Monday, 31 January 2011

Bad Bunny

It might look cute but this bad bunny caused heaps of trouble today. Waiting until the hutch door was open the pocket sized pest leapt for freedom, quickly followed by its siblings, and began the lets see who can be the most difficult to catch baby rodent competition which was quickly followed by who could squeal the loudest competition as each long eared troublemaker voiced its unhappiness at being returned to the slammer. Mum watched on with mild disinterest and continued sucking on a carrot totally failing to take the parental role and instill a bit of discipline in her unruly offspring. Eventually after much stamping around, diving tackles and failed lunges all were rounded up safely, order was restored, piece reigned and predators watching stopped dribbling in anticipation, sadly packed away their dinner plates and set off looking for less bothersome prey.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

From all angles

This strange sheep belonging to the militia caused quite a stir at Rock HQ. Firstly she tried to jump into the pen with our Ryelands when she was caught having a free breakfast from the ring feeder. Not used to big dogs obviously she took cover by me stamping her foot to warn the dogs that if they got any closer she would Bah, or stamp again (sheep lack weaponry) Unfortunately she got it form all sides as Ambrose, true to form for a goat, tried to eat her wool, and ear. Feeling oppressed she took the only option available to her, which was not caught on camera, if it was it would have been a money winner video for you've been framed, but as I switched the camera off ,Reuben, our youngest Berner came to my side. The sheep panicked and in a full on charge hit him square in the chest knocking him and me over. The camera, kindly lent by a camera shop despite my "what if I drop it down the toilet or something" line, span out of my hand and some how bounced fifteen feet down the lane without damage. Its still pink, I think the camera shop assistants had a warped sense of humour, but functional.

Its been all change here, Lilly the rescue dog was sent to a long term foster before her new owners are checked. She has to be the easiest rescue dog we have ever had, her favourite pastime was sleeping on your lap. The little black kitten was found a new home, her two friends are making themselves comfortable here for the time being. Aunty Montana our foster Berner returned to Rock HQ, this caused much excitement amongst the clan. A sad part of the day was the burial of Passion Beagle, she over looks one of her favourite trails, a good place to spend eternity.

I am trying to get ahead of the jobs before the baby is born, achieving this is about as likely as a big lottery win, but at least I am trying. The major task of the day was to chainsaw up a tree trunk and chop as much into logs as possible before blister or coronary heart failure stopped work. A task not made easy by the insolence of the big chainsaw which point blank refused to start, probably sulking as its been usurped by a smaller, shinier, orangier, easier to handle chainsaw. The little chainsaw was no match for the huge trunk so a different wood pile was attacked at the far end of the smallholding ( a wheel barrow marathon ensued) and a deal was struck with the big saw who was promised a service and new chain as long as in return it promised to cut the big trunk up next weekend.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Take off!

Finally, despite flood, fire, dirty tricks, scaffolding collapses and bad weather, the grand opening of Red Kite Fostering was held. A good turn out made light work of the buffet and quaffed the champers (not real, but as fizzy) and listened to yours truly's plan for global domination. The unveiling of our certificate of registration was the focal point and afterwards we got to spend time thanking the professionals that are supporting the project and discuss future plans with the foster carers. This project has been four years in the planning and to say I am happy with the way the day went would be a slight understatement. Euphoric would be a more apt description. There is much hard work ahead but we are all looking forward to it. Anyone in the Herfordshire, mid Wales, South Wales and West Midlands who would like to foster please click on the Red Kite Fostering link in the margin. We would love to hear from you.
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Friday, 28 January 2011

Look, no hands!

Poor Hetty, if you got an itch, you just have to scratch. She's not very good at it, cant figure out which end to shake. We had to give her a hand to end her torment!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Rescue remedy

Lilly arrived at Rock HQ today, a lovely old girl who needs TLC and a new home. She has passed all tests, cornered (no aggression) car (no vomit in the cd player) cat (didn't eat) dog(didn't run after) goat (ran away from) and huge tail wagging test. She is a bit thin but is tucking in to fishy mousse and biscuits with intent to remedy that.

