(It gets worse.)

A few days after we divided the pig field and successfully confined one porker with the trailer to sleep in (an idea generally deemed Well Worth Trying), Her Outdoors was late picking me up from work. Unusually late. And when she arrived, she was unusually agitated.

‘Black pig’s gone,’ she said.

These three little words may not seem much to you, but this close to slaughter they have a relative value of over 230 euros (about 230 pounds). Each.

‘F*c*i*g pigs,’ she said. (She doesn’t swear like me.)

Apparently (and this will come as no surprise to pig-followers of this blog), Her Outdoors had turned up for the evening feed to discover all was not as we had left it. On one side, in the trailer part of the pig field, the smallest (but most inquisitive and food-led) pig slept comfortably in the trailer. But on the other side of the field there was… just a field.

Maybe the fence had shorted out on the trailer. Maybe the battery had failed. Either way, at some point since breakfast the two big pigs had gone trotabout.

Only slightly disturbed (so far) by this turn of events, the Pig Whisperer armed herself with a bucket of feed and went hunting. Her weapon of choice: ‘Piggy-piggies!’

It half worked.

After a few moments, the White-Faced Pig came trotting through the long grass and, true to recent form, obediently returned to the big pig area. Which was when the pig from the trailer side of the field made a dash through the un-electrified fence, instantly undoing our previous hard work.

A few more volleys of ‘piggy-piggy’ were tried. But night fell fast and heavy, and Her Outdoors came to pick me up.

‘He’s probably already been shot,’ she suggested as I pulled my seatbelt on (a high probability, given the number of hunters in these parts and the very-much-like-a-wild-boar appearance of the missing pig).

When we were nearly home, Her Outdoors remembered she’d left the battery in the field and forgotten to pick up some bread.

Like I said, she was unusually agitated.

It’s at times like these (and I know I am not alone) that I like to play what Edmund Blackadder might call the ‘Blind Optimism Card’. I selflessly volunteered to return to the land (ooh, about a kilometre away), collect the battery and see if there was any sign of the pig.

At first, it didn’t look good. Two black shapes moved around in the dark where two black shapes should have been. ‘Piggy-piggies’, I said.

A snuffling sound off-stage right, near the compost. I turned. The wind-up torch revealed none other than Troublesome Pig. The pig we originally wanted to get into the back of the trailer in “Stick and board… Part I”. (Can you see where I’m going here?)

Some deft fence turning off, food tossing, door laying down across wires to create a clear path and the pig was where it should have been all along. All with time for me to pick up the battery, some bread, a four-euro bottle of fizz to celebrate a 700-euro saving, and return home a Pigging Hero.

(It gets better.)

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Yesterday evening, we admitted to ourselves that we have – officially – Nearly Run Out of Money.

That wasn’t supposed to happen.

If all had gone to the original plan (hereafter Plan A), we would have been open at the start of April, with three yurts full of fabulous eco-friendly families, paying enough to cover the various bills and taxes that come with 21st Century nearly self-sufficiency, and ploughing what’s left into further improvements, reforestation schemes and the like.

But Plan A, as you know, only worked in a parallel universe (where, I trust, it’s doing fantastically well).

Plan B (and you may remember, there was no Plan B) is unfolding by the day.

My job pays just enough to cover the rent and fill the car. Bills, insurance, food, tools, animal feed and the myriad costs that come with non-self-sufficiency are all paid for by the house we sold last year. There’s not much left.

So you’ll understand why we went to bed a little bummed last night.

We’re at one of those points where you need something – anything – to let you know that you’ve been doing the right thing (before I go any further, I’m talking about something from my belief system, not yours – unless you share mine – in which case: “Hi” – and ignoring the fact that it’s impossible not to do the right thing and that there is no right… I’ll get my wine).

Clearly, we need to increase our income, reduce our outgoings, and/or have some kind of meaningful pat on the back.

So when the cheese woman in the market said, this morning: “Is your wife looking for a job?” and gave me the phone number of a rich person who lives nearby (who may have a gatehouse to rent – you never know), I could have taken that as a sign.

I didn’t.

Nearly did. But it wasn’t funny enough. Or coincidental enough.

Like the coincidence I didn’t tell you about from a few months ago, where our neighbour on our land is also our neighbour in town – not a nearby neighbour – I’m talking NEXT DOOR.

Cheese stashed in the fridge, we had work to do. Proper work. Moving the horse field (again – the plastic fence posts must hate us). Taking the temporary chicken ark away so our two flocks can become one. And clearing a path for a new pig enclosure in the woods.

Impressing Her Outdoors (an Aquarian, for those who see meaning in these things), I (a Virgo, which will be shocking, interesting or intriguing for those very same people) chose a meandering route through the woods. A sharp turn here. A straight bit there. A little wiggle between a couple of pine trees in that bit.

After I’d cut my swathe and put in my metal posts (don’t use anything else, seriously), I paced out the new fence so I’d know how much wire I’d need. It came to 143 paces.

Arse, I thought. That’s loads more than the old fence. I’ll have to do some arsing about with the wire. To see how much arsing I’d have to do, I paced out the old (current, excuse the pun) enclosure.

At 100 paces, I started to smile. At 120 paces, the smile grew broader. My last pace came down exactly where I suspected it would. A completely random, but reassuringly exact 143.

A few months ago, we had to put up a solar electric fence for a horse, fast. (As opposed to a fast horse, unless you’re talking about eating speed.)

I went into an electric fence retailer and stared at the shelves of equipment, not knowing I would need:

The energiser, with compatible battery and solar panel, connected to an earth (about a metre long), with galvanised wire:


And connected to the (in this case) 25mm electrical fencing tape:


Wooden posts at each corner, with special corner tape-holders:


Enough plastic spacers to have one every 12 metres (yards) or so (these are a bit rubbish, as the tape-holding bits tend to break – but this is fixable with more wire) – they’re utterly unworkable as corner posts:


And a gate kit:


When you run out of tape, you can simply tie on some more, stripping back the plastic to expose the wires, which you can then twist together to keep the current flowing:


We also use the electric fence string and isolators screwed into wooden fence posts, in our Mark II veggie bed that the pigs have nearly finished clearing.


I hope this helps you as much as it would have helped me.

There are only four ways to test an electric fence worth mentioning:

1) Use an electric fence tester. Available from any good electrical fence retailer, for around 12 of your Earth euros. (Pain level: Slight, and confined to the wallet.)

2) Use a long blade of grass. Squat down and rest one hand on the ground and touch the electric fence with the blade of grass. (Pain level: A bit of a shock, even with the fence turned down low.)

3) Use someone else. (Pain level: Like watching something written by Ricky Gervais.)

4) Use your knee. Wearing wellies, gently touch your knee against the fence – turned up to maximum – and earth yourself through the middle finger of your left hand, with a fencing staple brushing against a roll of barbed wire. (Pain level: Hilarious.)

No prizes for guessing which method I used this morning.