Monday, 30 April 2012

Remember when........

There was a time that I would sit and watch TV when I got back from work, or make airfix kits, or go to the gym, relax in other words. Mind you there was a time when I didn't have two bottle fed lambs snoozing by the cooker who are, on account of their poor toilet manners, in need of a new place to live until they are strong enough to join the rest of the little flockers.

Jason and Izzy are about to be introduced to the MKII Baby lamb shelter, MKI being a box behind a baby gate in a gap between the cooker and fridge. The MKII is now complete, save for a quick trim with a Stanley knife to tidy up the roof felt. Not bad for an evenings effort and all without using my new toy, a chop saw. Using it would certainly have saved effort but the inevitable trip to casualty would have slowed things somewhat and blood stained woodwork would have upset the lambs.
Night time was reserved for pig watch, Piggle still ignoring the inevitable, and for some essential bike maintenance. The nice shiny mountain bike still has a reluctance to allow the front wheel to rotate so I have been using the "new" racing bike sold to me a while ago by he who cannot be named. Today as I approached the first junction, the one where quarry lorries lurk waiting to splatter unprotected life forms, the front brake (theres a theme here) of the black racer detached from the fork and hit me in the face. This was a) a surprise b) painful c) less damaging to self than a lorry. Cause of upset was a missing nut, not your ordinary common or garden type available at all good hardware shops, no, this was a male type allen key operated sort. Specialist in other words. Rare. Unlikely to be found in the dark recesses of the kitchen drawer. As I cycled with brakes in hand I pondered how to fix this. Being a true hoarder spare white bike, who last saw action when he who cannot be named began his ill fated Lands end to John O'Groats trek (he got half way by day 3, and ended about 10 miles from home when a beer with a friend led to memory loss and sudden disinterest in cycling away from home)has been gathering spiders at the back of the workshop. It is actually white and yes the dust is that thick.
BY some sheer stroke of luck, or Britain's inability to update any manufacturing process since the Crimea, the white bike, code name R100 has the same brakes as black bike code name R200. Although there are slight differences they are in essence the same bike even though R100 is some 20 years older than R200. The difference in saddle heights is because he who cannot be named is taller than his dear old dad, and the black bike saddle is lower than it needs to be for me on account the allen bolt to adjust it has sheared. By the time of last patrol of the perimeter white bike had donated essentials to allow more cycling tomorrow. This is important now as we have taken a BIG decision at Rock HQ. Taking a leaf out of Andy in Germany's book (link to blog will follow one day honest!) I am resorting to pedal power as much as possible. So much so that Vic has been retired, for the short term anyway. He is resting under the trees, only to be used as a outdoor music centre for the next six months. If the planets saved its down to me.

Good home cooking

 It was lasagna for dinner, one of my favourites and I thought little t had done pretty well eating his share, a bit on the messy side but he had eaten most of it. The I saw the floor......

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Really saying something

 A blocked drain caused a million gallons of rain water to flood the accommodation block where the critters hang out. Despite having new beds Guinevere bedded down in a damp patch, her piglets were not as keen as she was.
 Piggle still expands, if she gets any bigger she will certainly explode.
So as the weather put paid to any plans to work outside attention turned to what you can do with goats milk. Which is why there is this blurry pic of a plate. On it is the first ever goats cheese made by yours truly at Rock HQ. I should have let it mature for a few days, but we ate it on toast with some chilli jam for dinner. The goats have been told to up their output what with lambs, us, dogs and now cheese all requiring their milk.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Horse Power

