Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Happy New Year

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A lot of fuss over nothing!

All this fuss over an empty bucket!

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Tall tails

This is Trevor, a shitland pony who has his own cult, see Trevor Shetland on facebook to see if you can join him. He has for the last five day been living in the garden as the Bernese Lodgers have taken up residence in his stable. This has passed without incident until tonight when the adventurous little pony got himself stuck on the ledge at the base of the cliff at the back of the house. First indication that anything wrong was a huge amount of leaf rustling from above the stable roof. A quick search with the torch illuminated the problem, a little 33 inch high monster too scared to find the path in the darkness. This meant your truly had to brave the cliff face and lead the little monster down. Unusually for us this went like clockwork and he was soon returned to his warm and cosy stable as the Berners have gone home. A couple of victory rolls in the sawdust and he was back to normal. Biting everything!

Monday, 29 December 2008

World War 3 averted!

These two are firm friends, provided William the big Black Welsh Cob doesn't feel like he has to compete for food, shelter or affection he loves having Apollo around.

There are clear designated areas in the yard, those that belong to Williamand everyone else's. William always feeds from the right hand side of the hay stack, Apollo, two goats and eight sheep share the left hand side. William has his own stable and is very happy for anyone to look at it, but if they even consider any form of physical encroachment on his turf he will teach them the error of their ways with a sharp bite or a stealthy hoof, unless they are humans bearing gifts or forks to clean out pooh he hates anyone or anything being in his space. Many a goat or poultry has been seen to fly out of the stable door sideways with an accompanying ooof as they overstepped the mark and out stayed their welcome.

Tonight World War 3 was averted by luck, darkness and the swift action of yours truly. Forget any troubles in the middle east, if this Welsh Cob had of spotted what was going on all hell would have let loose.

As always it started innocently enough, in an equine equivalent of did you spill my pint Apollo stumbled into William as he was taking huge mouthfuls from the haystack. William forgave that misdemeanour as Apollo backed off smacking his lips and apologising profusely. I was busy cleaning out the fresh mountain ranges of pooh from the stables and once done fetched a huge bucket of horse nuts for the beasts to share. Now Apollo has an annoying habit of smashing buckets at the moment and as tonight's remains were dragged out of his stall it was obvious the plastic container had met its match and was no longer capable of holding the horses dinner. So I went into Williams stall and tipped half the bucket of nuts into his intact bucket and took the new bucket into Apollos stall and placed it carefully in the tyre that serves as some form of bucket protector.

I carried on cleaning out the pooh form Apollos stall. It was quiet, the cliche too quiet. I should have with me a foal called Apollo kicking the crap out his new bucket and scoffing his nuts. I looked out into the darkness, William was munching hay. Apollo was nowhere to be seen.

Something prompted me to go and look for him. He was in Williams stable eating Williams dinner, a capitol offence if spotted by the big horse. Without drawing attention to the crime I tip toed in beside Apollo and gently frog marched him out of the stable clearing the door just as William spotted the intrusion. Placing myself in the line of attack I yelled, "Leave him, hes not worth it" diverting William into his stall while shoving Apollo up the backside so he lurched into his stable. I slammed the door just as a very irate Welsh Cob appeared at my shoulder wanting to settle matters having now discovered half his dinner was gone.

His pride severely dented he attempted to bite the dogs before going into his stall to eat the leftovers. Half an hour later he was still seething, his ears pressed flat against his head in temper.

Apollo on the other hand looked very pleased with himself.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Christmas buffet

This is Trevor our Shitland who has decided that the cold frosty garden is not for him and where he would really like is to be in the house and help himself to the apples. By the bucket load!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Big Bernese Welcome

We have had several walkers through our patch the last two days, all of which have been lucky enough to be made welcome by the Rock HQ gang, some of which are seen above giving Tracey some fuss.

The walkers have divided into the two types, the cheerful friendly types and the grumpy miserable head down types. Honestly, I ask you, would you really walk through someones garden, get within ten feet of them and still try to avoid any form of human discourse? The one chap had to be forced to say Hello after I made it quite clear that my cheery Good Morning was in fact directed at you mate, yes you who are now all of 8 feet away from me I am actually talking to you, have you heard me? He begrudgingly looked up and muttered what passed as a greeting before shoving his hands further into his anorak and glowering once more from under his hand knitted bobble hat the beardy walker stomped past and into The Cauldron. If being outdoors makes you that miserable stay at home mate!

