Pigs’ escape attempt foiled (542)
by Max Akroyd
For one reason or another – neither of them any good – I was overweight when I finally arrived, spade in hand, at my new French acres. The physical impact of the intervening years have been a shock. Obviously, one quite fat bloke tending four (then six) acres with minimal machinery was never going to be a stroll in the park, more like a stumble in a jungle… but, in a faltering fashion, over time, I’ve adapted; my weight staying constant as fat was burned and muscle grown.
But those scary old paintings of peasants must be based in fact – even paddling in the shallow end of subsistence farming as I am, I can feel the gruelling nature of the task. Minor but constant pain in joints – joints I never knew I had. A tendency to walk around looking like you’re carrying a big weight even on the rare occasions when you’re not… and when I decided recently to lift a large, domestic object (not my wife) it was the last straw as far as my back was concerned. Fortunately, watching TV or typing this with my feet higher than my ears seems to relieve the pain. And if I vary the workload to mix heavy and lightweight work everything’s ok. And anyway, as somebody Northern once said “hard work never hurt anybody, it just makes them a fair queer shape.”
For some reason, I wish I knew for sure what it was, at the moment I’m raring to go garden-wise. Maybe it’s too much black coffee, or the distant but distinct rumbling of the big train of spring jobs hurtling this way, but I could happily dig trenches all day. It was a bit frustrating then to discover that our big pigs had managed to fell a whole section of their electric fence. I only checked it on a whim, but I’m glad I did.
On their previous escapes they’ve headed straight for our French neighbour’s house (presumably his cooking smells are superior to our own). Now he’s a good guy, with a keen interest in all things medieval, but I doubt this encompasses visits from two ten stone pigs intent on eating his supper… Anyway, after a couple of hours’ tweaking and tightening and running backwards and forwards, they were penned again and the next time my neighbour sees them they will be his supper.
So with only an hour or so left to salvage the morning’s work, which task to undertake? Not strimming (no petrol), not tidying the toolshed (wrong planetary alignment)… then, yippee, digging a trench it was!
Although mild, the afternoon was so wet and windy that the usual Saturday afternoon family walk had to be cancelled. Since nobody wanted anything else to do with it, I spent the afternoon stapling down plastic mulch; this time to create a long thin area on the nearside of the kitchen garden in which to sow wild flowers. This will form a ‘bug bed’, an attractant of beneficial insects, and a pleasant transition for anyone wandering out of the herb garden into the kitchen garden area.
As the rain pounded down I started to feel almost as sorry for the pigs as I did for myself. I’ve never met an animal that likes to be outside so much: but even they had abandonned their afternoon outdoor activities. I brought them a big bunch of fresh greens. Usually, as I approach their home, a pandemonium of oinking, squealing and woofing (yes, my mini-pigs woof) breaks out as the hand that feeds approaches. This time the rain must have deadened the sound of my footfalls because I managed to get to the sty without rousing them from their sleep. I had the privilige of seeing them all curled up together, tight as a bunch of shallots.