After a long day at the office its not the best homecoming to find that one of the militia has phoned to say that our very own pocket rocket is on the farthest reaches of the ridge bothering his ponies. So began an epic trek across the border to locate our testosterone charged monster who was eagerly trying to spread his genes with numerous brood mares. The fact that he would need a step ladder was not a concern for the beast and when I found him he was in hot pursuit of an innocent filly.
At this point we were around two miles from rock hq, but as the evil grinning equine chased after her, she obliged by moving in the general direction of home, as in my home not hers. Several times she tried to quell his ardour with a well aimed kick but he persisted, her hard to get antics seemed to increase his libido.
I hardly got within 20 yards of him, he eager to remain free range kept her between me and him, and after a couple of hours with darkness not far away I was at the point of giving up when he spotted a small herd of mares and with a loud whinny shot off across the ridge to join them. I was now convinced that the only way I was going to get this sex maniac back was by using artillery but dutifully trudged after him, he now a speck in the distance. This was where I got a lucky break, the mares who were now the object of his desires tried to kick his head in and so he ran round them allowing yours truly a chance to catch up and tackle him. It became a bit of a blur at this point as the pocket rocket objected to my intervention and bit/kicked/tried to run off but I manfully hung on (the prospect of another two hours stalking the wretch was too much to bear and added to my resolve to do a star trek (Klingon))finally getting a head collar on him and a lead rein around his neck. Thus began a battle of wills which would have been easier had I not had to get him over this (see below) to get home.
Once over the last hurdle, the bonsai mountain, Trevor was dragged into the yard where my beautiful and oh so patient wife suggested I put him in the "garden". As this would have been like putting a Bengal Tiger in a paper bag and expecting it to be contained I hung on while Misty was evicted from the stable where she was saying goodbye to her dead foal (May passed away at 3am, a big thank you to the vets who fought so hard to save such a lovely girl) and the mentalist shitland was finally incarcerated. He did try and jump over the stable door which meant the top had to be closed. Now in maximum security he will stay there until the vet comes and removes a couple of items which will no doubt calm him down.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Pig club gets bigger

The Berkalitzas are growing well, the little scamps were found in the woods belonging to the militia this morning rather than tucked up in bed with Morgana. They soon came back once they smelled breakfast!

We kept up the all night vigil for little May and at 7am she keeled over so has spent the day with the vet. Blood tests reveal low white blood cell count, so no immune system. She has no energy, can't eat as a consequence and if she makes it through the night it will be a surprise. Misty is calling for her from her stall which only adds to the air of gloom over Rock HQ.

Let battle commence!

Spotted yesterday at the base of the North Face Gully. The green menace returns.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Fighting on

Its been a battle today, a battle to get May who was until mid morning the newest life form at Rock HQ to stay with us. First light she was sprightly enough, as the video clip shows. A midnight a and 2 am force feed had kept her going (I completely missed the 2am alarm, waking only when my beautiful and oh so patient wife tripped over a big dog on her way back in from bottle duty) but this morning she showed even less inclination to drink her milk.
 A helpful call from the nice lady who sold us Trevor (who incidentally having fathered the foal has buggered off over the hill completely neglecting his duty as a new dad) gave us some top tips and since then the mantra of the day has been "In from the side quickly to the front" which describes how you get a teat in the foals mouth. But each time she has taken less and less, and when Tracey decided that hourly feeds was the way forward the rapidly weakening foal looked like she was leaving us. We tried getting it to lap from a bowl (Misty demonstrated this very well demolishing half a litre of white stuff) and suck from a bottle but even if May got a mouthful she seemed loathe to swallow.
Needs must, so rather than faff about any longer and knowing the little scrap must eat or die I decided to syringe its feed direct into its mouth, and the food of choice was goat milk. First go 150ml went straight down, second the same and so on until now, almost midnight where she has had 200ml and looks quite perky. Not out of the woods yet but if she (and we) survive another night then perhaps we might make just make a clearing.

Prize for the newest life form goes to Jason, a new ram lamb, born this morning after Roxy (we tried to keep her from the boys but nature found a way) was ably assisted by yours truly. She had in fact gone into labour yesterday morning but it was a feeble effort and was deficit in essential pushing action. A check this morning revealed no expansion in the tuppence area and so after a liberal application of antiseptic lubricant I copped a quick feel of her interior which revealed a lambs head, still in the bag about a hands depth inside. This was good in so far as the bag was intact, not good as the legs were not presenting and Roxy was not pushing. Hoping my amateur sweep would spark off a new effort I waited, but nothing happened apart from a lot of goo leaking. Another exploration and I could feel the bag had now broken and the head popped out taking a breath and so began a rapid delving to find the legs and extract lamb before it was strangled. Roxy was no help at all other than not running off but finally Jason was in the world, Roxy passed out and refused to play mother so he is in the kitchen under the heat lamp with Izzy. Called Jason because of his golden fleece he is still bigger than Izzy. Roxy is now upright and eating after being pumped full of happy juice and other drugs. I have apologised and she has thanked me for using lubricant for a change.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Some mothers do 'ave 'em

