Thursday, 30 June 2011

So intelligent

Pigs are renowned for their intelligence. As ever the ones at Rock HQ are the exception to the rule!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Wild beauty

We seem to have an extraordinary show of wild foxgloves this year.

Bringing a splash of colour to the green menace.

As good as any Chelsea Flower Show display!

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Tuesday, 28 June 2011

To the rescue!

Spotty looking good in his panniers taking the time to collect timber just in case the bridge is down. He takes his rescue work seriously. Seems like the lack of pics space has been solved by sending some money to California.

A good start

A good start to the day. clearing out the deep litter from the stable. Experience has taught us not to use anything other than straw for the deep litter, which is why it only took an hour to clean out the whole stable. Theres been a few flys in life's ointment today, Vic needed four new tyres, the furniture company that sold us our new Rock HQ office epic failed in delivering the items in 24 hours and four weeks on still haven't managed to send a fixing kit in the post to assemble parts of of the order and then took umbrage when I told them they were getting the furniture back. Apparently its being picky expecting the right stuff delivered and that it should be undamaged and with all parts necessary. The the techno gremlins broke the camera, the one that's been repaired 3x already and if it breaks again this time we will give you a full refund. This will no doubt entail a trip to the city and me refusing to leave the store until they do just that. I'm not prepared to be lent a pink camera again while they botch this one. And now the techno gremlins have got into the blog and apparently I have exceeded my store all your photos space, so the blog might be devoid pics for a while. Life was so much simpler this morning when I was shovelling sh*t!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Lesson learned

Experience is a hard school, as the saying goes. Our little flock has been hard pressed to find pasture worth eating on the Bonsai Mountain so it has bothered me that one of the holiday homes has lush green grass going to waste, around a quarter acres worth. On seeing Geisha (RIP) undo the gate and let her adoring Ryelands onto the verdant foodstuff I chose to leave them there rather than chastise them. Several days later an irate Murph (holiday home owner) remonstrated with me for allowing my beasts to defecate on his "lawn". I suggested they were doing him a favour keeping the grass down, he thought differently, he would rather mow than scoop fresh poop. So he padlocked the gate and Geisha (RIP) was unable to breach the new security.
So the grass grew.
And grew.
For twelve long weeks.
I saw Murph on the weekend trying to trim the two foot long blades of green with a budget electric strimmer with six metres of cable. After several hours he had managed to clear a path to the door and a small area of "lawn" in front of his holiday home.
On a walk up to the Technohermits abode I saw all our flock munching contentedly on the forbidden territory. Technohermit filled in the gaps, Murph let them in by removing part of the fence, seems he lost the key to the gate padlock. Murph thought that it was definitely easier to scooop poop rather than strim fresh jungle.
Lesson learned.
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Rumble in the Jungle

Hetty up to her neck in it, eating her way out.
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Sunday, 26 June 2011

Heavy metal fan

A gloriously hot day appeared as if by magic and we made the most of it by cramming it full of activity. Early doors saw a trek around Worzel wood with lil T and two Berners, a mark of how dry its been is that despite all the rain recently the boggy section of the walk was still completely dry. After two rounds of bacon sarnies on the helipad the jobs list was tackled. Hetty the love sick bovine was eventually persuaded to leave the sanctuary of the dog kennel (its a big kennel, shes small, but not that small) and stuff herself on the lush pasture of our lawn, as lets face it at least she wont eat the apple trees like Ambrose her sidekick goat.

Pictures prove otherwise but she is making a good attempt at making the lawn like a bowling green. One that has additional steaming hazards and hoof prints, but its a good attempt. For a cow.

I cracked on with the DIY list, uppermost was the need to repair the stable doors that have been ravaged by horses, Bernese dogs and pigs. It looks like giant mutant mice have been running amok. Crispen our Ryeland Ram decided that as it was 30 degrees anywhere other than in the shade it was worth putting up with heavy metal, power tools and my "carpentry" skills.

He stayed there for the duration, only moving when I accidentally trod on him. Door fixed and rehung I felt competent enough to fix the rear stable door which also has a mouse hole big enough for piglets to run through. This upsets pig indoors who finds that she is not able to get through small hole and so sets about making it big enough. Thankfully she was as patient as Crispen watching my duffers guide to door repairs and once it was hung in place showed me how much she appreciated my efforts by immediately sticking her snout under it and launching it skywards. I managed to avoid injury by a combination of Ninja moves and luck as the armour plated door sailed past my right ear. Take two saw door retrieved from field where it landed and put back in its rightful place, this time secured by some real heavy metal in the form of bolts.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Did'nt you kill my Brother?

