A very successful dry run

After reading a number of warnings about the potential difficulties of herding pigs, taking time to have a dry run at loading the trailer seemed a good idea. This could not have gone more smoothly and within a minute or two of arriving at the trailer the pigs were quite happy to go up the ramp.

In the end they happily went in and out of the trailer a few times with only minimal encouragement via the food bucket so there are no great concerns about loading them up on Sunday.

The pigs love the shiny new trailer!
The pigs love the shiny new trailer!

And finally a quick reminder of their woodland home with a shot of them having their last evening meal with us. After all the time they’ve been here I don’t think they could have had a better life anywhere else – a longer life perhaps but not any better!

Last Supper
Last Supper

Ear tagging pigs – what’s all the fuss about?

Pig ear tagging was yet another task that we had never done before but which had to be completed before they leave for the abattoir on Sunday. There have been many first time tasks since we moved here so we’re getting used to the feeling.

It was very similar with our first attempt at killing a home-grown chicken a while ago so we know that even a simple task can seem so much bigger in your head ahead of time.

As it turned out, ear tagging for the pigs really wasn’t such a big deal for us or the pigs as they barely noticed. The hardest bit was probably making sure I had the right spot, they may be off to the abattoir soon but I didn’t want to stick the tag through anything important. It was also a question of careful timing to get it done quickly before the head moved and I lost the moment!

There was the briefest of interruptions to their breakfast and, to my untrained eye at least, it appeared that they only felt a very slight discomfort. They just went straight back to their food afterwards which was very reassuring for me!

Ear tags in place
Pig ear tags in place

Final preparations

Some last-minute preparations and planning for the pigs journey – it’ll be their only time out of Northumberland! We’re very glad that we decided to try having pigs but also glad that they are on their way in good time before any really bad weather sets in.

It was a frosty morning on Friday with a light dusting of snow so it can’t be long until we begin to experience our first full winter in the North Pennines. All relevant preparations for that are well underway including winter tyres, warm clothing, salt/grit and the like!


The final Friday weigh-in

The usual calculation has been repeated yet again with the expected minor increases in their overall dimensions…


Heart Girth (measuring around the body just behind the front legs) = 0.96 m

Length (measured from between the ears to the base of the tail) = 1.04 m

This means that the approximate weight is: (0.96 ² x 1.04 x 69.3) = 66.4 kg

No Tail

Heart Girth (measuring around the body just behind the front legs) = 1.04 m

Length (measured from between the ears to the base of the tail) = 1.1m

This means that the approximate weight is: (1.04 ² x 1.1 x 69.3) = 82.5 kg


Apart from one of them being a little lighter than I might have wanted, the only concern now is whether the remaining pig feed will last until Sunday morning. If it doesn’t then that’s a trip to Carrs Billington to get another 20kg bag for just one or two feeds but it can’t be helped I suppose…

Pig countdown – the final week

Their last week is here and everything appears to be in place for the pigs trip to the abattoir on Sunday. There are just 2 main tasks left to complete before they head off.

We need to ear tag them as required by the regulations and register the animal movement from our holding to the abattoir. Both of these seem to be fairly straight forward (if you don’t mind sticking a metal tag through a pigs ear with a set of pliers) but I’ll be checking things again ahead of time just to be sure I’ve not missed anything.

I’m still not sure that we’re completely clear about how much pork will come back from these two pigs but hopefully we won’t get sick of eating pork anytime soon!

Breakfast in the woods
Breakfast in the woods

One interesting aspect for me is that I am not (yet) quite as upset as I had expected especially given that these pigs have been such characters and were absolutely no bother to look after. They have certainly enjoyed their home in the woods and we have got a great deal of entertainment from watching their antics as they settled into life here.

There is no room for sentiment though, we got these animals to raise for meat and this is all part of the process. If any distraction is needed then there is always the thought of getting a couple more weaners next year to repeat the whole exercise.

