Sunlight shines into the pig ark at The Story Pig farm.

I trudge determinedly across a muddy paddock with a bale of straw slung on my back, strategically balanced to not feel heavy. I’m taking it to one of our many pig arks but as I approach, the baler cord starts to cut into my hand and I fling it down quickly. Around me gather 40 squealing, inquisitive, growing pigs. I crouch and thrust the bale inside, into the dry, warm space, I drag it to the back, find my knife and cut the strings. The pigs start to stream into the ark to see what I am doing – these are big pigs, boisterous and I exit to one side. They won’t hurt me but they might knock me over in their collective excitement. I repeat my trudging with two more bales on my back – the first bale is already trampled and torn apart in a collective frenzy of excitement. I shout to them my re-arrival, the more timid ones bolt out the entrance past me, squealing as they go. Some fly through the back window, this is not designed for flying pigs but still they use it as an escape route. The most confident of the group stay put and push the bales around as I cut the strings. The sun is shining and shafts of light stream in, the sunbeams are filled with dust as they kick the straw around. As I leave, the whole group of 40 are chewing and munching, they do an amazing job of making their bed, chewing the straw into tiny fragments. I move on to the next group and repeat, getting warmer and warmer until I am boiling hot with all my layers on – even on a freezing cold day this job gets me hot. Some groups are sows with piglets, these are smaller arks and if the mother is near I don’t go inside, I cut the bale outside and throw the sections in, keeping a watchful on a protective mum. If the piglets squeak, she will come after me, mouth open, barking! We have about 16 different groups to bed up – I do it on a Wednesday every week and it takes me most of the morning. It is one of the many workouts that mean I can eat Charlottes amazing cakes without getting fat – a fair trade off I guess.

Elsewhere, small signs of the impending spring are popping up; catkins wave gently in the cold breeze and somehow snowdrops are pushing up through the cold wet soil to brighten the days. We planted quite a lot of snowdrops here last year, so Charlotte and I look for them popping up. To be honest there doesn’t seem to be as many as we planted – where have they gone?

The days are longer now, we can be outside until its dark at about six. We are busy planning our move back outside with the tipi – not long now. If everything goes to plan and we don’t return to the depths of winter, we are planning to move back outside on the weekend of 26/27th March. We have sown hundreds of packets of seeds in our poly tunnel (at the time of writing, they are not up yet, but hopefully soon!) – some to plant in our garden and many to grow on and sell to all our customers. True to form, we have gone for the more unusual plants that you won’t see everywhere else.

I can’t wait for the spring proper to arrive. The trouble is farmers always have one eye on the weather and this year we have had an extremely dry winter so far, and I find myself saying to Charlotte on a regular basis ‘we will pay for this’ so I sincerely hope I am wrong and that we have escaped the worst that winter can throw at us. But just in case, I have filled our big emergency water tanks up and covered them with old blankets, so if the weather turns and all our pigs’ water freezes, we will be sort of prepared! Down on the farm, basically everything changes and nothing changes. Hope to see you all soon!

James Hull, Sherborne Times, March 2022

Sunlight shines into the pig ark at The Story Pig farm.