Another chap was much more friendly and engaged in conversation whilst I struggled to keep hold of two Bernese Mountain Dogs who wanted to greet him with muddy paws, he was in fact so chatty that his diversion gave the Ryelands enough time to steal a bucket of food whilst Tracey and I politely agreed with the nice young man that yes there were more sheep dogs than dogs.

He set off into the sunshine of The Cauldron after the grumpy one. Takes all sorts, and we get them all here!

Friday, 26 December 2008

Ground hog day

Ben and Beth went to town today and are not returning to the sanctuary of Rock HQ until Sunday when we hope Tracey's family will come over and help eat the turkey leftovers.
Its been a very sunny and pleasant day and the sunshine prompted me to move the barrow loads of fresh offerings from the horses bottoms to the garden. This sudden attack of green fingers ended with a coughing fit that almost produced a lung to garnish the fresh steaming horse offerings and so with my desire to breathe stronger than my desire to be the new Alan Titchmarsh I gave up the garden and spent several hours brushing the pony, trying to get rid of the tide mark from his forehead and just sitting and watching the pigs.
Patches has cottoned on to the idea that its best to make friends and influence people and so allowed me to pick her up for a bit of a cuddle before being returned to the trough to continue stuffing herself with fresh veg, fruit, pig nuts and unexploded popcorn. Pixie, the one closest in the picture maintains her vigilance against human pig contact and explodes with mock piglet rage if you try to touch her by surprise. I am sure she will settle down, especially once she considers the alternatives.
The pigs were not the only ones having treats, below you can see Apollo on his knees in excitement at a bucket of carrots, a present from friends down the road whose dogs we are looking after while they are in America.

So once again there are ten dogs at Rock HQ, five of which are Bernese Mountain Dogs, all sat around the fire. We saw The Oracle while we were collecting the dogs, he was celebrating Christmas, full of Christmas spirit in his yard having just come outside to walk his dinner off as he missed it yesterday. I waved at him in the dark as I drove Rene through he jovially shut the gate for me. I didn't think to ask why he had missed yesterday, well you don't ask those sorts of questions round these parts.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Dreaming of a white Christmas!

Dream on! Its as grey and dull here as the rest of the UK today, but this is how we can look in the snow so Happy Christmas to all of you.
It would be hard to choose the best bit of the day, its been great despite still suffering the effects of a chest infection after the flu. I am sure the doc was clear about the benefits of anti biotic and alcohol so I haven't held myself back and taken every opportunity to sample different offerings of festive spirits!

The animals were all well behaved and joy to be with today, the dogs have been spoilt rotten from sampling goats cheese to home cured hams they have loved the Christmas feast. The horses made pigs of themselves on the carrots, the pigs made er pigs of themselves on the fruit and veg offerings. The day has been a joyous family occasion and I have counted my blessings.

The best bits, well two really on top of everything, taking Mad Keith the technohermit a Christmas Dinner, the day is like any other day for him but you could tell he was happy to get a Turkey and all the bits dinner. The best bit, my present from Beth, a T shirt, the first of the Tales From The Rock Productions.

It has a picture of Trevor, Trevor is a cult, find him.
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Trevor is a cult!

Find him........
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Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Last minute dash

Instead of having a peaceful run into Christmas with everything well planned and prepared today has been a manic dash to get everything done whilst incorporating visits to doctors, chemists who closed, chemists who took half an hour to hand over a packet, food shop, card drop, sudden realisation that actually we hadn't bought the kids a present so back out from the ranch into town to sort that one. So not including the usual antics of the animals who all needed their every whims met it has been a full on day. I have baked the Christmas cake, better late than never, roasted a whole leg of ham, prepared the veg and stuffed the turkey. The cottage smells of Christmas spice not damp dog, a lovely change!

But now the fires lit, the dogs are quiet, the kids are out, I have stopped coughing long enough to sip my first g and t of the holiday and we are ready.

An advert has just been on the TV reminding us we don't have any crackers.

Cant get everything right in 12 hours!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Lest we forget!