The 28 week weigh-in

The usual calculation has been repeated yet again with the expected minor increases in their overall dimensions…


Heart Girth (measuring around the body just behind the front legs) = 0.96 m

Length (measured from between the ears to the base of the tail) = 1.02 m

This means that the approximate weight is: (0.96 ² x 1.02 x 69.3) = 65.1 kg

No Tail

Heart Girth (measuring around the body just behind the front legs) = 1.04 m

Length (measured from between the ears to the base of the tail) = 1.08 m

This means that the approximate weight is: (1.04 ² x 1.08 x 69.3) = 80.95 kg


The measurements and weight calculations have been more regular in recent weeks but are still only a rough guide. The difference between the two pigs is very surprising to me and I will be very interested to see what feedback (if any) we get from the abattoir people.

We have now got a great electric mincer/sausage stuffer which we have tested out on some pork from the butchers. The resulting sausages were very tasty although perhaps not as visually appealing as I might have liked. Practice will help with that in future I hope…

One lesson learned – I would not recommend the cheaper manual mincers and I’m happy that the price of our new electric machine will be money well spent in the long run.

A busy weekend of highs and lows

Sometimes it’s nice to take it slow at the weekend and enjoy the slower pace of our new life with the wonderful scenery around us. Since we moved to the new house I’ve always been very conscious that I should be grateful for the combination of persistence, good timing and dumb luck which got us here.

One of the real pleasures of living in this part of the North Pennines comes at the start and end of the day with great scenery in the morning and huge star filled skies at night. The frosty start this morning while feeding the pigs was a typical example especially the way the rising sun hits the fields on the opposite side of the valley.

Sunrise over the valley
Sunrise over the valley

However this weekend was not one of those easy-going, relaxed weekends. Instead it was spent taking on a couple of important jobs which we had never tackled before so there was a certain amount of apprehension. In my experience there is only way to go when faced with that kind of problem and that is to tackle it straight on, just get on with it.

Chicken slaughter

Our first homegrown chicken
Our first homegrown chicken

The biggest deal in my mind was the need to”rationalise” the chicken flock before any problems could arise. There are too many males after the eggs that hatched earlier this summer so some of them have to go.

We finally got up the nerve and took the opportunity on Saturday to slaughter our first chicken.  This one had been one of the eggs that a hen was found sitting on soon after we moved in.

A great deal of internet research was done, many messages exchanged with helpful people on web forums and a number of slightly gory YouTube videos as well.

In the end I decided on neck dislocation using a broomstick which seemed the most hands-on without actually having to look him in the eye while doing the deed. There was a little uncertainty after doing this so I also tried a manual neck dislocation just to be sure but I’m certain now that the first attempt was successful.

On reflection I realise that it wasn’t anything like as difficult as I’d expected apart from the concern that we hadn’t done the job correctly. The biggest fear leading up to this was always that inexperience might mean a botched job but as it turned out this was unfounded.

The feeling might have been different if the 2 remaining “pet” chickens were involved as a result of illness or injury but these white chickens were inherited from the previous owners when we moved in. They seem to be naturally flighty and want to avoid human contact so the sense of attachment is greatly reduced.

On this first time we also decided against the full gore of plucking and gutting to help ease ourselves into the idea of raising chickens for meat. For this occasion we decided to pluck a little so we get the general idea but to just take the most accessible bits for eating.

My first attempt at chicken dissection were nothing special but I managed to remove the breast meat and some of the thigh/leg as well. A generally successful first go at this with a little experience of each aspect but the next time we really need to take things a stage further – assuming we can bring ourselves to do this again of course!

Trailer collection

Shiny new trailer
Shiny new trailer

Over the weekend we also collected a shiny new Ifor Williams trailer which is just in time for some gentle practice (especially reversing!) before taking the pigs off the abattoir in a couple of weeks.

Having never towed any kind of trailer before I was worried that my shiny new toy might not look so good by the time I got it home.

It turns out that towing this trailer is no bother at all – in fact it’s no wider than a Subaru Forester and only slightly higher. When loaded with livestock the driving experience may be a little different of course but I’m much happier to know how it handles in general.

The trailer might be considered to be a little too large for just 2 pigs who are making a one way trip of less than an hour. However I prefer to think that they deserve to go in style, especially as they have been such characters and absolutely no bother to look after for the last 4 months!

