…..fall for such a Pig?

Pig tales chapter one

When I was a kid I spent the first part of my childhood chasing peat bog faeries (real ones not musical ones) around my family’s hill sheep estate in Lochaber.

Wellies on, and my hair tied in “bunches”, I used to hang upside down from a 5 bar gate by my feet; spotting fairies was easier upside down because they live in a topsy turvy world.

I grew up before nursery school existed, and so when you went to school you just went to school. Ripped from the bosom of my tiny, isolated family, I left the cottage and was put into school with no acclimatisation. Me and my school friends had to just adapt and survive like the little animals we were.
There were only a few faeries in the school garden so I had to make friends with the kids. That’s when I made my oldest friend, and she told me that my hair was not tied in bunches they were actually called pig’s tails. At the time I thought it was a horrible name for my bouncy appendages, but now I have met pigs I would wear them like a crown.

In January 2017 I fulfilled a 13year old task on the “to do” list and got pigs. I wanted them to plough up the croft. We have a very impressive amount of peat here (it’s what attracted me to the place – all those faeries for my children to chase) so you can’t get machinery on much of our land.
Lots of people had told me how intelligent pigs are, and therefore tiresome to keep. One neighbour had found his had not just disconnected the electric fence from the battery, but then carried the battery off and buried it!

I had little experience of pigs, but my parents had some and all of it sounded scary – escaping and taking the back door of the house off its hinges, or attacking people and putting them in hospital.
I started with two weaners that we could raise to be boars. If they were that smart then they would surely build a good relationship with us if raised fairly?

Soon followed two sows, both called Peppa, and then we needed a boar to cover them, who was of course called George. I was a bit scared of George because I had been warned about boars tusks so often, but on my first dealings with him he seemed very clever, and listened to what you said. He was obviously a character – Peppa I didn’t like him so he locked her in her ark and moved in with Peppa II.
That worked well until the other night when I looked out to see him in the chicken pen and trying to get into Peppa I. I raced out to get him before something got injured, with a bucket of feed.
“GEORGE” I called in a friendly way. He looked up and ran at me with an expression that said nothing but “BUCKET!!“.
He’s a large pig, with that prehistoric boar shape, big upright ears, and the markings of a saddle back but in a beautiful red roan and white. He probably weighs about the same as my smallest horse. I’m not going to lie, as he charged over for the bucket, leaping up the steep slope into the garden, I was a bit intimidated.

I quickly sealed him into the garden and went inside. With no one to help me and Amelie to get ready for bed I decided to leave him there until Amelie was out of the shower and before it got dark so I could safely take chicken feed from the barn to the hen house without getting molested when I put Bob, Curly Sue and Jersey (chickens) to bed.

After a short heated discussion with Amelie about getting out of the bath I left her to put her PJ’s on grabbed a bucket and went to the barn. George heard me getting feed and was there in a shot.

Is that bucket for me?
Yes George, but don’t come in here.
There’s 10 dogs in this barn and they WILL try and bite you.
Not scared of dogs or bites.
You should be
I bite back.
Now I’m scared. Please don’t come in.

And he sauntered off, but by the time I was at the gate to the car park where I intended to lure him back to his pen, he was beside me with a sense of urgency that unnerved me again.

Is that bucket for me?
Hi George, yes, your bucket and one for Peppa II too. Can you follow me nicely?
He looked up at me and I could hear him thinking “she’s still scared“. I was still scared.
Do I have to be scared of you
Do I have to be scared of you?
Then no.
I gave him a scratch to show that I’d rather be affectionate than scared and he politely followed me out to the gate to the field.

Can I have the bucket now?
He appeared very excited, and I felt scared I was going to get mugged.
Why are you scared?
Are you going to mug me?
Why would you say such a thing ? he whispered and sauntered off up the road.
George where are you going?
I don’t think I can stay here and put up with this sort of rudeness.
I’m sorry George, I didn’t mean it, come back. I said to his rear as it trotted off up the main road.
I know, but I have had enough.
What do you mean you have had enough – enough food?
No enough of this suspicion that I am going to hurt you. I know where I am not appreciated.
George you are wrong, I like you very much.
Too late, I’ve got the notion now.
Notion of WHAT?!
Adventure. You know sometimes a pig just needs to feel the wind in his ears.

