Saturday, 31 December 2011

Another round up

An unforgettable part of my day has been with the Technohermit trying to explain how a gas cooker works. This was not an easy task. especially as his appraisal of a gas ring as a "good un" is one that ignites in a ball of blue flame that removed several layers of paint from the wall and most of the hair from his face. After what seemed a lifetime of repeating the lighting instructions, which ring was operated by which knob (he has a fear of using knobs, door knobs in particular, see previous) how to use the grill without welding flesh to metal and how the oven can be used to cook rather than dry clothes I finally escaped. Not before demonstrating how to use the fire extinguisher and allaying his concerns over the fact that if he used a fire blanket to smother a fire it was better the blanket burning rather than him or his lovely new home. His lovely new home which he has still to move into as he has an issue with levels, it not being level. As its perched on the side of a mountain it is about as level as can be managed and when I checked it with a spirit level it was indeed uneven. Out by a whole 5mm. He is now waiting for someone with a jack to mysteriously appear and lift it the necessary.

On my walk back I had the chance to reflect on another exciting year here at HQ. And what a year! Red Kite is soaring. I won my employment tribunal, hardly a surprise as I was totally in the right (so narny nah nah to the backstabbers)We lost a few treasured pets, Passion the 19 year old very ancient beagle, Geisha our most annoying goat Rainbow the foal. We gained Chester a fabulous retired race horse, the Mangalitzas Pamela and Bridget, closely followed by Thor the Boar and Pedro the new Ryeland Ram. Various lambs and piglets are still here but soon to be in Mr Whirlpool, some quail have taken up residence in the tack room (more often the conservatory) we rescued two dogs, three cat and a pigeon called Percy. In our spare time built a concrete playground for the horses, chased a cow across the county as she searched for love (and found it) and managed the Technohermits transition from a hole in the ground to a shepherds hut (almost). The BBMC was conquered and I finally managed to give up full time work for other people.

But the most significant and life changing event of the year was the birth of our son Tristan who has been a source of joy and wonder since we heard his first cry in the operating theatre at 1.30 in the morning on the 27th of February.

Life is great. Who knows what 2012 will bring (Aside from animla chaos, the BBMC, the 1st annual Bernese Mountain Dog Treasure Hunt and the OTT) but if its half as good as this year has been then that's all we could hope for. There are some changes planned, not least of which to this site, finally most of the work has been done to transform this single page into an exciting interactive site. Stay tuned.

In closing I would wish all of our supporters and readers a very happy new year, may you get the year you wish for and deserve.

Friday, 30 December 2011

My left foot

Things have a habit of going missing when you share a house with Bernese Mountain Dogs and Heidi (the ghost that hides things) Today I was struggling to find my left wellington, an essential when there is a lake of mud around the cottage. Making do with my beautiful and oh so patient wife's pair (several sizes too small) I set off around the Bonsai mountain on a recce to find suitable hiding places for "treasure" for our planned first annual Bernese Mountain Dog treasure hunt next summer. I explored a new section of the ridge, found several suitable locations within easy reach of an air ambulance and in The Cauldron found this item filling with rain water. One of the usual suspects can be seen leaving the scene of the crime.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Not the best news

Cast your mind back to June, sunny days, yes they were, blue skies, really they were, and a mad miniature cow with an amazing ability to jump fences.Hetty our mid legged Dexter followed the call of nature and overwhelmed with the desire to procreate she abandoned a life of chastity at Rock HQ and took a giant leap forward (several) into the lands of the militia to find true love, if not then a quickie behind the cowshed.
Thankfully we rescued her and saved her from deflowerment, and with the help of The Oracle separated the lovesick Hetty from the lustful advances of a big brute of a Belgian Blue Bull. Life returned to normal, Hetty looked out cross the lands of the militia with longing, but refrained from venturing into the unknown. She did call him, but he had long gone. No flowers, no letters, nothing. Hetty put this down to experience and moved on. Or so we thought.
Two days ago Hetty was behaving very oddly, more so than normal (having conquered her fear of concrete and adorning her cowsonage with garden furniture) so oddly that it looked like she was about to give birth. Impossible.
Our favourite vet called today and gave several animals an MOT. One of his tasks was to check what was wrong with our Hetty. Now I have always had a lot of respect for Paul the vet, but the way he managed to insert his left arm past his elbow up Hetty's back passage while she walked around her shelter was modern art. Hetty was surprisingly relaxed about this unexpected intrusion and once over the initial shock settled down to eat breakfast while Paul did his vet thing. Verdict. Six months pregnant. Right on the money with that announcement it being the 23rd of June that Hetty, as we now know, allowed the Belgian Brute to have his wicked way.
So now we have choices. Abort the calf, or let her carry a calf that she is not likely to be able to give birth to and risk her life, and the calf's, with a cesarean section. We are sleeping on it.
More bad news, Paul had a look at Bliss, the Berner who has grown in size in the right places, got fussy over food, built a nest, produced milk and chased the cats. Shes not pregnant, shes faking it.

