Saturday, 28 February 2009

It started with a kiss

The saga continues, goats, when they are due to give birth, get very vocal, speaking to the kids inside, probably telling them its not such a bad world after all. They rub their sides, as above, ooze gunk from their naughty bits, have udders the size of small Zeppelins and go all starry eyed. They also seek high energy foods rather than their normal forage.

Now ours are doing all this, and have done so whilst watched for the last three nights. I am beginning to suspect that as soon as I return to the cottage they get the cards out and play a few hands until they hear me approaching when they begin the we are about to give birth charade another go.

I did discover another rule of smallholding this evening though whilst watching the latest installment of we are pregnant honest. In order to raise my morale and energy levels I opted for a chunk of chocolate from a bar I have been carrying around in Rene's door pocket for a few thousand miles. As I absentmindedly unwrapped my Dairy Crunch there was a loud bang as June collided with the bottom half of the stable door. She used this as a launching pad to place her front hooves on my shoulders so she could look me straight in the eye. Before I could defend myself she bit my chin causing yours truly to automatically go "Argh" which was closely followed by a louder, though muffled, "Urgh!" as June French Kissed me robbing me of my chocolate treat. I reeled away from the chocolate thief and desperately spat away an unappetising mix of milk chocolate, crisped rice and goat bogie's as she calmly munched on the remaining chocolate pieces abandoned on the hay bedding.

Lessons learned.

Never eat chocolate bars in front of goats.


Goats are rubbish kissers.

Friday, 27 February 2009


The picture above sums up how I feel, after 9 nights in a row of checking the goats three times a night at 11pm, 2am and five am, getting up at half six and doing the morning routine before work I feel like I might wake up with an unfinished tale and the keyboard stuck to my face.

Juliet has hung on and failed to deliver the goods and so we got ready for work slightly earlier than usual because I am delivering some training to some newbies, have to be there on time and all that. Just as we were setting off The Technohermit rang.

Now its a clear sign that at feeding time if any of your animals are missing they are either lost or in trouble. The Ryelands seldom miss their appointment at the trough so this morning when three were missing the alarm bells rang. A quick search of our side of the hill proved fruitless and as it was vital I was actually at work for once we called off the search and tried not to worry.

Mad Keith had spotted one of our sheep on his side of the hill on its side and bleeding, he thought it was giving birth and thankfully phoned us. Rene was press ganged into doubling as a makeshift ambulance and Roxy was found just up the hill from The Technohermit's abode. Now I am a firm believer in Karma, had we not befriended and helped this pensioner who has lived in the same spot he first dug it out of the hill in 1964 he would not have thought, perhaps, to tell us of Roxie's distress.

And she was certainly distressed, an hour and a half later after much traumatic pushing it was clear that it was all going horribly wrong and a strange aroma was emanating from her behind. The only way to resolve it was to give her a hand, literally, so the poor animal was subjected to a few minutes of my amateurish fishing around in her insides and slowly I pulled out a very dead lamb. From the smell and condition of the poor mite it had died a while ago and nature was taking its course with Roxy spontaneously aborting it. This solved the mystery of her giving birth today as she was about three weeks early and had showed none of the signs that she was due to birth and had no milk.

She was by now in a right state so we injected her with antibiotics and made her as comfortable as possible, and I am happy to report that after a day of sleeping heavily with Tracey watching over her (she took the day off) she is munching on fresh hay and looking very much healthier. Had we not been able to fetch her and help her out she would have died on the hill, Sheepskull lane on our bonsai mountain has that name for a very obvious reason.

I am however, not happy to report that since getting home Meg looks pretty close to lambing and now both goats are oozing goo from their nether regions and looking like they are in a race. I think its going to be a long night. Thank God its the weekend!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Lucky Pup

Lots going on tonight, I think this is it for Juliet, she looks like a goat pancake lay down and is in denial that she is about to pop but fingers crossed she is going to deliver the kids tonight.

Lilly is a lucky pup, she has been adopted by Tracey and so has achieved the required pet status to stay on at Rock HQ, Her sister Suzie has been re homed with a nice retired couple who will no doubt adore her.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Tea for Two

Well what else could I call today's episode of Tales From The Rock?

I have just spent a very interesting and sociable hour with The Technohermit. I must admit I didn't know what to expect, and after my encounter I have to admit if I had any expectations they were not fulfilled. I didn't need my running shoes and I was right not to go armed to the teeth, I refused even a small concealed weapon, just in case he detected it by some strange sixth sense and got offended.

