The Slimdown

Final days

Next week the winter slimdown begins. The “small” pigs will be booked into the abattoir in Camolin. The sheep will have another 6-8 weeks – I should be able to say of peace – but their main tormentors are the goats who aren’t going anywhere.

They will be fed in the trailer in the field for a couple of days in advance so they get used to it. Then they’ll be driven up the afternoon before and settled into straw-filled pens for the “off” first thing the following morning. I’m sure I’ll feel dreadful when the time comes but right now they are incredibly annoying teenagers. They run straight through me for food and even brazenly annoy the big pigs who swing their heads sideways to spear them with a tusk. I happened to be in the firing line one morning. Thank goodness I had jeans on. I still got a hefty red scrape down my thigh.

I collected the turkeys from the place I get all my poultry. I had booked them months ago but he kept telling me to ring him on such and such a date. Then when I collected them I was almost told tuck them up in bed with a hot water bottle. The questions he asked me. Was I sure I had a good warm house for them, could I keep them separate from other poultry, could I keep them in a minimum of 10 days and then watch them when I let them out……. I finally asked had they just come off a heat lamp. He said they were off it a while but I’m not so sure. Anyway on day 7 they flew over the shed/stable half door so that was that.

I tentatively let them out into the field and they appeared to just be happy to potter about in front of the shed. So I kept an eye on them. Then the ducks decided to take flight. They do this regularly and usually just fly over the high wall out onto the road. But this time they were up a serious height and I knew by the sound they had cleared the neighbours trees across the road. I totally forgot about the turkeys who I had left snoozing in the sun in their open doorway.

I ran across the road but couldn’t see the ducks. Then I caught a glimpse of what I thought was one three paddocks over. All the paddocks had horses in them and all had electric fencing around them. Luckily I could hear my neighbour in the stables so shouted up to ask him to turn off the power. He told me the ducks had been in several times in his dunkel and the pond. They had obviously figured out a way to get back. We walked down through the field but couldn’t see them anywhere. Than lo and behold saw the three of them along the hedge being followed by a line of bemused thoroughbreds. We hunted them back and I caught them and clipped their wings.

I suddenly remembered the turkeys. Yep, they’d vanished. I called the woofer and the two of us went searching in two separate fields. I thought I could hear a commotion at the back of the hayshed so went to investigate. They were sauntering around with a lot of curious pig onlookers. The pigs on seeing me started demanding food and there wasn’t a chance in hell I could shepherd them back safely so I had to try to catch them. I managed to grab one and handed her to the woofer. I had to corner the other in the middle of a big pile of nettles and just reach in and grab her.

After this I decided I’d have to move them back into the sheds off the yard. The fields are just too open. The problem is that even though I’ve got four sheds, one is for feed and since the hens decided to lay in it I’ve had to move the dogs out, particularly as Nelly is very partial to an egg and has perfected the art of cracking it and eating the contents. That meant the last shed had to be converted for dog shelter when I’m out or away. There was only one thing for it, move them into the duck shed and hope the ancient grumpy Muscovy drake wouldn’t decide to eat them for breakfast.

I cleaned it out and put their straw bale in. Then set up a sliding door so they’d be at the back and the ducks at the front. Cedric the cock flies up onto a ledge at the back. This morning all were still alive.

New home

Yesterday when it started to rain in glimpsed out to see them trying to get out through the gaps in the green gate instead of turning and going back into shelter. My cousin reminded me that my grandmother always said they were the most stupid of all the birds. She kept goats and poultry. My mother had a school friend, a Jewish refugee called Annie Polesi (during the Second World War Castlebar took in Jewish refugees and they set up a hat factory). Annie was scared of the turkeys so my mother devised a system where she left stones on the pier telling her she’d left for school so she didn’t have to come up the driveway to call for her. She always laughs that Annie was scared of the turkeys. Geese I’d understand.

The last woofer of the year arrived a week ago. I need to get the last of the painting finished. So far it’s taken her a week to give the balustrading on patio one coat and with a bit of a push (from me) the gates. Last year it took the two wonder woofers two days to completely finish two coats. I think I’m done with wwoof.com. I registered with HelpX but there’s a fault in their system so if you don’t constantly update your listing you slide down the heap and get no enquires. So far I’ve only got mostly Americans looking for a convenient B&B.

