A stormy 24 hours

As luck would have it, a windy hill-top is a better bet than many other places when some stormy weather comes through. There has been some dramatic news coverage on the TV and the local newspaper website from places further to the west of us which puts everything into perspective.

It turns out that I’ve drawn the short straw when it comes to looking after the livestock though, whatever the weather. However it’s all a matter of wearing the right clothing to suit the conditions and I’d worry about them if I didn’t check so I really don’t mind. Many others have much bigger things to worry about right now with flooding so I remind myself to be grateful that I just have to deal with some wind, rain and mud.

The heavy rain over the last 24 hours or so means that the field drainage has being tested a little beyond its limits but in the grand scheme of things I think we’re getting off very lightly. Yesterday the water was coming on to our land faster that the drains could take it away but the balance is shifting this morning and the water levels are slowly falling again now.

Field drainage overwhelmed
Field drainage overwhelmed

Surprisingly enough given that the wind was supposedly gusting at 70mph or more yesterday, there has been relatively little damage on our little patch. The majority of the problems have been a range of small(ish) branches blown down and in places these have inflicted very minor damage to some permanent fences.

Minor fencing damage
Minor fencing damage

Even the fairly new electric fencing I put has been a bit battered but it was easily fixed this morning and the pigs have already learned to be wary of it so they didn’t notice that a section was completely out of action overnight.

Planning ahead makes all the difference though and, having moved the cows into the most sheltered field in advance of the bad weather, there was no danger to anyone when a 50-60ft tree came down in another field and took out a small section of the dry stone wall.

I just need to get the chainsaw sharpened and enjoy a quiet, rain-free day by making a start on the free firewood for next winter. Repairing the stone wall will have to be done before the cows can return to this field but I’ll take my time and try to do a good job!

The Tamworths are settling in well

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.

Luckily the gate is strong enough
Luckily the gate is strong enough

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.

Pleased to see the feed bucket arrive
Pleased to see the feed bucket arrive

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.

Fencing works completed

As a result of having such excellent weather last weekend there has been some great progress made with the final work on the new fencing.

After being held up by the recent snow here, the contractors finally came back about a week ago to put the finishing touches by adding the stock mesh to the fencing for the pig pens in the woods.

Unfortunately it turned out they hadn’t quoted for adding the (absolutely essential) bottom strand of barbed wire to the pig pens. Other than that the finished fencing looked really good.

Woodland pig pens
Woodland pig pens

Now that the snow is clearing I was able to get to grips with taking down the old fencing that was no longer needed. It was cheaper to do this work myself rather than getting the contractors to do it.

Of course it also gave me a reason to use possibly the greatest invention ever – fencing pliers. Is there nothing that this tool cannot do?

Fencing pliers
Fencing pliers

Since this older fencing included quite an impressive (and perhaps unnecessary) amount of barbed wire, there was plenty to be carefully salvaged and re-used on the pig pens.

While dismantling it I realised that most of the old fence posts probably wouldn’t have lasted much longer anyway. Nearly all of them just fell over soon after the stock mesh was removed.

Removing old stock fencing
Removing old stock fencing

Apart from a few extras like drinking troughs and feeders that still need to be bought, everything is about ready for the new arrivals. They are expected to arrive around Easter which I notice is just 6/7 weeks away now!

The intervening time will be used wisely though by reading up on keeping cattle and especially calving or maybe thinking about longer term plans like winter feed for example. Having had two lots of weaners before I’m far more relaxed about taking on the pigs though.

Preparations have started

As part of the preparations for the planned new livestock arrivals, we arranged for a fencing contractor to come and make some changes to existing fencing in the back fields.

I’m sure I might have been able to do this work myself but the professionals are definitely quicker and the results are probably a lot stronger than my amateur efforts would have been.

The initial results in the back fields are pretty impressive for a single days work too but as they have the heavy equipment that obviously helps speed their work up.

Relocating the fence line
Relocating the fence line

The chickens will probably appreciate the extra space but to be honest this change wasn’t made with them in mind, it’s mostly to protect the solar panels.

Also the extra space we’ve claimed around the chicken houses by moving that fence line is already set aside for planting some fruit trees anyway!

Protecting the solar panels
Protecting the solar panels

When the fencers return this week they will be adding some new fencing in the woods to create two extra secure areas for pigs. Each new pen will be smaller than our original pig space (which we are keeping in place) but the extra pens will give us the ability to move different sets of pigs between them when needed.

For the moment when the picture below was taken the woods were calm and peaceful – that has no doubt changed in the meantime so I’m looking forward to seeing the results…


Further updates on the fencing – and the new livestock arrivals – will hopefully be available very soon!

Making plans for 2015

Since the second half of 2014 has been disrupted by the day job and other distractions, it’s gratifying to now make a start on plans for next year. There are so many ideas and possibilities that it can sometimes lead to a sense of paralysis if I’m not careful.

Here is a rundown on the most likely possibilities for next year but I provide no guarantee that any or all of these will actually happen – that’s the beauty of planning ahead, there’s plenty of time to change my mind!


After some memorable experiences raising two sets of weaners since the middle of 2013, the next step for us is to get a couple of gilts with a view to using them as breeding sows. These might also be accompanied by a couple of weaners just to provide some more pork for later this year.

The theory goes that if we raise the breeding sows from a young age then we should be completely at ease with them (and vice versa of course!) when they reach maturity. A full size adult pig will be a new experience for us so I hope they will be at least slightly friendly by then!


New for 2015 will be a limited and hopefully gentle introduction to keeping cattle. The plan is to get a Dexter cow and calf but that depends on the available stock from local breeders as we’d rather buy privately and fairly local if possible.

I’m still not convinced that I will be able to look a calf in the eyes and then still take it to slaughter when the time comes but there’s probably only one way to find that out for sure!


The plans for vegetable growing during 2015 are coming together slowly but surely. There was a brief moment when the idea of getting a polytunnel was seriously considered but that is probably not a good idea just yet. I have to recognise that there is only limited spare time with all the other activities planned around the day job.

The emphasis this year will be on increased quantities but from a more limited range of varieties. I’m particularly interested to investigate ways for storing the harvest either through freezing, drying or simply packing away in a cool, dry place.

Machinery and Equipment

Of course introducing larger livestock will mean much more heavy work is needed so that could prove to be the tipping point to convince me to get a compact tractor. Perhaps even a brand new Siromer if I can find the money – at least getting a new one should mean that it lasts for years

Obviously the tractor will need all the usual attachments – whatever they are – so I foresee many happy hours browsing the websites looking for bargains!

New Year, New Opportunities

There’s a lot to think about and lots of money to be spent if all plans go ahead so it’s definitely wise to do some proper planning before going ahead.

Finding the balance between planning things and doing things is not as easy as I first thought but I like to think that I’m getting better at it over time.