Wednesday, 30 November 2011

In the hot seat

Pretty boy Apollo had his supper rudely interrupted by yours truly and for the second time in his short life he was sat on. This time there was a proper camera on to record for posterity all the drama of the event.

Apollo took the weighty intrusion in his non stride and hardly pausing for breath carried on munching while I fidgeted around getting him used to the awkward movements of a seldom jockey. Throughout he was relaxed and calm and showed no psychopathic tendencies so I am hopeful that as the weeks progress we can introduce music and movement into his training schedule.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Something for the weekend?

No not an attack of giant rock moles but the latest batch of stone dropped off ready for the concretathon planned for the weekend. Weather and arms permitting.

Monday, 28 November 2011

No fire, just smoke

As I am now in charge of my own work I can take a couple of hours here and there to get things progressing at Rock HQ. So last week after an interesting session in Court I called in at the local farmers supermarket to find a hefty 10% off everything (unlike most sales this was off things I wanted like dog food, pig feed, bags of carrots and other exciting goodies) and were giving away bacon butties. Being partial to free bacon butties I stayed a while and pretty soon had purchased 750 kg of pig feed, 150 kg of dog food, 100kg of carrots, 20 kg cat food, head collar, four bales of horse bedding, antiseptic scrub, dog toys, 5 six by four heavy duty stable floor mats and several variety of animal wormer. The mats were a real bargain, almost half price. Happy with my bargains and second butty with free cuppa I was then faced with the slight problem of getting it all back to Rock HQ. It would not fit in Vic. They offered free delivery but without a crane my end to unload off their lorry this was not an option. I left them looking after my purchase and today took Trixie to fetch the monster load.

Getting there was no problem, Hazel hauled Trixie with gay abandon along the country lanes to the store.

Getting back was a bit fretful.

Especially to Trixie and Hazel.

As I pulled out onto the main road I hastily calculated the laden weight, Trixie was able to carry 1000kgs, Hazel could pull 2500 kgs, but the power to weight ratio seemed a bit inadequate as we struggled to reach 20mph. Unable to get out of second gear on the flat I was considering options, phone Stable Sprite get him to bring trailer and buckets and get some weight off Trixie, no too easy, instead I prayed to the small god of haulage and promised never to fully load my trailer again if we got home safely. As we slowed to walking pace on the merest of inclines I resorted to threatening Hazel with the car auction if she didn't behave and start doing what she was kept for.

Over the course of the 5 mile journey I didn't get out of third gear, Hazel dutifully pulled Trixie but clearly was not happy. At the junction before the home stretch to the Bonsai Mountain the massive rear view mirrors showed the first signs of the evening fog emerging. It had a feint blue hue.

The plod up the slope of the mountain was pitiful. I had to stop to open the gateway to our world, I say stop, I could have stepped out of the moving vehicle so slow was our rate of progress. Gate opened I just hoped Hazel could do her stuff for the last 3/10 of a mile.

Blue smoke billowed from Trixie's wheels and a very familiar smell could be detected.

Hazel coped amazingly well with the last section of the journey. Its surprising how much better she was at towing Trixie once the trailers handbrake was released!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Life begins at Forty

All thoughts of an enthusiastic early doors start on the Rock HQ runway evaporated seconds after the alarm clock dragged me back from the land of nod. The howling gale and sound of rain hammering the bedroom window a clue to the prevailing concreting conditions. Time passed inspecting the insides of my eyelids until apprentice smallholder let me know that now was not the time for sleeping, it was time for action. Serried ranks of marmite soldiers were dealt with and then I went out into the elements to play spot the pig amongst the Ryelands, goat and dog. That puzzle solved, the weather brightening, the main task of the day was addressed. George was sleeping peacefully in the shed, gleaming as new, and we looked at how far one man and his mixer have come since we started the project. It looked good, but we had a lot to do.

George was pressed into action and as usual a major help. Rocky on the other hand was his usual hindrance. Steve the electrician arrived and replaced our disabled Anti Aircraft light. The monster light he installed illuminates the whole of the runway so any unauthorised landings will be dealt with day or night.

