Sunday, 31 October 2010

Making friends

Despite feeling like death on two legs I manned up and set about tasks in hand on the smallholding today. The critters were not concerned that I had a severe case of man flu, and as Tracey was now suffering what is known as a slight head cold, it soon became clear that my access to unlimited tea, biscuits and sympathy had come to a premature end. As the majority of jobs that were essential involved freezing cold water, even colder mud and power tools it should come as no surprise that after several hours working in seasonal showers my man flu has developed into double pneumonia and several self inflicted wounds and it is only thanks to the invigorating effects of single malt whiskey that I am still able to function at any reasonable level.
An interesting few minutes were passed chatting to a member of the militia on his quad bike, the whys and wherefores of scrub land burning were discussed. Pros and cons were evaluated and it seems that the best way of clearing the stifling gorse bushes from the hill is several gallons of diesel and a lot of hope. Considering that the effects of the last big conflagration some four years ago are still visible on the hill I think perhaps caution is the best option and some gentle pruning is called for rather than resorting to flamethrowers. The Militia man was searching for his sheep. The handsome chap above has some idea of where some of them are the wild parties they have been having.
When I delivered Mad Keith's dinner he was keen to tell me that Crispen, above, had been rounding up ladies, and graphically painted a picture of how our short legged ram, faced (if that's possible) with the rear of a taller lady sheep, positioned himself on the uphill side to gain access, and in the words of the hermit, "He might have trouble reaching but he keeps the pace well". I left him chuckling to himself and pondering the look on the militia face when little Crispens pop out all over the hill in the spring.
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Saturday, 30 October 2010

Not in front of the pigs!

Caught on camera, yours truly plotting the demise of Laverne and Shirley.

Nothing got done today, except for the usual feed, clean, exercise routine as I have succumbed to man flu, the main symptom being standing round looking at jobs that need doing and not being able to do them for reasons other than the usual outbreak of incompetence. No amount of cold remedy has allowed me to do anything other than feel miserable. So confined to barracks I was forced to sit in front of the wood burner and drink hot toddy. Much better than paracetamol!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Little Big Horn

Today was the day we disarmed Hetty our ever so friendly and not at all mental Dexter cow. She started the day well, dutifully following the bucket up the lane, pausing only to be mocked by the pigs, a slight detour to play magic roundabout with Vic as the centre of axis until she got bored and meekly walked into the stable, had a munch on her breakfast cereals and waited for the vet.

Vet came and even though Hetty is very friendly she had to be sedated for what was to follow. Being an adult her horns would have to be sawn off under local anesthetic and the nice lady vet assembled a variety of medieval torture implements and a 5kg gas bottle for the task about to be in hand. Hetty being a docile sorts objected to having a hypodermic the thickness of my little finger stuck in her rump steak section (she might be pet status but often a butcher chart superimposes itself on her from my subconscious) and really objected to the cold sedative as it entered her system.

The next hour or so, for her, passed as a blur, for the vet and I it was an exercise in avoiding being crushed, impaled or decorated with her previous dinners as various orifices relaxed. Hetty was tenacious in her intent to stay awake, even with an extra dose of sleeping juice she refused to go down quietly. Eventually she succumbed to the combined effects of the injections and yours truly wrestling her, by her horns, to a position where the vet could perform the first task, the pedicure. Cows feet need trimming. Cows are not partial to this and so are usually contained in a steel crate which unceremoniously rolls cow over, offending lengths of hoof are then removed with sharp implements, cow is reunited with Terra Firma and away she goes. As our budget only stretches to borrowing a sharp knife, the now sleeping cow is taken advantage of and her feet are trimmed. As it was Hetty's feet were in good nick so minimal effort was required.

But it took time. And Hetty used this time to gather her senses and with super bovine effort shrugged off the medication, and me, and with regained mobility prevented further removal of appendages. So she still has her horns. The vet will return with reinforcements and the battle of Little Big Horn will be re-enacted later next month.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Its a man thing

The boys are going through changes as winter approaches. For Apollo the changes are going to be quite dramatic as now the flies have gone he is going to be gelded. This is not an operation I am looking forward to, and thankfully, the poor lad wont know whats hit him until he wakes up and finds two very precious items missing.
Trevor's having a real bad hair month with his fringe and mane so tangled with Teasels that his fringe sticks up like a rhino horn. They wont brush out and it might be that Apollos nads are not the only thing for the chop.

Meanwhile Apollo is winning one race. The lets grow a moustache competition happens every winter, quite why they do this I don't know, perhaps its something to do with keeping their top lips warm while grazing on frozen ground.

