Tuesday, 31 July 2012

All wrapped up..

 There was a time when I used to worry about days like today, the big S for two of our pigs, a trip in the trailer to their final destination, the celestial sty. Gone are the days where I used to train the pigs to do back flips into the waiting trailer, the whole smallholding to abattoir transfer done in a military style exercise, timed to perfection, going like clockwork, never any dramas. (Yeah right!) No, now I favour the point at trailer and let pig out method hoping that they find the allure of the blue feed bucket more appealing than 500 hectares of common land. Which was why the first two hours before my well earned bacon sarnie was spent chasing pigs across common land shaking a bucket at their disappearing backsides and wishing that I had kept hamsters instead of pigs.
All was going so well, despite the attentions of the Berners and rampaging Ryleands who all of a sudden couldn't wait to cram into the open trailer to steal the apple slices placed strategically to tempt the soon to be sausage to their fate. Fifteen minutes into the operation with two pigs almost fully in the trailer a third, who we also wanted to be bacon, marched up the ramp and decided that this was the exact moment to settle old scores and a full on fight for the cox's pippins ensued which scattered the dogs, sheep and bipeds until it all calmed down. By which time pigs had it away on their trotters and so the great round up began.
No, what I was really worried about today was the prospect of the trailer obstacle course the abattoir end of the journey. The journey there was uneventful apart from an ambulance wanting the same piece of road I was on and so began the first of many reversing tests which I happy to say I passed with flying colours and aside from hitting a wheelie bin full of rotting entrails, no penalty points.
As usual the mayhem of the small slaughterhouse entrance attracted a ring of spectators, all waiting for the inevitable jack knifed vehicle/trailer combos as the helpless and hapless reverse from the busy main road through the narrow gate, negotiating the crowd, the other 4x4's with empty trailers, escaping animals, cross vets, happy slaughter men and a butcher who is as cheerful as a hung over Phil Mitchell.
Today I watched as grown man broke down in tears mid way through the gate, he was helped from his Land Rover while a volunteer driver sorted out the mess. My turn came and much to every ones surprise (and disappointment) I got through the gate, reversed along a queue of vehicles waiting to exit, waved at Phil Mitchell who was pointing and saying something like "I remember you from last time!" (rude!) parallel parked, then continued back through a gap left by a transit van and sobbing farmer up to the unloading point. Here the slight impact with the wheelie bin could have spoiled a winning streak but as no one saw it didn't count. Pigs out. Away in time to get to work. I collect my medal and sausages Thursday.
Tomorrow is the big day and again, for once I am prepared, well almost. As Tracey my beautiful and oh so patient wife climbed the wooden hill she stopped and handed me something. A roll of sellotape. She knows me so well!

Monday, 30 July 2012


 Its that time of year that every married man dreads, the time of year when hapless male searches memory bank for the subtle clues dropped by beautiful and oh so patient wife as to the type of birthday present that will make her truly happy. Unfortunately the idiot she married is unable to recognise subtle hints unless tied to a house brick and thrown at him. Worse still its a special birthday year, one that deserves recognition, so I decided to recognise it by having a birthday week rather than a birthday and it kicked off today with a special delivery, gift wrapped, of this polar bear lookalike.
 By the look on beautiful and oh so patient wife's face I actually got it right, it was what she wanted.
 And along with puppy (Yet to be officially named, ideas on a post card please) came a certain number of accessories which made both of them happy.
Needless to say puppy immediately set her stall by inspecting all new toys, bed and bowl before opting for a snooze on the sofa. Start as you mean to go on then!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Cheap shot!

 It cannot have gone unnoticed that the UK is hosting the 2012 Olympics, and that there was an opening ceremony and show, the brainchild of a certain Danny Boyle, who depicted the inhabitants of this sceptered isle as having descended from a bunch of yokels who milled around doing rural things until the industrial revolution saved them. Quite where he got the notion that we as a nation live in white faced cottages with well tended gardens and roses growing around the door is beyond me.
 The very idea that we have nothing better to do than attend local fetes, raising money for good causes or organisations such as the Women's Institute would have been funny if Mr Boyle had not given the billions of the worlds population watching the TV spectacular the image of British citizens as having nothing better to do with their time
 than to eat cream teas while
 listening to folk music and
 taking part in such quaint customs as throwing horse shoes, smacking the rat, welly wanging and bowls.
Actually there is a lot more to this royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,this earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,this other Eden, demi-paradise,this fortress built by Nature for herself against infection and the hand of war. This happy breed of men, this little world, this precious stone set in the silver sea, which serves it in the office of a wall,or as a moat defensive to a house,against the envy of less happier lands.
No, theres a lot more to this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England/Wales/Scotland/Northern Ireland.
And anyone who say different is just guilty of cheap stereotyping.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

