Monday, 31 October 2011

Under seige

"Are any of your pigs meant to be out?" Not the usual opening gambit to a telephone call at work. Supergrandma was looking after the apprentice smallholder for an hour or three while chores were being done. I confirmed that all pigs were not out, they should all be in. "You've not let any in the garden then?" the description of the Somme like mess as garden hung in the air for a second, "No none are supposed to be in the garden". Thoughts of fence climbing pig causing mayhem, must raise fence height, electrify current fence, shoot pig or get it a trampoline to keep it occupied, all options considered.

"There might be a little one out, she climbs fences" more silence.

"Theres more than one out, theres big ones, little ones, white ones, black ones and ginger ones with dots on"

That's all of them then.

Persuaded Supergrandma not to go and wrestle pigs back into pen, she and beautiful and oh so patient wife were to wait the hunter gatherers return.

On return, in the dark, Rock HQ was under siege. All pigs were engaged in an assault on the front door.Several gates lay on the floor having failed to prevent progress of rampaging porkers, this included the ornate metal gate by the front door. Pammy and Bridget were in the process of turning the green trolley into a battering ram, Guinevere and the two baby boars were constructing a rudimentary trebuchet while Rosie the Red piglet tried to recruit the rabbits to the cause. Iggle and Piggle favoured the direct approach and were front trotters on windowsill looking in, snouts pressed to the window like orphans from a Dickensian novel. Vic's arrival curtailed their mass attack on the cottage and they raced around him like native Americans in a cliche ridden wild west film.

Thankfully they respected yours truly personal space (or his size 10's)and followed him Pied Piper stylee back to the slammer where they got extra rations for compliance.

Only Morgana was missing.

The big and beautiful Berkshire pig had love on her mind and had spent her unexpected free afternoon in search of Thor.

And what had this hunk of male piggy done while there were six females of different breeds and sizes making them self available to him?

Hidden behind his horse trembling.

I am beggining to have doubts about his commitment as well as ability!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Seeing things

The weather was kind to us today as the concretathon continued in the Corral OK. The ponies and Thor watched from the battlefield of Oak Bank and urged us to get the job done quickly so they could have dry hooves. The downpour overnight meant part of the morning was spent digging the drainage ditch that will go alongside the concrete pad but by 9.45 George was in action.

I must admit to having a bit of a downer for the first four barrow loads, then a whole host of why am I doing this thoughts for the next four, followed by some really dark thoughts as the next four loads combined with the previous only covered the first three feet. As we were doing over 15 feet even with my math it was going to be a long day.
Perseverance is the key and slowly slowly the mountain of dry ingredients was transformed into a very neat concrete pad. Rocky kept me company for part of the day, he replaced Spotty who dutifully watched every shovel full and followed every barrow load and didn't put a paw wrong. Rocky on the other paw thought his best occupation was to be a trip hazard or to drain the buckets of water.
Mid afternoon saw the days task completed. I chose to ignore the mangalitza piglet digging up the driveway, putting it down to a figment on my imagination. This was a very active figment who just before dark climbed the fence and returned to the pig pen when the evening carrots were delivered.

This time Rocky managed to resist the temptation to add an interesting pattern to the concrete pad.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