Talking of lovely old girls, Passion, above, one of our very ancient beagles died in her sleep this morning. To say she lived a full life would be an understatement, her attempt to redecorate the house when covered in purple, yellow and green acrylic paint is still spoken of. Colleagues from years back recall my battles to keep her and her brother Preston out of the fridge, once they found they could open it and take out all edibles they were in beagle paradise. We moved here four years four months ago and thought it a nice place for the old beagles to see out their retirement. Somehow Passion managed to last until today, drawing her last lay out asleep on her blanket aged eighteen years and five months. Up until Monday she pottered around, tail wagging, keeping up with the pack. Tuesday she decided to stay in and seemed a bit laboured in her breathing. Yesterday she lay snoozing, occasionally wagging her tail. I said goodbye first thing, a gentle pat and a whispered goodbye, I knew today was the day, so did she.

This lucky bunch are currently seeking new homes, until then they suffer central heated cages, hot and cold running food and all the cat litter they can eat. All the rescue centres have refused to take any more cats. A sign of the times, in recession the animals suffer too.
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Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Theres always someone looking at you....

And its usually pocket sized with a mad fringe! Trevor keeping us under surveillance around the smallholding.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011


These little bundles of fur were spotted a few days ago all cozied up in a nest inside the hutch.
They seem to be doing well
all four have their eyes open
and we expect to see them bouncing round in the daylight very soon.

You never know what you will turn up in my job, and as ever where there are people suffering the animals suffer alongside. I am rapidly gaining a reputation at work for animal rescue. This week I have arranged the liberation of one dog and four cats, all in need of TLC and new homes. Luckily Glynis, who runs the animal rescue at Llandridnodd is an extremely patient sort and used to the likes of me phoning to say more creatures are on their way.
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Monday, 24 January 2011

Breakfast bar

Space is at a premium at breakfast time

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Moving house

Guenevere and Morgana got very excited today, not only because a half ton or so of feed was unloaded right under their snouts, bucket by bucket checked by the Berners.

Their excitement was not over the fact that 50 bales of quality straw arrived, mainly to provide them with a nice clean bed.

No they could not contain themselves because after all the activity of the day they were finally moved from their small pen and luxury stable to a huge almost barn and pig pen at the start of the smallholding. There they met Hetty and the Ryelands, who might sound like a 50's skiffle ensemble but who are in fact our house cow and Ryeland sheep. The transfer went almost without hitch, a slight detour round the almost 4x4 and they trotted dutifully into the pen where they totally ignored the five star accommodation and newly made beds, preferring instead to get their their snouts in the trough and engage in whats know as pigging out.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Big boys toys

I finally made it to Steve's (honest everyone here is called Steve, except the women)to get some feed for the critters. The snow and ind ice put paid to any trips out with Trixie our trailer, and as I am in the SAS (Saturdays and Sundays) category of farmers several busy Saturdays meant that the critters had to make do with feed from the Countrywide store, which price per bag was the equivalent of feeding them white truffles coated in caviar. The feed bill for December/January was five times the norm which was not making the bank manager or us cheerful long eared rodents. Need less to say getting the feed was not as straightforward as it could have been. The goats had to be evicted from the trailer, the door rehung and a new jockey wheel attached, all in minus temperatures making playing with bare metal a joy.
Finally I made it to the cavernous barn full of delicious morsels where there was enough stock piled to keep our motley crew going for decades. The very helpful Steve raced round in his amazing CAT shoving feed into piles, scooping it up, dropping it in the hopper, carrying the bag to the scales and finally dropping it into Trixie. Just to be super helpful he dropped the prong attachment off and pushed the loaded bag further into the trailer over the wheels making it a balanced load. At this point we both noted that it might have been an idea to check the handbrake was on Hazel the almost 4x4 but once she stopped rolling unmanned across the yard missing all the shiny red lorries we both breathed a sigh of relief and away I went. Unloading had to wait as the straw was due to arrive and lessons learned, it was going to go where it was going to stay until used, unlike the previous load of hay that got moved six times before it was eaten. To do this the workshop had to be sorted and after several hours we found we had enough room for the straw and a pressing need for a bonfire. The straw is now arriving tomorrow, which means among other things, the trailer needs unloading of feed, the bales need unloading off the lorry, the log pile needs replenishing, the pigs need moving, and the stables need pressure washing out and the Berners taking on another BBMC training session. Another quiet day ahead then!
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Friday, 21 January 2011