Flaming Junes torrential downpour ended some time during the morning, over an inch and a half of water fell out of the skies overnight. Having got used to near drought conditions, and so everywhere was nice and dry, its been a bit of a shock going back to foot deep mud in certain sections of the smallholding. The weathers been weird over the Bonsai Mountain, the hills surrounding us have been under low cloud all day. Rumours of a spectacularly hot day tomorrow are rife but it looks unlikely at the moment.

The days been a balance of smallholding tasks, Tristan and dog training. Small scale farming seems to be a tag event nowadays, one of us going out the door to do a job while the other comes back in to take over childcare. Tracey took Reuben to a dog training class where much to our surprise he behaved himself, didn't disgrace himself by squashing any small dogs and was, and this was expected, absolutely adored by all attending.

Word is out about our love sick bovine, on a quick trip to the vet instead of the usual good morning a ah you're the one was an indicator that someone had squealed. Top advice from vet was that if the Belgian brute had ravished our little cow then that would be a bad thing, she so tiny, calf so big. So we wait and see if she comes back in season in three weeks, if so, no problem, if your idea of no problem is chasing a randy cow across the county. No season means preggers so she will have to have an injection to end the pregnancy. Poor cow.

While dog training was going on I assembled Tristan's high chair and baby walker. I am getting used to doing jobs one handed, covered in sick and balancing a baby on my hip.

Once I was allowed out I set about the Bracken with the strimmer clearing a huge patch. Our hired gun has been back for two more days clearing and together we have decimated about four acres. So I set about the Bracken in the cauldron. About 500 metres from my last mishap with the wasps. Just to prove a point that lightening can strike twice I am currently sporting several large swellings on the back of my neck as, somewhat predictably, I did it again and hit a wasps nest. First I thought it was a lone raider intent on wreaking revenge for the death of its brother but as I dealt with it I saw fresh squadrons heading in for combat so I did what any sensible fat bloke would do and ran back to HQ screaming.

Friday, 24 June 2011

The elephant in the room!

Tristan is an ever growing source of wonder and joy at Rock HQ. His favourite toys are bug (the yellow faced thing) and his new blue elephant bought by a friend who came to stay last weekend. Its hard to keep track of his progress, hes started to pull things towards him, hes ticklish, laughs, gurgles away like a happy loon and has a vice like grip. WooZah found this to her cost the other day as she sat looking the other way, Tristan, sat on my lap reached out and took hold of her ear. It took two of us to get him to let go. Good job Berners are such gentle giants.
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Copy Cat

Earl assuming the position taken by Bliss halfway up the stairs. Perhaps the animals know something we don't about this step!
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Thursday, 23 June 2011

The call of nature

As I pulled in to our lane this evening safe in the knowledge that I could up drawbridge and play farmers for the next 72+ hours I was surprised to find the gate to the Oracles yard shut. This is never shut. To get to Rock HQ Vic had to be piloted through his yard and our gate, up the long dirt track. As I opened the Oracle's gate he shouted at me. In a friendly sort of way from a long way off. The gist of his message was your cows in here. Somewhere.

And so began a highly entertaining evening where we tried to find Hetty amongst a large militia herd that contained a brute of a Belgian Blue Bull (he is truly massive) and dozens of assorted sized black cows. And calfs. And without the Oracle's help I am confident we would still be trying to get our little cow back. Our little cow was following the call of nature and had fallen for the bull, quite literally at one stage jumping 3 fences to get to him.

Lover boy can be seen lurking with intent to de flower our Hetty as we finally got her cornered (this took an hour, several trips in nettles/cowpats/bigger cowpats and water filled ruts) and after another frantic half hour or so managed to reduce the herd of around 50 excited vegetarian killing machines to four, one of which was our Hetty. After an honours degree in swearing she was finally lassoed and the halter put on her.

