Monday, 28 February 2011

....and so aids restful sleep

Part of our preparation for the arrival of Tristan was to substantially change the way we run the smallholding. It did get to a point around the end of 2009 that we seriously wondered if we could maintain the holding. The garden was a casualty, the yield of edibles minimal after we decided that something had to be left to fend for itself as with both of us working and with Tracey only just managing her ME thanks to thoughtless employers we just could not keep on top of it. Or keep the goats out. Thankfully the decision was made for us and jobs went instead of lifestyle, and with that sudden change the realisation that there was a distinct possibility that we could small hold, that one of us could work for money, and, if we planned it right we could have a child.
Those who follow us regularly will remember the massive amount of work done by a massive personality in a bright yellow digger. Thanks to his graft we finally had fences to contain the critters, or rather keep them away from the house for longer periods of time. I mean sheep are alright but a conservatory full of them every morning gets a bit wearing.
Ponies in the house were banned and a horse corral built. Gates appeared as if by magic, ones that worked, were intact rather than missing bars and on real hinges not propped up with sticks or held in place by bailer twine. Feeders were bought in which a ton of food could be dropped by a nice farmer called Steve (another one , that's why we chose the name Tristan, not Steve, theres too many in the valley, Steve's that is, not Tristan's, theres only one hes here and hes brilliant) and proper metal water troughs meant the critters could drink more than a bucket full at a time, while 175 metres of blue water pipe meant that for most of the time buckets were a thing of the past as the water was effortlessly carried from one end of the smallholding to the other, provided it was warm enough.
All this meant that in theory we would have enough time for child minding. Well its time theory was put to the test. Tracey, my beautiful and oh so patient wife is back at HQ, we had a long day in hospital but the end result was that she was allowed home with Tristan. After the cesarean she has to take it easy so I was happy to let her leave mucking out the pigs another 24 hours.

Tristan appreciated the efforts made and after an excessively tiring yawn continued sleeping like a baby.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Not a spectator sport

We have been waiting for our special delivery, and finally at 1.30 am today it arrived. Rock HQ is a fantastic place to live, with this as our back yard any child would love it here so we are very happy that the plan has finally come together and Tracey and I, already proud parents of two grown up successful ex rug rats now have a new ankle biter to introduce to the delights of smallholding.
The last 48 hours have convinced me beyond measure that child birth is not a spectator sport but ultimately that the stress, fear and worry is all worthwhile when you get to hold your new born for the first time.
I could tell you a tale of poor communication, of lost medical notes, not being listened too, lost property and being moved around the hospital, in one door and out the other like in a Warner Brothers Cartoon. I could mention being packed in a room like battery hens with a gang of foul mouthed 16 year olds all wanting to give birth to their third child while talking to Fanta and Chardonnay, their two daughters, and yelling that they should be good for grandma Kylie otherwise Keannu (presumably mummys new partner, whoever it was, he had ADHD, which was why he was phoning and haranguing the already overstretched midwives) would sort them out. But I wont mention it.
Because just when I thought the NHS could not get any worse they totally redeemed themselves by putting Tracey and I in a delivery suite with a colour TV. This meant Tracey could give birth whilst at the same time watch England stuff France at Twickenham in the 6 nations. Unfortunately this diversion did nothing to ease our little smallholders presence into the world and by 1 am today after over 24 hours of labour, Tracey lost the will to push and our would be offspring was losing the will to live. Here the NHS came into its own and within minutes of this fact being established by an excellent midwife called Sally, Tracey and I were inside an operating theatre (where I was told not to touch anything blue or green, well they might as well have given me a large button marked "do not press") We were put underneath a large blue sheet while a supremely efficient and expert medical team ensured that our child's bid to join us was ultimately successful. Hearing the cry was a relief, to actually see him was unbelievable, for it is a he, we did not know until Sally held him in front of us before taking him to be cleaned and checked. I could not help but cast a glance backward at this point where I was treated to the unnerving sight of various blue clad theatre staff clutching internal organs of my beautiful and oh so patient wife, and, while they were up to their elbows in blood trying to fit her back together, she was chatting happily about our son, now named Tristan.
His second name is Paul, because as stated previously on the pages of these tales the world needs more Pauls. Today has passed in a bit of a blur, and I must thank all those out there who have sent us so many blessings, good wishes and good lucks, and thanks to all those that visited and tried to, and thanks to Jill who is now a Grandma running the smallholding for us while Tracey and I come to terms with how lucky we are.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

No vacancies

Bags were packed, final checks made, the space hopper put to one side, Tracey was ready for the off, the trip to hospital to be induced. Then the phone rang, our glorious NHS was unable to find a bed so would we please stay at home. Bit of a let down. To make matters worse Biffer and Reuben decided to play with the frogs so had to be dragged out of the pond, and to add insult to injury the space hopper gave birth.
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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

If only they could talk!

