There's pork all over the place at the moment; brining in buckets, bubbling in pots, outside in the smoker, hanging in the porch and in the kitchen, in the fridge and in two freezers. We have made potted pork, five different kinds of sausages, ham, bacon, pate, tongue confit, lard, crackling, stock, plus all the other usual cuts like shoulder, ribs etc. The ears went to Alistair's mother-in-law who used them for a Chinese New Year dish, we've used it in a stew for a dinner for 22 school kids visiting from Gravesend and packs of bacon have been handed out as an alternative to Thank You cards. Anyway, we have used every bit of this lovely pig we reared and still have tons left which will feed a lot of visitors over the next six months. We have a new little grower in the field now, a boy called Collingwood, he's keeping Octavia Hill 'company'. He's a bit of a sex pest but as he's only a quarter of her size, I don't think she's noticed.
The original pig shelter, like a lean-to I made from corrugated iron, blew away one stormy night. It was patched up a bit but was never intended to be more than temporary accommodation for the piglets when they first arrived. They're quite hefty girls now and like nothing better than a good scratch-on so their poor shelter has taken quite a pummeling from their rear ends. We have now invested in a plastic pig ark which we got from Solway Recycling, a company that collects and recycles waste agricultural plastics and operates the National Farmers Recycling Service. It's a robust shelter big enough for a sow and litter so is a good long-term investment for our Lawson Park Herd. I have been using dried reeds for their bedding which is just as good as straw and about quarter of the price (straw is about £8 a bale due to it being in short supply). So, they like the reeds and are now lovely and warm in their new house. It might seem like a bit of an unnecessary luxury but it has been proving a bit difficult to get our 'grower' pig to slaughter weight. Getting a pig to this weight is much quicker if they are kept warm and indoors but ours are burning off loads of energy running around their lovely field. We are also walking them every day to the paddy fields to act as natural rotivators for a grassy patch we want them to turn over so we can seed oats. They have also burning up energy to keep warm at night. Their new cosy home will mean they don't have to use so much energy so should help to fatten them a bit quicker. I measured them today to check their weight. There is a formula you can use if using an ordinary measuring tape which is girth (in cm) squared, times length, times 69.3, equals weight in kilograms. However, I used an animal measuring tape which if you measure their chest gives their weight in pounds. Ours are currently 128lbs (58 kilos) which is fine to slaughter out as a porker but a baconer needs to be taken up to about 80kg. Not sure if we will make this before Christmas. We'd ideally like to have our own meat to sell at the Coniston and Torver Farmer's Market and Art Fair we are organising for 11th and 12th December in the Consiton Institute.
I haven't posted any pictures of the chickens for some time as they have not been looking at their best. They all at one point had horribly bare arses where they had been plucking each others or their own feathers out. It was quite a sorry sight, the blame being down to pesky little mites. I fed the chickens on raw garlic cloves for a week. Apparently the mites don't like the taste so stop biting them and in turn the chickens stopped plucking out their feathers. I also used an organic powder called Diatromaceous Earth which is finely ground fossils of prehistoric fresh water single celled plants called diatoms.The tiny hard and sharp diatoms scratch off the insects waxy coating, causing it to dehydrate. Anyway, just as their bum feathers grew back, the chickens got on with their annual molt. Feathers were strewn everywhere like a fox massacre. They went off their food and their plucked little bodies would huddle together quietly waiting for their new growth. Now though, although looking great, due to the short daylight hours they have stopped laying. We tried putting a shop-bought egg into the nesting box as we thought it might encourage them back into laying but no luck with that. Some people put lights in their hen houses as this can keep egg production up through the dark months but we have no electricity source where they are. You can buy hybrid chickens that just keep laying all year so this might be a future option. In the mean time, shall we keep feeding them with no return or is it time to make a big batch of chicken stock?
The new orchard here has progressed a lot since intern Campbell Guthrie finished preparing the planting zones this summer, for 21 fruit trees. The orchard concept is to plant a selection of the hardiest varieties from Wales, Scotland, England and Ireland, each chosen for their suitability to this exposed and wet south westerly spot.
The first trees to arrive were the Welsh ones from the very helpful Gwynfor Growers, so these have been planted this weekend, metre squared spaces cleared of grass and now mulched with deep bracken. Each tree hole was dug square (following the new RHS advice) and fed with a handful of bonemeal and seaweed. Varieties chosen are Snowdon Queen (a pear found at 600 feet up the mountain - should love it here), and apples Cissy, Croen Mochyn, Pig Aderyn, St Cecilia &Bardsey Island.
We bought a couple of weaners a few weeks ago, two very cute 2 month old British Lop pigs. Although they look like standard, everyday pigs they are the rarest of the six British rare breeds, but still very edible. One is for fattening up and one we will keep for breeding. Before they go their separate ways, they are loving their lush lodgings.
Alistair did a nice new site map for the NGS day, featuring a sketch of the "Future Orchard" at the top of our Wildflower Meadow. This is currently just a mown stock-fenced paddock with 24 blobs of mulch set at regular intervals where this coming winter we will plant some very young fruit 'maidens' (as young grafted apple plants are known).
As with all good childcare we'll then ignore them for the best part of a decade - before (we hope) realising they have turned out rather well and enjoying the fruits of our labours.
For now - like all fanatical gardeners I am already working on next year - I am sourcing the 24 trees, 6 of the most altitude, wind and rain-proof varieties from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
So far I have:
'Scotch Bridget' - a locally grafted specimen, she does well in Cumbria I am told
'Gravenstein', 'Brownlees Russet', 'Duke of Devonshire' (Bred at nearby Holker), 'Mere de Menage', 'Monarch', 'Keswick Codlin' and 'Hawthornden' - from the lovely R V Roger Northern fruit specialists
From Irish Seed Savers I'll be ordering 'Yellow Pitcher', 'April Queen', 'Cavan Sugar Cane', 'Kemp' and 'Keegan's Crab' which apparently isn't a crab.
Finally, Wales will be represented by 'Cissy', 'Bardsey', 'St Cecilia', 'Pig Aderyn', 'Croen Mochyn' and a 'Snowdon Queen' pear - yes a pear, found at 1000' on the slopes of Snowdon!
As the nice man at supplier Gwynfor Growers says "that should love Coniston!'
...the garden looks like this
....who braved the rain for the third NGS Open Garden here at Lawson Park - numbers were up on last year! One lady fell in the stream en route but was very decent about it, and one chap told me that Lawson Park used to be a dairy 'farm' (something about being bordered by 2 streams...), which was the first I'd heard of it.....
Thanks also to all family, friends and staff who helped out.
Parkamoor has a busy summer ahead, just had an 83 year old lady staying for a week, the party spotted 51 species of birds in the immediate area, the top moments being Hawfinches, Redstarts, Ravens and the double whammy of a Peregrine Falcon taking a Wood Warbler right in front of them.
Next week there are 7 German architects of unknown gender
Followed by a group of 5 ESP artists from Birmingham - (Extra Sensory People)
and so on