Friday, 30 April 2010

A new high

Not sure if its an all time record but I have changed my clothes six times today, due either to having to go somewhere, weather conditions or dogs. The day has also been on the manic side of busy. Not enough hours in the day and all that but we managed to pack the hours with a huge number of jobs.
Started with Rene to poorly Rx4 going back for further treatment, the critters all had to be fed before we got to the garage, raced back in Fifi to get the horses ready for the attention of the Blacksmith who gave us top advice on how to catch crayfish, offered his lovely Warrior 4x4 at a bargain price (wouldn't accept magic beans and beer bottle tops so we couldn't have it) and delivered the crushing news that if our shitland pony Misty is pregnant then so is he. Noooooooooooooooooo! This means no little patter of tiny hoofs next week as planned. On that theme it seems at least one of the Oxford and Sandys over at Stable Sprites is one link closer to sausage as she has come into season again so is not in pig.
While Tracey was dealing with the Blacksmith I was trying to talk sensibly to a computer programmer who was trying to decipher my insane ramblings and odd ideas into a useable website design. The results of which will be up and running mid May. The TFTR pages will never be the same again, but you will still get a tale everyday, a recipe of the week and much more. Those that want to can even feed the animals. All will be revealed!
After the formality of computer speak I was glad to get back to Rock HQ and muck about but a surprise visit from Uncle Rodders and Auntie Maggie put fresh strain on the washing machine as clean set of clothes number 4 were changed into. By the time they had been Bernered, had the tour and met the beasts these clothes were changed out of as I went to a meeting to discuss the future plans we have for Rock HQ. Several hours later we were back on the ranch changed again to do the evening rounds which finished in the pouring rain around 9pm. Planning on letsdonothingelse mode we collapsed on the sofas and thought about the last few jobs to do before bed. One of these involved me putting away the veg we bought earlier. Decision made. Put veg away, hot chocolate, sleep, get up early and start again. As the last of the legumes were carefully laid in the racks a high pitched cheep alerted me to the fact that the eggs in the incubator were intent on making sure we went to bed a lot later than planned. So far 8 are making a bid for life, and six more are cheeping.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Good dogs

Berners are a special breed. Here's Bliss keeping a close eye on Fern.
Posted by Picasa

Laid low

Storm our Chinese goose has decided to sit on a clutch of eggs, unfortunately they are not all goose eggs as she has taken hostage about a dozen duck eggs. We shall see what happens, fingers crossed there will be the patter of a few webbed feet in the next few weeks, as long as we can keep the dogs away from her, they being very partial to free range eggs. She tries to hide by getting as low as possible on the nest when we are about. We are also waiting to see what hatches from the latest batch of bantam eggs in the incubator, due this weekend, our success rate is not very good but as there are 24 eggs we should get at least one!

Boris showed us his good side last night, a delicious coq au vin. Cheers Boris.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Behind you!

I went for a quick trip around the Bonsai Mountain after dropping the Technohermits dinner off. It had been another busy day at Rock HQ and a walk always helps put thoughts in order. Its going to be a very busy but fun weekend. Paul and Anne are coming over to stay, the first time we will have seen them since their daughters wedding last summer. It will be good to catch up with them and Paul is a lot better than last time he was mentioned on these pages. Then we have the butchers wedding do, now that will be a good do, a ten piece Soul band will be there as will a pig roast and as its Stuart, a proper butcher, its bound to be good pork. Not as good as ours, but good enough. And free.

As the dogs and I turned down Sheep Skull Lane from Five Ways Crossing it became clear we were not alone. Geisha often joins us on a quite stroll but this bunch of maniacs above were last seen in the yard. No idea whats got into them but as you can see they are chasing each other around like dogs.

Sheep! Who'd have them?

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Happier days

A problem with smallholding is animals. As the title suggests, smallholding, small scale, small numbers of animals meaning big relationships with them. They achieve pet status quite quickly, and no matter how hard you try not to you do get close to them, especially an animal like a pig. This is Thea, a lovely Berkshire sow, mother to many a piglet who became producer of masses of roast pork dinners, tasty sausage and the best bacon.

