Saturday, 30 April 2011

Take the high road

The morning routine featured the usual evictions from Trixie as I fed the pigs. Once order was restored and the sheep removed from the feed bag I could get on with helping the pigs find water. I have promised not to mention on these pages Tracey my beautiful and oh so patient wife throwing an empty bucket down the lane after the pigs tipped it over her.

But they have got in the habit of drinking a bit and then tipping some 50 gallons of water out of the trough. This is in an effort to keep cool by rolling in the spilt water. They seem to like my latest dog training aid, a water pistol, the pigs jump around in the water spray squealing with delight, or anger, not sure but as they didn't charge the fence and bite my hand off I am presuming they like the cooling water spray. The pigs might be getting some company soon, we are seriously thinking of buying litter of pigs from a neighbouring smallholding.

BBMC training today was a gentle stroll along the perimeter of Bonsai Mountain, we were tracked for a while by a fox who was walking on the higher track.

No Target

We prepared for battle, test fired the guns, established a kill zone, laid in wait and now four hours later, freezing cold have given up waiting for foxy to appear. The war is not over!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Survivors

First light revealed the extent of the casualties amongst the poultry and for once we got off lightly. Most of the birds were saved by the fact that the poultry house door had blown shut meaning that they were hanging about outside waiting for their perches. When foxy came along they were able to scatter rather than be a captive audience at their own executions. The geese all survived by hiding in the stables, runner ducks live up to their name but clearly one was not fast enough. Two missing cockerels came down from the trees and other birds appeared as if by magic for breakfast. In total foxy killed three and took two, which is why she, and it is likely to be a vixen feeding cubs, why she was nearly caught by yours truly and Mr Beretta. Tomorrow night an ambush is planned. Foxy has to go.We just cannot afford to feed it. The pic above is not of mutant butterflies but shows where foxy lives and where our birds are housed.Too close for comfort!

Pic above is more work in progress, the veg garden is finally getting back in shape!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Caught napping

It was a combination of things, joking with a neighbour about foxes, any trouble with foxes the innocent enquiry, trouble!! I listed their crimes against poultry adding the obligatory oh you never have your gun when you see them type banter, the its about time the vixens came out with their cubs the knowledgeable reply. Maybe the fact that the dogs are confined to barracks tonight as we have a VIP guest Berner, Elsa, to visit Rocky the love machine, so no distractions please! Or my working late so not turning on the anti aircraft lights and being 30 or so minutes later than usual doing my final perimeter security check shutting the poultry away.
Whatever it was we were like William in the above pic, caught napping. Signs that all was Pete Tong began with two runner ducks passing me, still running, the poultry house door was shut, not good if you want the birds to go to bed. The realisation that all the birds are missing and you are knee deep in feathers and the evil red glow of the predators eyes caught in the torchlight. Fast as a fat bloke can run in unlaced boots the armoury was unlocked, with Mr Beretta locked and loaded we go back out. The red pin pricks of light a little further away but oozing confidence that come what may it is going to survive this encounter, unlike the bird it was dragging away. I got within killing range but hands full of ten trillion candle power torch and shotgun would have meant a clumsy shot, and with my capacity for self harm that is not a good scenario. So rather than alert the fox to the new firepower I restrained myself and ignored the pull the trigger to see what happens voices and left foxy to it. Foxy now associates torch light with loud unhealthy wheezing sounds so wont be worried and should it stray into the field of illumination when I am better prepared I am hoping the last thing to pass through its mind is several hundred high velocity metal pellets.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Work in progress

The helipad approaches its completion. I cannot claim this as any where near all my own work, but the initial concept of a landing area for a Chinook was mine and its starting to look a bit like it did on the original plan drawn last summer.

The paintwork is nearly finished, and along with the white garden gate is probably visible from the moon. The herbs have survived a whole 36 hours despite a plague of goat in the vicinity. Ambrose managed to get around the barricades today and was found lurking with intent, fortunately I spotted him and managed to chase him off, this time without breaking my kneecap or falling into the nettle patch. So very much work in progress.

A bit like this young man, who has no idea what is going to happen this weekend. All being well he will be backed and I wont have ride in the air ambulance.