First of all he invited me inside, and second I was offered a comfy chair which looked like a mastermind reject. The Technohermits offer of beverages caused my jaw to drop momentarily but I quickly recovered and chose tea over coffee, whiskey or red wine. As he rattled around preparing the refreshing brew, Yorkshire Tea with cows milk I mused on the fact that I would not have guessed I could have had decaffeinated Tetley with St Ivel powdered milk and my choice of three sweeteners.

Sat in the warm glow of a stubby candle he told me his life story, well the edited highlights and it was all extraordinarily interesting. He produced a photo album full grainy black and white snaps depicting lots of people and donkeys who have long passed away and colour snaps of unfortunate headless people. Their heads had all been cut off by his ex and now deceased wife who was , in his words "Never very good at taking photographs"

Luckily he could recognise himself and others by their jumpers. He gave me a present, a photograph of Rock HQ taken about twenty years ago, it looks very different to its present day form. I left him after just over an hour. How do I feel after tea with the Technohermit?

Very privileged and very humble.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Boys are happy to be outside so much, just as well as their stables are being put to good use as a casualty clearing station for goats with bad feet and as a maternity ward for the goats that refuse to produce their kids. Finally we seem to have cured the Anglo Nubians bad feet and Maggie and Geisha are walking normally after a shot of anti biotics, buckets of savlon wash and several cans of purple spray, some of which I managed to get onto the target area of the infected hoof but most of which I managed to apply to myself, my clothes and my wife who was holding the offending goats limb steady for me at the time.

Tomorrow should be interesting, the Technohermit has invited me for a cup of tea at 7pm. I'm unsure what the protocol is on these occassions, should I take my own cup I wonder, what does one wear, and most importantly, should I enter his lair if he asks me?

Answers to all these questions I hope to discover tomorrow.

Monday, 23 February 2009

No escape

No matter how busy you are you have to make time to check the animals at least twice a day. Tonight there was a lot to do so I considered for split second not wandering up to check the sheep. I'm glad I did because as the torchbeam picked its way ahead it illuminated the vast backside of Daffodil, a Ryeland lamb that has achieved pet status. At first I thought she had got her head stuck in a red bag but as I got closer I was horrified to find she was stuck through the fence and in her panic to get out had skinned both ears. A little blood goes a long way, but this was a lot of blood and she was very obviously hurt.

Luckily the bolt cutters were where they should be and within minutes she was free but suffering from shock. Tracey and I administered first aid and Daffodil is now resting in the "spare" goat house.

You really never know what to expect here.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

The cosmic balance is restored

It looks safe enough doesn't it, but there are hidden dangers just outside our front door.

If you haven't already you should read yesterdays posting before this one. Yesterday the universe bestowed on me a glorious day of good fortune, but as we all know the laws of the cosmos require for every good thing something bad must happen, a bit like Newtons Law which is often simplified into the sentence, "To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."
So today I expected some payback for yesterday. When I woke up I was pleased to find I didn't actually need a Stannah Stairlift to get down the stairs after all the physical exertions but there were early signs that the odds were stacking against a trouble free day.
At 5am when I checked the goats, who are still in one piece, and the two ferret like collies disappeared into the darkness. After a fruitless five minutes shouting from the front door I resolved to go out and find them. Thus with an obligatory failing torch and filthy temper I wandered along the lane cutting a fine figure in my boxers cursing the day the nice man dropped these mischievous canines off. Finding nothing but a few bemused looking sheep and feeling the cold I returned to Rock HQ to get help. By the time I had woken Tracey with the news of their escape I was ready to turn them into a nice pair of slippers should they return. Thus a full air and sea search was organised and only called off when Tracey opened the back door and immediately found them both sitting quietly waiting to be let in.
Thinking that might be it I was fairly confident that the universe now felt it was even and leave me alone so I got on with the day.
Things took a huge turn for the worse when we were up on Willow Rise walking Fin the Rottweiler who is totally hopeless, doesn't know her name and certainly does not know the etiquette associated with being on a lead. Some one should have explained to her a while back that whilst on a 30foot lunge rope its not a good idea to run at full speed through the gateway your foster parent is standing in. Similarly someone should have told me that my bulk is no defence against a flat out canine whose lead acted as a scythe and sent me from happy vertical to hapless horizontal in a split second.
First Tracey knew anything untoward had occurred was hearing a loud "oooof!" and on turning saw me rolling down the 45 degree slope chased by a shitland pony intent on carnal knowledge of its disabled owner.
I don't think I lapsed into unconsciousness but everything was very dark and painful for a while with Tracey telling me to lie still while she wrestled the pony off me. Eventually I gathered my senses and dignity and then discovered the camera had broken by my landing on it. These two pictures are the last ones from the shattered remains. The one with the horses is the one I was taking just before taking off.
Thus sulking I went indoors to have a bath and soak away all the bruising. Finally, in the hot water my neck muscles eased and I felt much better, right up until Tracey opened the door and shouted "You might want to look out of the window, your pigs running round the garden!"
The universe is winning.


