Tag Archives: pigs

Every Day is Different . . .

There goes an hour of my life. I’ve just written a couple of hundred words but they were going nowhere, and they are now in the bin. I started off with good intentions and it went well for the first 150 words, but it just petered out and after a couple of attempts to close it in a useful and interesting manner I decided that the best way to finish was by way of the delete button.

Instead I will tell you about the most stupid enquiry I have ever had on eBay, and will then progress to the funniest.

One relates to an expensive bullion set, from one of the companies that specialises in such sets. Ours is on eBay at around £2,500. It’s a limited edition with less than 100 sets made. My expectation with this sort of thing is that if you can afford to buy one you are (a) intelligent enough to earn the money to buy one and (b) know what you are doing.

I am, it seems, wrong on both counts. Someone wrote to us and asked how we knew ours was number 45 out of 99, and how he could tell what number his was. If he’d spent a few seconds flicking through the pictures in our listing he’d have discovered the answer. It’s written on the certificate from the manufacturer. It took me less than 30 seconds to find it and I’d never seen the set before.

It’s a stupid enquiry because he should have known that before buying an expensive set. And it’s possibly the stupidest one we’ve had because he was too lazy to look at our listing and find the answer.  All I can say in his defence is that he may not have a certificate with his, but if he’s spent all that money on a set with no certificate, it doesn’t make him look particularly bright. And he then has the gall to take up my time by writing to ask something he could have established for himself by pressing a few buttons. Do I look, I wanted to write, like a public information point?

Two hours later we had the funniest enquiry. A lady rang and asked if we were Collectors World, which we are. We tend to wimp out of using an apostrophe as we aren’t quite sure where it should be.

Anyway, a lady rang, I answered, informed her that we were Collectors World, confirmed that it was Collectors World when asked, and then listened to her question. It seems she has a set of ceramic carol-singing pigs and she has successfully removed and replaced the AA batteries which make the piece revolve, she just can’t seem  to get the smaller batteries out which power the music. Could I tell her how to do it?

I am, I confess, seldom speechless, but for  a moment my mouth moved and nothing came out. Eventually we established that there are other places that trade as Collectors World (which is why our website address is includes the world Nottingham) and that we aren’t the one that sells revolving ceramic pigs which sing Christmas carols.

We parted on good terms despite my inability to help and I really hope she managed to get help from the Collectors World that does.

Even as I search for a title I can hear my Dad talking (he had been in retail in the 1950s after leaving the Navy) – “in retail,” he would say,”every day is different”.




A Ride in the Country

In the middle of the day I first dropped Julia off at work (she is going in to familiarise herself with the garden) and then went for a drive.

I saw an Orange-tip on the verge and a Buzzard perching in a roadside tree, which was a good start.

It was a good day for free range pigs, warm but not too sunny. I always worry about them getting sunburn when it’s too hot. Obviously it’s nothing like as painful as being grilled, but it must be fairly unpleasant , particularly as they have short legs and no way of getting suncream on their backs.

When I have stopped and looked at them before there have been hundreds of birds abou (Jackdaws, Carrion Crows, Rooks and Black Headed Gulls), but apart from a few gulls there were none about today. I must start looking on a regular basis to see if it’s seasonal or if today was just a one-off.

Further down the road I stopped in a lay-by for a look round. I tried a few flowers and some still life shots but the butterflies wouldn’t stop to pose and all the birds were hiding in trees, though they were singing their hearts out. If only I could recognise more birdsong, or more flowers.

The only bird I actually saw was a Buzzard, and that was too far away to get a decent shot.

It was good to get outside for a spot of nature therapy. I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed it the fresh air and actually having to think about things. Sitting at home watching daytime TV is not something I’m keen to keep doing.


Medecine, mistakes and a misapprehension

On the grounds of good taste I’m not going to go into detail about what happened at hospital this afternoon.

The facilities are good, the staff were cheerful and I was only away from home for 45 minutes (we can see the hospital from our house so travel doesn’t take long). Despite this I’m not very happy with the experience.

It’s hard to feel satisfaction when you go in for tests and come out without having the tests done.

The NHS did not cover itself in glory today.

However, my day was better than the man who was waiting with me. He  was under the misapprehension that they were going to put the camera down his throat.


Today’s photographs are just a few selected from thousands…



500, and the Red Arrows came to mark the day!

