I have a dream… I live in a limestone cottage in rural England that catches the golden color of the sun in its walls and I have a small rare breed pig farm. In my dream I would be getting up early in the morning, jump into my morning clothes, run down the stairs to turn on the fire and slip into my boots to head outside to bring the pigs their breakfast. On my return I will jump in the shower and then do some work on my blog and photography, just after lunch I would check on the pigs again and spend some time with them. Of course pens need to be cleaned and housework needs to be done, but I’m not getting hung up on the less enjoyable things. In the evening I will know that I have yet another day taken care of beautiful creatures, help them give birth, rub their bellies and keep them happy before delivering the best meat to feed a small number of people who respect the work that went into producing this meat. I would have shortened the food chain, I will have made a difference. That is what I want, I keep asking myself ‘what am I doing to make things better’ Sitting behind my desk designing and creating layouts isn’t going to make a difference in the bigger picture of it all. I have the need to do more.
Mahatma Gandhi put my feeling into words perfectly “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
So a few weeks ago I went on a rare/native breed pig keeping course in West-Sussex, because you have to start somewhere …
|Middle Whites, one of the rarest British breeds.|
It was a freezing day, my cloths as it appears aren’t nearly warm enough to be running around on a farm all day. My pretty red wellies are too small for thick woolen socks or even a triple pair to keep my feet from turning into ice cubes.
Luckily I had a lot of excitement keeping me warm, the cold didn’t bother me at all.
The day started by waking up the pigs and giving them their first feed, we walked up the field where the paddocks were divided by gender, breed and age. The pigs were eager to tuck in and it became instantly clear they have a pecking order, if you aren’t careful to keep an eye out when you feed them, one pig would be very a very happy bunny and the others would go hungry. Every pig reacted to his or her name when called out, a lovely sight to behold and it shows how clever these animals are.
|Gloucester Old Spots|
The severe rainfall and cold climate this year has made for muddy conditions at the farm, fortunately pigs are happiest rolling and playing in piles of mud. They will eat the mud as it is their primary source of iron. Piglets who aren’t able to go out in these wet conditions in fear of drowning are given a nice fresh pile of mud in their pen to roll in and eat every day so they don’t become anemic. When they are a week or two older, they are let out to have a play under the watchful eye of Neil and his son Oliver who is going to train to be a vet.
Michaela told us that they know when a sow is going to give birth as she will start to create an elaborate nest with straw, twigs and sometimes even flowers. At times the nest will have some things in it that she will remove, like larger branches that could possibly hurt the sow or one of the piglets but when she does the sow will show her disapproval by loud sighs on which the pig will take the branch back and place it in the nest again.
|Sally the Middle White, and her babies.|
After we had a nice cuppa and a delicious moist piece of lemon drizzle cake we sat down to defrost our hands and feet and to talk about the legal things involved in starting your smallholding, which breed of pigs to keep, and how to keep your animals healthy. I’m not going to go into detail about this, you will have to go on a course if you want to know all the rules and regulations but I can say it is all very doable.
When we went outside again we were going to learn about measuring your animals to see when they are right for their final stop, the slaughterhouse. It is the less enjoyable part of being a farmer or smallholder when you care for your animals deeply, but a necessary step to preserve rare/native breed lines and keep livestocks healthy. Of course their pedigree breeding pigs don’t go to slaughter for a very long time, they have names, witty ways and are loved almost like pets.
The time has come to weigh piglets of different ages and learn how to pick them up and handle them with care so you don’t disturb the small creatures.
Upside down seems to be the way – though not for a long time of course – before slowly turning them to hold them in the much favourited ‘baby position’. I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to holding a piglet, suddenly I’m 8 again and happy as a child. The Saddleback didn’t seem to enjoy it very much so we got him back with his mum but the Middle white baby, a few weeks older than the Saddleback didn’t seem to mind very much. They had to ask me to give him back or I would have remained standing there until the little one would start screaming for his big mum. Reluctantly I handed over the piglet.
Michaela had prepared a gammon and slow cooked pork for our lunch, I felt very humble to share this with them, the meat from their precious Saddleback pigs. Such a treat, I never tasted pork full of flavour and succulent like this in my whole life. I paired the meat with apple sauce and British watercress she had prepared – oh heaven. Michaela however trying to convince me she isn’t a cook just served me one of the best meals I ever had. I do adore uncomplicated simple food with big natural flavours.