We live on a hill. That's a fact of life that we accept here, nowhere is very level, in fact the level bits are just less steep hillside bits. Everyday I am reminded of the fact that we live on a hill, I get into Rene the RX4, release the handbrake and two minutes later find myself two thirds of a mile down the hill at the gateway to the road. So we never forget we are on a hill. But there are times we don't remember, there is a difference.
Like Beth not remembering so when she got out of her car and hadn't applied the handbrake she found her little green Fiat heading straight for her and actually running her down.
Or tonight when Steve the Logs and Steve the Chainsaw called round primarily to drop off a load of oak logs but also to have a close look at the two errant ash trees that still threaten to fall on the stables and house. As we unloaded the logs and discussed the merits of tractors pulling trees, the angle of slope and the levels of mess and mayhem they expected to create there was a collective lapse of memory regarding the degree of slope on which the 4x4 and half a pickup converted to trailer was currently parked. Steve pulled forward allowing Steve access to the tow bar and hitch. I watched as he uncoupled the massively heavy trailer.
Gravity reacted faster than Steve and despite his broad Norfolk accent reaching falsetto heights I could tell he was not enjoying having his genitals impaled on the tow hitch as the trailer rolled down hill pinning him to the 4x4. It took all my effort to ease the pressure by pushing against the trailer, all Steve the logs efforts to stop laughing at his mates crushed family jewels and assist and with Tracey joining in we finally managed to push the trailer back a fraction allowing Steve the Chainsaw to fall to the ground groaning and cupping his severely wounded bedsnake.
There was another few seconds of sweaty panic as Tracey left us to put a brick under the wheels and as soon as it had started it was all over. Steve crawled into the cab while Steve re coupled the trailer to the tow bar and they rolled out of the yard.
Never ever forget.
We live on a hill.
Steve wont, not until the bruising goes down anyway!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Dog tired!

Unable to shake off this flu which has now developed into the sorest throat and worst cough I have ever had I could not face work today. So I spared my colleagues an opportunity of listening to me cough until I vomit or witness the sudden temperature fluctuations my body inflicts on itself so one moment I am wrapped in thermal mountaineering gear the next stripped to shorts and t shirt and looking like I am in a Turkish bath. The only positive I see of the last week of illness is that I have lost weight, and had I been able to prepare all the treats and goodies for the Christmas period would have been able to gorge myself back to full health.
Tracey is also whats technically known as in a right state so I insisted she stay at home as well, there was no ulterior motive as I am more than able to stagger to the kettle and make my own cold cures. On the subject of which the only one that has done any good so far has been a three parts orange juice one part whisky warmed up and sweetened with honey. After a couple you really do feel different if not better.
Being ill has made another rule of smallholding apparent, never be ill together, one of you needs to remain fit enough to deal with any emergencies, that or you have a support network close by. I can do the usual feeding round first thing in the morning in around twenty minutes, going slowly and allowing for time wasting such as tickling piglets noses it takes a maximum of forty five pre work minutes to establish that all the critters at Rock HQ are accounted for and have enough food and water until we get home. Today it took me an hour and a half what with coughing until I wretched, leaning on solid objects feeling sorry for myself and finding Reba and Poppy.
Perhaps sensing I would be unable to shout them, I find speaking in anything other than a raised whisper difficult at present they waited until I was suitably distracted by Apollo who for reasons known only in his tiny foal like mind had piled pooh all around his stable and had done diving forward rolls through it. His white bits were Khaki, all the way up to his forehead. As I tried to salvage the situation and chastised myself for getting such a feces obsessed horse I could see Rocky our male Bernese Mountain Dog sitting quietly by the wheelbarrow clearly adopting the stance of whatever happens next I wasn't involved. I shut the poohy pony away and approached Rocky who went from it wasn't me to being clearly guilty and out into fresh fields of please I tried to stop them don't shout at me. We faced each other over a barrow of pooh, tumbleweed rolled across the yard as the wind whistled through the bare branches of the trees. Rocky gulped and looked down the lane showing me where they had gone.
Great I rasped. Rocky shrugged, cocked his leg on the barrow and went into Rock HQ. He had been helpful enough in his book.
I tried shouting but a strange sound like Faith chewing a live chicken came out, the embarrassment of making such a noise coupled with the pain caused by trying to summon the missing dogs put paid to any further attempts. Incidentally Faith has chewed another live chicken. For some reason she feels the need to rid the world of grey hens. Her latest is currently converting into pate in the rayburn, it was destined to be coq au vin anyway but the poor thing didn't deserve death by setter.
Finally I found Reba and Poppy, flirting with a no eared collie called Ben down in The Oracles yard. He's no good to them having lost more than just his ears in an encounter with a vet a long time ago but he was as keen as they were. I mimed you put that away and get back home to bed you naughty dogs as Ben shot off back to his kennel and the two dog tarts set off at a brisk pace with their tails between their legs. They could tell I was cross with them as I didnt say a word all the way home.
I'm still not speaking to them.
I cant!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Winter Solstace

