I have been worn down from all angles and feel my life will be much easier if I just agree!
Apparently the thousands of sheep, ever-growing herd of suckler cattle and dogs, both little and large, plus rabbits, isn’t enough. Welsh Mountain ponies, although part of the menagerie, just aren’t proper farm animals.
So I agreed to my least favourite animal joining our family. Pigs. Even the very word puts me on edge. Perhaps a bad childhood experience has left me with a low opinion of pigs.
Squashed piglets, ferocious sows and endless squealing and squeaking has ensured I usually give them a wide berth. Headlines of ‘farmer eaten by his (or her) own pigs’ whilst surely are isolated incidences, still make me very wary. I remember a sign at the entrance to a pig farm near Holmfirth where I grew up. “Owt baht squeak” it read.
I was perplexed as a child, for many years over the sign, having no understanding about its meaning. When I finally grasped the black humour behind it, the sign had faded to the point where the handwritten letters were barely legible. But the begging and “pig, pig, pig, piggies” chanting has worked.
After much discussion and endless searching on the internet we’ve finally settled on Oxford Sandy and Blacks. Orange with black spots is cool apparently, especially when you’re seven!
I’m told they’re placid, amenable pigs, ideal for beginners and I will begrudgingly admit, they are a beautiful breed. So, come next spring, we will hopefully welcome two weaners to Stott Hall.
The ponies must feel they’re on an extended winter break as all shows and Pony Club activities have ground to a halt. With the nights drawing in, hacking out is for weekends only. Despite having a hi-vis jacket, the roads aren’t a safe place at this time of year, especially for a young pony and rider.
I shudder when I see groups out riding on the edge of darkness, cars tearing past, riders oblivious to the danger. Our land is too wet to ride on, even in summer, and now weeks of rain have left it waterlogged. The only animals that seem to cope are the sheep although they’re starting to churn the land up. It’s not great, especially as we’re only in November. I fear there’s a long winter ahead of us.
Following much worrying over the cows and the endless fog, the driving wind and rain we now have is at least blowing air through the shed. Paul decided to vaccinate them against pneumonia last week. It’s the first time we’ve done it but after problems with some weaned stores last year we thought it worth doing.
The late-night checks have begun as we have three heifers due to calve any time. They were the last girls to run with our lovely old boy, Herbie, who we sadly lost earlier this year. We have all fingers crossed for some healthy heifer calves to keep Herbie’s line alive.
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