Sometimes it seems to have been much longer but the latest batch of pigs have been with us for almost a month now. In fact they’ve just turned 3 months old and are settling in very nicely.
Their home in the original pig pen has held up fairly well despite their best efforts to trash the place. Luckily we planned ahead and already have another couple of pig pens that can be used so that we can rest the current one when needed.
I’ve even identified a corner of the current pen which has been so well turned over already that I might fence it off and plant some veg there but I’ll definitely need to investigate electric fencing first!
I’ve noticed that it always takes a week or two for new arrivals to adjust to their surroundings but they eventually figure out that they can trust the people who bring the food each day.
Now they’re always keen to see people at any time of day but the morning and evening visits with the green bucket of feed seem to be their favourite.
There is still the fairly tough decision to be made – which two of them will be kept for breeding and which are destined for the freezer. I’ve already been firmly told that no more than 2 can be kept but luckily this choice can be put off for a bit while I watch their development over the coming weeks.
At some point though the two “keepers” will need to be formally registered with the breed society. This is vital for the longer term “master plan” which is to eventually have a go at breeding pedigree Tamworths but that will only start towards the end of this year.
An update on the chickens is long overdue and particularly relevant now that spring is arriving in the North Pennines.
This last winter has been a real eye-opener because both flocks of chickens went through a fairly drastic moult. We hadn’t seen that at all during the first winter here so it was a bit of an education.
I’m constantly reminding myself of the good fortune in having a selection of fairly good outbuildings at my disposal. They’re generally weatherproof most of the time with power and light available so they’re perfectly usable for my needs.
The problem I’ve had is that the original potting shed had collected more and more junk since we moved in – presumably following that well-known law of physics where junk expands to fit the available space.
Later this year there will be other outbuildings to sort out which will mean a wider rethink on the usage for all of them. However the first step was to relocate the potting shed into a smaller space to exclude the junk and make it more convenient for the various raised beds scattered around the garden.
Starting with a blank canvas certainly makes the job easier and once the first items are in place everything soon looks good. If I’m honest, I’ve never been particularly noted for my interior design skills but I was quite proud of how the space was working out.
All started well enough and I felt that the standard lamp added a certain touch of class to the overall ambience. However once all the other “useful” items that I’m keeping were brought in, the space soon looked a little more crowded.
Obviously you can never have enough plant pots and seed trays so they have to stay. Handy tray covers, bags of compost, netting and mesh covers are also pretty much crucial I think.
I may need to rethink things in the near future because, although the picture below looks quite nicely arranged, there has been quite a lot more added since it was taken.
It’s clear I wasn’t as efficient as I thought I had been at getting rid of the clutter.
While I was wondering what to do with the large pile of left over, dried up old compost from past years, the one-eyed pet hen (“Adele”) volunteered to check it over and remove any unwanted edible (and inedible) items. Given her example, it didn’t take the 3 rescue hens long to figure out what an opportunity this was.
Last weekend saw some long-overdue clearing up of the raised beds and perhaps not a moment too soon as the current long-term weather forecast seems to show there will be no late spring cold snap this year.
After some minor setbacks last spring with plants being slow to get started due to the usual over-eagerness to get things planted and growing, this year I have come up with a new master plan.
My theory is that around the 3rd Saturday in March (the 21st this year) I will plant seeds in pots for a few selected vegetables and leave them in indoors to germinate. The likely contenders for this phase will be those that take a while to germinate or anything that needs a longer growing season.
This will be followed on the 3rd Saturday in April (the 18th this year) with the first seeds planted direct outside when the weather has warmed up a little. This will include everything else I am planning to grow this year and will hopefully be the start of some properly planned succession planting.
As part of preparations for the busy days of spring, I managed to clear a few other jobs which had been hanging around waiting for the right weather (and motivation). The most important of these was to properly plant the new fruit trees which had been heeled in for the last few weeks.
Learning some important lessons from the last attempt at planting fruit trees, this location is a little more exposed but still protected by other trees and it’s definitely better drained soil so the it should work out fine. I have also installed extra posts when planting to support chicken wire wrapped around in addition to the rabbit guards at the base of each one.
We had some damage last year from wild deer when they took a liking to nibbling the leaves but the chicken wire should do the trick for now at least. I like to see the deer roaming around the local area but I might change my mind if they have another go at my young fruit trees!
Saturday morning shopping is not normally one of my favourite pursuits and I’m not normally eager to set off on such trips.
However yesterday was different with an eager, early start preparing our slightly underused trailer for a trip to the northern end of Northumberland to collect our new pigs.
The accommodation had been sorted out in the past week and everything was in place ready for their arrival.
Our choice of Tamworth pigs is mostly because they are hardy pigs who can easily manage living outside all year round. They are also full of character and are officially a rare breed so we’re helping on that side too.
This time around we have bought 4 weaner gilts with the idea of keeping two for long-term pedigree breeding. These are a little over 9 weeks old and even to my untrained eye they look pretty good – bright-eyed and alert.
The breeder had already marked out the two likely contenders to keep for breeding next year. They are all birth notified for their pedigree records but apparently official pedigree registration is only necessary in order to breed pedigree offspring in the future.
We will take a few weeks to see how they develop before deciding which ones to register. The only concern is that we may eventually decide to keep them all because we can’t choose between them.
After a very blustery first night in the North Pennines, they were up bright and early for their breakfast. They seem quite happy with their new surroundings even though they are just a bit too short for their feed trough. Needless to say they manage just fine by climbing in with the food!