I was distracted from the conversation by a wet haired Amelie on the decking, naked from the waist up, yelling at me that “George is leaving” as if I hadn’t noticed. I tried to run after him, but he just started to run too. I stopped and called him again, but he was acting on his adventurous senses. Now Amelie was having a very loud nervous break down about the fact I had left the pen open and Peppa II was going to escape. Cringingly I raced back to secure the pen knowing that the pod guests must be able to hear all of this. I suspected they were trying to enjoy an evening by the fire pit and we were ruining it.

I popped indoors to explain to Amelie that had she got dressed as I asked this would be less stressful, but as she wasn’t I’d have to leave her in the house whilst I took the car up the road to find George. For once in her tiny life she seemed to appreciate the severity of the situation. She definitely wanted George back.
I headed up the road and as I rounded the corner at the pod one of the guests was standing beside her car pointing up the hill with a look of confusion on her face. I tried to do sign language for “yes I know, it’s my loose pig, I’ll get him back, nothing to worry about”.
I quickly found him; he hadn’t been in any sort of a hurry. I stopped the car and jumped out with the bucket.

George come on darling; this isn’t a great plan.
No I think you’re right, I was thinking this too.
You can’t leave the sows unattended.
Never mind the sows I’m not fit to climb these hills.
He trotted back to me.

We made a pit stop at the pod for him to meet the guests who tentatively stroked his wiry back. He was very accommodating, but his sights were set on home. One of the guests said she’d come down to the house with me and get her phone that was charging, so the three of us set off and she asked “so is this a standard way to spend your Thursday night then?”
“What, casually walking my pig, you mean?”
“Yes I guess that’s what I mean”
“Would you believe me if I said this has never happened to me before?”
I could tell she didn’t.

I decided George would be best in the stable and put him in with a hurdle tied across the door so he couldn’t get out ( I hoped), but left the gate from the stables to the garden open just in case.
It was perhaps an hour later when the German Shepherd started shouting “Schwein! Schwein!” loudly and I realised George was out.
I decided I’d have to just keep him in the garden until morning, and closed him in – except I couldn’t find him.

“George?” I called into the darkness, and tip toed up to the panel fence at the end of the house.
“Geeeooorrrge” I called again as I rounded the corner to be confronted with his big prehistoric front quarters.
Jesus George you made me S H I T myself!
Stace you scared me.
Sorry George.
You said you wouldn’t scare me.
I really didn’t mean to, it was an accident. OK you are going to have to stay in the garden tonight.
Can’t I come in there with you? He mounted the back door step sideways under the hand rail.
George you’ll get stuck! And no, you have to sleep in the garden.
Wherever you like pet.
But there’s no ark, and no Peppa to cuddle.
Well you should have thought of that before you left your ark and your favourite Peppa behind.
oooooohhhh this step fence is great for itching the top of my back.
George don’t break the hand rail they only got put on a week ago.
Now off you go.
You sure I can’t come in there with you?
Yes. Night George.

A short time later I heard the Great Dane come home from work and went to meet him; it would be a huge surprise for him to be met by George, but George was nowhere in sight. I was worried he had escaped again until the dogs went crazy;
“Schwein” shouted the GSD.
“Svin’ya” shouted the huskies.
“Filthy pig!” shouted the Pointer
“Get tae fuck” shouted the Jack Russell Terrier.

I opened the door and George was trying to get into the barn.

Smells good in there.
George don’t go in there. Please stay away from the dogs – the poor pod guests are probably trying to sleep.
OK. I’m just looking for a bed….whats up here? he said as he ran up the ramp onto the decking.
No George you can’t sleep there either.
He walked back towards me.
I have to be honest Stace your hospitality is not all I hoped for tonight.
Well you didn’t give me time to prepare, get the things necessary, or help to get you home. You can’t just turn up unannounced and think it’s all going to he OK, OK?
I gave him a big cuddle and scratched behind his ears. He smiled and relaxed and I left him to look for a place to sleep.