A cunning plan

 As usual when in a hurry and you need to make progress the critters have other ideas and yesterday morning the pigs in the big pen had chewed the tap off the blue plastic pipe. This was probably because the water tank they drink out of was empty thanks to Rosie using it as a private tub and tipping it over. Again. Tap removed 1000 gallons of stored water filled the lower parts of the pen giving everyone a fantastic wallow. As the pipe was chewed it wasn't a quick fix so in my SOHF I carried plastic tap (above) back to the cottage to show my beautiful and oh so patient wife what naughty piggies we have.
However the now mobile plastic tap reminded me of a cunning plan I had to insert two more taps along the 100 metre or so of blue pipe that takes water from the stream to various points on the smallholding. Again its sods law that the locations of the taps are nowhere near where you actually need them, for example the one at the bottom of Oak Bank is equidistant from the small pig pen and the goats, but to get to it you wade through mud and climb a fence. Not easy carrying full buckets of water and as Pam the Mangalitza is drinking about 20 gallons (well she uses 20 gallons, most of it she sloshes around) it would be more use to have a tap by her, and one by the small pig pen. Off to farm supermarket to buy two new plastic taps. Which is what I would have done except for one small bother encountered at the checkout. Plastic tap costs £24.99. Plus VAT. 
I did manage not to feint when nice man trying to flog insanely priced article told me of the price, which was just the start, the t junction and coupling added another £10.80 plus VAT. Eventually the cheapest option was seized upon, a full metal tap for £4.99 and a plastic coupling (without screw fix attachment to fix to post/wall as that was an extra ten quid, I used baler twine instead) total cost £10.49 plus VAT. I decided on just the one extra tap. I told the nice man I had 7 of these taps, which turn out not to be taps but shut off valves, to which he replied that that seemed a bit luxurious. I now have half a plan to replace all plastic taps/shut off valves with full metal ones and flogging the plastics on ebay. I could make a few quid I reckon!

Friday, 27 July 2012

This is it!

This is the closest we got to the Olympic flame, a picture sent to us as well! We did ring our bell for three minutes this morning, nothing happened except the sheep came running. The opening ceremony proved entertaining despite our intermittent TV signal!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

An apple a day

The apprentice smallholder is a big fan of apples. Except the skin.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The cost of living

On day where the UK GDP is down for a record 9th month and its being the worst peace time depression for 100 years, the true cost of living with a monster stinky goat called Boris has been discovered. Extra precautions are in place to stop his foul stench killing his temporary landlords (gas mask, gloves, waterproof clothing) but there are other things that were perhaps not considered in detail when a stall was offered to the beast. Cleaning his bed out revealed a whole new hell and led to contamination of the shovel, wheelbarrow, wellingtons, Bernese Mountain Dog stupid enough to enter the goats boudoir (all of them then!) my left arm, house keys, door handle, bucket, garden gate and compost heap. It all ended up reeking of male goat. Thankfully my running into the house screaming the ancient incantation of those afflicted by goat stench "Omigodomigodgerritoffame!" reduced my time in solitary but the knowledge that a return match is inevitable once Boris makes his mark on the new bedding fills me with dread.
Talking about the cost of living my beautiful and oh so patient wife needed a new battery for her posh watch. Quote from Jeweller who sold watch £300.
Quote from Steve the Clock and Barometer man £4.
Apparently the difference is that the £300 quid battery is guaranteed to work. The £4 battery just works without a guarantee.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Caught on camera!