She belonged to Stable Sprite until today. Past tense now as she got ill not long after this video and despite masses of TLC, the best medical intervention and lots of hope she refused to get better. Unable to walk it was clear she couldn't continue and poor Stable Sprite had to make the decision to have her put down. Some animals leave a very big hole.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Up and Over

I really don't think we will ever tire of living the dream on the Bonsai Mountain. You never know whats around the corner or who you are going to meet. I took the Technohermit his dinner last night and as Rene was still in intensive care awaiting major surgery I took Shanks' pony along with Rocky and Faith. This was good choice as along the way we found one of the militias sheep stuck fast in the fence of the Ghost House. Not having a set of wire cutters in my pocket extricating the wild beast was impossible. Faith provided the answer by almost unseating a mountain biker as he shot past. Being the jolly sort he wasn't at all concerned that my mental setter had almost become an intrinsic part of his front wheel and from his backpack he produced a weedy set of pliers. These being far more substantial than any I had on me were just the job and in a few minutes we managed to extricate the woolly back from its trap and waved the ungrateful sheep goodbye as it ran off without so much as a backward glance. The cyclist turned out to be a very nice man and we had a chat about life, the universe, hill fires, mental dogs, and I told him a lesser known bike trail from the Cauldron and off he went to check it out.
So today after some of the jobs were done I sloped off to do some more BBMC training, this time taking in a different route which included the North Face Gully. Bliss and Spotty really enjoyed the climb to the top but most of all I think they enjoyed the attention they got off four backpackers also enjoying the sights and sounds of our back yard. Faith would have got some fuss if she had sat still long enough, one of the walkers had owned a Gordon Setter so was keen on catching Faith but she had other ideas. Poppy the pathetic triever ingratiated herself by fawning around and at one point I am sure she tried to get into one of the rucksacks. The dogs and I said goodbyes and ended up where we started an hour before, the yard of Rock HQ. Geisha had taken a fashion tip off Crispen and was sporting a lovely line in buckets.
You might be surprised to see Rene the Rx4 in the yard. So are we. After the seemingly terminal symptoms on Friday we were overjoyed to hear that he had made a full recovery for only one tenth the amount of the money tree than we had anticipated.
So as the birds began their evensong and Tracey, the Dolyhir Clan and myself were in the garden the four backpackers appeared at the gate. They just wanted to tell us that they thought Rock HQ was amazing and wished us a long and prosperous life here. You do get to meet the nicest people sometimes.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Pig Club

Pig club pigs.....
..are happy pigs....
...and if they could they would be going....
...Lah Lah Laaaaah!
Posted by Picasa


It has been a long dry spell, today we had a few showers but the ground is very dry.
I was outside keeping my self occupied therefore avoiding housework when I spotted the small fire on the hill opposite.
Steve's house was in the line of fire, literally, but the brave Firebods managed to get it under control, if you click on the pics a large version appears and you can see lots of little people playing with hoses. They are not really little, some are quite big, they are just far away. Steve phoned to tell us he was OK and that the barbq was cancelled. Cant see why.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Dropping in

We are used to surprise guest and strange visitors at Rock HQ. From the time we found around 30 Orthodox Jews lost in our yard to the geriatric archaeologists searching for the mother stone we knew every now and then a special sort would liven up our day.
Animals also do their best to provide entertainment, although I have to admit there was nothing entertaining about chasing a naughty pony galloping across seemingly endless open acres of militia grasslands today because some dozy walker had left the gate open to the common and William spotted the breach in the perimeter before yours truly.
Tonight as we had a late supper in the "garden" which is code for a patch of ground that is fenced off from the rest but still resembles wilderness but decorated with broken garden furniture these two dozy characters appeared bleating pitifully at the top of the cliff at the back of HQ. Definitely a wrong turn taken somewhere along the trail as there is no way down, apart from a very quick and painful way. Luckily for them they chose not to drop in but backtrack. Shame really, there was room on the barbq.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, 23 April 2010

When all else fails!

