They are cute as all piglets are. I do think that piglets are one of the cutest baby animals, particularly as they manage to be very cute despite being kind of ugly. But these piglets, a week old tomorrow, currently spending their days feeding, getting a wee bit braver and venturing a little further every day, squabbling with their litter mates and snuggled up in a piglet heap sleeping are a little bit special.
They are the first livestock born to crofters on Rum. They are proof that Tom and Barbara are both fertile, that Barbara can carry to term and birth and be a good and attentive mother. They – and their dead brothers and sister have already taught us more about pig keeping in the last week than we had learnt previously in the last year. Books, the internet, even listening to previous pig keepers never tells you quite so much as living it yourself. I shared that quote with Dragon and Star just this past week:
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”Benjamin Franklin
But more than all of that these piglets are the realisation of a dream. We kept chickens and ducks in our little back garden back in Sussex, we grew some fruit and vegetables in our allotment and in tubs on our patio but pigkeeping was always out of reach back in our old lives. We didn’t have enough space, or time to focus on them.
Keeping pigs, building a shelter for them, moving them around, learning about electric fencing and powering it from a little solar panel, dealing with them when they escape, building a relationship with them over the last year is all steps further toward our dream of self sufficiency. Actually breeding pigs – two of which will provide meat for us and two of which will be sold to cover costs of feed is more than a step in the right direction, it’s one foot actually arrived! We need to fatten them, slaughter them and butcher them to get the other foot and the rest of our bodies there too but this is it, we’re doing it, we’re making it happen.
Watching those little piglets today gave me such a sense of how far we’ve come. The planning and sharing our idea about traveling and WWOOFing back in 2010. The packing up and fund raising to make all that happen. The scary milestones of packing in jobs, giving back company cars, telling people about our plans and watching them try to be enthusiastic and pretend they thought it was a good idea! The actual WWOOFing – the highs and the lows. The days when it felt like maybe we should have listened to the people who questioned us with concern, when a comfy chair in a warm office and banter with workmates followed by a bubble bath, glass of wine, takeaway on the sofa watching telly before going to a safe warm bed in a solid house felt like a good trade off for traffic jams, unfulfilling jobs and this nagging feeling that there was another, different life out there for us if only we’d be brave enough to go and grab it. That interminable limbo period between finishing WWOOFing, feeling we’d found our dream life but had to wait for applications to close, business plans to be pondered, interviews to be held and then pack up once more and head here to start from scratch.
Those piglets represent the challenges, the not-out-of-the-woods-just-yet ness of our lives. We’ll not be naming them – they will all be food within six months but if I were to name them it would be Faith, Hope, Dreams and Belief. That’s what got us and these piglets here to this point.