Tuesday, 30 April 2013


 The best part of today, a day which was spent revisiting decisions made at meetings held, unheld and upheld and now not acted on until a meeting in two days time, was spent on this ridge preparing for the BBMC, the location of which is the dark smudge on the skyline on the extreme right. With me were two of the Dolyhir clan, Rocky and Reba, and as the start of tonight's epic trek began and ended in town (not outside the chip shop ahem!) it was a pleasant reminder of how unusual Bernese Mountain Dogs are and the reaction they cause when in public. Theres no point trying to make progress as any progress made through town is inevitably interrupted by Joe Public ooohing and aaahing and wanting to pat doggy and asking SFQ's like what do they eat, bet they cost a lot to feed, what are they St Bernards? and a new one tonight from some nutter who at the end of our walk as we sat not eating chips outside the chip shop, asking if they were twins. He wouldn't accept the explanation that this was how they look (see dog blog) and insisted that they were from the same litter so we left him to drain the dregs from his can of Special Brew so he could argue with his dubious meat pie in peace.
Little t practicing for his own BBMC challenge. Hes planning to do his own circuit of the Bonsai Mountain.

Monday, 29 April 2013

To the rescue

You just make out the feral ewe trapped in the brambles spotted from the saddle of my new steed. My reward for climbing up to free her was to be headbutted and knocked into the spiky vegetation. Oh and feeling good for a good deed done well.

So far so good

Given the state of the roads in the UK linked to the climate that means we are having increased flash floods, more snow and ever deteriorating dirt track it seems sensible to have a 4x4, hence Miranda. Vic has been languishing in the turning space surrounded by tyres and the corpse of Hazel the almost 4x4 while we decided what to do with him after his last rebuild of suspension units and wheel bearings. Nostalgia kicked in and we remembered our favourite ever vehicle, Rene the Rx4, a true road warrior and multipurpose people carrier pig transporter and feed wagon. If only we had another Rx4 instead of Vic who is more suited to motorways and townscapes than our way of life.
And so we find Renata, Rene's half sister who was offered for sale on good old ebay. Now I cannot blame alcohol or any substance misuse that prompted a bid, perhaps it was the vain hope that I would get a car with a years MOT for less than the cost of a bicycle, but bid I did. For some inexplicable reason, and there were other bidders, my bid won which was why my beautiful and oh so patient wife drove me to the heart of west Wales land to collect our new old car. She did misbehave a bit on the way home, Renata not MBAOSPW, misfiring on hills, and there were a lot of them, but for the last 25 mile she was brilliant so perhaps it was mucky fuel as she had been standing for a few months, that or my lazy driving caused by diesel engine driving and infrequent gear changing. Once I remembered a petrol engine needs higher revs and more gearbox use Renata seemed much better. Her engine was still inside the bonnet this morning and she started again so so far so good and perhaps we have a bargain and not another mobile animal shelter.

After our epic drive and petrol head adventure the day got more exciting when Beth and I went to see Lee Nelson. Not every ones cup of tea but he was QuaLeeTee!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Catch me if you can

Laurel and Hardy have extended their range even further and when neighbours from the next village are reporting sightings of our love sick Peacocks it was time for action. Except as there was a distinct lack of peacocks it was a difficult problem to solve. That was until Hardy reappeared long enough to be captured and placed in the old goat house, much to his disgust. Laurel has yet to be found and if he was anywhere near the last place he was reported as being he is in woodland in another country/county.
Randy peacocks were not the only birdbrains causing havoc. The silky bantams were moved from the A frame run to the more luxurious surroundings of Stalag 14. I say more luxurious meaning deeper mud, a choice of two huts and a couple of trees to vandalise. As yours truly built the A frame chicken coup with only one door, and that door being only big enough for birds, getting them out was a slight chore. It turned out to be a test of reflex and memory. My reflexes and their poor memory. So food was placed by the open hatch, curious chicken has a look and was "disappeared" if I was quick enough. The witnesses to this dramatic exit soon forgot and came back to see the seed and so on until there were only three birds left who were a bit more intelligent than your average hens. I finally managed to to reduce the number to two and handed the furious hen to my beautiful and oh so patient wife who thought the best way to help was to let the bird go which immediately legged it.
 In the confusion the remaining two seized the day and ran out of the coup and hid. So began the highly entertaining pastime of catch a dinner. Swiftly they were rounded up, after several encounters with brambles and nettles on my part. The one who was now having the born free moment thanks to MBAOSPW not being a cricketer suddenly became the master of camouflage. Quite how a radioactive while hen merged into the verdant (ahem) greenery of the garden was truly astonishing. Putting the disappearance down to either A)Fox B) Cartoon Dog C) Time Travel we gave up the search only to spot her as we took cover from the seasonal hailstorm. Not wanting to lose sight of her again the weather was ignored and the less than cooperative bird was cornered and frogmarched back to her fellow detainees.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Chasing rainbows

