Monday, 31 January 2011

Merged Blog - Catch Up

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From this week my two current Blogs are merged - The Vegetarian Farmer and Our New Life in the Country - together.
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So there will be a mix of foody talk and farm news all in one place. I hope you enjoy this mix, and as the growing season gets under way it should all make more and more sense as the foods grown on the farm will be turned into thrifty and (hopefully) tasty foods to nourish us and our animals, and help us continue our 'Year of Living Simply'.
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The Challenge* went SO well last week with only milk being purchased, but this week I seem to have gone 'wild in the aisles' in comparison. I spent a total of £53.13 with only £16.87 being carried over in Spotty Jug.
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My only excuse is that as we were travelling I didn't want to line the pockets of the motorway service giants too much, so I purchased us some snacky items, and as my lovely Mum in law had no idea what Quorn was I bought some fillets for us all to have for our tea....she loved it by the way!!
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~ I also managed to nab myself a bargain at the charity shop, this book for only £4. I had been on the verge of buying it for a lot more from Amazon so I was really pleased and to celebrate went slightly wild again in the Health food shop buying Tahini and Yeast Flakes, something I had just read about in another Cranks book. No more excuses... this week I must do better, if we are to downsize the contents of the kitchen cupboards ready for our big move we have to eat the food that's already there not buy more!! ~ A good discovery from last week are the pies in the picture at the top. We call them Leftover Pies, and they are SO yummy. Simply a mix of all the left over bits and pieces from the fridge, inside these particular ones is a mix of spring onions, sweet red chilli pepper, potato, carrot and peas, all mixed with half a tin of baked beans and popped into some flaky pastry. You could do them as pies as I did here or simply fold the pastry over and make a pastie. We ate one each fresh from the oven, one each the following night simply reheated for twenty minutes in the Aga, and we have popped two into the freezer for when we may be in need of a speedy supper. A brilliant way of using up all sorts of bits and pieces (and very economical too). ~ Today we went to look at the first farm property we've been offered and we had a very interesting day. Lots of potential and lots to think about. We have two more viewings of other properties before we can begin to make up our minds, and some other lovely folk to contact who have been in touch. ~ Very exciting times at the moment here on the farm at the moment and if you're wondering what was in the Giveaway parcel for helping me decide what to do with my Blogs you can skip on over to Gems' Blog where she has done a lovely post about it.
~ ~ * The Challenge, for those of you who have never read The Vegetarian Farmer (now merged with this Blog), is for me to have a budget of £70 per week to buy foodstuffs, but to see how little of it I can spend each week by living off the contents of our store cupboards and freezers. Any money left over each week is going into 'Spotty Jug' to be saved for a treat at the end of the Challenge. ~ Wherever possible I will buy only fresh, seasonal produce and things that are needed to turn ingredients we already have into meals. I am also trying to support local small businesses and Farmers Markets and use supermarkets only as a last resort. The Challenge will be over when there are no more meals to be had from our stores. Hopefully by then our own veggies will be well on the way to supplying most of our culinary needs and we will re-think our budget for buying only basic storecupboard items. ~
Sue xx

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Home from Home......

This isn't a photo of home.....but it could be!!
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We're off to Scotland to visit my lovely Mum in Law this weekend, and then when we get back on Sunday we will be sorting ourselves out ready for Monday, when we are visiting an area of the country not a million miles from here that just could turn out to be our new home.
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The farm is being left in VERY capable hands for which we are extremely grateful.
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Hope you like the look of the 'tweaked' Blog. More changes could be in the making, blog-wise and life-wise....it's all very exciting.
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Hope your weekend is nice and relaxing.
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Sue xx

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

And The Winner is...

Mauds piglets - three weeks old tomorrow.
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Well thank you, really thank you SO much. Your help is really appreciated. Nearly all the comments were in favour of merging the two Blogs together. So as well as possible simplifying my life somewhat (very apt considering our aims for this year) it should speed up posting each day. And will also make for more varied posts.
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I have taken on board what some of you have said about not wanting to miss out on the foody side of things, but I think that will be appearing all the more as I get back into the full swing of the growing season, my Storecupboard Challenge will continue as long as the stores last, and of course you'll still get all the farming talk and lovely animal pictures.
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And as a thank you to you all taking the time to leave comments there was the Giveaway. So in time honoured tradition, I folded up slips of paper and did it the old fashioned way and the winner was......... Gem,
she has a blog of her own Dreams of a Life in the Country with almost the same name as mine - what a coincidence. It would seem I have what you are dreaming about (do you really want this much mud?), so if you can get in touch with me via email (address on the sidebar) I can send you your little thank you parcel.
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The only one that looked up when the flash went off!!

