Mrs B – despite being primarily vegetarian – has started looking for more pigs to raise for slaughter. Every week she looks through the Blackmore Vale magazine scanning the pages for houses (which we are never likely to buy), puppies (which we do not need – although Ella is the unwitting product of Mrs B’s browsing prior to her 50th) and weaners.
We now have a policy now of only get pigs in the spring, as Mrs B does not like to see them hobbling around in the winter, slipping on their own frozen footmarks like overweight ladies of the night walking cracked icy pavements in stilettos. So the search for livestock is on, and in readiness we have cleared the dead nettles from the pig paddock. If there can be such a thing as salt marsh lamb, why not nettle pork? Being fed on nettles would add some piquancy to the meat, I am sure.
Coincidentally I have been reading Simon Barnes’s latest book “The Secret Combe” (bought from my local bookshop – online orders accepted) in which he explores our atavistic craving for some kind of return to nature – to our own personal Eden, if you will. The book is a series of short essays – it’s the sort of work which might easily have started out life as a blog – and suits my reading habits perfectly as I can just about read three pages in bed before I fall asleep. He ponders the change from hunter-gatherer societies to agrarian. He describes life for top-of-the-food-chain carnivores as a sort of reverie occasionally interrupted by an hour or so of hunting for a kill, followed by debauched eating and back to resting and playing. We went from this lifestyle to one in which we were able to tame nature and use agriculture to grow our own food for a more reliable source of sustenance, but in doing so sentenced ourselves to endless hours of planting and harvesting. “We traded fun and leisure and uncertainty for greater certainties….and it’s half-killed us ever since….We found freedom, and the price was slavery”
It’s a fair point, but when I see my neighbour from down the road – a gunsmith by trade – sweep around the corner into the lane, giving me the cold hard stare of the hunter behind the wheel of his land rover, the four stiff legs of the slaughtered deer in the back pointing skywards as he roars away from me at a speed that assumes he knows the road better than anyone else who might have the temerity to be using the highway at the same time as him, I think I am happy to be a slave in my own garden. The instant gratification of a kill pales in comparison with the earned rewards of a season’s work as each fruit and veg is harvested. And the feeling that one is constantly creating rather than destroying. Seeing the dumb insolence of my neighbour I don’t feel any urge to go out and kill something. I feel more in harmony in garden.
In growing plants we are creating our own Eden, one in which I can stand at the window (as I did this morning) and watch a Chaffinch wooing his partner in a funny little slalom courtship dance along the ridge tiles, and feel that this is a patch in which everything has its place.