 Little Misty took the torrential rain of this morning as a cue to give birth. Having evicted the Ryelands from the sheep shed she delivered a little foal to the world unaided. Its from there that things have taken a dramatic downward spiral and at this point in time the outlook for the foal is as bleak as the weather forecast.
 Misty lost her first born foal last year, she failed to produce the vital colostrum milk and with 36 hours or so Rainbow the foal lost its grip on life. This time Misty has zero milk. Nothing except a small amount of clear liquid. We were prepared this time so had purchased some colostrum from an equine medical supplier and it arrived 6 or so hours from birth. At the same time the vet and a nurse arrived to take a litre of blood from Misty, a whole leg full in other words, the plan being extract the plasma and transfuse to the foal, now called May (I know its April but the foal is called May) There was a risk to this plan, the foal may (May the foal) go into anophylactic shock and die during the transfusion. Blood taken the medics left us to get on with feeding May and injecting Misty with a drug to promote milk production. This has had no effect so far. And May seems very reluctant to drink from a bottle.
 She did have around 200ml this afternoon but despite trying various size teats she has since refused all attempt to get calories into her. The transfusion caused panic as May passed out and went all floppy but she came too and has had half of the plasma obtained from mums blood. General consensus was that she should not be given any more just in case she did die.
As I type May is perky enough, strutting around, giving it a lot of attitude, well what would you expect with Misty and Trevor as parents. She has some of her mothers antibodies now, hopefully it will be enough, there is some 200ml of colostrum inside her and we are on a 2 hour check and feed timetable. I don't think this will be a good outcome but we are trying our best.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Three of a kind

 Maisey, Kayleigh and Kurry waiting for breakfast, strength in numbers prevents the sky falling in.
Then theres a big dog to keep the wolves away.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Family outing

With the Bonsai Mountain as our back garden, when the critters allow we like to get out and explore. I like o walk, my beautiful and oh so patient wife likes to ride and thanks to a marvelous piece of kit from Jack Wolfskin I can carry the apprentice smallholder which means we all get to enjoy the great outdoors.

We were fully prepared for all eventualities having mobile phones, 24 hour ration pack, spare clothing, nappies, two dogs and a spare shitland pony who wasn't at all annoying the whole trip up to the Whet stone on the ridge. We played statues and as it was getting late, and looking like rain we set off home

All making it back in time for tea and medals. Even Trevor. The most annoying pony ever.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Size Matters

The day started extra early in anticipation of Piggle delivering her piglets, but she just lay head first in the straw, huffing and puffing until the feed bucket arrived at which point she forgot her labours and scoffed.

The Ryelands have been in maternity pens to make sure they bond with their offspring, so today as it was almost sunny they were marked with our unique hi-vis identification system and allowed to run riot on the runway. In a couple of days they will be allowed out on the bonsai mountain.

Once over the disappointment of Piggle's lack of effort I got on with the aviary project. This has gained a certain urgency with the arrival at HQ of two of its inhabitants, Zebra finches. They are currently in the conservatory with the quail who are also intended to reside in this five star all mod cons purpose built palace rather than a fish tank.

As ever the job got started with almost no planning and little idea of what the final product will actually look like. Help was at hand, or rather paw

with Reuben keeping bits in place while I fetched screws or the drill which was always just out of reach.

He who cannot be named phoned mid point and asked how things were going, pretty good so far. When asked for the dimensions I was a bit vaguer, its as tall as high as I can reach and big enough to use all the wood I ordered. Size matters.

By end of play, or rather end of time allotted to play chippie, the majority of the framework was complete with only one deliberate mistake (no gap for internal door type mistake) but I was very pleased with the progress, as were the finches who were able to see the construction site from their cage, providing the cat sat on it moved its tail.

I took dinner to the technohermit as the sun was setting, up the track I caught sight of Ebony who had escaped from the Corral OK the night we tried to rehouse Rosie the sausage pig who had unexpectedly given birth.

