Monday, 22 March 2010

Woefully Underprepared

We have another two additions to our little farmyard - two sister sows by the names of Maybelline and Rimmel. We didn't name Maybelline but it does really suit her as she is a pink pig with panda black rings round her eyes (a British Lop x Large Black). Then of course, lil cute black sister pig had to be Rimmel. They are 10 weeks old, very cute and very fast. Read on.

Originally we were going to get two boy pigs, Tamworths, and they were to be destined to feed the family. This is a BIG step for us but we do eat meat and we're now of the opinion that maybe it's better to raise your own and know that they have had a happy, stressfree life (and death) than to just buy what the supermarkets have to offer - in the case of pork, a very sad pig's life. However, the Tamworths were already 4 month old uncastrated fellows and we intended to keep them until November time so that they could enjoy all the acorns and apple surplus. That added up to a BIG pig who would be sexually mature and possibly the meat would have boar taint (a hormonal change that leads the meat to have a very strong taste, 'porky pork' as we call it, and many say that the carcass is rendered inedible. If you'd like to know more then go here We changed our minds and decided to go for sows as being more manageable. But Maybelline and Rimmel are so lovely that we have probably decided to keep them as our breeders. Maybe it's good to start with 'pets' first until you get to know the beast. We certainly feel that way about our chooks - the 5 we have at present will always be pets but we now feel strong enough to have some to raise for the table.

So yesterday we trundled off to a place 50 miles north of here in Normandy and there found some happy pig families who were born in the fresh air and raised organically. R and B and Calyx had a wonderful time chasing loads of piglets all around the farm buildings, sloshing about in the mud, hiding with them in the barns etc. Then we loaded up our two girls into a dog crate in the back of the Bongo and set off for home. The girls squealed for the first couple of miles then laid down and went to sleep whilst R stroked them through the gaps.

We got back, loaded the dog box onto the wheelbarrow and trundled them off across the field to their new home. They seemed to like it, pooped all over the place (and boy, pig poo is one of those smells that just keeps giving!), and snuffled and grunted about. The entrance to the house was blocked off by a board but not too high as to block off all air. I went off to get some food for them from the barn and Ben started to fix the last bit of fence. When I got back, all was quite peaceful with all three boys peering in at the pigs, Daddy working on the fence and Calyx lounging in the sun keeping a watchful eye on things. Suddenly, out popped Rimmel having leapt over the board blocking the entrance. And she bolted. Followed seconds later by Maybelline. Ben yelled to keep them at the end of the paddock away from the unfinished bramble fence, I was searching desperately for something I could use like a blockade to funnel them back into the house, the boys were screeching excitedly and then Calyx joined in the fun and started chasing the piglets. The girls were not up for that. They found a corner, tucked their snouts under the wire and wiggled on through, all in the blink of an eye. Yippee, 17 acres and beyond with the light of the day falling rapidly. Bloddie 'ell - just what we needed.

There must be something about Spring here that sets up situations to make me run, carrying a baby - last year it was the orchard fire, this year it was the damn pigs. But run we did. We finally managed to get them into our top 2 acres of garden and with a bit more chasing, got them into the solar tunnel. This was how I came to be setting up a baby's playpen in a polytunnel by torchlight - obviously not for a baby but for the pigs! So they had to spend the night in the dog box and playpen but didn't seem to mind too much - maybe they were worn out with all that running. I sure was!!!

Saturday, 20 March 2010


As we travelled northwards through France to collect our new little piglets (more on that later), we passed through the twin town of Kinross, Gacé . What a surprise! Then a little further on was the town twinned with Goring on Thames though sadly now the name escapes me. This was special to me also as both my Grandfather and my mother worked in Goring. What a small world!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Pigs' Paradise

We have spent this past week putting up a pig house and fencing off a quarter of one of our fields - I say 'we' but that was actually Ben with me providing refreshments as the weather was warm. Then my turn came in hacking back a 3 metre deep bramble hedge and boy was that tough going. It took three days and I have scars to prove it! We had hoped to leave it and let the pigs deal with it but the 'fence' in the middle of it was in a sad state of disrepair and, at pig level, represented a nice open door to the complete freedom of all of the lands of La Chapelle du Bois.

There is still a tiny bit of fencing to do in the brambles but apparently the pigs need to stay in their house for a couple of days at first until they know that this is now home.

I'm happy and relieved to now declare that we are ready for our pigs.

Saturday, 6 March 2010


Today dawns bright and sunny though cold. We have had a biting easterly wind for 3 days but it seems to have passed now. Consequently there was a frost last night that saw me having to break the ice on the geese water again today! It's March!!! All the locals are saying how unusual this is and that Spring is well delayed. I can vouch for that actually as last year when I gave birth to Sammy there was a beautiful massive forsythia in full yellow regalia but this year it's not even broken bud. We do have our crocuses out though and the daffs are about to pop if they don't get choked off by the frost that is.

This afternoon we had un petit fête for S's first birthday together with it being almost 3 years since we signed up for a life in France. I have spent the past three days making lots of cakes in a bid to use up some of our egg mountain and fortunately lots of folk came to eat them all up - 11 families including our mayor. R and B had a great time playing with the other children outside whilst S and his friend played happily indoors with all the new toys and books. R is absent from the photograph as he was too busy playing with the other children to come in for the candle-blowing-out session.

We got lots of nice compliments on how far our French has come on (yikes scary as I *know* mine is still atrocious so how bad must it have been!!!) and our Mayor said that he was glad to have such open-spirited people as part of the community.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Tempête Xynthia

Hooray - we've got our phone/internet line back at last. Four days without connection seems like ages.

We were actually very lucky after the BIG storm - Tempête Xynthia - that swept through many parts of Europe on Sat/Sun last. LPM was unscathed save one solitary roof tile on the barn. We lost our electricity supply but only for 9 hours (some folk were off for 48!), two large old trees came down on the drive but Ben and Jean-Yves made short work of them with the chainsaws and tractors leaving us lots of nice firewood once they season, and of course we lost the telephone connection as aforementioned trees fell on the cable and snapped it.

Together with the wind was torrential rain and our pond was almost overflowing. A neighbour said that they'd never seen it so high!

Fortunately La Chapelle du Bois is on a hill but the valley floor below us was completely flooded when the rivers burst their banks. It was surreal driving across the flooded fields on raods that were completely dry. The roads in the UK would have flooded too as there the rainwater is dealt with by drains in the road surface. Here however, there are fosses (large ditches) at the sides of the roads that deal with all the water and it was these that took the brunt of the water force, leaving the roads still passable. It was weird.

The storm took the roof off the swimming pool complex near Le Mans where the boys go swimming (and had been going that Sunday, except we couldn't get out as the drive was blocked!) Now I know that I've said it's a wee bit warmer here than in Scotland most of the time but it's still not warm enough for open air swimming yet!