Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Poultry VTOL

Bear in mind it was pitch black when I went to put the birds away. Which is why the pics are like they are, taken without the aid of vision. So there I was, about to go and shut the birds away when Tracey asked if I shut all the birds away last night as the little grey hen was out first thing. In fact she had been outside of the hen house for the last three mornings. There was only one explanation.
VTOL chicken. She manages to get 8 feet off the ground and perch in the only branch that overhangs the run. In all honesty its probably safer there than in the hen house, and at 23.00 hrs I wasn't about to try and re-educate her.
So there she stayed. Until 06.00 when she was first to the corn.
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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

How long?

I was asked today how we fitted so much into our lives here at Rock HQ, well one of the secrets of success is long days, very long days, like today which started at 06.00 and has nearly finished now at 22.34 with only the dogs to have supper and the birds to be shut away. This, all being well, means that there will be nearly seven hours before the alarm lets us know that we have to start again. And a lot got done again today so the minor irritation I have with the builder of the cottage has not upset me too much. You might remember that I recently built a set of widow boxes and like any bodger I didn't measure, if it fitted the downstairs window it would fit the upstairs ones. A quick check of the brickwork showed that my theory was correct, the same number of bricks across in both the downstairs and upstairs windows. Soon three lovely window boxes were ready for action and today I manfully struggled with the full of dirt and flowers box up the narrow stairs and into the bathroom where I found much to my annoyance that the bathroom window is in fact six inches narrower than the upstairs bedroom window. How we laughed.
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Monday, 28 June 2010

Waste of space

The small freezer in the utility room has been removed to the workshop where it sits stuffed with a years supply of sausages, well say a year, normal consumption rates don't apply when they taste as good as ours, so perhaps six weeks worth. The two large hams in the brine bath were given the once over today, they look good, smell of apples and I thought it best to change the water as they have another 30 or so days curing to go. Meanwhile the waste of space in the utility has been put to good use by Cosmo and Earl, a very cosy bed just right for our lazy cats.
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Sunday, 27 June 2010

How high?

My beautiful and oh so patient wife Tracey told me to take it easy today, it being a very hot day and me wanting to take on the ever increasing green menace with the mk2 strimmer. Now the strimmer is old, and excellent for strimming the usual garden. Taking on acres of bracken its a bit out of its depth. The poor thing dreams of gently trimming the edges of lawns, getting up close to larch lap fencing would be a joy for it, and levelling the soft green grass under rose bushes would have it in raptures. Here its pitted in a life or death struggle with brambles, rock, vertical slopes, thistles, foxgloves, nettles, gorse bushes and an endless supply of Bracken. Each year it threatens to quit, each year its gently persuaded to comply with promises of lush pastures to frolic in if only the Bracken could be eliminated.
This week it seemed it would finally give up. I was at the far end of the Cauldron, surrounded on all sides by six foot high stems, we were desperately seeking a way back to the path, the strimmer creating a vortex of green slushy bits around me when it spluttered and stalled. Before the plants could rally and launch a counter attack I started the stricken strimmer again but in doing so the pull cord broke off. I nursed the machine back to the cottage knowing that this time if it stopped that was it.
A few days passed.
I looked at new strimmers.
The money tree shrivelled at the thought, and anyway its only a broken string so its a fixer upper. To its dismay I took it apart. I dropped most of its bits on the floor. The finely machined smooth bored bits like the carburettor I dropped carefully in the sand. My expert toolkit of a broken pair of scissors and a drill managed to get right into the heart of the machine. I found the broken string and re routed it. I put it back together. I took it apart again and this time wound the string up tight before I put it back together.
I pulled the short string, it refused to start. Now this strimmer has had major surgery before and the switches and accelerator don't work, it is in fact a motor on a pole held together with yellow gaffa tape. The electrics melted last year but a quick fix with lawn mower cable and sticky tape sorted that one.
Not starting was a problem. I left it overnight and hoped the fixit fairies would put the large spring back I found on the floor, perhaps it was a vital bit, who knows?
First thing in the morning I pulled the string. It started. Great!
Helmet and armour on off I go to do battle, yes I will take it easy.
Now as I cleared acre after acre a slight defect arose.
Anyone ever played those drinking games where you get an electric shock?
For some reason the strimmer went live, and as I was sweating and my hand became wet the jolting from the 12volts in the handle at first was a tad annoying, them became a trifle painful, eventually becoming a man test. I was not going to be beaten. So I carried on, fighting the live strimmer and the green stuff.
The picture above illustrates two things.
Firstly that the tide is turning, the Bracken is being beaten back from the perimeter.
The second is that it marks the spot where I was launched skywards in the style of a Harrier jump jet, not by an electric shock, no, much worse than that. After hours of toiling up and down the bonsai mountain fighting plant and machine I eventually got back on the track and was heading home for a cold one.
I had earned it.
Massively so.
I was almost delirious, lost in my own world of electric shocks, broken leaves and a howling two stroke.
So lost was I that I failed to hear Stable Sprite sneak up on me in his gleaming white chariot, getting close enough to touch me. To alert me of his presence he activated the air horn. Luckily for me the strimmer's power output was sufficient to bump start my stopped heart and how we laughed when I landed. Still, I cannot complain, he magically lifted the oak and granite kitchen unit out of Rene for us, he likes to help. A special thank you goes to our friends down under, see the link on the margin and go and visit their smallholding in Adelaide. Simon and Kathy spent far too much of their very precious time repairing the TFTR site, so if it looks better than it did before its down to them being the fixit fairies. Many thanks you two.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Gladiators! To the arena!