 Our very ancient beagle, Preston, has always been a bit keen to ensure he gets more than his fair share. Working on a whats mine is mine whats yours is mine principle he tends to help himself to any unguarded calories. ts a bit hard to see in the above pic but he is stealing someone else's breakfast.
 Caught on camera, butter wouldn't melt!
 Stuffed he takes advantage of the shady corner sunbed.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Under a big blue sky

 All thoughts of a quiet evening on the helipad sipping batch 2 elderflower cordial were put on hold as it became apparent that our pocket rocket Trevor had abandoned Misty in the yard and was somewhere out there under a big blue sky.
 Now he cannot do any real damage out on the common, and he is allowed to be there, but in order to have peace of mind and good relations with the militia who's ponies loiter amongst the gorse bushes I thought it best to get our little shitland back and help him come to terms with the fact that he is now a gelding, and any thoughts he had of making out with the local mares were just that.
 I took three wolves with me, Spotty and Poppy were invited, Preston invited himself (there seems to be no stopping the ancient mutt) and thanks to my superior tracking skills (luck) we all ended up upwind of our prey and better still the dozy equine was lurking amongst some rocks which provided ample cover as we stalked.
 Totally oblivious to what was about to happen Trevor dozed in the sunshine.
 It was all over in seconds, I stepped out from behind the rocks and before you could say "Hello Trev" he was trussed up like a turkey and so began the long wrangle back down the slopes. He not happy at being "rescued" whinnied all the way home. Misty was happy to see him.
The militia's mares on the other hoof were glad to see the back of him again!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Here comes the sun!

 The morning got off to a worrying start as there was a strange yellow orb in the sky. Several critters, Crispen included, took shelter until the all clear was sounded as the strange glowing object turned out to the the sun. Having reassured all and sundry that they were perfectly safe and that the rain was bound to return very shortly we all got on with our lives. The jobs list was steadfastly ignored thanks to the return of the sunshine and time was found to have family and friends around to take a walk on the wildside (for me this was a painful trip around the bonsai mountain as I insisted on wearing shorts and paid dearly thanks to the close attention of the stinging nettles) and feed the critters.
As usual the piglets were a hit, as was the Mangalitza pork and sausage on the barby!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Heres looking at you Kid!

No, Boris may be good but hes not that good. This lovely Anglo Nubian Kid isnt one of his, this is Alana who has been here at Rock HQ for some time now and has settled in very well.

Had his chips!

This is Preston our 21 year old beagle. He went for a walk yesterday, he wasn't supposed to, neither was he supposed to visit the Oracle, and he certainly wasn't supposed to be helping himself to a supper of chips! Still, I suppose old age does afford certain benefits.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Royal visit

Boris, an Anglo Nubian Billy goat has landed at Rock HQ and straight away has made a real impression on everyone and everything here. He is an incredible animal, a champion champion, the all Wales Champion and so on, so many accolades, so many trophies, its such a shame that no one can bear to get near him without full NBC gear.
Now I had read, and been told that Billy goats smell, so I thought I was ready and assumed that as they pee on their own heads that the smell would be pee like, ammonia based, in other words like the worst ever toilet smell. It is shockingly bad.
The above picture demonstrates his was of showing he likes you, he has just peed up my legs and wellingtons. Anyway the smell is indescribably bad, so bad it actually makes me want to cry. Its impossible to describe other than its like nothing you can imagine, train loads of fermenting skunks would be more bearable than the secretions from Boris' glands on his head. Worse still, if you get it on you it sticks, its bores into your clothing and remains. Forever.
Skin to smell contact means you are tainted for days unless you can get to cold water quickly, hose yourself down, rub coffee granules into the affected area shouting the incantation "Oh my God get it off me  get it off me!" before it takes hold. Gloves and clothing that can be pressure washed are essential as the mighty Boris is very friendly and apart from peeing on you he loves to rub himself against you, or trying to lift you up in a playful manner. For me the gas mask is the only way I can spend anytime at all with him, the smell is literally eye watering and I have no idea how I will get it out of the trailer other than by burning it. Oh, have I mentioned he is red hot to touch, like a furnace fuelled by testosterone his body heat helps radiate his aroma to the ladies housed close by.
He is also the size of a small donkey, in fact we have a horse smaller than this goat, so thankfully he is a docile chap (providing he gets his own way) doesn't jump fences and gates and likes a quiet life. Unlike Anglo Nubian females who constantly mew that the sky is falling in, Boris is the strong (smelling) silent type. He is here on loan by the champion goat breeder who wants a kid from him and our lady goat Idonea, otherwise known as Kayleigh, who is we discover the mother of several champion goats already.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Future champion?