Three and a half hours later 40 mixes were laid and thankfully I ran out of stone and light before energy. It was a close run thing. I manned up for the late routine which included moving the 24 bags of cement needed to finish the runway and clear and clean the gear. Pigs were fed (curiously they didn't escape today) so finally thoughts turned to the plan for the day. Sit on my pretty boy pony. Strange sounds were emanating from his stall as I wearily approached.
Should I get on him considering my arms feel like lead, my back aches, a good sit down was needed but not necessarily on a horse.
Then theres the fact that I'm in a confined space, hard floor, harder hooves, in all I was feeling more enthusiastic about punching myself in the face than climbing on my pony. The weird noises were louder, lots of banging, bumping and the horsey equivalent of "Ouch" and "Oh Bugger" every now and then. Was Apollo was psyching himself up to deal with me?

Every picture tells a story. This one tells the story of a pony who is, to be fair, a few paste sandwiches short of a picnic, dressed in his splendid new coat, having, what is technically known as, a spot of bother. The head end is closest, his ears are where his whithers should be. Fifteen minutes later horse was rescued by would be rider and both of us decided that we would give further complications like me falling off and hitching a ride in the air ambulance a miss today.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Inflation rate

The day didn't go quite as planned (it seldom does) and as the gale force winds and "occasional" showers put the mockers on any plan to concrete we set out from the sanctuary of Rock HQ to view our two new additions to the critters, Rudy and Roscoe. This entailed a 130 mile round trip across three counties but the militia who was selling had offered us a fairish deal which tempted us to venture out. The only outcome of our travels was a precise calculation of the rate of inflation. Excluding fuel costs the current rate of inflation is 61.5p per mile. This was how much in price each animal ad risen in cost by the time we viewed them. The agreed £250 was when outside their stall £300 plus £30 pedigree registration.

Thankfully good sense prevailed and it was a deal we could walk away from. The annoying thing is that this is the second time this has happened, we agree a price and then get there and its all change. Perhaps the militia think that once we have been coaxed out we would buy rather than waste our time.

As we were in the vicinity of shops the opportunity was taken to go to a toy mega store to treat the apprentice smallholder to a new plaything. The curious thing was that within the mega shop of cathedral sized proportions containing every plaything a generous parent would want to purchase to occupy their offspring we could not find the one item we wanted for our apprentice smallholder. A ball. If we wanted a fluorescent plastic scale model of the Eiffel Tower that would transform into a racing bike that fired marshmallows while telling him his times tables, there was lots of those, or a book with moving pictures and voices that matched the hand held TV that looked like a dog, plenty, but a plain and simple ball. Not a hope. There was one but it was helium filled, squeaked and changed colours when it broke ornaments, so we decided to give it a miss.

Back on the ranch my plan to concrete another section of the planet was still on hold as the failing light and other routine tasks got in the way. I cleared a mountain of horse offerings from both stables and for some insane reason thought that an appropriate reward for my labour was to sit on my pretty boy pony Apollo. I am not sure this can be referred to as "backing", a term bandied around by the horsey set, but Apollo has never been sat on before. We do have a good relationship though, I stuff money in his mouth and clear up after him (bit like teenagers really) as I have had him since he was a puppy, hes now 3 years and substantial enough to support yours truly's considerable bulk.

How good our relationship is was tested tonight, I put some appropriate music on, a track by Racing Cars, "They shoot horses don't they" (as a warning), placed a very insubstantial mounting block next to the bewildered beasts side, tucked a rubber mallet into my belt (just in case he had any funny ideas like moving) said what I could remember of Psalm 23 and cocked a welly clad leg over. Apollo looked idly over his shoulder and sensing something was different braced for impact as the rest of me sank heavily onto his untried frame.

And there we stood, or sat, depending on which one of us we were. I even felt confident enough to take a riders eye view pic with phone, which was now playing "Crazy Horses" by the Osmond's.

Like all those who live to fight another day I pulled the eject handle before things got messy, like me squished all over the stable floor. Apollo's a long way from being broken in, but he didn't break when sat on, didn't kill me and tomorrow as a reward for all the concreting I am going to repeat the process, this time with a proper camera on hand to record in graphic detail any injuries sustained!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Nothing planned

While rubbing shoulders with some Barrister types today the subject of the weekend came up.

