Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Bad hair day

We've all had them. Here's Roxy with a catastrophic fleece malfunction. Apart from that she looks pretty healthy, and fat, which is how Ryelands like to be.

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Monday, 30 May 2011

A new sense of direction!

One of the great things about living at Rock HQ is having a backyard of over 500 acres, which includes the Bonsai Mountain and a big chunk of Offas Dyke. In between the demands of critters, jobs list, childcare and paid work I can escape with the Magnificent Seven and while I wander I can gather my thoughts. Today's theme was juggling. I was, I pondered, like a circus juggler, working hard to keep his balls in the air (loads of opportunity here for smut but it will be avoided, this is a serious philosophical piece, believe that and you'll believe anything) Things are getting a bit manic. Court work, assessments, Red Kite Fostering (no not the bird of prey, see margin) smallholding and family life were all going by a bit quick, what was needed was less balls, as it were. And straight from the signs and portents shop a new sign appeared at Fiveways Crossing. There was I seeking a new sense of direction, and here it was. I decided against removing said sign just in case it was not meant just for me. So decision made, less balls. Red Kite Fostering has got very busy very quickly so needs more of my time, family and smallholding are non negotiable balls, that leaves Court work and assessments as a ball that can be put down carefully and picked up later if need arises. I had planned to be full time at Red Kite on day, but its happened a lot sooner than I could have hoped for.

In the same vein, success stories, Socks here is doing everso well. He is a very fast learner, walks to heel, never runs off and is a very happy canine. He might not be quite so happy 27 June when his little packet is going to be removed by the Vet, but hopefully he will forgive us and soprano might suit him anyway.

No this isn't how I normally park Hazel, but late this afternoon two miscreants on quad bike and trials bike appeared at the entrance to our piece of the planet. Having had a lamb killed by them or those like them last Sunday I wasn't going to let this (or them) pass. As they did a quicker u turn than a liberal councillor asked about the deputy prime minister I plonked Hazel thus so they would not be able to get by without me getting their picture for the local boys in blue.
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Sunday, 29 May 2011

Tortoise and the Hare

After skiving off to do the Family Guy bit yesterday it was a massive day here at Rock HQ where the jobs list got whats called a kicking. As so often and in keeping with The Rules Of Smallholding (TROS) each job attempted meant the time spent actually on the job an equally proportionate amount of time had to be spent finding the tools/bits/thingies necessary to complete the task, a similar amount of time then spent keeping other critters away from task in hand and finally the most important rule (aside from always shut the gate) that of for every job done you create two more.

Case in point, move Pamela the Mangaliza sow about to give birth to stable. First find buckets to fill with tempting feed to get pig to follow. Buckets found are all broken, no handled or pink (sorry, not ever going to be seen using pink bucket) Locate macho blue buckets up on Willow Rise where they were dropped while chasing cow the previous morning. Loaded with feed run the gauntlet of Ryelands who are eager to make the load lighter. Drop one bucket off for sheep to savour, thus removed from equation when moving pig. Pigs are released. Mistake. Instead of following second blue bucket up lane into stable they scamper downhill to the feasting flock. There then follows a mad half hour while we separate the woolly backs from the, er.... other bigger woolly backs. Through luck rather than judgement Pamela was finally contained in the stable. Having got our quarry cornered, and totally ignoring the fact that now we had a pig in the garden (Bridget, Pamela's not so pregnant litter mate) pig in pen created two jobs, one being fix big metal gate over hole left by stable door (to answer the immediately obvious, pig would make door into splinters, this needed heavy metal) and muck out stable. Smart arses might comment that the stable should have been mucked out before the pig was put in it, but they don't have the only wheel barrow trapping the goats (long story) (and goats cant be moved until pig has been re homed) and heavy metal gate cant be put in place before pig because once in place it wont move so entry and egress is done by climbing gate, pigs are loathe to climb gates (except in emergency) so in all a sound plan.

Heavy metal gate is held in place by an assortment of heavy metal hinges screwed into the stable wall. To do this we use electric screwdriver once we find it, then find the spare posidrive bit as the brass one we intended using fell off onto the golden barley straw (new take on looking for a needle in a haystack), recharged the battery as none of the four batteries owned by yours truly could be located except the dead one attached to drill. The actual fixing of gate took minutes, but fending off a curious pig which coated itself in the doings of previous occupants of the stable (she did this by lifting the rubber matting, each one weighs over 100 pounds) and rolling in the juices located underneath. As I worked and she watched the ammonia fumes from her were eye watering, but as you can see she was very happy. Gate on, mucked out, no its not over, feed pig, water pig, so fit feeder to gate with climbing carribiner (from previous life) and fetch water drinker thing from pig sty at bottom of holding. Empty trailer, move trailer, get pig out of garden, empty tack room, repair greenhouse, put together whelping box for Reba, move goats, move horses, and then what with feeding everything, ourselves and spending quality time with Tristan its hardly a surprise that paint the annex was ignored in favour of sit down with feet up and watch BBC Countryfile which for the majority of the programme used a long shot of our Bonsai Mountain as a backdrop.>