MIA cows and carpet bombing pigs

As dawn began its hike over the Bonsai Mountain I was already repairing fences. The three little pigs had been making their presence known by leaving craters all along the grass verges of the drive and across what was left of the "garden". Access to all areas had to be prevented hence my early appearance with various bits of wood, wire, screws, nails, staples, power tools and several sharp or heavy objects that, given the lack of daylight and my capacity for self harm, in normal circumstances would have required me to have at least supervision and more likely, help. However these were not normal circumstances, today was a big day, we had the final day of skills to foster training to deliver and an exhibition to put on inviting applications from would be fosterers. Time was tight, the fence repair went smoothly and all would have been well except for one minor detail. Repairing fences on pig pen should not go smoothly, there should be a cow shaped fly in the ointment.
Fully prepared for that eventuality I had taken along with all other fence repair essentials a bucket of feed to keep said cow occupied rather than have her investigate (read get in way) of repairs. Hetty was conspicuous by her absence. Rocky took advantage of lack of cow by eating a hearty breakfast. Search of perimeter was cowless, cow was definitely MIA, last seen 11.40pm in greenhouse asleep.
Clock ticking search pattern widened to militias field.
A dozen or so black cows grazed in the half light, none looked guilty.
Not ours then.
Clock ticked on.
Retraced search and extended to The Cauldron, if cow not there then search will have to abandoned.
Several high speed sheep exit the entrance to The Cauldron gave a tiny clue that a tiny cow was playing chase. Hetty thundered into the lane to be confronted by me in my finest matador pose. Thankfully she skidded to a halt and right turned into the back of the Corral OK where she was treated as hero by the ponies. Chastisements for all will have to wait there were lots of jobs to do.
Exhibition went well, lots of meeting and greeting, lots of interest and application packs dished out along with free pens and cards.
Help was at hand, the apprentice smallholder and The Godfather kept the troops entertained and in all the day was a great success. A good group completed the training and we had a brilliant buffet lunch where everyone chipped in with a plate of goodies. I ate more than my share of fresh crab and apple cake (two items ate separately, not together, that would be weird) I locked up and set off home a happy man, especially as the pigs would have been thwarted in their attempt to defoliate the garden.
Unfortunately the pigs had other ideas and had attacked en masse.
The resulting damage looked like the "garden" had been carpet bombed.

How had this happened?

Had they breached the extra security?

Had the repair work not held?

No, it was all intact.

They had simply used the almost barn door as an exit.

A barn door left open.

Left open by someone in a hurry.

In a hurry looking for a cow.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Outside looking in

Thor got himself the wrong side of the ring feeder and being a ham sandwich short of a picnic stayed there until help arrived. Meanwhile the Mangalitza piglets have found another way out of the pig pen, its so secret that they forget how they have got out and run around the outside squealing like...erm...well pigs really until yours truly opens the gate and stops them exercising the calories off.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

One size fits all

Thor the Bernese Mountain Pig trying the soon to be drainage ditch for size.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Night fighting

Late last night as we did the last checks before bedtime and shut the geese away it was horribly clear that for three, Rupert, Storm and Sunny the walk back to the goose house was the last thing they did. Their bodies were scattered across the Corral OK where they had tried to escape the fox, those that did were in the goose house, the three that didn't testimony to the foxes murderous antics. No sign of fox, except for tracks, and nothing eaten off the dead birds. Why it left them or why it stopped short of killing the remaining birds we can only speculate, maybe Thor came along and frightened the cowardly vermin off. Steps have been taken to try and outwit Mr Fox, hopefully it arrives this weekend, meantime increased patrols armed with a gun are on the agenda.

This massive pile of stone arrived today ready to be turned into a hard floor in the Corral OK. Sunday is going to be a busy day!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Sheepfight at the Corral OK!

I've lost count the number of times I have been out looking for Pedro, or for how long he has been missing. An all points bulletin has been posted for the wandering Romeo, various militia have been round asking if we have got him back, some friendly, one particularly unfriendly claiming all sorts of laws had been broken if Pedro had violated any of his girls. This militia member has short term memory problems as not so long ago, well perhaps two winters, his ram moved in with our flock for weeks, gave them all pink eye before he was secretly spirited away one dark evening. Only 4x4 tracks in the snow and an empty space the clue that we had had visitors. Anyway Pedro broke cover in front of me early evening as I walked the Berners around the Bonsai Mountain.

Trying to sneak up on the naughty Ryeland and his wild girls was not easy, especially as the Berners wanted to go first and totally ruined any element of stealth. Eventually I got between him and Rock HQ and with a lot of luck managed to get him and his two mental companions to run towards home. Having phoned ahead my beautiful and oh so patient wife met the trio in the cauldron and Pedro sensing calories in the magic blue bucket headed in approximately the right direction. At this point Montana executed a fantastic move referred to "heading them off at the pass" and single pawed prevented progress and sent the three sheep uphill again and round the back of Rock HQ.