Saturday, 21 February 2009

My Hero!

I cant even begin to tell you how happy I am today, how good I feel, or how tired for that matter, but nothing and nobody stopped us achieving what we set out to do today. Its been one of those rare days where it all goes to plan, where even minor catastrophes didn't impede out progress. I feel great and I am going to ride this wave of euphoria caused by finishing a hard days work where for the most part of the day I have had the wind in my face and the sun on my back. I am going to milk this happy feeling before my body remembers it doesn't belong to a 24 year old marathon runner but to a 44 year old pie eater with a left arm made out of mechanno. Tomorrow I have no doubt I shall suffer, but that's tomorrow, and tomorrow I don't have 50 metres of fence to put up separating the top of Oak Bank from, er, well Oak Bank, so named as its a bank with an oak tree on it. Bank, more like apprentice cliff, up which we dragged a seemingly never ending number of fence posts.

Tracey and I normally do most things together but today to speed things up a bit she went to get a few essentials from town and a bag of coal for our tame hermit while I fed the animals and sorted the critters out so we could spend the day up on the hill fencing. She had been gone only a short while when I thought I would start banging the posts in, hoping to get five securely anchored before she returned.

Soon I was lost in my own machismo world, stripped down to my shirt sleeves enjoying the sensation of bashing the posts into the earth with a a MK1 fence post basher, a hollow metal tube with handles either side that fits over the top of the post, you lift it and drop it, you lift it and drop it and so on until the posts in. As I bashed away the tubular bell ring of every drop eased my frustrations caused by the negativity at work, the metallic ring providing my very own heavy metal soundtrack to my very happy life. My mind freed from the constraints of the office roamed freely and as I watched the goings on of our animals around me I covered topics such as pregnant dogs, goats that refuse to give birth, how my arm now allows me to tackle such jobs as fencing (we have had the posts a year and this job has been on the list that long) which 9 months ago I couldn't have done. My thoughts focused on my arm for a while, it was working pretty well lifting the 60 pound post rammer despite the fact I no longer have a left triceps, yes it was working pretty well, my own gun show, every Saturday arms and back, welcome to the gun show. I started counting the number of hits it took to put the post in, this caused a slight mind panic as my internal counting monologue refused to let me stop hitting the post on an odd number unless it was a prime number, so I stuck with evens, if it needed nine it got ten hits and so on, convinced I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as I racked up even number hits I started to fret about finishing on an odd number and it became imperative to put an even number of posts up before Tracey returned from the shops. Post thirteen was particularly stressful but soon passed and eventually 20 posts were ready for the wire.

My mind games were interrupted by a shout, "Oi! Cloth ears!" A Damsel was summonsing her Knight. However this was hardly the shout of a damsel in distress but I did detect that Tracey needed my help as she was stood in the yard below indicating that if I didn't get down sharpish there would be murders. As she was deficit Rene the Rx4 which she had set off town in I didn't have to be Sherlock Holmes to detect a spot of bother had occurred.

"Its a good job you're not on call" she said as I fell down the bank to join her
"I am" I countered
"I know, I've been calling you for half an hour" clearly she was not happy at my lack of phone answering.
As we walked down the lane she explained that Rene had fallen off the track and was in a ditch, as can be seen above, a deep one. It was as we sorted this out I knew it was going to be our day. A job that looked like it would take hours, thus preventing the fencing , took a matter of minutes as Rene was rescued by filling the ditch with rocks and simply driven out.

Steve and Little Steve called round just at the point where I needed a coffee so a fortuitous break with good humour was passed and then they helped drag the last posts up the hill, and carried the wire for me. Again, fortune smiled on us as we deposited the wire over the fence the wire roll began to, and as we watched in horror it stopped after a couple of yards refusing to obey the laws of sod and roll all the way to the bottom where we had fetched it from. Steve manfully hit the last posts in for me while Little Steve played Lion Tamer with the dogs, prising their jaws open and sticking his head in to inspect their tonsils. "I better get him home" said Steve as Little Steve approached Trevor with obvious intent of repeating the stunt.

They left us to it and the universe continued to bestow it good fortune on us as I hammered in 256 staples and not once did I hit my thumb or finger. We had enough wire, enough posts and as you can see from the picture below we finished before sunset and The Boys started to explore their new playground. Hey I even persuaded the birds to go to bed early, they went into the chicken house when I asked them to instead of exploding across the smallholding like an angry poultry firework. This meant that all the jobs were done and we have the evening to ourselves for a change. Nothing to do except eat nice food, share a bottle of wine and enjoy each others company.

