Image via WikipediaWe costed out the pork after slaughtering the first batch of pigs and decided that although there was a reasonable price advantage...apart from the security of knowing what they had been eating....the initial cost of buying in piglets was over preponderant..
So the men thought that we would keep back the sow with the best conformation with the idea of having her served and thus producing our own piglets....reckoning that the cost of feeding her in the intervening period would seriously undercut the 'bought in' piglet price.
We named her Laura...after the Presidenta.
Now the logistics of the whole thing came in.
The simplest option would have been artificial insemination. The men came away groggy from a demonstration of same at the pig farm down the road.....sat over their coffee making rotating arm gestures accompanied by noises indicating that they weren't going to be trying that, thank you...but were rescued by the pig farm owner turning up to say he would do it himself (?!) if they would buy the semen, which would have to be kept in the fridge. Space duly made in fridge at the expense of sundry leftovers which on inspection would just make lunch.
Men set off over the hill to buy semen.
Ah. It only comes in on Tuesdays and you can't order it in advance and it lasts a week in the fridge.
Return of men from over the hill to eat lunch.
Next day, Laura came on heat. She destroyed the front of her pen and ranged about looking for she knew not what...pausing to wallow in the veg garden and wade majestically through the tilapia pond, emerging like a four legged Venus Anadyomene draped artistically in water hyacinth.
Reclaimed with bucket of coconut...thank goodness for porcine addictions...and loaded into the trailer for the journey to the pig farm...telephone discussion with owner of same having brought about the conclusion that as it wasn't Tuesday it would be best to put her to the boar.
The men drove her to the pig farm, stopping at the top of the road to reclaim the trailer planks that she had tossed into the air and replacing them under her elegant trotters.
I avoided this little outing, volunteering instead to rebuild the front of the pig pen.
I know from spending time on stud farms in the U.K. that the chaps are not too keen on the presence of women at these moments, let alone the horror of women directing operations - 'lower 'ole, ma'am' - and, given the macho culture of Costa Rica, it would have been like intruding on the Eleusinian Mysteries.
So I repaired the pig pen and awaited the triumphal return.
Well, Laura was fine.
Decanted into the pig pen, she ate a little trimmed sugar cane and settled down for a nap in the shade.
The men needed coffee and a drop of guaro - roughly distilled rum - in it.
Which boar did they use?
There were two at the pig farm...both resembling sofas covered in shag pile material...one a three seater size and the other two seater.
A conference of the men, the pig farm owner and his compete staff of four had decided on the two seater model.
Laura had bounded from the trailer, the two seater model had leapt from his pen.....and one of the staff had the interesting task of connecting the two of them.
The two seater model needed assistance.
More rotating arm movements.
It all sounded like Flanders and Swann's 'Misalliance'...the right handed honeysuckle and the left handed bindweed...but the mission was accomplished and after an invigorating chase to reclaim Laura and the two seater model from the sugar cane on next door's land, our investment in piglets returned to base.
The men turned to other projects. They decided to lay a concrete roadway from the gates to the house before the rainy season set in again....this was fine, every day a few more feet progressed.
And then something happened which ruined all the calculations on the back of the envelope.
Laura came into season again.
This time she broke down the back of the pen and rampaged down to the creek, whence she made her way up to the plantains and knocked several over by rubbing against their stems.
A plantain is no match for a pig.
Bucket of coconut.....but not to the trailer this time. The trailer was parked alongside the house....the car at the top of the drive...separated by yards of wet or fragile concrete.
So no journey to the pig farm.
Neither was it Tuesday.
Laura was decanted into the holding pen while repairs were made and the men took coffee and gauro on the balcony while adjusting their business plan.
You will recall that all this was to avoid buying in piglets and you will recall that this is a project whose driving force is men, so it will come as no surprise to women readers that the next week saw us all at another pig farm about to buy two piglets.
The men had decided that ...just in case they ever had another mania for laying concrete, I suppose...it would be better to have their own boar on site and Danilo's cousin had put him on to a pig farm which specialised in selling piglets off, rather than fattening them for slaughter.
Much better business, in my view...all good money and no risks.
The owner's son was there and kindly gave us a tour of the premises, beautifully laid out and spotlessly clean.
He showed us their boar....telling us proudly that it was the offspring of a Canadian champion.
Well, if the others were two and three seaters, this was the corner unit and footstool as well.
He was massive, lying under a cooling spray of water and watching us with those disconcertingly alert small piggy eyes.
Given that eyesight is not a pig's best asset, he was probably not seeing much...and he would have been a lot less impressed by us than we were by him in any case.
Walking backwards from the Presence, the time had come to choose the piglet. There was a great deal of discussion about litter sizes and litter histories...with the aid of notes on the back of calendars....and the men decided on not one, but two, piglets. An entire male and a female.
I liked the male...and I liked the look of his mother, a many nippled creature who made you think of Diana of the Ephesians...but got distracted while the parentage of the female was being discussed by the antics of the piggery cat who seemed to be playing at bullfights with itself featuring as the bull and the piglets as the matadors.
Still, once decided upon, the two piglets were placed into sacks and we returned to the top of the drive. Carrying a sack with a wriggling indignant piglet in it over rough ground is not to be recommended if you are of a certain age, but we made it to the bottom and installed the piglets in the pen alongside Laura, where they are currently increasing in size and giving a great deal of pleasure.
The little chap is very endearing, rolling over on his back for a tummy rub after his meals....while the little lady spends her time rooting under the mango tree. They would be perfect if they could refrain from standing on my sandalled foot with their trotters at feeding time.
Meanwhile, the concreting went on apace until the men calculated that Laura would be coming on heat again and that the concrete would be dry and cured enough to drive on.
Well, they were right about one thing.
The concrete can be driven over.
Laura has not come on heat.