Hetty is the small one in the middle, the Belgian Brute is lurking behind.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Sleepy Hollow

One of us had to work today. Others got to play and re-enact scenes from Sleepy Hollow

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Head count

The annual paperwork has arrived, asking us how many sheep and goats we have on our small patch of the planet. This prompted a quick head count of what critters actually freeload, I mean, live with us at HQ. From a shaky start 6 years ago when we had a geriatric cat, a Gordon Setter, a Pathetic Triever, three ancient beagles, two rabbits and a bucket of fish rescued from a pond we now have four vermin cats, 9 of our own dogs, one foster dog (two on holiday as well) two shetland ponies, two larger cobs, a horse, six rabbits, 18 sheep, 10 pigs, 20 birds of various makes and sizes, a goat and a cow.

All of which co exist in and around the cottage adding to the general excitement of life.

Hetty, our cow, really added to the excitement today, behaving very strangely, like she was going to give birth. We already have a Bernese claiming pregnancy so we can do without a cow having a maternal breakdown. She did get in with a bull six months ago, so it cant be that, so we are in the wait and see what happens stage of smallholding. As usual.

Monday, 26 December 2011

The shape of things to come

Christmas was a fun day and not without some typical Rock HQ incidents (read disasters) some of which were down to yours truly's lack of spatial awareness, but most due to animal behaviour. Animal antics included Aunt Montana sitting on the dining table and knocking off and smashing the table decorations (God knows what prompted her to think she was suddenly allowed to sit on the table!) Hetty, or Apollo fell asleep on a deep bed of straw, not a problem save for the plight of a poor Ryeland lamb called Berry who bagged the sleeping space first. Christmas morning feed routine was in the nick of time and Berry was dragged out from the straw and away from the tunnel of light that she was just about to follow. Shes ok, a bit slow and stiff, flatter, wary of large sleeping animals and on the way to a recovery. The Christmas cake was not able to be rescued after the attentions of a large ginger cat called Nemo, like most visitors to HQ said, "I didn't know cats liked Christmas cake!" neither did I and he didn't. What he did do after pulling the cake tin off the doomed dried fruit creation was experiment with the contents, chewing the edges off, digging a hole in the centre (presumably in the hope of finding concealed cat treats) and then sleeping on the remains to ensure no attempt was made to ice over his crime.

My fault leaving it out only protected by armour plating. I had a minor seasonal panic as the piece of beef I bought would not fit the oven, it being the size of a small pony (the meat not the oven)With all the shelves out it just fitted, with the emergency turkey crammed it as well (just in case 9 kg of beef wouldn't feed 7 people) sardines have more leg room. This put paid to any ideas of roasting all veg etc but in the end we managed. He who cannot be named introduced Rock HQ to the delights of Hendrick G and T with a slice of cucumber and soon all culinary worries faded into insignificance in the quest for the perfect Hendricks. People were far too generous with their gifts and a big thank you to all of you, highlights include little T getting his first proper walking boots, he has no choice, he will climb every mountain (his big sister climbed to within 500mtrs of the summit Mt Blanc aged 13, a tough act to follow) and hopefully I can keep up with his early challenges. Knowing that I am a repressed anorak Father Christmas brought me an airfix spitfire and as soon as I am allowed sharp craft knives and glue it will be assembled (unlike the collection of unmade kits in the workshop)

Dinner was finally placed in front of hungry guests and we made a bit of a dent in the beef. There was one space at the table though, Techno decided not to join us but was delivered a selection of the Christmas feast in the early evening. This was a highly entertaining venture as I had consumed more than my fair share of Hendricks and other concoctions, luckily Beth was a designated driver and chose to walk around the Bonsai Mountain with her dear old dad and stop him wandering off into the wilderness. Techno was happy to get a food parcel but has yet to move into his new lodgings. We got back in time for the cheese and port race, a vital part of the festive occasion, almost as traditional as the Queen's speech.

