Lots of folk about today…

I do love meeting new, like-minded people!

Before we could get to the farm this morning we had pork to deliver to two of our restaurant customers, both of whom now have Ardunan Farm listed on their menu 🙂 Its great to see these chefs so animated when talking about about our product…we couldn’t ask for better comments!

Once at the farm we had a huge clean up job to do before anything else as David’s favourite (and spoiled) pig “sugarbabe” decided she would protest at being fed five minutes late by tipping her entire water trough (75L I believe!!!) all over the shed floor…I could have cried. Visitors were due within 30 minutes and I was soaked and sweaty…yeuch!

First Colin & Debby from The Lint Mill arrived to collect their four female weaners. How similar our paths have been. They too were ‘West Enders’ for many years, living yards from where we do now. Like me, Debby works by day and helps with the smallholding every free minute she has while Colin (like David) tends to the animals and farm tasks each day. They have established a fantastic, luxurious B&B at their smallholding in Carnwath and were recently awarded 4 stars by The Scottish Tourist Board!!!

Then Allison & Mark popped by to buy some feed for the pigs they bought from us a few months ago. We compared how they were doing against their pig’s siblings who have been reared here indoors…seems like ours are bigger :-)….must be all that running about outdoors that’s keeping their pigs lean. Maybe we could do a taste test and see if there is any difference?

Finally Joanne & Ken arrived to collect their two pigs. Now tell me if we’re mad…but Joanne & Ken are two of our best pork customers and here we are setting them up to produce their own….I don’t remember putting that ‘method’ in to our business plan!!! 🙂 Two big bruisers were selected by their gorgeous daughter and we all helped coax them out and in to the livestock trailer. Ken was pretty confident he could easily unload them at the other end using the jockey door, so it was quite funny when Ken brought back the trailer later that evening and went in to detail about how their little black pig (now named “that little b*@@er”!) had him chasing it about their garden with piggy only stopping to look over its shoulder every now and then to smirk at him!!! 😀 ha ha ha!

Oh the joys of keeping pigs 🙂

Fighting on the forums…

One of our favourite websites is The Accidental Smallholder (TAS for short). I stumbled on it six years ago just before we moved on to our farmland and found reading about Dan & Rosemary’s experiences on their smallholding so interesting. We’ve since met and become friends with them through Central Scotland Smallholders (another venture they set up) ….and many other lovely people too! The website grew from its starting point as a  blog to now a much larger site complete with forums and shop. It’s a great source of information and a friendly place to join in discussions or ask a question.

There are many regulars who log on daily and answer questions on their own points of interest soap makers, goat keepers, crafters, sheep breeders….but the most active and lively part of the forum is to be found in the pig section!!! There has always been a little split in opinions between breeders who register their pigs to allow them to call them pedigree and breeders (like us) who do not (that’s for another post!) but the banter and chat has always been light and friendly….until now!!!!

People’s passions have turned some of them in to monsters, full scale public battles have been faught out online and some ‘users’ have now been banned from the site. I’m going to hide in the background for now until things calm down as I hate confrontations….hopefully order will be restored soon!

Green Aspirations Scotland…

Our friend Louise who helped fight for and establish the new allotments in the village has set up a new company with her partner Green Aspirations Scotland.

She did a great job rallying ‘most’ of the local community in to supporting the allotments, helped with the design, won the planning permission and faught off some unfair local objections.

Take a look at their new website – we wish them every success!

A tour of the pig’s barn…

We believe in being totally open and transparent about the way we rear our animals (especially our pigs) and we welcome visitors to come and have a look around any time we’re about. So for those of you who live too far away, or don’t have the time, here is a little clip I took this morning of our indoor pigs and how they live.

I could have talked over the footage and pointed things out, but I thought I’d just leave it all  open to your own interpretation….hopefully what you will notice is how quiet, clean, settled and happy our pigs are in their home. The sunlight streams in all day and there is always a fresh gentle breeze blowing through.

You can view the clip here

Our breeding sows and boar live outdoors all year round and our piglets are all born outdoors. They stay with their mother until they are 2-3 months old and are then moved indoors until they reach slaughter weight (around 7-9 months of age). In my opinion, having raised our pigs both outdoors and inside, I have become a convert of the latter. Our pigs are extremely settled and calm in their ‘family’ groups, they are cleaned out daily and have plenty of fresh straw to root about in. As we have built up to a small commercial sized operation we have to try our best to aim for consistency in our end product. The indoor system greatly helps us manage the pig’s feed, monitor their condition and makes the selection and trailer loading process much more stress free for both us and the pigs. If we were to keep this number of pigs outside all year we would go through more land than we actually have and the pigs really don’t enjoy the cold, rain, windy and heavy muddy conditions of winter. So, although it is far more expensive for us to buy in huge quantities of straw (and hard work mucking out every single day) the benefits still outweigh the costs and effort.

I could never keep animals in the conditions many commercial pig farms use (empty dark concrete pens) in their opinion, it is the only way those farmers, selling to large companies, can make any money out of their livestock. In time we would like to enhance our pigs conditions further with a larger barn and secure outdoor pens attached.