Its the shortest day of the year and Trevor tries to cheer us up by breaking out all festive. From tomorrow there will be more daylight, soon be spring!
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Saturday, 20 December 2008

Apollo gives support!

Despite both suffering from flu, and it is flu, not a cold, Tracey and I have had to get on with the routine here at Rock HQ. The lives of some sixty animals depend on our ability to get out of the front door and tend to their needs. Some of them do come in the house from time to time and I must admit to having suffered a massive sense of humour failure today when Geisha came into the cottage undetected and started picking tinsel from the Christmas tree. Once spotted she panicked and instead of sensibly heading out through the open front door she leapt around the furniture bleating hysterically whilst yours truly pursued her with malice aforethought. The chaos only ended when she missed her hoofing on the coffee table and sprawled sideways taking the CD player, table lamp and assorted ornaments with her. Having been unceremoniously dragged back outside and dumped on the doorstep in the rain she rather pointedly poohed over and in my boots before setting off towards the stables to annoy the horses.

We might have a Caribbean theme to our Christmas lunch, a menu that curried goat would not look out of place on!
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Friday, 19 December 2008

Plague House

Ben has left Rock HQ to go visiting in Ireland, having been very generous and shared his flu bugs with me, I have done the decent thing and given it to Tracey. Beth has so far escaped, probably because she has been at her boyfriends so hasn't had the exposure to the germs he brought back from sunnier climes.
Its been a real effort getting the rounds done with a throat like razors, every joint aching, a streaming nose and a pounding head but Tracey managed it admirably whilst I lent against the stable door for support and directed operations.
The goats have found a new way to supplement their diets, they are taking the fat balls down from the trees and bird table and eating them.
Patches and Pixie are growing daily and Patches shows signs of wanting to achieve pet status by falling over when she has her tummy tickled. Some pigs have no pride.
The majority of the day has passed in a blur of lemsips and assorted medicines that all claim to stop colds all in one. So far no effect other than a nasty taste. If we are not better tomorrow I think we should paint a large red cross on the door to warn people to stay away.

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Thursday, 18 December 2008

Failure of epic proportions!

I had planned to do so much this holiday but Ben bringing the lurgy to Rock HQ has scuppered all plans. So instead of getting ready for Christmas by making pates, mince pies and other Christmas goodies, making Christmas presents with the sublimation printing gear (which now works thanks to me discovering the reason why the printer wasn't working was due to me having used nearly all the memory on the computer from ripping my CD collection onto the hard drive) chopping down trees and storing the logs, fixing the leak on the bath and generally crossing a load of jobs off the to do list I have been attached like a limpet to mugs of Beechams cold cure in a vain attempt to fight off the worst of the flu.
We did get over to the Stable Sprites on Tuesday night and had a jolly evening eating lasagna, contemplating the likelihood of ever getting over to Mr20%'s to try a Beef Wellington before standing in reverential silence around the bacon slicer marvelling how it cut the bacon so well. Its a testimony to how I have changed over the years, no longer do I go to visit friends to play wargames or drool over their new motorbike, no, I now get excited about going to see bacon slicers and vacuum packers.
So as I wallow in self pity I did have a major sense of humour failure when getting the Christmas tree into the house became a race against time to complete the task before the goats ate it.
Failure piles on top of failure with the end of my 30 30 challenge. Everyday for the last 17 days I have cycled for 30 minutes (7 miles) and intended to go on for 30 days. That ended yesterday as the flu got the better of me.
The good news is Ben is getting better so he is cheerful for the first time this week.
Kids, they are worse than goats!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Altogether now........