I was teasing Stable Sprite the other day over his inability to turn his old boar into sausage. He has already replaced him and sent his old boar on "holiday". His new prize pedigree piggies scoff caviar and truffles coated in chocolate, they bathe in milk while his old, dependable but ultimately replaceable porker is languishing in some forgotten field that is forever England. Perhaps never to return if the "holiday camp" guards can be persuaded to keep him.
So there I was having a go at Stable Sprites softness when he hit the my Achilles heel, Rene, our beloved Rx4 who has at least 101 uses and has been an intrinsic part of Rock HQ projects since I came off drugs and started driving again. The drugs were prescribed to alleviate the soreness of a nearly amputated left arm, but that's another story, see archive, anyway Stable Sprite pointed out I could hardly have a go for him not wanting to bar b que his old porker when I have feelings for the Renault.
Since we had Rene he has been used as a pig transporter, cat house, goat house, goat transport, feed lorry, waste skip, gate straightener, ambulance, off road taxi, meals on wheels, bale carrier, people carrier, furniture lorry, water bowser, chicken shack, snowplough, tow truck, gate and festival vantage point to name a few. He has carried out this multitude of tasks without comment or complaint. Ok his exhaust has fell off three times and the water pump gave out but he has been oft abused and much put upon and 99.99% of the time he has delivered the goods. So to even contemplate getting rid of him seems like betrayal of a close friend.
Hushed conversations have taken place here at Rock HQ just in case he was listening, but today he met his Nemesis, a Honda CRV.
The ride in the Honda was like comparing a jet fighter to the dodgems, it was unbelievably quiet, quick, did not induce sea sickness in corners and the air conditioning worked. It also runs on LPG which means 2x the miles for the same dollar as Rene, who if he tows anything needs to be followed by a private fuel tanker. The ground clearance is better, the body work is all in the right places and not threatening to fall off and it has a full service history whereas Rene's last service was back in ancient history. The wheel on the back doesn't impede the hitching and unhitching of the trailer, the back door window hinges up, just like Rene's ( a major selling point as far as Rene was concerned) all in all the yet to be named Honda beats Rene all the way to the fuel pump. Rene's only saving grace was that his seats all come out giving a huge space (currently maxed out with second hand furniture) and he has fog lights. But he's lovely and as we drove away from our Honda encounter we contemplated the future without our mental Rx4. Like Stable Sprite and his out of date boar, its the right thing to do to let it go, but a massive decision, life without our multifaceted Rx4 is almost unthinkable. LPG is the way forward for Rock HQ, but to do it we have to get rid of an old friend, and thats not going to be easy.
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Friday, 25 June 2010

Still alive!