There was a very interesting bit about Offas Dyke, our backyard, and some chap who in 2003 walked its length in an astonishing 9 days, sometimes doing 20 miles a day, the reporter spoke in awe of this while he (the apprentice tortoise) talked to the trees. I must say I mightily impressed and it made our attempt, The Offas Dyke Ordeal in June 2009, where I walked the 180 miles in 6 days, doing 30 miles a day fuelled mainly by Vimto and a desire to raise a lot of cash for Prostate Cancer Research seem rather ordinary. Still each to his own. Anyone wishing to see the tree man who walked Offas Dyke taking half as long again as what I did should log on to http://www.bbc.co.uk/countryfile and those who want to revisit our epic trek should explore the blog using the labels The Great To Do, or go to the archive, its all there, June 2009, and if it prompts you to donate to Prostate Cancer Research then that's a good thing.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Time out

We took time out from Rock HQ to visit my family who live a way a way, Tristan was a hit with his grandparents, aunt and uncle, and its easy to see why!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Pest control

The bracken is still trying to take over the hill, I am still trying to eradicate it with terror weapons, there is a difference if you look at the photos, top before, bottom after. The new blue strimmer is doing well and it makes a pleasant change using a power tool that doesn't try and kill me.

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Steve the electrician dropped off some much needed supplies at Rock HQ this evening and for once it wasn't for the animals. Steve had been back to the nations capitol and had visited the Jewish bakery where he restocked his van with Bagels. This time he had orders for some 200 or so. Our share of the lovely doughy goodies have been sampled and early taste tests are showing that this batch is every bit as good as the last and experiments with toppings tonight have ranged from butter to cream cheese and salmon, rump steak to strawberry jam with fresh strawberries on top. Good job the diet is on hold. Orders have been placed for the next batch on his next trip and Steve has already been told he will need a bigger van.

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Thursday, 26 May 2011


The boys are lining up to congratulate Hetty D who is so overcome with emotion at passing the annual TB test that she has to have a lie down. Passing means she lives for another year (until the next test) and we can transport her to see Mr Bull. Alternatively we can order a sample of Mr Bull and artificially inseminate her. This seems the least time consuming option, but we are currently wondering who will do the deed when Steve the postie makes the special delivery. Both of us have had an attack of squeamish at the thought.
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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Uninvited guests part two!

We had a technogremlin in the matrix last night which meant that we were unable to communicate with the outside world. Initially BT got the blame, then the high winds, but it was a proper technogremlin and we had to have a techie engineer type to reboot the blog.
So as we are back on line just enough time to tell you about the psycho sheep who entered the arena threatening to take on all comers.
We did hope that she would just jump out of the pig pen without the need to resort to fisticuffs but the sheep had attitude, she meant business and wasn't leaving without a fight. Once she had proper terrorised the pigs I took up the challenge and set forth to carry out an eviction. Initially I had the upper hand and she ran away, like sheep should, and if she carried on running away all would be well as she would find her way through the magic silver portal to the outside world, free of pig.
But as is often the case things did not go to plan and she decided not to chance the honour guard of Bernese Mountain Dogs lined up by the gate watching with interest as events unfolded. In her mind she was faced with certain death and swerving to avoid the "wolves" (its all in her head, Berners are about as wolf like as tortoises) sitting panting by the gate she decided complete defiance was her only option. For the observing canines things took a strange turn and suddenly they were watching their owner, yours truly, running away from a belligerent fleece, and I tell you now it takes a braver man than I to stand his ground when a full size sheep bears down on him at mach 10. The pigs sensing that their time had come were overcome with an attack of bravery and chased sheep, chasing man, watched by Bernese Mountain Dog. Injury was averted when Tracey my beautiful and oh so patient wife appeared like magic with tame alpha male ram Crispen who with a single bleat called the rampaging ewe to heel.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Feel the tension!

Part of yesterday was devoted to Hetty who being our house cow takes this title seriously by hanging around the front door when not leaping fences. The plan is that she will go to the bull, another mid leg Dexter, have a calf and provide us with much amusement and injury as we try to claim our share of milk for their bed and board. If she is anything like the goats she will have an acute aversion to sharing and will kick the bucket over or attempt to maim the milk thief.

