided to part company with my car so it’s a noisy one.

Emma completed a degree in Creative Imaging at Huddersfield University before working for a photography studio as an editor. Taking a break from the office world she worked in outdoor education for several years, climbing, abseiling, shooting, trampolining and even life-guarding with children of all ages. When Emma found out about the apprenticeship scheme with the Soil Association it seemed the perfect chance to do something worthwhile and fulfilling. After much searching and badgering farms in the North of England she found a position with Hadrian Organics and started in July 2011. So far it is living up to her expectations, every day is a new challenge and every day is different.

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