Ebony is now the proud mum of a very bonny lamb (gender unacertained) and they did what every sheep should do when approached by a man who's vegetarianism had been cured by a plate of lamb chops. They legged it.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Milk bars open

Thats got to hurt!

Berkalitzas trying hayledge

Friday, 20 April 2012

The lunatics have taken over the asylum

Gone are the days when the morning routine could be done on the run in 20 minutes, fetching the water alone now takes half an hour to quench the thirsts of various critters. Last night at not long before midnight I found another litter of piglets as I took water to the three little pigs, who are now not so little and still alive despite various threats to their well being. So now one who should be sausage is a mum, mercifully only two Mangalitza piglets who exploded with rage on being picked up to be taken to a place of safety. Trying to separate new mum from goat, shitland mare, dogs and Ryelands in the dark when all you want is your own bed was an exercise in patience.
This morning both little piglets were alive and kicking, as were the 19 others of various sizes, some of which are getting quite big.
The plan for the weekend is to secure another pig pen, build another pig ark and hopefully get some planting done in the garden. High on the jobs list has been fix the fence, the one that marks the boundary between our world and the militias. Its fallen into disrepair, trees have grown through it, posts have rotted and at one point you could, if so inclined, step over to lush green pasture. Our critters are too well trained (read stupid) to do such a thing, but the Berners have been looking longingly at the lamb chops grazing so rather than risk a potential conflict I decided to fix it myself. Having watched various large men put up fences and being an experiential learner I knew the theory and in practice this went far better than I had hoped.

Skipping off work late this afternoon I allowed myself three hours to complete the task, in the end it took three and a half which included clearing up. Key to success was using Hazel as a wire tightener, a complicated wooden structure was screwed to the end (two planks) and tied the wheel carrier. Three broken ropes later a nylon strop was found and voila, piano wire tight fencing and all without ripping the back wheel carrier off the door. By the time evening rounds were due the sun was setting on a nice new fence, see above inspected by Reuben, the old fence can be seen where it had fallen. So happy was I with crossing this job off the list I set about felting the roof of the pig ark built last week and used the only thing that tidies up a farm yard better than snow to clear our yard. A bonfire. 11pm a final check, the yard is almost clear, save for a pile of gravel, the fire is burning out, the fence is still standing, but best off all there are no new life forms.

So far.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Big pig!

Ambrose laying claim to more than his share of breakfast
Guinevere making sure her piglets get breakfast

and one of the pig club piglets looking cute for the camera.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Supersize me!

The accuracy of my statement "No no new arrivals thank God" at half past sparrows fart was very short lived as my beautiful and oh so patient wife, who was sharing the joys of the spring morning with me (a morning that had reverted to type, horizontal rain, the heavy wet type, you know its raining hard when its running off your eyelashes type rain) pointed out that Bonny was lying in the shelter making funny noises.
As I tried to get the rest of yesterdays delivery of straw under some sort of waterproof cover Bonny lay grunting and pushing. Time passed, there seemed little progress so yours truly having studied James Herriot acted as birth partner and delved inside Bonny's tuppence and extracted a lamb the size of a miniature donkey.

Ryelands tend to have single lambs, and as ours tend to be well fed the lamb can be quite large. This was the biggest yet, a prize ram in the making.

The title for best ram lamb at Rock HQ was stolen later this evening when Maude, who also had trouble and needed my less than expert services to deliver the supersized lamb, threw out this monster black ram lamb.

He is so big he didn't need to stand to feed! Now we only have one more ewe to go. And a small pony. Then we can relax. Of sorts.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Piggin busy

This happy bunch of piglets kept us busy for several hours this morning. At 6am it seemed that Guinevere was still only thinking about giving birth. By the time I had gone and got a cuppa and lent lazily back over the side of the pen there were three piglets feeding. She kept this up, timing the delivery to my absence, like me fetching a bucket of water, or milking the goats, each return saw a fresh delivery of fresh pork. I did stay for a 40 minute vigil and saw one fired out into the world. Me leaning over watching eating a bacon and egg roll was perhaps a bit insensitive but I was pressed for time. Piggle is still holding out but I predict by Friday we will be pigged out and save for the arrival of a couple more lambs we wont be expecting any more offspring. Except for a foal.