One of the most moving things I encountered was the way Michaela and Neil were proud to share their food with us, proud of the hard work they put in -next to their jobs- to care for animals.
After the much enjoyed lunch we went back to the pigs for some serious exercise with ‘stick and board training’.
I ran after a giant Saddleback pig for almost half an hour, I
wasn’t giving up. Using a curly walking stick and a board, I was learning
how to guide a pig to a direction I want rather than the direction the
pig wants to run to. I admit, most of the time the sow was walking me
and I was convincing myself I was guiding her resulting in me running
after her trying to catch up …
But in the end I think it started to
work, I got her to her pen, back out again and back in again. I felt a
feeling of pride – I had done it – but was still not sure I had actually
pulled it off. I asked Neil if there was any hope for
me and he told me that a first day is always tough but that I had
perseverance … you got that right, I don’t give up.
I ended my stick
and board training with a session of hugging Molly the sow, petting her
and rubbing her back and belly while telling her what a good girl she
was. I really got into it – in a big way. These animals welcome a nice
rubbing, they love it when you make a fuss. They are such playful
creatures, running after each other and into each other -some breeds
like Saddlebacks and Old spots don’t see very well with their ears
covering most of their eyes –
|Me and Molly, the friendly Saddleback.|
wrists, back and shoulders were sore… I had healthy rosy cheeks from
the exercise and my heart was glowing with happiness. A farmers life is a hard one, but they will always tell you it’s worth it. If you spend time with the animals you see why. Pigs really are the most amazing creatures. If only …
|The watchful eye of Neil.|
|Going to feed the pigs.|
Are you interested in taking a pig keeping course? I did mine at Tedfold Farm in West Sussex, a farm where all animals are are slowly reared at their own pace and with lots and lots of love. Thank you to all at Tedfold Farm for a wonderful day.
I entered this course at my own expense.
Rosa's Yummy Yums says
This is my dream too…
Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures with me and for enlightening my day!
My pleasure, happy to have made you smile x
Hello! I came to look at your blog, to find wonderful photography and a very sweet lady. First of all, I would like to apologize about my comment about your chips, in Instagram. You probably can't even remember by now!I didn't mean to be rude… really did not!
I love your pictures. When I came to live in England (we have two homes in Italy and one here. I am Italian, in fact)) I lived next door to a pig farm. Coming from a big city, I found life in the Norfolk Fens very hard, but the pigs kind of kept me company, as the place was kins of cut off from civilization! We moved, eventually.
Sometimes the farm workers would get the pigs out of their pens to take them to the abbatoir, to be butchered. They squealed so loudly, I can still hear that sound… quite heartbreaking! But… it didn't turn me into a vegetarian, though I could easily live on my mum's Mediterranean, meat free diet!
What I felt was guilt, but I soon forgot! And I even forgot after seeing newly born piglets, with the cord still attached to their tummies. They say they are intelligent creatures, and that they can be very aggressive, if they have to!
I like your little dream. I have dreams, too… we need dreams, don't we?
I went to the Reare Breeds Farm in Sussex a long time ago, and I remember the pigs! The photo of you cuddling the pig is nice.
Thank you for your lovely comment. No worries about the chips, everyone is entitled to their opinion, always. 🙂
Sad to hear that the pigs at the farm next door to you were squealing before they went to slaughter. The people from Tedfold farm however never have that problem as they make quite a fuss about making the animals comfortable. If the pig is in distress before slaughter it affects the meat but especially if you have loved the animals you don't want them to be scared.
I agree we should always dream, for what are we if we don't have dreams to aspire to.
jo millburn says
You look as "happy as a pig in muck" xx
haha, wish I knew what that means 🙂
Sounds like you had a wonderful day! Those photos are so familiar… we've been up to our knees in mud all winter too! We'll have to get you over to take some photos of Jemima, Perky and Polonius!
I did, I learned heaps! Would love to meet Jemima, Perky and Polonius 😉
That is a nice dream. I lived about 8 years ago next to a little cowfarm. I loved it and wish I just could go back to that farm. There is nothing better then waking up hearing the cows having a tea-party (they go muuuuuhhhh at 7 in the morning, sounds like they are chatting, my ex and I called it a tea-party) and the tons of babycows i saw born. (sorry dont know the english word for a babycow) I soo wish I was still living there.
