Sunday, 31 July 2011

Stupid Cow

The day got off to a slow start as we had friends over and this called for a full cooked English on the helipad. Any excuse to stuff myself with our sausage bacon and eggs! Once they moved on to their next destination I got on with trying to get jobs off the jobs list without adding to it.

I didn't even know we had a green plastic chair, but Hetty found one. She also found an interesting way to attract my attention, jumping the garden fence and playing silly buggers with the greenhouse. Thankfully she only broke glass in the already broken one, but hell bent on creating chaos she returned from having a smashing time with aforementioned headgear. Never having had to remove garden furniture from demented bovines it was all a bit of a learning curve. This started with taking a firm grip of chair before realising that this was a bigger mistake than forcing ones head through a small hole in a plastic chair.

Now their is form in the Rock HQ clan for getting stuck in a chair. He who cannot be named, eldest son, aged 9 decided to see if he could fit through the back of a chair, a contortionist trick he managed with some finesse until he passed it from his waist, squeezed his shoulders through and was found in the first stages of death by plastic school chair by a panicking teacher. Teacher did the obvious if faced with a blazing inferno, or horrific life threatening accident, and phoned the fire brigade. They dutifully turned out the jaws of life, a huge hydraulic cutting device, and made to free first born. He had a sense of humour failure and a kindly fireman wiped away his tears, covered his head in fairy liquid and removed chair from sobbing child. The school phoned me to tell of the crisis and thought it very bad form that I had hysterics and thought the whole episode v funny.

Back in present crisis on third circuit of garden I decided to let go of mad cow before one of us was seriously hurt and resorted to the old combination of applied psychology and extreme violence. Lulled into a false sense of security by the sudden appearance of an extra feed and my bonne homme, Hetty paused in her canter around the garden and stuffed her face. This provided yours truly with the opportunity to grip the chair and in a super hero type way break it with my bare hands. I am not sure who was more surprised, me or the cow, but she was certainly grateful that the plastic add on was gone and even more thankful that I hadn't used the sledge hammer on a better safe than sorry principle.

The day calmed down a bit, one of the Ryeland Lambs took up residence in Mr Whirlpool, we went over to see Stable Sprite to wish him a happy birthday (presented him with a Rock HQ special, a letter rack painted like a Berkshire pig) did a bit of last minute shopping and entertained Beth and Rob in the evening. I'm hoping for a quieter day tomorrow!

Saturday, 30 July 2011

It wasnt me!

Tristan having an unexpected impact on the Jenga champions league world final. The look says it all, it wasnt me!
The day has been spent mainly with the Berners so see dog blog. If not with Berners then chasing escapee piglet up and down lane, finally it was caught in a classic pincer movement. And then eating, though not as much beef wellington was consumed as had been anticipated as Cosmo the tabb cat found it and felt inclined to take a share without waiting to be asked! Some times the cats are as bad as the foxes!
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Friday, 29 July 2011

Morning workout

Abs and arms workout to start the day, moving over 1000kg of animal feed from Trixie to the tack room via the marauding Ryelands,

it didn't take long being the super fit smallholder that I am, and if nothing else the Ryelands were persistent

to the end. It rained the whole time, I got wet, almost broke my back slipping on the treacherous slope of the trailer ramp greased with rain and fresh sheep offerings and missed breakfast. I did ask Tracey my beautiful and oh so patient wife who was watching the gun show and riding shotgun to the sheep/goat/and anyothertheives if she ever considered selling it all and leading a quiet and normal life. She told me I would be bored. Correct.

Down at the office we had a surprise visit from Sox and his owners, he, an ex rescue of ours, is doing really well, has grown in size and stature and is a very happy dog.