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A big thank you to everyone who took the time to leave a comment it made for very interesting reading, and it helped me enormously with making the final decision.

Sue xx

Monday, 24 January 2011

Question and Giveaway

Large Blacks - Our New Life in the Country
A question for all my Lovely readers.......should I merge my two Blogs. Would it make life easier to read everything in one place or do most of you like it as it is.
~Herbs - The Vegetarian Farmer ~
Separate farming and foodie talk or merge the two together, I'm asking now because as the growing season is almost upon us the two are going to overlap lots, especially as this year I'm growing most of what we eat!!
~The Onion Harvest - Our New Life in the Country
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So would you find it more enjoyable to be reading about everything all in one place or do you like to dip between the two? Have you been reading one and not the other or do you read both?
~ The Challenge - The Vegetarian Farmer
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Help....your input would be greatly appreciated, so I have decided to do a vote and whatever you decide will be the way forward.
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Iris and Fern - Our New Life in the Country
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To make it a little bit more interesting and to thank you for taking the time to leave a comment (and for reading the Blogs) I will turn it into a giveaway. A little box of goodies from the farm will go to the name drawn out of the hat at the end of the week, (I promise no livestock will be travelling through the post!!).
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The Homemade Store cupboard - The Vegetarian Farmer

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The Blog future is in your hands - no pressure then!!

Thank you

Sue xx

Sunday, 23 January 2011

A Nice New Home for Monty

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We are so pleased tonight, we have delivered Monty to his new home and it's wonderful. He has two new wives, Welsh Saddlebacks that are similar in size and colouring to him, but have longer faces and black rear ends.
~ When he first arrived with us at six months of age. ~
He settled in well and exerted his authority in the nicest way possible by just standing his ground when they tried to bully him. So we sleep easy tonight knowing he is warm and cosy living in a barn with his girls.
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Sue xx

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Settling in......

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Well the Kunes are settling in to their new home at last after a very adventurous couple of hours. They followed me like a dream, well I'm their Mummy and I feed them from the lovely orange bucket, so they will follow me anywhere if I'm carrying a big orange bucket.
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They got to their new little field and were rewarded with the food from the bucket being placed in their brand new trough.....no problem. We quickly finished off the electric fence around them and stood back to congratulate ourselves on a job well done. Then Lovely Hubby went to shut the door of the container (huge big storage container...not plastic tub!!) the huge metal clang scared Tayla and she was off like a shot. Straight through the electric fence and back to the safety of the house.
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Well we followed and tried to coax her back, but she was having none of it and refused point blank to go in the right direction. LH tried to get behind her to pick her up, but she was wise to that, the minute he was out of her line of vision she was off again. In the end we gave up, darkness was falling and we were tired, so we opened the door to their old enclosure and she shot in.
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When I went out later to shut up the henhouses for the night she was crying and making lots of noise, so I gave her some extra straw to make up for missing the warmth of her sisters to cuddle into and she spent a lonely night by herself. ~ This morning I went over to feed them and one look at me coming over with the food and they came running to greet me .....straight through the electric fence!! Because they were hungry I managed to entice them (with the aid of my big orange bucket) into the gated corridor which leads into the woodstore (their bedroom) and left them there eating breakfast, LH had the brainwave of fetching Tayla to join her sisters in there while we fixed the fence. This worked like a charm and she followed me back to the barn and straight into the little room to be re-acquainted with her sisters. ~ After our breakfast we came back out and reinforced the electric fencing with two strands of wire and strong fence posts in each corner to keep everything nice and taut. We let them back in through the door into their bedroom and now they have the run of the area and a nice corridor and bedroom to keep warm and dry in. ~ Fingers crossed they are still in there now.....we'll see what happens at feeding time this afternoon. ~

Monty and Martha were relocated without incident, although Monty did decide that two laps of the house were preferable to one. So now they are warm and secure in the biggest room of the barn awaiting a potential purchaser tomorrow. They are already looking cleaner after being out of the mud for 24 hours.