Whatever it is, Apollo is sporting the finest tache of the equine clan. Williams effort is feeble in comparison.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Autumn Glow

This is a great place to live any time of the year.
But the autumn colours really do make it special.
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Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Follow me!

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. Ferny Fern Fern from Ferntown is a fan of George Bernard Shaw.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Open wide!

Hetty and Shirley making a meal of the apple harvest.

Today was freezing, really cold, apparently last night was the coldest 24/25th October on record. All day the frost stayed white in patches on the hill and by evening the ice was still on the puddles. Well all the puddles that the Berners and I had missed. We have decided to be prepared this winter and stock up on feed, and as there are not enough jobs to do a new one has been added to the list that will finally put to good use the step to nowhere, its going to be the base of the new feed bins.
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Sunday, 24 October 2010

Are friends electric?

It doesn't take a genius to spot the slight error in laying the pipework from the stream to the black tank that supplies the animals. This job has been on the to do list since last autumn when the tanks were moved and the trees felled. In fits and starts one tank was placed back where it came from, several different schemes were tried to fill it, one being the pump in the well. First pump was too weak, second was just the job but the cable was severed on numerous occasions by lorries, tractors, dogs, sheep and bored goats. Given the cost of armoured cable any plan to permanently wire the well into the mains was rejected and yesterday the age old method of water flowing downhill was reinstated as the only reliable way of providing water to the critters and garden. The slight trickle of water flowing along the 20mm pipe amounts to 500 gallons a day available for collection. This is a mere fraction compared to the flow that supplies the fish tanks. The final stage involved laying a new piece of pipe between the fences, a job that would have been easier if a moron hadn't have been in charge. Sensing there may be a slight problem closing the gate the pipes were disconnected, rerouted and all was well.
So it was with some sense of trepidation that my beautiful and oh so patient wife held a torch for me today as I took on another monster job on the jobs list, putting up electric lights in the Berner annex. This should be a simple task, even for a moron. Knowing the dangers of self combustion associated with all things electrical I took the precaution of buying new wire, new lights and even a new screwdriver to replace the hammer I would normally use. The dining table served as our operations room. I inspected the newly purchased light, noting that you had to drill a hole in it for the wires to go in, not a problem. Then I saw you had to drill further holes to secure it to the ceiling or wall. When I found you needed hands the size of a Hamster and a screwdriver borrowed from a Smurf to be able to get behind the light fitting to be able to attach the wires alongside a degree in Chinese to read the instructions I suddenly felt I was in for a long afternoon.
A reflective cup of tea led to a search of the hoarders drawers. I am a first class hoarder, cannot bear to throw anything away on the just in case principle. At the bottom of the biggest drawer, right at the back, were two light fittings. Ha! The do it yourself lights were put back on the shelf and the nice and easy light fittings were pressed into service. Now, when the Berner annex was assembled we knocked into an area of the cottage commonly referred to as the black hole, on account no natural light has ever made its way there. The wiring for the lights was kept intact, as was the switch gear. All yours truly had to do was to wire the new light fitting onto the end of the original wire, put a new piece of wire along the ceiling to a second light fitting, flick the switch and tah dah! Light where there was darkness. Except there wasn't.
Once the mains circuit was reactivated and everything else came back to life, the light bulbs in the Berner annex refused to glow. Even with yours truly flicking the switch like a demented rat in a Skinnarian conditioning experiment failed to give the slightest glimmer of hope. But I pressed on.
By now I was having a serious sense of humour failure, not helped by having to climb onto Mr Whirlpool the freezer every time I wanted to turn the mains electric on or off. Tracey stood patiently holding the torch shedding light on my antics. She did ask helpful questions like "Where does this wire go?" pointing to one the opposite of the door whilst I demonstrated yet again the ineffectiveness of my work, taking a switch apart, quite what for I really don't know, an Orangutan could have fell out of it and I would have thought that normal. So as I looked at the mass of wires hoping to see a big label and arrow saying "This is the problem" Tracey's "Are you sure that's the right switch?" comments were not considered helpful.
Standing on the freezer for the fifth time to turn on the electric yet again to see if my fiddling had made any difference at all, Tracey heaved a sigh, turned the torch off, reached around the doorway and flicked a switch the other side of the frame. The lights came on. She smiled, the smile of victory and made me a cup of tea while I put the wrong switch back together again.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Harvest Festival

Apples are not the only free food lying around this time of year.
Hetty, Laverne and Shirley had a top treat today.
Found lying on the road, dropped from an overloaded trailer, a selection of nice juicy mangols, or sugar beets.
Whatever they were, they were free, made a nice change for the critters and we beat Stable Sprite to them as they were on his lane.
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Friday, 22 October 2010

Back in the saddle again!