.......aaaahhhh! How cute are these two?

Pixie and Patches.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Its a Dog's Life!

There are many hazards facing a smallholder, goats lurking in dark corners to mug you for the feed buckets, Ryeland sheep rushing you from behind as they try to get to the food trough, pigs biting your legs as they mistake you for their breakfast, come to think of it many of the hazards do revolve around feeding time.

Aside from the hazards there are the emotions that you surf throughout the day. The highs, the knowing that you are so lucky to be here on this planet in this very spot at this very time feeling like you do, no one will ever experience it quite like you do and once you recognise that moment its gone. Forever.

Today I note a new emotion, not one I am prone to but as I am about to head out into the dark wet evening to check on the horses, to make sure the goats are shut up safely, to put the birds away before the fox takes another and all the jobs associated with the evening routine I am feeling jealous.

I must say I am not exactly feeling 100%, Ben is back on leave and has very kindly given me an irritating cough, runny nose and all the aches and pains normal for man flu. At least I hope its just man flu, not some weird tropical disease he has brought back with him, currently he is not being a very brave soldier lying in bed claiming he is dieing.

I have manfully ignored the symptoms and got on with the farm, taking the water up the hill by the bucket load to the horses who had the poor manners to drink it almost as fast as I could carry it really took it out of me though and all the while I was watched by the Berners.

Poppy busied herself with a toy lion practicing her retrieve by throwing it and then herself down the hill and then running down after it, running up and down to the point of exhaustion. The thought of putting panniers on the Berners to carry the water did cross my mind, they were after all used for such jobs in Switzerland. Eventually all the jobs done I got back inside to a hot drink and got on with house jobs.

So why jealous, well after all their hard work watching me today the Berners have crashed out around the fire and are stuck there like limpets while I have clearly indicated that they should join me again outside. Everytime I walked past Rocky he really concentrated on being asleep.

And as for Reba!

Does Reba look like she is interested in going out in the rain?

Monday, 15 December 2008

Winter sun

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Strange things afoot at Rock HQ!

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Me and my shadows!

Hooray its a Holiday!!
I am lucky enough to have a generous employer who gives me a lot of annual leave so I home alone this week and catching up on jobs as well as getting ready for Christmas.
Hardly alone, there are some 60 animals here that need looking after aside from Ben and Bethan who are "helping" so its just Tracey thats had to go out to work.
Whatever I do or where ever I am on the smallholding as you can see above shadows are never far away.
Always watching.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Maggie gets her Man!

Maggie our Boer Anglo Nubian Cross Goat is a bit confused at the moment. She is a goat with baggage anyway as her mother died suddenly from entrotoxiemia when she was a very young kid, from that day on she made it her mission to be as annoying as possible. So far she has put a hole in the cottage roof, dented the roof of several cars, eaten a whole vegetable patch and got herself stuck in numerous fences in various locations, usually when we are in a hurry.

Every so often her bothersome behaviour reaches new heights as she comes in to season. For a while it was me she would stalk but she has found a new target for her amorous antics. Poor Crispen the ram has not been given a moments peace as she tries to persuade him to give her the special attention she thinks she deserves!
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Move over Speilberg!

Tales from the Rock is now available in movie form on YouTube!!!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

The Stable Sprite's Pixie

It wasnt that I had forgotten, it was just that I hadnt remembered that the Stable Sprite was inbound with two little piggies destined to be the major contributers to bacon rolls in 2009.
First thing I knew was Faith the gordon setter went mental at the window indicating that someone was lurking on the doorstep and it was only when I saw his gleaming white chariot parked on the yard that my memory was suitably jogged and suddenly saturday morning went from a leiusurley breakfast time to a get the pig pen ready quick as they need somewhere to live morning.

