Chickens. Hanging from the wall. Well, from the fence. Ten chooks, mostly sussex, destined for the pot. I was lucky this time, as Ross was over and took charge of the killing, Sadie the plucking, though I had the job of cleaning up. I’m not sure which job is worse. Though now the freezer is brimming with chicken meat, for only the second time in Puggle Farm’s existence.
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9 Feb 2012 - 5:58 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

The chicken meat season has begun; all those eggs that hatched in spring and summer are now close to harvest. By all those eggs, I mean those who hatched eggs more successfully than us. We got our cooking chooks from another grower this time.
    
Life marches on scarily in summer. We still have long days, though, as I type, it’s still before dawn and just before six. It’s a race to get things done. Water the vegies. Tick. Fill the wallows. Tick. Pick as many blackberries as possible, use the good weather to get lots of outside chores done. Go for a swim. Tick, tick, tick.

Plant the new, large, possibly improved vegie garden with winter crops? No tick yet. Part of it’s a former pig paddock, and one pig is acting a little too free-range for any garden’s good, and won’t leave the area. The ground has to be disked, mulched, sown. Water installed. Beds laid. But this girl refused to follow her 13 companions to their new home, and now watches warily from the hillside. Food, that great motivator, has yet to get her to pass through a gate. Patience runs thin with one difficult porker, but patience is paramount. In an hour I will try again.

The new pig paddocks are dotted with a range of homes, but the latest version of a shelter is one we saw for the first time on the internet, at the wonderful blog of www.milkwoodpermaculture.com.au. It’s made of bent concrete reinforcing wire fashioned to hold hay bales as walls. We have a LOT of hay, so this looked like the design for us. Our method is slightly different, but the idea is to use hay to create an insulated home, one that is too heavy for the pigs to push over, and be able to reuse the wire and discard the hay every few months. A mobile shelter with some indestructible parts.

For us, it’s pig shelter mark five, so we’re hoping it works. Others did, but all have their flaws and benefits. The reality is that it costs a lot to build a rock-solid shelter, and we need them mobile as well as affordable and bomb proof. We also need them bigger than the one I built for my first two porkers, Cassoulet and Prosciutto. The Milkwood idea seems to have worked a treat, though instead of a tarp roof, we’ve put a corrugated iron lid on top, strapping it to the metal using tie wire. With our high rainfall, a tarp would just mean a swampy bed.

I’m not sure how the new design will withstand the hardcore antics of Peter Pan the boar, but, for growing pigs, the shelters seem just the ticket. That’s assuming I can get them all contained in the one paddock again.