Today got off to a bad start. Worse if you were cockerel called Boris who became an ex cockerel first thing this morning, his free loading aggressive behaviours went a bit too far when the brute tried to take my face off as I filled the water bucket. For a few seconds I wore the savage feather duster like an alien face hugger and then he became the major component of Coq au Vin. The others heeded the warning and have been very polite all day, even boosted their egg production in an effort to curry favour.
The second disaster was Rene, the oft abused Rx4, he gave me plenty of warning as I drove along the sunlight lanes towards the dentist that all was not well. The dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree and a big red light in the centre said STOP! I like any bloke took this as mere guidance and turned up the stereo whilst turning off the air conditioning hoping that the sudden loss of power was temporary. Things picked up, Rene rallied and pressed bravely on, the dentist gave me a good boy sticker and the ailing vehicle and myself headed home. At just above walking speed. I promised to have him serviced just so long as we didn't break down on the blind bend but Rene finally gave up and jettisoned a large amount of his internal working parts across both sides of the road before giving up the ghost and sought sanctuary on a pub car park.
He is now in intensive care and no doubt the money tree will be cut back, to ground level to get him mended. Poor lad.
So, being the positive sort there was no use crying over spilt Renault parts, what was needed was a positive outcome to the day. The day of gate making had arrived. Now I am not known for my carpentry skills, in fact I as good at wood work as a politician is to sticking to election promises. Actually one bonus of living so far up a dirt track on a bonsai mountain in the times of a general election has its advantages. They, along with the Jehovah's Witnesses just leave their leaflets in the steel box at the end of our lane. Its crammed with brochures of insanely grinning oafs who look all of fifteen years with dodgy haircuts and worrying dress sense all promising to solve all my problems if I give them my vote. Well I didn't see any of them following Rene with a bucket to collect the bits or a bag of spanners to put them back on. Anyway. Gates.
The small gods of woodwork smiled on me and I even found all the things I needed, exactly where I left them. The tape measure broke but that was an acceptable loss, I wanted a rustic feel to the construction so a plastic ruler was sufficient. I needed lots of 3 inch wide planks, I had plenty of six inch wide, but no three. No matter, today was going to end successfully, as long as your name wasn't Boris, and with my nearly straight saw I created this master piece. I did feel I was being watched at one stage, I had my earphones in, listening to Metallica, it helps stop the voices, I ignored this feeling until it transformed to a nudge from behind. Crispen was trying to tell me something. What I don't know, perhaps that Red wasn't his colour.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 22 April 2010

All to Cock

I do have a bit of a reputation with our vet for not being able to tell the sex of an animal. For some reason she chooses to remind me every time we meet of the time that I took to her surgery a pet rabbit with a badly ruptured penis and found that he was in fact giving birth. I returned home with a box full of kittens, a much relieved she rabbit and a very red face. Then just as she was beginning to forget this I took a female cat to be spayed and found I had a male cat for castration.
So add to this inability the likelihood of the militia pulling a fast one whenever muggins pops along to buy some new stock there is always the potential for new disasters, like poultry. The geese bought last November turn out not to be as promised three geese and a gander, but rather three ganders and a very tired goose. The long range chickens have had their wanderlust curtailed by the building of Stalag 15, a fox proof enclosure which has so far served to keep the wretched fox out and the bird brains in. They have plotted escapes, I removed a bucket they were using as a vaulting horse and refused a request for gardening equipment. I did see a magnificent effort to fly out, but this was thwarted by a distinct lack of ability, the aerodynamics of a house brick and a seemingly unnoticed until the critical moment overhanging tree branch. The dazed bird watched in disgust as I removed the branch just in case it was later used as a jump off point.
As the long rangers are now up close all the time I have had for a while my doubts as to the gender of one of the Light Sussex Hens. Boris the bastard rules the roost, launching attacks on any one he takes a dislike to, which is in effect everyone. He came with three wives, lovely looking birds, so lovely that the fox claimed two before the completion of Stalag 15. He now has four Warrens, a Cob cross Black Rock special, two Black Welsh hens and one Light Sussex to keep him entertained. Except the Light Sussex Hen has a gender issue, looking quite male. Today we got conclusive proof that the hen was in fact a cock. While Boris was having his evil way with one of the Black Welsh hens the impostor hen was getting on top of things with a Warren the other side of the coup. So once again I have been ripped off, but on the other hand I do have a Coq au Vin to look forward to!
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Land of confusion

Smallholding throws up many puzzles and wonders. It crossed my mind as I tried to shoot a fox out of the bedroom window (as in gun bang bang, out of window, not actually shoot a fox out of the window, you see, or not) that strange sights and events become common place. Gunshots from boudoirs now seems perfectly natural, once we got over the who shot the bedroom cupboard fiasco and the resulting ban on firearms in bedrooms a couple of years back. Sleep did not return quickly as now the ranch was awake and began the long Walton like ritual of saying goodnight to each other, lambs, sheep, horses, geese, hens, cockerels, cats, dogs all took turns to make night night noises, each determined to be the last thing I heard before my encounter with the Sandman. Peace descended. The puppies decided to start choir practice at this point and a further half hour was spent sorting out what they wanted apart from a good telling off, pups sorted I got back to bed at 3.15 when the cacophony of good nights resumed. As all insomniacs know I then lay awake until 5.57, which is just a bit before I normally fall out of my pit, thought about getting up a I might as well, next thing it was 7.15 and our exciting day was starting late.