How were we spending our free time. Most had nothing planned, those that did were along the lines of clean the car, cinema, meals out, shopping, catch up with parenting, squash league. Attention turned to the lowly social worker type at the end of the table, how about you, anything planned? Me? Nothing really. Going to view Rudy and Roscoe and mixing 76 barrow loads of cement. A quiet weekend really.

Thursday, 24 November 2011


Or Roscoe?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Missed your chance

Ever get the feeling someones out to get you, or you re being watched?

Me too.

I had suspected for a while that my activity was being monitored, my every move scrutinised, watching, waiting, looking for a chance to create problems for me because they had nothing better or more productive to do with their time.

In the end they really couldn't help them self and had to break cover, pigs (real ones not metaphorical) of various sizes ran from the cauldron towards yours truly as I ran from Vic for the sanctuary of the cottage. The pork Tsunami broke on the yard and scattered dogs, cats and poultry while I changed from social worker to smallholder in record time. Armed with magic blue bucket (empty) I reassured bipeds of HQ that I would entice pork horde back to quarters and be back in time for tea and medals. Pork horde had other ideas and having fell for empty blue bucket once too often headed north at a brisk pace and showed no signs of returning as they disappeared from view.

Meanwhile, having discovered pigs no longer fooled by empty bucket I took a quick detour and collected a bucket full, which soon became half full having been mugged by Ferny Fern Fern from Ferntown. Nevertheless contents of bucket were shaken in a provocative manner towards last sighting of pigs and the universal "Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrmoooonah!!" along with "Piggy Pig Pig!" was hollered in the vain hope that the awol sausage factories would about turn and come quietly.

I was mightily impressed as they crested the brow of the hill in unison and at full speed. In fact they appeared quite anxious to comply with the piggy pig pig request and I turned to monitor the gate, pouring the pig feed theatrically into the trough as extra encouragement for the fastest of the racing pigs.

Actually they were getting all the encouragement they needed to proceed with haste back to the pig pen in the form of a huge yellow JCB travelling south with its bucket down ready to scoop up any pork that showed the least sign of resistance.

Safely shut away the pigs got on with supper while Steve and I got on with preparing the way for next weekends concreting. The mountain of stone used to create our runway (I say our, I mean mine and the voices in my head) is now in the spot where the next pad needs to be laid. Faced with ten hours shovelling or ten minutes chatting over a cuppa with Steve I chose tea. The scene is now set for the final push to completion. And then Roscoe and Rudy can come and stay.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Sing if youre winning

The low cloud and heavy rain could have put a real downer on the day.Pulling on yesterdays mud caked wet clothing really wasn't my favourite part of the day, neither was finding a helpful Berner had moved an equally mud covered boot out into the rain the happiest of moments.

The poor Ryelands looked wretched as they considered the pros and cons of staying out in the rain for breakfast or seeking shelter. The lure of calories temporarily brought them from under the eaves of the cottage.

The winners were the boys, they were reinstated in their luxury appointed stables yesterday forsaking the mud of Willow Rise and Oak Bank for dry bedding and piped music (prog rock) Thor was also winning as he is in the med bay on a deep bed of soft hay at the back of the stable with hot and cold running apples. Poor lad has developed a limp, the fact that this coincided with torrential rain and his favourite pony being put indoors is surely just a coincidence.
So as the icy rain ran down my back and my dry boot became wetter than the wet one when it stayed in the mud of the pig pen while I carried on a few steps it had the makings of a real SOHF day.
But as my day starts with beaming smiles from our apprentice smallholder I just felt like singing.
Sing if your winning.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Runway extension approved

I thought yesterday was tough, getting one ton of pig feed out of Trixie and stored safely (The Ryelands were incapacitated by locking them in the stable, the piglets on the other hand... two bags knocked over in preference to the nice platefuls left for them..Bless their little trotters!) and then wrestling a super sized American food centre fridge that died a few weeks ago cooking the food rather than keeping it cool into the space created in Trixie before taking it to "The Freighter" in the co ops car park where helpful operatives watched yours truly hurt himself unloading useless gargantuan white good into their can be bothered to help range where they stuck it on a tail lift and launched it to planet Zanussi. All before 9am.

