Thursday, 31 March 2011

Living Rock

Rock HQ, above, is, as the name suggests, built on a rock. Its also underneath a huge rock, we have our own climbing wall. Then up on the Bonsai Mountain are various slabs and monoliths of 700million year old rocks that from time to time move and make life interesting. The drive way often has a new small boulder on it. The cars in the turning circle have been moved forward a tad as the Berners cavorting across the mountainside sends small but windscreen shattering stones cascading down its flanks. There is a very impressive standing stone (centre of pic above) that keeps watch over the smallholding.
Its a living rock. Each lichen here has taken years to grow, perhaps 30 or 40 years for a 10p size piece. Not sure what the plant is that's sprung to life in the centre but it seems to be flourishing.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

None shall pass!

We don't get much traffic passing Rock HQ, our lane leads nowhere except to the swamp in The Cauldron. Many years ago there was some form of track that led along the Bonsai Mountain and occasionally a coal truck would venture along dropping off fuel to Rock HQ and the next cottage along. Lack of traffic is a good thing, considering the free range nature of our critters, we have only had one end up as road kill, Barry White one of the little Ryeland lambs got squished under white van mans tyres as he reversed into the turning circle.
So as we have 50 million acres of space to play in it did come as a bit of a surprise to find a dispute on one of the sheep trails at the top end of The Cauldron. Geisha the Anglo Nubian Goat and Ferny Fern Fern from Ferntown were heading one way while Levi, Joan and Petal were intent on going the other. This led to a snarl up, neither side felt like stepping off the track to let the others pass. There was a lot of pushing and shoving but both Geisha and Levi were convinced they had the right of way and would not yield. Levi should remember that A.N.D.Q!
As far as I know they are all still there.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Seeing things

As part of the BBMC training I am going off the beaten track. The Bonsai Mountain has many interesting things to see, and we found this, a giant fossil pig!

Monday, 28 March 2011


Aspects of my day are about as far removed from each other as can be imagined. Sparrows fart saw me do the doting Dad bit with Tristan before driving over three counties to attend a conference. A few text message negotiations about bird feeders, mileage claims and a couple of photo updates from Rock HQ alerted me to the fact that 1) Tristan was full and sleeping and 2) Springtime had just delivered twins.
An afternoon spent writing another court statement filled in time before driving across another county line to carry out an interview. Finally I got to pilot Vic the four counties back to the safety of Rock HQ where, after grabbing a quick supper, I milked a sheep to feed the twins, just to be sure they had had a big enough feed to get them through the night. A few minutes playing Florence Nightingale to Roxy who's backside must now resemble a pin cushion the amount of injections the poor girls had.
The nighttime stumble down the lane with the Berners preceded a catch up on emails, a cuppa and next to do is to feed the trainee smallholder once more before the night time vigil with the sheep begins. Its a full life, isn't it!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Reuben the Russian Rhumba

Or Boo as we most often call him, taking a moment by the monkey puzzle trees. For more of the best dogs in the world click on the link in the margin!

Get it down ewe!