Before I forget. Cuckoo 23.4.11 Swallow 22.4.11

Monday, 25 April 2011

Manic Monday

Another scorching day at Rock HQ, no rain means no grass, on the plus side we have no mud, but the unseasonal weather is causing a few problems for the critters.

Roxy, above, who nearly died a few weeks back while lambing is now suffering from sunburn, he wool is falling off in clumps and the skin beneath is unprotected and burning. The pigs are also getting a bit pink underneath the black hairs, they are busy creating their own mud pack sun screen by tipping over their water and wallowing. Happy as pigs in ... as the phrase goes.

The herb garden is finished. And planted with a nice selection of kitchen essentials, rosemary, thyme, oregano, chives, basil and coriander to name a few. The gates are not hung, a mistake on my part, rare that they are, meant that the "paint" was not very effective, the white paint had about as much capacity to turn the wood white as a coating of milk. A new less transparent paint will be purchased tomorrow.

The battle to keep the herb garden goat free has already started, which was why I could be found face down in a nettle patch by the pig pen, having taken the chase goat while waving a stick at it in a threatening manner and in doing so fail to see shiny blue water pipe waiting to trip you option over the far simpler load gun and create curry ingredients option. After limping back to the cottage for an ice pack it did nothing to ease my sense of humour failure to see that said goat saw this as an opportunity to resume its foray into the garden.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Sunny Sunday

The sun shone on Rock HQ again and we allowed ourselves to be diverted by the true meaning of Easter and so set out to deliver chocolate eggs to family. Tristan stole the show, hardly a surprise, and being too young to eat chocolate donated his to the "pool".
The Berners helped with some more BBMC training, not by leading the way, or carrying a rucksack, no they helped by getting under foot and clipping my heels sending me sprawling in the dirt. Again.

The major task of the day was to convert the "pond" on the sun terrace to a herb garden. This great idea, I claim solely as mine despite evidence to the contrary, involved shifting the pile of builders rubble from the "lawn" (centre of pic) to fill the what would have been a pond space.

This went well, a bit of a man test, luckily there refreshments on hand as shifting a ton of concrete in the blazing sunshine was a bit of a man test for the bionic arm which has been playing up recently, the space age mecanno is stinging a bit but held out long enough to finish the job today and lift an ice cold beer in celebration.The contents of all the old pots, growbags and containers were then emptied on the rubble and jumped up and down on to pack it down. Tomorrow we are heading off to the garden centre to get some fresh compost and a selection of herbs. Hopefully there will be enough time to plant them, paint and hang the gates and shoot a goat as a warning to the rest of the herbivores that this is a designated no go area.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Super Saturday

Another early trip up and over the Bonsai Mountain was rewarded by excellent views, if slightly hazy, presumably this is the smog the TV weather keeps telling us about.

Going early doors also means the Berners don't suffer heatstroke, it has been another scorching hot day, not quite sure how accurate the headlines are claiming its the hottest Easter for 100 years, but it on the warm side here at HQ.

I finally caved in and allowed the ponies up onto the fields where our precious grass has been recovering over winter and slowly growing in the dry spring. There should be enough to keep them going for a couple of days before we have to get them back on to the hayledge.

Another sort of day. We went to visit Grandma, the apprentice smallholder, and while there took advantage of the local retail park. I sort of bought a camera, insofar as I finally decided which one to get, which shop to get it from and when I said oh go on then I'll take it was told they only had the shop display model which they refused to discount so they lost the sale. I sort of bought a CD player, but got confused by the range, specification and finally opted for one that would suit, but as I don't possess an ipod realised I wouldn't need over half of the features and when Tracey my beautiful and oh so patient wife told me the model was wall mounted and I didn't need a wall mounted one did I, I decided not to buy anything. Except a cot, a mattress for same, a large cuddly Bernese Mountain Dog, bedding for cot, night lights, baby clothes, a cuddley Winnie the Pooh, Nappies, Winnie the Pooh sun visor and some kiddies booties. In all, no CD's, no DVD's, electronic goods, toys, or airfix kits. I think life has changed since my last retail therapy.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Good Friday

The staycation got off to a flying start with Tristan sleeping in until 5.45, and as this is my usual up and at em time it was a real treat feeding him rather than prepping for the day and heading off across the mountains in Vic. I took the Berners on a trip around and over the Bonsai mountain early doors, the BM casts a long shadow across the valley this time of day. Just below us in North Face Gully a large fox sat watching the smallholding, probably wondering why the poultry were still safe indoors. Seven panting Berners soon alerted it to our presence and it bolted to its hole just above our perimeter.