Now we knew that they were going to be smaller than usual. And we also know that Berkshire piglets ooze cuteness, but the Stable Sprite really didnt help my aim to raise more pork when he emerged from the white chariot with a tiny weeny piglet which he carefully handed over to Tracey who was beside herself with ooohs and aahs, stating with great reverence"This is Pixie on account she is so small and has little ears"

The walking bacon factory instantly achieved pet status, as did her bigger little sister piglet who is now known as Patches.
Cheers mate

The major task of the day then apart from prizing the gorgeous piglet from my beautiful wife's arms was to move the bales stored in the pig sty up to the stables. The usual barn the pigs are housed in are uninhabitable at the moment due to flooding. It seems the millions of gallons of water that fall on the hill all want to collect in the old barn. So I endured monster spiders, rotten eggs and an abundance of rat pooh to clear the building for the Stable Sprites latest offerings. Whilst Tracey cooed at and hand fed her latest rescues I began the task of shifting the bales uphill to the stables.

As you can see above Faith, Geisha and Daffodil were eager to help. None of them were any help though when a prehistoric rat showed its utter disdain for my authority by walking over the bale I was trying to manoeuvre out of the doorway. For a second we were almost nose to nose and then it lazily turned and flopped through a hole in the wall. Faith arrived in the nick of time to totally miss the rat but witness me try to exit the pig sty through the roof in my eagerness to put as much distance between man and rodent.

With no limit to my ingenuity to speed up the job I loaded the green truck up with hay and with Tracey's encouraging words of "You' ll never make it" I set off at a blistering pace pulling the overburdened trolley after me. It was easier than I thought, especially with Tracey pushing from behind.

My vision blurred from the effort, the finishing line was in sight, another fifty metres and we would be there, I dug out blind, we would have a crystal, we would get a gold medal, my arm was straining but we were going to get there, nothing was going to stop us now.

Suddenly it all went very wrong.

Perhaps it was a bale too far.

New Pigs on The Rock!

A Commendable effort by Pixie, a new pig at The Rock to achieve pet status!
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Friday, 12 December 2008

Deep in thought

Trevor thinking about what he can bite next!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Racing Snails

Any normal work day means Rene transports us across the border into sunny England and to our desks in a quiet market town in around 25 minutes. On a bad day when the town is gridlocked we might have to sit and wait for a whole minute while the single set of traffic lights changes to green. Its fantastic knowing that at five o'clock when I switch off my PC by half past I am usually driving through our gate at the bottom of the drive.
Today wasn't an ordinary day, I had to trundle over to Birmingham and spend a very interesting day on case studies and so was forced to endure the rush hour of the second city once again. The only plus to this was that I didn't have to take a massive detour to collect a colleague who was otherwise engaged in Ireland. Hopeful that this would knock off at least an hours travelling Rene and I set out to do battle with other motorists who all wanted our patch of tarmac.
Things were going swimmingly until the second from last roundabout, we were way ahead of schedule and despite having set out an hour later than last time it looked like we would make Digbeth in time for a nice cuppa before I had to start work.
800 yards from the roundabout some ominous cones and signs had appeared. It took a full thirty five minutes to cover the 800 yards to the single lane still operational onto the roundabout. Tempers were getting frayed, drivers tried to reverse off the road, people were carving each other up and making far from friendly hand gestures to each other. Rene and I rose above such uncouth conduct and persevered despite some jeering from a bunch of snails having a day out in the litter of the central reservation.
Finally Rene and I were on the roundabout and we could see the cause of everyone's torment. A massive accident? A burst water main? Three lanes being resurfaced after a flood? No, none of these.
There in a yellow Council lorry parked across two coned off lanes was a single "workman" reclined in the drivers seat fast asleep. Despite the signs there were no men at work anywhere.
I sincerely hope that Rene's twin air horns which can sound remarkably like an out of control articulated lorry bearing down on you didn't disturb the non workman's slumber too much!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Sheep sense!

First thing this morning I found that the cupboard was bare! No food left in the bins for any of the critters, this was not a real problem as there was masses of hay so the horses and goats had a share of a fresh bale. As there was no need to go over to the sheep, no point carrying an empty bucket over and they had had a bale of hay yesterday to boost their diet I nearly finished the morning rounds in double quick time.