Back to the future

We are still struggling with gremlins that have infected the camera and when I was out first thing the paratroop sheep had broken out of Goatanamo establishing a bridgehead on the instant rockery (45 ton of rock fell off the cliff, a week with a jackhammer, instant rockery) and they watched with disinterest as yours truly attempted to capture their image. They might have some special jamming radar, unlikely, but the camera refused to focus or take pics without over exposing it. The clearest image is this one, the sheep are the white blobs. The camera is about to be consigned to recycling, as soon as funds are available to replace it.
Better luck with the shitlands who were frozen to the spot, the white on their coats is ice, they rushed the patio doors and had to be fended off with a dog bowl to prevent an incursion into the kitchen where they would no doubt have ransacked the fruit bowl and decorated the floor. Again.
One of the joys of living here is sharing. The blog gets 20,000 visitors a month, give or take a dozen or so, and from time to time we get visitors who have found us through the website. People who used to live here have found us, filling in gaps of the history of the place, sending us pictures and stories. Christmas brought a card from an old friend from way back with a phone number. Today said old friend, John, visited us here and took short a trip around and over Bonsai Mountain and a very long trip down memory lane. Tales were swapped of old climbing adventures, it was he who first persuaded me to go mountain walking after a long break, photos were looked at of our first trip into the wilderness, our over optimism when planning our first trip to Snowdonia, when there and back swiftly changed to just get there over two days, ice climbs remembered, extremes of weather while lost on mountains, who would we eat first, our friend Miereg or the jack russell, old friends were spoken of, army tales were laughed at, gaps in our lives filled in and the past years reviewed. Both of us are happier, older, one of us is fatter, but what remained the same was the way we were, it was like we had met last week, not a gap of six years or so and suddenly we were back to the future. He left with a few products, mainly pork based gifts and a promise to join us on the Big Black Mountain Challenge.
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We can beat that

This might look like one of our sunset pics, it is in fact the moon setting first thing this morning, even our moon sets rival Santorini!
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Thursday, 20 January 2011

Dropping in

Strange things are afoot at Goatanamo, the high security enclosure at the back of the stables and sheltered underneath the cliff. Two sheep have taken up residence, not ours, foreign sheep belonging to the militia. They arrived in the night under the cover of darkness. This might explain why the Berners went mental at 4am and woke the valley. I thought they were barking at the moon, or passing werewolves, or lecherous goats (one sexually harassed the surveyor when he arrived for a second look at the telephone poles today). Either the sheep are members of an elite parachute unit who landed off course and found them self trapped in Goatanamo, or, and this seems mote likely, they fell off the cliff, a bit like Crispen did a few months back, bounced a few times and found them self unscathed but contained in the high security enclosure. We have decided to leave them there a few days to clear the foliage, and to see who launches a rescue bid.
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Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Is she isnt she?

Misty kept us guessing last May 7th and after much waiting disappointed us by not having a foal. The situation hasn't really changed, she is nearly as round as she is tall but we still don't know if its over indulgence of calories or Trevor so we are erring on the side of caution and putting extra bedding down and keeping her close at hand. Trevor the pocket rocket has got one on him at the moment and has been put in solitary on Oak Bank after duffing up the sheep when he decided he was King of the sugar beet and wouldn't share.
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Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Up close and personal