After a late full cooked I could be seen clearing the concrete runway of horse and cow debris before getting side tracked into the convert the kennel block into cowshed project. Several hours with a sledgehammer, hacksaw and power drill saw a reasonable sized opening created and a myriad of new oaths directed towards Karl, our helper from 2008 who disappeared in the Burmese jungle soon after constructing the kennels, and who's random use of four by four, six inch nails and total denial of the right angle meant that a simple cut an opening task became a figure out which bit I can cut without causing catastrophic structural failure and head injuries game.

All that meant no time to extend the runway.
By midday today enough was enough and Battle lines were drawn and Spotty helpfully took up post in a convenient fox hole while yours truly worked around the furry lump and mixed 26 barrow loads before sunsetting stopped play.
By then it was all I could do to carry the 15kg of carrots to the pigs where we played fetch the crunchy orange calorie.

Next weekend should see us take the hard stuff out to the gateway . Its really starting to look like the plan to finish before Christmas will be achieved, and that's Christmas 2011!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Gentlemans excuse me!

Crispen was caught taking liberties at the breakfast table with Springtime.

Thinking she was otherwise engaged he sought to have his wicked way with her.
Springtime had other ideas and showed she was not such a captive audience for the randy rams advances and after a quick up and over
she managed to finish breakfast with her honour intact.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Trick pony

Messing with the posh camera settings has some strange effects on the pocket rocket. The red highlights in his mane are completely natural though.

Heidi strikes again

Our pet ghost struck again yesterday, the missing bank card turned up where yours truly had last seen it, more or less, give or take 100 miles and 45 centimetres. I had left it, I was certain, in the centre console of Vic. No amount of searching Vic by my beautiful and oh so patient wife revealed where I had put it, and as the house keys were also missing (see previous Heidi post) it was attributed to our mischievous Heidi ghost. New bank card arrived, all was well yesterday apart from having to drive across the county with a sat nav with a sense of humour who for a whole 35 minutes kept me 4.3 miles from my destination, no matter how many turn rights I did. During this episode I had pull into a layby to answer a call of nature behind a hedge. On my return the bank card was situated as above. Now Vic has been driven by both myself and the patient one several times since the card went, and as it was so clean it wasn't buried in the mud on the mats. So, logical explanations on a postcard please!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

One of those

We get them from time to time, walkers.

Being a walker myself I am happy to welcome one of the fraternity as they pass through, usually with a cheery "Of course, just up there keep the hedge to your right and the hill to your left" in response to their plaintive "Does the footpath go through here?"

Often further pleasantries are exchanged, distance walked, lovely spot, wouldn't like your feed bill, Welsh Border Collie? never heard of them, big aren't they? (In response to what sort of dog is that, Bernese, once, that's an odd dog, its a goat that's why)

Sometimes beverages are offered, rocks looked after (geologists are a funny lot) Orthodox Jews are put on the right path (literally not metaphorically) even sausages given on one really exceptional occasion (well they were the nicest walkers ever) in all walkers are welcome. Yours truly has trudged many a mile through foreign lands, militias farms, fended off wild beasts and crossed many an obstacle left by landowners.

I now realise that despite my credentials as a walker (186 miles in six days) I have crossed to the other side, I, or rather the bank, own land and this means that every now and then a walker feels they have to be obnoxious, for no apparent reason other than they think we are on different sides so seek to reinforce certain prejudices.

So there I am up to my arm pits in mud, trying not to drop a super heavy cast iron drain cover down the well, at the same time as this gravity defying drama plays out I am fending off curious pony and annoying pig (they are a strange pair) I am on the point of winning on all fronts when Bliss, a Welsh Border Collie (Bernese Mountain Dog) alerts me to the presence of a new threat. Suddenly out of the mist a fat bloke looking like he has just fell out of the pages of a Millet's outdoor catalogue lurches into view and stands silently ten yards from me and the well conundrum. Bliss, tail wagging trots dutifully towards me as I heave heavy metal to one side and shout "Morning, come on through"

Fat bloke in full Arctic expedition gear stands motionless looking at me, mud monster, pig, horse, dog, back to me. I wave him through "Paths that way" he still just stands there.