An eventful day yesterday and with our first advert appearing in the Farmers Weekly this week it's been an exciting couple of days, with lots of folk phoning with interesting offers of land and housing for us and our pigs.

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Sue xx

Friday, 21 January 2011

Moving day for the Kune Kunes

This picture was taken before they got muddy, they've been black all week this week after digging in the mud.
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Today we are (hopefully) moving the Kune Kunes to the comfort of the wood store in the barn. Their little patch of England has turned into a mud bath and I am not able to be in with them as much as I would like to because of this. ~
So if it all goes well tonight they should be sleeping indoors and have a new better draining play area outside......first comes the difficult bit...... have you ever tried walking three little pigs past lots of grass when they haven't had any to eat for ages!!
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Brrr....it's still cold here!
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Sue xx

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Ready for action...

Well the polytunnel's ready for action....and so am I.
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Now all I need now is slightly warmer temperatures and longer days.
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The good news is that the days are lengthening noticably, well to someone who hears the cockerels crowing earlier and earlier each day and puts the chickens to bed before starting on the evening meal each night it's noticable. It might only be by a couple of minutes each day but it's so nice at last to think that Spring is on the way. ~
The Pekins are nice and cosy in their Eglu in the polytunnel, it's been good to have some company in there while I've been tidying and weeding, although they might not be such fans of my out of tune singing along to the radio. Poor birds!! ~
~ Cabbages over from last year, I'm letting them grow on to see if I get anything worth eating from them, if we don't it doesn't matter, they've been a good source of food for the little creatures that inhabit the polytunnel when I'm not there. Share and share alike is my motto, and anything that fills and warms a little tummy in this frosty weather is a good thing....who ever that little tummy belongs to. ~
This tray of chives surprised me, I was just about to throw away what I thought was a tray of dead plants when lo and behold it had sprung back to life. Just what we need, proof that the growing season is almost upon us.
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I'm having a quiet day to day. The orchard where the pigs are living is a death trap with a thick layer of ice that cracks just as you put your full weight on it and sends you down into thick sticky mud that refuses to reliquish it's grip on your wellies until the last possible moment, so getting water and food to them this morning has completely wiped me out. So it's going to be a day of catching up with Blogs and spot of housework before I tackle the mud again this afternoon, hopefully by then most of the ice will have melted in the weak January sunshine that we have today.
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Have a good day wherever you are.
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Sue xx

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

As the water subsided.....

We walked in a different direction yesterday the dogs and I, we had to check that the track was passable for Lovely Hubby to return safely from work in his little car, otherwise I would have been doing a rescue mission in the 4 x 4. Luckily the drainage ditches were working well, it would have been terrible if they hadn't, they had grown at least 4 feet wider than usual with with sheer wolume of water.
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What was almost impassable in the cold light of the morning (when my camera wasn't working) was glorious in the afternoon sunshine. It looked like we had a river flowing through the farm. The sunlight bounced off the deep water, and the once rushing flow had subsided to a gentle meander down to the lower fields.
~ As the water subsided the dogs found much to sniff at, little creatures that had sought shelter from the raging torrent of the ditch earlier in the day, were rooted out and sent packing to safer areas.
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This morning we have woken to completely different conditions with the fields white in a covering of heavy frost, oh well back to the buckets of hot water for the animals.
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Have a lovely day....whatever your weather.
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Sue xx

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Tractor.......

Yes , you have a shot of the tractor, for no other reason than my lovely grandson wanted to see it. He calls it Nana Sue's tractor (shh...don't tell Lovely Hubby). So, just for you Kyle.
and another...
~and with its plough attached,

and then with fence-post knocker attached, and the blue thing at the back is the 'Topper'.

(It's a John Deere 3130 for all those tractor enthusiasts out there.)
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The other reason you have got them is that my camera is playing up....shock horror, how can a Blogger function without a digital camera and I really needed it on the doggy walk this morning as well. The ditch that runs alongside our track was being worked on last week and lots of trees and bushes were cut down, well, guess what.....after two nights of torrential rain the ditch has been breached and where they had left channels the water has flowed through filling the track as well as the ditch. So now we have a river!!
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Good job LH was a sailor, he somehow managed to get through to go to work this morning, but I may have to go in the 4 x 4 to pick him up from our landlords farm later if the water continues to rise.
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Hopefully it won't as the sun has come out and is making this soggy world look much more appealing. I'm in the polytunnel today keeping the Pekins company as I tidy the beds and ready some seed trays for planting.......(oooh itchy green fingers!!).
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Sue xx

Monday, 17 January 2011

Only One Doggy Walk!!

