New arrivals – an animal update (105 days to go…)

by Max Akroyd

Sunday was a sneak preview of Spring. Doors of barns and other animal accommodation were thrown wide-open to let the warmish air reach into their foisty interiors. Working on the field, I felt humble and (even after the rigours of winter) a bit unworthy in the presence of the aching vernal beauty all around.

Yesterday was different. If you’ve ever spent time in the Lake District you develop a dread of rain setting in. I fed the pigs and, by the doleful look in their gentle eyes, it seemed like they were reluctantly planning a day indoors too. I opened their doors a bit – just in case – and happily a watery sun emerged and we could all set off for work in the field after all. While I planted trees and prepared the beetroot bed, they worked dutifully, turning the new turf in their enclosure.

The pigs are split into three teams and work three different locations. They are all one family, though, and I don’t see any prospect of introducing new blood this year. The ‘piglets’ – now strapping adolescents really – will keep us in pork all year and when they’re gone the other two teams will be reunited and Mummy pigs and Daddy pigs can live up to their names again!

It’s all change on the fowl front. I acquired six new ducks last week. They are presently encamped with my surviving goose, all learning to love their fox-proof home. I’m going to buy a drake and a gander very soon so the farm’s reputation for feathered fecundity can be restored – and the record for longevity improved!

No such luck for the goats, sadly. They will remain as maidens until their next season arrives in the autumn. They are going to be re-housed, though, to make way for a much-postponed influx of meat hens and some additional layers. I can only face the prospect of a year of self-sufficiency with equanimity because plenty of eggs means lots of cakes!

Oh, and I’m going to get some more guinea fowl too. If nothing else, this will ensure that the average I.Q. of the farm animals will be dragged down below my own again…

It’s comforting to realise that the animal aspect of this project will amount to just more of the same really. A good continuation. As opposed to the fruit and vegetable production which always feels like starting from scratch. Again. I’ll be recording progress so far in these areas in my next post.