It’s early evening and I am sitting outside in the shade next to the tipi. The dust is streaming out of the pig ark into the sunshine as the piglets fight for their mother’s milk – there is a constant rumpus going on as 60 piglets fight over their 6 poor mums. As soon as it cools down I am going to wean them from their mothers. They are eating lots of hard food now and are ready to start out on their own. In actual fact, they won’t bat an eyelid and their mothers will surely be glad of a break from the needle-sharp teeth. The sows will be moved and shared out 3 each to our 2 boars Dillon and Fred and like clockwork, five days from weaning almost to the hour they will come on heat and the cycle starts again.
Pigs don’t like these high temperatures any more than we do. They do not sweat as we do so to keep cool they need mud! I add the water for them and they do the rest. I have a dripping water pipe in every paddock and as if by magic they dig and roll and rub until from nowhere a hole appears. The pigs flop in the muddy soup, cover themselves in thick mud and then climb out and bask in the sun until they are too hot and then repeat the process. I have been feeding them at five in the morning and even then they are often shining with wet mud after an early morning dip. Without these watery wallows our pigs would die from heat stress so the dripping pipes are a small price to pay for healthy animals.
All around us the combines have been rolling easily through the bone-dry crops, dust spreading far and wide in their wake. As a farmer, there’s no surer sign of summer, but for us here, with no crops and no combine, a surer way to judge things is to look at the freezer and see how our little cafe visitors devour our Purbeck ice cream – sitting in the sunshine with their sun hats at a jaunty angle, chocolate smudges on their faces giving the game away. That’s summer right there.
This month Communifit will be running a cycle ride starting and finishing here and we run an open farm day alongside it. You don’t have to cycle, the day is for everyone young and old..er. We will be having live music, cider, trailer rides around the farm, our own hog roast and it’s just a great relaxed day…unless you have just cycled 50 miles, in that case, you might be looking for a cider!
I have to tell you – I have succumbed and just pinched an ice cream from the freezer. No trace of chocolate smudges but please don’t tell Charlotte!
James Hull, Sherborne Times, Sept 22