No change at Rock HQ, we are still awaiting a special delivery.
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Tuesday, 22 February 2011

And she does tricks

Geisha our phantom pregnancy goat, who is always having to be evicted from the sofas in the Berner annexe also does tricks, here she is carrying a brick.
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Monday, 21 February 2011

Pea soup and UFOs

Its been a dull dreek day here. The cloud hardly lifted, it rained most of the day, the mud got deeper but as it was my "day off" it was great. The horses were happy, fresh supplies of hayledge arrived so they spent the best part of the day stood around the feed ring munching. This gave me the chance to super clean the stables, they seem to be able to defy the laws of natural logic and output seems to exceed input. Yesterday they were on short rations while we waited for the new feed, so they only had a bucket of chaff, a sort of chopped hay molasses mix, and a scoop of horse nuts and a sugar beet to chew on. Their output exceeded two wheel barrows full. All nicely piled up in Williams stall, while Apollo like to go for the pebble dash effect.
I took the Berners around and over the Bonsai Mountain, there was a point where we were all technically lost, we knew where we were, but not how to get back. Eventually we stumbled down North Face Gully and that's where we spotted the UFO hovering, lights flashing. Keeping dry was more important than alien encounters so we ignored it and continued searching for the cottage and a warm fireside.
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Sunday, 20 February 2011

BBMC training

As I am determined that this year my companions on the BBMC are not accompanied by a fat knacker I have committed myself to weight loss and some severe training. The weight loss part is working, the training is not going so well due to time constraints, but today I got a good session in after fixing taps, oh yes tick that job off and add plumbing to the list of skills. I thank you, standing ovation from the crowd, laurel leaves thrown in tribute. Knowing that the worst that could happen, I break the tap and we get a plumber called Steve to come and put right my wrong, it became easy, I applied brute force and ingenuity to the task. Brute force removed the tap top, ingenuity came into play when I found the washers didn't fit, oh thank you B and Q. Chances of finding the right size washer on a Sunday afternoon in a town that has only just got electricity was remote, however the shop indeed had a pletora of washers stocking 1/4 inch 1/2 inch and 3/4 washers. Our taps were 9/16ths, just typical, so rather than submit to defeat the oversize washer was purchased and cut to fit, this completed without a trip to casualty to repair damage to hand caused by scalpel. In fact so successful was I at changing the washer I changed the cold water one as well once the bleeding had stopped, just because I could.

Washing machine front is still a disaster, I took the utility room apart, plumbed in the new second hand one, surprisingly this job went exceptionally well, all done before breakfast and without the myriad of parts B and Q plumber advisor insisted I needed. The pipe wrench might come in handy next time I go to seek a refund. Why disaster then? Well the washing machine door refuses to open. Its ready to go but as we cannot get soiled articles in its a bit pointless. I abandoned that task for ones I could complete like trimming goat hoofs and putting the straw out for new bedding, see the video below to see the pigs helping me.

Back to the BBMC, the top pic is the Bonsai Mountain from the bottom, the long haul route, basically draw a straight line across the brown stuff to the skyline on the right of pic and follow ridge to the top. Easy. Quite a challenge but the view from halfway back to the start line shows the height gained over a short distance and makes the pain worthwhile. Halfway up I was amazed to find some mountain bike tracks in the gorse bushes, absence of wreckage and lycra clad skeleton indicated the suicide jockey had somehow survived. Once on the top myself and three Berners, Rocky, Spotty and Bliss went on to Hergest ridge where we met an old friend. A mare we met last year, this time by herself and again very pregnant.

