It’s autumn, the time of year when we are glad of every extra day of dry sunny weather, forgotten are the boiling hot days of midsummer when we might be tempted to mention that it’s too hot! Now we are on borrowed time, the mornings and evenings are drawing in ever faster. The dews are heavy, shoe soaking; the early morning mists spectacular, rolling through the valley below. It’s that time of year when photos take on a magical tone.
Our hedgerows are absolutely bursting with fruit: blackberries, elderberries, hazelnuts. I hear myself saying that I have never seen as many blackberries as this year but have a sneaky suspicion that I say that every year.
Charlotte and I spent an hour last evening picking blackberries together, using the quad bike and trailer as a ladder to precariously stretch and reach the high fruits, hands stained and bloodied, the battle of the blackberry pickers. It was nice, no noise, just the gentle grunting of the pigs behind us and the satisfaction of full containers. Charlotte has nearly turned herself into a one-woman jam and chutney factory, with pots and jars everywhere and the amazing smells of cooking fruits and simmering vegetables.
The pigs are enjoying this time of year too, not too hot for them. They are out foraging until dark and have grown well over the summer months. We have had 50 piglets over the last 8 weeks but we have a gap now before any more are born. We are moving to a batch farrowing system; this means that we will farrow 6 together at a time, which should make managing our groups easier as we grow. We are just in the process of moving them all on to fresh paddocks. This is quite a big job. We have eight paddocks, all with their own water supply and pig arks, so we have to make the new paddocks ready before we can move the pigs into their new quarters. Pigs are funny creatures; quite often we try and move them by taking their electric fence down and letting them roam into their new area. Half of them will come straight through the new gap but the other half will not cross over the line where the fence was, no matter how much food is offered. With some it can take 2-3 days before they will cross.
We have had a group of 30 down by the farm as weed clearers and garden waste eaters, and we have enjoyed having them so close, watching all their behaviour. There are 6 smaller ones who are the absolute bosses of the group, however they are all off back up to the main pig field soon ready for the winter months… I’m not even going to mention mud!
This article was published in Sherborne Times October edition.