Monday 20 October 2014

Practise Makes Perfect?

Pigs loaded during one of the practise runs.
This may be one of those posts that you don't read if you do not want to know how those charming piggies you love to see running around, wind up on your plate as pork chops or sausages. Yes, I am afraid Mapp and Lucia came to the end of their particular road over this weekend and are now handed over to the slaughter-man and butcher, Webb's in Castlerea. You'll know from previous posts that as they came up to 6 months old and had achieved live weights of over 90 kg, we started to prepare for the end game. We had built the pig-race to run them up from the pig-paddock to the trailer, and now needed to get them used to trotting up and down the trailer ramp.

Breakfast in the trailer.
I was looking to do this at their breakfast times on the Saturday and Sunday, so that they might be ready to go for real on Monday (this morning). In the event, we hit a problem on Saturday morning, with Mapp taking to the new feeding location like a duck to water, but Lucia stubbornly refusing to go up the ramp despite a good half hour of cajoling and coaxing. Liz had suggested doing all meals that way, and that, in fact, is what we had to do, and it worked well. You would have laughed, though, at our amateurish fumblings on the Saturday.

Mapp was done and dusted in no time, but Luc' was still not playing, so I ended up hooshing Mapp out so that she'd not distract her sister, then climbing into the trailer myself where I sat rattling the feed bowl under Luc's nose, tempting her to put one, then two, three and finally, finally all four feet onto the ramp and then into the trailer. All the time I was cooing to her softly and tickling her ears and neck and flanks so she'd relax and know it was safe. We got there in the end. For supper that day I adjusted the height of the dolly-wheel so that the floor of the trailer would be slightly sloped, but the ramp at a more gentle angle, and then there was no stopping them. Supper and all three meals on Sunday went like a dream and the pigs were as good as gold, so it was looking bright and optimistic for this (Monday) morning. I even shut the ramp on them each time so that they were briefly caught in the trailer, so they'd not spook on the big day.

It had been a tense couple of weeks coming up to 'the day' and I'd invented in my head all manner of imagined problems which might go wrong - would the trailer break? Might the pigs not load? Would I suddenly lose my ability to reverse when I got there? Now I'm not a religious bloke though I suspect that, in common with many, I keep what faith I have in the back pocket like an insurance policy, pray occasionally under duress (There are no atheists in the trenches?) and avoid 'dissing' any deities just in case. If I am anything, I am (low) Anglican so when I get involved at all with any of the local Catholic activities I always feel a little fraudulent and awkward. None the less, Liz and I happily headed off to local RC Holy Centre and icon-gathering, Knock Shrine, which is only about 45 minutes drive from here. Liz needed to look in the book shop for a specific gift item for a friend, but wanted to light a candle too, in the special roofed area for another reason. I decided that I would too, for a similar reason but also to pray for a calm, respectful, painless, stress free end for the pigs and a problem free run for us on the Monday.

Feel free to mock if that is how it takes you. We will never know whether the car dying through a flat battery on the Thursday morning after our Knock prayers and needing the local garage called out and a new battery was "the guy upstairs" answering to help us from having no car issues on our Monday! When my two brothers and I were teenagers, we used to love the Welsh rugby-based comedian Max Boyce and had a recording of his song "The Lord, he said, doth often move in Strange and Wondrous Ways!"

Anyway, enough of this waffle - this morning went sweet and smooth and the pigs were as good as gold, loading in minutes so that I could shut the ramp on them and Liz and I could push the trailer across the damp grass to the hard standing and the car. We hitched on by 08:00, grabbed our (Pig Movements) paperwork and the money, checked the trailer, the hitch, lights etc and headed gently for Castlerea, about 20 minutes away at that nice gentle pace. I easily reversed onto the butcher's 'driveway'. the pigs trotted happily down the ramp and slowly into the lairage pens. We did all the paperwork and Liz talked butchery, mincing, sausages, roasting joint sizes and so on with the man. The ladies will apparently be killed today but samples have to be sent to a vet in Kildare to rule out the infectious pig disease Trichinosis before the butcher can cut up the carcasses and give them to us. He has never yet had an infected pig, but if they are, the whole animal must be dumped as Trichinosis can cause blindness in humans. That would not be good!

We did not, in the end, need to avail ourselves of the help offered by Simon. We had him on standby waiting for our panic stricken phone call, but as it all went without hitch, we were able to text him at 08:30 to stand him down, but thank you very very much, Simon for being there for us. As I said, these were nervous days and it was very reassuring to know that another pair of hands could be brought to bear.

A  very welcome gift. 
There's a focused post for you, now! 7 paragraphs all on the same subject. Pigs seem to have taken all our attention lately, but there have been some nice distractions. With the car dead on Thursday and no shopping possible, we were, as Liz wrote in one of her posts "just resigning ourselves to NO WINE when a white van turned up bearing superb gift from a heavenly creature". Thank you, that very generous and timely donor, you know who you are.

Tall 'new' fridge/freezer, short-leggedy
And finally, with the huge 'crop' of pork meat imminent, we needed to start up our fourth freezer, this one a fridge-freezer hand-me-down gift from Steak Lady (Thank you SL!) who had renovated her old kitchen in Portmarnock just before deciding to move house completely. Thanks to Mr Silverwood also, who hauled it all the way down here in his big people-carrier; there was no way it'd fit in our little Fiat Panda. We did that job on Saturday, swapping it for the shelving (which is now in the Tígín) and giving it a thorough nut and bolt clean before setting it running. We are now ready for our Pork.


Anne Wilson said...

Glad it all went well for you, are you doing bacon?

Matt Care said...

Yes, we will be. Maybe a ham or two as well. That reminds me; we need to come and closely examine your smoker. We might be able to do one in the old French style where you dangle your hams down the chimney on wires, in the little chimney of our out-building (The 'Tígín') but I will ask Simon for some look-see advice.

Matt Care said...

"Well done! Delighted to hear the loading went smoothly. I don't envy the two of you pushing a trailer with 2 pigs on board though"

Matt Care said...

The comment above from Margaret of Old Farm, where I did my training.

My reply "In the event, grass was wet and smooth but hard enough that we and trailer did not sink in. We got up a bit of momentum on the (slight) down slope and whooshed up the rise nearly crashing the trailer draw-bar into the car! "