November 2008

For the last many months, our three formerly little pigs have been living in semi-feral conditions in well over an acre of mixed woodland (largely oak, pine and juniper), North and North-East of the workshop. Accessible only by foot, hoof and trotter.

Last week’s question was: How do we get them into a trailer for the next stage of their journey?

The answer, inevitably: Dismantle Ark One and re-mantle in the field next to the veggie bed; create an enclosure, thereby letting the pigs turn the ground that will be ploughed and sown for next winter’s animal feed; wire up a path from the woods to the new enclosure; and move the pigs.


As long as you have a Secret Weapon.

Past pig manoeuvres have involved me rattling a food bucket and bellowing at animals who pig-headedly refuse to cross the invisible line where the electric fence was just moments ago; followed by Her Outdoors wafting the same bucket in the general direction of the porkers, who trot obediently after her, grunting with approval.

Perhaps it would be the same this time.

Last Thursday, we moved Ark One and marked out the enclosure in the morning. Then, after our long chat with our new butcher friend, we wired up the path and let the porkers make their move.

Two of them trotted happily after Her Outdoors all the way down the (very long) path. I was discussing the absence of the electric fence with pig three, when a cry from the field made me turn the current off, so the first pigs could enter the field enclosure.

That done, the Pig Whisperer came back up the path to help me.

After a little effort (and with school pick-up time approaching fast), we got the pig onto the path and I made my Second Mistake of the Day: I followed it.

Not ten metres (yards) down the track, no doubt disturbed by me, the pig touched the electric tape with his back leg. Backing over it, he revealed my First Mistake of the Day: I hadn’t turned the fence back on.

It all went quickly downhill from here.

Or more accurately, across the hill and into the woods.

I ran after him, waving and then throwing my stick. Which had the effect of making the animal run faster towards our unfenced boundary – and freedom. A loser in many senses of the word, I almost immediately gave up the chase. I thought, ‘At least we have two pigs.’

Her Outdoors walked past me without a word. Minutes later she returned, somehow, the pig trotting along in front of her. My bacon was saved.

Only to escape in another direction.

Following an impossible-to-refuse request to do some running, I became Alex the Hunter. Pig in view, snuffling when possible (him, not me) I circled wide to force the animal towards the neighbour’s fence (the fence I said couldn’t be run through this kind of woodland – remember?). He went up to the fence. Then turned and ran toward his old enclosure. Then along it and back towards the outstretched arms (and stick) of Her Outdoors.

Finally, he went towards the other pigs.

Eventually, he was next to the field enclosure.

Then inside it.

This was them just four days later – look what they’ve done to my grass.

We’re still looking for an animal trailer.

If you’ve been counting the moons, you’ll know that our three formerly little pigs will soon be big enough to be become a selection of hams, roasting joints, salami, chorizo, bacon and anything else that takes our fancy.

Of course, we’ll be doing as much as we can ourselves, with only Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s “The River Cottage Cookbook” and “The River Cottage Family Cookbook”, and John Seymour’s “The New Complete Book of Self Sufficiency” for company.

Unless you count a bottomless glass of wine.

Or two.

(More if necessary.)

It’s a bit intimidating. Three pigs is a lot of meat. It’s got to last us as much of next year as possible without spoiling. And before the Wednesday before Hallowe’en, neither me nor Her Outdoors had ever even made so much as a sausage.

If you want to repeat our experience (and I wouldn’t recommend it, as you’ll see in a moment), this is what you do:

Buy a hand-cranked sausage-making machine from your nearest sausage-making machine retailer (passing on the motorised one which, at 200 euros, is four times more expensive and many more times likely to break).

Spend a long time washing what looks like engine grease off it, fix it to some wood and clamp it to a large farmhouse table (or similar) in your kitchen (or equivalent), thusly:

Mince 1kg (2.2lb) of boned shoulder and the same of pork belly freshly bought from your favourite butcher (who even sells you the sausage skins and laughs reassuringly when you tell him what you’re doing for the first time), using the attachment with the big holes:

Then mince again with the smaller-holed attachment.

Mix with breadcrumbs and herbs, à la recette (recipe):

Fry a quick pattie to taste (and find it’s bluddie delicious):

Put it back through the mincer, with the sausage attachment on now and the sausage skin carefully shimmied on (feeling a bit tired now – beginning to wonder if the one with the motor may have been a better idea) to create One Willy Wonka of a Stonker.

Spend a few minutes twisting The Enormous Sausage this way and that…

until your plate runneth over:

Relish the delight, awe and advanced orders heaped upon you by guests at your Halloe’en party.

Then meet an English butcher. During your conversation, realise that you can mix your diced pork with your breadcrumbs, herbs etc, BEFORE YOU PUT IT THROUGH THE MINCER THE FIRST TIME. Which means you can attach the sausage teat right at the start and do it All In One Go.

Seems obvious. But so does using a Gripple.

Without meaning to be political, congratulations to everyone on the planet.

My next post will mostly be about sausages.