We value our animals and provide them with the best conditions possible, they are not pumped full of drugs or antibiotics as a matter of course, they have a natural, varied diet and are allowed to grow at a slower, more natural rate – most farmers could not conceive being able to run a profitable business that way. We work hard to promote the quality of the meat we produce….as we keep saying “it is a totally different product to supermarket bought pork!” and we are lucky to have gained the support of some wonderful people who appreciate the difference in the meat we produce – both local customers who try our sausages or taster boxes then go on to regularly purchase a quarter or half pig….and more recently some fantastic “old school” chefs at some of Glasgow and Stirlingshire’s top hotels and restaurants. Their excitement for the product and enthusiasm at creating new and inventive dishes utilising all of the animal is truly fantastic and we thank them for not only supporting us, but supporting the high welfare standards we follow.

Get the sun cream out…

The sun has been out over the last few days….and boy is it hot! The outdoor pigs are tipping  water troughs and making wallows. Heavily pregnant Pip and Stumpy are pretty uncomfortable and slightly off their food….they just want to have tummy rubs and sleep a lot. They both still have only a tiny show of milk in their teats, so piglets could still be another week away.

It wouldn’t be the first time our pigs were sprayed in Lancome suncare products bought at discount (and in bulk) through my work! The poor things big floppy ears can get rather red and they do insist on baking outside! At least they don’t have wooly coats to deal with unlike our poor, panting sheep who were making good use of the shade and cool breeze inside their large field shelter!

My arms and shoulders are burned which makes a change from my usual ‘farmer’s tan’ which only colours my hands and head 😀 Both dogs are lying in the sun but with lots of water and shade. I shouldn’t really complain as weather like this is so rare in Scotland but it does make you so sleepy and prevent you from getting on with things like the garden and fencing

Rather than just sleep, we took a little break from the farm and headed to Milngavie for a little lunch al fresco ( a lovely rare treat for us!). We also managed a visit to Strathblane’s new village allotments where we were put to shame by the hard work of all the new plot holders trying to make progress on this ‘virgin soil’. It has all been fenced and plots marked out, but the contractors had managed to compact the soil in the process so a visit from a man with a rotovator was on the cards. Some plot holders had already gone ahead and planted some potatoes and everyone was excitedly awaiting the delivery of the sheds and greenhouses. Spurred on by their enthusiasm we eventually managed some work in our own veg patch (it was a little cooler in the late afternoon). So we did do SOME work! 😉

Tweet Tweet…

How delighted were we today to see this tweet from Jacqueline O’Donnell, the big sister at The Sisters restaurant and regular chef on STV…

Jacqueline O’Donnell ‏ @chef_jacqueline

@ArdunanFarm just tasted the tastiest roast pork shoulder from this great farm and the crackling my my soooo good!”

It means so much when someone who knows great produce recognises our efforts! Many thanks Jacqueline…and keep tweeting! 🙂

FRESh at Fintry!

Well, it was a bit of a rush getting there (mornings are our busiest time of day!) and we arrived 5 minutes after it had started but once we were set up we had a lovely few hours talking to some of the most enthusiastic supporters of sustainable enterprises I have ever met.

FRESh has been running for a few years but this was the first time they had included a local market. We were there along with some of Killearn Market’s regulars and several local craft producers. There was such a great atmosphere and the organisers (Fintry Development Trust) couldn’t have done more to make sure everyone had what they needed and were enjoying the event!

We were situated near the entrance and had a lot of interest and questions from people wanting to know more about who we are, what we do and what we sell. This is one of the main reasons we attend these local markets, to let people know we are out there and that there is an alternative to supermarket pork! We never take produce to these events, mainly because our pigs are killed to order and our business model is to mostly sell 1/2 and 1/4 pigs, but it’s also due to environmental health legislation….I personally don’t think it is good practice to sell fresh meat (vac-packed or not) in a basket with a couple of ice blocks underneath it. I don’t think that reassures buyers that you have their welfare in mind! I’m therefore on the look out for an electric table top chiller and only then will we start to bring along packs of sausages to sell. All food retailers have a duty to protect their customers and we take that responsibility very seriously!

Oops…went off on a rant there!

We also had interest from a couple of people looking for Hog Roasts for a house warming party and a School event so hopefully that will lead to new sales.

The organisers asked if we’d be interested in attending a regular monthly market and seeing what a good turnout there was in supporting today’s event we had to say yes! Fintry should be congratulated for all the hard work they are putting in to not only educating the local community but also putting sustainable and renewable initiatives in to practice.

FRESh at Fintry

Do join us at FRESh in Fintry on Saturday March 10th. We’ll have a stall along with many other local producers. We’ll also be going along as visitors to the events planned for Friday March 9th. A lot of work has been put in to this by the organisers and what they are trying to achieve (promotion of local businesses and renewable energy) should be supported.

Find out more here…http://www.fintrydt.org.uk/index.php?page=fresh-2012