20 Nov 2017

Magnificent muck and a happy pig



I was going to call this post 'Shovelling Shit in Sunshine' but thought better of it. Both post titles give a flavour of my happy day yesterday but the memory of the happy pig is still making me smile. (I didn't realise that, like dogs, pigs wag their tails when happy. How cute!) I have to admit I wasn't looking forward to wading into the manure piles at the local city farm, especially with the weather being so chilly and damp recently. I've been putting it off for several weeks now but when a thought niggles me for long enough, I just have to get on with it.  I need the manure to mulch beds both in my own veg patch and at the allotment and the weather won't stay this mild for much longer!




So I wandered off there on Saturday to first make sure the farm managers were cool with me digging out the manure myself.  They offer ready bagged manure for sale but I need lots, and in smaller more easily lifted bags, so giy manure works better for me. I've been going to the farm for years having first visited with my son as a toddler so I know the team well and was given the go-ahead.

On the way home to get my tools, I stopped to cut a handful of creeper vines for a festive wreath and the heavens had opened by the time I reached my front door. Gahh! Thwarted. I was so mentally ready for the big dig as well.

So, Sunday. Apparently fortune favours the brave and I woke to clear blue skies and sunshine. A perfect autumn day and, phew, what a relief! I headed off to the farm, border fork and lightweight spade in hand, and set to. By the second bag I'd taken my coat off but the woolly hat had to stay put to keep my hair under control. It was bliss. So peaceful (not counting the trains, the cow, the goats bleating, the chickens squawking and then the pig) and I quickly filled twenty bags. (I need three times this amount but had to get this lot to the plot before embarking on the next round.)

The animals are usually kept in fenced off pens but during my digging I was entertained by Marjorie, the farm's pig. Marjorie is a six year old Gloucester Old Spot sow who had been quarantined in her stall for the past ten days due to a bad leg. Yesterday, the vet came to assess her which meant she was allowed out to walk at her own pace and decided to stop and snuffle in the hedgerow soil next to where I was digging.

Marjorie the tilth turning pig. 

My gosh, you wouldn't have many weeds left on your allotment if you had a pig to snuffle them up! Marjorie made very short work of the chickweed, nettles and brambles in the hedgerow, leaving soil of a very fine tilth in her wake.  I was impressed (and slightly envious). I could tell she was living the dream - her tail swung happily from side to side as she stuck her snout into the earth. Wonderful animals, pigs.

But back to the mulch. It might once have come out of the horses collective bottoms but it's rotted down to wonderful rich worm filled organic matter.  Every spade-full was wriggling with brandling worms, every one of which I will welcome to the plot. I'm fair rubbing my hands with glee at the thought of all that goodness improving the soil at the allotment. We're leaving the beds mulched, weed free but empty over winter, ready to grow some awesome veg next year.

It took four barrow trips for me to move the bags from the top of the farm to my car and another four to move them from the car to the plot but the sun was shining and I was in the moment.  I finished the day by barrowing two big loads of rotted bark chips from the plot gate up to the new no-dig bed we're creating and then sat and watched as the sun slipped away over the rim of the heath next door.  A busy but very rewarding day and, wow, did I sleep well last night!








13 comments:

  1. I hope you managed a hot shower afterwards and felt smug at having got the job done.

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    1. A hot shower was just what I needed, Sue, as well as a lie down (which I resisted in favour of making supper). I do love a hot bath with Epsom Salts though at the end of a gardening day, really the best thing. And, yes, there was definite satisfaction at making headway although the job isn't done yet! More digging to come!

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  2. Satisfying work, it will be lovely to sit back over winter and let the worms do their job. CJ xx

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    1. Definitely, Claire! So good to be out ALL DAY in November doing gardening work. Of course, I really should have done all this sooner but it's been a funny old year weather wise and we (me and Plot Boss, not the other 'helpers' who haven't been seen for weeks) have to clear the beds first. But, yes, it will feel so good to know it's done and the soil nice and healthy for next year! xx

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  3. Oh, I love pigs (and pretty much any other farm animal). Marjorie is such a cutie! I didn't realize that they wagged their tails either.

    I add compost to most of my beds in the fall as well and then mulch with straw as I prefer they not be "naked" over the winter. Spring is such a busy time - it's nice to know that the beds are all ready to go with relatively little effort.

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    1. It's a real pleasure for me to visit the farm - the animals are all so beautiful but the pig, and her piglets, are my favourites. I lived in Yorkshire for a couple of years in my teens and regularly visited the pigs in their field there, it's where my love affair with pigs started.
      It sounds a very good idea to mulch with straw over winter; it seems to be traditional to mulch in early winter over here although some recommend mulching in spring to protect the soil. Luckily we have quite mild winters in the UK south east, especially London, so I'm more concerned about not creating nice snug overwintering for slugs! xx

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  4. An enjoyable post and lovely pictures. All worthwhile doing as you'll doubtless see next year. xx

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    1. Thanks, Flighty. Yes, I hope so; we've already drawn up a plan of what to grow next year so this will enable us to get going as soon as weather permits! I'm really getting quite excited at the thought of next year at the plot. xx

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  5. I once witnessed two Gloucester Old Spots demolish a small field full of brambles leaving fine tilth in their wake. And in just a couple of days at that. Funnily enough I'm reminded of it each time I bramble-wrestle to this day. If only they were smart enough to distinguish between brambles and Things With Long Latin Names as my other half would say.

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  6. That is just a perfect day! Falling asleep after a hard days graft is just the best! I envy you that muck and totally agree re pigs, they are marvelous, intelligent animals. Your plot will thank you for all that manure!xxx

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  7. Maybe that could be a way of earning a living - hiring out pigs to 'sort' the weeds on allotments in the autumn. You could have a fleet of them and a stack of easily-erected fencing . . . and lo! a new career is born!

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  8. Well done you! Your 2018 crops are off to a flying start. Just as good exercise and cheaper than going to a gym. I'm not surprised that you slept well. I wish that I could borrow Marjorie for a weekend to blitz my weeds.

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  9. That sounds like hard work but the rewards will be worth it. It must have been good to have some company too! Sarah x

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