Little T had a definite favourite present. An envelope. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas one and all!

Its been a good one here at Rock HQ, we wish you a very happy Christmas!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Never look a gift horse in the mouth

Observant readers will have noticed this handsome chap lurking in the background of some pics here at Rock HQ for quite a while now. This is Chester, a 16.1 thoroughbred retired hunter who was given to us by a lovely family who wanted a good forever home for their boy. Now call me old fashioned but whoever heard of anyone giving away such a nice horsey so being the cynical sort I subjected them to the full inquisition (without the comfy chair) until I had not only his full life story but also his dentists name and address. Tracey is the horsey one of the two of us, and she put him through his paces, I took him for a walk and explained whats what here, he knew who was boss so did his best to impress her. The really nice people who gave him to us also gave us his tack, sleeping bag, toothbrush and several weeks supply of food. After several visits all were happy and Chester was welcomed into the fold. He arrived in style having cantered most of the 10 miles across country to get here in around an hour and a half.

Since living in his new house he has been as good as gold, even staying in the yard over night on the third night (no gates or fences between him and the wilderness) after Thor had decided to release him just for a laugh. He has been introduced to the critters, for some reason Hetty is eyed with suspicion but rampaging porkers and terrorist shitland ponies are taken in his immense stride.

Today was my turn to take him out, after he had been "tired" out by my beautiful and oh so patient wife. He stood quietly while I clambered on, we got ten yards, I felt about as safe as sitting astride a giant razor blade strapped to an Exocet missile (I had been warned he was narrow, and more like a in his Ferrari in his responses than a sofa, which is an apt description of the speed and handling of my pretty boy gypsy cob) The patient one gave some good advice, most of which was centred around you have to stop shaking, but after seeing my future, lying dazed and confused over the hills and far away I pulled the eject handle and baled out on the lane to return to the cottage to find something useful to do. Like wrapping presents.

He is a lovely boy, and we would like to thank Lyn and Hayley for their very generous gift. Merry Christmas.

Friday, 23 December 2011

One other thing....

Theres been something we have been meaning to tell you about.....

Thursday, 22 December 2011

To hell and back

I really don't know what inspired the "Don't worry I'll do it" comment, but its comments like that that cause no end of strife, which was why I was found in a massive hypermarket having a good go at a nervous breakdown as swarms of trolleys pushed by maniacs desperate to get a good stock of food in just in case they ran out as the shop closed for 44 hours over Christmas closed in on my ever decreasing personal space.
Bipeds deserving of dayglo warnings like wide load stickers on their backsides struggled with over laden trolleys full of seasonal calorific excesses, some were so concerned that the apocalyptic hell of closed signs would mean starvation that they had three trolleys in a convoy system, one particular family from hell had three trolleys in a row across the gangway while chubsters grasped at last minute must haves.
I sought sanctuary in the soap and detergent aisle, the only clear floor space in the place, why did I volunteer to get the food shop? Why didn't I just cut myself instead, it would be less painful. I gathered my thoughts, I was here so my beautiful and oh so patient wife didn't have to be, I was here to get the Christmas dinner essentials, sprouts, and I was here because I had seen an advert telling me that the present I wanted to by my better half was here, half price.
So I manned up, shoved the trolley into the fast lane and took the blows to the ankle, didn't complain when the 12 year old operating the till I started to unload my almost purchases on to happily told me they were closing after serving the smug git in front of me and I single handedly saved the planet by using a card box instead of plastic bags.
On leaving the store I took a standing ovation from the crowd, packed Vic, replaced the trolley, donated the £1 coin needed to unleash the wire beast to charity, took the long way out of the car park so a granny could have my parking space (reversing for her was not an option) and very pleased with myself made it back to HQ, proud that for once, just for once I had completed my Christmas shop without mad rush to the late night garage Christmas Eve.
Back at the ranch I regaled the patient one with tales of slain dragons, of wrongs righted, of daring do's done. She listened carefully and forgave the minor discretion's like no lemonade. I had done well.
Except for that sudden nagging feeling.
The one you get when you know you have done something incredibly stupid.
Unbelievably stupid.
Like leave your wife's Christmas present in the shopping trolley.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


Freeze!!....Step away from the Christmas stocking!