I love today, apart from the fact its my Dad's birthday, today is always a day I find inspiring, the return of British summer time, the clocks spring forward an hour meaning the jobs list can be tackled when I get back from work, dogs can be walked in evening sunshine (or rain, this Wales afterall!) and time can be spent on the helipad watching the suns journey across the horizon until the summer solstice halts its progress and it begins the return journey. The day got off to a good start, Roxy is still with us. She is still being picky about what she eats, preferring gold plated savoy cabbage to her usual rations, and she seems to have developed a taste for the pink medicine drinking syringe full after the other in preference to everything else. This is time consuming but at least we know she is getting a few calories each time. Roxy has started talking to the other sheep through the stable wall, probably telling them how good her bed and board is. On a sad note she has taken to staying in the very spot where her stillborns were last laid on the floor. If only they could talk.
Geisha nearly signed her death warrant today and close observers would have detected a limp in yours truly after a confrontation by the tack room doorway over a bucket of feed. We are down to the last few bucketfuls until I get some more next weekend. Why not get some before you run out I hear you cry, well I would have except Hazel the almost 4x4 who had new brakes and discs all round a week or so ago has demonstrated a substantial lack of braking (she, like Vic threw herself down the Bonsai Mountain on autopilot when the brakes failed) so was I was not inclined to hitch her to Trixie and a ton of feed until the mechanics have had another go at fixing her. These are different mechanics to the chainsaw non fixers but the same ones who got what is known as a bollocking for forgetting to set Vics handbrake properly. Anyway, with precious bucketful of grain I stopped to feed the rabbits, Geisha spotted the bucket on top of the hutches ambushed me with six Ryelands and while I was defending the hutch doorway she knocked the bucket over. In anger and desperation to stop the contents spilling I swung my right leg to right the bucket but primarily to "move" the goat, I missed both and hit an unknown but solid object which gave a sensation like a broken leg. Howling in pain I fell amongst the rampaging Ryelands and after several unwanted and very close encounters with various woolly backsides managed to crawl to the doorway of Rock HQ where first aid was administered by Tracey, my beautiful and oh so patient wife who rightly asked what lessons could be learned from the experience. Kick goats rather than solid objects was the wrong answer but suitably chastised I waited for the swelling to go down while drinking a thoughtfully provided cuppa. Geisha ran past, smirking, as did several rabbits who suddenly found their hutch doorway wide open. It took an hour or so to restore order and catch the final escapee bunny who favoured life under the hutch rather than in it.
Now the freezers are empty fresh pork has been ordered from Stable Sprite who has around 29 piglets queueing up to be volunteers as the main ingredient for barbques. He was kind enough to donate a couple of packs of bacon to the Rock HQ food store. I was loathe to admit it but it was far nicer than our last lot. Thanks to Stable Sprites generosity in four weeks or so we will have restocked Mr Whirlpool with sausage and pork and Stable Sprite has even shared the secret of the bacon.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Take cover!

Tristan ensured that any thought of a lie in was a stupid one so since the first bird yawned and thought about starting the dawn chorus yours truly has been engaged in a number of activities, most of which revolved around feeding trainee smallholder, feeding all the critters, changing lethally smelling nappies from small human (how can one so cute produce such deadly packages) cleaning out the critters (Hetty got top prize for pooing in her water trough meaning 100 gallons of water had to be emptied so heavy metal trough could be tipped over and washed out) bathing boy wonder, it crossed my mind to pressure wash the ponies but the threat of a kicking from the cobs changed it rapidly, and eating.
Spring has reminded the useless poultry that actually they should contribute for the bed and board which is why I had such a healthy breakfast. The large yolk is the goose egg, below that the dark yellow is a runner duck egg and the other two are Buff Orpington. These went very well with our own sausages, a few packs remain in the only freezer that remained operative after last weekends disaster.
The plan for the day was to go out into the great wide world and spread the word over our triumph in Court, and show off Tristan. We left Rock HQ in Vic, which has to be the most well equipped Volvo ever. Actually the chainsaw has nothing to do with childcare so was taken back to the workshop where they were asked to fix it properly this time. After a quick visit to see the Stable Sprites kingdom to order some fresh pork we headed off to the country supermarket that makes Marks and Spencer's look like Lidls.
Oakchurch is where seriously rich go and shop, the rest of us go and look at the honeyed quails eggs, the caviar coated unicorns whiskers and chocolate coated fairies tears and marvel at how the other half live. It was then an opportunity to push Tristan around in his pram while buying some spring greens from the reduced shelf for Roxy and perhaps get inspiration for mothers day gifts.
Tristan had other ideas and from the moment we crossed the threshold of the cathedral to consumerism he made a sound like a crippled car alarm and refused to be consoled by well meaning old ladies who oooed and aaahhed over the noise. The leisurely stroll around the store became a 30 second sprint for the tills and as if by magic once we had paid a weeks wage for a manky savoy cabbage and wheeled the noisome sprog into the car park he settled and fell silent. Not daring a repeat performance we left before the police arrived.
Roxy is recovering and appreciated the savoy, I did explain that given the cost I might have just stuffed ten pound notes into her gob but irony and sarcasm is wasted on a poorly Ryeland. The afternoon was spent exploring uncharted regions of the Bonsai Mountain and we found even more fox developments in the green belt area. A large adult fox scarpered as it saw us round the corner, it might have been the one who took another of our geese the other day. Plans are afoot to deal with this menace.
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For those about to Rock....

We salute you!!!