Yes, it’s post 500 and I’m feeling a little bit smug. However, the smugness is kept in bounds by the realisation that 500 posts isn’t the same as 500 good posts.

Despite this, it was nice of the Red Arrows to drop by and put a display on for us. The photos aren’t great, but the camera wasn’t very expensive and it’s fine for butterflies and flowers. Seeing as I photograph the Red Arrows about once every 20 years and butterflies nearly every day I think I have the balance about right. I’d hate to spend £1,000 on a camera and then wait 20 years to use its full potential.

In fact, being tight, I’d hate to spend £1,000 on a camera.

The day was the usual mix of heat, work and complaints about working in the heat. We watered polytunnels, collected eggs, made cards, plaited corn dollies from drinking straws (modern stalks are too short) and served a couple of passing walkers with ice creams.

In addition I put poultry up for sale on Preloved, Gumtree and Pets4Home, (for which I don’t get paid) wrote several rude emails (which I resisted the temptation to send) and one which I didn’t. I dealt with Men in Sheds (for which I don’t get paid) and queries about the Agroforestry Project (for which I don’t get paid).

We also had to extract a growling pig from the water trough. She’s developed the habit of inserting herself into the water trough to cool herself down and this is the second time she’s got stuck under the top bar.

She tends to get annoyed that she’s stuck, and even more annoyed when we have to pull her out, hence the growling. I didn’t get paid for that either, but it’s not every day you get to hear a pig growl so I’ll settle for that.

You may see a theme developing here. I am feeling jaded and put upon, a feeling that increases when talking to the ex-farm apprentice, who is now in a new job with a local nursery and thoroughly enjoying himself. He also gets paid for the work he does. I’m jealous.

Then, as the day drew to a close, we had a visit from the Red Arrows.

Bread, butter and Brownies – Part 2

Well, I’ve updated the gallery page with a slideshow, if you’re interested, and I’ve re-read Part 1 and realised that I may have been slightly less than accurate in my comments on butter making. It’s easy, as I said. However, twice it has proved to be impossible. I did it as a unit of a PTLLS course I took some years ago – the cream was hot from being in the back of the car and the evening was humid and the classroom unventilated. After half an hour of shaking, as I showed signs of passing out, they decided to let me off that bit. It still took me an hour after that to stop shaking. The other time was similar, hot and humid day, trying to make butter at a care home. Fortunately, with a clientèle that were all around 90 we were able to nip to the kitchen and substitute butter from the fridge without anyone spotting it.

So, butter making is generally easy. Apart from when it isn’t.

I’ve just been run into the ground by 23 Brownies. I don’t think I could cope with being a Brownie leader – the enthusiasm is great, but I don’t have the energy to keep up!

It’s also trickier doing the visit on your own, but as Julia was working at her “proper” job tonight we didn’t have much choice. What is a seamless performance with the two of us working like a well-oiled machine (I may be exaggerating a bit here), becomes a touch fraught as you have to prepare everything in advance and go from one to the other hoping that it all fits together. It just about did. I forgot the picking of herbs and chillies for the soup until I had them all washing their hands in the outside sink so I had to alter my choice of herbs to sage and golden marjoram – those being the ones they could see from the sink.

There was also a bit of  a gap where I needed to serve up the soup, but the leaders covered that for me with a song about gorilla snot. Yes, it was a surprise to me too.


In the end it all went reasonably well, kids and leaders seemed happy, we had no accidents, the animals behaved (OK, apart from the goats) and I’m left with a feeling of well-being as we head into tomorrow and the fifth day. I’ve a few points to improve on but nothing too bad.

List for tomorrow – cream crackers, fly spray (it’s not good weather for those of us with waterless toilets), air freshener (ditto), long bamboo skewers (for our November Project), and bread for lunch.

I think that’s it…



Entering the modern era

Yes, I’ve finally done it, after being let down twice in a week I’ve drafted the letter about non-returnable deposits.

One of them was a no-show, so we’d bought materials and planned the day, putting several hours of effort in. The second was the day before, but I was away that day and only checked my email this morning, by which time I’d spent several hours planning, bought materials and ingredients and generally psyched myself up.

So we’re now in the grasping, lecturing, materialistic modern world and have a document detailing our deposit requirements and defining “14 days”. I haven’t moaned, I’ve just pointed out that we can’t keep incurring costs and suffering late cancellations.