That must have been fun witnessing a cows tea party! 🙂
This is wonderful, Regula, good on you for starting somewhere to follow a dream! You look so happy with those lovely piglets, the Middle White one even looks like he's smiling too. So inspiring x
I think the little piglet is smiling too, he was not in distress and they love a fuss so it could be 😉
At least now I know how realistic my dream is, you can always dream but as I always set my goals very high I need to see that it is still within my reach. X
Gloria Baker says
I love Sally with her babies:) and I know how smell but I really love them are so cute!!
Hope your dream be reality Regula!
Aren't they sweet?! Well I must say the pigs at this farm didn't smell at all! I was quite surprised by it myself as you might think that pigs would smell. Although they like to be in the mud all day, they are very clean animals. 🙂
Lizzy (Good Things) says
Sally - My Custard Pie says
The home I grew up in had a pig farm right at the bottom of the garden. I could see the pigs through the fence. Then the pigs were sold off, I was a small child but I can still remember it vividly. So pigs are an important part of my life and I've passed on that love to my girls too. Domestic animals are reared for food, we look after them to eat them – it seems to be an uncomfortable thought that many people cannot face any more even though they eat meat. I think the very least we can do is respect these animals, give them good lives and not waste anything. I loved this post and your photos are wonderful. I did laugh that your stylish outfit and wellies weren't practical – but you are such a good sport to admit it. I also laughed that the sow was called Sally. I totally agree about uncomplicated simple food with big natural flavours too. Fabulous Regula
Oh Sally, how wonderful it must have been to have pigs in your life when you were growing up. I think it is good for children's education in life to grow up with the knowledge that the animals they care for are for food and should therefore be respected and nothing should be wasted. That is exactly what is wrong with this world, people forget that the meat they consume and waste comes from living creatures.
Yes I will be the first to admit I will always try to bring my polkadot dresses into everything 🙂 I went on a ski trip with work once, I didn't like it but I tried and I was wearing a dress over a ski-pants I borrowed. At least on this occasion I wore an actual pair of jeans, although also under a little polkadot number. I must say it was my garden dress – yes I even wear a dress when doing the gardening 😉 Oh well, at least I don't mind getting mud all over me, you can wear perfect outdoorsy wear and be all silly about a bit of mud. I rather be fashionably muddy! 🙂
Gorgeous Darling how exciting!
So glad you got a close-up glimpse at your dream!
Since I adore pigs I would probably have squealed just like them all day ;D
It was very exciting 🙂 Though I didn't squeal because the pigs didn't either, they were perfectly happy and relaxed 🙂
Margaret@Kitchen Frau says
Your post made me happy inside. I grew up on a farm in Alberta, Canada, and we always had a few pigs, plus other animals. Oh, it made me nostalgic. I always eagerly await your new posts and love reading them. Thank-you!
I'm happy to hear that, I'm really am! How lovely you grew up on a farm! sorry for my late reply x
What a lovely post. I too would like pigs – I've already got the chickens and ducks – maybe next year I'll realise my piggie dream.
Tedfold Cottage Farm says
Regula, that was a piece of art and was a delight to read, I am so glad you and Bruno enjoyed your day with us. If you are in the Uk between the 6th and 8th June 2013 we are at the South of England show in Ardingly, Mid Sussex, perhaps you would like to come and take one of the pigs in the novice handlers class and we can judge if you have remembered what we showed you during stick and boarding.Oh and we are just collecting our first parma style ham from one of the saddlebacks today.
Hope to speak and see you again soon.
Hi Michaela, thank you for a wonderful day. We really enjoyed it! I would very much like to come to the show, I'll see if we can make it and let you know! That parma style ham must be a delight, oh my!
what beautiful pictures and a lovely article! enough to make anyone want to keep pigs 🙂
i love pigs too and dream to have a few acres one day and be able to raise a heritage breed. like you, i took a course in pig keeping, and just loved it. i am in Canada and the farm had adorable berkshire pigs.
i loved the course so much that i decided to put my lawyer 'day job' on pause for a week, and am going to do a farm-stay at a pastured pig farm this August through the WWOOF program. the farm raises heritage breed Large Black pigs on pasture. we'll see how i feel about farming after seven days of hot sun, deep mud, hungry pigs, and mucking out huts! hopefully even more enamored than i am right now.
thank you so much for your article. it is so inspiring and such a relief to meet other like-minded people who dream of having a little corner of the world one day to grow their own food and raise their own animals lovingly and ethically.