At 2 in the morning I was woken by crunching and crashing, and more swearing dogs.
As I opened the back door George ran at me.

Stace I really need to come in there with you.
No George you can’t it’s just not the place for pigs. The Great Dane would never allow me to have a boar stay in the house and to be honest I couldn’t face it.
Just one night! he insisted and leapt up the step, face palming my hand with his snout and pushing determinedly against it.
No George!
Just…..let me ……squeeeeeeeze…. in and you won’t even know I’m there. He said with his head wedged in the door.
No George, I’m really sorry, but no. We just can’t.

OK. He muttered from the other side of a closed door. I felt awful as I stood there staring at the closed door wondering if I’d hurt his feeling too badly? I guessed I could make it up to him with a special breakfast.
I heard him slowly back down the steps and step off into the night.

In the morning Bob the Cock awoke me at 6am. I hadn’t managed to close them in or feed them with George in the garden. If he’d known there was food in the hen house I had no doubt he’d have tried just as hard, and likely with greater success, to spend the night in there too.
I went outside to see if George was OK.

There was no George.
Bleary eyed I checked all the gates – still closed. The stable – empty and the hurdle still in place meaning he’d show jumped out of it; such a talented pig.
A sick feeling started in my stomach – where was he? Was he OK? ¬†Would I find him before trouble did? What if he’d sunk in the bog or broken his legs in a cattle grid? Who else had pigs he might be impregnating?
Would he want to come home again?
It was eerily quiet, not a sign of a pig anywhere. I wondered if there’d been a midnight mutiny and they had all left…..
I started double checking where he could have got out – definitely not over the 7ft front gates – not without wings. All other fences and gates were as I’d left them. I double checked he was really gone, and he really was. He must’ve got a notion again, and now with the wind in his ears he could be anywhere on the hill between us and the village. I hoped no one was out for an early morning dog walk. That could get messy, and that kind of mess is always difficult to explain.

I grabbed the car keys and was about to get hiking over the hill from the car park on top, but the stillness and quiet unnerved me. Something wasn’t right. I wondered if he’d broken Peppa II out and they’d gone together? He might follow her following a bucket back home if so, otherwise I wasn’t sure how I was going to get him back. I decided to check she was in her ark. As I went into her field there was no obvious signs of her having escaped anywhere, so I was pretty sure I’d find her inside. I called to her, and heard a grunt, and as I peered inside, there, miraculously, was George!
Tucked up and cuddled in with his favourite Peppa, and with no obvious way he got out of the garden OR into the paddock, I figured he must’ve flown.



“….pod like that?”

The Tiny House Saga so far….

Day 1 on Trailer Transformation – quick inspection.

I emptied out the trailer of the various rubbish and equipment that had ended up dumped inside it – traffic cones, old tyres, electric fence poles, popping paper, old horse rugs and a giant gym ball 44inches in diameter – the usual horse toys.
I had thought the floor would be unquestionably rotten and need replacing, but was pleasantly surprised to see that a good power hose is probably all it needs. The ceiling was peeling paint off the fibreglass hull at the front leaving huge bubbles and hollows. I started to peel it off; it barely needed me to poke at it and the paint fell off in huge flakes. I was astonished to find that a large hole in the paintwork just above the front window where a flake had come off partially leaving a big bubble had been made the home of a small bird. It’s droppings were in the bubble and feathers were stuck to the fibreglass – amazing that it weighed so little it didn’t break the flake!
The front end is in remarkably good condition. The top door of the front ramp is made of ply that’s beginning to split apart, and the OSB lining it is completely rotten.
The side walls have ironmongery for attaching the breast bars to that have to come off first, then the rubber matting which goes to within a couple of feet of the floor, then the aluminium that goes from the rubber to the floor, and behind that is the OSB.
The back ramp is going to go up and stay up, and at any rate is never going to take the weight of horses again so I am pretty certain it won’t need much attention to the hinges. The front unloading ramp however can’t stay on so it will have a door fitted in the whole space – I contemplated stable door style but I think that’s actually quite impractical with wind/midgies and the fact the rear doors are a bit like stable doors anyway. I will remove the ramp and use it as access to the decking that will surround the trailer once it’s parked in position, and fit the stable door to open outwards.

