Saturday, April 19, 2008

That which does not kill us makes us stronger. Friedrich Nietzsche. What a load of rubbish! What about a heavy cold, eh? Philosophy is definitely overrated.

We’re back in business with permaculture pigs. Last year, we began pig raising with a pair of Kune Kune pigs. (To read about our experiences with them, click on the first link on the right under the heading “Magazine Articles"—it will download as a PDF file.) This year, we have chosen three Gloucester Old Spots. They arrived a bit manic but have already become habituated to a scratch behind the ears and a rub on their backs. We’ve created a proper paddock with strained stock fencing, rather than the electric fencing of last year. We’ve added one single line of barbed wire at the bottom to discourage them from digging under the fence but many people have warned us that this won’t be enough—we’ll see.

In our two years of permaculture smallholding experience, pigs are by far our favourite animals as they are so characterful and intelligent; it’s a little more difficult to get as emotionally attached to a nervous sheep that keeps its distance, for example. Gabrielle went up to see the pigs today and then called me over as, when collapsing on her side after a tummy tickle, she saw that the female pig was covered in insects. (I should make it clear that it was the pig, not Gabrielle, who was pole axed by belly stimulation; I’m not sure how I should arrange that sentence to read better.) I managed to grab an example between my fingers and we both ran inside to try and identify it. I photographed it with my digital camera and enlarged the image (see my photo at left) as Gabrielle fetched our copy of Black’s Student Veterinary Dictionary. Gabrielle then searched the Internet, via Google, and I started leafing through the book. Within a minute or two, we’d identified the culprit as a pig louse, Haematopinus suis. After lunch (remember that the whole of France revolves around lunchtime and it just wouldn’t do to turn up at someone’s house at 1 o’clock) I ran down to Paul’s and Christiane’s (our pig-farming neighbours) who gave us some pour-on medicine to administer today and again in four weeks (it only kills the beasties, not their eggs, hence the second application).

It’s always unsettling to be presented with a problem but, sometimes, it’s not too serious and one thus ends up more knowledgeable that before … so perhaps Nietzsche had a point; perhaps he even kept pigs himself?