On Hergest we hung a left and went to the Whet stone where we paused to think of he who cannot be named in a land far away. From there we could see the Bonsai Mountain looming in the background, it was getting dark, so as no one could see me I ran from here all the way home (me running, believe me not a pretty sight) Back at the Ranch, tea and medals, but no small smallholder arrived while I was out.

Now lie on it!

Morgana and Guinevere making their bed

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Live on stage

Trevor the pocket rocket took the podium to address the smallholding. He requested more horse nuts, less mud and fresh straw. We managed two out of three.
Luckily he's not a very heavy shitland, other wise he might feature on an animal rescue special as underneath the board is a 30 metre well. There is a metal hatch but I wouldn't be standing on it for any length of time. OK so I'm heavier than him.
I escaped the waiting game at Rock HQ, instead of sitting and waiting for our new arrival I went to be Agnessed, our friendly Osteopath who's diminutive stature hides muscles of steel and an unnerving ability to put my spine back in shape whilst chatting. Once she had repaired the damage I had done myself over the last 8 weeks I went to a DIY store to be humiliated over my lack of knowledge of plumbing and was persuaded against my better judgement to buy a pipe wrench guaranteed to get the top off an old fashioned tap. Guaranteed to deplete the bank balance by a further £25 and once on the ranch guaranteed to leave the top of the tap firmly secured.
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Friday, 18 February 2011

Waiting game

No new smallholder arrived today so the curry was a waste of time but at least Tracey is having still having fun on the space hopper. Every ones waiting for news, The Oracle opened the gate for me today, and was visibly disappointed when told there was nothing to report. So jobs have got done, animals have misbehaved, Biffers come over for his holiday and all is fairly normal here at HQ. I went to work and returned to find it a very good job I have lost over 19 pounds of lard over the last few weeks as the bedroom had been totally rearranged and my "side" of the room has shrunk by around 3foot. The rooms are small in the cottage anyway but now if I jump out of bed with any sense of enthusiasm in the morning I run the risk of stepping straight out of the bedroom window and surprising a goat by a sudden free fall. The reason for the move around was the inclusion of a moses basket by the side of the bed. I stupidly asked why it was Tracey's side and why had I lost more leg room than a Ryan Air passenger. Tracey patiently explained that i was welcome to have said basket containing progeny my side, thus preventing goat fatality, provided I was prepared to breast feed. The room stays the same.
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Thursday, 17 February 2011

Twos a crowd

William muscling in to Apollos stall to get an extra breakfast! Twos not company, its a crowd!

Rock HQ is in limbo, its D Day for the birth of our new smallholder. Unfortunately no one told it and its refusing to come out and play. Tracey was in hospital plugged in to various monitors and donated an armful of blood for tests and the best diagnosis the NHS could come up with was that she was having a baby. Soon. So we resorted to curry and making her play on the space hopper but still the trainee ankle biter hides from the world. Maybe tomorrow.
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Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Finding Nemo

This is Nemo, our uber lazy ginger Tom, the one who "caught" a mouse in the mousetrap, was in the right place when a squirrel had a heart attack and fell out of tree right into his lap, and the very same who was found almost unconscious face down in a sack of cat food having eaten so much he couldn't remove his face from the bite size kibble biscuits. He does move, obviously, usually only to check to see if the feed bowl is refilled. He does, however, have one particularly strange habit for one so lazy. He has to follow you. Wherever you are on the smallholding you can usually play finding Nemo, he stalks you, probably with the theme tune of mission impossible in his head. Failing that he will be found by the fish farm. Watching. Waiting. Waiting for a lazy trout.

If you look closely at the picture above you will find Nemo, better still scroll down to the picture of Hetty and you will find Nemo, not as easily as the pic above, but you will find him.

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Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Doing alright

We wondered how Preston, the aged and white beagle front of pic, would do after the demise of his sister. They had after all been together for the best part of 18 and a half years, inseparable, so faced with the sudden loss of his litter mate we thought he might pine and fade away. But being a beagle he is made of sterner stuff and it is good to report that the old man is doing alright. He's a bit slower in the morning, perhaps his bark is a bit croaky at times but he is holding his own, bossing Pip the rescue collie around and generally being as annoying only as beagles can be.
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Monday, 14 February 2011

Valentine's Day

Trevor, the pocket rocket on the left with the love of his life Misty, he shared his breakfast with her and pledged his undying love and devotion for her. Misty ate his breakfast and promised not to kick his teeth in.
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Sunday, 13 February 2011