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Thursday, 28 July 2011

Some things change....some stay the same

It was L Day today, been on the calendar for weeks, finally here, L Day, Leaving Day, the day I dropped one of my balls (see previous reference to juggling not a medical problem) I left my paid work and have taken one step beyond, out into the great void of freelance.
So some things have changed today, I cleared my desk, packed my photos, found all my mugs, and thanked all those that made working in RCT such fun. I wasn't sad about the actual event, it is the right decision, but I am sad about leaving some truly great colleagues from all departments who made life easier in the trenches. Sometimes it felt like a war zone, the building under siege, broken windows a weekly occurrence, death threats almost as frequent, dealing with damaged personalities has its impact and we dealt with it with humour and sometimes tears. Today the office laid on a buffet lunch for yours truly, and presented me with a leather bound filofax so now I have no alternative but to be organised. Some of us will work together again, in different roles, either through Red Kite or independent work, or meet up through the sale of pork based products such as our famous sausages. But for now a sincere thank you and I wish you all good fortune in the troubled times ahead.
Meanwhile life on the farm goes on, so some things stay the same, and before I could sample tonight's dinner and cold one I had to fetch pig feed for the growing and growing number of porkers living the life of Riley here at HQ. Thanks to the new feed supplier being much more accommodating I went over early evening and was left to my own devices in the big barn loading Trixie. The purchase of 100 feed sacks meant that I was able to bag up and load up quickly and whereas the usual load brought back to HQ was 500 kg today I hauled 1000kg thanks to the new way of loading. Hazel coped well with the load and it means we have halved the number of times we have to fetch feed. Its a win win, win as in its cheaper anyway and win as we have reduced our haulage costs. The sausages wont be cheaper though!
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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Strange things are afoot.....

We have had concerns, ignoring the same sex issue (not that its an issue we are all right on tree huggers here) they are after all from different sides of the gene pool, fur and feathers parted company some way down the evolutionary tree.

But Rupert the goose and Ambrose the ingredients have formed a sort of unholy pact. They are, until nightfall, inseparable, and as night falls because who knows what sort of nocturnal depravity they would get up to and Rupert is on the fox menu (we lost two yesterday, a duck and a cockerel) Rupert is prised from the embrace of his partner and shut in with the rest of the geese.

Left to their own devices, when they think no one is looking, this is what they get up to. Strange things are afoot in the yard of Rock HQ!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Double trouble

Sat relaxing with a cuppa last night all was well in my world until a strange grunting from underneath the front window sent the Berners into Dr Who mode, ie. hiding behind the sofa until the monsters have gone. Monsters turned out to be marauding Mangalitzas Pam the Pig and Bridget the Fidget. They were following their snouts and the wrong side of the wire. Anticipating an attempt to spring the piglets out of the slammer the high security doors were shut earlier in the day. I had hoped for a more imaginative escape attempt, you know, wooden vaulting horse, tunnel type, but 500kg of mobile pork battering ram lacked a certain finesse.

In fact Pammy and Bridget had no intention of breaking out their offspring, they were enjoying their freedom far too much. They dutifully followed the feed bucket down the lane and back into the big pen, which is where we discovered their escape route, an open gate. Not sure how that happened, probably yours truly not paying attention, I was just glad the Mangalitzas hadn't jumped the fence.

One reason, or rather two reasons why they are keen for time out from the pig pen is that Iggle and Piggle the OSB's are helping themselves to free milk!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Introducing George

The much anticipated arrival of George took place at the weekend. Pritch our ever so friendly long sufferer of projects at Rock HQ builder put us in touch with George. George is like many other cement mixers in this world, except he is special, because he is ours. George waited a long time at the builders merchants, sitting amongst others waiting to be chosen to fulfill his destiny.

Finally the day came, he was taken from the dark warehouse and placed in the back of a shiny van full of tools. He was very excited. A proper builder in a proper builders van. George was a good mixer so he got on well with all the other power tools. Then it went all quiet, no one came for him so he sat quietly in his box listening to the other tools talking about big jobs like house restorations and he dreamed of joining in. The builder came back and George felt himself being lifted out of the van, but not taken to the building site, not like the others, no, George was put straight into another vehicle, that smelled funny and had heavy metal music playing.
George was worried, he could smell goats.
Goats always mean problems.
Eventually the new car stopped and he was let out. The man laughed as he read "Easy assembly in 5 minutes" on the ticket around his neck but George did his best and in 7 minutes, not bad for a ham fisted amateur, George was stood to attention in the yard.
George looked around in dismay, this was no busy building site, there were no builders bums to laugh at, there were hardly any buildings around and everywhere was a funny green colour.
George's head spun as the man switched on the power, finally he would show the man what he could do. He wondered what big job they would be doing together. George looked round as he emptied the cement into the battered barrow that had strange organic bits hanging off it. It smelled like the car.
A step!
George was mixing concrete for a step! The indignity of it all, it was a small step at that! It was hardly worth getting dirty for! Didn't the man know some of his bigger brothers and sisters were laying foundations for 2012! And here he was mixing for a step into the Berner Annexe! George sulked as the man cleaned him, making him all shiny and new again before putting him away carefully in a special place just for George. The man was very happy with is efforts.

