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Piglets – the Great Escape

piggies in small run

Nicole and I have a habit of coming up with an idea and then just getting on with it.  So it was with our pigs.  That said, I did spend an hour or so with friends of ours who had their first pigs last year.  While it was very useful, it also gave us a false sense of security.

We got our gilts last Friday.  I had prepared the arc and an area surrounded by an electric fence.  Our friends’ pigs had a similar setup and they had no problems so far as we know.

We got our wee piglets and let them loose in their new home.  Now, had we done our reading before, rather than after this event, we’d have been better prepared.  But, we let them loose and we watched them.  They tried out the electric fence a couple of times and retreated from it.  It all seemed good.

quick, they're not looking, let's get out of here!
quick, they’re not looking, let’s get out of here!

Later that day, I left them for a moment to get some food for them.  When I got back a few minutes later, it seemed awfully quiet.  Had they finally gone into the arc I asked myself.  I looked and they were not there.  I looked behind the arc.  No piglets.  Just then I caught a flash of white disappearing behind the greenhouse.

Quickly I ran in and called Nicole – “They’ve escaped” I yelled in a mild panic.  Nicole rushed down, cornered them and caught one with ease and passed it to me.  I stepped back to let her catch the other one.  I looked at my pig, who was struggling and showing surprising strength.  When I had calmed her, I looked up and the second pig and Nicole had disappeared, totally.

I looked round and tried to figure out where they had gone.  A few minutes later, I heard a shout “I’ve got her” as Nicole emerged from the chicken run, pig in arms.  Turned out that piglet number 2 had showed a surprising turn of speed, had charged through 3 stock fences, through various bushes with Nicole in close pursuit (in her slippers).  Finally, she had corned the piglet in a paddock.  Poor Nicole had lost her slippers and cut her hands vaulting barbed wire stock fences, but had shown an amazing determination.

So, we stood there, pigs in arms, pondering what to do.  Nicole wanted to put them in the house.  I wasn’t so sure.  In the end, we put them in the arc (which is what we should have done in the first place) and placed a gate across the opening.  We secured them for the night and retired for a much needed fino.

Next day, we built a smaller run inside the electric fence with chicken wire.  They’ll stay in there for a week or so while I construct a pig proof, stock fenced area.  I started on that today but progress has been slow due to the large number of subterranean rocks.  I also fitted a door on the arc so they can be safe and secure at night.

In the meantime, the piggies have really settled and are more than happy with their arc (which they love) and their small outdoor space – for now.  And Nicole has worked her usual magic such that have gone from snarling at us to eating from our hand and presenting themselves for back scratches.

piggies sleeping
piggies sleeping in their arc

The lessons we learned?  Well, first, it may be home for us but for the piglets it’s anything but, they need to be shown the arc which can quickly become a safe haven.  Second, while we think they’re cute, to them we are unknown large scary predators and their first instinct will be to run.  And third, electric fences are not, in themselves, enough to keep pigs in.  They actually need to be trained as to what to do, otherwise, if they get a shock, they are as likely to bolt through the fence as back away from it.

Lessons learned indeed!

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Settling in to Auchenstroan

It has been 3 weeks since we moved here and we are finally beginning to feel more settled.  Of course, there’s loads of work to do and on top of that, lambing is about to begin and we are also expecting our first pigs.  But first, s picture tour of our new place.

Auchenstroan Cottage
Auchenstroan Cottage

Our house is gently nestled into the hillside.  We have great views in all directions.  We can see our hens and pigs and sometimes the sheep from our kitchen.

We have a garden front and back and are busy sorting out and enlarging our veggie patch.  Nicole, as I write this, is in the greenhouse starting this year’s planting.

We have plenty to do, the house came with some unwelcome residents, woodworm and some damp.  That is being sorted this week.  And we also are planning to put in a guest bathroom and an en-suite for us a second “utility” room with fridges and freezers (for all our produce).

Our animals love it.  The hens have a large area to patrol along with a new hen house and automatic door opening/closing device which is great.  The sheep have so much space now that they can fulfill their natural desire to roam.

happy sheep
happy sheep
happy sheep
happy sheep

Plus the dogs have settled in.  They spend much of the day outside now.  They have befriended Maga, our neighbour’s collie and roam our patch doing their thing, a bit of guard duty, a bit of exploring and also a bit of trying to get the humans to play ball.

dogs playing
dogs playing

And also, a bit of playing together which is great to watch.

Maga by the river
Maga by the river

And we have plenty of wildlife.  The ponds were overflowing with frogs only a few days ago.  Sadly, this attracts the herons, but nature is like that.  Harsh!

As well as the house and fields, we have two newly planted woodlands and two rivers, a small loch and numerous burns.

new woodland
new woodland

We are especially pleased about one of the woodlands as we had planted something of the region of 1,000 trees in our last place in Somerset.  This is one job we won’t have to do again.  The other woodland is an area where most trees were recently felled and it has been replanted.

Nevertheless, we added another 50 or so trees, some oaks we had brought up with us plus other various trees we found lying about.

And we are looking forward to picnics by the river in the summer.

So, all in all, we are really happy with our new home.  And once all the work is done, we might get all the boxes emptied.  But then, lambing is about to begin….

Wart and Wallace, our tups
Wart and Wallace, our tups
frogs spawning
frogs spawning


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And now we have pigs

Young gilts

Today we ventured into a whole new area, rearing pigs.  We had been planning to do this once we got here to Auchenstroan but initially we found it difficult to find weaners for sale locally.  Then, we posted on the Smallholding Group Scotland and within hours were offered weaners that were not too far away.  We said “yes” and booked 2.

So, it was time to prepare somewhere

setting up the pig arc
setting up the pig arc

for them to live.  We spent much time thinking about this.  In a way, we were almost spoilt for choice.  Finally we chose a site close to the house.  In fact, we are really pleased because we can see them from or kitchen window.

So, next it was building the pig arc.  We had brought our two pig arcs up with us so I set about constructing one of them.  The pigs are getting the wooden floor – lucky them.

And then we had to wait as the piglets were too young.  But today, it was time to collect them and we headed over to collect them.  We were given two gilts.  They are Gloucester Old Spot crossed with Kune Kune.

Fate is a strange thing.  We had been planning to take our trailer to collect them.  But we broke it last weekend and it hasn’t been repaired yet.  So we checked they would be OK in the back of my car (Freelander).  When we got there, they were tiny, smaller than terriers!  We’d have looked foolish loaded them into a trailer!

Anyway, we drove back and let them out into there new run.  It was a bright sunny day and within seconds they were doing what pigs do, foraging with their snouts.  And they were having a lovely time.

gilts checking out new surroundings