Which then led to a monster tug of war situation which only ended when she decided to drag the fat bloke trying to pull her all the way to her stall. Finally she dutifully walked in through the door and was rewarded with a bucket of oats while I went back to HQ to tend my rope burns, stings and strong desire for a rare steak.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Shear fun

Sparrows fart of the penultimate longest day was spent rounding up the Ryelands, who with their sixth sense knew something was about to happen so did what any canny Ryeland would do and headed for the hills. As ever with time at a premium things did not go well when the naughty flockers failed their breakfast appointment and were later found in ones a twos amongst the thorny gorse bushes.
They did this on purpose as they know that shearing a thorny sheep is almost as bad as shearing a wet thorny sheep. Thankfully we got the flock under cover for 24 hours and missed several deluges so when Stephani and Steve (honest) the mobile shearers (although after shearing 100+ sheep that day neither seemed particularly mobile!)pitched camp in Rock HQ's yard we were on for a couple of hours free (almost) entertainment and farm gossip while the flock got their kit off.
A sign of how relaxed we are around the militia nowadays is that we felt able to comment on Steve's shearing skills and helpfully gave him Ferny Fern Fern from Ferntown as his first victim. Ferny Fern Fern from Ferntown, a shear virgin, went bonkers, which was funny, and Steph had to assist Steve grapple the beast, which was funnier. Ferny is above asking for her fleece back.
Soon the Ryelands were deficit fleece and we took the opportunity to carry out some essential maintenance on our captives. We wormed, marked and blow fly treated them, which is why they look like a farmyard modern artwork or an explosion in a paint shop. The blue is our mark, the red is accidental leaking of essential body fluids and the pink is the blowfly wormer fluid which has to be applied externally in a cross shape. At least that's what we were told by the itinerant medicine seller before he ran off laughing.

Alien birth!

Fianlly the techno gremlin has been evicted, this is how Druid the piglet arrived, express delivery!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Emergency ward 10

There was a break in transmission yesterday, no update, the reason being Bridget the Managalitza, who has been living quite happily at the far end of the smallholding, not causing any bother at all, disappeared. Now a huge pig the size of a pygmy rhino is a hard thing to disappear, but she was gone, nowhere to be seen, ostensibly nowhere near the food trough. Now a beast that size off its food can only mean one thing. Trouble!
Armed with flaming torches and pitchforks we entered her lair, I say we, the Royal we, as in myself all alone as Tracey my beautiful and oh so patient wife knew better than to enter the pig wrestling championship. Bridget was in her bed, which was now several feet high and was only missing a big pink neon sign saying "Pig about to give birth!" as a final clue to events about to unfold. Trying to persuade said pig about to give birth to leave what in her mind is a carefully constructed birth pad and venture out into the dark, rainswept unknown was a challenge and I have to admit to it being the type of challenge that raised my pulse a few 100 beats per min as she made her displeasure known with several attempts to sever my legs blow the knee. Events were not helped when Morgana seeing a bucket of feed being swung around gatecrashed the party and disarmed me of said bucket. I let her off this playful pig banter and focused on Bridget who reluctantly wandered into the lane where I eventually got her within piglet range of the back stable. Several times.
After a few dozen sprints for freedom and a pretty good attempt to pole vault back into the pig pen Bridget was cornered in the back stable where much to her surprise she found a lovely clean bed, running water and electric lights. She lay down and got on with it while I steadied my nerves with a large single malt. Never having seen a pig birth before I was keen not to miss the action, and now having seen a pig birth I can honestly say its unlike any other birth I have seen. Its like something out of a Ridley Scott film, a bloody noisy traumatic alien mess. Once the video gremlins have been evicted fom this site I will put a clip on which shows the piglet popping like a champagne cork from its mums bits with the sow shooting in the other direction just as fast and making a noise like a disabled Stuka.

But it was worth the trauma to see these little piglets arrive in the world, there were only two, not named yet, but its the names are bound to be linked to the Solstice. Or the film Alien.
So the sun rose and I went to bed. Just for an hour or so. Didn't want to spoil myself.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Fathers day remembered

Fathers days have been a bit weird here for the last two years. 2009 fathers day was when Tracey's father died, how two years have passed so quickly is a worry. 2010 fathers day was the day we discovered that this bundle of fun pictured above was on his way. So this year, with him here and already four months old we marked the day with redecorating the living room. In actual fact we hadn't planned to redecorate, but as today was the first day he ate anything other than milk, we gave him some fruit puree, we might just have well have hired an automatic paint sprayer and loaded it with the mango and peach concoction.