Mission accomplished

Thanks to the Herculean efforts of Colin and Dave the move the hermit to suitable accommodation before winter gets a grip job can now be struck off the list. Once again men and machines combined to move the wooden wonder to its final resting place, a job that was done so quickly they had gone by the time I returned with their fish and chips. Techno was very happy, especially as he now had 3 portions of Britain's contribution to world cuisine to himself. I asked if he was now moving in, well not quite, he needed curtains first, a rug, perhaps one of them lamps with the floaty stuff in, some scatter cushions, a mattress. The list was growing. I left him wondering whether he could put a porch on it, that's what it needs see, a porch, keeps the weather out. I left him as he began looking for his tools. Well, at least we got it to him in one piece and weatherproof.

It also means we can get on with other things......

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

By complete contrast

This time last year I was playing one of Santa's helpers and battling through snow drifts to deliver Christmas cheer to some families I was working with. This year the chance of a white Christmas is about as remote as North Korea becoming a tourist destination. The rain is currently lashing down which means that phase two of moving this wooden wonder is not going to be without problems, mud being the main protagonist and the Technohermits distinct lack of coffee making skill will no doubt add to the low mood of all involved.
Still, it is almost Christmas and theres no better time than this to put yourself out for a fellow man, or woman, or hermit.

Its not like we haven't got anything better to do.......

Monday, 19 December 2011

Pig Club

Pig club will be starting again next year so lovers of all pork based products can get their fix of ethically raised pigs who are pampered and then converted into pig roasts and sausage. Details of how to join this and become a virtual farmer will be revealed 1.1.12 when another exciting development at Rock HQ will be revealed. You can also click on the link below and see other pig club recruits going through their basic training.

Meanwhile there was something else..........

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Feeling festive

Perhaps it was Greg Lakes classic that suddenly evoked the festive feeling here at Rock HQ, or the sudden realisation that there are only 6 shopping days left to Christmas and while I pride myself at being able to get all Christmas shopping done Christmas Eve afternoon I bit the bullet and went shopping today. Needless to say this was an epic fail, I came back with only one present, but several useful items like a collection of organic beetroot, a tub of meal worms and a growing sense of anxiety that I am going to be very busy next Saturday afternoon. Still I did manage to buy a few items on line, again this ground to a halt when I realised that on one site I had bought 3 cds as presents, and 13 other I like and were bargains.

The festive feeling carried on with yours truly creating a work of art in fairy lights on the patio while my beautiful and oh so patient wife tried to be equally creative in the Christmas Cake department only slightly hampered by the fact that the Glace Cherries Fairy had been (the GCF will by right half empty any full tub of glace cherries left unguarded at eye level) I dressed up the apprentice smallholder as Rudolf and Roy wished it could be Christmas everyday. The fact that I got Hazel stuck sideways in the above lane thanks to a combination of dark, ice, mud and gravity failed to dampen my enthusiasm for all things merry. A grumpy Technohermit haranguing me over how I had got it all wrong and should have used a winch, yes a hand winch, to haul his Shepherd Hut up the hill almost took the shine off things and nearly led to him attending casualty to explain how such a big shed had got rammed up his jacksy sideways.

Unfortunately its a sad fact that not all of us are looking forward to Christmas (if such a concept existed for all things pork based) and some of us may find that they will be playing a bigger part that others, and for one or two it will take total commitment. But meantime keep eating.

There was one other thing.........