I kept up the pursuit as fast as a fat forty something can manage but the terrain and flora conspired against me but just before they totally disappeared from view I saw a sudden change of direction with Pedro in the lead they were skirting the cliff at the back of the cottage.

The sudden lack of horizontal surface to run along impeded their progress and I was able to catch up again and with Spotty "helping" managed to steer them to the lane where the rest of our little flockers were having a bonus feed in an effort to demonstrate how much fun it is to be a pampered Ryeland as opposed to joining the wild life. Pedro saw sense in this but as his ladies ran up the lane, back toward the cauldron and the wilderness beyond, he thought with his purse rather than his brain and shot off after them. This caused a massive SOHF on my part and I ran after them in the vain hope I could outrun him. Thankfully the fugitive turned left in the yard and he and the girls ran into the Corral OK. Realising their mistake they spun on their heels and charged back again but the sight of me slamming the five bar gate called a temporary halt to their antics.

The scene was set for a show down. Manno et Sheepo. Only one was going to leave this Corral standing. The four sheep advanced (an extra one had joined in sensing an easy victory) Spotty attempted to join me but was called back, this was my fight. Some times a mans gotta do what a mans gotta do. I stepped forward to meet them halfway, clenching and unclenching my hands, getting blood to my fingers, I needed to be quick on the draw. Pedro stopped and sniffed the air, rolling a stick of straw from one side of his mouth to the other. He was ready. So was I. He moved, I was quicker. He spun round and hit the dirt. I had two handsful of struggling Ryeland and I wasn't going anywhere. Physics won the day, my bulk against his speed and rather unceremoniously he was carried across the yard and placed in the jail house with the others. Rock HQ aint big enough for the both of us, so hes going to the little house on the prairie that we have just rented. He will thank me one day, especially as he will have a harem of some 10 lovely Ryeland ewes to keep him company.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Struck down

I thought I felt odd yesterday, putting the aching back and legs to the trial by concrete. Late last night I realised why I felt so peculiar, ManFlu has struck me down. I informed a colleague of this who cheerfully replied that he was hardly surprised given he was so ill when we spent the day together Thursday last. So thanks to his generosity my beautiful and oh so patient wife has bore the brunt of all tasks at Rock HQ whilst helping me keep body and soul in one piece.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Light relief

After yesterdays major groundworks today was a lot easier with more bodging on the fences, somehow one mangalitza can still get out from the pig pen, she cannot get back in so its likely she is the worse kind of livestock, a jumper.

In fixing the fence along Oak Bank, a proper bodge job involving 12 foot planks to fill a 13 foot gap a reminder that the wood piled along the fence line had been there three years and really should be sawn up for winter, thats this winter not next, or even further along. So by way of taking it easy several hours of the day was spent happily reducing big wood to fire wood. Dogs were walked, Rugy World Cup Final was watched and all was well at Rock HQ. Even the sun shone.

So we had plenty of time just to mess around with the water.

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Chicken take away

The day started down in the pig pen, the cute little mangalitza piglets have given up grazing and have started ploughing the resulting massive holes dug with their cute little noses are on the one hand unsightly, on the other dangerous and even worse mean that the rarest of commodities here at Rock HQ, grass, is even rarer. So time was spent filling in the tunnels they had dug under the wire, this proved very successful and kept them quarantined until around lunchtime when an undiscovered tunnel was commissioned and they were up their dirty work again.

I on the other hand was now otherwise engaged with Operation Greystuff and was in the process of turning mud into concrete. The apprentice smallholder took his supervision role seriously but soon fell asleep.