I’m reasonably happy with it but I’m sure that the management committee will have a go at mangling it.

Coming, as it did, the day after the lady at Brierlow Book Shop taught me how to pay contactlessly. I’m really feeling like a child of the 21st century. She says she can also pay with her phone and her watch. I still think anything other than cash is a bit suspect, but I suppose I’m one of a dying breed.

The keets are all happy, though I’m not sure what we’re feeding them on. It looks a bit floury and the mill we use to grind wheat for school visits seems to be full of pig pellets. Call me suspicious but  if there was such a thing as an Olympics for cutting corners we would be weighed down with medals and people would call on us to commentate at the Christmas Scrooge Championships and the Tightwad Derby.

I’ve got the new feeder up, though I can’t afford a big one like the bookshop has. Nor could I afford to fill it. I’ve also put the window feeder up, but so far nobody has found it. I thought that if it works it’s worth a fiver, and if it doesn’t I’ll give it a wash and give it somebody for Christmas.

The old feeders all have a new feature – an elastic band over the top. It’s not pretty but I’m hoping it might work. The plan is that even if they do get mugged by jackdaws the tops should stay on. If the jackdaws can’t get to the contents they may stop wrecking them. How many times have I said that?

One of the goats escaped, but it’s now captured and penned again. I’d have left it to get in by itself (they do when they get bored) but someone called and asked for help.

He caught me at a bad time – I was just contemplating allowing the three guinea fowl in the allotment to escape from their pen. A moment later and I may have been spotted. I’ll do it tomorrow.

The pigs seem happy too, but in the absence of foresight I suppose they would, They may be the 4th most intelligent mammal, behind men, apes and dolphins, but they have never really concerned themselves with the meaning of life.This is probably a good thing.

Given food, friends and the occasional scratch behind the ears they seem content.

Added later – can anybody tell me if the plant still standing near the pigs (the only thing they have left standing, is hemlock? The main picture isn’t as clear as it could be – do these help?

Meanwhile the cereal trial is confusing me – the plots with chemicals seem greener, and have fewer weeds, but the ones without chemicals seem just as tall and productive, though a bit paler, or even yellow round the edges. The chemicals must help by providing all the nutrients the grain needs, but I’m wondering whether they are cost effective.


I knew it was going to be windy today because it was windy all last night. I know this because  the wind was coming from the north and my bedroom faces north.

This week last year one of the tents blew down as we prepared for Open Farm Sunday and our runner beans were ravaged by the Arctic blast. This year we have paced ourselves better and won’t be putting the big marquee up until Thursday. We have put the awning up in front of the kitchen, and that is firmly tied to the verandah of the centre and variously weighted down with breeze blocks and gas bottles. Despite this it’s still showing ambitions to fly.

As for the beans, I haven’t even put one out this year.

As you can see from the main picture, the bird feeders have been swinging at some strange angles and feeding birds have been clinging rather than perching. Even they had it easy compared to one of the farmyard poultry, though I didn’t mange to get a picture, so you’ll have to imagine the picture.

Think of a chicken making its way across the yard as a gust of wind catches it. Then think of tumble-weed. Put the two images together and you are close to what happened. Fortunately nothing was injured except for a little avian dignity.

As for other matters, we had a visit from a teacher (who seemed to like us), we have four new pigs, a tail on our pigsaw and I have just completed an internet training course on COSHH in a Food Environment. That’s Control of Substances Hazardous to Health in case you were wondering, and no, it doesn’t include my cooking.



Bucket lists, birds and boars

You don’t often get to do something for the first time when you’re our age; apart from medical procedures there’s not much novelty left once you start closing in on sixty. Even when it is a novelty, it’s rarely something you want enjoy.

Julia has instructed me to take heed of the requirements of good taste here and not discuss my medical history.

However, today we were able to help someone with her bucket list, as she wanted to hand feed lambs before having an her operation. There’s no accounting for taste, but many people seem to find lambs cute, so Julia laid on the full farm experience, right down to the… er…last detail. I will be tactful on that, but not only does the lady feel like a farmer now, she also smells like one.

I suggested that if she could see her way clear to add “shovelling” to her bucket list we could also accommodate her with that too.

