Back when we bought Westwick we always intended to turn a good part of the orchard land into a vegetable patch and then build up to chickens, bees and finally pigs. However our veg patch looked like a meadow, a meadow full of tussocks and brambles and couch grass. Shortly before R was born my Dad helped up to stake out the plot and had a go at it with his rotivator. Let’s just say we didn’t get very far. The grass roots were too many and too deep. So we went back to the drawing board and realising we wouldn’t be getting any vegetable gardening up and running until the next Spring (new baby about to arrive) we had another think.
I first suggested getting some chickens to scratch up the land but we looked into it and most people seemed to think that whilst the chickens would eat all the grass up top, they would deal with the big couch grass root problem.
That left two options… double digging the 30ft by 45ft plot by hand or get pigs.
Pigs are rooting animals and love digging for roots, like couch grass roots! So we did it, we spent about 6 months planning, making contacts with some wonderful people who have been really supportive. I researched all the legal bits (there are a lot more legal bits with pigs than with chickens or bees but I’m happy to comply with those rules to stop the spread of foot and mouth) With some help from J’s Father we built a pig ark and an electric fence. That process was really important for me. We want to move into a more smallholderish lifestyle long term. We have had vegetable patches and allotments for about 10 years and we can make jam, marmalade and happily deal with any sort of glut. But with proper smallholding comes some more serious DIY work which neither J nor I are very good at… YET!
This has been an important experience in helping us to improve and learn and gain confidence which I really intend to build on.
We had a lot of initial outlay to get to this stage but some of the work we have done will (hopefully) last our whole lifetime here such as having a water supply and electric supply put in down the bottom near the Orchard.
So far it has been a really good experience. We have learned a lot. At the end of their time with us I’ll do a compare and contrast with photos of the pen but within a week they had already made amazing progress in turning over the land.
The pigs will be with us a fairly short time at this stage, they are destined for slaughter in mid-March and so far I am feeling fine about it. If I am going to be a meat eater (which currently I am) then I want to take real responsibility for that choice and that means really looking after and caring for the animals which will be my food. Ultimately I’d like to get to a stage where we only eat meat we have raised ourselves (or by other smallholdesr) so we can be absolutely confident that the animals were respected and treated well. That is a little way off yet though!