Friday 10 April 2015

Mary's Marked and Isabelle Isn't

This year's piggies. Berkshires. Mary and Isabelle.
After the trials and tribulations of yesterday with its bee losses and poorly lamb, we needed a good and successful day to restore the equilibrium and our faith in the fact that we have the general idea on this small holdering lark. With great timing, our pig supplier had rung to let us know that this year's pigs were ready for collection at 8 weeks old, down in Colbinstown, Co Kildare, south of Newbridge and Kilcullen.

How would you choose. 
These lovely people (Therese and Michael) have the website which resolves, rather alarmingly to a page splashed with the header "PiggyWiggy's". You are trying to be a ruffty tuffty stockman, all professional and serious, and you wonder what you are getting into - Piggy Wiggy's? Don't worry. This is geared to their Kune-kune "pet pig" operation. They get all serious and proper when you want Tamworths, Berkshires or other 'proper' pig breeds. They even do "Iron-Age" pigs (Tamworth x Wild Boar, not for the faint hearted).

Mary (left) and Isabelle (right)
We can thoroughly recommend them but it is a bit of a hike from here - 2 hours 40 minutes which is probably not ideal for the young pigs. They seem to be like human babies in a car, though, and drop off to sleep reassuringly at the drum of the engine and the thunk of the Kildare potholes. €65 a pop, in case you are interested. We have this year and last year made a day-trip of it, taking friend Charlotte along, for her pig-wrangling skills (you should see her grab a scarpering piglet by the back leg in the 'proper' manner and lift it, helpless, into her arms). Liz cooks a superb picnic which we eat at the farm sitting on big logs upturned to make tables and seats. This year it included sausage rolls made from last year's Tamworths but Michael (pigman) declined as he has a gluten intolerance, so he needed 'spelt' flour in his pastry. Ah well. All the more for us. The site also houses their nursery - big beds and greenhouses of hellebores and the like. That, they describe as the 'day job'; the pigs are a sideline.

Crated for the run home.
These two pigs had already been named - we had put the question out on one of Liz's internet forums (fora?) and then offered it to the redoubtable Olive (90), good friend of our own "Poobie" in Leeds. Olive was reported to have gone "pink with pleasure" at being asked to name the piggies, and chose Mary Elizabeth and Isabelle Heather just because they were her favourite names (and spellings!). I baulked a bit at naming a pig 'Elizabeth' but I am re-assured that this is OK provided the Elizabeth in question is not your good lady. So Mary and Isabelle it is, but which was to be which?

Charlotte, ace pig-wrangler, gets a firm grip on Isabelle
Driving home, it occurred to me that one had a big white face-splash marking to go with her white socks, while the other only had the tiniest white dot on her forehead, hence "Mary's marked while Isabelle isn't". Had this (Olive's names) not happened, these were going to be named for the Berkshires in the 'Empress' books by one of our favourite authors, PG Wodehouse, but we will have to save those names for another year. We love that as we drive out of the breeder's site. Michael bids us farewell and "Probably see you next year, then?" We are working our way round the breeds at present and can see no reason why not.

Charlotte and Liz check out the parent sow and boar with
Michael the pig-man. 
The girls are now home safe and were set down in their ark which looks enormous against their tiny bodies and they were quickly out exploring the range of their new home. They seem so tiny, I was worried they might sneak through the fences but we've now watched them for a while and maybe they are just a bit big. Tonight the dogs met them through the orchard fence and they took a few wary sniffs at each other but the pigs were unimpressed and wandered off. Liz tells me that the Irish for pig is 'muc' (pronounced 'muck') but there is also the word "banbh" which comes out as 'bonham' and this is a word used a lot in Irish pig farming for young male piglets. Liz tells me that this caused the young Irish girls employed at London auction house "Bonhams" (where she worked for a while) much amusement especially as some of the managers had a particularly 'porcine' look.

Home and exploring the woods.
I guess I should give you an update on yesterday's woes. The lamb seems to be recovering on her doses of liquid paraffin. She looks much more comfortable today with none of the arched back or high tail stuff. We caught her when we got back from the pig run, to give her another dose and she definitely looked like she had passed some fresh poo, so we hope she is feeling a lot more comfortable and relieved. We will keep an eye on her and keep reporting back to Aoife the Vet, but we hope she is on the way back up. Poor little mite. It cannot have been comfortable to be 'backed up' like that.

Checking out the sunny grassy bit.
When I was out in the orchard giving the dogs their run this evening, I was enjoying the dogs trying to chat up the wary pigs, but also took a look at the hive. It is a bitter-sweet thing. The few hundred remaining bees are soldiering on gamely, still out foraging and flying to and fro. They cannot know that there is no future in this and that they are the end of the line for the 'Two Marys' colony from last year. With no queen there is no new young coming through. These ladies will live out their allotted 6 weeks and fade out. I am relying on the promise of some replacement stock soon as the fruit trees in the orchard come into blossom. It will be a shame to have another blossom season go by with no bees going about their work. I'll keep you posted on pigs, lambs and bees.

No comments: