Posts Tagged ‘pig rearing’

Well so I’m told.

In my mind’s eye, the rest of the world takes it easy on Sunday…. maybe taking a stroll along the prom, walking to a nearby cafe for a late breakfast, sitting people watching, reading the papers. 🙂

Cos let me tell you around here it just never seems to happen!  Today we spent the morning re-fencing a paddock in order to contain the current batch of escape artists.

Pig Fencing

Last Sunday was even more chaotic.

It started out fine, 7 participants came along to learn about pig-rearing.  We had fun and chats, fed them lunch, talked food and pigs, drank tea, ate cake.  They headed home.

We discovered another chick had been hatched – great excitement.

Our AirBnB guest arrived, and headed off to meet up with some people.

The bees swarmed.  The swarm was caught.

Rush off to get new hive for them.

Return from that trip to find new chick half dead in yard – blame cats and/or dogs (more on that later).

Set up new hive and transfer swarm to it.


Look out window to see six young pigs in neighbours field.  Grab bucket of feed and coax them back to base.  Block gap.

Prepare dinner for ourselves and guest….. it was a late dinner 🙂

So how does your Sunday go?


Read Full Post »

Our participants on Saturday’s pig-rearing course were another great bunch….. and among them was a fellow-blogger.  I hadn’t come across Matt’s blog – Deefer Dawg – before, but I have to admit I spent quite a bit of time yesterday morning, reading back through some of his stories.   So, of course, I had to ask Matt if I could share his post about his experience on our course…..  so over to Matt

Course Participants - April 2014

Course Participants – April 2014

Yesterday, saw me up early again (OK, not quite so early) for my own education, my Pig Rearing (one day) Course all the way down in Tipperary, almost a 2 hour drive. This proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable and brilliant day in which we all learned a huge amount and, in my case, finally got to get hands-on with live pigs; we’d been feeling a bit like ‘book experts’ with both pigs and the bees – a wealth of ‘book-learning’ but zero practical experience!

The course happened at Old Farm, near Portumna in North County Tipperary which is a lovely small holding centred around a beautiful old house and with a goodly rambling collection of outbuildings and ‘Pop Larkin’ style piles of “stuff” which are all works in progress and projects which will get completed “when there is time”. The people were a superb couple, Alfie and Margaret, friendly and welcoming but obviously capable, practical and very knowledgeable, him a stockily built former off-shore commercial diver (North Sea Oil Platforms etc) and later diving instructor all around the world, a natural speaker and presenter with a fascinating style of training which had us all gripped, engaged and amused throughout. Margaret took more of a support role, on this course anyway, and looked after the admin and catering side of things but she is an award winning Blog Writer with a very enjoyable ‘voice’ (by her own admission sometimes given to rants against officialdom in the food industry). Her ‘A Year in Redwood’ blog (https://ayearinredwood.com/) has won “Best Blog of an Artisan Producer (Ireland and UK) 2014” and Best Lifestyle Blog 2012. She served up scones and coffee as we arrived and a superb lunch which gave us a choice of pork meatballs in tomato-y sauce or casserole of sausages and chick peas, all their own pork, naturally.

They are both driven advocates of all things organic, welfare, free range, low food-miles, Transition-Town and non GMO and were a big part in establishing a Free Range outdoor pig Quality standard mark (Q-Mark) within the Irish ‘Bord Bia’ food production quality standards people. Prior to that Bord Bia officials were almost entirely interested in meat for export and pigs by the tens of thousands from “nice clean, healthy” factories, all pink and free from mud, but who never see the daylight or (gasp!) dirt from which they might catch disease. Old Farm had quite a task on their hands trying to get Bord Bia to even come and have a look at their small production set-up, which was interested more in local markets and where pigs went (another gasp!) OUTSIDE and got muddy! Alfie raves against their rules which do not allow him to use brewers grains from the local organic micro-brewery or whey from the local organic cheese maker in his feeds. He despairs that he can sell pork mince but not as meat balls or burgers – for us the lunch had meat balls with (fresh) chopped onion and herbs in and their own eggs to bind them, where commercially he’d have to use sterile, dried onion and herb and some kind of chemical gloop to bind.

The pigs were an obviously happy, healthy collection which he keeps as full families. One enormous Saddleback sow was showing off 4 remaining youngsters in one pen, and we rousted another whole gang out of their siesta during our walk-about – a massive cross-bred boar, 2 huge sows, one pregnant and the other with 8 4-month old piglets ‘at foot’. Further round still were a group of market-ready boys and girls who we could scratch, tickle and get to know a bit better; the piglets with sow and the big old boar we had to just admire over the fence. I was amused to find that the 8 piglets were not some kind of blurry mix of all the breeds of pig in their make up, but were all different and all close to one or another of them, so you had recognise-able black and white “nearly Saddlebacks”, Gloucester Old Spots, Duroc and so on.

I could see immediately what is meant by pigs being like rotovators, rooting up the ground and clearing any brambles and weeds. The pig pens were finally reasonably dry after a very wet winter and were now a grass-less, dark brown/black crumbly tilth which you could have raked smooth and planted veg straight into. There was not a weed or leaf anywhere. Old Farm keep quite a few pigs and have them all year round, so they rest fields regularly and even have doors both ends of their pig arks so that they can split fields with electric fencing and the pigs get access to the ark from either half.

All in all an excellent, enjoyable day and a superb course. Thank you Alfie and Margaret and the menagerie at Old Farm, and also to my co-students who were all a great bunch, all beginners like us. Good luck with your own pigs; I think we were all going to go ahead with pigs; even those who were a bit undecided to start with and were on the course to see if they still thought it was a good plan. My only ‘negative outcome’ (as they say) was that Old Farm are firm advocates of electric fencing throughout, and Alfie was a bit doubtful (though politely and nicely so) whether my style of fencing would do the job, but we’ll see. If Mapp and Lucia manage a breakout and we find them picking up their own windfall apples, we can always add electric fence strands at a later date.


Read Full Post »

It suddenly dawned on me this week that I have never written about our courses!

Running the pig rearing courses really came about quite by accident.  We were working away raising the pigs, selling the pork and we often had people suddenly arrive on the door-step (literally) and start quizzing us about how we raise the pigs, how we market the pork, how we got started.

So we stopped and had a think.  If people were calling on us to get this information there must be a market. Right?

So we ran our first Oldfarm pig rearing course, and over the years they have grown in popularity.

pig rearing course

I thought in this post, however, I would share some of the reasons why people come on the course and what they hope to gain from the day?  Invariably the answers are much the same….

  • cannot buy decent pork or bacon, so we thought we’d grow our own
  • I worry about what is being fed to animals
  • I’d like to be a summer pig farmer!  Not going to be a winter pig farmer – that’s too much hardship
  • It is the next step on our aim to be sustainable.
  • I’m not sure…. I have a ‘romantic’ idea that I’d like to keep pigs…. so today will make me realise the reality
  • My grand-parents always kept pigs

We’ve had chefs who want to do the ‘farm to fork’ element.  We’ve had people who currently live in suburbia (and maybe keep a few hens in the back garden), but dream of one day having a small-holding.  We’ve had others who are thinking of starting a business of their own.  And most recently of all we had a group of allotment owners from Balbriggan who are keeping pigs at one end of the allotment – now how’s that for an idea for other allotment owners.

Before each course we wonder what the people will be like, will the group gel, will there be good repartee with the group and with us.

Without fail, I think I can honestly say we have met some lovely people.  The conversation over lunch is always about food and the provenance of food.  The course is scheduled to finish at 4 p.m. invariably there’s another pot of tea made and we all sit about talking for another hour or so – exchanging food related stories and recipes.

It always pleases us when people decide yes they are going to go ahead and keep pigs – and we love to hear their adventures into pig farming.  And it is also good if people decide that they don’t want to keep pigs – that’s a learning too!

