A day trip for Sissy and Fifi

Since we moved to our smallholding almost exactly 6 years ago, we have made the Northumberland County Show a fixture in our calendar for us on the second Bank Holiday Monday in May.

It’s always an entertaining day out but this year was our first ever attempt at showing pigs there so I made sure my expectations were suitably low. Not least because it would be a long and slightly traumatic day out for all concerned if everything didn’t run smoothly.

As it turned out I needn’t have worried because our Tamworths were impeccably behaved. They coped very well with the attention and the crowds didn’t seem to phase them too much.

Fifi ignoring the general public

As might be expected, I was more concerned about the showing and judging aspects than the pigs were. However this part always seems to be a certain type of organised chaos with pigs wandering in all directions so our 2 fitted in very well.

We had only entered 2 classes – one for Traditional Breed Sow (Sissy) and one for Traditional Breed young gilt (Fifi) – so the hope was we’d maybe have one rosette as a reward for our combined efforts by the end of the day.

Sissy has caught the judges eye

Right at the start of the day we had a small setback when Sissy must have stood on Fifi’s back leg at some point during the journey. Luckily the excellent show vets were able to check her over (it was just a bash, nothing broken!) and gave her an anti-inflammatory injection which really helped.

Sadly though she was still limping during the judging of her class so she was marked down as a result and only got a 5th place. However I’m proud of her for battling through in such difficult circumstances.

Things soon looked up though and by the end of the judging we had amassed quite an impressive haul of rosettes because Sissy came first in her class as best Traditional Breeds Sow.

The win in that class meant she went on to enter the Traditional Breeds Female class against winning female pigs of different ages from other classes. Happily she won that as well to be judged the Traditional Breeds Champion Female and also got another rosette for being the best placed Tamworth at the show.

All in all it was a very enjoyable and successful day out but by the evening we were all happy to get back home to familiar and more restful surroundings

Maybe we’ll try this again next year? Perhaps… but maybe not because it’ll be difficult to match the achievements from this year!

As ready as we’ll ever be…

We’ve finally made it to the eve of the Northumberland County Show and, much like exam revision at school, I’m of the opinion that it’s far too late to do any more serious preparation now.

After 4 years of the leisurely outdoors life for Sissy, there are some patches of ingrained dirt that not even a jet wash can shift. I just hope the other pigs don’t snigger behind her back during the show. With any luck she’ll win just by sheer force of her personality and charm… but I doubt it.

Sissy is looking forward to a big day out

It’s also about time for me to announce that our second entry at the show with the pedigree name of Allendale Maple has now been named Fifi for day-to-day purposes.

This name was not chosen as a tribute to a distant Aunt or favourite actress but simply by using the first 2 letters from each word of her official herd number which is 55. However that definitely does suit my fondness for giving our sows old fashioned ladies names – Esther, Sissy and Fifi sound great to me.

Fifi has scrubbed up nicely since this photo

Now it’s time to relax with a cup of tea because we’ve done all we can. The trailer is even in position ready for loading and an early start heading of to the show ground.

If you’re in the area and going to the show tomorrow then please pop along to the Pig tent and say hello if you can. Sissy and Fifi would love to get some visitors as it’ll be a long day for them (and us)!

All set for the morning

Frank’s little adventure…

In the past we have cut our lawn and given the cuttings to our Dexter cattle. We also make sure that the pigs get some too and particularly at the moment since I’m trying to get Sissy into tip-top show condition for the Northumberland County Show at the end of the month.

This tactic has worked very well for us in the past but the cattle now recognise the sound of the lawn mower and start mooing loudly in anticipation of their feast.

Unfortunately I tried using our lawn mower on a high setting for keeping a test patch of rushes in our hay meadow under control. However the cows noticed the mower was close by and got themselves all worked up. Luckily I was only mowing a small patch as a trial so I soon stopped and I thought things would return to normal.

By the time I got back to the house to put the equipment away I suddenly spotted an unexpected figure ambling leisurely towards me – it was Frank and he must have been practicing his high jumping skills.

Frank taking his afternoon stroll

It’s at times like these that I’m grateful our Dexters have become so much more amenable and are happy to follow me if I have a bucket. Once I loaded the bucket with Supabeet – like sweets for a child – I was able to lead Frank back to the others all by myself.

While they all tucked in to their unplanned treat I was able to assess the dry stone wall. Luckily it was just cosmetic damage and mostly affected the top stones so he must have got plenty of height on his jump

Definitely not a clear round at showjumping

In no time the wall had been reinstated (in my strictly amateur fashion) but it still looks to be as solid as ever. These walls could have been here for around 200 years perhaps so it will take more than one cheeky Dexter steer to trash them.

I’m now just a little nervous though and I’m keeping an eye on Frank every so often to make sure he doesn’t make a habit of this

All sorted, until the next time?

All set for calving

Just a week or so ago we moved our small herd of Dexter cattle from their more sheltered winter home in our back fields. For the next month or so they will be enjoying the lush green grass in the very front field and they very quickly settled into their new home.

The plan for this year will be to move them all nearer the house again when we get close to calving – if we can get the timing right of course!

Once they are in the back fields again we can more easily round them up and, while we’re not expecting any problems, we will be more able to deal with any issues that may come up.

This year will be a nervous time for us as previously we’ve only had cows that have calved before because that reduces the risks of any problems. This time around we will have our home-born heifer (Primrose) calving for the first time but at least she definitely looks like she’s carrying a calf in there

It’s nice to see that Quinn appears to be quite attached to his big sister Primrose these days. However he’ll have to get used to being ignored once she has her calf!

Restocking the flock

Over the past few months, a few of our hens have decided it was their time to go. While we don’t have a problem with foxes in our immediate area(which is a relief), some of the hens still seem to reach a certain point and just give up.

It often happens that they look a little under the weather one day and then the next day a corpse is found curled up in the nest box having apparently died peacefully overnight.

This isn’t always age related though because we have some white hens (White Leghorns I think) that must be the chicks that are mentioned in an old post about new life and death with the chickens during our first year here.

During the first part of this year we lost one of the hens we bought less than 3 years ago but the others from that batch are still happily laying. There seems no reason for one to die and another to carry on but we just continue to do our best for them

It only took a quick trip to Durham Hens last weekend and we now have two ginger hens (always decent egg layers and usually seem to do fairly well) plus 2 other hens just for their looks or egg colours (one a Crested Blue for coloured eggs and the other a Pied Suffolk just for her feather colouring)

Crested Blue (far left) and Pied Suffolk (far right)

For the record, these have been named following the now standard approach with our choices of female singers but this time with the initial letter “D”

After a couple of weeks in a separate pen while they acclimatise, the new girls – Debbie, Dolores, Dionne and Doris – will be joining the main flock. Colin our adopted cockerel already seems very eager to meet them but he’ll just have to wait!