It’s a shame really because the right people can benefit so much from it. 25 hours work in return for full bed and very good board plus a chance to experience another culture. But I suppose human nature being what it is, the vast majority see it as a cheap holiday.

Rachet straps to tie down cover

The Mickey Mouse tunnel has almost done its job now although the tomato crop has been very poor. I think I stuffed in too many plants and they got mildew. Plus they are so late ripening. Some are only starting to ripen now. The wind began to pick up the other day (even more than usual). I have last year’s cover over this year’s, as it’s ripped in different places in an an effort to give 100% cover and some wind resistance. It’s worked so far but it was looking like it would take off last week. I got a brainwave and borrowed rachet straps from my neighbour. If I can just keep it on another few weeks……

I’m getting a proper tunnel for next year but as there’s a 6-8 week lead in time after ordering decided to wait until early next year to order it.

I’m not looking forward to the winter. I think I hate it a little bit more every year. It’s not the cold that gets to me but the dark. I live for light and the sun. The evenings getting darker and darker are soul destroying. The sooner they abolish daylight savings the better. Give me darker mornings any day. It means you get to wake up slower which can’t be a bad thing.

For now the push is on the get everything winter ready and to slim down the animal population and minimise the workload for the shorter days.

The Weaners

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Or also known as the horrors, the pests, the terrible two. You get the gist? Two (big) piglets by the time I got them here. I couldn’t find quality pigs on Done Deal, just the usual rubbish from someone who keeps a few pigs and breeds indiscriminately. Buyer beware really applies when buying livestock but particularly pigs. I have bought half-starved, runty piglets in the past because I was desperate and because I felt sorry for them but it’s not advisable. It took me twice as long to fatten them.

I got this pair in a convoluted fashion. I had asked friends if I could buy a couple from them when their sow farrowed however she aborted and they said they were looking for piglets as well. I told them if they found any let me know and I’d take two. They sourced them in Galway and I collected them from their place a week or so later in north Tipperary.

I had actually bought a trailer. Years ago I sold my horse box and I had steadily cursed ever since. Having to borrow a trailer is a pain and although most people don’t mind lending them, I hate being under a compliment to anyone. It was years since I’d pulled one and I was wondering if I’d still be able to reverse it etc. You can laugh but it took me a long time to be able to competently. It had taken a lot of practice, away from the “helpful” comments from men in particular. Actually in the end I was better than a lot of men!

Then there was the question of the driving licence. Somehow in the meantime, it had become law that you have a trailer licence. The thoughts of doing another test….. but one day I looked at my licence and lo and behold I had the trailer category ticked. Phew.

I asked around down here and a neighbour down the road called in one evening to say he had one. I had a look at it and I was in business. I then had to get a hitch on the Ceep (carjeep) or baby toe rag as my builder friend refers to it.

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Reversed in like pro

All that organised and the day was set. But I was still nervous about driving it. It was just over a two hour drive but it took me closer to three. You just can’t go whoring around bends pulling a trailer and boy were they bendy roads. It was a sunny bank holiday Monday so I just took my time. Pulling an empty trailer is a pain because it’s fierce bumpy.

Luckily I was staying the night and not making the return journey until the next day. After an evening of great hospitality and far too much wine (me), Alfie decided to catch the pigs rather than herd them in much to the amusement of a couple of Mexican American friends staying there as well. You wouldn’t get that in a 5 star hotel.

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Photo courtesy of Mexican American guest

I set off in great trepidation. It was a hot sunny day and I had a massive hangover and I was nervous and it was a long drive. Three and a half hours later I was on the road out of New Ross and itching to get home for a cup of tea. There was a massive tailback for roadworks, of course there was. Isn’t there always when you are dying to get home?

I made it and ran into my neighbour to give me a hand to unload them into the stable. I was leaving to go back to Meath the next day so I wanted to keep them in until I got back. He was a great help and we got them unloaded easily.

Today they are free range as in really free range. They are immune to the electric fence and are having a lovely time ducking in and out under it at will to graze with the horses. To be honest I’ve given up trying to keep them in because unless they get out on the road which is unlikely, they can’t do much damage and the neighbours are all pretty relaxed about escapees.

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They will have a great short life (albeit twice as long as a commercial pig) and will then head to Christy Byrne’s abattoir in Camolin, probably in October. Another outing for the trailer.

At the end of the day a good life and a good death is all any of us want.

 

 

Upp