The Dawning

Yesterday I drove back to Camolin to collect my pork and bacon. I had got a phone call unexpectedly the previous evening to say it was ready. They had said it would be the week following the bank holiday. I get my bacon dry cured which delays the process.

I frantically started to defrost the smaller freezer, firing all the stuff in it into the huge one and switching it on. That and clearing out some stuff that was “past it” made a bit of extra space as luck would have it.

The dawn in every sense of the word

I couldn’t believe the amount. Last year I had filled the boot. This year I had to put the seats down to get at least two extra huge sacks in. I wasn’t sure I would even have enough freezer space for it all and panicked. I contacted a few people who said they’d like to buy some and thankfully have sold a good bit already.

120kg of pork

I charge €10/kg (€12/kg for sausages) and it is a lot when pork is so cheap in the shop. But, let me give you an idea of what it costs me to get to this stage.

Two weaners €65 each plus diesel to collect them.

Straw for the first week when they’re kept in and afterwards €2/bale x 10 plus diesel for collection.

Feed – rolled barley and peas for 6 months. A 25kg bag of barley costs €6-7. A 40kg bag of peas €12.

In the beginning they get a scoop of barley (450g) and a scoop of peas (600g) twice a day between them. So approximately a kg of barley and 1.2kg peas a day.

In a few short weeks they get this each. So 2kg barley and 1.2kg peas each per day.

Then as they begin a rapid growth spurt this doubles again so 2 scoops barley each or 4kg a day and 2.4kg peas.

If I calculate the full amount over 4 months and half approximately for 2 months this is

Barley 24 cent/kg x 2kg = 48c x 30 days = €14.40/month x 4 = €57.60 plus €28.80 for 2 months.

Peas 30 cent/kg x 12kg = 36c x 30 = €10.80/month x 4 = €43. 20 for 4 months and €21.60 for 2 months.

So per pig feed = €151.20 plus diesel to drive and collect it all.

Abattoir plus butchery in total €300 plus 4 trips of 52km pulling a trailer for 2. Lots of diesel!

And my time – over an hour a day every day for 6 months. Incalculable!

So what I can actually calculate amounts to €376.20/pig or €752.40 for 2 pigs.

And each pig butchered is about 60-65kg. So at €10/kg you can see I’m only barely covering my costs.

I’m not in this to make money thankfully and if I cover most of my costs by selling the excess, my wages are paid to me in pork. So next time you think a small producer is ripping you off go back through these figures. Because a small farmer/smallholder is not even paying themselves a living wage never mind the minimum wage for dragging out in every type of weather twice a day for 6 months.

But, the pigs have a lovely natural but short life, living as pigs should – grazing, rooting, mud bathing, sleeping and socialising. And the poor tortured pigs on intensive farms don’t have a life in comparison. I know which meat I’d prefer to eat.

And this pork is produced from locally grown barley and peas (no imported GM rain forest, orangutan slaying grain). It supports local co ops and their employees as well as the farmers growing the grain. It keeps a local abattoir and their butchers in jobs.

By buying local you are supporting so many people.

The Straw

I knew from the previous year that small square bales of straw would be difficult to come by and didn’t want to risk moving the animals here and face the prospect of trying to buy. Of course this meant a lot of slagging, from my son and from various friends (all men). My son had a point except he didn’t really. It wasn’t logical to buy straw and transport it the length of the country normally but in this case it turned out to be very logical. Another friend gave me some amount of slagging over my “golden currency”.

Anyway I stuck to my guns and persuaded my son to borrow a van from his father to transport my “golden currency” along with my plants in containers from the garden. I had told the removal company I only wanted them to move what was in the house. We had earmarked a weekend when there wasn’t a rugby match on and when his girlfriend was working. On the way down I got “the lecture” that I had been getting for weeks at this stage. “Why you had to pick somewhere so far away” (read that as far from Dublin not Meath), why you have to be so illogical not to get the removal company to do this (last time I checked house removal companies aren’t too fond of moving agricultural commodities), what would you have done if you hadn’t me? (probably be a lot wealthier, with a high flying career and getting significantly less grief). You know the drill. Anyway he shut up when I took him for food (fish) in the local. Having lived in Meath for so many years it is particularly mind-blowing how damn good the food in pubs and restaurants is here.

Not long after we arrived with the load my phone rang and it was my house hunting friends who were in the area at a school open day (Newtown in Waterford). I said why don’t you hop on the ferry which crosses between Passage East and Ballyhack and come over meet us for lunch. They did and then of course my friend’s husband (the builder) had a field day with my son slagging me about the “golden currency”. “Should you hook up the house alarm to the shed in case it gets stolen etc. etc?” Hilarious.

I can tell you I wasn’t laughing during that long winter of 2017-2018 when Wexford was hit with the worst snow in 72 years and I had plenty of straw for my animals. I used the same amount of straw as would normally last me a full year.

I just had had an inkling I would need it.