Water sports

The sunshine of yesterday was a distant memory as I sloshed around in the torrential rain this morning. First task of the day was to try and restore some order to the chaos in the pig pen. Somehow the critters had managed to move a ton or so of hayledge from where it was supposed to be, on the dry flat level bit, to a muddy slope, and to make matters even more interesting they tipped it over. I suspect the smaller critters ate their way in creating instability and then the attentions of a small cow knocked it over.
Whatever the cause I had one chance of getting it back upright, and as that was no chance I wrestled the feeder through the mud and over the bale. The feeder was designed for a radically different mathematical shape than the one I was trying to force it over so something had to give. This happened to be my sense of humour, especially when some suspiciously warm mud ran into my boot, the cow the prime suspect of the cause, so the task was abandoned and with the feed ring was positioned as best it could be and I left them to their breakfast deliberations and began the search for new socks.
The aquatic theme continued indoors as, unable to play outside, I was reminded of the indoors jobs list, one job being plumb in the second washing machine. This we bought some time ago from someone who is intent on world travel so sold all their belongings not able to be carried as hand luggage. The rational behind the second machine purchase was it could be used to wash the dog beds and horse blankets, while the one we already have can be used solely for human clothing. The unfortunate aspect of this plan was called plumbing.
Now it may not come as a big surprise but DIY is not a strong point of mine. DIY theory, that I can master, DIY practice fails to meet mine and other's expectations. It started well, the utility room was dismantled, the machines positioned, the plastic pipe work and connectors laid out and ready, I managed to get into the small space behind the white goods and cottage wall and I prepared to disconnect the cold water pipe to the already connected machine.
A simple task, made easy by having an isolating valve just before the connection. Unfortunately who ever fitted this thought it would be funny to fit one that wouldn't turn off so within the space reserved for vertically challenged plumbers yours truly was suddenly faced with a jet of ice cold water, the pressure akin to a fireman's hose.
In a scene that paid homage to the old joke where the monkey is observed to try an reinsert the cork into the poorly elephants backside, in desperation I struggled against the water flow, hypothermia and ice floes in a titanic battle (pun intended) to get the pipe back on. If my hands were the same size as the original plumbers who's hands must have been the size of an Indonesian Gerbil, whose small paws are designed to get into tiny spaces like the one my hand was jammed in, between the water pipe and wall. Manfully I battled on with hardly a swearword.
Tracey, my beautiful and oh so patient wife was finally alerted to my plight as the cats rowed past her in the last lifeboat and the Berners fired distress flares. Rescue arrived in the form of a mop and bucket with the promise that once I cleared up the mess I could have a hot drink. This was gratefully received as I looked through the classified section of the local rag under P.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Bad timing

Its been a strange day, the suns been shining, the sky has been mostly blue, the birds singing their hearts out in the trees and all the critters ate hay while the sun shone. I did plan to get a lot done today, especially as we are only 5 days from the birth of a new biped at Rock HQ. Tracey my beautiful and oh so patient wife has supervised most of the days activities with her eyes shut, I would post a video clip of her snoring but the threat of a severe beating has made me change my mind. Its been a strange day as we said goodbye to he who cannot be named (aka Ben) who has gone off to another hot country where the indigenous population celebrate his presence by shooting at him. He was hoping that the new small would arrive at Rock HQ last night, but our civvie timing is not as good as military planning so despite a curry Tracey refused to cooperate and he left without seeing his new sibling. Even so he left in a good mood, once we washed the cat paw prints off his nice shiny super car and chastised Rocky for putting his muddy paws on the newly cleaned bonnet. I decided pointing out he was lucky the goat hadn't slept on it would only add oil to the fire of temper smouldering and we waved goodbye hoping to see him again. Soon.
Not much got done around the smallholding today other than essential animal maintenance and tidying. This had less to do with the fact that I was tired from a mental week of child protection and more to do with the 6 Nations, watching England thump Italy made up for the boredom of the Wales Scotland match. I did do some cooking and freezing of meals, we might be grateful of oven ready meals when new small is demanding attention in the next week or so. Tomorrow is going to be a busier day. I can say this with confidence as there is only one rugby match to distract me.
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Jump around

Getting bigger and braver

Friday, 11 February 2011

Little faker

Misty was giving a lot of signals, standing alone, off her food, holding her tail aloft, kicking the boys teeth in if they dared breathe. Linked to the fact that she is huge we thought of little foals. So we persuaded her to spend some time in the stable, just in case. Two days later we find shes not about to give birth, but she does have worms. So 24 hours after medication she is back to her old self, and kicking the boys around the KO corral. Well, she does have to have her hobbies.
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Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Another day....

