Monday, 31 May 2010
"I mean look," her wavering high pitched eulogy continued for mine and the smalls benefit, "they get on so well, they all mix together, I tell them, (she pointed to the trembling children) its like Chicken Licken this place, first you see a chicken, then a duck, a goose and then they all come along and just get bigger, a goat and these lovely horses its so wonderful,!" She punctuated eat animal on the list with a jab of her walking stick. "Like a story book, come on then kids, back for dinner you have to feed them (she was now talking to the world in general but poking at the children with the stick) they eat so much you know, already had two breakfasts and one lunch and its not tea time yet!" she waved her stick in goodbye as she shuffled after her fleeing children who were really keen to get away. Probably excited about Grandma reading them a bedtime story. One that has psychopathic miniature horses in it. And snakes.
Sunday, 30 May 2010
Faced with a mountain of pork to keep fresh we had no alternative but to buy another fridge. The black hole is no longer a safe place to keep meat as it forms part of the Berner annex. When the partition walls are put in and the doors, then it can go back to being used as a natural cold store, being 50% underground and two sides stone walled, but the money tree is being pruned for fencing and new stock animals so interior design has to wait.
As a number of useful smallholding items have been found on ebay it seemed the obvious place to look. One was found in a local city, GWO clean, best of all cheap and bidding ended today. A quick snipe and the fridge was ours. A strange email arrived. An address and the words, you collect fridge yes?
The address was in an area associated with fridges. Many houses had at least one on the front lawn, often with another broken white good to keep it company. I checked Google maps, it confirmed my fear, the fridge was in a war zone. I would have to be careful. Parking FiFi next to any tall building would invite a fridge to be dropped on the bonnet. But we had bacon to chill so there was nothing for it. We had to cross the lines and sortie into enemy territory. We would not be stopped in our quest for minus temperatures by hoodies with nothing better to do on a Sunday than lob bricks at passing motorists.
I parked outside the house, the coast looked clear, I knocked. The door swung open to reveal a huge bear of a man who would have been even more intimidating had he not looked exactly like Dom Jolly. "You are fridge man, yes?" he said in a heavy accent. The bottle of Vodka on the table an unsubtle clue. Two equally big henchmen in the kitchen eyed me suspiciously.
"Erm...." I stammered
"Its Ok" a spade sized hand patted me on the back propelling me through the front door into the kitchen where another well dressed bear sized man was shutting a briefcase "I show you now" almost carrying me to the patio doors where there stood on the flagstones a small fridge"
Self preservation was kicking in "Wow, its a great fridge, here's some money" I shoved two notes in his hand. He looked nonplussed. "I get change"
"No its OK, keep it, its only pennies" I laughed. It sounded high pitched, terror stricken. He watched me closely as he folded the notes carefully and put them in his jacket pocket. "Very kind for sure" he smiled. I picked up the fridge. It suddenly got very heavy. He pushed it down "Not so fast" I stepped back. This was it. I die. Somehow I have ended up in a house run by the Russian Mafia who lure people to their deaths with promises of cheap kitchen appliances. He stepped around the fridge "First I show you something". One of his henchmen blocked my escape. The Bear opened a door in a brick out house leant in and brought out a huge extension cable. "I have show you it work"
"No its fine I trust you"
"We wait" he said as the fridge hummed. He folded his arms almost splitting the seams on his jacket. He opened the door and tutted. We stood the sunlight silence. He opened the door, his face beamed. "It cold now! See, you have light" he pointed, the henchman and I looked inside, a small bulb glowed apologetically. "Its a good fridge, you like?"
I nodded. "We have four years, its good fridge. Take it" I went to lift it again, he waved me away "The weight is a sign of quality" he grunted as he picked it up and carried it to the front of the house unassisted. They moved a Mercedes off the drive to let FiFi back up and he lifted it into the boot space. "Ha! You have farm!" he pointed to the straw, and other farm yard bits adorning the less than clean interior. We made good our escape as they laughed at the idea of straw in a car.
The new fridge installed we still have seven huge packs in the kitchen freezer, the quest for cheap white goods continues, but we shall be a bit more cautious where we go to get them especially if the internet address ends .ru
Saturday, 29 May 2010
Friday, 28 May 2010
Rocky decided to help guard the meat (the black plastic bin contains the two back legs, the lid only just fitted) in Rene as I carried it in. This wasn't entirely altruistic as he had already spotted the open bag of monster pork scratchings.