It was afterall, one small step for man.
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Sunday, 24 July 2011

Pig of a day

Its all been about pigs today, apart from fixing gate latches, replenishing the water tanks, introducing George to the smallholding, doing butch building jobs, entertaining 9 Bernese Mountain Dogs, feeding all the critters, looking after Tristan, who's poorly, poor lad has my manflu (yes seems like my flu jab has worn off) and feeding Hermits, today has been entirely devoted to the pigs of Rock HQ.
Pammy Pig, above, has been doing her nut in the stable, being used to the great outdoors she has a case of cabin fever which isn't helped by 6 hyperactive piglets who rub salt into the wound by climbing through the gate and exploring the great outdoors. As they are all on solids and she seems to be spending as much time chasing them off her teats as allowing them on it was W Day. Weaning off the piglets Day. Mission success relied on removing the five bar gate from the entrance without being killed by Pam. She reverted to being super softy Pam, probably a sign of how much the kids were doing her head in and the waited patiently while yours truly removed all 138 screws holding the gate in place. As the last screw was undone a brief conversation over the stable door with Tracey, my beautiful and oh so patient wife who was on standby with the first aid kit, on the how does one separate Pig from Piglets. Pam solved this one by doing an admirable impression of a greyhound out of the trap and shot off in the general direction of the big pig pen.

The door was shut behind the disappearing porker and job was done. Flush with success I decided that Bridget the Fidget pig should be given the same opportunity. Her piglets are a bit younger than Pam's but as she only has two they are mighty mini porkers and on solids like the rest of them. Bridget did pretty much the same as Pam given the opportunity of an open door, except Bridget went off like a malfunctioning Exocet and tried hit all areas of the smallholding at the same time. Having a SOHF (sense of humour failure) as I headed off the feisty pig from her intended target, which was everywhere except anywhere close to the big pig pen, I decided that drastic measures were needed to help her get a sense of direction.

It was also a MAD plan, as in if it went wrong it was a Mutually Assured Destruction outcome. As Bridget shot past on yet another spiral I stepped out armed with a piglet which on seeing mum detonated. The next few minutes were a blur, and thankfully no one was hurt, critically, although my ears are still ringing (which is nothing compared to the possible loss of limbs involved in the MAD plan)and Bridget got the idea of where she should be and on a final fly past crashed into the target area where Pam was already availing herself of the facilities.

It has to be said that Pam and Bridget did a pretty good job of forgetting their responsibilities as a mother and started to enjoy themselves.

I was it worried about how the other porkers would take the new arrivals. Well Iggle and Piggle soon made friends and have already been seen sneaking milk from both mangalitzas while Guinevere and Morgana took it all in their stride.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Looking good

Hetty is the one thing looking good in the garden at the moment. I was hoping that she would keep the grass down to below knee height but

she has other ideas and was caught today puling branches off the plum tree and scoffing the unripe fruits. Wont want to be walking

to close behind her when they work their way through her system. George arrived today, we have big plans for him but he has been lazing in the back of Hazel the almost 4x4 as he is too heavy to shift solo after my six weekly visit to the mighty osteopath. Talking cars (Hazel) Vic came back from the docs today after dumping his gearbox oil on the yard. As it happened here rather than midpoint of a daily 200 mile drive Vic suffered no damage following his ruptured seal. Good job really as next week I am giving up paid work in search of better things.
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Thats our boy!

Five months old and gorgeous
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Friday, 22 July 2011

Piggin Vandal

Bridget the Fidget Mangalitza is putting her new found ability of fence jumping to good use

jumping out of the pig pen to examine the strange black object in the Corral OK

and having torn off various sections of the wrapping set off to see what else she could damage.
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Thursday, 21 July 2011

And finally George

It seems that comparing BT to a cross dressing crooner from the 80's was more than they could stand. So finally after months and months of intermittent phone connection decisive action was taken.

First wind we got of it was when the phone went dead again. Preparing for the mother of all rants I spotted a strange vehicle entering the militias property that borders ours. Within the hour three poles were down and another saw three brand new ones in their place.