The critters were fed and watered, the usual threats of violence from the sheep mafioso meant they were fed first, and twice, once intentionally, the other the proceeds of a mugging.

While Hetty and the pigs were more polite in their approach. This proved more successful because they got second helpings late afternoon. The day was spent in sort of mode, jobs sort of got done, but not to any great pace or standard, the dogs were groomed, an exercise in patience, and the spare fur could have been used to create another dog. The horses were brushed getting the worst of their old coats off, in places now they gleam, they will no doubt remedy this later by rolling in their own, and each others, pooh. I was struck by a great idea, to turn the it will be a pond space on the helipad (sun terrace) into a herb garden. This will render the area a totally safe play area for young Tristan when he's more mobile, and provide fresh herbs for the kitchen as long as we shoot at least one of the goats. It also has the advantage of getting rid of the pile of rubble in the garden, as this will be used as drainage in the bottom of the bed, at least half of the mound of topsoil in currently piled in one corner of "the lawn", which will be placed on top of the rubble and so filling the "pond", finally a layer of good quality compost on top for planting stuff in. I reeled off this idea in triumph to Tracey my beautiful and oh so patient wife, only to be told that she had in fact suggested this to me some three weeks ago and what took me so long to agree with her. This has now been added to the jobs list, but I like to think it will be done before the end of the break.

While everything is growing and greenery is appearing everywhere, albeit slowly due to the drought (Oak bank is like a desert!) attention was drawn to this tree, a large ash at the back of the stables. For some reason it appears to be resisting the urge to bud and produce verdant hues, in fact it seems devoid of life other than fat crows who sit in it and advertise the fact that they have robbed us of more animal feed. A close eye will have to be kept on this, the tree and the crows. Both could turn out to be a menace.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

How happy am I?

It was an interesting day at work but we were all clock watching, the countdown to the long weekend started almost as soon as we began another day in the front line of child protection. Most of us are only taking the four days, the option of three days leave for 11 days break didn't apply to those of us involved in court work, some risk divorce by having to return early to give evidence, a lucky few have juggled their diaries and we wont see them until the 3rd of May. For me the thought of four days off, totally off, is a real treat. How happy did it make me as I shut the gate at the end of our dirt track, well about as happy as this little chap here!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Suits you

Two views from HQ. Geisha with a new case of MLS. (A.N.D.Q!)
Poppy with very fetching stripes. Fox pooh is this years must have accessory!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Litter Louts

In between all the jobs, looking after Tristan, developing a foster agency (which has really started to take off, see link in margin) and paid work, I am out on the Bonsai Mountain training for the BBMC. This has taken on a bit more urgency as my erstwhile walking buddy has pulled the eject handle and wont be joining the fun day. Instead my reserve team member has stepped into the breach and now I find that I am doing the challenge with an uber fit infantry officer 22 years my junior who is already talking of doing the whole 30 miles across the mountains in under 8.5 hours. I was thinking of timing myself with a calendar this year, my fastest time has been just a shade under 8 hours, but I was four stone lighter and 15 years younger. Lucky for me my back yard has a certain challenge to it, the angle of the pic above shows the slope of North Face Gully. While Bonsai Mountain isn't a real mountain, its well under the required 600 metres, 200 metres of a slope like this does raise the pulse somewhat.

The pic above shows WooZah looking toward Fiveways Crossing whereas Montana is stood next to a new addition to the landscape. The stone cairn must have taken some constructing, and its covering a couple of plastic bags, a sandwich wrapper and two 2 litre empty pop bottles. Presumably whoever it was that left this mess carried the contents of the packaging up the hill for a picnic, but felt incapable of carrying the lighter empties back. The energy expended trying to bury the offending articles must have been more than carrying it away to be disposed of.

Or perhaps they thought it was a time capsule, in a thousand years a keen amateur archaeologist will uncover the secrets of their prawn wholemeal and thousand island dressing, or maybe its an offering to the small gods of Bonsai Mountain, or a signal to a alien race who scour the universe for discarded packaging, or maybe they were just lazy gits who deserve a kick in the farmers. (Somewhere that gives them two little acres)

Monday, 18 April 2011

Come back and play!

