Thursday, 30 April 2009

Happy Family

At last, all eight sat still for long enough to get a cute picture!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The great outdoors

I had to force myself to do the 10k training walk this evening as I really wanted to do some work in the garden, but time is running out to get some serious training in for The Great TODO so I put my boots on and set off up the hill. I was glad I did as one of the Welsh Mountain Ponies I have been keeping an eye on has given birth and had a very cute foal trotting round after her. They wouldn't let me or my walking companions any where near them, thanks to the zoom lens I got a pretty acceptable picture though.

I met a walker who asked what type of dogs I had with me, he believed me when I told him that the two Bernese Mountain Dogs were in fact large Welsh Collies. He patted Rocky thoughtfully and nodded sagely as he agreed they were bigger than the average for a collie. I don't think he believed me when I told him that Geisha, who for some unknown reason had decided to join me for the whole 10k, was a Venezuelan Sheep Dog.

He strode off muttering something about me thinking he was born yesterday.

He was right of course, shes not a Venezuelan Sheep dog, they are much taller and have pointed ears.
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Monday, 27 April 2009

Normal service has been resumed!

Our Broadband signal has been down but a very nice man in southern India has just fixed it. He is a dog lover too, having five Dalmatians and and a Labrador.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

100% natural

In a blatant attempt to outdo the cutesy puppies Apollo poses for pictures to show off his flowing locks, all natural, no crimpers.
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Cheap shot

We are working on some publicity shots for the Bernese Mountain Dog puppies so stand by for lots of pictures of them looking cute in baskets of flowers, sat in boots and curled up asleep in odd objects like dog bowls. So far we have achieved a lot of blurry shots of puppies backsides as they head off into the distance. THis one of Dotty did'nt come out too bad though.
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You've changed!

This is Apollo my very handsome Gypsy Cob, hew has grown a bit in the last eight months!
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Saturday, 25 April 2009

Lifes soundtrack

I don't know why it happens but things I do are usually accompanied by an internal monologue or soundtrack. Today no matter how hard I tried to stop it That's Not My Name by the Ting Tings constantly rattled around my head, every shovelful, every barrow load, that's not my name, that's not my name, even as I type the sound of the keys seem to be in time to the tune.

The only time it stopped was when Ambrose and Archie started singing to me from the cliff at the back of the cottage. Its hard to see whats going on in the film clip, but you can hear it. As I zoomed the camera in you can see the kids playing on the cliff, at least I think they are playing. They came down when it stopped raining so no need for the fire brigade.

This time any way.

Training Day

The Great TODO is getting closer, or The Offas Dyke Ordeal to give it its full title, so as its a walk of 178 miles in less than 7 days training for such an event is paramount. I have for a while now been religiously sticking to a training schedule that involves sitting on easy chairs eating pies and drinking beers but felt that perhaps this was not the preparation needed for such an event, particularly as I am some 12 to 15 years older than my companions who seem to be half my weight and running marathons before breakfast as a warm up to some serious fitness sessions.
My problem is, apart from the fact I like pies and beer is that I remember a time when I ran marathons, climbed frozen waterfalls and still had the energy to run to the gym and show everyone how to run a circuit training session, so training sessions where I get out of breath putting on my trainers are a real downer. But I have to start somewhere and must still be reasonably fit under all the flab. So on a day where one of the team was skipping up Sca Fell and another was mountain biking down the north face of the Eiger I put in an equally gruelling training day. Having a smallholding also impacts on the time available to devote to getting into shape to cope with the 178 miles planned, so a way of combining the two, training and smallholding, has to be found. After a core workout on arms and shoulders, carrying buckets of feed to various hungry beasts I worked on my biceps and triceps by preparing most of the hens for a long stay in Mr Whirlpool the freezer. Once my arms were warmed up, a few stretches and I set about the main task of the day, returning the stables into suitable accommodation for the Boys who have very kindly forgone their five star accommodation for a muddy windswept hillside as their purpose built home was used as a goat maternity ward, a sheep maternity ward, a chicken house, a kennel and various other temporary uses. All of which added to the layer of mess on the concrete and rubber mat floor.
It was quite a daunting task, one man, his garden fork, a wheelbarrow and two 12 by 12 foot stables covered in poohy bedding to a depth of eight inches. Nothing for it, the world expects a man to buckle down and shovel it, so I did, and in no time the building was cleared of excrement, jeyed out and allowed to dry. I reckon I moved 43 full wheelbarrows along the lane to the pooh store, and just cos I'm hard did it all with a flat tyre on the barrow. I did fantasise about a quad bike and a trailer by barrow 27, by 33 I was going to train Rocky to pull the green cart to finish the job, but with Tracey's help the job was done by lunchtime and by early evening the Boys were back in their proper place, munching clean hay out of the racks and making models of Kilimanjaro out of fresh pooh. My legs feel like I walked 30 miles, my arms are burning from the effort, but good news that I can move so much weight around considering how bad my left arm was damaged, and good that I didn't have to go to the Lake District to help prepare for the Great TODO.