....another barrow
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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Growing pains

They might be cute
but they are fast movers
and bundles of trouble!
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Monday, 7 February 2011

Blame it on the goat

For some time yesterday I thought I had finally lost the plot. Signs supporting this theory were many, if subtle at the start, trying to put on a pair of glasses while I was already wearing some should have alerted me to the fact I was going to have one of those days.

Saturday night while walking the Berners something strange was happening in the lane, torches, figures crossing the fields, parked vehicles. In the wind and darkness they went about their business oblivious that I and eight carnivores were watching their every move. I say eight, there were seven Berners and a Technohermit, who, after observing the nocturnal goings on from atop his bone pile declared to the world in general, and me in particular that he was in fact a vegetarian. Doesn't eat much meat see. Me, having seen him destroy the best part of the Christmas Turkey was somewhat taken aback by this remark, especially as he was noisily devouring a Ginsters steak and kidney while musing on the comings and goings of our night time prowlers. I left him to his vegetarianism and scrubbed the idea of a full roast for his Sunday dinner.

Above the noise of the chainsaw I was alerted to their presence. In a scene reminiscent of Mad Max save for their gaudy technicolour outfits a gang of trail bikers and quads raced across the militias field approaching our smallholding. Now as no motor vehicles shall be allowed to use the Bonsai Mountain unless in pursuit of rogue sheep this was not a good sign, these did not look like farmers. Keen to prevent any repeat of quad bikes ripping up the pipework to the small scale fish farm I took my indignation down the lane to remonstrate with the miscreants. This might seem rash, fat forty something tackling hoodlum biker gang, but as I was holding a chainsaw I thought I would have the upper hand. As I crested the rise in the lane the expected horde had gone. Disappeared. Nothing to be seen. Vanished. Curious. I went back to my labours.

Perhaps the Technohermits declaration of not wanting to eat anything with a face, unless wrapped in pastry, planted the seed of the idea. Or Tracey, my beautiful and oh so patient wife's assertion that since being pregnant she was less inclined to eat meat, or that Rob and Beth were expected to dinner, more likely was that I had bought a job lot of veggies from the supermarket, whatever, I decided to cook vegetarian for Sunday dinner. I had all the ingredients for a butternut squash casserole. Except I didn't. I started to cook, but after much searching of the fridge, the pantry, both cars, the dog basket, the workshop, Tracey's handbag (most missing items are located within) no trace was found. After Rob and Beth arrived I still only had enough in the pan for one hungry Technohermit, the missing root vegetables could not be located anywhere. Tracey made helpful comments like, "but I distinctly remember you buying them" as my sense of madness heightened. Finally the goat got the blame, I changed menu, fed the Technohermit the precious veg casserole, who's response when opening the foil tray of "wheres the meat?" meant he was nearly wearing it, and all was well. But I still had a strange feeling like I was going slightly mad. The veggies were weighing heavily on my mind.

Ten thirty pm, last walk for Berners before bedtime. As they bounced around with excitement in the conservatory they knocked into my rucksack. The sloth of memory stirred. My rucksack. My large rucksack containing thirty pound in weight carried around the Bonsai Mountain as a training aid for the BBMC. Comprising mainly of root vegetables.

The missing bikers conumdrum also solved. My torch picked out bike tracks where they ripped up the gateway and up the slopes out of sight. They had been here, the gate still chained shut. The shiny surface of the hinges the far end showing how they had got in, lifted it clear and putting it back. The night time prowlers were obviously checking the route.

So you don't have to be mad to live here, but if you keep goats then you certainly are well on the way!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Lazy boy!

William gave us a bit of a scare today spotted flat out in the K O corral.
Caught napping in the mud and spilt hayledge.
We thought he was ill! But he was snoring.
Then by way of waking up he rolled over making sure he was completely covered. Gives us something to do!
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