But we have faith, and in an exercise of optimism over experience are persevering and have embarked on the journey that will hopefully lead to home made beefburgers and ice cream. Step one is halter train your cow, this is essential as Vets are sometimes timid and will not venture into cows range without having a rope around cows head while they fiddle with its nether parts. Hetty's training has gone well. She took to the halter like a fish to a bike and after the rope burns and gravel rash healed I was ready for step two. Get Vet to TB test the belligerent bovine. This involves sticking a sharp object into cow, twice, she second time is harder than the first as cow is usually airborne or in stable rafters, but after second jab they measure the lumps made by sharp object. The Vet then comes back in three days to see if cow is a "reactor" if she is then cow is summarily executed and thrown away, the smallholder receives a gold leaf embossed scroll from HRH or big Dave saying thanks for service to cowhood, supreme sacrifice etc and heres a tenner to getting another one.

Needless to say both Hetty and yours truly are a bit concerned, especially given our run of bad luck over the weekend. The thought of our pet cow being put down because she has TB is not an easy one to come to terms with.

So meantime she is chomping through the green stuff and I am emailing pics of naughty motorcyclists to the Police. We will know Hetty's fate Thursday, meanwhile cross everything!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Glad its over

Its been a weekend marked by death. Rainbow the foal and now Bumble the large lamb in the centre of the above pic. While nothing could be done to avoid Rainbow's demise everything could have been done to avoid Bumble's premature end. The lambs like to sun themselves, usually on the lane, and as we are the only people with any right to drive on the lane then this is no problem. The Bonsai Mountain is covered with trails, footpaths and bridleways, and these prove very tempting to petrol heads on illegal motorbikes. Several times I have challenged garish coloured mad max lookalikes for riding through our yard. Once for deliberately aiming at the horses to make them move, and always too fast. The lame "We are looking for our uncles sheep" cuts no ice and is entirely unconvincing.

No don't get me wrong, I like motorbikes, I had until we moved here a 1000cc superbike, but the, and I will use a technical term here, the dickheads who ride these illegal machines along the highway (no numberplates, so I presume no insurance etc etc) and then onto the common are a menace and give bikers a bad name. So today while Bumble was sunning himself a speed freak raced past and collided with the dozing lamb killing him where he lay. I got there in time to find Easter his mother and Bee sniffing him. Enough is enough. The police have been told this time, and when I speak to them tomorrow I will give the photographs I took of the bikes, and bike number 429, you made our weekend. Cheers mate. I'm glad this weekends over.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Life goes on, minus one.

It was with a sense of foreboding that I opened the stable door this morning at silly o'clock. Birds hadn't even had their early morning stretch and yawn, yet alone thought about mustering for the morning singalong. Misty was stood in the centre of the stable gently nosing a pale brown smudge in the straw. Before I even muttered the involutary "Oh no" I knew our Rainbow had faded.
I had checked her just before midnight, she was asleep, breathing well, and after a few prods stood up and walked around. We were still unsure whether she was eating, Misty was stock still dripping milk, I had with me a mix of horse formula milk, Rainbow had a few lazy slurps and then went to Misty obviously preferring the real thing. With me lying down looking at the tiny pony's under parts I could see Rainbow was millimetres away from the food source, all she had to do was lean forward slightly, stick her tongue out even, so I was pretty sure she must have had some food. Enough anyway. I sat on an upturned bucket and tickled her whithers, she was so warm and fluffy! I wondered about calling the vet. What would I say? I'm worried my foals been asleep? I retired to the cottage and decided not to worry. Its a waste of energy.
So here we were, Misty and me, 5am, looking at a dead foal. Not long gone, perfect in every detail, just devoid the essential life force. Breaking the news to my beautiful and oh so patient wife Tracey was difficult, not nearly as difficult as removing the lifeless foal from its mother. Misty watched carefully and then began to call to her. She has done so all day, and as I type she is under the big sycamore tree still calling.
To stop the "what ifs" we went to the annual smallholders show, and under normal circumstances I would be raving about fresh inspiration, new ideas, another project (cant have too many on the go!) and post pictures of the prize beasts and equally prize characters that populate the world of smallholding. School boy error on my part was to forget to put the battery in the camera, so no photos, especially no photos of an Anglo Nubian Billy Goat who may get to know Geisha later in the summer. This depends on me building an even higher security compound to contain her from ravishing the garden, and as she has just been chased from the helipad where she discovered our secret stash of veg plants, tomato plants and herb garden, it looks unlikely that I will find the motivation to drive her a hundred miles to meet her suitor to create more monsters. But then again I like a challenge.
I did make one startling discovery at the show, goose bacon, which was a taste sensation. Goose breast cured and sliced like bacon, works with duck as well apparently. You need a lot of rashers for a buttie due to the size of goose/duck but it would be worth the effort and we have a pletora of ganders. Fox only takes useful birds. This seems a less time consuming project for yours truly than getting Geisha mated, but for the goose it takes total commitment.