Its extraordinary how satisfying it is getting a job like this done, and with each sip of my beer the happier about it I feel, especially as my pie is almost cooked. Well, its hard to be totally commited to this healthy living lark!
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Its in the genes!

We are just about to start advertising the puppies, its going to be tough saying goodbye to any of them, especially when they are all so cute and grow up into handsome brutes like Rocky the very proud dad! They are four weeks old now and have put on five pounds in weight each since birth! Another reason why they have to go is they are such time wasters, worse than the piglets, you cannot help yourself watching their antics and before you know it the mornings gone!
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Friday, 24 April 2009

Haircuts for tough guys!

Lining up for a visit from Vidal is Crispen our adorable Ryeland ram who seems to have an itch. When you look at the size of him, the length of his flowing locks is it any wonder why we get a rugby player to wrestle the beast to the floor and shave him!

Our hero!

This is Pritch, our hero, who survived the man test walk with Ben and I last week and then after a little snooze where he rested his weary legs he led Hereford RFC to victory against Bromsgrove, he did mention once or twice on our 3o mile stroll in the country that he was captain, he's the one in red with the dubious mullet carrying the ball surrounded by the white shirted monsters who all appear to be at least a foot taller than him.

He's not our hero just for this though, oh no, he is a man of many talents, one of which is that he can shear our sheep, he is to the Ryeland a regular Vidal Sassoon.
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Thursday, 23 April 2009

Say no more!

Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more!
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New arrivals

We have had ten goose eggs in the incubator for the last four and half weeks and today they started to hatch. Its a painful thing to watch as they struggle out of the shell. One has died during its escape bid but these three seem quite strong so we are hopeful, two more are showing signs of wanting to join this world so fingers crossed.
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Supersize me!

Oh how they have grown, Pixie against the wall and Patches closest to the camera.

So much bacon, so little time!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009


Reba can only feed the puppies for a minute or so at a time now as they all have needle sharp teeth. Her current technique is to jump into the box, stand still, gritting her teeth while they swarm under her at which point she jumps back out again before they draw blood. The joys of motherhood!
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Animal Therapy

Anyone who knows me or who has paid attention to these pages will have realised that big cities and myself don't mix well. Time to time I have to go on courses which inevitably means I have to leave the hicks ville and head to the bright lights. My latest trip away to learn how to deal with female sex offenders meant not only did I have to give up my rural existence but I had to expose myself to the worst of humanity at an event hosted by the Greater Manchester Police. Fortunately amongst all the case studies and academic discussions as the the motivations of those intent on treating children in the most barbaric of ways I was able to take five and go outside and watch the GMP's horses grazing happily in the sunshine. The Hough End centre (pronounced Huff) is also home to the dog training section, which came as a relief when I discovered this as I really did think the sound of dogs barking was either me wishing I was back home or that my tinnitus had taken a turn for the worse and had changed from its now reassuring continuous high pitched scream (caused from sticking my head to close to the bass bins at heavy metal concerts) to an irritating bark.

By late afternoon I was sick of humanity and wandered out into the car park where two mounted police officers were returning from duty. I spent a happy five minutes chatting to them and patting their mounts which recharged the batteries for the last grim session of the day.

