La Chatte Gitane (or The Gypsy Cat) was the name we chose for our cottage in France. We chose it while on the road, moving home, from Ireland to France with 2 dogs and 7 cats in the car.
This blog began its insignificant life as a recipe book for friends and family who would ask me repeatedly for a recipe of this, that and the other.
Since then it has taken many different directions, like gypsies tend to do. Sometimes making a U-turn and revisiting familiar roads and taking a break when necessary.
You'll find recipes here, but also musings about the places we've called home, the gardens that we've established, not always successfully, the homes we've improved and the environments we've lived in. Currently, that is back in Ireland.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Mischievous Pigs

Moving on from our first 4 pigs, we found the breed that we wanted, not too far away. Only a 2 hour drive one way - insert a rolleye emoticon here. That was last January.
The Tamworth got its name from the town in the English Midlands. They are a very old breed of pigs that  inhabited the British Isles, but also Ireland.  Over here they are called Irish grazers.
They are ginger ! They have a long-ish body, long-ish snout and prick ears.

The ones we got were again a cross breed. The advert said Duroc father and Tamworth mother. Arriving at the farm in county Cork, we got shown around at made our acquaintance with the parents.
We own a book about pigs and it has a lot of useful info for the wannabe-small-scale pig farmer. It contains the different breed of pigs and I was pretty sure that the father didn't look anything like a Duroc, but more like an Oxford Sandy and Black.  Which didn't matter to us one little bit, but when I said this to the farmer he had also had his doubts, but he bought the boar as a Duroc. Most likely it also is a cross breed.
As you can see here in the photo above, this is 'Smudge' and smudges are a distinct characteristic of the Oxford S & B.
We loaded up the four girls and headed back home with them.
Always planning to keep them in the enclosure in the shed for a day or so till they get used to their comfy environment, before we let them roam their patch of land.
I love how they tuck themselves in underneath the straw and lay there like a packet of sausages. 

Exploring their courtyard.

And then a bit further afield ...

Can you notice the bald patches on their coats ?  Mange ! Just like with the previous lot. Mange or Sarcoptes scabiei mites.
Terrible parasite for the little buggers. It makes them itchy that it is uncomfortable to watch, even more uncomfortable for the animals. They scratch and scratch, and scratch some more. It  depresses growth rate and feed efficiency. What's more, the pigs get depressed too.
With the first piggies I was in a bit of a panic, to put it mildly.  After yet another google session there seemed to be only one solution and that was to treat them with a poisonous chemical, called ivermectin. I sent Bert to the pharmacy (they stock this), he came back, I read the instructions for use and sent him and the product back to the village. I did not want to use this.
Looking for alternative methods I resorted to a blend of olive oil and essential oils (incl. tea tree, lavender, citronella). While this might work preventative or in very early stages, I didn't feel it was effective in a short time frame.
I enquired with friends-with-pigs and they advised me to go for the stuff from the pharmacy in this case. So, Bert got send back again. We treated them and hey presto! after a day or so the pigs were feeling more confortable already.
We have now found Diatomaceous Earth to sprinkle in their bedding against parasites and they get a digestible version in their food daily. It is preventative and so far, so good. Even though we had to treat the Tamworths with the not-so-friendly product as soon as we came home.

Here they are at 8 months old, looking good. photo by Wen chin Ter

I said before, we have this book about pigs. It says about the Tamworth's personality "This mischievous pig is full of character and a good escape artist. It is not for the beginner." *
We were not beginners, were we ? We'd had one lot of 4 pigs before. Right ?
These pigs are full of character and absolutely, unequivocally great escape artists ! Mischievous !
They have escaped their outside enclosure many times. Through the electric fence, by accident or when there is a fault on the fence and the power is off. They don't usually go far. As a matter of fact, they mainly stay close to the fence, but on the outside. Not a snowball's chance in hell will they go back in the way they came out, even when the power has been switched off. Trying to lure them with their favourite treat, like chunks of apple or other fruit, makes no difference. Push them in the direction you want them to go results in a sit-in or lie-down protest.
The only method is to lure them all the way around the perimeter of their enclosure, towards the shed's door-for-humans. Be certain that someone has opened that already, if not they will wander off to somewhere else.

Guiding an escape back to the shed. Photos by Irma Janssens (my mother)

One time, the 4 of them broke out of their pen into the rest of the shed. And they had an absolute ball! They tried the bicycles (or so we think), they made short shrift with a large bale of straw, spreading it all over. They got to their bucket with food that was meant for their dinner.
In short, it was like a funfair for pigs in there.
At the moment we have 2 pigs left and one of them regularly wanders around in the shed. Trying to coerce  her back, opening the gate without the other one going for a dander as well is nigh on impossible. Eventually they go back in after a lot of swearing from me and/or Bert.
They are friendly, inquisitive and funny. But lest we forget, they are also big and heavy by this stage. It is wise to be cautious at all times.

Cute butt. Photo by Manon Wyermars.

Thanks for reading
Patricia xxx...x


  1. Those look like healthy and well fed piggies!
    I was wondering whether your issues with the neighbourhood have been solved in the meantime. I do hope so!

    1. Knappe beesten zijn het toch, hé ? :)


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