Sometimes 140 characters (including spaces) just doesn’t cut it – and this is one of those times.

We have our first guests of the year, and I promised a few weeks ago that our first wild orchids would be out while they were here. So I am very relieved to say that, this morning, I saw an Early Purple orchid just about to flower outside the poly tunnel. Dangerous things, promises.

In other news, Her Outdoors tells me that a sparrowhawk has just moved into the area. Unfortunately for me, one of our older hens has just started sitting on 11 eggs. Put the two bits of news together and you discover that I must build a hawk-proof enclosure for the new chicks in the next 27 days. (Because I really needed something else on the to-do list, what with the second guest kitchen to finish, platform to make, structure to build for the fridge-freezer I promised – ! – to this year’s guests, pallet fort to create and road to complete, how will I ever fill my time? And I promised to help Her Outdoors in the veggie patch this year…)

Four of our chickens have been in the habit of escaping the 2-metre fencing around the orchard recently. A pile of black feathers this morning tells me one of them didn’t make it through the night and there’s a very happy fox sleeping off a successful hunt. Yes, we can clip wings, but that didn’t stop the first escapee and time is rather short at the moment.

I may have mentioned the horse breaking out several weeks ago. While he was out, he scratched the backs of his legs on the mobile rabbit runs, which rearranged them enough for the boy bunnies to get in with the girl bunnies. A few days ago, eight new bunnies arrived in the night.

And finally (you can see what I mean about 140 characters not being enough for today), I came up with a new plan to sell more copies of my book. I put a new blog together here that explains the plan – and allows you to download the book absolutely free, then decide how much (or how little) you want to pay for it later. If you could let other people know about this blog, I would really appreciate it. To save you the trouble of hunting back through this paragraph for the link to the free ebook blog, here it is again.

(And here if you missed it.)

I’m not very good at killing things. For years, I shied away from killing mosquitoes, although 18 months in Minnesota (where the mosquito is the state bird) cured me of that. And yet barely a meal goes by where meat is not on the table (my partner says I’d make a lousy vegetarian). In the last over a year or so, much of that meat has been ours; but those pigs were taken to the abattoir and the business of ‘dispatching’ them was done by some faceless person in white.

More recently, I’ve had to take things into my own hands. I killed a chicken who’d been sick for a while and didn’t respond to drugs (we tried). And a rabbit who had been bred for the table (I won’t go into details). Both were very difficult, especially as, which may make no sense, I tried to do it by surprise.

Today, I took things to the next level. (If you want to stop reading now, go ahead. This post is largely for me.) A friend with a chasse licence and a powerful rifle came round this morning and shot one of the pigs through the head. (This is legal here if it’s for your own consumption, which it is. Or so I’m told.) We decided on this method after a lot of reading and talking. The locals favour stringing the pig up by the back leg(s) and slitting the throat. But this makes a lot of noise and would distress us, the pig and his brother and sisters (one of whom is heavily pregnant) nearby.

It felt like cheating, having someone else pull the trigger (and very much like cheating when he showed me how to kill and skin two rabbits that were overdue for the pot). But it was a relief to have someone so experienced in killing animals on hand (it’s very lonely when it’s just you). My friend told me he thinks of the good life the animal had, instead of the animals that are farmed more intensively for the supermarket or restaurant. Certainly, this pig lived nearly a year longer than he otherwise would have (we took him instead of the abattoir) and ranged free in the woods. He will now feed us for many weeks and I am very grateful to him.

But I can’t help wondering that there’s something ethically ‘wrong’ in keeping an animal with the intention of eating it (even if that’s the only reason it’s alive). And that it might be easier to kill an animal in the ‘wild’ (but then I suspect, being the namby pamby green-tinged neo-spiritual liberal that I am, that I would let the animal go off and keep doing its natural thing). Next time it may have to be me, pulling the trigger. Or even, the trigger of my own gun.