In Pursuit Of Piglets

Happiness is…


Talking of piglet feeding troughs, as we recently were, reminds me of the one final tale I have to tell from time spent living on a farm. Long time readers may recall that the shepherd had a sideline. Not enough for him the management of several hundred sheep. No, he also had a pair of Gloucester Old Spot sows. And as if BigUn and Littl’Un were not enough of a handful, he wanted more.

Every evening when Mike got home from work we would set out on a trek across the fields, ending up at the pig barn. It got so much of a regular habit that the shepherd, never being one to let an opportunity pass him by, asked if we’d like to get involved in the night time feed. You can read more about those shenanigans, The Great Escape (here) and Gated (here). One day we arrived at the pig pen to find not two residents but three.

Pure bred Gloucester Old Spot piggies can be worth a penny or two and the shepherd had secured, on a temporary basis, the services of a boar. Calendars were pored over and he had calculated the time that BigUn and Littl’Un were most likely to be receptive. As that time drew near our evening trips became tinged with a sense of trepidation. A boar in full rutting mode can be a fearsome beast. So what sound filled our ears as we approached the barn? Snoring. The sows, as usual, were rooting their way around the field. The boar? Fast asleep, tucked up in the far corner of the pen.

 It was the same story the next day. And the day after that. The shepherd, in general a philosophical sort, decided to wait until the next round of ‘seasons’ to see if by then relations might have improved. But alas, the old pig wanted none of it. A trailer departed the farm gate with the boar on board.

A couple of weeks later Old Spot headcount increased once again. This new arrival was in a completely different league. The first thing you noticed, couldn’t fail to notice, was that he came equipped for the job. He was huge. In any piggy dimension you might care to measure, he was huge. The shepherd was in the main farmyard as we strolled back through. He caught my eye. “You’ll have met Boris then…”

What could I say. “I’ve never seen such big…  shoulders…  on a pig!”



Boris, eyeing up the talent


Not only were the boar’s physical attributes formidable, he made up for every bit of enthusiasm his predecessor lacked. The shepherd started to worry about his girls, especially Littl’Un. Boris was getting on for twice her size. Weeks passed and BigUn came back into season. No luck there then. Littl’Un did not. Littl’Un just kept getting bigger. As per instructions, one morning there was a knock on the door. The shepherd stood there, hat in hand. “Five”.

Feeding times were never the same again. We chased those piglets up hill and down dale. They could trot clean underneath the electric fence and squeeze through a gap in the gate to a neighbouring farmer’s land. Leading us a merry dance through a wheat field was only the start of their game. The brambles that barred my progress they just bulldozed their way through. Delight in a tummy rub became their ultimate undoing. There would be a sudden shoulder roll on to the grass and all four trotters were held aloft. Only then could I scoop up a piglet triumphantly and return it to mum. Mischievous they certainly were. But utterly gorgeous.

Eight weeks after the piglets were born we moved down here to Devon. The farm wasn’t always the easiest place to live. No garden for a start. But sometimes I don’t ‘alf miss it.