Ferny Fern Fern from Ferntown is a Sheep who thinks like a dog and sometimes gets a bit carried away and plays rough. The Berners are a bit confused by her antics. To see more of this log on to the Bernese site in the margin

Sunday, 17 April 2011

When I were a lad

I remember some things from my school days, really useful stuff like being able to say that the sun is shining, the sky is blue and the birds are singing in the trees in French. The fact that I used that phrase to answer every question of my french paper, apart from my name, and then carried that on into my next exam which was chemistry probably explains why I failed both papers. But I do remember being taught about weather, and seasons.
In my day (pull up a chair this might take some time) there were seasons, four of them, and the twelve months of the year had something called weather that was peculiar to those months, we even had pictures on the wall demonstrating events like October gales, November rain, February snow, March winds and April showers. Well march has not long gone and there was precious little wind, and here's April, deficit showers so far. The pic above is not of a sunny beach but the drying out bed of the spring fed pool at the top of Hergest.
The drought then continues, which is why a proportion of the day was spent (when not chasing adolescent ponies across the Bonsai Mountain, but that's another tale and formed an interesting diversion and additional BBMC training) sorting out the water tanks and storing around 1000 extra gallons of water. The well is full, but a bit of a drama there, the ponies standing on the top playing statues has sheared the pumps electric cable. But there are some 2000 gallons of water for the livestock and garden there. The channels feeding the water tanks and micro fish farm (not micro fish, its a micro farm) have been cleared and the frogs evicted allowing the free flow of water to the tanks. The big white tank has finally been placed on a large base of breeze blocks, which in turn meant that the modern art sculpture (the stack of blocks falling over) has been removed from the yard to create said base. Tank in place its now full to brim with 200 gallons for the sheep et al. In all by lunch time I was feeling pretty pleased with my efforts and confident that should the dry spell continue we would have several months of water for the critters strategically placed around the smallholding. And then this happened!

Bliss trying to be helpful!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Its not just us!

Its not just us. I heard a tale today that made me laugh out loud, but even better, confirmed that its not just us who make horrendous mistakes when it comes to livestock. OK, so I did take a rabbit to the vets with a ruptured penis and found that actually it was a lady rabbit giving birth, mistakes like that are hard to live down. The life an times of a newbie smallholder with its NASA like learning curve are fraught with difficulties, not least of which is that you are suddenly messing with the big boys, the local militia who have been farming for years, they can either be really helpful or totally dismissive of your efforts. Lucky for us the former is the case, but I have tested their patience, like the time I was found feeding porridge to Crispen our pedigree ram because he was losing weight, which I attributed to him having lost all his top teeth. I subsequently found that he had no top teeth from birth, all sheep lack top teeth, as do goats. So it warmed the cockles of my heart to hear his tale from The Oracle today.
We have just about finished lambing, there is an outside chance that Bonny is pregnant, but as she is weeks behind the rest she has been evicted from the stables and joined the gang in the garden. The whole gang has itself been evicted from the garden today after rowdy parties kept us awake and Hetty the cow got into real trouble for playing in the pond and frightening the tadpoles. I spent a merry hour or so trying to persuade the rowdy Ryelands into Goatanamo with its lush grass and maximum security fencing. At mission critical, the point where the whole flock and lambs were about to follow the magic bucket into the stockade a rogue Berner, Aunt Montana, thought she was helping by standing in the gateway. The result was that the Ryelands scattered like a box of malfunctioning fireworks and had to be coaxed, threatened and even dragged into their new dining area. As I hauled a struggling Ryeland up the steep slopes of Goatananmo I remembered the old country saying "you can take a horse to water but a Ryeland sheep has to be carried upside down to new pastures"or similar. Easter took particular exception to having to eat new fresh grass and legged it down the lane. When apprehended she then cantered into the Cauldron. When finally cornered in the yard she tried to hide in the back stable, realising her mistake she tried to leave me on the floor with hoof prints on my face, but made of sterner stuff than a demon sheep I wrestled her to her new accommodation to the applause of the rest of the flock.
Back to The Oracle. He asked if we had finished lambing as he had only one to go. I told him about Bonny and that we were sure we had finished. He looked thoughtful, the one he had left, well he wasn't going to make the same mistake as old Steve the Shepherd from the end of the valley. He had one left, and being a conscientious sort checked it every night for nearly two weeks and still she had not produced anything resembling lamb chops. Finally, as the flock were about to be turned out on the mountain, and thoroughly fed up with waiting he caught the sheep and turned her over to find out what the problem was. It was immediately apparent why she wasn't giving birth, to his horror he found that she she was a Wether, a castrated male, a very fat one, but none the less devoid of the ability to reproduce. So, clearly, its not just us that makes these mistakes.
The chainsaw is back and this time proved to be more than a one cut wonder. The tree trunk is still mostly in one large piece as even with the new improved chainsaw I still had trouble in dealing with it. Hitting a piece of metal hidden in the wood work was just the start and I decided to quit while sort of ahead and have another go once I move the thing to a more convenient place to cut it. At present its wedged in a fence, the chainsaw doesn't like barbed wire. How I move it will be a real test of ingenuity and self harming.
Tristan is growing every minute of every day, or so it seems. He had his six week check the other day and now weighs 12 and a half pounds, a real chunky monkey. Being the sad types we are we still celebrate and discuss every burp, fart and nappy content. Today we were treated to our first chuckle and this picture was taken just as it happened. He is a happy chap. So are we.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Sheep that come from a land down under