I’ve already wondering what breed to get next year and hopefully after one more set of weaners next year I can swing it so that we get a couple of breeding sows for the longer term.

What next?

There are many more things in the pipeline which will be covered by future blog posts in due course – fruit trees and bushes, broadleaf trees for the woods and of course like any keen veg grower I’m already making plans and shopping lists from seed catalogues!

Ideas and suggestions are always welcome though…


The visitors have settled in

The latest batch of ovine visitors arrived almost a week ago and have made themselves at home already.  Our agreement with a local farmer for him to use the front meadows is rather vague about timings and so we never quite know when he will put some sheep on there.

The last batch of just a few sheep were only there for a few days before they were moved on to an adjacent field owned by someone else.

Within a few days of the latest batch arriving (about 70 in total) we quickly realised that it’s best to keep the gate closed much of the time. They might be what are known as gimmers, or maybe shearlings or perhaps just plain ewes (or even yows) but I just call them sheep because they all look the same to my untrained eye

Sheep At The Gate
Sheep At The Gate

Hot News

Just the other day we noticed that the farmer has put a tup (see below) in there with them as well and nature is doing what comes naturally. I wonder whether we’ll have the time next year to take a few orphaned lambs from him to raise ourselves?

I think now is probably a good time for my handy link to some common sheep terminology definitions

A shiny new toy to play with…

It’s always a good day when the post  man delivers a parcel, the tightly wrapped cardboard box is a tempting prospect that is hard to ignore. Even when I know what is inside the sense of eagerness to open the box is powerful

Unopened Parcel
Unopened Parcel


Since we moved here there have regularly been problems with deliveries going to neighbouring houses which have similar names to our house. On one such occasion our neighbours were away for a few days and got back to find that UPS had tried to deliver 3 times and each time they went to the wrong house!.

This is most likely because the first house name that delivery drivers come across are like ours (but a word less) so they don’t bother to read the full address as written. Where possible I now make sure to emphasise this crucial piece of information in the delivery instructions on-line but it’s not always possible.

As luck would have it, on this occasion they did go to the correct house for once… unfortunately no one was home at the time so the parcel was taken to the local post office!

So what is it?

What was inside the parcel you may ask? It was our shiny new mincer/sausage stuffer in preparation for when the pigs come back from the butchers around the end of this month. We will be having another trial run at making sausages very soon using meat from the local butchers to make sure we perfect our ideas in good time

Fully Assembled
Fully Assembled




Pig check point – 26 weeks

After reaching 6 months old, their departure is getting ever closer so I’m monitoring the progress of our two weaners more closely to provide some useful reference information for the future. Even after having them for just 3-4 months I cannot imagine a situation in the future when I wouldn’t have some pigs for at least part of the year.

The 26 week weigh-in

The usual calculation has been repeated yet again…


Heart Girth (measuring around the body just behind the front legs) = 0.91 m

Length (measured from between the ears to the base of the tail) = 1.00 m

This means that the approximate weight is: (0.91 ² x 1.00 x 69.3) = 57.4 kg

No Tail

Heart Girth (measuring around the body just behind the front legs) = 1.00 m

Length (measured from between the ears to the base of the tail) = 1.05 m

This means that the approximate weight is: (1.00 ² x 1.05 x 69.3) = 72.8 kg


The measurements and weight calculations each week may not have any direct effect on the results but it is very useful to have a record of their progress over the final month or two. It will be particularly interesting to compare the difference in weight gain for these two with any future pigs we have because there is still no obvious explanation for it.

There are just one or two more important jobs left to be done – firstly, collecting our shiny new trailer which will be needed to transport them to the abattoir and secondly deciding on a cutting list so that the butcher knows how we would like the carcasses dealt with.

I’m still having difficulties imagining what two pigs worth of pork will look like but luckily we have a chest freezer which is fairly empty so just ave to hope it will all fit!

The sausage making trial last weekend was a minor shambles and a timely reminder that you get what you pay for. The cheap and cheerful manual mincer we originally tried using was just not up to the job so a proper electric mincer/stuffer is now on order!