Thursday, 27 May 2010
The paper trail has finally been followed to its conclusion, all the forms signed, T's crossed and I's dotted, the pigs have been tested for a disease never found in the UK, the trailers pressure washed, I have a clean hanky, the moon is in the ascendant, the sea weed is soft and there is a Y in the month which can only mean one thing. The pork has been passed for for human consumption and magically transformed into sausage. Most of yesterday and yesterday evening was spent bagging sausage, portioning mince, wrapping chops and moving various bits of previous pigs around in Mr Whirlpool to make room for the ginormous amount of meat now on the kitchen table. As is tradition while this process was going on several bits were frying in a pan on the rayburn by way of quality assurance. They passed the test. But sausage should not be eaten the day they are made, no, they have to mature a bit, let the flavours develop. So tonight I have mostly been eating sausage. As we have a number of sauces to accompany the humble banger I had to try quite a number to find the perfect sausage/sauce combo. Unfortunately I didn't keep tasting notes so will have to go through it all again tomorrow. Its trial, but I shall have to manage.
Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Storm, the very clever brown goose, wont let us see the chicks properly. Any attempt to get close results in such a display of poultry temper that you would be very stupid to ignore. They cant break your leg with a swipe of the wing, probably all she could do is give you a nasty pinch with her beak, but she makes out like she could commit murders. So we are keeping our distance for the time being.
Tuesday, 25 May 2010
Monday, 24 May 2010
The great egg race has been won by the brown Chinese goose, who's name escapes me for the moment, who has hatched at least three healthy ducklings. In comparison the incubator which has been keeping two dozen eggs at the right temperature for the last three and half weeks has hatched nothing. She, on six eggs and two goose eggs has done very well. Doing things naturally is always best. Which is why I have to get another cow. I was told on good authority yesterday by a farmer of years experience that the chances of me detecting when would be the right time to artificially inseminate Hetty was about as likely of success as the Liberal Tory alliance spending cuts being well received. What I needed was another cow, that way as soon as she tried to ride or mount the other then we would know she was ready. I waited for the punch line. Nothing. I waited for the it just so happens I got one for sale. No, more silence. I was actually being given some sound advice. So the search is on for another Dexter, which by all accounts are the bovine equivalent of the Tamworth pig for temperament. Pig keepers will know whats meant by that, those that don't, well it was summed up by the farmer yesterday as he watched ours eating the lawn while having a pair of my trousers on its horns after a tangle with the washing line. "Dexters, they're nuts man!"
Fit in well here then!
Sunday, 23 May 2010
Saturday, 22 May 2010
I had other things on my mind rather than naked holiday makers. Geisha our goat had been missing all day, failed to check in with the sheep for breakfast. Now she might have the brains of Houdini when it comes to locks and bolts, but she gets her sense of direction from Mark Thatcher. The most likely scenario was that she had fallen asleep, the sheep had woken up early and left her on the hill. She wakes up all alone, spots a woolly back on the hill and heads straight to its side, then finds its the wrong one and very soon is lost.
Friday, 21 May 2010
Its one of those annoying things in life that the grass on our side of the hill refuses to grow longer than 2mm a year whereas the grass around the Ghost House grows 10cm day. This lush green pasture has been out of bounds to our sheep partly because of the fencing around it, partly because of the curse associated with the place (don't look back) but mostly that should they ever dare trespass you can guarantee that would be the weekend that Murph would return, discover the wooly backs massive misdemeanour and talk me to death with his fascinating account of how much the grass to sheep pooh ratio was far higher than expected. So I have always resisted the temptation of letting them into the garden, unless we are stealing apples but thats a quick in out raid, unlikely to be discovered.
So each day our sheep walk around the bonsai mountain in search of fresh pasture, pausing to survey the verdant bounty the other side of the wire, before, heads bowed, wandering on and foraging amongst the gorse bushes. Every now and then Murph turns up and rubs salt in their wounds and mows the grass, piling the fragrant moist clippings on an out of reach compost heap. The sheep shaking their heads in despair at such a waste of natures bounty gather in our yard and console each other by mugging the horses.
They now have a saviour.