All three of us persevered and once Tristan got the hang of swallowing it rather than insanely grinning, dribbling, sneezing it out or inhaling it in the end result, aside from multicoloured furnishings, walls, clothing and dogs was that he enjoyed it.

The days been spent in a loathsome DIY fest where the rubbish furniture supplier when finally prompted to deliver my worldly goods delivered fourteen cartons of flat pack, and when opened I found one was damaged, one was the wrong one, another was without a fitting kit and by the time I got to the fourth carton I was lacking a sense of humour and changed my mind about wanting any of it yet alone a book case that was twice as wide and deep than it appeared in the brochure. Rather than cut my nose off to spite an already troubled face I decided to keep some of the cartons which were pressed into action once assembled and am prepared to go to war over the rest when their office opens tomorrow. But by end of playtime I had a nice clean shiny desk and work station where I was able to spend a few minutes playing with my fathers day present, a Lego tractor.

Lego has changed a bit in the 40 plus years I have had it. I can recall my first set, a London taxi bought for me by mum and dad before they made the epic decision to leave 1970 town living and move to a farm, where dad went from petrol attendant to shepherd. So its thanks to them and him that I like Lego (still have all my original Lego in a box in the workshop) and I live here in paradise.
Thank you hardly seems enough but its heartfelt.
Thanks Dad.
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Saturday, 18 June 2011

Water shortage

Its been the driest start to the year ever known which has had some bonus side effects, like the lack of mud at Rock HQ and the bracken that threatens to suffocate Bonsai Mountain has not managed its usual 6 foot in height making it easier for us to chop down. We've had a few dramas with the micro fish farm, its been running nicely, fish getting bigger, some were 8 inches in length, still a bit of growing to do but doing fine, the valves and taps on the arcane pipework that fed the fresh water to the trout have been fully open allowing the barest trickle to oxygenate the tank. A torrential downpour earlier in the week changed the barest trickle into a tsunami and in the early hours of the morning 25 million gallons of water tried to get into a space big enough for 500 gallons. By the time I got there at sparrows fart the water had changed countless times, overflowing and allowing the fish to go and explore the world. As world ends in our garden/compost heap and lane the holiday was short lived. As were the fish. Back to the drawing board on that project, but it does work, perhaps better if we used a different fish who don't like to explore the world.

Second water sourced drama started when I cleaned out the pig pens this morning, the full water tanks giving the water supply down the far end of the smallholding a useful pressure. So I cleaned out the troughs and hosed out the mud from the gateway. Bridget the Mangalitza that might be pregnant, rather than Pam who definitely isn't, has a habit of tipping her water trough over, every day, which is no doubt entertaining if your a pig, but a biped trying to use the gateway one foot deep in liquid mud, the joke wears thin. So today the mud was evacuated from the pens (a lot was carried away on the paws of Bernese Mountain Dogs). Clean footwear for all. No mud. Not the time then to forget to turn the tap off and give Bridget the raw materials (500 gallons worth) to create a mud bath visible via google earth.

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Friday, 17 June 2011

Milk bars open!

Pams piglets enjoying breakfast
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Thursday, 16 June 2011

Street cred

I struggled to get in to work today, not through tiredness, no I slept soundly last night, it being the first night in weeks we were not anticipating the birth of new animals. No I was struggling as I was loaded like a pack animal with my paperwork, diary, phone, glasses, 10 dozen eggs and thirty pounds of frozen sausage, the edible items for colleagues. I fumbled with the code to the keypad and entered the inner sanctuary without dropping anything and without creating sausage omelette's on the floor.

Work was its usual hectic pace, court work is strange, you are in a building with solicitors, barristers and other ner do wells all trying to win wars of words refereed by the clerk who rules with an iron fist. So there I was rubbing shoulders with a mixture of societies least favourite people (not all were legally qualified, some were criminal) drug users, dealers, abusers, burglars, fine dodgers and car thieves. Its not uncommon for the little TWOC'ers (take without the owners consent) to nick a car to get to court, or nick one to get away. Or both.

