With the arrival of spring and the mercury heading back into double figures for the first time in months, my husband decided it was time to embark on the smallholders' equivalent of a new wardrobe or in our case, a new set of farm animals to furnish our freezer with in the coming months.. The first Friday of the month is pig market day around these parts. The monthly gathering of seasoned pig farmers and those gullible suckers who haven’t a clue but fancy themselves as the archetypal smallholder. You can almost see the former rubbing their hands in anticipation as they see the newbies rolling up in their unblemished stock trailers, freshly printed (and totally incomprehensible – to them) livestock papers in their hands. My husband had pretty much been counting down the days on his calendar to this momentous day and on the long-awaited morning assembled my father, somewhat seasoned auction-goer, and a good friend from the Bar (the law type, rather than the other, although fair to say they have spent a fair amount of time propping up the other type too) with, quite understandably, zero experience of pig shopping. So off they all went, only to come back a few hours later with three lovely looking pink piglets and much laughter and guffawing. Turns out in the heat of the moment, my husband had misunderstood the pricing system and ended up paying for each pig what he had intended to pay for all three. Doh. Rookie mistake. There is some farmer from down the road now sporting a rather expensive new pair of wellies and the very latest in farmer chic overalls this season thanks to us. We’ve named our new collection Prada, Chanel and Gucci, the most expensive piglets in Christendom. And as if that weren’t bad enough, in our recent mini heatwave my husband thought that his new pride and joys were getting a little sunburned so asked me to get out there with my ultra-expensive Vichy Factor 50, to stop their little pink ears from getting any pinker. Seriously?
|Meet Prada, Chanel and Gucci...|
Having settled our new gold-plated pigs into their new sty and checked them approximately every 20 minutes, the following morning brought yet more new additions to the family. After 21 days of massively irritating clicking every 9 seconds, our incubator appears to have done its job. We came downstairs on Saturday morning to find a small beak protruding from a shell and pecking its way out. It is little short of miraculous watching this tiny, bedraggled form wrestle its way out of its shell and into the world. The kids were captivated, (CBeebies did not get a look in all weekend, their noses pressed up tight against the incubator instead), but not quite as enraptured as the grown-ups who couldn’t quite believe this had actually worked (previous attempts having all ended as duds). And it turns out watching chicks hatch is a little bit like making popcorn. After the first kernel pops nothing seems to happen for ages and then all of a sudden it all kicks off and it’s like Armageddon in there. Same for our chicks. You turn your back for a few hours and come back and there’s loads more hatched, all clambering over each other like drunks at the finishing line of the Grand National. What has had us baffled though is the colour of the chicks in relation to the shell they emerged from. Where we had been expecting a nice little yellow ball of fluff from one of our Light Sussex hens, they were coming out black or stripy. Awkward! Something you’re not telling us you naughty hens?!
|Hot chicks..... a grand total of 14 hatched into the world|
As if all these new arrivals to the place weren’t enough, our daughters have taken to adopting the many tadpoles swimming in the ponds around the place to be their ‘pets’, catching as many as they can in jam jars and making ‘aquariums’ for them with an assortment of stones and leaves. The whole kitchen looks and sounds like a sodding menagerie. You can’t move for something hatching, tweeting or wiggling around.
|Does my tail look big in this?|
And finally my husband decided to treat himself to an egg this Easter, a Big Green Egg. For those of you less familiar with this season's fashions in big brand American barbecues, this thing looks like something from outer space, an alien pod or cocoon perhaps (why is it that that particular film seems to become all the more appealing to me the closer I get to forty!). And it is bloody huge. You could fit all of our aforementioned pets and ourselves in there and close the lid and live out the next nuclear winter no probs. And not content with just one supersize barbecue, he came home with TWO! After the whole pig debacle it was a bloody good job he got a significant discount on these – when I casually perused the prices on the internet I nearly fell off my chair. But despite my concerns that in buying this we may have jinxed summer 2017 forever, for once the weather gods have been smiling upon us and we have actually managed to use the thing for three consecutive nights – we’ve cooked (venison) burgers, steaks (of course, venison), even pizza (yup, you guessed it, venison pastrami) on it, although admittedly last night it was my husband out there on his tod, shivering into his tongs as the rain hissed off the grill. Turns out that just because you have the mother of all barbecues it doesn’t mean you live in the South of France. Enjoy the sun while it lasts folks - and Happy Easter!
|This year's Easter egg|