Whats the betting the goat decides to give birth just before bedtime!

Fencing for begginers

Start early, lay out all the materials and begin.
Pretty soon you will see progress, don't worry about it not being straight, what are you, a professional?
Get as much help as possible. Trainee superheros are a great help.
Cybermen make great fencers, they don't stop for t breaks!
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Friday, 20 February 2009

No Kidding!

Its been a strange week, one which started with our new goats being delivered, the trauma of thinking our prize pedigree ram was dying, the mystery of mutant sheep resolved (they don't have upper incisor teeth) the ferrets making them self at home (they are collies really but they look and move like ferrets) our goats pretending to give birth three nights in a row meaning only three hours sleep at a time if we were lucky and last night the arrival of a new foster dog, a terrified Rottweiler who cowers at her own shadow and hides every time you move.
Add to all this a bit of gardening, all the feeding, cleaning and maintenance at Rock HQ, mix in full time work and you can see its been a busy one.
How has it ended.
Our gorgeous Bernese Mountain Dog Reba has just come back from the vets with an interesting diagnosis.
She is pregnant.
Spring is going to be busier than ever here!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

We are not amused

Maggie is not impressed with the new additions to the embryonic goat herd at Rock HQ. In fact she has sulked and watched from a distance as Juliet, another armed version of the goat world and with an eye on the herd leader position, instantly challenged Maggie to a duel and much to every ones surprise put Maggie on her backside and ultimately in her place.

So Maggie the now deposed goat queen who has ruled Rock HQ since her mothers premature death is having to get used to the idea that she is no longer top dog of the herbivores that wander our domain. She hasn't taken this well and is currently sulking in the goat house while the new goats have the luxurious setting of Apollos stable as we wait for them to give birth.

I am developing similar feelings for the new goats, a distinct lack of amusement as Juliet shows every sign of imminent production of kids. So much so that we have had her on 3 hour watch, right through the night our alarm goes off and I dutifully get dressed and stagger bleary eyed out to the stable block only to discover the miracle of birth still hasn't taken place. She is doing all the right thing, has become more vocal, a bit bad tempered with her stall mates, white discharge from her bits, followed by red discharge, lots of stretching, lying down and licking of her sides but 48 hours on no little ones to reward her efforts and my lack of sleep.

Tonight I am not setting the alarm, I am going to sleep.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Bakers Dozen

In a blatant attempt to make friends and influence people Suzie and Lilly pose for photos so that potential owners can see how cute they are. And they are, even to a hardened dog owner like myself who has seen every trick in the dog book when it comes to ingratiating behaviour these two have won me over and they could stay.
They could stay, they are fast learners and attentive pets who love to please their human companions, but as we will be up to a new record of 13 dogs by tomorrow they have to go. 13 comprises of our magnificent seven, three Bernese mountain dogs we are dog sitting, these two collies and tomorrow we foster a lady Rottweiler, a victim of the credit crunch. What with the goats about to give birth, the sheep due to lamb and the possibility of our Berner being in pup we are in for a busy spring.
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Tuesday, 17 February 2009

The late shift

For the past two days and some 95 miles I have driven Rene our Rx4 on various journeys with my sandwich box rattling across the roof. Quite how I managed to forget I put it there is not such a big a mystery as how it managed to survive five journeys without falling off. Its not the first time I have driven off with something on the roof. Driving through Newbury last year a very kind lorry driver shouted at me while we were waiting at the traffic lights that I had a pair of scissors on the roof. As I retrieved them I thanked him for they were not merely scissors but hoof trimming shears, very expensive and on the roof from the day before and some 112 miles ago.
As you can see from the picture above I am not averse to abusing Renes design specifications, tonight he was laden with bales of hay used to construct an emergency ward for the goats, one of which, Juliet seems to be in the first stages of labour.
It does say in the how to keep goats book that they like to give birth late afternoon. It shouldn't come as any surprise that ours cannot tell the time so we are resigned to a long nights vigil to see if we are grandparents.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Waiting game

This is a family portrait, June on the left, Bravo and Juliet in the right, they are Old English Goats which as it happens are another rare breed. It seems that these, not these, but the breed were common and popular amongst 19th century farmers and small holders as they are hardy and eat most vegetation. Apparently there are only 1000 or so registered goats in the UK, and we are lucky enough to have three with what seems like at least another four on the way because June and Juliet are about to give birth.