Looking at the available space inside the futon bed is going to have to go along the end wall. This also means that it might be easier to fit storage shelves to the wall without encroaching on the living space. I am acutely aware that pretty much all of my plans for how to furnish this are unrealistic. It’s going to be completely different to what I had envisaged and I’m still not sure how that’s going to look…..

Day 2
Looking at mattress options nothing foldaway, inflatable or thin is going to cut the mustard. A plinth is going to be obtrusive space wise. A pallet futon is probably not going to be sturdy enough for 150 days use a year or easy to put up and down in the available space. Going to go for a metal futon which means that the bed is not going to be made from anything recycled, but I think comfort is very important, as is ease of use if you don’t want things broken.

Enquiries about replacing the back axle have been made, but right now I don’t think it’s worth it. It’s not going to carry weight like horses again and as the only real issue is that it’s been pulled off (and may be slightly bent) I think we’ll try a friends recommendation of ratchet strapping it onto the body using the tie ups for the horses on the outside, and pray. What’s the worst that could happen….?!?!?

Stove selected – found the perfect one with great angle for the chimney, good weight, etc
Tomorrow Poul and I are going to plod away at stripping. Looking forward to that ūüėČ

Day 30 or something – Wow so much has been going on!

Just before I started this project I went for a tarot reading. It was ridiculously positive, and everything in it so far appears to have come true, including the prediction that the pod was going to be a community project.¬† A community of my friends have been involved full force and work sped along. The Great Dane has been much more involved than I think he wanted, and I suspect enjoyed it more than I think he thought he would. We’ve worked pretty well together. The ENORMOUS list of jobs from stripping and refitting, rubbing down, repainting, fitting stoves, dealing with the axle, finding furniture to fit, researching the industry and what people will expect, exploring toilet and shower options, and trying to get hot water and lighting solutions has been time consuming but SO MUCH FUN!

So far we have an interior on the trailer that is very close to being ready to furnish, with the OSB on the walls replaced and repainted and a ceiling mural started. We’ve made a front door with a combination bolt for security (saves people going home with keys) and replaced the back doors that we have glazed to let more light in. We’ve decided to definitely try strapping the axle up and hoping for the best to move it, and we have very rough plans (and no real idea how to do it) for the toilet and shower block. The stove is in place but not fitted and we plan to make use of chimney heat to warm the toilet and shower cubicle as well as heat water on a gravity fed rainwater capture system. The furniture is bought or ready to be upcycled.

We’ve had lots of obstacles – the unconventional¬† hinging of the door leaving large gaps midgies will come in, what to put on the floor for easy cleaning that’s within budget, how to glaze windows of unconventional shape and size, where to position the stove, how to heat water for the shower when we don’t get enough solar energy in a Highland wood, and many more small, specific to our particular trailer, type problems.

We’ve made lots of mistakes – not checking all the door hinges were identical before drilling holes. Not checking the rear doors were the right way round before painting the inside a different colour to the outside, not being more accurate with cutting the window perspex, not remembering a curved bead will need to be scribed when mitred, and more we won’t have realised yet.

We need to get the pod moved onto the site before we can progress. The only problem is that Muscle Man is unwell once again and it looks like major surgery so he’ll be unavailable to tow. Towing is going to be awkward until we see if we can get away with either strapping up the axle or removing the rear wheels. We have about 10 days until our deadline and it’s looking unlikely. In the meantime there’s interior painting to be done finishing the mural, seals around all exits to stop rain and draughts getting in, and a boot rack and shelves to be made from pallets as well as an old toy chest from my childhood to paint and use as a coffee table and blanket storage. The gaps are really oversized due to the hinging angles or the way the box was made so that urine would drain out so normal self adhesive door seals are not going to do it. Thankfully the rubber matting that we took off the sides is easy to cut and glue onto the metal frames with a strong glue. The rest of it I hope to reuse in the shower.

