“Happy Father’s Day”, says our teenage daughter, as she helps herself to a large slice of lemon cake. “I’ve made you a cake, but I’m just checking you’ll like it!”
After two more slices, her conscience got the better of her: “Actually it’s from Grandma…”
However, given that she had just finished a long hot shift at the pub on Father’s Day, I forgive her.
I, too, have had a very hot long day – neither the pigs nor I are enjoying the heatwave, which at times can be harder to deal with than freezing conditions. In this weather, troughs get under-mined and tipped over, fences get buried and huts get uprooted as sows search for moisture and cool, damp earth.
Naturally, when the mercury hit 30°C in June, it was a farrowing weekend and some sows decided to farrow outside. It then becomes a race to get them and their piglets into a hut before marauding crows kill the piglets.
Thankfully, now that all the huts are insulated, farrowing outside is a relatively rare event. Topping paddocks regularly also helps reduce the problem. Needless to say, we’re flat out water-tanking to keep wallows topped up with lovely Factor 30 mud.
It also allows us to reflect on the fact that I can call the pigs every name under the sun when they jump in and tip their drinking troughs over, whereas daughter has to smile and be polite to customers who tip their drinks over and spill food on the floor.
We’ll see how she gets on running the drier for me this harvest. I suspect that the heat, dust, breakdowns and inevitable bad language will be the perfect antidote to constantly studying for her GCSEs and will make her long to be back at school again!
This week, Gary and Dodgy Builder have been working nights cleaning the mill and corn store ready for harvest, which is all-too-close.
They clean overnight to keep out of everyone’s way and also to avoid the worst of the heat – a wise choice this year. After completing the job, they went for a late-night celebratory kebab.
Gary, inevitably, spent the next day on the ‘thunderbox’. Fortunately, Dodgy handled the ‘dodgy donor’ with comparative ease. My most important contribution to the operation was catching Tidds, the mill cat, and putting him in a cat basket to make sure he didn’t dive into the mill when we sprayed and smoke-bombed it. He may need worming but not fumigating! Needless to say, he took a dim view of spending two hours in a basket and the language was truly shocking. I say it serves him right for writing a better article than me for our last column.
“Happy Father’s Day!” says vegan son coming in and cutting himself a large slice of my cake. “I made it especially for you.”
“Liar”, I say. “True,” he replies with a grin and cuts himself another slice.
Muriel comes in: “Happy Father’s Day!” I see she’s eyeing up what’s left of the cake…
Muriel and Cameron Naughton rent 800 acres from the Crown Estate in Wiltshire. They have 500 outdoor sows on a three-week batch production system. Weaners are liquid-fed to bacon weight in straw yards, when they’re sold through Thames Valley Cambac, of which Cameron is currently a director