Tristan showing allegiance to his fathers choice of music. The CD police have already confiscated most of his mothers collection!
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Friday, 25 March 2011

Big softy

Reuben continues to grow and is a big soft lad.
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Back to life

Things got back onto a more normal footing today after four days in Court in Birmingham, I returned to the more important and busy arena of front line child protection work in sunny south Wales. The distance from Rock HQ is about the same to both, but the drive to Birmingham takes an hour longer thanks to the sheer volume of traffic that tries to squeeze its way between the concrete canyons and high rise blocks of the city. I drove today in glorious sunshine along familiar mountain roads, kamikaze pedestrians replaced by suicidal sheep and mountain ponies with zero road sense. I met the usual cars en route, one particularly annoying c class Mercedes driver who thinks that going over 29mph means he will stop breathing failed to impede Vics progress as we met on a lovely two mile long straight section.
Work was its usual frantic pace, different in so far as I normally do Red Kite work on a Friday but today I had a Court report to hand in so being an independent social worker I can do pretty much what I like, except mess up the Courts diary, so I rearranged a few things and got on with it. My colleagues were pleased to see me and celebrated my totally expected win in the Birmingham Court by buying cakes. They, like me, are eagerly waiting for the Judge's report, a document that will give a summary of how right I was. It will make interesting reading. Meantime I am walking around with a huge smile on my face and having fought injustice for some 13 months to be totally vindicated gives rise to strange feelings. Mostly relief that its finally over and heartfelt thanks to those that stood out from the weak cowardly types and also told the truth with me. The truth will always out and the Karma Police will issue warrants to those that failed to do the right thing. A fuller version of what happened will appear soon on a separate Judgement Day page. The Judges statement and findings are after all a public document so its only right that it is published.
Back at the ranch Roxy struggles on, a sheep of vast hidden strength, she seems to have rallied and pulled through, drinking a litre of pink medicine a day and sleeping on a luxury bed of straw. Hopefully this means she is going to live. The rest of the Ryelands are threatening as I type to lamb all at the same time so are on hourly checks. What this means in reality is that they will hold on until next Thursday, by which time I will have passed out from exhaustion.

I saw a Red Kite again today, strangely it was in a field looking like it was biting the heads of worms. Signs and portents.
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Thursday, 24 March 2011

On patrol

Montana on this mornings perimeter patrol
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Sing if you're winning!

Despite Roxy's predicament (see below) today has been a very good day, one where the Karma Police called and we were treated to this excellent sunset.
What you cant see in this picture is a Red Kite soaring in the setting sun after taking on two strange looking birds with faded plumage. The Red Kite won, obviously. Signs and portents.
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A close run thing!

Poor Roxy has used another of her lives today. We were worried about her as she got massive, a clear sign that she was carrying twins, unusual for Ryelands. A couple of days ago she was going through the pre birth behaviours, isolating herself, nesting, walking round in circles and so we waited. And waited.
The bag of fluid came out, usually followed by the lamb, but it didn't follow. The bag went back inside. We waited, she ate, slept and behaved like all was well. Yesterday two bags fell out, twins then, but nothing happened. It got to the point where yours truly had to do the James Herriot bit and put my hand inside and have a feel around for the lamb. Poor Roxy grunted at the intrusion, but no sign of life could be found. We waited.
This morning the white fluid in the bags was red, or black and she had her head down. There was a smell, of bad things. Fearing the worst the vet was summonsed. He diagnosed our worst fears, Roxy was carrying dead twins. Even the vet had trouble getting the poor mites out, it seems they had been dead for days, and were massive, seriously bigger than Berry who is now over a week old. How Roxy our smallest ewe carried two such massive fully formed lambs is a wonder, as is the fact she is still alive. The vet spent an hour fishing bits out of her and washing her insides out with iodine solution. The end result is that she just might make it. More TLC is being lavished on her, we have had Roxy almost as long as we have been here so despite the fact she has a serious death wish we are very fond of her.
She is up on her feet, drinking her pink medicine but its still only 50 50 that she will make it. We have done all we can, lets hope the small god of Ryelands does his/her part.
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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Come out and play!

The Ryelands are doing their usual and feigning labour so prompting lavish attention from their bipeds. To date all we have for our TLC overdrive is this lively lamb called Berry. She is keen for others to arrive to play with. Meantime the waiting game continues!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Good as new

The holes in Hetty's head have healed over and now her fringe has grown back you really cannot tell that she used to have horns.
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Monday, 21 March 2011

The cars moving!