These four orphan lambs in woolly jumpers (obviously) are from the land of Oz.
They belong to friends of virtual friends of Rock HQ who run a blog, linked in the margin. Theirs is a parallel universe to ours, and its been great swapping tales and pics. You might see that they haven't updated it for a while, this is because one of them is training to be a vet!

And pigs might fly!

Hetty got bored today and jumped the fence into the garden causing mayhem and giving me another man test. Its been an exciting day here on the Bonsai Mountain without having to avoid close encounters with deranged cows. For some reason the police were watching the hills from a police chopper, it circled the hill, went along the ridge, back to hovering around Rock HQ and this continued for around an hour. Unfortunately they did this while I was in town being Agnesed (the tiny osteopath with super powers) having my spine put back in some sort of functional order, so I was unaware of the flying pigs over Rock HQ. I only found out when I texted not Steve to thank him for the bagels and order some more. Not Steve assured me that more bagels would be sent over, by the way why was a police helicopter trying to use the heli pad at Rock HQ. With this curious event in mind I took the Berners for a stroll wondering why so much time and resources had been invested by the boys in blue over our smallholding. Probably nothing to do with the young man halfway up a tree using a mobile phone in the small copse on our perimeter.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Dinner guests

Hetty sharing dinner with Guinevere and Morgana

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Carry the can

I suppose I would struggle if a fat bloke crept up on me while I was enjoying my tea, grabbed me and flipped me on my back and gave me a pedicure. I might kick out as the assailant tried to trim my pinkies with a razor sharp pair of clippers. Perhaps, as its not the first time its happened in my life I might just remember that whilst this sudden physical intrusion was a bit of a shock, nothing bad ever really happened and once its over my feet felt much better and I could walk properly. But I'm not a sheep, so for whatever reason Springtime, one of our mental Ryelands, proud mum of two thrashed around like a thrashy thing on a thrashy day from Thrash town, utterly determined that the phantom pedicurist should fail in his quest to give her well trimmed foot rot free hooves.
Tracey my beautiful and oh so very patient wife asked if she should get the blue spray. The blue spray is what we use when an animal is cut, badly, its an antiseptic spray. Springtime continued to windmill her feet around, spraying blood, and I fought desperately to get control of the beast and my temper so I could carry on clipping. As the majority of the blood we were looking at was mine I saw no point in fetching the magic blue spray. As I closed the shears Springtime in a real Ninja move substituted her hoof for my left knuckle and I cut a very fetching V shape before noticing the cunning sheep's move. Springy carried on her dying fly rehearsal while I carried on clipping hoping to finish before I bled to death.
By the time I had rigged up a rudimentary tourniquet from a dog collar Springy had forgotten her "ordeal" and got on with the important things in life, like eating, see above, while I did the Johnny Rambo bit and got my sewing kit out. Who says shepherding is easy!

Day 6 in the Big Berner House