Sudden sinking feeling(unrelated to well problem) the walker is one of those who should have the third letter substituted. I climb the fence into the lane and encourage pig and dog to follow, they do. Bliss is put in conservatory where she can watch events unfold. Pig and man follow silently. Pig shut in stable. Man walks by in silence, close enough for us to have shaken hands, map case jangling with compass and whistle, his chubby gloved hands clutching a high energy bar that he is cramming into his hamster like face. He still stares at me in silence.

I break first. "Would it hurt that much just to say good morning"

More silent stares.

I walk back to the well, definitely one of those.

SOHF sets in, "This is my garden you're walking through you know, it wouldn't hurt to be polite" I shout over my mud spattered shoulder.

"Public footpath" he splutters back with oaty accompaniment.

I carry on, the well is well covered.

He staggers past our pigs.

In the distance I hear a dog bark, the Millet's man has made it to the land of the Oracle.

I see Oracle later on in the day.

Word is that a walker has passed through and felt the need to comment on our pigs being muddy. Poor pigs he said.

The only way to keep a pig clean is to keep it on concrete said the Oracle.

The man nodded.

A pig kept on concrete is an unhappy pig the Oracle continued. You ought to try living in the country not visiting it and complaining.

The fat Millet's advert broke out a Kendal Mint Cake and waddled off toward the bus stop.

He was one of those.

The Oracle agreed.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Spare tyre

The camera gremlins have been evicted, well and truly. The poor shop manager who really hoped he had seen the last of me and my SOHF when he gave me a brand new version a few months back was super helpful when I explained that the new one was as good as the old one, useless. I was instantly invited to choose a different make and so have a Nikon to break now. In fact two Nikons as I was given a DSLR as a present and have the pocket version to us day to day.

Exciting photo opportunities are everywhere at HQ, so here are a few of the spare tyres left by a generous donor for our green house project. Not looking forward to the inflating them with dirt part of the plan and I now realise I should have specified they should all be the same size, however these will all be put to use, eventually.

The equine members of the gang have taken to the new concrete floor in the Corral OK, if taking to it means avoiding at all cost. They can be found everywhere except stood on the hard stuff. This includes on top of the mountain of gravel, back in the mud or balancing on the well top. Misty has tried to help clear up the mud by wearing it.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Future plans

As so often the case, before one job is finished, in this case the concreting, the next project is already lined up. Poor time management means I have failed to get a picture of the necessary materials for the grand design that is sort of on the drawing board, but tomorrow I shall take a very arty shot of the 400 tyres that appeared next to Trixie while we were away. What we intend to do with the free waste product will be revealed much later. Meanwhile I am hoping the environmental agency responsible for tractor tyre disposal have got off to a slow start as six very useful large wheel covers have appeared in the local brook. They will make a very useful addition to the overall grand design. The futures greener here at Rock HQ.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Meanwhile back in the real world!

Normal service has been resumed. Regular visitors might have wondered where the daily update had gone, perhaps assuming the techno gremlins had got us again, or more likely BT failing us, but no, we abandoned our life of animal magic and muddy mayhem for a weekend break at Centre Parcs where for a couple of days we exchanged smallholding and all its wholesome goodness for sports, swimming, cafes, saunas, firework displays, reindeer's and Father Christmas' workshop. It was really good fun, a complete change to be totally clean and as we went with our apprentice smallholder, his big sister and partner and super grandma there were several firsts, such as "swimming" and dressing him up as a reindeer. Thanks to all those that ensured Rock HQ ran smoothly without us, especially Stable Sprite for feeding all and sundry (I had left the feed room door open which the critters took as an invitation for take aways but luckily no harm done) and to our hired gun who spent 9 hours trying to persuade a Bernese dog to get out of the garden and back into the cottage. In all we had a great time, so many memories, nearly as many photos, the new camera was experimented with and some of the results will be published once I work out how it works, but we missed HQ and the critters so it was good to go but better to come back. We didn't miss the mud though. Not at all.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

One thing after another

Its been a Sam and everything day, one small disaster after another which looking back will be funny but all have served to create mayhem here at Rock HQ. First light there was a very loud Moo, my shell likes detected that the utterer of the Moo was a lot closer to Rock HQ than she should be and definitely the wrong side of the cottage from where she was left. Yes Hetty was now back in the garden having jumped two fences and negotiated an open gate (left open not by the PGOOR but by the SAS) and was loudly complaining of the bullying antics of the Pocket Rocket who had forced her from the breakfast table. Time was too short to sort her or him out so she was fed and told to get on with life until naughty pony was spoken to about sharing.