This morning it was raining SO hard on the farm that the dogs refused to go on their morning doggy walk. Not that I minded too much, to be able to come into the warm dry house after feeding the pigs and chickens and not to have to plod through the fields was a delight, but I was amazed. Our dogs have never refused a walk before!!
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They of course made up for it this afternoon running after pheasants and a trio of Roe deer that they spotted far across the field, so they have more than made up for any lack of exercise this morning, and now we are all tired and hungry. Time for tea!!
~ Someone else waiting for tea.
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Sue xx

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Elizabeth Taylor is a Mum!!

During the night, all on her own, quietly and without any fuss, our youngest girl produced her first litter of piglets.
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Elizabeth Taylor (Liz), is mum to five healthy bouncing baby Large Blacks.
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Clever girl!!
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Sue xx

Friday, 14 January 2011

The Cart

I walk past this cart everyday with the dogs, it is parked just beyond our barn, I don't know what sort of farm cart it once was, but it's got a pulley system fitted to it and really heavy duty mechanisms.
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It's become a bit of a symbol to me, it has been abandoned by our landlord and is slowly but surely falling to bits. The light of the day and the weather shows it differently each time I pass. It's position by the tree just somehow looks right, although I just know it was most likely simply unhitched from whatever used to pull it and just left there at the end of a working day, like so many abandoned pieces of equipment left lying around our landlords farm.
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In Summer it is highlighted with gold and looks appealing, in Winter on these wet, damp, miserable days it looks forlorn and neglected. The two oil cans in front of it are full of weeds, in Summer they are green and lush, and look like they've been planted there, in winter they hang dismally over the side, brown and dry or wet and dripping.
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For some reason I have many photos of this cart, it draws me in.
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Sue xx

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Camping in the polytunnel....

The Pekins have taken up residence in the polytunnel and are slowly getting used this 'going to bed' lark.
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In the spareroom although it went dark and they cuddled down for the night they didn't have to 'go' anywhere. Now they have to make for the little house part of the Eglu so I can close the door and keep them safe for the night. The first night I had to lift them all individually into the bed, last night I lifted one in, and they all followed and organised themselves quickly on the bars inside.
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It seems Pekins (well mine anyway) aren't that keen on straw, except as something to toss around and play with. They much prefer just the woodchippy sawdust bedding and perches to sit on. Whereas when the Welsummers lived in there they would make fancy nests out of the straw and all vie for the comfiest position in the middle of the bed.
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The Kune Kunes are currently living in a mud bath, we have been able to buy some large bales of 'spoilt' straw to put on top of the mud to make conditions better for them (us?), but they don't seem to mind one little bit, in fact most days they can be found digging down deep in the mud with their noses, rooting around for well......roots!!
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The only thing they're missing at the moment - cuddles.......would you cuddle a pig covered in mud?

~ video

I'm not sure if the above little clip will work, but have a go - and 'Welcome to my messy polytunnel'. Hopefully now I've got company in there I will be inspired to get in and finish the tidying, and even start on the early planting.

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Sue xx

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Decisions made.

Mum and babies sharing nicely Sometimes just sitting down and talking with all the input from family and friends, (and I include all you lovely Bloggers and commenters in this), fresh in the back of your mind really works. ~ We've taken into consideration our land, our time, LHs' job, my being a vegetarian and most importantly the pigs welfare and well-being. And with all this we've decided to continue with pigs but to reduce our herd to just the Kune Kunes and the Large Blacks, with Martha and Monty being sold to a good home as soon as possible and Maud going just as soon as her piglets are weaned. ~ This will enable me to cope better on the days that LH is not around, currently four days a week but hopefully by April only two, the land to cope better with more areas being able to be rested, and our breeding programme to be timed so that our income is stable and consistent. ~ We will not usually sell weaners, except to people that need them for breeding (as Jack our boar, and Liz our youngest girl are from two of the rarest blood lines for Large Blacks), we will take the pigs to meat ourselves. I have come to this decision because if we remove a good, well-reared meat source from the market peoples choice then falls to the 'not quite so well reared pigs', and as even I have to buy pork products for LH I know where I would prefer my meat to come from. ~ Hopefully these decisions will prove to be the right ones, but only time will tell. Thanks again for all the wonderful comments, they really helped me think things through during the day and helped in the decision making process when we sat down together last night to sort things out. ~ Sue xx

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Quandries and Decisions......

