Meet Pumpkin & Squash, a pair of Large Black Pigs

December 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Pumpkin and Squash are two very happy, slightly overweight gilts which I am proud to call my animals. They are Large Black pigs, a rare breed and the UK’s only all black pig.

Large Black pigs are good looking animals (though pigs do have a habit of maintaining rude health) with big floppy ears and wide faces. They are massive, the meat is gorgeous and they thrive on a diet of pasture/veg.

My pair have some life: fresh veg daily, plenty of space to skip (suprisingly nimble) around (feed less oats!), near hourly contact with people, Huxley to beat up when they’re bored.

These are the first pigs i’ve ever kept. I think I imagined it to be like getting a very large rabbit, with the pen being like a hutch and all.

I think the moment of realisation that I had not purchased a very large rabbit came when trying to transport new purchases in the back of a Renault Scenic.

I grew extra veg before they arrived and left it in the ground as an arrival ‘gift’. I planned a series of vocal commands and training techniques. I spent hours on my knees in the park collecting acorns as ‘treats’.

The pigs arrived, destroyed their pen door, destroyed the garden, then set up camp outside the air vent honking for constant feeding. When they found my acorn stash (in the shed) they knocked it all over the floor, and set up camp in the shed til they’d gorged the lot. Bold and inquisitive indeed.

The intelligence of pigs deserves a good few posts in itself, more of those to come; suffice to say pigs are amazingly bright, good natured, interactive animals. I cannot imagine ever getting bored of going to visit my pigs.

Pumpkin is a really nice pig. Clever, sweet, docile. Doesn’t scoff her food so fast she has to regurgitate it. Doesn’t try jump on your back every time you bend down. Doesn’t rub its ass on then poo inside electrical sockets (yes really).

Squash is a bad, bad pig. She bites, she’s just really bossy, obnoxious, noisy. She eats like the proverbial pig, jumps all over people and poos in electrical sockets. She’s not very bright either.

Proper farmers might say kill a mean pig (as it sticks in the genes, so top the whole line) and believe me I would, I want to kill Squash, but the bitch has great genetics. I need her babies.

So Squash lives.

Pumpkin’s fate is yet to be decided.

Advertisements Article: China’s ability to feed its people questioned by UN expert

December 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Shrinking arable land making it harder to maintain agricultural output, says Olivier De Schutter, as food prices rise in China

Vegetable sellers wait for customers at their stalls in a street market in Hefei, eastern China. Recent food price surges in the country have underscored the supply challenges it faces. Photograph: Str/AFP/Getty Images


China‘s ability to feed a fifth of the world’s population will become tougher because of land degradation, urbanisation and over-reliance on fossil-fuels and fertiliser, a United Nations envoy warned today as grain and meat prices climbed on global markets.

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Independent Article: Chilli compound helps identify pain genes

December 21, 2010 § 1 Comment

The compound which gives chillies their kick is being used in the fight against chronic pain.

Researchers at Aberdeen University have identified how genes are “turned on” to make humans feel pain.

Capsaicin, the compound in chillies which gives them their kick, can also turn on the switch.

It is believed the study could herald the development of new painkilling drugs.

The team looked at the mechanics of the pain gene known as substance-P which was first associated with chronic inflammatory pain more than 30 years ago.

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No Veg?!…Blaencamel to the rescue

December 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

Deepest winter (and some lenghthy pig action) havs reduced my garden to a patch of earth devoid of life.

The pigs have eaten every last root, earthworm and bug. The place is sterile. Pigs, dirty? they’ve eaten EVERYTHING. Theres nothing left to get dirty.

I had a lovely patch of sprouts (Trafalgar and Falstaff) which I planted in May, calculated so as to crop in time for Christmas, and 10 sprouting broccoli plants (Red Arrow) which were planted in June for a March crop, but my pigs razed the whole lot to the ground, so I’ve started off some lettuce, spinach, pakchoi and parsley under lights as I know I’m not going to have any crops from the garden until at least April/May.

Here are the little darlings:

Thank goodness for my local farmers market (Riverside Farmers Market) where Blaencamel Farm produce incredibly good quality veg all year round. I have lots of respect for these growers- the consistent quality and freshness of their produce is second to none. See for details.

Pigs as ploughs: Put your spade away and get a pig

December 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

When I first heard about no dig gardening I thought Yes! Indeed that’s the way forward for my veg growing operations. For the last three years I’ve done it successfully, but for the past three years I’ve been making/obtaining tons of compost & manure.

Now I have pigs so there is nothing spare for the compost heap, and really without a constant influx of compost the wheels fall off my no-dig system.

These last three compost laden years have spoilt me- I wince at the thought of digging even a celery trench let alone double digging, and I’m a fit (marginally), healthy (fairly) 29 year old.

Solution! The no-dig strategy now encompasses pigs.

Anyway, pigs are the ultimate ploughs, they are like ploughs with a fertilising arm attached to the rear end. They have little pointy feet which avoid compressing the ground. I compare them to fat ladies in stilettos (no offence to fat ladies in stilettos).

They root down to their eyeballs and heave the soil aside, leaving it fluffy, aerated and devoid of weeds/last year’s crop stumps. With a little raking these are perfect soil conditions for planting vegetables.

If you are lucky enough to have a pig, or have a neighbour who will lend you one, a simple rotation system can see all of your digging done for you.

Fencing is of paramount importance as hungry/bored pigs will really enjoy digging under a fence. Believe me you don’t want to be chasing a fully grown pig about your neighbourhood.

Guardian Article: Alys Fowler – Happiness is a winter’s afternoon

December 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

Some interesting cultivars mentioned by Alice Fowler in the Guardian today:

I don’t need much to be happy. That I get to be outside in winter if I wish is enough. I like those days when the sky is a blinding white-grey and the sun burns through a hazy shadow. Or when the sun comes out for a moment. I greet its barely there warmth with 20 minutes of gardening before heading back in for toast and tea.

Unfortunately, the things I love to eat need more than this. Due to the low light levels in December, nothing grows much. Anything you eat in December needs to have banked enough hours earlier on. For a slow-growing parsnip that means a whole summer of sun, for fast-growing oriental greens a few weeks of early autumn rays is enough.

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