Geisha the Anglo Nubian Goat puts a lot of effort into sleeping, it wears her out. Another case of MLS at Rock HQ.


Regular guests might have noticed a few bits missing from these pages, this is because our technowiz Sara has revamped her page, see mountainbikegirl in the margin, and in doing so forgot the arcane links to our pages where photos and banners were intrinsically linked. Normal service will be resumed when she sobers up enough to answer the phone.


The Dolyhir Bernese Mountain Dog site (see margin) was almost finished today by a technowizard called Rob, so by this time next week it will be "live" and fans of the best dogs in the world will have pages and pages of Berners to look at. Work will then begin in earnest on the new Tales from the Rock site.


Driving today across the mountain a blur of movement on my right, out of the drivers side door I was amazed to see a Red Kite. Flying. Flying about five feet off the road surface, parallel to me and matching my speed. For a millisecond we were eye to eye before it peeled off right over the gorse and bracken.

Signs and portents.

Five minutes peace

A quiet sit down in the garden Rock HQ style.
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Thursday, 24 June 2010

Britisher Pig Dog!

Stable Sprites obsession with pork is evident if you ever visit his magic kingdom. Numerous versions wander his land finding choice morsels.

This may look like Boris risking life and limb with the mobile sausages, but it is in fact Blitz, their Choc Lab's accidental puppy who popped out 9 weeks after a chance encounter with an itinerant Collie who promised her the world and legged it over the hills and as far away as his paws could carry him once she succumbed to his advances and later mentioned the dreaded "C" word, commitment. Thus, Minstrel became another sad statistic, a single parent, forced to send her first born out to fend for itself, hence we find Blitz stealing from the pigs.

What of Boris, I hear you cry, well if all goes to plan he is currently living with a new family and getting on really well with their old dog and cat. Fingers crossed he behaves himself and they can give him a forever home.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

But its a dry heat!

Maybe it was the heat, or that I was tired and feeling tetchy, perhaps it was one horse fly bite too many that needed soothing, or maybe I did it just because I could do it now as there are no fish, but as I walked back to Rock HQ, a faithful canine entourage around my heels I had an overwhelming urge that could not be resisted. The dogs watched patiently as I carefully climbed into the largest of the water tanks, almost brimful of ice cold stream water.
Once I got over the you are about to die from heart failure feelings and my breathing returned to a relatively normal state I almost floated and smiled at the six Bernese Mountain Dogs heads peeping over the sides as I bobbed around in 300 or so gallons of water thinking how lucky I am.
A long time ago, in another life I almost managed to kill myself in a small glacial pool, another boiling hot day climbing in the alps, a small patch of open blue ice melt water beckoned so I dutifully immersed myself in the nearly freezing water. The ice was beautiful, the colours amazing and I held my breath to look under it, in reality it could only have been seconds, my memory plays it forever. I surfaced and now the distance from the ice wall to the bank, which was only about 8 feet suddenly seemed like 80 as the cold suddenly began to have an effect. I could hardly move. I managed to get back to the shallow side and climbed out, rather like one of those walruses on the beach in a wildlife documentary. The sun temporarily went in as Matt my climbing buddy stood over me and said something like I told you so but with a few F words for punctuation. Lesson learned.
Today was drama free, except for Spotty taking off with my boot, but as this was in preference to chewing the inlet water pipe I really couldn't complain. As I dripped my way back to the front door I knew my impromptu dip was worth it, I felt good, I felt awake, but most of all it was worth it for the "I don't believe you sometimes" look from my beautiful and oh so patient wife.
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Speed eating competition

Three of the best speed eaters compete for the crown.
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Work in progress

Slowly slowly, but making progress.
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Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Its my breakfast now!