Well they are supposed to, when someone is in them, driving. Twice today cars moving have caused quite a stir. First as Jill drove through the gate while Tracey was chatting to The Oracle. He thought Tracey was driving so was taken aback when car took off as she was stood next to him. Much relieved he realised that Jill was piloting the vehicle and Tristan was quite safe in the car seat.
Vic on the other hand took it into his mechanical mind to drive down the lane by himself. I had parked him after a long day in the yard, applied the handbrake and sought sanctuary in the cottage. Half an hour later after the Dolyhir Clan went mental I was prompted to look out of the window to see Vic not where he had been left but in the hedge. Thankfully the dozy Volvo is built like a M1 Chieftain Tank and only suffered a scratch to the bumper. We need a new fence though.
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Sunday, 20 March 2011

Revolting technology!

The day was set to be one of those classic days at Rock HQ. The weather was outstanding yesterday and after a few hours Red Kite work I was going to be unleashed on the smallholding with my newly refurbished massive chainsaw that would, by my estimation, make short work of the tree trunk in the yard, which would mean, all going to plan, I would have everything done and dusted by the time England smashed the Irish in the six nations. Tea and medals for all concerned, perhaps even a sherry or three. Unfortunately, just like England's grand slam hopes, it didn't work out as planned. We have had a spot of bother with technology recently. Hazel the almost 4x4 went to the garage last week and needed a massive amount of work that required a whole branch of the money tree. New brake discs all round, calipers, pads, suspension bits and brake shoes on top of a full service. Ouch! But at least she now stops when you want her to and goes in the direction you point her. Not having the 4x4 meant that the bins were not put out, so before the chainsaw frenzy I had to get rid of the rubbish bags from the workshop which were for some reason a bit stinky.
A small bonfire got rid of the problem but there was still an aroma in the workshop. As I was next to the small freezer I thought I would look to see if I had put any of the new batch of sausage in there for safe keeping. The source of the smell was clear when I opened the door, the freezer was off, the meat defrosted and a bit high. There were sausages there, about 30 pound, chops, rabbits, chickens and small joints, all ruined. A sudden sinking feeling overtook me, two other freezers waited inspection. Mr Whirlpool the huge chest freezer sat quietly in the corner. To quiet. He was off too! Inside the best parts of two pigs, a lamb, half a deer, some pheasants and a loaf of bread festered. The final freezer was duly opened, same, rotten meat on every shelf. The source of the disaster, a trip switch had tripped, obviously some time ago and as we have two more freezers in the cottage the ones in the workshop are hardly used so it went unnoticed. So they sat defrosting quietly. A whole years meat production wasted. The bonfire got a lot of it, the dogs got the sausages and I got the pig. Never mind, put it behind you, cant do anything about it. Cheer yourself up by wielding the mighty chainsaw I thought.
Well after £95 you would have thought it would have started first time. Eventually after much sweat, pleading and swearing the sod started and the first cut of the tree trunk was accomplished, it was great, like a hot knife through butter. Really good. This was going to make the day better. Except it didn't. After the huge log rolled away the chain stopped, chain brake applied I thought, but no, the wheel was jammed in the bar, the chain was stuck solid. It was going nowhere except straight back to the "mechanic" who "fixed" it in only seven weeks! Right, this was natures way of telling me I should go in and watch the rugby, it being super Saturday and all.
So I sat back, Tristan on my lap to watch England win. Except I didn't, the TV picture went. A snowstorm of black and white where the teams should be. I waited patiently, no picture returned. Perhaps it was the TV, spare TV was brought down and put in place, same snowstorm. Sense of humour failure was imminent.
The transmitter might be down.
Tracey my beautiful and oh so patient wife suggested I go and check the Aeriel. As I could see it from the lounge I dismissed that idea, and any notion of checking the cable stretching 100metres to the booster box as a while ago I had relaid the cable, bought expensive connectors and buried the cable at key crossing points. It was the transmitter. So while the TV engineers were dragged out of the pubs to fix it I watched the game on the PC on a broadband link that's slower than a racing snail. The match was perhaps best watched this way, in a sort of stop motion film effect on a three inch screen as England's performance on a big screen in high definition would have been even more disappointing.

I went to shut the birds away when it was dark. Tracey asked me if I had done anything to the TV as the picture returned for a split second. Down in the chicken run a branch from the tree was hanging down so I moved it to get by. For some inexplicable reason this had decided to insert itself into the TV aerial box. Once it was removed the picture came back, so I did get to see France stuff Wales which was some consolation as it meant England won overall and I could hold my head up at work being the only Englishman in a Welsh office.
This little scrap above is now three weeks old!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Welcome to our world

Apollo and William met Tristan for the first time today.
They were very interested in the future jockey!
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