July seems like a heck of a long time ago. A lot has happened since then. The summer was abundant with workawayers, things grew, we made stuff out of wood, and now we are seriously in the kitchen, in a mad rush to preserve as much of the harvest as possible for the rapidly approaching winter.
It's a great privilege to watch the progression of the seasons - even more so to be inextricably a part of them. There is a sentence from John Seymour about "the countryside" where he waxes romantic that a farmer's house does not need great windows overlooking the countryside. The farmer don't need to enjoy the view because the farmer is the view.
Seasons do their thing; time progresses in the mind, and the cycle of sowing and growing, harvest and winter continues.
But it is awfully nice to have a continuum as well. This year, the progress-which-does-not-cycle has been the piggers.
A Potted History of the Piggers from Then until Now
There are always a tonne of reasons why we do something. The "why" of the pigs, as with most things in life, does not have a simple answer.
I guess there was a dose of veganesse oblige in the reasoning. If I can rescue animals, I should rescue animals.
The incident of the shelter-dog which I ended up not adopting was probably troubling me a little. I had been considering being caretaker for wonderful dog from the local shelter, and eventually decided that it was not something that I could do at that time.
The fact that piggies are totally awesome, was a super factor. Many years ago, I had been gifted a book of rare breeds of farm animals and the piggies had always interested me most. You gotta love them for their independence, their single minded obsession with their bellies, and their all round intelligent, lovable luminescence. (If you've not spent much time around pigs - do so! They are genuinely luminescent creatures!)
And finally, and possibly not truly veganly, they can be incredibly useful. The vegan code quite clearly states that an animal may not be used for any purpose. Not entertainment, medicine, clothing or food. We don't like the word "pet". Companion animal is the preferred nomenclature. However, it is all about exploitation of the power dynamic and the rejection of "ownership".
"My" pigs have to earn their keep, but they will do it in the most naturally piggy way possible.
More of this later.
I found an advert on ebay. I wasn't looking for piggers, I was just on ebay for a reason which I can no longer remember, and the advert came to me.
It was the 14th of July, a post from a vet and pig farmer, located not far from The Barracks. New home required for three Mangalitza piggies.
She has decided that they were no longer required, and they were being sold most probably for fattening and slaughter.
I called her up, told her about my intention to let them have long and happy lives, and she jumped at the chance for them to have a better future. I called a friend with a horse box, and a day later, we were off to collect them.
Now, it would be completely wrong to say that they had a bad life. They were loved, cared for and looked after. But this small concrete stall was the horizon of their experience, and I instantly knew that with me they would be more fulfilled. Money exchanged hands and we loaded them on the horse box.
Oh yes. Just like that.
It was not like that.
The littlest of them wandered into the horse box. The (freshly castrated) male did not. The dominant female was having absolutely none of it.
It took us 2 hours to get them the 10 meters from the stall to the horse box.
But, aboard they came and we drove them back to the barracks.
If you think that loading piggies onto a horse box, tempting them with rather huge quantities of cat food, horse biscuits and some occasionally ill-tempered words was fun and games, the unloading of them the other end was anything but.
We drove the horse box as close to their new home as possible. Maybe 6, 7 meters to go. There were 5 of us, and we each held a wooden shipping palette, arranged in a tight box. The master plan, such as it was, was to contain them, walk them to the new home, and to open it up once we got there.
The dominant female who now proudly carries the name of Brunhilda Demagogue legged it.
The next 4 hours, trying to catch her, worried to all goodness that the mostly airtight fencing around the perimeter might have a pig sized hole in it, and that we would never see her again, were muddy awful.
Daughter #2, who has spent more time at the barracks than anyone barring yours truly, saw parts of the place that she never knew existed. And, with night having well and truly fallen, we had just about given up any thoughts of recapture.
And then, her brother and sister began to call for her. Mewling, grunting, squeaking. Piggie calling to piggie. We stepped back. The idea of attempting to catch her immediately seemed ridiculous. It was ridiculous.
Within 10 minutes, she was snuffling around the enclosure, grunting at her siblings.
I had been given a bag of horse biscuits on collection. Brunny (Brunhilda Demagogue - all the best animals have multiple names) had consumed almost all of them in our crazy wild-pig-chase around the barracks, but the last handful I threw into her new home, opened the gate, and just like that, in she went.
The pigs were home.