Geisha, who now joins them on their daily foray as her leg has healed has noted the tempting feast beyond the wire. She being taller and slightly more intelligent than your average Ryeland has solved the puzzle of how to get in and devour the greenery. She has previous at breaking and entering, the tack room and workshop have been subject to raids started by the goat who can open bolted doors. A gate latch was no match for her, the wire security loop caused a minor delay and soon she and 11 sheep were gorging on the green stuff. I'm sure Murphy wont mind, a lot less bovver than a hover.
Thursday, 20 May 2010
Tracey is in charge of the chicks, I a got in a bit of trouble a while ago for accidentally turning off the incubator just as they hatched I didn't discover my mistake until one had died from the cold the other six were knocking on a door marked death. They soon rallied once they were back in the warm and it just shows how fragile these little creatures are. The slightest chill can be the death of them, usually they are tucked up inside the warm feathers of mother hen, but the incubator chicks don't have this head start. So when a couple of them jumped in the water bowl Tracey was worried they might catch a cold and die. Being the thoughtful person she is she wrapped them in my socks, put them in a lunchbox, covered them with a cloth and settled them on the Rayburn where they could be nice and toasty. She was a bit worried how quiet they were, not a cheep. Perhaps it was the strange cylinder next to their bed that gave them cause for concern, an ominous sign of things to come perhaps.
Wednesday, 19 May 2010
Tuesday, 18 May 2010
Now both Stable Sprite and I have taken many pigs, separately and together, to the slaughter house. We have marvelled at the intricacies of the forms we have to fill in so that we can move our pigs, promise to clean our vehicles and trailers, declare any medicines used during the piggies life time, convince the vet there that the pig is well enough to be killed, patiently queued with impatient farmers eager to get their animals unloaded, battled with those who try to push in, sympathised with those who cannot reverse, all so that we can eat our own meat. So for Stable Sprite to take on this task to help us out was a real help.For Stable Sprite this was going to be hard work, for the pigs it was going to be total commitment.
He got there and for once there was no queue. For once he could reverse straight up to the unloading pen and turf out the trainee pork. Anticipating the delays he had filled in all the paperwork and the person that checked it was there in the office, not skiving around the corner keeping everyone waiting while they had a fag and a cuppa. For once it went all so smoothly. Until he walked out from the office after booking the pigs in and found a small crowd around the pigs.
"How old are they?" asked the vet
"About two, why?"
"Should have brought them yesterday" said the vet
"Why? What happened?"
The vet ignored the valiant attempt at humour. "Yesterday is when we do the tests on adult pigs."
The vet sighed. "We test adult pigs for streptococococoolosisisiss, we don't get it in this country, we never get a positive test but we are in the E.U. (A dark cloud started to form over the slaughterhouse at the mention of the E.U)
Everyone looked at the pigs. The vet continued. "As we are in the E.U. we have to do what they say, they want this test done. That was yesterday." The vet smiled apologetically
"Have I got to take them back?" Stable Sprite asked.
"No. We can kill them. But you cant eat them. Not til next week when we do the test.Dont worry it will be a negative test, we never find it. Ever."
So now I have four hundred pound of potential sausage in cold store waiting to be tested for something that they wont find. Thank you E.U for making life so simple.
Monday, 17 May 2010
companion on our walks around the bonsai mountain. In fact she has recovered so well we have even thought it might be a good idea to let her have some little Anglo Nubian's, give her some purpose to life other than bothering the dogs, breaking in to the feed store and keeping vets busy. This insane plan has gone so far as to involve looking up Billy goats on the register to see if there is one close by. Hopefully sanity will prevail and no additional cloven hoofed nuisances will darken the doorstep of Rock HQ.