William is looking particularly splendid at the moment. He has lost his shaggy winter coat and looks for all the world a shiny thoroughbred rather than a 3/4 Welsh Cob.
He still isn't the sharpest tool in the box and was dawdling over breakfast, pausing for breath was all it took to allow Fern a free shot, who dived in head first and much to William's disgust, polished off the lot. William did stamp the floor in frustration but it takes more than a stroppy pony to put Fern off her food.
Like a locust she moved on leaving William to grovel in the dirt for scraps.
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Monday, 21 June 2010

My new friends

Geisha and our Ryelands brought some friends back for dinner. It took some sorting out but as ours are trained they worked their way through the crowd. The rest scarpered wondering why these strange sheep were so keen to get up close to the man, the goat and the dogs. A bucket of feed was the answer.

Only a thought away

Fathers day. Yesterday I was lucky enough to talk to my Dad and thanked him. Tracey and I also went to see Derricks memorial tree, a whole year has flown by since that sad day, and ever he is only a thought away. Today is the actual anniversary and he has arranged a particularly spectacular sunset to remind us.
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Sunday, 20 June 2010

On the level, that sinking feeling

The fish farm project moved on a stage further today, then took a massive leap back, but undeterred we shall overcome obstacles caused by my ineptitude. The 350 gallon tank, which previously had been a massive disappointment as a duck pond, before that a water tank and before that a receptacle for strawberry jam was put in a good spot, a relatively flat spot, as the level shows, close enough level anyway.
The two 250 gallon tanks, previous use orange juice containers, were then put in place and levels found, all under the careful inspection of Auntie Montana and Chester who were no help whatsoever other than an encouraging wet nose shoved in my ear when least I was least expecting it. The tops of the 250s are to be removed and the fittings for the pipe work cut in at strategic points. This did not happen today for a variety of reasons, one being that the current holes in tank 1 are all 20mm, and yes, all the fittings I bought are 25mm. Given that the calculated flow meant that through the 25mm pipe the water in four tanks (yes only 3 are there but ones a stealth tank, its underground and as the ground is like concrete it can stay there for a while) meant that the water would change twice every 24 hours, the actual flow when connected meant that the water would change completely every two hours. So maybe a 20mm pipe and higher pressure would be good. Jury is out for a day or so.

The tanks were then filled to test for leaks, none, good times, other than from where they should leak, the aforementioned holes, and the 350 tank filled in half an hour, but as it did a problem emerged. I put the tank on a base of soft haylege just in case any unseen spiky bit chose to ruin the party by puncturing the base. This worked well, it cushioned it as intended, but it provided substantially less cushioning one side and a definite tilt appeared meaning that when full the water was six inches lower at the back. This will soon be solved by emptying and repacking the base, meantime in case the fish arrive early they can be stored there while I get the other two sorted. Another plus is that now we know what we are looking for we have found a big fish supplier who has a spare 1000 gallon tank. Negotiations are ongoing, delivery is the sticking point.
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101 uses for an Rx4

32(a) Sun screen
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Saturday, 19 June 2010

Messing about in the water

I said I was calculating flow rates, checking year long water supply, optimal routes for pipework and making sure the water pressure was constant. Tracey said I was building dams, making mud pies and annoying the dogs with jets of water. Either way the stable and garden water tank now has a constant supply, the overflow running to the garden pond, several taps along the 150 metre length will help with bucket filling. There was one sense of humour failure when the pipe laid was eighteen inches short to attach to the main supply pipe from the stream, soon solved but one of those arrrgghhh typical moments. The water pipe from the bore hole pump to the horse up the slopes of the Bonsai Mountain will now make filling their drinking trough a simple one person job with just a tap turned on, another off and switch thrown and two minutes later several days supply awaits them. The taps and switch are still thirty metres apart and top and bottom of a nasty slope but its better than carrying buckets. After several observations we now know that the water in the tanks will change completely twice every 24 hours and as the sink hole is placed in the main flow of the stream its almost certain never to run dry. When and if it does a backup system from the well will be rigged up, as will a recycle option.
All that remains is to level the base area for the fish tanks, link them up and plug them in. Simple.
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If only they could talk...