Exciting times at Rock HQ!
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Almost over

The snow for the most part has gone from our hill, a couple of patches are holding out but the next few days look like good weather so the remains will no doubt disappear. The panorama above is the view from the front door. Every day I count myself lucky to be able to see such breathtaking scenery on our doorstep. Unless its raining.
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Sunday, 15 February 2009

Mutant Sheep!

Here is a lovely picture of the father and son combo, Crispen and Hercules, pedigree Ryeland Rams.
Now over the last 48 hours or so I have been in mourning for the loss of Crispen, who as you can see is not exactly dead yet. Mourning for him because he has lost such a lot of condition over the last month and yesterday I tipped him over and found he had no top teeth. Thinking this signaled his premature end I wandered around the smallholding finding fault with everything, all the while pondering the fate of my much loved Ram.
Crispy and his three wives were the first animals at Rock HQ that were not officially pets, and as I am a sucker for lamb chops (they cured me of being vegetarian, a long story) I looked forward to this group of sheep providing me with unlimited breakfasts, lunches and dinners for many years. It also helps preserve an old breed as they are not commercially viable usually producing one small lamb a year that takes an age to reach a good weight. But the flavour makes the wait worthwhile.
Crispy and I have an understanding, both being alpha males, when our wives let us, so there is a mutual respect between the two of us, neither one attempting to prove his dominance over the other. Hes a lovely chap and is often in the background watching what you are doing quietly contemplating life and looking for the next sunbeam to sit in. So the thought of losing him was too much.
Whilst worming the flock today I discovered that none of our sheep have top teeth, except for molars at the back. For a few minutes I was convinced we had bred a flock of mutants but as Tracey so patiently pointed out if Crispen was a mutant only his children would be mutants, even our unrelated specimens lacked what I thought were compulsory top incisors. Gradually it dawned that this was how they were meant to be.
Now Tracey claims to have known top teeth were not de rigour for sheep, and my Dad, a sheep expert decided not to phone me to have a quiet word in my shell like to let me know the inadequacy of my sheep dentistry.
So, it looks like Crispy is ok, and currently enjoying the attention lavished on him. In particular the ample portions of bunny food suddenly offered for breakfast instead of boring old sheep nuts.
Me, well I am happy hes ok, and not a bit embarrassed at my school boy error, live and learn eh, and any way what am I, a shepherd or a social worker?
Mind you, you do wonder why he has lost so much weight, if its not worms it must be stress caused by worrying about Lions on the hill!

Jumping for joy!

Apollo with the wind in his tail is having a mad minute jumping for joy.


Saturday, 14 February 2009

Has Crispy had his chips?

Crispen is our pedigree ryeland ram, a huge soft handsome lad who is now six years old. The names of the pedigree rams begin with a letter that corresponds to the year, A is 2000 so C, Cripsen in 2003. He has sired two previous years lambs at Rock HQ and we are awaiting his third batch with bated breath. Hopefully it will all go smoothly this year, but as our previous experience has been far from easy we will have to wait and see. There is a bit of a housing shortage here as the spare rooms are occupied by pregnant goats and and a stroppy shitland. I expect, much like last year, the dogs will have to cosy up as their kennel block is used as a temporary maternity ward.

Crispy has been with the ewes for a while now, its almost time to separate him away so they can lamb in peace. He has been losing weight recently and this last week he has been off his food. They are all due a dose of wormer tomorrow so I initially put his poor condition down to a combination of not being able to graze because of the frost and snow and worms. I did have a nagging worry at the back of my mind that there might be something more sinister as the root cause of his weight loss.

Hes a very tame chap so I was able to take hold of him really easily and unceremoniously dumped him on his backside to check him over. Straight away it was clear what his problem is, he has lost his top teeth so cannot chew the sheep nuts and grazing short winter grass will be almost impossible. He is I believe whats known as broken mouthed. This would normally mean the end for him, but as we are far from normal and have a huge bond with this big lad we are trying out various foodstuff he can manage to eat. Oats and pellets soaked in milk proved successful for a few minutes but he went off it, the others, including canines mobbed Tracey for a sample so it cant have been all bad.
We did find he scoffed rabbit feed, full of nice nibbley bits and flower heads so we are hopeful we can get him back into condition and enjoy life here for a while yet.

Luckily we were planning ahead for a change and his best ram lamb from last year, Hercules, wasn't castrated so whatever happens to Crispy he has at least made sure his genes will be passed on.
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Friday, 13 February 2009

New kids at the Rock

Settling in over a bite of supper this is Juliet, the heavily pregnant nanny and her daughter Bravo who is around 6 months old. You can just make out June's head in the foreground who decided to forego her share of supper to have a backscratch off her new owners.