However, you don’t have to just believe what I say…. Dee and Maggie …. both of whom attended our course have written separately about their experience, and are also now pig farmers!

If you’d like to learn about pigs, we still have a couple of places left on our next course on Saturday, 15th June.  Or keep an eye on our website for details of upcoming courses.

Read Full Post »

Gosh, I cannot believe I’d been a bit remiss about posting in recent weeks…. and then this week I’ve posted everyday! 🙂

So if you missed all the excitement I was on the SodShow yesterday.  My 15 minutes of fame!

The Sod Show

The Sod Show

The lovely Caitriona from Wholesome Ireland was here for a pig-rearing course and interviewed me for the programme.  We talk about pigs, pork and blogging….  go on have a listen in here….

Read Full Post »

Where is 2012 going?

June was hectic here in Redwood…. and July has been even busier!

And as for summer?  What is that?  We’ve had more rain than you could even imagine!  We had had a silly plan to build a duck pond this year!  Silly us!  No need to even to worry the lawn has stayed flooded and the ducks are extremely happy.

What have we been up to this month….

Well we had another 6 enthusiastic pig people here at the beginning of the month for the pig rearing course.

One participant flew in from Portugal….. which spawned a whole new idea…. how’s about house swaps among pig breeders?  Well why not?  We could easily go to Portugal and mind some pigs…. and they could have a lovely holiday here while minding our guys?  A great idea 🙂

We had the lovely Daili come and stay with us for a week… and we convinced her to start her own blog 🙂

We had Mr. and Mrs. Katzwizkaz come and stay and Mr. Katzwizkaz was a wizz at helping Alfie out with fixing up new fencing.  Thank you so much!

We spent a weekend in Dublin for my aunt’s 80th birthday.  Thank you to my sister and her 3 friends who ‘house-swapped’ with us… the four city girls came and looked after the menagerie here while we minded her cat and dogs!!!


While in Dublin we got to spend time at the Honest 2 Goodness market in Glasnevin – a great place to hang out and chat to all the traders – we were there for hours.  Too busy chatting to take photos!  We had a quick visit to Ikea.  The celebrations were held at Roly’s – our first time there – and very nice it was too! (No recession going on in either Roly’s or Ikea I can tell you!)

Alan and Lily from My Mexican Shop came for a quick visit to get their staycation off to a good start.

My cousin came for a few nights….

And in between times we harvested, weeded, made butter, jams and brownies, and I went back to work with my old boss for a couple of weeks…..

I need a holiday!!!!!!!!!!

Read Full Post »

Learning to Rear Pigs

Last week was an extremely busy one here.

Four chefs came on separate visits.

Cakes and cups ready for Hospice morning

We hosted a coffee morning for the local Hospice but the highlight (for us anyway) was the Pig Rearing Course on Saturday.

We had been toying with the idea of running such a course for almost a year!  The content had been worked upon, but we were not sure if people really did want to learn about keeping pigs!

Then there was that article in Country Living – and the response was phenomenal from people all over the country who wanted to learn about pigs.

So there we had it!  People did want to know, so there was no better time to schedule a course!

participants at pig rearing course

So last Saturday we had our first course.  Seven people travelled from various parts of the country to learn, and get up close to the pigs.

Alfie covered topics including housing, space/land, feeding, farrowing, fencing – well, he can and did talk for hours about his pigs! 🙂

Participants on pig rearing course

It was left to me to cook up lunch…. so I shared my 2 miracle dishes – feeding 10 people with one, yes ONE, pack of sausages!  Sausage and Chickpea Pot (which I must share with you all) and the now almost infamous Tomato and Sausage Pasta.  Both seemed to be a big hit!

At the end of the day, it is what the participants think and we think they enjoyed it…. here are some comments

Good weather good info good food what more would you want. Well done and thanks!

Thanks so much for a great day, me and dad learned loads from you both, you should write a book!

We’ve actually had such a huge interest that we have scheduled another course for Sunday, 6th November…. bookings are already coming in, so if you’d like to come along, you can book here!


Read Full Post »