Animals are without doubt great therapy, they don't even have to try. I spent a while watching them eat tonight, for some reason Geisha has made herself a boa of hay, the lambs are on solid food and Trevor has nearly completed his transformation from a scruffy dark brown shitland to a stunning grey and black trimmed miniature horse. Whatever colour he is he is still a git.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Sticky mess!

But still the cutest puppy ever!
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Intruder alert

Kay and JJ came over Sunday and brought with them a box containing eight runner duck chicks that had been hatched out by a professional, the eggs came from his own ducks who have a luxurious abode at JJ's microholding.
It was good to catch up with them both, they both provided the majority of the labour that cleared the massive hedge from the length of the garden last summer. As we wandered about the smallholding we chatted about the new arrivals and the never ending jobs list JJ asked one of those questions, you know the ones, the questions that shouldn't ever be asked, the question that Fate listens out for. "Any trouble with foxes lately?" JJ enquired, voice packed with innocence. I could almost hear Fate laughing as I said, "No not really" and so the scene was set.
The pictures show Rocky inspecting a small hole dig into the side of the chicken shed, a few bloodied feathers were close by.
Fearing the worst I opened the door and found them all alive and kicking, but one was carrying a nasty injury so was sent to chicken heaven to end its suffering. What seems to have happened is that whatever animal it was that had dug in, I suspect fox, had managed to grab the poor hen by its tail and had hung on and eaten its parsons nose off. This freed the hen to escape to the safety of the other side of the hut but the injury would have been fatal even if I hadn't have helped her along. Quite why the suspected fox gave up is unclear but thankfully he did and whilst I was in Manchester Tracey transferred all the remaining birds to the stables in case it came back.
So if you know any smallholders, avoid those questions as Fate is always ready to lend a hand!
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Sunday, 19 April 2009

Manic Monday

This weekend has been busier than most at Rock HQ so its hard to know where to start. I know where it should have ended, sat watching the sun go down to the accompaniment of a nice tall gin and tonic, a reward for the days labours. That was last night, and although the sunset tonight looks equally good there is no time for a break as Mad Keith still needs feeding, Beth and Tom are expecting us to visit (she moved out last Friday, today's the day we find out where to) two goat kids are the wrong side of the fencing, the evening routine has been massively held up by Bernese Mountain Dogs and ducklings, yes we have 8 newly hatched ducklings in the brood box one of which is on the critically ill list, I have to change again as I have just ripped my best trousers on the barbed wire whilst watering the horses and I have yet to pack for my trip to Manchester tomorrow where I have to take an enforced break from the joys of Rock HQ on a course learning how to profile sex offenders.

Oh for that gin and tonic!
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Dawn Chorus

Our usual recital from the birds has been repalced by the Bernese Mountain Puppy chorus.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Dawn Raid

In the early hours of this morning a superior force overwhelmed the tired defenders of the food store at Rock HQ. The enemy pressed home their attack and engaged in hand to hoof combat. Reinforcements were quickly sent to plug the breach in the defences and after a short fight the raiders were driven away.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Attempted breakout!

Flash almost made it out of the box, if only Dotty had'nt been holding onto his tail!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

So tired!

Hardly keeping her eyes open!
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A right pair

Pair of what I'm not sure. This is Ben and his bosom pal Pritch who take it in turns to outdo each other. Ben is back on leave and as a bit of Dad Son bonding we decided to go for a walk. As usual he couldn't help himself when he met up with his best mate and they both ended up spending the night engaged in what I believe is called on the lash where they drank lots, ate lots and slept little. This is obviously the best form of preparation for a long days walk which is why they turned up at Rock HQ an hour late, dehydrated and smelling like diseased rats.

Undeterred we set off, I was a bit surprised at their lack of kit, but they made up for their sparsity of equipment with bravado and enthusiasm. That was until they realised there had been a teensy weensy breakdown in communication and what they thought would be a gentle stroll before finding a suitable watering hole where they could top up their falling blood alcohol levels and desire to eat red meat was in fact going to be a gruelling training day for The Great ToDo, or The Offas Dyke Ordeal. I had planned to go to Knighton from Rock HQ and time permitting walk back again, a journey of 40 miles cross country, mixing a bit of road in and cutting a few corners it would be close to thirty. I didn't think we would do it all, on the 12-1-08 walking one way took all day so chances are Tracey would track us down in Rene a few miles short of home.

