We needed pigs, we decided. We were losing the fight against the bramble invasion, and Nik had read that even small pigs can be useful in digging up bramble roots and turning over soil for growing crops.
Many YouTube videos later, we found ourselves driving for 2 hours into deepest Dordognshire, past Bergerac. We had seen an advert from a couple called Linda and Jonathan – stars of A New Life in the Sun – who had a litter of dwarf pigs to rehome as pets – not sandwiches. The countryside was very beautiful and quite different to Haute Vienne, which is lovely in a different way.
Dept 87 has always been poor and remains so, but the Dordogne is stacked with castles and grand houses in the creamy, almost Costwold-like stone with Perigordian rooflines. Maybe that’s why the English ex-pats like it so much.
We got to Linda’s place and she opened the gate to let all the pigs out on a huge grassy area so we could meet them. Mum and Dad and an Aunty were all the size of Pippin, our spaniel but twice as heavy and came galloping out into the sunshine after Linda, followed by 7 wriggly, fat piglets the size of guinea pigs (oh right – maybe that’s why they’re called guinea pigs?)
They were so cute. Half were black and half were pink and white with black patches. Their little snuffly snouts! We sat on the grass while Linda fed them dry pasta and they rooted around us. She pointed out ours – a black one and a pink and white one that was obviously her favourite.
We couldn’t really tell them apart, and as they were pointed out, they immediately got lost in the throng again. Every now and again they would get bored with our company and all run off over to a fruit tree to see what they could find on the ground.
“What are you going to call them?” asked Johnny, Linda’s husband. I said we thought Rosa for the black one after Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn 99 who is a cool cop who always dresses in black. Suddenly I remembered my best mate Amber’s dog from when we were kids in Lancashire.
She had been a bulldog and they had called her Blossom. “Can we call her Blossom?” I said to Nik, who liked it at once. So there you have it. Rosa Smith and Blossom Smith. I should say that Blossom is not ugly and her name is not a joke. She is gorgeous.
Johnny got involved, and then I did too, and then Nik was invited to join in. There were three black piglets, all to my eyes identical, so there was a lot of “is it that one? No, that’s the boy, it’s the one by the pink one. That one? No the one in the trough.” As we had the whole herd trapped against one wall they all suddenly made a bid for freedom and Nik grabbed a black piglet in mid air with a skill honed over years of chasing dogs, chickens and three small daughters.
It squealed and wriggled and then bit him hard and drew blood but he didn’t let go. Upon inspection, it was declared to be Rosa (what are the chances?), so she was gently placed in the cage with the sulking Blossom, and we had them safe.
A quick stop to clean and disinfect Nik’s finger, and we were on our way home. The girls slept all the way. It was heartbreaking taking them away from their happy family. Linda cried, and I don’t blame her. However, as we kept telling ourselves, it was far from the worst thing that had happened to a pig that day or any other.
When we got them home, we let them out into their run. Rosa was quickly out and about eating apples and pig nuts and paddling in our water bowl. Blossom was traumatised by her capture and journey and dived straight into her house and wouldn’t come out for 3 hours. But by dusk, they were both exploring and snuffling around our feet adorably.
Eventually, they put themselves to bed, and we gently shut them in to keep the foxes and pine martins away.
The dogs are furious with these latest additions to the family. They’ve never seen a pig, so we think they call them “Not-Cats”. Either way, they definitely need investigating and then hurting. That introduction is for another day.
3 weeks on and the donkeys and mule have now met them too. Much snorting and pawing the ground and theatrical shying away to start with. They have grown hugely and now follow us when we take them for walks down to the river – running along grunting with their tails held high. They are adorable, and we are so pleased with them. We send Linda regular updates.
They are a type of dwarf pig, so they will never get very large. The French call them couchon nain – literally dwarf pig. We think they are a sort of Kunekune cross.
We are not going to eat them – although everyone asks us that. But they have to earn their keep like everything else at Le Moulin, and they are already showing off their digging skills. I really think they will be an asset in the battle with the brambles. We have stopped serving ham with guest breakfasts, though.