Engineers in cherry pickers re hung the wire and almost as fast as they appeared they were off. Job done. Finally. A forever fix. Thank you Boy George, you might have given us tuneless wailing with pointless lyrics, inspired hideous fashion sense and created gender confusion in night clubs that is an endless source of embarrassment to many, but you did, without even knowing it, get our phone line fixed. For that I can almost forgive you Karma Chameleon. Almost.

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Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Getting to know you...

Iggle and Piggle meeting the neighbours, in this case Hetty Dexter.
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Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Movement Orders

Its been one of those massive days at Rock HQ, one where, on reflection over a well earned cuppa, we wonder how did we fit it all in, and do paid work and look after the apprentice smallholder. First light saw all hands pressed to service, including Hazel who was used as a beef barrier. Hetty, seven days in solitary for her own good, was being allowed freedom of the "garden" while we waited for the next delivery of hayledge. Once the white gate was open it was quite an obstacle to love sick bovines and a clear indicator that she should go through the portal and graze, not leg it. Belt and Braces approach today, with no time to waste chasing naughty cows, she was halter led towards breakfast. Now she is no Ferrari, not built for speed, no 0-60mph in 2.9 seconds. However several tons of willful beef can suddenly, if it wants to, take off sharpish, tearing halter rope from hand and race towards the above obstacle. For a moment the day was on a knife edge, fall one side of the blade all is well, no canter across the fields, just shut gate behind hungry cow and move on to next part of day, but as is so often here Hetty chose the wrong route, leaped from the garden wall and skipped merrily towards 500 acres of open ground. Thankfully my stalking skills have improved and despite Rocky alerting mad cow to my presence thus adding half a mile to the adventure Hetty turned tail and fled back the sanctuary of the garden and escaped my wrath.

Next on the agenda was sorting the pork out. This was ever so easy, in comparison to beef, as Bridget the Mangalitza followed me up the lane, into the recently vacated cow pen and tucked into the super feed. See below, the pics are out of sequence, so with Bridget where she should be I fetched her piglets. Well in the time it took to catch and carry her weapons grade piglets (ear defenders are compulsory wear when handling piglets as they have a sonic attack ability that melts the human brain) Bridget had got bored and jumped the fence and was where she shouldnt be trying to make friends with the horses. Much tooing and froing ensued and eventually the piglets were in the right pen with Bridget and the horses were persuaded to come down from the trees after being traumatised by a sheep/pig.

The real pigs, Berkshires, Morgana and Guinevere were moved from the big pig pen to the smaller one, for the simple reason that they have moved so much rock and debris against the gate of the big pig pen as to render it inoperable. They have had free run of both pens via a massive hole they created in the almost barn's wall. This was hastily repaired with steel mesh and rock, bike wheels, chain mail, bed steads, in fact anything heavy that was near to hand. Reason being was that Iggle and Piggle, our new Oxford Sandy Black weaners were arriving (after we collected them) and it would be easier to lift weaners over the fence, thus ignoring inoperable gate, and so they, by default, got the large pig pen.

As can be seen Iggle is a mighty weaner, so mighty in fact that given the bargain price I wish I had bought four Iggles, but we stayed rational and stuck with the two. In a very short time they will be sausages. And bacon.

Meantime they have luxury accommodation and some very strange looking tri colour pigs to make friends with.
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Monday, 18 July 2011

Something Fishy

The new animal feed is going down well with all the critters at Rock HQ, the universality of it makes it easy in the feeding routine, each critter getting a varied sized portion from the same feed sack. So the rabbits through to Horses all wait patiently for their morning ration. Some like the Ryelands are not so patient and run amok visiting various breakfasts. Several now bear the scars from encounters with irate sows with piglets to feed. The Berners try and sneak mouthfuls, even Stable Sprites apprentice Gremlin tried a strange looking lump which despite his description of the taste we are sure was molasses, bringing to mind the joke who's punchline ends its a good job we didn't step in it.
Preparations are underway for tomorrows adventure that involves moving several ton of pork around the smallholding and the arrival of George.
The cats are the only ones who have not been seen eating the universal feed, they have more refined tastes and they wait patiently on the stone wall outside psychically willing one of us to go outside and place in front of them a pouch of salmon mousse. Its for the Berners really, but the psychic powers of the cats usually prevails.
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