Sometimes, really, sometimes, just for a few minutes, if only they could talk. That way we might get to the bottom of the mystery of how Laverne, the pig, got to be in the same pen as Ambrose the goat and Hetty the cow. Shirley, the other pig, Laverne's best mate, was the right side of the fence this morning, but Laverne was well and truly the wrong side of the breakfast trough. No holes in fencing, no tunnels under gate, she's too fat to get through the bars of the gates and even when coaxed with a yummy muesli mix she still squealed in frustration and ran around the pen for inspiration. No matter how hard she tried she could not get the right side of the pen. A sequence of gate opening, running up and down the lane and a lesson in swearing and she was back where she should be, nose in the feed while I was left to ponder the how did that happen.
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Friday, 18 June 2010

Fish Tanks and LPG

Work on the fish farm project continues at a frantic pace. Having scoured the classified ads and ebay for water tanks and finding that anything suitable was hundreds of miles away, or hundreds of pounds, usually both we were resigned to a huge delay while the money tree was tended more carefully.
The The Oracle came to the rescue with news that behind his barn was a 300 gallon tank, like the two we already had, and then when it came to paying for it he came up with a price that was so good it meant that there were funds left to buy the pipes and connectors. A quick trip into town and our local farm store where we checked out the supply of LPG, there was lots, so the plan to convert to LPG vehicles gathers pace. As I had saved so much buying the water tank, and was then totally surprised how cheap blue 25mm pipe was (I got 100metres for the anticipated cost of 25) I got carried away when confronted by an infinite selection of T connectors, joining bits, right angles and taps. Like a kid in a sweet shop I just kept picking more and more and in the end the cheap pipe at £44 suddenly rang through the til as a massive £167 plus vat with all the fiddly bits added on.
This stung the pocket and took us right back to square one with the whole budget spent. We now had the capacity and technical doings to move 1200 gallons of water but no cash for fish.
Until next month.
Still I had a massive project ahead and lots of endless enthusiasm to compensate for lack of ability. Rene as ever came to our aid and moved the tank from The Oracle's yard to our perch on the bonsai mountain. Rene's help at Rock HQ is making me feel really guilty as we are plotting his replacement, its like betrayal, I find it hard to look him in the headlights, poor lad.
Torrential rain then put stop to further work so I caught up on admin. Better check with the fisheries police that I am not breaking the laws, ominous warnings on the Internet about them coming round and interviewing the fish to see if you were looking after them. Lost in the world of fish protection I decide to phone them, well as its a rainy Friday afternoon they must have nothing better to do than talk to an idiot. A bored secretary type answered the phone and identified herself as a fish protection officer. " Can we talk about fish?"
"Yes," you could almost hear the stifled yawn, "What sort?"
"Trout" a long pause while she checked her nail varnish,
"Where are they?"
" No idea, but when I get some do I need a licence?"
"How many acres of water do you have?"
" Acres?" starting to feel inadequate, my 1200 gallons wont impress her.
" Yes, how big is the lake?"
"8 feet across, max" I stammered, audible sigh,
"A pond"
"Sort of"
"Will the public have access and will they be able to fish?"

"No.I just want to grow some fish on to eat"
" No you don't need a licence" she snorted. The phone went down as I heard the words time waster and straight jacket.
Sorted, no paperwork, no licence, no fees.
A curious email arrived.
Do you want fish eggs or fish?
Before a reply could be sent another arrived, cant get eggs but I can send fish, when do you want them?
ASAP was the only reply.
So, thanks to the generosity of Steve and Jo from the Isle of Man the fish farm is about to be stocked. And Steve doesn't even like fish!
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Pixies are real!

Spotted on the roof of Rock HQ, a wee Stable Sprite dancing in clogs
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Thursday, 17 June 2010

Its my turn Dave!

Misty got the hump over the number of pictures for Trevor on the blog, so here are a few to even the balance and stop her biting me.
29 inches high, 100% cute!
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