 Little t has decided to take up Badminton, he has already mastered the rudimentary aspects of the game, checking the racquet for string tension,
 pointing out that the net height is not as regulations state,
 before issueing a challenge to your opponent.
Not sure two bats is allowed though!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Keep your distance

Here is Bliss watching with interest a visitor to Rock HQ. Sensibly she is not getting to close. She may also be wondering, if canines have the capacity to wonder, as to why yours truly is wearing a mask and gloves and what looks like his old chemical warfare combats. All will be revealed when various items have been decontaminated, this includes the camera.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

No time for midnight at the lost and found

 Theres so much going on here sometimes that its impossible to keep up to date. Yesterday's antics with awol piglets meant I had no time to tell you what the nutjob of a horse called Chester got up to Sunday night/Monday morning, and because Bridget, who was the reason behind the pork turnout and subsequent shenanigans (which included catching 5 piglets at midnight) has given birth this evening there is little time again to regale the tale of Chester's naughtiness.
 The quick version is that he went out for a leg stretch and munch of grass late Sunday evening and for various reasons was left to his own devices until nightfall. This is, we now know, about as sensible as leaving a monkey with a hand grenade. BY bedtime, that's everyone else's bedtimes not mine, this idiot horse was no where to be seen. Ok it was dark, it would be impossible to see him but you know what I mean. After much pointless calling and bucket rattling, yours truly set off around the bonsai mountain in the pitch black ignoring the risk from Trolls, Werewolves and Zombies to fetch horsey back to his bed. After 358 degrees of the circuit the feeble torch picked out two reflections up the slopes, and after ascertaining it was not a Troll, Werewolf or Zombie I approached them with caution (and effort it was steep) to find Chester had grazed his way uphill into a maze of gorse bushes and in the darkness could not find a way out or down. He now took it into his chicken sized brain to head uphill, perhaps thinking the approaching beam of light was a Troll, Werewolf or Zombie rather than a very annoyed, thoroughly wet and tired fat bloke. The following SOHF resulted in Chester quickly understanding that uphill was definitely the wrong choice and downhill along the track and to bed would stop the tirade Celtic language. Forty minutes into Monday morning and he was tucked up safely and I was calming rapidly with the aid of a reasonably large Jura.
 Having said that there is no time to spend telling you about the newest time wasters all delivered safely,
six stunning pedigree Mangalitzas. And as we have spent so much time with them theres no time to explain why cold water, coffee granules and disposable gloves are going to feature quite heavily in the daily routine for a while.

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Ahhhhhh Factor

Pams piglets are growing in stature and cuteness by the day! Bridget was moved into the maternity ward early this evening which meant three hours trying to persaude nine piglets from the common and back into the pig pen. How we laughed!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Best kept secrets

 Reuben found one of Rock HQ's closely guarded secrets today. Laurel and Hardy have been resident for a while now, getting used to the goings on here at the smallholding. As soon as phase 3 of the fencing project is complete they will live in a tree house (under construction) the orchard side of the garden.
I think he was trying to impress Reuben with this dazzling display, pity he's going to lose them all in a couple of months in the autumn moult.
 A few minutes of the day was spent making batch two of Elderflower Cordial as batch one was very successful and going down fast as its soooooo delicious. Since posting that I had been up at sparrows fart collecting the flower heads as I had always been told you had to do that to get the best results I have been inundated with more/fresh/contradictory advice and long handed down family elderflower cordial secrets.
So today I waited until midday and collected the flowers from the southerly side of the bonsai mountain dressed as a druid cutting the flowers with a silver blade, held in my left hand, collecting them in a copper vessel in my right while walking backwards around the bushes singing folk songs while listening to thrash metal on my mp3 player, the flowers were washed in rain water collected on a Thursday in any month with an M in it (providing theres a westerly breeze of course) adding sugar (fair trade) and organic lemons squeezed between two hewn granite blocks,  stirring it with a newly whittled hazel spoon before covering it with goatskins and leaving it in moonlight for 37 hours, that way I just about encompassed all the advice given. We shall see how it compares to the bung it in a pot and hope method usually adopted.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Make mine a large one!

 While walking to work the other day I got to see the new crop of ponies, none of which are related to Trevor, thankfully.
 I also saw that the militia had been clearing the bracken, I am behind in my war against the green menace but plan to do battle again soon with the blue strimmer.
From the look of things the militia's strimmer is a bit bigger than mine!