Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Oh Muriel.....



Sweetie; you probably don't need anything else to eat; but I know that's not how it works. Rebuilding strength and dignity after the weekends shenanigans....




Muriel: the impressively fully figured one; accompanied by her 'stay at home' stable mate [........] rootling in the 'for scale' bucket.

Meet the substantial porcine pet from over the road; who gave us several hours of entertainment on Saturday afternoon. Following some investigatory straw fossicking; she slid down the bank into a stream; and fixed herself in; good and proper...

Once discovered; the first task was cutting the branches betwixt which she'd wedged herself upon descent.

 Must have been a tad nerve wracking having a chainsaw buzzing that close to a sows' ear, but a powerful tool; wielded by experienced hands does the trick. 

 Getting her out of the shallow stream presented a hefty challenge... Her legs; what you can see of them; are about four inches long; her low slung generousity of underbelly furnishes a mighty suction in the mire.

In the end, it took five of us to extract her. 
Once the stream challenge had been overcome; there was a hundred yards or so of marshy squidge to negotiate, before Terra Ferma could be reached. 
One of those oft overflying helicopter troop ships from the local marine base could have come to the rescue.....

For a few moments. it seemed as if Muriel might be pulled in four by the various bright ideas and techniques suggested for her rescue.
  All methods could, most likely. have worked; but not all at once... So a slightly bossy girl, in a set of red waterproof  bibbed trews; mostly told everyone else what was going to happen...

Not so much pulling a "we covered this at college" number; more something along the lines of "someone has to take charge; if this thing is going to get done; and today its me..." 
Experienced in the putting back of bones where they need to be; at least; I s'pose...

So; a briefish  'How to' synopsis, if you ever should need to move an unfeasibly lardy; and somewhat unwilling pig out of a swamp.....

First cover her head with a tarpaulin; or some such; it won't stop her shrieking altogether, but it calms her a bit.

Improvise a couple of slings for under each end of the capacious belly; armpits and groins so to speak; then roll her over onto her side....

That wasn't easy, much effort all round; and there was precious little to get a grip on; given her barrel like rotundity. 
Muriel wasn't impressed at our bundlings; she made it sound like she was being murder'ed..... Drama Queen.

 Then next; edge a large sheet of ply; hole cut to receive hook; under her back edge spinewards.

Attach a winch cable to the ply; and also to the pig embracing slings. Make fast to a sturdy tree.
 Start winching; and eventually the whole lot, once fully under her bulk, slowly inches across the boggy tussocks.

Now go and get the tractor... Attach piggy sled to the loader with a hook and 'Lady Muck' gets a few hundred yards of victorious processing 'pon her litter; along the road back to her enclosure....
It would have made an entertaining film... 'Squealing Mud Larks...'

But on the day; it seemed a bit rude; almost 'ambulance chasing' to intrude with a camera....

But don't do that again please; Muriel love; comedy and neighbourly relations notwithstanding. I don't think anyones' back or nerves could cope....

She seems, however, none the worse for her adventuring; going not so much 'outside the valley' more deeper into it...

And she was very happy to accept some slightly misshapen very carroty carrots in return for a publicity shot......

Same bucket for scale....Ickle piggles here....Oxford Sandy and Blacks enjoying breakfast... And my how strongly they dig. Big thick necks, especially designed for turning over sods.


So this bunch working here on the old veg ground look like svelte racing beasts in comparison. These mostly guys (one girl...poor thing) are litter mates; getting on for five months old now.

They; unlike Muriel are destined for a special one way trip come October...
Upon meeting their autumnal nemesis; at dinner out a couple of weeks ago; I was reassured that they will have the calmest demise possible.

The slaughterman takes great pride in his work for sure, and as stress free an end as is possible gives for excellent quality meat.
 In a neat bit of local circularity, we were sharing a table at the establishment where most of their bodily offerings will be consumed...

Folks often assume I must be a vegetarian; given the organic veg' growing; yoga teaching thing. And in the past, I did serve over ten years; of foregoing 'the way of the flesh' ..... But not any more. 

Although for me, pork, is rarely on the menu. Even from these happily raised beasties. That is in part due to the fact that; in the absence of being able to recycle food waste through them; we have to fatten them on Soya based feed.
 But also because. on the obligatory (quite right too, lets see the thing for what it is) college trip to the abattoir; the pigs seemed far more aware of their fate than any of the other creatures...

Like many choices; consciously made; its not straightforward; there are many factors to consider...

But this is how I see it. 

In these Northern Hemisphere 'cool temperate' climes, very little grows better than grass; just ask anyone that has attempted to keep it out of their veg patch.

 Extensively grazed herbivores can convert inedible to us grass, into meat and milk. 
Our much loved green and pleasant fieldscape; hedgerows and all; is based on livestock keeping; if we want to keep that economically viable to maintain we are obliged to buy the produce of the land.

According to "My Big Book of the Farmyard" in order for a milking cow to keep lactating; every year she has to have a calf. Half of these calves born will be boys, so not much use as milking herd replacements.

If no one eats beef, then the boy calves will be euthanased at birth. So eating a small amount of beef and sheep from known sources seems like a reasonable way of accessing some toothsome quality protein. 
Adult bulls in more traditional farming systems are often used as draught animals; so they have a economic justification; when was the last time you saw an ox cart in this country? 

Very few of the veggie alternative favourites such as lentils, soya, chick peas, kidney beans and the rest will grow to produce a meaningful crop in this country.

 Field beans and drying peas are about all that will grow in the UK in terms of legumes....Hence the peasantry of old subsisting on 'pease pudding' . Meat was definitely a rich mans luxury back then.

All the protein substitutes will be imported from; where? Well quite possibly from a country that could do with those proteins staying at home to feed hungry mouths there. 
Cash crops may well be being grown for export; on land that might otherwise be used by local farmers to feed their own community..
 As ever; it's complicated.

And many people, at this point, will throw up their hands and say "Oh well; it's all too much to think about; I'm just going to eat what I like"...

 Fair enough; thankfully it's still just about a free country.

But if you choose to put some thought to it; you can still have some small; but  significant; local and global economic power and influence. You can vote; pretty much every time you shop. By becoming a bit better informed as to the provenance of your food, and how it got to your table... 

Eagerly anticipated Thursday custard ticks all the boxes, both nutritious, and locally auspicious....Muriel isn't getting a look in on that delicious dish. 









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