As I turned from locking the stables I cast a glance over to Oak Bank where the Ryelands were waiting for their oats and I spotted a strange shape in the gloom where the bale of hay should have been. As can be seen Hercules had decided for whatever reason to jump the fence and crash onto the very battered hat rack. This had broken around him trapping him against the fence and it seems the poor lad had spent most of the night there. The other Ryelands including his parents had very helpfully either eaten or dragged away the hay that had supported him. I lifted him clear and he staggered away, I think grateful that the circulation was returning to his legs.
If you wondered what a months feed looks like here is a picture of Rene's suspension being abused yet again!
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Tuesday, 9 December 2008


Due to the cold weather we have put the bird feeders out and loaded the bird table with all sorts of tempting goodies. Our garden has a wide range of bird life, from the usual sparrows and wrens through to the more exotic like redstarts, gold and fire crests and an amazing variety of tits. Childish I know but I cant help but smile every time I tell Tracey about the tits in the garden. We have even had a buzzard dive into the pond and take off with a very fat and very unlucky frog.

The only problem with enticing so many birds into the garden is pictured above. He and his three amigos are determined to boost their diet by depleting the bird population. We often return from work and find the remnants of some poor bird whose reactions were not quick enough to get them out of the way. Tracey once put her wellington on and found a dead blue tit in the toe cap.

Still, the ones that get away, they are a testimony to Darwin.
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Monday, 8 December 2008

A day of two halves!

First thing this morning as Tracey and I walked the horses back to their stables from the top of Willow Rise, as we sloshed through the muddy swamp of the Cauldron and slithered into the stream at the head of our lane, not for the first time I thought I was turning into Mad Keith. I don't mean I was suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to strip off and run naked over the hill, or cycle down an insanely steep path on a decrepit Raleigh three speed, or talk to petrol generators that inexplicably fail to start after three years on one tank of petrol, no, I didn't even want to carry the bones of a dead cat called Tim in a box on the back of my bike (actually I made that last one up but Beth believes it still) No, today as we walked the Boys back to their warm and cosy stables I felt so at peace and so happy with the world that I never wanted to leave here. Just like the technohermit who pitched up on the hill 44 years ago and hasn't moved since. Admittedly he has subsequently wished he had chosen the sunnier side of the hill but in essence he is a happy man.

In fact it takes a lot to get me away from here, work is the main cause of my absence, today being no exception so I dutifully pointed Rene down the track and set off to load another 16 tons before the big hand pointed up and the little hand throttled Mickey and it was time to come home. All that time its a strange thought that all this, and by this I mean our animal inhabitants, carry on without us. So my day is spent doing my best at work, really enjoying my work but all the time wanting to be back here where the action is.

You see there is so much going on here at the moment, the kennels having had their revamp are being tested by the weather, so far so good the ditch seems to have thwarted the dogs plans to set off in an Ark, its dry and so are they. Good news as a new dog called Casper is due to land at Rock HQ by Saturday, he will be fostered by us until he can be re homed. The poor lad is homeless, credit crunch victim, and as we are totally unable to do anything the easy way he has to come with his own problems, he is totally deaf. God knows how I am going to train a deaf dog, a colleague suggested using a torch, not to beat it with but to flash at the dog every time I want it to do something. This seemed like a workable idea until I asked how would the dog react to car headlights if following the torch regime. The thought of deaf dog chasing night time traffic prompted a rapid revision of training techniques.

We have recently purchased a home publishing and printing kit. Some of you dear readers may know that Rock HQ is part funded by sales of my toys on Ebay, all my toy soldiers have been auctioned, the dregs of the vast collection is going rapidly so we have invested in a mug and t shirt printing set up so now you can read about the animals, visit them, eat some of them and wear the t shirt. Mr 20% is currently working on a famous first draft of the life and times of two townies who have set their hearts on living the good life which hopefully will be an all time best seller as the world reacts against the misery genre of tortured kiddies and embraces a new wave of feel good faction.

And then there are the pigs, or lack of, the smallholding is smaller without them, and as I have eaten bacon or pork most days since the last lot took the long walk to Mr Whirlpool I have been plotting to get some more. Luckily current sales of the El Cid range of toy soldiers has liberated enough cash to buy two more and the Stable Sprite, being the nice kind sprite that he is has come up trumps and is selling us two little pigs at a bargain basement price.

So today, while I was rushing round at work I went out during my lunch minute to make final preparations for their arrival. I went to see Stuart the butcher in Drapers Lane and bought a second hand bacon slicer.
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Sunday, 7 December 2008