Slowly slowly the pace, but the jobs a good one and going to plan. The second goat house now has concrete floor and the path from the kennel/cowshed/pig med bay was laid, well partly. It was at around this point above when my beautiful and oh so patient wife declared that she had just seen Cosmo, one of our cats, running across the lane with something grey in his mouth. As I uttered the syllables its probably a squirrel we both remembered our friends the microholders who had called earlier for a cuppa but ostensibly to drop off two Lavender Pekin Bantams that they flogged me in an unguarded moment. These very pretty little birds, about the size of a blackbird and costing ounce for ounce the same as gold were bought as a gift for the love of my life who was now, like me, trying to cover the 50 metres between us and murderous cat as fast as physics and biology would allow in the vain hope that Cosmo had not killed his take away.

Unbelievably Cosmo dropped his lunch, presumably seeing yours truly lumbering towards him wielding a shovel and shouting "Geroffoutofityoubloodycat!" caused a momentary loss of appetite. The poor little hen, equally shaken by shovel wielding vision, managed to keep body and soul together, sensed rescue and allowed itself to be dragged through the hedge backwards and placed in the safe embrace of a very upset wife. Thankfully tiny bird has huge constitutional reserves and within half an hour was eating and wondering what the fuss was all about.

The concreting went well, despite interruptions as above, three little pigs deciding to investigate, Montana walking its length and Rocky choosing it as the best place to have a kip. So far in two afternoons an area of sixteen feet by fourteen feet has been covered. Only another two miles or so to go. All be over by Christmas!
Posted by Picasa

Friday, 21 October 2011

Kamikaze Sparrows

Theres been a bit of a saga here at Rock HQ the last 10 days.Vic the Volvo began to display some disturbing symptoms which made him interesting to drive to say the least, especially on a downhill right turn when he, to all intents and purposes, died. The sudden loss of engine meant the power steering failed, interesting bordering on exciting, while the lack of brakes due to no servo assistance added to the ambiance and created a certain amount of hysteria amongst my passengers and the elderly couple who's Yorkshire Terrier was in the kill zone as we headed straight for the patch of pavement the tiny pooch occupied. Thankfully collision with all soft squishy and hard objects was avoided by yours truly having the presence of mind to turn Vic off and on again, the engine roared, passengers screamed, power restored, steering functional we swerved past frozen to spot dog and continued on our way. But the hint had been taken, Vic needed medical help.

So we took him to the Docs where he was plugged into a life support system. Apparently Vic had one of thirteen faults, fourteen if you included the bonnet opening cable breaking when that function was requested. Several spanners and swearwords later the greasy medic got his grubby mitts on Vic internals and began an operation to restore him to full health. I waited anxiously as they did what they needed to do. A reassuring cuppa was offered, don't worry I was told, hes in safe hands now. Hours later the grease covered medic came to break the news. Vic needed intensive care, mere first aid was not going to resurrect Vic, the question every car owner doesn't want to hear was asked, is he worth saving?

Vic worth saving,?

Vic who's stout constitution has saved me from a rear end crash, Vic who's sure footedness saved mine and a ponies life on a dark wet mountain road (he still bears the scars from that encounter the drivers door mirror is still on the to do list, the replacement in safely on top of the fridge) (the pony probably bears the scars too but a smacked bottom is better than the inside of a dog food can) of course Vic is worth saving!

I tried not to feint when told how much I would not be saving by saving Vic and left them too it. Days passed.

Several days past the we will rebuild him we have the technology day. I phoned the hospital, the chief surgeon wanted a word, this was serious.

Vic was not responding to treatment, several remedies had been tried and as a last resort they put him up on the ramp and found something very interesting. Somehow, and still no one knows how, a bird of some description, they know it was a bird as within the mushy mess there were brownish feathers,somehow this ex bird had flown through the front of the car and hit the god box.

The god box is the armour plated computergizmoid that governs all the cars motions and sensors, approximately 13 of them. The last thing to pass through the mind of this hapless bird was not, I guarantee, the realisation tht it was severing the data from the god box which meant that Vic had no idea which way up was, yet alone what fuel it should use, how to apply brakes and so on.

The god box arrived at the hospital yesterday and Vic was discharged this morning (costing three times the estimated repair bill, thanks birdy)

Man and machine reunited set out to right wrongs several counties away.

