Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Why the French eat Horses.

Today I broke a cardinal rule of smallholding and paid the price.


Those of you familiar with this site will know that there are rules of smallholding which we discover or create as we go along. There are some though that are sacrosanct, passed down through the generations, these pearls of wisdom must never, ever be challenged or broken.

Those that do not follow the path of the righteous smallholder shall perish.

Smallholding, or small scale farming is a challenge, particularly if you work full time. No matter what the weather when you return from your paid endeavours you have to do the rounds, attend the animals dependent on you for food and water, check all is well, patrol the perimeter and repel all boarders until nightfall when you can retire happy that you have six hours twenty six minutes before the dawn chorus of the Rock pack wakes you up again.

Tonight when we got back with Rene stuffed full of hay the heavens opened and it rained the way it only can on a Welsh hillside. Torrential, sustained, heavy, prolonged whatever you use to describe it we were going to get very very wet. I bravely volunteered to go and do the rounds allowing Tracey to stay dry and do the household chores. Off I set into the monsoon like weather.

All went well, the sheep got their hay, the goats got their share, all were watered, the eggs were collected, all the sheep were accounted for and I went down the lane to the horses. Here in their temporary stable they were reasonably dry but the ground outside was soaked, water coming over the tops of my boots I waded to the stable door of Trevor the Shitland pony who is 33 inches high and a total git. He shoved past me as I was momentarily blinded by the hood of my jacket, as I cleared it from my face I saw I had broken the rule. The rule more important than shutting the stable door before they bolt. The rule everyone knows.

Always shut the gate.

I hadn't and with a kick of his heels Trevor was off into the lane. Never mind I thought as I checked William, the welsh cob, its raining, he won't want to leave his nice warm dry stable. William set about chomping through another bundle of money, I mean bale of hay, I filled his water bucket and shut him in for the night. He was happy, so was I.

Trevor was in sight just along the lane showing no signs of returning. There was a slight flaw to my he wont want to be out in the rain logic, he being genetically predisposed to deal with the worst Scottish weather ever whilst I on the other hand am genetically predisposed to warm firesides and Malt Whiskey. As I approached he backed away. It was slightly amusing. I closed the gap, he ran off but kept me in sight. So I set off after him, he did it again.

Thinking he might follow I walked back to the stable, Trevor thought otherwise and stayed put on the hill eating. Never mind, the dogs were enjoying their extended romp amongst the gorse bushes. It was quite fun after all watching the Shitland annoying its owner. I began the long walk back, pondering on life's events, things that happened last week like seeing a House Martin for the first time this year, noticing that the nesting box is now occupied and wondering what you call a dog with no ears, anything you like, he cant hear you (ok its old but its free, you want original material wait and buy the book!) Ben is a no eared dog, he was stood at the bottom of the lane watching the evenings entertainment. He lost both ears and almost his life in a fight with a couple of Staffordshire Terriers that turned on him. I continued my mental and physical ramble, my plan to put Bernard Matthews out of business has finally got off the ground, I found our first turkey egg today, soon we shall be overwhelmed with organic turkeys. And so my mind wandered until I spotted the Shitland watching me.

Trevor was waiting in the lane and did his vanishing trick as I got close. No matter how casually I sidled up to him he scarpered as I got within reach. Then he really took off, up past Mad Keith's shack, somewhere he had never been before. So I set after him, cursing myself for not shutting the gate and really not seeing the funny side now as ice cold April rain ran into my boots off my cold soaked through trousers. Thank God for global warming I fumed.

As I approached Mad Keith's I wondered if he ate ponies, would I find Trevor's bones on the pile in front of his shack amongst the empty gin bottles? The trees form a natural archway as you approach his dwelling and the wind whistled through in a very symbolic way as is compulsory when you consider the strange eating habits of mad hermits who are your nearest neighbours.

It was at this point I heard the loudest horse whinny ever and the thunder of hooves on the gravel track ahead. What should have appeared was the headless horseman from Sleepy Hollow given the quality and volume of the sound effects. What actually appeared was a very annoying Shitland pony who rocketed past me in the evening gloom and disappeared over the side of the hill.

I duly followed, this time across country and discovered the advantage a fit quadruped with the predisposition to run up rock faces has over a fat biped with the predisposition for eating pizza.
We played hide and seek amongst the gorse bushes for a while, that was fun, he able to blend into the flora of the hillside with his dark brown and light grey two tone coat, I unable to sneak up on him in my bright red gortex.

Finally my radio alerted me to the fact that Tracey was now missing me, or rather wanted to know where I was. I managed to give a rough estimation of time and distance from HQ as I crouched behind a bush having just spotted my prey. I jumped out and grabbed Trevor. By the tail. I don't know who was the most amazed or confused out of the two of us. I had no idea what to do next, I don't suppose it's as dangerous as catching a tiger by the tail but there would undoubtedly be consequences.

Only having one arm to hold the git by didn't help, my left arm is pretty useless following an accident, roughly 20% movement and 2% strength so absolutely no use to hold a mental pony on a steep wet hillside. So we both looked at each other wondering who was going to do what next. He made the first move turning to face me, which was the best I could hope for, he could have kicked me or run off down hill dragging me with him. As he tried to bite me I managed to get a hold of his mane and walked him reluctantly down to the lane.

Tracey appeared like a guardian angel bearing horse bondage gear and suitably trussed he was walked back to his den where he had all the creature comforts waiting for him. Bless.

Tracey and I walked back through the rain, fed and watered the dogs, put them in their kennels and decided to call it a day and get back in the warm of Rock HQ.

We then discovered another cardinal rule.

No matter how much of a hurry you leave the house always shut the front door.

Remember the hardy Welsh hill sheep, Jess and Katy and their equally robust Ryeland friend Daffodil?

They had seen the door open and seized the chance to exchange the wet cold outdoors for warm, cosy indoors. When we found them they were sat on the sofa, but there was evidence they had been most places in the house before hand. It amazing what a mess three cute little lambs can make when they are unsupervised.

And they had eaten the Toblerone.

For a moment it looked like lamb was on the menu.

Never get between Tracey and her Toblerone, its up there with always shut the gate.

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