June is also pregnant and from the look of her it wont be long before we get some new kids at the Rock!

Unexpected delivery

We raced back from work today to meet up with a very nice man with a trailer full of goats waiting patiently in our yard. These two gorgeous collie dogs were the surprise part of the goat deal, sitting quietly at the back of the trailer they watched with interest as we fussed over our new charges.
Suzie above and Lilly below are 18 months old and sisters and unfortunately for them their owner, the nice goat man, isn't allowed to take dogs to his new abode.
Not that we are suckers for a sob story but there was no way we couldn't help him out with finding a home for them as he leaves next week. So, until they charm their way into someone else's lives they are making themselves at home here. Very at home in fact, having never been in a house before they are discovering the joy of sofas.
Look into her eyes, how can you resist!
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Thursday, 12 February 2009

Breaking news

Today I had to fight my way through the paparazzi camped at the bottom of the lane, one of the minor inconveniences when you provide bed and board for a world famous Cult leader, Trevor the shitland pony. His small horse syndrome reached new heights last night when in an obvious attempt to gain attention tried to play football with a hen and then when chastised bit the finger of the chastiser. If the photographers thought they were going to get a free shot of Trevor they were disappointed. He hid in the back of the stable reading the latest copy of The Hereford Times where there is s feature about his pampered life at Rock HQ. His fan base grows, those that look on facebook for Trevor Shetland may be allowed to become cult members if they ask nicely.

Apollo, seen above, on the other hand decided that it was about time he got some attention and has learned to run and break wind at the same time, a great trick that will no doubt keep him entertained for years.

We were very impressed by the press coverage, a two page spread with lots of photos, a big thanks to Jess and Dave for braving the mud at Rock HQ when they came over to see Trevor a few weeks ago.

Breaking news?

Lots really, pig club has another member and Geisha's footrot is almost cured, but theres more.

We have a family group of goats arriving tomorrow, an offer we couldn't refuse. The credit crunch means smallholders are having a tough time, our feed bill is some 40% more expensive per month and that's not because our tribe of animals keeps growing! So a local chap is selling up having found work miles away it means he has to clear out his animals.

So for a few beans and half a gourd we get three nanny goats, a challenge at the best of times, but two of which are about to give birth. They will be housed in Goatanamo until we establish who is in charge.

All I have to do now is build a new goat house.

Oh and reclaim the dairy from Trevor who currently views it as his crib.

Second thoughts build a new dairy, its easier and less costly both emotionally and physically.

Hell hath no fury like a shitland on the rampage.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

I aint fraid of no ghosts!

Fitting easily into our routine, twice every week we take the Technohermit a hot meal and make sure he has what he needs to get through the week.
Currently this entails walking in the dark along a narrow track, mostly uphill, along past the Ghost House and up to his humble abode. Weather permitting this a quick trip in Rene the everso useful 4x4 in all his surround sound airconditioned leather seated safety shelled goodness.
As weather is definitely not permitting wheeled vehicles to pass through the mud and slush its down to Shank's pony with the magnificent seven in full cry as company, a much slower and far more exposed journey.
The worst part of the trip is not getting wet and muddy, nor is it listening to the hermits account of his bunions, the threat from lions, werewolves and zombies, no, its walking past the Ghost house. Twice.
The second time is always worst, having to comply with the don't look back part of the tale is hard work. Especially for me.
Tonight the hermit was on form, eagerly waiting for his home cooked chicken casserole. As I handed it over we had our usual chat about his bunions, the space station (he is after all a technohermit) and how folks living in towns have it easy. Well compared to squatting on a windy hillside I expect they do, but I knew what he meant, central heating, taps and shops, luxuries like that.
After a rambling conversation about how badgers get into ant hills he stopped and looked at Faith the Gordon Setter playing in the snow. This then led to him telling me that he had met someone who had seen a big black dog or puma on the hill. I listened intently as he described how it has frightened this man from ever venturing onto the hill again. I explained about the walkers who had got confused recently up by Rock HQ thinking Ebony was a black panther and not a harmless sheep, this is assuming a sheep hellbent on getting into your sandwich box is classified as harmless. He shook his head, no, this was some time before we lived at Rock HQ. Over three years ago. He went on to describe the exact spot some miles away where the black beast was seen.
I decided to impress him with my local knowledge and rambled on about the hound of the baskervilles being written based on the black dog of the hill and how in fact that was a legend about a wicked Baron who was killed and manifested as a vicious black dog roaming the hill in search of mortal souls.
When I finished it seemed darker and the wind was driving the rain hard into our faces. I thanked him for bringing up the subject of ghosts as I still had to walk back. He grinned at me and jerked a stubby thumb over his shoulder in the general direction of the ghost house "O'course that uns haunted" chuckling rather too enthusiastically for my liking.
"Great, cheers mate, I have to walk past that place in a minute."
He looked back down the hill continuing "Some old woman dressed in white is supposed to come floating out the door or summat."
Fantastic, and me without my running shoes. "You ever seen her Keith?" my voice seemed a pitch higher than I remembered.
"No! No, I ain't never seen her, my missuses mother did though." He seemed to sense my rising fear, "Ah don't worry, there ain't no such thing as ghosts man, shes probably moved on by now any road"
"I don't think they pack their bags and leave do they?" I asked this new authority on the spirit world.
"No, when your dead your gone, ain't no ghosts, don't worry."
"No. They're DEMONS!" he shouted and with that bombshell left me to my long walk back.
I cant remember at which point my brisk walk back turned into a fast jog.
I didn't look back.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Vital signs!

