Pigs and Gladys...
Emma Heseltine - 22 July 2012
I’m taking a big step this week; I’m getting some creatures of my own. The one product we don’t have at Hadrian Organics is pork and I’ve had my eye on pigs for a while. This week the plan goes into action. I’ve found a suitable area for them, I’ve done the sums and consulted our Soil Association inspector. I have requisitioned some electric fencing, posts and an energiser (thanks Susan and John respectively) and bought a battery from the scrap yard. I’ve set up the fence and tested it; shocking indeed. I’ve made an arc from a ring feeder and some tarp. I’ve travelled far and wide to get the best organic grub for my little oinkers including bran from the watermill at Little Salkeld. I’ve trawled the internet for a supply of weaners within 40 miles of the Croft and finally this Tuesday I’m heading off to Dunterley Farm near Kielder to pick up my pigs.
We arrive and are shown a wonderful array of cheeky pigs of a variety of sizes, shapes and colours. I decide to go for a mixed bag; this is something of an experiment we will see which grow best, which is the most friendly and which taste the best. I’ve got a Berkshire, a Berkshire cross Saddleback and a Tamworth cross Old Spot. They get loaded into the Lambulance and we head home. I transfer them to the quad trailer to transport them to their new home, I don’t expect they would enjoy being carried there, they tend to squeal. So I pop the Berkshire into her new home, hoping for the best, she immediately runs for the fence, gets a shock and goes straight through it. Not a very good start, we spend the next hour trying to get her out of the hedge. My introduction to owning your own livestock is a typical one I think. Time for plan B.
We eventually get her back in and fence off the open end of the hedge and run some fence along the other side of the designated pig area. I then run another strand of electric tape around the area and we try again, confident that if they go through the electric fence the stock net will stop them. We try a different one first this time and she has a root about while I sit quietly watching. Eventually her exploring brings her to the electric fence, and a touch with the nose, a squeak and she is heading back into the centre of the pen. She tries a couple of other sides before deciding that electric fence=bad, staying in the pen=good. Pigs are quick learners. The other two follow suit and are equally quick learners. It seems the trick is to let them discover the fence whilst rooting about, in calm conditions and they soon learn. I suspect I have a lot to learn…
The pigs are quickly getting into a routine and have definitely learnt that me plus bucket is good news. They spend the first day hiding in their hut but soon venture out when I come with a bucket of food. I decide to give them names, some say you shouldn’t name creatures you intend to eat but I can’t just call them all pig. So it’s Albie, Arla and Amble the pigs, creating chaos in the shelter belt.
This week there is a great loss. The horse Gladys has died. Susan has had her for a very long time and I’m led to believe she is older than me. We had worried about her over the winter but she pulled around and seemed to be doing well. Then we find her in the field dead. It’s a sad day but its better she went in the field than have to be put down because she was too ill. Chester the pony is heartbroken and makes a racket all afternoon when we take Gladys away, he’s lost his best friend and I feel pretty sorry for him today. Rest in peace Gladys, you were a gentle old thing and made me think horses were not all bad news.
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.