Sheep bothering was the order of the day. I pondered who was most confused out of a duck and a cockerel having improper relations in the yard, what would result, a huck or a den, they both went their separate ways as the sheep arrived en masse expecting food. Crispen brought his own container. The element of surprise was ours for a while as one by one they succumbed to our tag team wrestling tactics. As I grappled the beast and cleaned the messy end, shaved its bum and sprayed it with fly repellent Tracey took its number and administered wormer. The sheep called in reinforcements and at one stage it looked like Tracey and I were going to lose the fight as Geisha and Apollo joined the fray. Apollo got a stern talking to for trying to intervene in a particularly tough bout taking place between yours truly, Ebony and Roxy. Literally having both my hands full I was unable to fend off a curious pony who shoved me over into the dirt. Tracey tagged me and took over leading the bolshy horse into the stable whilst I distracted the goat with a fresh volley of abusive language. Order was restored and human dominance won the day. I did have to suffer the indignity of being carried backwards up Oak Bank by Springtime who, having seen the look on Easters face when given the wormer, put in the extra effort to escape and carried me away.
Visitors arrived and for a few moments mayhem reigned as the Berners felt they all should bark a welcome/warning/feed me at the same time. For some reason they didn't object to Steve going up stairs to the toilet but felt the need to alert the next village that he was trying to get back down the stairs. His wife decided that the dogs were really trying to tell us something so opted to use the downstairs wet room that has a toilet when nature inevitably called after two pints of weak lemon tea. Unlike most houses who have nothing more exciting than a wet sock in their shower ours was covered in the consequences of bottle feeding an orphan lamb with a separation anxiety and very little toilet training. Luckily we were able to interpret the confused look on our guests face just before she left otherwise she may have thought the ornate fecal patterns on the tiles and porcelain were due to me.

However the prize for the most confused goes to these two. Fern and Auntie Montana. Here she is trying to feed while Auntie Montana cleans her bum. Fern has demonstrated some other confusing behaviour this evening, obviously desperate to be dinner she jumped into my plate of Chile con Carne. No damage was done and I was able to pull the worst of the wool off the red beans before eating them. As I type both Auntie Montana and Fern are side by muzzle asleep in front of the fire. Which isn't lit but the ideas there.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Going green

I took time out first thing to go for a quick trip around the Bonsai Mountain, my first walk since the nasty incident with the sofa, a gentle stroll to help prepare for the BBMC which is getting frighteningly close.
Its all going green up on the hill, the bracken has hasn't started its conquest yet but you can sense its poised to replace the brown stuff. In the garden I have already found six inch frond starting to unfurl. I'm hoping that this year the three times a week cut on the fields will not be necessary, the previous years hard work and new grazing regime will prevent new infestation, and the war against the green menace can move to another part of the hill. I have it on good authority from an elderly ex pig keeper, who was also an ack ack gunner in the war, that bracken hooks make excellent pig food. I shall put her theory to the test as we will have ample amounts.
Underneath all this is good grazing!
Posted by Picasa

Monday, 19 April 2010

The debate continues

Some say pigs and horses hate each other, that they shouldn't be kept together as the pigs will terrify the poor equine beast, the pig horse debate has been going on a long time. Longer than we have kept pigs and horses anyway.
Apollo took a wander down the lane today and met up with Laverne and Shirley. He doesn't seem too concerned at finding the worst thing on four trotters lurking at the end of the smallholding.
Perhaps they have declared a truce.
Posted by Picasa

Tonights sunset

Not sure if this is anything to do with the eruption in Iceland but tonights sunset was a good one.
Its strange there being no vapour trails.
The only aircraft that went over Rock HQ's airspace today was a military Chinook.
Posted by Picasa