Thursday, 13 March 2014

Pig Ark

A very welcome rain-less week is currently drying out our ground beautifully, so that our thoughts and plans can turn to gardening and getting on the ground without damaging the soil. Our crocus bulbs, planted last autumn have finally felt the sun on their petals and opened properly - they'd been sulking in that nearly-open state that crocus do when the rain is falling. Our tête-à-tête daffodils in the tub outside the front door are also cracking on now. But we are being patient and letting the soil dry nicely before we rush in and we have plenty of 'hard standing' tasks we can do, not least building the pig ark.

This we have un-ashamedly 'lifted' from the Haynes Pig Manual written by Liz Shankland (but actually designed and built by her husband, she says). It is based around 8 by 4 sheets of plywood and corrugated iron rolled to fit round these as a roof. We have had some fun putting this together, one of those nice projects where we can work together. It is quite a substantial construction incorporating tanalised '4 by 2' and '3 by 2', with a floor of 7 by 1 inch planks. It is in two sections, the floor and the roof.

The floor frame on its own was too heavy for one person to lift. The roof is a bit lighter but whether we can realistically flip it up off to clean out the ark remains to be seen. I suspect I will be crawling in there on hands and knees and shoveling out straw. I am told that pigs are clean animals and will not dung in their bedroom, so it would only be their mud I am crawling about in!

The ark will sit in the new pig-pen down in the 'Secret Garden', well out of range of any extension leads that I can deploy to drive power tools, so the roof section has had to be pre-drilled in bits up by the Tígín and then carried down to be assembled with my cordless, re-charge-able screw driver. We have also given the semi circular boards a coat of varnish / wood preserver, 'Sadolin's "Antique Pine" colour. So it might look like Class 3 Floor-grade 18 mm plywood to you, but I assure you it is now the finest word in sophisticated piggy accommodation. In this post are various pics taken 'en route' I will put up a pic of the finished article in its woodland setting when it is complete.

We have been out shopping over the last couple of days and have scored some notable successes. In general, the Irish do not 'do' gardens, with most houses having a broad expanse of grass with a few spot plants and trees. Garden centres as we Brits know them are few and far between and do not stock much in the way of unusual plants. We have yet to find what we'd call a 'specialist nursery', though they may exist. Our biggest local garden centre is probably Ardcarne which has a branch in Boyle, but also one in Roscommon Town. The Boyle branch seems to disappoint more often than satisfy us, but in Roscommon on Wednesday we managed to find several things we'd been hunting down; bare root summer-fruiting raspberries and bare root Ribes, first early seed potatoes (Rocket and Foremost) and red cabbage seed. We also picked up some heritage variety blue potato 'seed' for a bit of fun.

Then today we dropped in on one of our favourite shops, Flynn's 'Alladin's cave' of a hardware shop in Castlerea, the like of which has long since died out in the UK; seeds and hats are jumbled in alongside porcelain hen and chicks statues, bacon, glass 'chimneys' for oil lamps, playing cards, willow pattern china. devotional pictures, camping 'gaz' cylinders, local gaelic games sweaters, white spirits and meths and so on. Our mission, though, was bee related. We had heard that Mr Flynn was a bee keeper and might be selling bee equipment. He was indeed, and quickly furnished us with a price list for hive parts, bee smokers, beeswax 'foundation' and frames. We'd also heard that he might have seed for fodder beet, something we might be able to grow to supplement the food of our pigs. Again, he was there, quickly finding a commercial sized box of the stuff, from which he measured us out a 'handful' into an envelope for our €2 worth of seed. How much seed did we need? An area, we said, about the size of (glancing around) your chill cabinet! Ooops, though - the seed is agricultural 'pelleted' seed. The seeds come coated in a tiny bright red sphere of insecticide and fungicide to help them go through the seed drill and give them a good start in life. There goes our claim to be 'organic' this year, then!


Mr Silverwood said...

The blue potatoes are nice actually, they make purple rather than blue mash but it was nice. Apparently they are a very traditional, the kids loved the idea and blue/purple mash.

Liz Shankland said...

Glad you found the pig ark plans useful! I will pass your comments on to Gerry.
If you liked the Haynes Pig Manual, do drop a comment on the Amazon review page.
Happy pig keeping.

Matt Care said...

Wowser! Blown away completely by getting a comment from the Lady Herself! Liz Shankland. I am not worthy. I will, of course, do a review on Amazon if I have not already. Meanwhile, thank you for the 'happy pig keeping' wish.