Unlike farms, who have lots of space, smallholding is as the name suggests, small, consequently smallholders live on top of their stock. Unlike days gone by where people literally did this, the animals on the lower floor, the humans on the upper floor benefiting from the heat generated by the beasts below, smallholders tend to have their animals up close and personal.
So day to day we see them almost all day, see their moods, their games, their constant quest for calories. For some time we have been worried about our sheep looking miserable, covered in mud, stood in the rain, drenched, sodden, mucky sorry looking creatures.
If only there was something we could do for them we would say, hand feeding them chips of sugar beet, the poor little things. Perhaps we should release them from the lower pig pen and let them roam the hill, away from the mud.
Except they don't, they congregate in the yard and mug anything that remotely resembles a bucket carrier. In order to lessen the chances of my beautiful and oh so patient wife, Tracey, being harassed whilst pregnant by woolly savages they have been contained in the pig pen. Where they have got really muddy.
Its worth pointing out that they have access to the barn, where, should they choose, they can stand in the dry, out of the prevailing wind and lie on straw instead of mud. I did wonder whether it was because we live so close to them that we worry so much.
Farm animals are quite away from the farm house (usually) so they don't draw attention to themselves so much. Fast forward to a windswept walk around the bonsai mountain with the Berners. A large farm, acres of pasture, acres and acres of green for sheep to do their favourite thing in, and what are they doing?
All hundred or so are stood in one corner, in the mud, knee deep, looking sodden, wet, soaked, drenched, sorry for them self. Now I am not so worried about ours, I understand now that sheep are just stupid.
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Monday, 17 January 2011

Some things change

We were sent these pictures of Rock HQ by Phil (not Steve) who lived here in the 1970's. At the time of bright orange space hoppers, flared trousers, chopper bikes and Berni Inns an embryonic Rock HQ was perched on the bonsai mountain waiting for mains electricity, telephone lines (still waiting!) and running water. Life was tough here then, the picture above shows the cottage with a small lean too on the back, which we think, thanks to Lyn contacting us, was a kitchen/bathroom/toilet. Not sure how the Austin 1300 managed the dirt track, which was not as in such a good condition then as it is now (the track not the car), and there is what looks like a Triumph Toledo parked behind.
There were more trees in front of the house, the stone wall seen above is now the base of the conservatory, and unbelievably one of the white gates seems to have survived and is currently not doing a very good job of keeping animals out of the veg patch. The clear side of the house is now a workshop extension and the Berner annexe.

The windows have changed twice since the 70's and are set to change again, a second door was installed in the smaller window, then changed back to a window. Its a pity we have no pictures of the garden or cliff. Lyn's email asked about a particular rock, was it still balanced on the cliff edge, no, its part of the garden now, a huge part. So thanks to Phil we have a better idea of what the cottage was like and how its transformed, and Lyn has given us more recent pics which we will post later in the week, including some interior shots and the fields around.

Phil also sent this shot of the Knowle, a small farm close by. This has also changed, the wooded hill behind has been cleared, several large trees have gone and some of the smaller ones are huge. When I get the chance I will get a modern comparison shot.
If any one else has pictures of Rock HQ from days gone by please send them, and any of the hill, the garden, lane and most unlikely but if any one has a picture of the old cottage that used to be above Rock HQ, the remains are in the field, the property was sold to Rock HQ in 1910 for £10! We would like to see any and all :)