Speaking of nuisances we are bracing ourselves for a fresh attack of foxes. Stalag 15 has kept the big hens safe but the ducks have gone long range and the bantams and geese spend most of their day out of sight of the cottage. Not that being in sight offers any protection. Saturday night after a lovely stroll in the mountains we were treated to a steak supper at a local pub by way of celebration. As we drove up our drive a fox cub no bigger than a small cat ran in front of the car narrowly avoiding becoming part of the treads. As we oooohed two more broke cover, then mum, and another cub and finally a fifth. Now vermin they might be but beautiful vermin and if they didnt kill so many of our birds I would appreciate them like a townie. With beer goggles assisting my thinking I did ponder the possibility of catching one and taming it, that way we would have our own fox and others would keep away from its territory. We could train it to protect chickens, value all things poultry, start self help groups, PA, Poultry Anonymous where foxes gather and confess to crimes against egg layers and pledge abstinence, become vegetarian like Sara feeding almost entirely on a diet of sausage sandwiches (not veggie just fussy) our fox would be the defender of the feather. Thankfully three pints of beer, a thirty mile walk and a big steak supper meant that instead of pitting my wits against wily fox and her cubs hiding in the dark amongst the gorse bushes I contented myself with shouting abuse at fleeing fox vermin and vowing to strengthen the defenses at the cottage. This will involve sorting out the missing super shotgun application. Meanwhile we know that there is a mummy fox with five babies to feed within 300 yards of the hens. The odds are heavily stacked against the hens survival.
Sunday, 16 May 2010
Today has been spent recovering from yesterdays epic exertions when the Three Amigos set out and completed the Big Black Mountain Challenge. There were a few disappointments that have tried to sour the feeling of success, the biggest being that despite my best efforts my two walking companions were after all followed by a fat bloke. Shocking photographic evidence has emerged that shows there is still a major battle of the bulge to be won and no amount of photo editing can disguise the hideous man boobs that appear in one summit photograph. This has been consigned to the fridge door as a warning against any future calorific excess.
That aside it was a fantastic day, as ever, and a big thank you to the Longtown Mountain Rescue Team for organising it. It started super early and unusually we got to the start line in time for a 7 am kick off. At this point Sara threw a mental about me not cooking her breakfast and sat in the track until we agreed to having a bacon sarnie from the burger van. This proved to be like no other fast food outlet in that you required a calendar to time your order. Despite a captive audience of 1000 walkers passing in the next hour the lovely lady in the burger van had not got any food prepared. So we waited impatiently while she baked the bread rolls, slaughtered the pig, cured the bacon, raised the chicks to point of lay hens, collected the eggs, chopped the fire wood for the stove and finally the butties arrived. Sara then thought she would have the nice lady make her some sandwiches and being the peculiar brand of vegetarian that she is just had to have salad sandwiches. She spent the time waiting for the right growing conditions for her red onion salad surprise by eating a platefull of sausage. As I keep telling her shes not a veggie, shes just fussy.
Finally we started, opinions vary whether this was 40 minutes later or three weeks but finally we were off. The usual rash of gear hounds, Sunday walkers and fitness freaks filled the slopes of the Black Mountains. All was going well, except me, I wasn't going but needed to. Suffering the revenge of Chinese chili chicken I just made it to a Christmas tree plantation where either killed a tree or helped if grow bigger than its rivals. Finally able to concentrate on walking we made good time and enjoyed the views, the chats and the intriguing details of Sara's new job. For some inexplicable reason she had completely failed to mention that she was now a transmitting engineer for a TV company broadcasting the type of material favourite of the late home secretary Jackie Smith's husband. Late as in voted out not dead. This was bound to prompt several hours of questions and within a very short time Sara knew exactly why she had never mentioned it before.
Richard achieved a sort of super hero status at each checkpoint as out of 1000 entrants he was number one. Marshall's even climbed out of their tents to see him and comment that he was the one.
Legs worked well right until the final stretch when Richard and Sara discovered how similar pain and pleasure are. The pictures above and the video below show what was going on but in the final dash for the line Sara's hip gave out which led to the most extraordinary contortions (we think she learned these watching the monitors at work) to try and get rid of the pain. I though this was just a tactic to stop my very exciting anecdote about Fray Bentos pies but I was not put off. Then 500 metres or so from the finish line Richards knee threatened to kill him if he carried on abusing it. This prompted no end of sympathy from Sara and I, you can see Sara doubled over sympathetically laughing. Richard didn't take my advice to hop if it was only his right knee and manned up for the final hobble to the cakes.
Once again the challenge was beaten, the cakes eaten and we plan to do it next year. Except Sara who's a girl.
Saturday, 15 May 2010
Its done. 30 miles, 10 hours, all the Black Mountains done, tea and cakes for the winners, if only we could get there. Poor Richard had a bit of a sore knee just before we finished. As you can see we were totally sympathetic! We all made it, an excellent day, really hard but enjoyable, lots of cash raised for Prostate Cancer Research, if any one wants to donate they can via paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org
Full story tomorrow.