Today at Rock HQ we saw signs of life, in the garden a stem of Rhubarb has pushed through the snow and ice.

This is Budge, our really handsome Jersey Giant Cockerel, usually he sits on the stable door where he spends the night under the watchful eye of Apollo.

Tonight we saw signs he didn't make it back.
Kitler or the fox got him.
Life and death at Rock HQ.
Vital signs!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Pheasant Plucker

It was my fault, I took pity on him you see, stood there in the teeth of a blizzard he looked miserable and was very wet. The forecast didn't predict an easing of the storm until midday tomorrow so I put a lead rope around his neck and with gentle words of encouragement began the walk through the snow, slush and ice to the nice dry goat house.

Trevor fed up with waiting to be led by a man terrified of falling in the dark onto his not very able left arm and breaking it in several places again decided there was a need for speed and attempted a gallop to the promised sanctuary of the nice hay bed.

Say attempted as he was burdened by my great bulk hanging determinedly onto the rope. What happened next is a bit of a blur but I did a passable impression of an out of control water skier behind a very ungrateful shitland pony. My salvation was a fence post which I managed to wrap my left arm around and its a testimony to modern metal manufacture that despite Trevor's best efforts the anchor held and he was forced to stop.

There then followed a battle of wills as he wanted to go to his stable, currently occupied by a lame goat, and me who wanted him to go to the goat house. He in his mentalness got goat house confused with French slaughter house and dug all four hoofs into the deepening snow as I tried my best to placate him with soothing words rather than sort him out with a sledgehammer. After dishing out several bites and whinnies of disapproval he finally relented and went inside the goat house without further incident.

I managed to find my way back to the cottage and when I finally thawed out I spent the rest of the evening plucking pheasants and planning a day trip for Trevor to a dog food factory.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Ludite at work

Its snowed here for the majority of the day, but as it was melting at a steady rate the result by nightfall was pretty much the same as when we started. Not being able to work outside in a blizzard I hid indoors and pretended to do "admin" instead of tidying up the mess I had made in the workshop.

Admin entailed sorting through the files on the computer until I found a file containing a big yellow button marked "Do not press".

Totally unable to resist I pressed the button despite the warning that pressing it might delete all the data ever put on the hard drive. Fifteen minutes later the computer stirred itself back to life and instead of being tidied up, quicker and more efficient it was in fact devoid of all content. It meant what it said and had restored the machine to its factory settings.

Thus followed three hours of frantic Admin to try and recover the 12,000 or so video clips and photographs that had mysteriously disappeared, not to mention the several hundred documents and manuscripts that may have one day come in useful, you know stuff like MSc essays, course work and so on. After an hour or so of mouse clicking I succumbed to the good advice of my ever so calm and patient wife Tracey who didn't point out that I had a spare hard drive that has a capacity so big it could store the content of the National Library and still have space for our CD collection that I had got especially to back up the system so that if ever I did accidentally find the file containing the "Do not press" button and thereby destruct the machine it would be all saved so not actually cause any problems especially now as there are so many photographs and isn't still sitting in the box on the desk next to the stricken PC as it was the day I got it several weeks ago, she simply said I should phone her brother who knew about these things.

After another half hour of feverish mouse abuse whilst being instructed by an equally patient brother in law we reached a point where a CD was needed to reinstall a driver. This sort of disc arrives with the machine, the sort of disc you will get around to using one day and until you need it you put it somewhere safe. An hour of searching by Tracey and I found the safe place and following a telephone call to a very nice man in Bangladesh the PC finally returned to working order.

Another hour and half of mind numbingly boring searching I found another file on the newly working PC marked "Do not open", so I did and in it was all the missing photographs.