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The last straw

As smallholders we are often reliant of large scale farmers, or the militia, for advice, help, selling us stock, feed and if they like you, favours. Now we are lucky here at Rock HQ, surrounded by local militia who are keen to help. True, they are also keen to sell you sheep with no teeth, birds of indeterminate gender (they know they are cocks((the birds not the militia)) but sell them to wide eyed smallholders who exclaim beautiful plumage while sticking the never to lay eggs birds in the back of the almost 4x4's) and three legged cows with behaviour problems. In fact some are so keen to rip you off, but do it so well, you feel they have done you a favour as you part with your hard earned cash which they stuff under the mattress in case of a rainy day, say when the subsidy cheque doesn't arrive or the tax man finally discovers how much they sell to the likes of me for cash.
So today, on the usual run for straw to bed down our critters we found the straw that broke the camels back, or rather a greedy militia man who pushed his luck too far. Its a sign of how far we have progressed that we felt able to argue our case with the cloth capped miser, and then, true to farming in these parts we cut off our nose to spite our own faces in order to ensure that the new 2010 Land Rover parked on his drive was no longer subbed by Rock HQ. Usually we knock on the door and a nice lady answers, we hand over a drinking token in exchange for a set number of bales. It has gone up, but since the last cut it has been two bales for a blue token, four for a brown, it used to be five for a brown but costs are rising.
Today old woman junior answered and pulled his boots and cap on eager to make some easy money. As Tracey is with child, lugging bales is not her job, but usually the nice old lady, who is around 80, skips up the bale stack, chucks down the allocated amount and loads them in the vehicle. Today her son shuffled towards the barn, "How much a bale?" I enquired already knowing the answer, it will have gone up, its him, it always does when its him.
" OOOoooohhhhh" a sound like a wounded bull, "It will depend on how many you wants"
I point to Hazel "As many as we can get in there"
"You'll be wanting about 4 then, well it'll have to be £3 see, its me over heads, every things expensive these days."
"Thats 50p a bale more expensive than last week"
"Well every things going up"
"Not really, you cut that in the summer, your cost was fixed then"
He stopped and eyed me suspiciously, "You from the revenue?"
"No" I pointedly looked at the brand new car
"Well its different if you have fifty, then its £2.50"
"Well I'll have fifty if you deliver "I might as well have said if you chuck in your prize heifer, he laughed
"I don't deliver"
"No, so I buy fifty and leave them here"
"Cant do that"
"OK so whats today's price"
Cos you ain't having fifty, its not fair on them that does"
"But I have fifty, more like a hundred and fifty over the year"
Well its my time, its Sunday, I ain't working" we both looked at his large digger and half full trailer in the yard, his dirty overalls and his mum shouting lunch was ready. "I could say we were shut!" we both looked at the sign saying open for straw, "Its the convenience see, £3."
The overwhelming desire to give him another couple of acres, no doubt small ones, passed as I looked at my collection of coins in my hand. He drooled as I picked out another £2 coin. "£3 or we could just leave it" he sneered.
"Yeah we'll leave it" I left him to the telling off from his mum.
We are having a bit of trouble getting more straw, but it looks like some will be here next week. £1.50 a bale. Delivered. Smallholders rule.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Christmas tree recycling

We don't have to do much to recycle our Christmas tree
its done for us.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Breakfast run

It might not look much but this spearmint green parcel is the source of much excitement to our ponies. Tapped and unwrapped it reveals around a weeks worth of munchies for the hungry equines, and when its fresh, new, it smells like chocolate. So strong is the odour you can revel in its chocolaty goodness about 50 yards downwind. As the smell of chocolate is far better than the majority of smells around the smallholding even the bipeds appreciate the assault on the senses. So Apollo and William waited patiently while yours truly carefully prepared their breakfast treat. They are in the stables under the anti aircraft light in the pic above. The wind was blowing in the right direction and the whinnies and door kicking accelerated as the tempting odours wafted their way. How excited was Apollo, well as you can see from the clip below he literally jumped for joy.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Bad enough

Its been a wet week so far and with around 200mm of rain today we are not quite in the league of Brazil or Australia, but its bad enough. The goats took cover while the boys made a foray to the feed station. Karma wise its been a good day, and we are set to go kite flying tomorrow!
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Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Our survey said!

I took this pic of the naughty yellow digger that cut our telephone line last summer, time and space does not allow me to recount the tale of trying to convince BT of the cause of the line fault, no matter what their equipment and diagnostic tests told them I was convinced the fault was under the digger, they on the other hand thought it was in the house. Several botched attempts and promises of fixes failed to manifest a working line and finally I withdrew all cooperation and refused to pay the bill, and whilst my contribution to the BT coffers only pays for their AGM biscuit allowance it had an effect and they temporarily fixed the line, again , and resolved to work on a proper solution. Since December we have had weekly updates on the progress, or lack of, in fixing our line. Today a survey was carried out, this would, once and for all locate the fault, we were to rest assured. The surveyor, a chubby chap, called Steve (uncanny) trudged about, poking the hedgrow, looking at poles, taking pictures and scratching his head. Several hours passed. A verdict. Our survey said..... the fault is about where the digger is in the picture. If only they had asked!
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Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Tooled up!

You find smallholding jobs are easier if you have the right equipment for the job. Tools needed to feed the sheep at the moment are, buckets feeding for the use of and wire cutters. The last two mornings Ferny Fern Fern from Ferntown has been found with her head stuck fast through the wire. Slow learners sheep.

Gremlins at HQ have progressed to the camera, again, hence a pic from a few days ago from the sticky headed one.
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