Crispen seems to have got over his ordeal. While we were collecting Sloes for the gin fest he was collecting ladies!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Hanging around

We should know by now, any change in one of our animals behaviour, any deviance from the norm is an inevitable sign of something being wrong. And today something was horribly wrong but not spotted until it was almost too late. Crispen is our Ryeland Ram, a lovely lad, quiet, calm, placid and super dad, fathering dozens of potential lamb chops for us and another smallholder who borrowed him when her ladies needed seeing to. He is a common sight in the yard, or on the doorstep, where he sits and waits, patiently, for a passing bucket when suddenly he is galvanised into action. Or he might be with his harem, making sure they are safe, their every desire attended to in the process. Well for the last two days he has been conspicuous by his absence. Its hard to misplace a hundred kilogramme ram, but ours was gone without trace.
Thinking he might be up on the bonsai mountain in search of other ladies we were not too concerned day one. Day two were were worried enough to call for him in the cauldron, look for him up by Mad Keith's bone pile and generally keep an eye out for him but to no avail. Then last night when the Berners were let out for the last before bedtime wees and poohs they all shot off up the narrow gully by the side of the cliff barking like only seven Bernese Mountain Dogs can. Eventually they were persuaded back, a combination of threats and promises of extra dog biscuits broke whatever spell they were under that had caused them to venture into the realms of darkness. Now, with hind sight they were doing a Bernese version of Lassie, it was their way of saying come quick somethings up. But they were ignored.

So this morning at first light I set off down the lane, still no Crispen, I pondered a journey around to sheep skull lane but crossed that idea off as he had only been gone a short while, this was only day three. So jobs were done, animals were tended to, sheep were called, told to look for their Patriarch and life generally carried on as normal until the geese were shut away. Up on the cliff a familiar shape was spotted. Hanging in the wire of a broken fence under a tree on the rocks at the base of the cliff was our Ram. Now this was a real emergency so no time to get the camera, not even enough time to get proper rescue gear, the poor lad had fallen landed, bounced, rolled into the fence, fell over the edge and was literally hanging around waiting for salvation. With a broken pair of cheap pliers, a lot of effort an a huge amount of luck he was cut free and allowed to fall the last four feet, thankfully with no injury other than hurt pride and pins and needles in his legs. He stood patiently while I went and fetched the camera, posing for a few pics, the long shot showing the tree on the cliff where he had tried to hang himself, the mid shot of base of the cliff and the close up of the wire hammock where he left a mass of his wool. Typical of a Ryeland he was non plussed by the drama, as he rolled down the bank he began eating. He is currently tucked up in the back stable with a selection of treats, a bucket of water and a book on climbing self rescue techniques.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Put the tin hat on it

Misty having delusions of grandeur and having a medieval warhorse moment tries some home made barding. Epic fail. No eye holes.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

An apple a day

Despite the best efforts of the goats, who went on to rehab, the fruit trees have made a miraculous recovery. Some were so devoid of bark that I considered cutting them down to ground level but what with a combination of laziness and other more interesting things to do, like watch the fish, I decided that the best course of action should be to adopt a wait and see strategy. So we waited, and were very surprised to see buds in the springtime, then leaves and blossom, and now branches laden with ripe fruit. Admittedly the lower branches are somewhat bare, mainly due to the attention f Ferny Fern Fern from Ferntown and her motley crew, but the upper branches of all the trees are hardly coping with the weight of apples. Even this small tree, the goat vandalism plain to see on the thin trunk has given a few weeks worth of juicy fruits.
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Monday, 18 October 2010

One small step for man...

Misty about to go over the edge!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Think Harder!

Ferny Fern Fern from Ferntowns leadership took a serious knock when she led her little flockers into a gate that wasn't there.
Clearly it was there, as it was a serious impediment to progress, but yesterday it wasn't, so technically she was right by thinking this gate wasn't there when she led her merry band down the Bonsai Mountain, behind the reservoir tank, under the fence behind the stable next to the big black water tank that used to hold orange juice, down the slope under the pipe and.... into the gate that wasn't there, which now was as a result of a maniac cow insisting on trying to jump over the stable. The access to the launch pad denied by strategically placing a spare gate in her path.

This confused them for while and they tried to imagine it not being there, as life without the gate was so much easier, but that didn't work so they had to resort to bleating pitifully for help until yours truly gave up laughing at them whilst photographing their plight and moved the gate allowing Ferny Fern Fern from Ferntown to muster up the last of her dignity and lead the way to the trough. William looked on hoping his gate would suddenly disappear allowing unfettered access to the goodies in the trough but he was to be disappointed. Some gates are meant to be.