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Modern Technology

Its been a bit of a dull day here on the Bonsai Mountain, one of those rare days when not a lot happened. The piglets hit the jackpot when they found the back door of Trixie wide open, that was entertaining for a few moments.
Aside from the epic struggle to get the Shepherd Hut up the precipitous slopes of the Bonsai Mountain nothing noteworthy took place. For many months we have been trying to coax the Technohermit from his damp smokey lair and move into more spacious luxurious accommodation(see above). A few false starts, he was keen to buy a bus for a while (no I have no idea why either) and then after I saw a Shepherds Hut at a country show the plan gradually came together. Technohermit was keen once he saw what his hard earned pennies could get him and so an order was placed and yesterday the wait was over, the hut arrived on the back of a low loader. Dave and John had crafted it well, all we had to do now was get it up the hill.
If you want to see how five men, three 4x4s, three chainsaws, a packet of bourbon biscuits and an endless variation of knob jokes achieved this feat then go to youtube and search for Shepherd Hut Magicians, I will post the link when I remember how.
My part in this apart from organising it all was to clear the sleepy hollow type lane of over hanging branches. Now despite the fact I was there early doors chopping down trees, felling mighty branches, having an exciting moment with the chainsaw as the chain came off (life threatening) and putting up with Technohermits coffee (life ending) no one noticed the clear avenue, no, they all got an arse on about the apple tree twigs that threatened to scratch the roof paintwork.
Techno got bored watching me clear the way so set off to view his new home. He returned an hour later, "No good" was his verdict. This was a slight problem, the hut is custom made for him, how can it be no good? "Doors jammed, cant get in it" he continued. I see. Well as the chainsaw had just made an enthusiastic attempt on my life I took five to show him round his new home. With some trepidation I approached the door, turned the handle, it opened easily revealing the wondrous interior. "Door Knob!" he yelled excitedly, "I didn't think to try that!"
Once the hi tech turn and go door knob was explained I showed him the light switch, he flicked it, four lights burned bright from the ceiling. He nodded approvingly, "Hows they work, from a battery?" he asked, yes indeed I assured him, he nodded again, "Have I got a battery?" he asked, as the lights were on I told him it was highly likely. He tried the cupboard doors, stamped on the floor and all seemed well in his world. Thankfully help arrived in the form of the builders of this wooden wonder, David and John, before I had to start explaining the modern technology like the solar panel. I got as far as never hit with sticks but left it there.
The savior of the day was Colin who arrived in his super duper Land Rover Defender with all its bells a whistle four by four goodness it heaved the hut heavenward only stopping to untangle it from the apple tree I hadn't thought would get in the way.

Eventually mud and hypothermia caused the end of this merry bands fun and games and we left Techno exploring his new environment with all the bewildered curiosity of a Scottish Panda.

So apart from that nothing interesting happened all day. A big thank you to all who gave so much time and effort to making this happen, especially Colin, Dave and John.
Oh! There was one other thing................

Friday, 16 December 2011

Looking ahead

Things didn't go as planned today thanks to the weather, the first real snowfall put a major spanner in the works, thankfully we got our straw under cover yesterday (meant evicting 18 sheep) and Steve the window fitter turned up and er.... fitted a window in the apprentice smallholders room. As the snow put paid to planned journey ( I did try but stationary traffic meant the clock ran out) so I carried on with work associated with the above (future plans will include this detailed map) and assisted with the unloading of a new lair for the Technohermit. It arrived on the back of a low loader and tomorrow I have to work out how to get it half way up the Bonsai Mountain without reducing it to a pile of worthless matchwood. Either it will go well or it will end in tears with a really good video clip to upload on utube. Watch this space.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Top Tip

If you are in a hole......

...stop digging!

Then again...........if you are having fun, carry on!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Almost like Christmas

It must be getting close to Christmas, we never ever see our post person, even though we know Steve the post exists he's seldom seen. He even signs our recorded post for us and bungs it in a steel box half a mile from the cottage. Today as I was dealing with horses we haven't got a red van with a familiar logo appeared. Things have obviously changed our end of the lane as he got out of the van with his jaw scrapping the floor. "I remember this when it was all fields" he wise cracked. Funny man.
"You should be on telly" I countered, but before I could ask where his cat Jess was he thrust a large parcel in my frozen hands. "Didn't want to leave this at the end of the lane, not at this time of year" he winked theatrically. The contents of my pockets were not suitable for tipping hinting posties unless he wanted half a dozen wet roses wrappers (early opening of half price chocs, guilty) some dog biscuit, a ring pull, string, some Aubious (google it, it plays havoc with zoom lenses) a camera that sometimes works and lots of fluff. He stood watching me as I did the universal patting of pockets ritual when you want to tip but cant. I did eventually give him a tip, "Don't run over the pony as you reverse down the lane, you'll only annoy her"

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Simple things

Whether its been finding star jelly (last seen some time ago, follow the link)
or walking the Berners in the sunshine in between snow showers (and gale force winds)

or watching the Geminids streak across the night sky, today has been a good day full of simple pleasures. Things are set to get exciting toward the end of the week when the straw arrives the same time as the new window is fitted in the apprentice smallholders room.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Batten down the hatches

I spent far longer with the pigs today than I meant to, curiously two had chosen to sleep outside and were very reluctant to give up the two foot deep litter straw they claimed as their own.
The forecast isn't good, 100mph winds and the almost barn is not looking in a good shape but fingers crossed it will survive another winter. The critters don't have the access to technology we have but seem to sense that things are afoot weather wise, predictions are that its the worst weather for 30 years. Ferny Fern Fern from Ferntown has bagged a prime spot next to George, the other 18 Ryelands are all crammed in to the same sized space next door.