Kirsty did her pig presentation today, which was quite interesting. The idea that pigs are clean animals and can bark were two new concepts that caused quite a bit of discussion, as did the news that wild pigs form a large portion of the diet of tigers in the wild.

I can understand that pigs barking seems strange, and that an animal that rolls in mud to prevent sunburn doesn’t seem that clean at first glance. What I’m struggling with is the idea that we need to worry about what tigers eat. If we ever end up with tigers in Screveton I can’t help feeling that we will have more to worry about than the safety of our pigs.

Apart from that we’ve gardened between showers, refurbished and redesigned a few scarecrows and taken more bird pictures. That woodpecker really does love peanuts!

As you can see from the main picture, the term scarecrow isn’t strictly accurate.

Tomorrow we will be baking scones. I will be taking photographs and lurking in the hope of being fed.



Three hundred posts and what do I have to show for it? I quite like reading what other people are doing (just like I used to like looking into back gardens when riding in a train) but I’m not sure I’m adding much to the world.

Take this post for instance, I’ve been trying to find an exciting subject for a week now, and failed. Looking on the bright side I didn’t have too much trouble with the title this time.

So, today. It’s a ll been a bit flat. David Bowie died. A member of the Bread Group died. One of our volunteers has foot and mouth disease (though not the animal one, so we aren’t allowed to shoot her and burn the body) and I’ve had a quote for lunch turned down by a group that will be using the centre at the end of the week – they can only afford £2.50. Looks like it’s going to be a small lunch.

Outside, we did get a good look at the new goat, some wheat growing in a wheelbarrow and a large spider, which, as far as I could tell, was not from Mars.

We also helped muck the pigs out as the recent rain found a hole in the barn roof and conditions under foot (or trotter, to be precise) were a bit moist. I say “we” but I had some really important emails to write, which is why I’m the only one that doesn’t smell like the inside of a farmer’s wellington.

That’s it, 300th post written and not a mention of the Spartans. It was close but I avoided it. Now I need to start planning a really good post for my 500th, which, if I keep this rate up, will be around November.

I think I’ve thought of one…


The tumult and the shouting dies

Last night was the peak of our current workload, with just two more weeks to go before the school holidays create a lull. All the other groups that are coming are well within the boundaries of what our equipment can cope with (we ran out of forks last night for some reason – I know we used to have over 40 but don’t know whey we only have 32 now) and we’re quite looking forward to it.

It’s just after lunch and, having done part of the clearing last night, I’m still waiting for the assistance I was promised. That’s about par for the course, and that, if only you knew it, is a very appropriate expression. In case you are confused, the farmer has gone to play golf (hence the “par”), and when he does that the farm staff all regard it as an excuse to have a holiday. Seems like me and Julia are the only idiots left working.

So I’m relaxing with a bit of Kipling, refusing to do the old music hall joke, and contemplating the next hour of washing up.

It’s amazing how much debris a BBQ generates, and how much greasy dirt lurks in corners. I’m also surprised (aghast may be better) at the various places people leave their discarded plates, cans and glasses. At least the water butts were full after a stiffish cloudburst earlier on in the day. That means people don’t tend to treat them as rubbish bins, which has happened at previous events.


Banana, sugar, Mars bar = calorie overload and horrendous time washing up!

We used compostable paper plates so we could show off our green credentials. I’m not sure whether this is better than using our clapped out selection of second hand plates (or “upcycled crockery” as we also call it) but it did save on washing up. One of our helpers (and I use the term loosely) decided to also hand out non-compostable ones then made herself scarce when it came time to sort through the used plates and separate the two sorts.

It’s been an active morning (apart from one of the community gardeners who appeared to be impersonating a scarecrow) with egg collecting, pig visiting and upcycling milk containers. You can see some of this on our Twitter page (@QuercusCommy) or have a look at these photos.


Upcycled milk carton


Pigs are happier now it’s cooler

Talking of Twitter , we now have just over 900 followers – it was 902 but now it’s 901. Someone unfollowed me, but when you think I accumulated around 100 followers last week (no I don’t know how) it’s hardly surprising that some go. Many of them are about music, youth or “love” so I’m torn by indecisiveness now. Ddo I take the easy way out and keep pressing on to the magic 1,000? Or do I start paring my followers back until I only have ones that I consider to be a good fit?