So all day I was indoors, and obviously Vic the Volvo was outside. Now it is said that Volvos lack a certain something, street cred is one, not your head turning road racer that is a must have for petrol heads. More a cardigan of the automobile world. And as its gas powered Vic is shunned by the mainstream driver who having seen Pathe news reels of the Hindenburg disaster think that driving gas powered cars must be akin to sitting on a landmine and hitting it with a hammer, the gas tank is a bomb just waiting to go off. The inevitable question when people discover Vics source of motivation is "Oh, aren't you scared?" Usually, but not of Vic.

Cases heard, and home time so I collected my stuff together, final check before negotiating the security guards and body scanner at the exit. A strange feeling that something was missing. I put my files down, checked my pockets, definitely missing. Car keys missing. I took the long walk through the building to the exit where Steve the security guard waved cheerily as my arm set off his metal detector again, "Go on sir" he chortled in a "Run along now sonny" way.

I walked around the building hoping. Hoping that Vic was where I had left him, and that if he was the keys were as well. Our friends recently had their car taken off their drive. Twice. What chance did Vic have given the clientele of the day?

He stood alone in the car park. I could see the door locks were off, hanging in the ignition the keys. All day ripe for the taking. Heaving the hugest sigh of relief I got in and started the journey home. How did he manage to survive the day, perhaps Volvos lack street cred for scrotey car thieves, even Volvos with big neon signs over saying steal me now its going to be so easy!

The voices on the radio crossed from the sub conscious and I listened carefully as the discussion concluded that the increase in car security meant the majority of cars are now stolen with the car keys.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Prime pork

I spent ages last night holding the trotter of Pam the Mangalitza while she potched around the stable, building a huge mound of straw, demolishing the huge ound of straw, building it back up again, knocking it down, turning over the water trough, rooting up the rubber mats that make the concrete extra cosy. In all she was a pain, moithering around and giving every sign that the end was nigh. Surely, I thought, tonight must be the night.

So as I dozed leaning on the five bar gate at the entrance of the stable I toyed with the idea of going to bed, but Pam would do something more convincing that piglets were about to pop out so I endured the lack of sleep until 12.30 am. Pam settled, nothing was happening. I crept indoors and grabbed an hours kip fully clothed on the sofa. 1.30 am I was back at the gate, Pam was doing her build it up knock it down routines. Disappointed I went back to the sofa, dismissing the idea of getting the sun lounger and sleeping in the stable doorway as going a bit too far.

2.45 am excitement as I found Pam doing something different, she had got her snout through the handle of her feed bowl and was really rather cross. Then she began pawing the ground and making funny noises. This must be it. 3.30 am I was about to give in and she lay down and began grunting, legs going like she was riding an invisible porcine bike. Nil pork delivered despite maximim revolutions. 4am I gave in and went to bed bed. 5.45 am back on duty, curses, still no new additions. So I dawdled through my normal routine hoping to see some action before setting off across the mountains to work in the valley that time forgot. I left at 6.30. Sat at my desk by 8am.

8.05 a phone call from Tracey, my beautiful and oh so patient wife. Guess what has just arrived while you were driving. So after all that I missed the birth of the lil pigs, but the wait was worth it, six lovely little piglets, 2 girls 4 boys. Stable Sprite flew over to reassure all that Pam had finished and all was well. I got home early evening and got my first hands on with our new rare breeds. As I drove back excited at the prospect of meeting the newbies I recalled a bit of advice from one of the local militia, a veteran pig keepers daughter told us that the bestest ever advice her dad had given her about a farrowing sow was to just let them get on with it. Presumably he would advise a pig keeper to sleep as well.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

A mans gotta do....

...what a mans gotta do. And as the jobs list is getting even more massive than normal for the time of year and the bracken regaining a foothold (read blanket coverage) on last years battlefield I knew that even with the increased firepower of the posh blue strimmer I was going to lose this latest skirmish unless time could be devoted to exterminating the green menace.

Introducing Steve the Assassin, who boldly went with the posh blue ( I let him use my new toy rather than old yeller, not everyone manages his quirky temperament and the electric shocks) and decimated a huge area while I sat in the sun watching. Not really, much as I would rather risk death by wasps (see sunday) and a covering of green mush I was off site doing Red Kite Fostering stuff. I did get back in time to offer encouraging words and a coffee and cookies. During the interval the Ryelands, keen to make the best of any opportunity for calorific consumption, explored pastures new and made his task more interesting by lurking in the greenery and leaving fresh lamb mines to tread in.