Lesson learned I have now backed up all the files.


Saturday, 7 February 2009

Pheasant Surprise!

The big freeze continued today, as can be seen by the state of the stables, some of the icicles are over a foot long. I was expecting Steve the stable sprite to visit with some pheasants that had been shot well before the season ended but were now in need of dressing. A hard knock at the door alerted me to someones presence at Rock HQ. I wasn't surprised that I hadn't heard a his van as parts of our lane still resemble a bob sleigh track. I was surprised to find two little old ladies shivering on the doorstep.
They looked harmless enough in their tweed over coats and hand knitted bobble hats but their smiles didn't fool me, I could see they were armed and dangerous for both were clutching in their mittened hands copies of a magazine that has caused more doors to slam in their faces than they have had hot dinners. The Watchtower was a dead give away, they were Jehovah's witnesses. Its taken over two years but they have finally tracked me down.
Actually being rude to old ladies is not high on my list of hobbies and lets face it they have enough rudeness as they go godbothering people so I smiled back. One thought she knew me, was I on last weeks crimewatch on the telly, no, you used to bother me at our last house and I was the one who always asked you in for a cup of tea. Yes they remembered, ours was the house with the horse painted on the workshop door, yes that's right, the house after the one where they always threatened to set the dogs on you and the one before the one with an injunction on you.
We carried on with the parry and thrust of polite banter, they looking for the opening to introduce me to God, me heading off any thread of conversation that could remotely be linked to religion. I led them to the start of the bob sleigh run and apologised for not offering hot beverages after their epic trek up the hill but I was in a bit of a hurry to get my jobs done, no not for Bible study, the six nations rugby starts at three and I have lots to do before I can sit down with my beer and shout at the telly. Now careful ladies don't slip on your way back to the car, stick to the road, stay off the moor and beware the moon.
They left promising to return en masse in the summer.
I shall be ready.

Sledgless sledging

Its not always hard work at Rock HQ, here I am demonstrating how to sledge without actually using a sledge. The dogs thought I was in trouble so tried to rescue me as I slid down the hill.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Feeling guilty

Its been a funny week at Rock HQ and I am beginning to feel like its my fault. No sooner had I waxed lyrical about spring about to sprung then the whole country grinds to a halt under a thick blanket of snow. Then when I make a comment about a mere millimetre of snow causing widespread havoc a fresh fall of 4 inches confines Rene to base so Tracey doesn't get to work today, I on the other hand had a day off anyway and was totally unable to get any of the jobs planned completed.
It was really sunny today but the snow remains, probably waiting for reinforcements. Huge icicles hang from the stables, it all looks quite ornate. One of the advantages of being snow bound and unable to tackle the jobs list is that I have been able to walk around the hill a few times this week. First was on Tuesday at last light, I had worked from home that day as Rene could not get down the ice track. I took the magnificent seven with me and they had a mad romp in the snowdrifts. As we turned the last bend before Mad Keith's I was put to shame by the old hermit who was pushing his 3 speed bike up the hill laden with supplies. Me with my macho 4x4 didn't attempt the journey to town, he with his Sturmey Archer 3 speed bone shaker had safely navigated there and back.
Just past his abode there is an old tin shack that has the remains of an aviary attached to the side. As we approached Faith went mental barking and lunging at the wires. An unfortunate Blackbird had found a way in to search for food away from the snow and now couldn't find its way out. I ripped the wire from the top corner and soon despite Faiths best attempts to stop it it found its way to freedom.
Faith looked at me in disgust as we wandered along in the snow heading back to Rock HQ. She wages a personal war against all Blackbirds and spends an amazing amount of time running along the hedge lining our track in an effort to catch one. The closest she had ever got to one and her human lets it go.
At least I think it was a blackbird, seeing how this week has gone I could be wrong, as I think about it I worry that it might have been something other than a common Blackbird. Some travellers purchased the land recently and they put horses up there from time to time. They have been clearing the assortment of tin shacks and making repairs. Perhaps the bird was theirs! It was probably a Bird of Paradise worth thousands of pounds and I have just released it. Come to think of it it didn't seem keen to fly out. Grief!
No. I am sure it was just a Blackbird.
But then again I am the man who took a buck rabbit to the vet, the poor creature was suffering with what I thought was a ruptured penis. The vet quickly examined the stricken animal and I nearly died of embarrassment when the vet told me that the rabbit was in fact female and giving birth.

Views from Bonsai Mountain

Looking for all the world like a real mountain in this weather!
Reba having a lie down, the wind has blown the snow from this side of the hill.
Piling it up into drifts that are knee deep on the other side.
Beth enjoying the view from the top.
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