Sunday, 11 September 2011

New Arrivals

This is the first evening that I have had that 'autumn' feeling and I must admit, I like it. As I sit typing, the sow cooker is bubbling away with the leftover chicken carcass from our first roast dinner in ages - it will make stock for the freezer (to be used in future gravy or recipes) or possibly chicken soup tomorrow, with the leftover breast meat shredded and some sweetcorn. There is also the drip, drip, plop of the apple and mint jelly which is straining from some muslin from an upturned stool (recipe another day). And on my lap is....a sleeping puppy!

Isn't she lovely? Her name is Libby and she is an 11 week old miniature schnauzer.

We are completely in love and both agree that having a dog around really makes our house, lovely though it is, feel like home. She is too tiny to come to work with me at the moment (we have staff kennels - how good is that!?) so, being so close to home, I am coming back every two hours to play and take her out for a walk in the garden.

We have some other new arrivals...our new porkers! Following the success of our pigs last year we have bought four tamworth x saddleback weaners. This means that they are off their mothers milk and eating solid food  - and about eight weeks old.

Not even we could manage four pigs worth of pork in our freezer (two pigs worth lasted us almost a year) so we are planning on keeping one for ourselves, one will go to our landlady (we have a feudal type arrangement going on whereby we don't pay to rent the land and share the proceeds!) and each set of parents is buying one for £100.They live in a lovely paddock which was hitherto unused as it was a fenced-off copse area - perfect shelter for our piggies. It is a bit like a savings account having a freezer full of pork - because come the end of the month when we run out of money (as we always do!) we can still eat well, with lots of 'free' meals - ham, egg and homemade chips being our favorite - or there is always roasts - all with veggies from the garden. It is what this smallholding life is all about I suppose.

£100 may seem like a good profit per pig - it certainly has paid for the £160 initial outlay in buying the pigs - but it isn't. Animal food costs have gone though the roof, with the price of oil and a poor wheat harvest across the globe. Where last year we paid £10 per 25kg bag of pig food, we now pay nearer £13. Whether or not to feed pigs kitchen scraps is highly controversial amongst pig keepers.It is a breach of DEFRA rules - and I couldn't possibly comment. All I can say is that it would seem like a criminal waste of VEGAN kitchen scraps to compost them at a time when pig food is astronomically expensive. We have this old WW2  poster hanging on our kitchen wall as a reminder of more sane naive times:
If you can't read it clearly, it reads 'Keep it dry, free from glass, bones, tins etc. It also feeds poultry your council will collect'
How times have changed. In his much acclaimed and revered bible 'The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency', John Seymour sums it up nicely:

'The pig fits so well  into the self-supporter's economy that the animal almost seems designed with that in mind. It is probably the most omnivorous animal in the world and will thrive on practically anything'

Civil servants in agricultural departments all across the land must quake at the advice that follows - 'The pig bucket is very relevant indeed...In the self sufficient holding, the dustman should never have to call. Under the kitchen sink there should be a bucket, and into it should go all the household scraps except such as are reserved for the cat or dog...this means scraping all of the scraps first into the sacred bucket; then dribble - rather than run- the tap over each plate so that the water carries all grease and other nutriments into the bucket'. Enough said!

Pigs eat 450g of pig nuts per day for each week that they have been alive. We calculate that this means each pig will eat £70 worth of food in its 7-8 months (yes, that is all they get! More if you want nice big bacon rashers). So, add to that the price of the pig = £110, we have already made a loss. It also costs £40 each pig for abattoir/butchery costs, making a total of £150 per pig. I think we will have to send the 'rents an extra invoice! And that is assuming there are no vets bills - we were lucky last time and generally speaking *touch wood* they are too young at the time of slaughter to develop most adult illnesses. They seem happy - and put themselves to bed in their pig-arc which is full of fluffy straw.

So all new arrivals are nice and snug this chilly autumn night.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck - i will be watching you closely, as ours arrive in a couple of weeks. Eek - better get a move on!
    I love your new puppy - she is the cutest thing.