Lottie,Lulu, Cyd and the other three piglets eating breakfast.
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Thank you for all the comments and emails sent yesterday in response to my post. It's lovely to think that so many of you are trying to understand.
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My main concern is that we originally went into this to sell 'weaners', that is piglets just weaned from their Mums at eight weeks, moved onto solids and then sold to other folk to either use as breeding stock or to raise for Rare Breed pig meat. Doing this you have no guarantee of how they will be treated once they leave your farm. That is my first concern.
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My second concern, and of more importance to me personally, is that I honestly thought I would love piglets, find them cute and cuddly and be amazed at the whole birthing process and that this would enable me to carry on with this whole pig farming business and cope with the mud and mess. None of this is the case, I hated watching the piglets being born and having to help, yes my instincts kicked in and I just got on with it, saving lives and helping Maud was more important at the time. But I HATED it, with a vengeance. I have not touched the piglets since they were born and if anything I feel so detached from them, my last thought is cuddling them.
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It was different with Lotties' babies for some reason. Maybe I should have just gone with my first instincts last year and concentrated on our Large Blacks and sold the Middle Whites when Betty left the farm. At the moment I am in a quandary and this post is just me being honest with all my readers and getting my thoughts on 'paper'.
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In an ideal world I would just have the free range chickens and vegetables, but for Lovely Hubby to be able to give up his job and join me on the farm full time we need to have a viable source of income to keep us afloat and pay the bills. The pigs were supposed to be this, but I don't know if I can keep this going even until April, when he is hoping to reduce his working week to two or three days and spend longer on the farm. I do know if this land was more suited to large pigs it would be easier, but when the mud reaches the top of your wellies you know that it's not.
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Quandries and decisions...............
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On a nicer note, it's moving day for the Lavender Pekin Bantams today, as they leave the comfort of the spare bedroom and take up residence in the Eglu, now sited in the polytunnel. I thought it would afford them some protection from the cold nights and wind for their first couple of weeks outdoors. We'll see how they get on.
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Sue xx

Monday, 10 January 2011

Piglets Progress

The piglets are doing well and Maud is proving to be an extremely attentive mother. Sadly the little runt, named Minnie, died on Saturday morning after a valiant effort by Lovely Hubby to keep her alive. He spent two sleepless nights bottle feeding her and making sure she was kept warm all the time, but obviously it was not meant to be. He is, however, glad he gave her a fighting chance.
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The rest are doing fine and huddle together like this in the back corner of the ark whenever Mum goes out for her feed. They are a delightful mix of their parents with their Mums' pink colouring but the black of their father on their rear ends (and eyebrows in a couple of instances). Gorgeous sturdy little babies, and they were even playing out briefly yesterday in the weak winter sunshine.
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It has brought me to the realisation though, that I am struggling to reconcile breeding pigs for sale, and vegetarianism. We are in the process of re-evaluating where we go from here.
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Sue xx

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Piglets (and update)

As I was doing my final checks before leaving for Manchester, guess what I found......Maud had five piglets, so I stayed to help. Now she has nine, eight are really healthy little things, one I'm not as sure about although it appears to be improving. One was born dead and despite everything I did would not be revived.
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This was the way I left them, with Mum snoring for England and the babies all suckling away.
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Sue xx
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Little piggy update : Eight piggies alive and well and with their Mum, little runt piggy alive and well and living in the house with Lovely Hubby, currently on it's way to the shops in a box on the front seat of the truck to pick up some baby milk for it's two hourly feeds. (What a way to spend your birthday, poor Alan!) I'll be back tomorrow to help out but until then he's a single parent family!!
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Sue (in Manchester) xx

Off on a road trip.......

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Today I'm off on a road trip to deliver my car to my younger son, Jason. He's lending it for a few months to help him get to and from work in Preston, and to enable him to get home on a more regular basis to help us on the farm.
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How will I manage I here you ask......well my lovely Dad has sold me his car, so I will be setting off in one Corsa and coming home in another.
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Just me, the Corsa's and the open road (with lots of music and nibbles on the way of course).
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Back on Monday, hopefully with news of the baby piggies.
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Sue xx