I have The Great Dane here to help me for about 3 days in the next 10, and I will need him to help me build all of the toilet and shower cubicle, the kitchen unit, and the decking, and bike parking. I don’t want to be a wimp and move the date back any further. Not only because it means losing income – much needed income – but because I feel like it’s admitting defeat and the project is too big for us. It has been a MUCH bigger project than I expected.
Are we on budget I hear you ask? Well I haven’t added it all up yet – but I am willing to go on a limb and say no. The only reason we have not gone over further than we have is because of the kindness of friends giving up their time and skills for nothing more than a BBQ at the end of the day.

At this point my biggest pointer for anyone wanting to try this is to make sure you have plenty of help. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have skills – many of us learnt to use a jigsaw, grinder and sander for the first time on this project! Most of this I only knew the theory on (thank the gods for YouTube!), but having friends to help hold, climb, paint, grind, sand, saw, drill, and even babysit has made it all possible for me to have a try, and stay close to target – weather and waiting for items to arrive in the post have held us up by about a week.
Ok it’s now 12th July, and I have lost count of how long we’ve been at this, and how many obstacles – injury, illness, mechanical break down, other engagements etc

Don’t misunderstand – it will still definitely be cheaper to do it this way than buy a generic, characterless, prefabbed pod in, BUT if it isn’t finished in the next 10-14 days I’m going to tow it to Dornoch and throw it in the sea because I’m getting sick of it hanging over me as an unfinished project. We’ve not postponed anything, we’ve just worked it round all the other projects and events because I couldn’t face seeing the “to do list” get longer and miss out on fun like the family holiday and birthday parties etc (although mine was scaled down somewhat as I was just plain exhausted). It’s cost maybe twice what I thought it would now.

So where exactly are we at? Still need to get the outhouse done, but the plans for it are in place at least. All the bits except some more hammerite, some silver VHT paint and a sky light for the roof of the outhouse are paid for and bought – I should probably have my fire extinguisher from the horse lorry serviced as well. Muscle Man did manage to get day release from the garage to move the pod to the woods. The plans for the hot water fell through because the parts will take a month to order in and I can’t wait that long.

I still need to paint the mural, and ceiling and some wood work and furniture – in fact I still need to build some furniture….Oh and the ENTIRE out house.

August 8th
I thought we would have been finished roughly two months ago and right now I can still see at least two weeks of work left. I may as well have ordered those bloody bits for the hot water system. Reading back over the last entry – I was in absolute denial about what still needed to be bought. I’ve probably spent at least another ¬£700 on the outhouse and I’m not done yet.
I still haven’t done the flipping murals or finished the ceiling – sigh.

The weather has not been kind to us. The recent 60mph winds really got in the way of roofing the outhouse – or “The Stall” as I have now decided to call it. Until the roof is on I can’t install the shower, or toilet, or the kitchen sink my daughter clevely made. We’ve had all kinds to deal with including the rear diff going on Muscle Man. He needed new shock, bushes and springs, a steering damper, whole rear axle and was garage bound for six weeks. When we went to the Scottish Land Rover show we had to take the Subaru. It didn’t feel right – it felt like cheating on Muscle Man and like being a total fraud/wannabe amongst the Landy owning crew in the campsite. The reason this was a pod problem though, was because it meant I couldn’t collect things we needed, and paying Highland delivery charges on each individual thing (generally ¬£30 a pop starting price for delivery, needed about 100 things – no joke) bought online was not within budget at all. I needed the car to do the 100 mile round trip to Inverness and go get EVERYTHING I needed in one day – that just never happened. Little by little, as we were near places that were closer to home for various reasons, we managed to collect a lot of what we needed, and some is still to get. Also I had nothing to tow it to Dornoch and toss it in the sea with – which is probably the only reason we kept working on it. My back played up badly for a while too, and Poul did masses of overtime to pay for the extra expenses so momentum slowed to a couple of half days work on it a week.
Did I mention that the weather was S H I T…..?