Vic was back.

All is well.

For now.

Until the next Kamikaze Sparrow decides to have a go.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Just chatting

Pointless conversation of the day, having filled Hazel with LPG gas I go to the cash desk.
Me. Morning, £19.85p (handing over a £20 note)
Him. Did you get how many litres?
Me. (still holding note) No
Him. Sorry, cant do anything without the litres.
Me. Ok. (leave counter and check pump)
Me. 27.85 (teeth slightly clenched)
Him. (tapping computer keyboard) Thats £19.85p
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Mad World

You do see it all here, so I hardly batted an eyelid when I spotted this chap in the centre of the picture (look closely) at five ways crossing(so called as there are seven tracks to choose from) playing golf. He had descended from the top right track behind the trees and set off towards the bottom right, hitting the ball and then hurrying after it. Now across the valley is England's highest golf course but this chap was miles out. I have heard that you have to play where it lands but this was a bit extreme. Proof if any were needed that a) its a mad world and b) golf spoils a good walk.
Posted by Picasa

Eeeek a monster!

For more than a few moments I thought I had found the doings of a giant cow, maybe even an elephant, given the size of this number two this beast must be colossal. So massive in fact that a beast that size wandering the ridge might pose a threat to yours truly and his timid canine companions. Closer inspection revealed that this deposit was not from the rear end of a passing dinosaur but a huge patch of rotting fungus.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Another perfect day

Another perfect day here at Rock HQ, a full rainbow heralded sunshine while we went about the morning routine,

peace and harmony reigned and all creatures great and small, those with pet status and those who are part of the food chain settled down to breakfast together. All was well with the world with the exception of the non rodent newly categorised lagomorphs or rabbits who had decided spring had come early (we have had a couple of days of glorious sunshine) and so dug a tunnel from the boys hutch in an effort to reach the girl bunnies. This is quite an achievement as to do this required the two males to gnaw a hole the size of an elephant (thus challenging the belief that all animals can pass through a hole exactly one half their body size) in the side of their hutch. This then allowed them to free fall to terra firma and attempt rudimentary carpentry on the girls hutch. The rising sun saved the day and the arrival of critters of various sizes forced the rogue lagomorphs to seek shelter in the tin pile at the back of the stable. Strategically placed foodstuffs enticed one out and back into pokey but the dominant male exerted his authority by refusing to play ball and is as I type still under some heavy metal.

The day ended perfectly with a circuit of the Bonsai Mountain with little t in his new carrier, we didn't find Pedro though which is a shame. Tomorrow I am going to take a different route to see if the happy wanderer is along the trail. The militia are being helpful in looking for our missing ram, Crispen and Levi were returned today on the back of a quad bike, we thanked the militia for his his help and didn't have the heart to tell him that both boys return every single day for breakfast. Still its the thought that counts.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Double trouble

Apollo the pretty boy pony has me very well trained. Everyday he hangs over the small pedestrian gate by the water tanks knowing I will walk past, and every day I open said gate and allow my white and brown wondersteed access to the hayledge. This infuriates his best friend and top dog horse William the very handsome Welsh Cob who then looks horsey daggers at me until I relent and let him out or throw fresh armfuls of sweet smelling roughage for his personal consumption.

Rarely, if ever do I let him out where he has unfettered access to the big round bale as unlike Apollo, William has a tendency to wander. Not far, usually just 30 feet in front of yours truly as I trudge round after him until one or other of us gets bored and gives in.

This morning as I began the morning rounds I was reminded by my beautiful and oh so patient wife that I had committed a major error and had left Apollo out all night. Fear not good wife I shouted over my shoulder, Apollo is a good pony, he knows the rules, he will be where he should be ready for breakfast.