Monday, 16 April 2012

The great outdoors

Tempting isn't it! Not long now until Kobe and Hetty are turned out. Kobe is growing fast and is a friendly chap, just as well considering he is going to be a monster sized dexter.

Guinevere is building a nest in the newly vacated farrowing pen, Morgana is enjoying herself in the new accommodation built this weekend. Piggle is face down in the straw trying not to give birth. I have a feeling its not going to be too long before we have two new litters. Sales are going well, two of Iggles piglets are off to a new home in a few weeks, half of Morgana's litter are signed up for pig club, and today I was talking to a soon to be top chef who is keen on extending the menu with a little help from the rest.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The sky fell in

The day erupted with a very rare event, a blue on blue attack. While I was tending to the important things in life, teaching the apprentice smallholder the finer points of sausage sandwich construction and an appreciation of Pink Floyd, my beautiful and oh so patient wife was trying to raise the alarm. When she could finally be heard over my "singing" a tuneless rendition of careful with that axe Eugene, little t and I tried to make a sentence out of "Don't know whats going on...sounds like murdered goats.....Trevor"

Poor Kayleigh who is at best of times nervous of the great outdoors due to the sky about to fall on her had been let out of her enclosure by the Pgoor(More likely Maisey standing up leaning on the door and her weight sprang the bolt). Having seen the doorway to a different world Trevor got amongst the goats and with his usual approach of if it stays still eat it if it moves mate it set about trying to create a new species by mounting Kayleigh who would have run away save for Trevor now hanging on and biting the back of her neck. Somehow fully laden (Anglo Nubian's are not pack animals so this was a feat of strength) Kayleigh staggered down the lane and crashed into the front door of the cottage in order to gain attention. In case this failed to elicit the necessary response she gave the universal cry of despair uttered by Anglo Nubian's when being sexually molested by a miniature stallion, which in case you have not heard it sounds like several cats in a paper shredder.

Opening the front door created an interesting mix of randy stallion, terrified goat, excited Bernese and yours truly barefoot trying to avoid injury and protect milk supply. A well aimed wellington distracted sex beast and Kayleigh was given sanctuary in the conservatory while footwear was used properly and animals given a chance for pulse rates to settle. The disturbed goat was taken back to her stall, at this point Easter decided to drop a lamb and so another day began at Rock HQ.

All quiet on the western front a quick headcount revealed that all lambs had survived another night, admittedly Audi and Izzy were in the kitchen all night so were given a bit of a boost, but 5 lambs, 11 piglets, one quail all going strong.

The majority of the day revolved around either building things for pigs, moving pigs, feeding pigs, chasing pigs, getting boar out of large green tank, running away from angry boar who objected to being made to get out of the tank and watching the piglets enjoy their first day outside the farrowing pen. Tomorrow should be quieter, I'm going back to work.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Growing problem

Our strange weather took another turn towards winter this morning so nothing got done outdoors until a full cooked and several cuppas. Finally the sleet stopped and the sun came out allowing some progress to be made in addressing a growing problem, the pigs.

These chubsters are now 20 days old and taking more room each day. We need an ark to house them and mum, not the floaty type but a bomb proof wooden house that stays dry and has room for a large quantity of pork. Based around two pallets which refused to be the same size in any way except in height, this construction will keep them off the floor, a rubber mat will cover the pallet slats, and out of the wind, rain and sun. Sections are ready to be moved to the new pig pen (where the fish farm was) in the morning when we hope to rehouse mum and piglets with minimum of fuss. This is likely to be quite entertaining as seven piglets unleashed on the smallholding will no doubt have their own sense of direction. I had a lot of help making the ark, the pocket rocket felt he had to inspect every aspect of construction.

Good news on the lamb chop front, Izzy, the small creature taken from death's threshold yesterday, was alive and well this morning and reunited with Springtime and her brother, Audi, in the sheep pen. Hourly checks have been in place to make sure they continue to thrive, Audi has no sense of direction and needs help finding the milkbar.