First light also provided an opportunity to find bank card, bank card loss is serious matter but as it was lost between Vic and front door its unlikely that empty bank account is going to be further depleted by ner do wells. It was high on the embarrassing factor though as bank card was new bank card replaced by bank after I had lost first one in car park in town a few weeks ago. This set off a real comedy of errors as bank replaced lost card by posting new one to old address, several visits to bank where I explained carefully that I lived where they sent my bank statements and could I please have my new card, not to a house I used to live in five years ago. This was then sent but no pin number, that was sent to old house too, twice, finally new card arrived, old number failed to work it, new card seized, new card, new number arrived, both at right house but new number failed to buy petrol as new number needs to be activated at banks cashpoint, as no banks cashpoint is in our town (two horse towns don't need a choice of cashpoints) cannot activate card but can draw cash from other banks machine, no real problem except now lost new card. Goat eaten card is likely scenario as evil beast followed me around but feel less than inclined to report animal consuming plastic to bank so after long and pointless search under gloating scrutiny of evil horned beast decide to fess up and report I need new card to bank.

The bank card pales in insignificance compared to the lost keys saga. Front door key is kept where I cannot lose it, in the front door. Yesterday while looking for bank card found self shut out of HQ. Beautiful and oh so patient wife let muddy SOHF monster in mumbling about goats and cashpoints and dutifully joined in search for card and keys. No keys. This morning after three hours were expended on searching for keys and similar on card I was stood by kettle making refreshing beverage pondering how do we get cash from bank to buy new locks when a stifled cry from beautiful and oh so patient one alerted me to strange turn of events. Keys had now been found, centre of dining table, next to my car key and glasses. Now how two people managed to miss keys centre of well lit table, next to car key and glasses, a table that I checked several times is a mystery. Tracey is not prone to practical jokes, I am, but I know better than to play one that wastes so much of my true loves precious time so neither of us were responsible. That leaves only one explanation, Heidi the ghost. Heidi does exactly what her name suggests, she hides things. So far bank card has not been returned but we were grateful for the keys.

The SAS launched a joint attack on the large metal object in the kitchen we laughingly refer to as a cooker. The two highly trained SAS operatives frightened the rayburn into submission and it roared into life. They left, so did its cooperation and its back to sulking in the kitchen refusing to bake beans. They also left gate open see top of page for consequence.

Faced with sandwiches again I was stood contemplating ham or fish and just mentioned to patient one that at least nothing else could go wrong. It was at that point six black and white rabbits hopped past the kitchen window followed closely by a small pig.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The difference a day makes!

Speed eating competition, on your marks!Get set!


And the winner is!

Ambrose. OEGDQ!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Its rollover week!

I did wonder what Ambrose was looking at as I wandered about the smallholding this foggy damp autumn morning. Perhaps he was mourning the loss of breakfast to the ravenous Ryelands. Or contemplating jumping into the field belonging to the militia, or, more likely, calculating the angles needed to, in goat terms, drop the nod on Montana who was busy licking the trough clean.

A sudden movement alerted me to the plight of Roxy, shes the barrel like object upside down to the left of the trough. Now it may seem callous pausing to picture her plight, but as this is Roxy the death wish sheep it seemed only right and proper to preserve for posterity her latest attempt to shuffle off her mortal coil.

Not sure how she managed this, the trough is too big to pose a trip hazard to even the clumsiest sheep, but manage she did and at the point of rescue was firmly wedged upside down in the gap between logs and food receptacle. Left to her own devices her internal organs would have crushed the air out of her lungs and her attempt to be the first of the flock to the here after would have been successful.

Thankfully her guardian angel, yours truly, was on hand to sort her out again, and once the world stopped spinning she boldly went in search of new ways of hurting herself.

Its never boring being a smallholder.