Regular readers will not be surprised to read that he was not where he should be in fact he was nowhere where he should. Misty on the other hand, the petite and dainty shitland imminent nuclear explosion was lurking behind the bale, as were several Ryelands and a Bernese Mountain Pig. I congratulated Misty on her cleverness at negotiating the pig shaped hole in the fence and helping herself and with supreme confidence set off for The Cauldron where Apollo would no doubt be. Confidence waned massively when I found the side gate open, the Pgoor had struck again. This side gate requires muscles like Arnie used to have to open and close it and yesterday as I went in search of Pedro a second time this gate was most definitely shut.

William and Apollo were loose which could only mean one thing. Distance.

Spotting some fresh horse debris along the lane I made my way round to the Technohermits cave. No fresh horse bones decorated the entrance and he was in a good mood cleaning his teeth with what suspiciously looked like half a squirrel. No no horses had passed he foamed at me.

This meant I had gone the wrong way. I doubled back and entered The Cauldron was devoid of equine, and Trolls so it was relatively safe to cross the swamp. Half a mile on two naughty ponies watched me from the gorse bushes as I tried to appear casual in my approach. William snorted in contempt as the pretty boy pony spotted the blue feed bucket and abandoned solidarity for calorific gratification. The walk back would have been quicker had Apollo been able to see where he was going but once he had his head in the bucket he was not going to give up eating easily. Finally both were back in the slammer, and I was only 15 minutes late to the office. Not bad for a Monday!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Five years on

It seemed fitting that on the day that is the anniversary of our fifth year at Rock HQ that it was what we call full on. Hardly a moment passed without jobs filling the time, I did pause at one stage, just after Ambrose the goat took exception to having his ears tagged and jumped through my beautiful and oh so patient wife and landed on the bonnet of Hazel the almost 4x4 before being wrestled into submission for the second tag (aptly enough number 13) , and asked her if she was happy with our life style or would she rather go back to how things were when Sundays were most likely filled with a trip to town, buying DVD's and other such trivia, drinking a hideously expensive smoothie or milky coffee before returning to the couch and letting the TV drip into our eyes. Thankfully, despite having a bleeding hand (from goat not me) and several interesting marks on her car bonnet Tracey chose Rock HQ over retail parks.

And where but Rock HQ could you fill your day with a trip around the Bonsai Mountain (and over several bits of the wilderness beyond, in glorious October sunshine with the apprentice smallholder on your back in his new rucksack carrier, looking for Pedro the one eared wonder. He has taken umbrage at the comments made by the flock and has sought love on the hills. Needless to say we didn't find the beast but we did have a chat to a member of the militia who is going to keep an eye out for him his side of the ridge. The militia also commented on the number of Ryeland crosses his ewes delivered this spring. Ooops.

The trading post was open, this time a bag of quinces to go with our pork. An extra five pound in the pack along with Tristan made the trek a serious training session.

Distraction techniques were employed when Trixie was unloaded, samples of the pig feed kept all and sundry occupied and from under my feet as I carried the sacks of goodies to the feed store.

My reversing skills are still improving but eventually I managed to get Hazel and Trixie facing the right way without hitting the stable roof or falling into the field. Once the yard was clear of all things mechanical the sheep were given a full MOT which included their feet trimmed, tails cleaned of pooh, drenched for worms and flukes, a respray and to make life just that little bit more interesting thanks to the powers that be who consider our time not full enough already the darling creatures were all fitted with EID's (not IED's as first posted a week or so ago, IED's are a lot different and almost as messy) EID's or Electronic Identification Device are ear tags that can be tracked by satellite or air to ground missiles. Each sheep born post 2010 has to have a large yellow button securely wedged in its ear.

Presumably they can tune into their favourite radio stations or with a bit of tweaking we could communicate, whatever their big brother purpose all our sheep now interfere with TV's if they get up wind of them and can jam mobile phone signals if they form a square. Just tom make sure they dont overbalance or walk in endless circles due to the weight of the EID and dummy tag is fitted to the other ear, in our case a fetching lime green.

Outside activities ended with another trip around and over the Bonsai Mountain in search of the missing Pedro. No sign again but it was a pleasant end to a great day. A lot has happened in the last five years, most of it we wouldn't change, and yes given the choice between smallholding and shopping its smallholding every time!