Posts Tagged ‘irish times’

Twice recently I’ve been asked “how come we got into pigs”?


Back in 2008 I read an article in the Irish Times about a day long course on ‘how to’ with pigs.  As I’ve said many times before I wanted to get hens.  But A wanted pigs.  So I suggested we do this course – more of a learning experience for me as I knew zilch about pigs!

So one sunny autumn Sunday we drove up to Sligo and attended a course.  A was totally enamoured by the pigs…. and, of course, there were some for sale!

We came home and chatted about it, and it was decided that we would get 2 pigs to see how we got on.  The sty (rather stylish one) was prepared and we were ready.  The plan was to raise them for our own table and to share with friends and family.

The following week A headed back up to Sligo with trailer to collect the 2 boy pigs.

Silly me.

Never let A go on a shopping trip…. he came back with 3 boy pigs…. well, you couldn’t leave one behind on his own!!!!!!!

3 pigs huddled in cornerThe new arrivals

We’d been told not to give them names so they were known as 14, 15 and 16 – their ear tag numbers.

They settled in nicely.

I went off to work daily.


One Saturday morning (and we were now into winter time, so I was going to and from work in the dark!) I was sat down and told we had a couple more pigs!  (I really was in the dark!)

A had decided he liked the pigs so much to go and buy some girl pigs!  We now had Lucy, Pinky, Perky and Floppy.

Alfie and pigs

And what do you get when you leave boy pigs and girl pigs share the same house and field?

You guessed it….. a lot, an awful lot, of baby pigs.

To be precise we had 48 baby pigs.

Suddenly we were in the pig business.



And that’s how it all started. 🙂

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Did any of you read the article “Babes in the Burbs”  in the Irish Times on Friday about keeping pigs?

It gave an interesting insight into the numbers of pig keepers there are in the country. And the numbers are growing all the time.  When we first started to keep pigs 2 years ago it was possible to get your ‘pig herd number’ in a matter of weeks, now it takes much longer.

Given that there is so much interest in ‘Grow Your Own’ be it pigs or vegetables, I thought I would share some of our adventures (and some misadventures) since we started to keep pigs.

These are things we’ve learned over the past 2 years!

Feeding pigs:  As it said in the article on commercial farms they get their pigs to weight by 16 weeks.  Ours take a lot longer to get to a similar weight. We feed our guys a mix of barley (locally grown), vegetables (waste from a local market gardener), organic pig ‘finisher’ and when we can some organic whey.

3 generations having dinner together!

I had an interesting conversation with an old friend the other day who wanted to get a suckling pig from us.  He has had suckling pig previously and asked me how much notice I needed to ‘prepare’ the pig.  I didn’t understand his question. Eventually I discovered that when he bought before he had to give 3 weeks notice so the pig could be weaned off anti-biotics!

He was nicely surprised when he discovered that we don’t feed our pigs anti-biotics, unless they are sick!

Pig Hygiene: There is a myth out there that pigs are dirty and smell.  Let me tell you it is a myth. Pigs are very clean about their house – if they have access to the outside they will not soil their house.  If they are locked indoors they will only soil in one corner – the rest of the house is kept clean!

Ok they love to roll in the mud – but that’s clean dirt!  It’s their way of cooling down!

Space & Fencing for Pigs: Pigs are really good at routing!  If you want to clear a bit of scrubland – forget machinery – think of your carbon footprint and send in a team of pigs!  They’ll sort it!

Pigs are very clever and will work out escape routes!  So be vigilant with your fencing.  We use electric fencing, but it needs to be checked daily.  Once they spot a gap they’re off!

Pig Personalities:  Yes, of our 4 adults, 3 teenagers and 22 toddlers…. all have different personalities and temperaments.  I have spoken before about their particular likes and dislikes with regard to food, at the moment now we have one or two who really don’t like this hot weather!

Lucy, one of the sows, is in foul humour, snapping and being cranky all the time!

So a shower a couple of times a day is good!  Thankfully, we have our own well and won’t have to worry about water charges (I hope!) if this weather continues as we have pigs who are having showers 2 and 3 times a day!

Clarence has a shower

Keeping pigs is fun, interesting and does require commitment.  Think twice before you commit, but when you do you will get some good times with them and wonderful meat!

If you do decide that Growing Your Own is the way to go…. contact us… will still have some Landrace/Saddleback crosses ready to go to new homes!  And can give you all the practical advice and help you will need.

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Last week here in Tipperary was much more about being ‘iced’ in that ‘snowed’ in.  We only got the tiniest snow shower late on Sunday evening last, while the rest of the country had been snow bound for all of the previous week.  Despite the ‘no snow’ bit, the roads about the neighbourhood were awful, the main roads were only slightly better, so it was a good excuse to take on the challenge of trying to clear out the freezer! This was a two pronged attack, not only because we have 2 freezers on the go, but also the plan is for another piggy to go to butcher in the next few weeks, so we need to make room!

Having had a constant flow of visitors over Christmas and New Year (doesn’t that all seem like an eternity away now!), there were lots of bits and pieces of left-overs in the freezer…. so here’s how our menu panned out over the past week.

Monday… we had left over roast chicken from Saturday night, so Farmer Alfie made some of his wheat-free (spelt) pizza bases and the toppings included the left-over roast chicken, and whatever else he could find in the fridge.

Tuesday…. while my sis, Sarah, had been here over Christmas she had made St. Stephen’s Day pie a la Darina Allen and there was still a double portion left in freezer, so no cooking for either of us!

Wednesday…had been looking at Hey Pesto! page, and they mentioned stuffed Butternut Squash a la Nigel Slater… and as I had all the ingredients in I gave it a shot… very nice!  Even Farmer Alfie liked it…. and he’s not too keen on the whole vegetarian angle.

Thursday….tried out the Turkey Con Chili with a nice salsa/gaucamole recipe from Jamie Oliver.  Have to say this was really yummy and will definitely be on the menu again for next year, or even before then.

Turkey Con Chilli

Avocado Salsa

We took a break from left-overs over the weekend, but I am back on a mission this week…. still lots to clear out of the freezer… so last night it was Turkey and Ham Tortillas from a recipe by Domini Kemp in the Irish Times.   Nice but I think could do with a little bit more ‘punch’ to them… may try a dash of my Sweet Chilli Sauce in them next time.

Almost forgot to mention… Farmer Alfie had managed one trip to our friendly market gardener during the week to pick up ‘waste’ vegetables for pigs.  He, of course, couldn’t resist rescuing some vegetables for me!  So I was faced with a pile of peppers and a mountain of chillies, the result was two big jars of roasted peppers and some home-made Sweet Chili Sauce – this is absolutely devine!

Sweet Chili Sauce

Roast Peppers & Sweet Chili Sauce

I also managed to make some Cranberry & Orange Conserve.  Am I the only person in the world who doesn’t like Cranberry?  I thought it was just Cranberry Sauce I didn’t like – no matter who makes it.  But even making the Conserve… I didn’t even like the smell of it cooking!  I tried some of it and no, I still don’t like it.  Farmer Alfie thinks its lovely tho!

Also in between times last week, I made some Lemon Curd which went into a Lemon Meringue Pie for my friend and neighbour, Anne-Marie, who was having the ‘potential’ in-laws over for dinner.  I also made her my newly discovered yummy Chocolate Orange Cake (which is wheat and gluten-free)… another recipe downloaded from Hey Pesto!

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