Chopping logs is thirsty work, but your ginger beer is not safe with Geisha around!A.N.D.Q!
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Saturday, 16 October 2010

The passage of time

We love living here, you might have guessed, but in case you were wondering, we do, we feel blessed, no matter what happens life here at Rock HQ is a joy. I will never tire of the views, the people and the mad antics of our animals. Today marks our 4th year here, 16/10/06 we moved here with two grown up kids, a bucket of fish, a handful of dogs, masses of enthusiasm and little idea. We swapped our mod cons all the foreign holidays you can eat lifestyle for one of mud, mayhem and animal magic. We have survived fire, flood, rockfall, weather, a near fatal accident, disability, deaths in the family and a few dramas in the workplace. But each day we have appreciated life here, grown slightly more competent at managing the place and thrown ourselves into ever more complex projects.
So it was a fantastic surprise today to receive this in an email, a picture of Rock HQ in 1985, sent by Lin who used to live here, thats her in the upstairs window. She also sent us a few snippets of info of life here with no electricity, an outside toilet and an even more unreliable water supply than the one we have now. She also kept animals, including goats (why?) and a donkey! So we hope to hear more about life here from the previous occupants and share their tales.
Tales from the Rock, really is a never ending story!
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If you will stick your head in a bucket here at Rock HQ, don't be surprised if the rest of the gang want to have a look.

We shall overcome!

For a while now our project behind the green door in our local town has been moving forward. Various setbacks were overcome, nothing major, just inconvenient. Like the basement flooding in all the rain because of a cracked drain in the road.
Finally things were gathering pace, the decorating complete, inside days ago, outside only today, the carpets have been laid, the phones installed, furniture assembled and stationary delivered.All that remained was to get the sign over the door and have a very famous person attend and make some witty remarks to journalists on the grand opening day.
And then this happened last night. The pictures don't tell much as we got there after the main event, but at one stage there were two fire engines, two police cars, the roads closed and even Batman was stood amongst the crowd watching as we arrived to assess the damage. Quite an event for a town where a sheep running wild in the high street is a major news item, or a tourist losing a camera keeps the boys in blue occupied for months. The drama continued until 11pm when a forensic team arrived to establish the cause of the fire. Thankfully no one was hurt, and whatever the cause the damage to our property is minimal so it is just a minor setback. We shall overcome!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Its a saga now.....

How to dehorn a Dexter, first separate your cow from her friends, ear defenders recommended!

Then persuade her that her chosen path is not correct and the path to enlightenment lies elsewhere!

Next you have to coax her down from the slopes of goatanamo without swearing!

Smile as she wrecks the place during the decent, remember its not her fault she's a Dexter and don't panic at the thought of 250 gallons of water cascading down the yard. . Spend best part of day repeating various elements of this routine. Then remember an old tale you read about how Tigers were lured into traps with a live goat. Copy this method exactly and feel smug at the result as foolish Dexter falls for such a simple ploy.

Try not to cry when the vet phones up and apologises that he will not be able to come out and play today as a neighbours Llama feels anxious as it has a tangle in its wool so needs urgent medical attention. Release goat and Dexter and prepare for round 2.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Winter cut

Our two miniature and highly motivated lawn mowers are making the final cut on the "lawn" before winter sets in.
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Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Moving on and moving in

Timing, the secret of good smallholding. Our new piglets are ready in three weeks, therefore we have to move on Laverne and Shirley to Mr Whirlpool before this, otherwise, when Guinevere and Morgana2 arrive the big pigs will be stuck here for another three weeks as we will be locked down, no stock allowed off site, a quarantine period to make sure no infectious diseases are brought on or sent off. Keeping Laverne and Shirley another 6 weeks would take them into Christmas and the abattoir is full that month, Christmas orders and butchers working overtime, so smallholders with fussy small orders are not welcome. So the dates set, Laverne and Shirley will join the food chain 16th November, giving us just enough time to clean the pen out ready for our two new pigs who we hope will do a star trek (live long and prosper) at Rock HQ.
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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Panic stations!

Usually pigs are quite intelligent. As so often here, theres always one to try and buck the trend. Laverne got herself the wrong side of breakfast and could not be persuaded to go back through the euphemistic barn and join Hetty Dexter and Shirley at the breakfast table.
Eventually the noise became unbearable, a pig deprived of its meal will let you know how upset it is by emitting a sound so powerful it makes your heart stop and ears bleed. To end every ones torment she was let out of the cow pen and after an unsuccessful lunge through the fence she followed directions to the pig pen gate where she was able to get to the food before Shirley finished the lot and I bled to death.
Hetty took it all in her stride and kept her head down eating and thinking how quiet it had suddenly become.
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