Do pigs have allergies?

Within a day or two of getting our two piglets we spotted a rash on their bellies which was a bit disconcerting for us first time pig keepers. As far as I remember this rash wasn’t there when they were collected earlier in the week but we kept a close eye on things over the next day or so.

Rash on pigs belly
Rash on pigs belly

My thinking at the time was that this rash had appeared on their bellies because there are so few bristles which means there  is less protection for them. Also as that is closest to the ground they’re more likely to come into contact with something that might have caused it.

I suppose this might have been a reaction to something they ate given that they came from a stone barn with straw and ended up free ranging in mature woodland. I doubt that pigs have allergies but I don’t know that for certain and I suppose anything is possible/ However there were no obvious signs of these bumps anywhere else on their bodies so my money was on a reaction to something external.

Nettles perhaps?
Nettles perhaps?

Are pigs susceptible to stinging nettles? When we first put them in their patch they spent quite a lot of time munching on something which was growing among the nettles.  I’m not sure what that plant was (perhaps some kind of low-growing elder?) but  it’s all been eaten now anyway and the rashes are considerably improved as well.

We’ll obviously continue to keep an eye on things but for the moment the rashes are fading. Most importantly, the pigs are both happily eating, drinking and occasionally running around like lunatics in their expanse of woodland which must be a good sign!

If you go down to the woods today…

So the big day finally arrived on Saturday and we headed off to pick up the latest additions with a combination of excitement, anticipation and trepidation. Despite the preparations over the past months with a day at a breeders, an introduction to smallholding day and plenty of reading on the subject, nothing matches the feeling when you actually get started with something new like this!

Given that the car journey back again from Yearle Tamworths took about 90 minutes, I was surprised to see quite how chilled out they were by the time we got them back home. Even more surprising perhaps given that they are not used to a great deal of human contact and certainly not used to us clumsy beginners.

Chilled out passengers
Chilled out passengers

Even after unloading from the back of the car they were still quite content to just look around for a couple of minutes while we arranged things for the short trip round the back to the woods. I can’t help thinking that if we’d left it any longer then we would have had to borrow a bigger dog cage from the local vets.

Two is company
Two is company

There had been a fair amount of thought about which breed to try for our first weaners but in the end the fact that we expected to “free range” them in the woods led to the idea of a couple of Tamworths. Maybe next time we’ll try a different breed but we have plenty to learn with these first two I think.

I hope they appreciate their new home in the woods but they’ll never truly understand the effort needed to drag a pig ark through 3 fields and a wood with a quad bike. It’s certainly not something I’d want to do too often but at least the ark made it in one piece.

Pig heaven?
Pig heaven?

And below I have included a better close up picture which I have labelled Pig 1 and Pig 2 because they won’t be given any names. It just seems safer as they will only be with us until early November – we’ll give them the best life we can until that point but ultimately we are raising them for meat and mustn’t forget that.

I did wonder whether Butty and Chop would have been good names though?

Pig 1 and Pig 2
Pig 1 and Pig 2

The time has just flown by!

We’re still at the stage of keep track of how long we’ve been here although I’m sure that will change eventually. For now though, we’re doing the counting in weeks rather than months and it’s flying by!

This is the sixth week now and there is certainly never a dull moment…


Freshly cut hay
Freshly cut hay

The 2 meadows out the front have been cut by a neighbouring farmer and the current good weather will be really helpful.

I’m mentally taking notes about how this is done even though I don’t expect to be doing it myself at any point in the near future. It’s just good to watch and learn.

As this picture shows it has only just been cut so it will need turning a few times.

While I was out taking this photo of the meadow I realised it was probably time to post a progress update for the vegetables (more on this below).

Vegetable bed plans

All available veg bed space has now been used for something and there are plans to extend the current area for next year.

One idea is to convert up to 1/3 of the very large lawn area into a more productive space. The original thinking was for something like an orchard area with some raised veg beds alongside but a grander term for this might be “forest garden” if you favour the permaculture approach.

Either way I foresee the strong possibility of a continuous battle against rabbit incursions so I will definitely need to include defences in the overall plan!

Veg bed photo gallery

Having taken a range of photos of the vegetable progress, it seems a good excuse to try out the gallery facility that is provided within the WordPress system I use. My first impressions are that it does an excellent job and it’s certainly easy for me to set up.

However the experience will perhaps be different for people just reading this and viewing the pictures so let me know in the comments what you think.

Just click on any of the thumbnail images below and the gallery will load to let you see the large versions of the photos…


Settling into the new routines

Slowly I find that we are settling into something resembling a routine and each day that passes sees us getting more used to the realities of our new life. Even the few animals that we already have here are adjusting well to the new regime although we’re still not too sure where some of the chickens are laying eggs

We are being careful to assess everything before making changes and trying not to jump into anything too soon which is the most common advice from every book, article or web forum on smallholding. However I am eager to start making some of the bigger decisions about things like other livestock, managing the woodland , adding renewable energy sources and expanding the growing capability.

I’m not sure that I will know how to tell when we’ve reached the point when we can start on some of these things but I’m hoping that I’ll know when the time is right. I’m also reminding myself regularly that we can do whatever we like now we have the space and also that in some cases it might be better to “do and learn as we go” rather than “plan too much and never start”!

For example, we hadn’t planned to get any more chickens yet but with one of original pet hens dying it seems very opportune that one of the hens we “inherited” from the previous owners has hatched out a couple of chicks!

Two chicks doing well
The two new arrivals


Appreciating the surroundings

One of the other hopes for this move was to have some time to appreciate things and, just occasionally, raise the eyes to take in everything that is around us rather than getting swamped by the daily grind. Obviously you don’t need to move to do this but looking around the local area here is definitely more scenic than our previous suburban existence. It’s called the North Pennines AONB for a very good reason.

A simple walk down the lane into the village on a Saturday morning recently was just one such occasion. A pleasant morning stroll with curlews and chaffinches calling all around and I noticed that the clover was flowering at the side of the road.

I’d never noticed before that clover flowers have quite a noticeably (and not unpleasant) scent. The combination of that with the other wild flowers at the moment was definitely worth a picture at least. I’m sure we’ll look back at this fondly in about 6 months time when the verges are covered in snow!

Wild flowers
Wild flowers at the roadside