However these two super fit examples of humanity, despite their hangovers pushed on and amidst merry banter and rabbit killings (it was a mercy killing it had myxomatosis, however all Ben and Pritch saw was yours truly picking a cute bunny from the hedgerow and in their eyes brutally killing it, it took half an hour to calm them both and prise them apart as they hugged each other in horror as I promised faithfully not to kill anything or anyone for the rest of the day ) we made the half way point by just past beer o'clock which gave these two a bit of a dilemma, should they push on and make the return journey or rock into Knighton the centre of everything and sit it out in a pub awaiting rescue by Rene. Unbelievably common sense prevailed and we walked back making Rock HQ just before five where we revived ourselves with coffee and ginger cake. The diet went well today as these two forgot to bring any calories for consumption and I did the Dad thing and shared my sandwiches and coffee so they didn't pass out from hunger.

Joking aside it was a great day. Great that my work is flexible enough to work a few hours before and a few hours after so not losing any leave. Great that I got to spend a very interesting day with Ben where I learned a lot about his life in the Army, the island of Cyprus and his ambitions. Pritch learned that our family outings really are endurance tests and manfully rose to the challenge, even making it back in time to go Rugby training, if he mentioned he was Captain for Hereford he mentioned it at least twice. A great day in the torrential rain which lasted as long as the walk and one which showed my fitness is returning even with the fifty pound spare tyre around my waist. So a big thank you to these two, they made a fat old man very happy today.
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Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Squeaky clean

We have been trying to get some good pictures of the puppies. Nailing jelly to the wall would be easier. This is one of the better ones, at least she is clean!
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Thunder road

Five minutes earlier I was in my shirtsleeves gardening, then just before taking Mad Keith his dinner the heavens opened flooding the lane and making all inhabitants of Rock HQ take shelter where they could. Amidst the thunder and lightening the favorite spot seems to be the step to nowhere under the eaves of the stable.

Having seen the length and state of our lane you can perhaps see why we get so few visitors!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Grin and bear it!

Three weeks old and look at the size of them! Reba is sticking to her super mum duties but showing signs that she could do with at least five minutes peace, poor dog.
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Wheres the Pocket Rocket?

We were asked the other day what had happened to Trevor, the pocket rocket, as he has disappeared from the blog for while. Well as you can see he is alive and well and changing colour again.

He is also making himself popular with the other horses by commandeering the best hay and rolling on the left overs. What he doesn't realise is that there are secret plans afoot that will hopefully calm him down. This is imperative as I am hoping to train him to pull a small cart, this aim usually prompts guffaws of laughter from my nearest and dearest. However, I have a secret weapon which will put an end to his over amorous antics and the taking your life into your own hands comments when I mention his schooling.

He is going to be gelded, which will have a big impact on this little horse, hopefully he will relax a bit and mellow. Past form tells me it will just annoy him.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Table manners

Another action packed day at Rock HQ. We are very lucky to live here, and with such a fantastic break in the weather a lot has got done in the last four days. We had some visitors today, one of whom has never seen Rock HQ in reality, just on the web, so a short guided tour was given and whilst introductions were made to various breeds of inhabitants it served as reminder to myself and Tracey exactly how much we have achieved here in the last two years. It also pointed out how much more there is to do, but even so we are making progress.

The highlight of the visit was to see the puppies, we waited until they had left before we fed them as their lack of table manners might have made them reconsider how sweet they are.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Mucky Pups!

The pups had their first attempt with solid food today and as you can see by the state of their fur they ended up wearing most of it.

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Happy Easter

Happy Easter to all our readers worldwide, and here are some pictures of the Rock HQ flock to make you smile.
Springtime and Ivor standing with Rosie and Joan sunbathing.
Close up of Rosie and Joan.

Easter, Levi, Barry sleeping, Rita, Springtime and just in the picture on the far right Ivor.
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