Today I took on the corner of The Stall that I have been blithely ignoring thus far. It’s such a complicated place, and I think I was hoping fairies would come out and make it all perfect for me it at night if I kept pretending it wasn’t there. Strangely it was nowhere near as complicated to deal with as some of the things I thought would be easy. The Great Dane warned me again about that word I use so often “just”. The whole thing has been built with a an attitude of “just” rather than a just attiutde; “Just do it like this” , “just put it there”, “just bang it in – it’s too late to worry about things being level” are now my stock podding phrases. It was while I was being warned about the danger of a “just” containing sentence that I realised that this project has been completed with absolute attention to ignoring the details.

To be fair to us we’ve been up against it. Both the hammers we own are bent, REALLY badly, and one has no rubber handle on the end anymore so you have to hold it too high up or it will cut your palm. We have a rubbish saw and a 75% more rubbish saw – hand saws. The generator won’t work so no power tools, and the tape measure can’t be put fully away inside it’s housing or it gets stuck and can’t be got out without serious frustration and all of your coffee break. Also, the button for holding it out in place doesn’t work so after a meter or so it really needs two of you to work it. The screw gun is my hero – 12 well used years old and not got the best of bits because the screws easily eat them, so we take it really easy – it basically just saves me turning my wrist and there’s no other benefits. Sometimes I think doing it by hand would be easier as a screwdriver wouldn’t strain my arms so much when I’m working at funny angles.

That’s the whole problem really – the funny angles. That’s what I have been ignoring. I just bartered one of our foals for 7 bundles of prefab panels for sheds. I hope they’ll make 5 pods, an office, a reception/shop, and potentially a field shelter too. The greatest joy of these projects will be working with squares and rectangles (excepting roofs), because the pod is anything but, and even those that are, aren’t level. The trailer is a bizarre pointy arch along the top of the main part and then tapers into a nose. It’s also a mix of metal, and fibre glass. The Stall is wood and metal and PVC sheeting and joins on at the awkward nose where the teeny jockey door will give people a chance to get to the toilet without getting rained on or midged. The corner here where metal corrugated sheeting meets fibre glass at a strange angle, and wood has to be attached to aluminium that has the chimney for the stove coming through it, as well as managing to floor over the tow bar and scribe around the brake and jockey wheel, whilst keeping the angle for run off of rain, and incorporate a second valley to join the gutter, made me realise that this project had given us a really hellish learning curve. Surely the following pods will not be this hard to build?!

Last week I had the help of my friend who came up to stay for a week or so to give us a hand, for about the third time I think. She’s a good egg. She’s got a list of back and joint problems that mirrors and surpasses mine. We tend to find the weather effects us both badly and while she was up we had a couple of electric storms and an arctic blast. Bad enough in winter but aggravating at this time of year to our spirits as much as out joints. She helped me with many parts of it, and nearly put herself in hospital filling in the soak away with rocks three times the size of her own head. We even managed to figure out the trusses together. That felt good – it felt like we’d gained more adult points that day. On the very many times we sat back and admired our handiwork and it’s rough edges, I kept saying that I might put a reminder to guests before they review us, that this was built by a bunch of disabled women, kids, and a foreigner. None of us¬† with previous experience or qualification to do so. Just a mad idea on how to solve the eternal problem of making a living in a place you love with enough time left over to love it.

We’ve slogged at this, there’s been weather, sickness, injury, 6 weeks of car break down, many unmissable family events, small children, unworkable ideas, unbuyable materials, unaffordable delivery charges all in our way. Yet we have kept plodding at it – every day moving something forward a bit. As I type the partially painted top for the toilet takes up the middle of the living room floor, the room is to the rafters in pots, pans, towels, and furniture for this damn pod ( I really didn’t realise how much the interior was going to cost – we’re probably close to 2.5 times the budget now), so whether I have shopped, or researched, or just written the plan for the week repeatedly around the weather – I have always been chipping away at it. This week I am going to sacrifice the 3 days we had booked off to go away as a couple to celebrate our anniversary (a year since our engagement) but instead we are going to batter in to getting this finished ASAP. Ironically my first night in the pod may have to be my anniversary trip – that’s if I am lucky!

So what have I learnt so far?
Triple the budget
Double the time
If being on time matters, don’t work with funny angles.
Get better tools.13754425_1220539697970948_2205027196663780649_n