Happy Days

Here's Tristan telling us how happy he is.

Friday, 20 May 2011

One extreme to the other!

Its been a day of extremes, which in a way was as planned, this being end of week one of foster care fortnight, an annual event to raise awareness of the shortage of foster carers in the UK. Red Kite's first event was an 30 mile hike/run/stumble, the second event took place today, a rather more genteel affair. More of that later. First off the usual routine was to be done, the feeding and watering took longer today as we had Socks the collie and Rainbow the pony. Socks was no trouble but Rainbow didn't look like she had eaten and so under the watchful eye of Rocky above, I tried to persuade Rainbow to have breakfast.

If she did not have her much needed colostrum feed, the first milk containing antibodies, she would almost certainly die. Having failed to get her to suckle, due to a combination of her being too tall, the nipple being too low and small small and both our general incompetence, Ian the Vet was summonsed. He had similar problems but persevered and we learned how to milk a horse (very carefully if you value your teeth) and bottle feed a less than day old foal. This didn't work very well so the nice vet set off to get various drugs needed to ensure Rainbow stayed with us, replacement milk powder and a book on how to perform blood transfusions, the next stage should we not be able to get colostrum into our diddy horse. Plasma taken from Misty containing the much needed antibodies would be the only hope.

Work had to go on and the Red Kite Cream Tea was a great success with help from various volunteers several lorry loads of strawberry cream scones were handed to ravenous hordes of foster carers eager to sign up to Red Kite in return for the advertised tea and cakes.

The press turned out and we are expecting some good coverage in the local papers and magazines.

Back at Rock HQ Rainbow was upright but still not eating. After being found asleep on her side and causing a minor heart attack in yours truly we decided we needed more expert advice and so phoned the very nice lady who sold us Johnny Big Potatoes, Rainbows dad, who gave us the best advice of all "Don't panic!" We try not to but being the novice day old foal owners that we are, its hard not to. Percy the agoraphobic pigeon was cured by Socks who thought the not very keen to race pigeon was a new squeaky toy when it landed his part of the stable. Minus a mouthful of tail feathers Percy was last seen on the roof of Rock HQ. Meanwhile Socks has met the Dolyhir Clan and had a fantastic run around the garden. The vet gave him a once over this morning so he's got a clean bill of health and so far has passed all tests. He's going to be an excellent family dog.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Rainbow Rising!

Not enough time or energy to put the full story but suffice to say this little pony, Misty, was out to bed with her supper looking like this.

An hour later she did this.

All by herself. A lovely little mare (at least I think it is) who was just struggling to its feet when I did the final check.

This is Rainbow, our first foal.
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I'm not going

Percy seems to like it here, that or he's the only agoraphobic racing pigeon in the country.
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New Socks

Meet Socks, the latest in the line of pet rescue, a lovely collie cross that we took in from an owner who's idea of looking after him included dangling him out of the upstairs window. He's a lovely lad, gentle, inquisitive, already he has met the pigs, geese, cow, horses and a couple of dogs who could squash him with one paw, and he's taken it all in his stride. A bit more training and a new home and he will make a lovely companion for someone.
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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Uninvited guests part one

This daft bird arrived three days ago and has been making itself comfortable in the tack room, stuffing itself on bird feed and washing it down with spring water. We thought today we should encourage it to find its way home so the cats were cornered and shut away and Percy (he has to have a name) was placed on the helipad ready for takeoff. The expected launch failed to take place and once it stopped walking around the garden it finally managed a few wing beats and landed on top of the cliff, a favoured perch of Ryeland lambs.

We chose to ignore it, hoping Percy would take the hint and make like a tree, but when we did this evenings rounds the bird brain was sat on top of the stable with Nemo the worlds laziest cat who possesses all the hunting ability of a slug closing in on an unexpected meal. Me running across the yard windmilling my arms and yelling "Lookoutbehindyou!" caused Nemo to change direction and Percy to take off. Several ever expanding high speed circuits of the smallholding lifted our hopes that he had finally go the message but were dashed after a high speed fly by ended with an emergency turn into the stable where he is now perched on the rafters. He is safe for the time being but I rate his chances of survival about the same as the justice secretary's.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

I'm hiding!

Hetty hid in The Cauldron in an effort to get away from Johnny Big Potatoes. It took the promise of fresh straw, extra rations and JBP getting a good telling off to persuade her back to her proper quarters. Meanwhile JBP is giving it the big I am to the wheelbarrow and strutting around playing King of the Hill in solitary confinement. Misty is still in one peice but has "bagged up" so will have milk for the expected foal.

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