Saturday March 13
Yesterday, Charly and Camilla (our little porkers) greeted feed-time with less enthusiasm than usual. Anyone who knows about pigs, knows that every meal time is an occasion to be celebrated joyously. This morning, both ladies were stretched out in their house and refusing to come out for food. One had even defecated close to the house, something previously unheard of. No amount of wooing or bucket swinging could elicit the desired response.
Martyn then investigated, with his hand on their piggy foreheads, and proclaimed them to have a temperature. An horrific hour followed while we made a round of telephone calls to every vet in the Barlavento area, none of whom could come out to Monchique; or if they could, they had no knowledge of pigs. Finally, we got through to our own vet, on his mobile, only to find out he was in Lisbon for the weekend. Being a diligent professional, he patiently listened to our woes and then gave a telephone diagnosis of pneumonia and despached us off to the chemist in Monchique for antibiotics and a syringe. Martyn crawled into the pig house on all fours (it was remarkably clean actually) and dispensed the necessary injection. A little bit of squealing followed and we left them for a few hours.
In the late afternoon, we returned to the pigs to discover an amazing recovery. They were running around their compound excitedly and squealing noisily for food – back to normal there then.
Thursday March 18
It is Martyn’s turn to visit the UK now and I am here for six days on my own. Before he left, we got on with all those essential tasks to make being here alone manageable. First, we went to the co-operative and stocked up on animal food, so that when the car blows up or refuses to start, they will be well fed, even if I am not. I had to go in and order on my own, as Martyn is keeping a low profile due to an unfortunate set of circumstances that occurred while I was away. Martyn has not revealed all the details yet, but it seems there was a great deal of confusion when he was trying to buy teat cream for the lactating goat. His rather unorthodox mime accompanied by blurting out ‘leite’ resulted in a great deal of mirth, but not much else. I made all my purchases and on the way out one of the ‘lads’ asked me how my goat was. ‘Fine,’ I replied with my head held high.
Our next task was to extend our electric fence to enclose the goats. Our two oldest goats, Rosie and Sheridan, are now completely out of control. In a more just society, they would attend a school for goats with special needs. Our solution, however, is to contain them with an electric fence and ‘finish’ them when Martyn returns.
Sheridan has had a fun year-and-a-half mounting any female goat that crosses his path, trampling vegetables and breaking into grain supplies. In all that time, he has not managed to get one of his harem pregnant, so he is obviously not up to the job. Wild-eyed Rosie is simply mad. While all the other goats love being tickled and stroked, she bolts at any human contact. She is quite big now and, if one is caught unawares, a charging goat can be quite frightening. It seems unlikely she can be re-homed at a children’s zoo, so a space has been prepared for her in the freezer.
Tuesday March 23
Revenge is sweet. After a couple of days of ‘shocks’, all goats now behave impeccably, not even sniffing near a fence post.
Our incubator has been flashing on and off for a few weeks and we have successfully hatched four bantam chicks and a goose. The bantams have been given away to friends in need and the goose is doing very well in our back bedroom. The gosling is remarkably cute; it is unfortunate that only one hatched. The vegetable garden is in a bit of a sorry state, due to neglect and torrential rain while I was in the UK. We have broad beans, onions, garlic and potatoes doing very well, but need to make a start on our summer vegetables. I need a good downpour of rain, followed by some warm sunny days.
Monday March 29
The big kill has begun. The worst aspect of rearing your own animals for meat is the treachorous act of killing them. All the tender loving care that has been expended on them, all the trust that has been developed and one’s natural tendency to care is ended in one heartless act.
During the last couple of days, we have killed our two brown goats, Rosie and Sheridan. Together they have given us 55 kilos of goat meat and two coats to be made into rugs. Over the next few days, we have eight cockerels to kill and, worst of all, our two pigs – Camilla and Charly. They are so cute, cuddly and trusting, I know I will feel awful. At least I know they have had a wonderful, carefree life, living in the open air and will not experience the fear others do, while being taken to slaughter. They will be killed here instantaneously, knowing nothing until it is all over.
Tuesday March 30
Rosie has escaped! We are down to one goat skin rug now. During the night, I ignored the dog barking and awoke this morning to find one goat skin had been whipped off the line and was nowhere to be seen! Of course it was Rosie, the only goat with the potential to escape right up to and beyond the end! Rosie’s Revenge!
• Paul McKay offers private home tuition for primary aged children in all National Curriculum subjects.You can contact Paul on 282 912 857 or by e-mail on [email protected]