 Ever had one of those days where nothing you plan actually happens and you end up doing lots of other things which take 5x longer than they should, no, well welcome to my world. Instead of a jolly day in meetings (the real alternative to work) I had to go to other meetings (and work not punch)  people who tried their best to remake decisions made at a meeting already held and only when I threatened to take my ball away did they see sense and keep to the arrangements we had spent hours over previously. By 2pm any idea of saving the planet by cycling to my final meeting 20 miles away was out of the window and Miranda was pressganged into service and I finally caught up with myself. The highlights of the day was calling in to a farmer supermarket at lunch time and finding 10x bags pigfeed for half the normal money, receiving notice that a new BBMC partner had manned up and decided to join me on this annual trek and that a new home (perhaps only temporary) had been found for my little rescue ponies.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

One man and his dog

 Out and about I came across this amazing piece of rural craftsmanship (no thats not sexist it was a man wot done it!) a long piece of drystone walling, four foot high, straight as an arrow and beautifully out of place in the wreckage of the garden it bordered. You might be able to see in the bottom picture the "rustic" (rusty) gate the landowner intends to hang at the end of this masterpiece.
The nice chap who put up this wall, lets call him Steve, why not its his name, was very happy to talk to me about his skills and in response to the highly unoriginal "How long did it take you to learn this skill" replied that he had taken a two day course given by a local farmer with a strange sense of humour and that was that, lesson learned. Oh, and 15 years practice since.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Jog on

Not sure of the ethics in using a toddler as a training aid but little t helped the BBMC training by adding weight to my circuit and summit of the Bonsai Mountain. I think he enjoyed it, slapping me round the head was funny, especially shouting giddy up horsey, or leaning out the left side to try and touch the floor, that was hilarious, but not as funny as the I'm dancing routine which was a real test of my balance as he demonstrated his moves.

Any takers?

 Free to good home

Monday, 22 April 2013

I didnt do it

Crispen took the long walk last night and Levi has assumed 2iC of the flockers, Ferny Fern Fern from Ferntown is still in charge. Other animal news, Mr Frosty is the only living thing to escape from Goatanamo, no idea how he managed this but once on the outside he decided life on the inside was better and got himself hopelessly entangled in brambles and gorse and lay there crying until yours truly rescued the poor bleater.
Talking of rescue one of the things I didn't do today was rescue two ponies destined for the canning factory. I didn't take pity on the two Welsh ponies, a boy and a girl, and I didn't promise to find them new homes or temporarily accommodate them at HQ until that happens. In fact I didn't do this so much that you wont see pictures of two very cute ponies on these pages tomorrow as I didn't take lots of pictures of them.
A neighbour emailed me today asking if I wanted to do a fairly tough bike ride on the weekend and by the way did I know who's peacocks were in his garden. Yes Laurel and Hardy are extending their range and entertaining the neighbours with their singing.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Marathon effort

Some valuable lessons were learned today.
Once the usual routine had been completed yours truly set off on his bike hoping to reach his destination 53 miles away within the same day.
Actually I had set a target of 4 hours and as the weather was almost perfect things looked promising.
Lesson one learned was that the drinks bottle was rubbish as it had to be tipped up at an extraordinary angle to get any moisture out, in doing so the potential for accident skyrocketed, this will be changed to the one advised, a squeezy one with a flip top.
Another piece of advice to be followed is choice of snack while travelling. Having jenned up on whats best I ignored snack of choice by long distance cyclists, a sort of fruit based gel like a large soft jelly baby on account of A) cost and B) not being a prima donna type I could make do with a marmite sandwich and a mars bar. Hence the curious sight of a fat bloke wrapped in lycra wobbling along the Queen's highway scoffing a mars bar with oncoming car drivers all gawping and thinking that what they observed defeats the object of exercise. Chocolate toffee snack was difficult to eat, took ages and made a mess. It was almost impossible to breathe properly while eating and cycling and bits of chocolate found their way into all sorts of unlikely places making a mess so I can now see the point of a quick gulp of energy in the form of a lime flavoured jelly.
 Three hours twenty eight minutes and thirty three seconds after starting off I dismounted at my destination for tea and medals. I was happy with my effort and happy with what I had learned.
Perhaps the most important lesson of the day was that having a goat curry with extra green chilli's the night before a long distance bike ride is not a good idea.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

All part of the plan

 There is a limit to the amount of time that I can devote to training for the BBMC and P2P (Pedals to Peak) so any schedule (ahem) has to fit around family, work and smallholding. And weather. So after a spin session this morning which was supposed to be a recovery session after yesterdays longer rides but actually turned out to be sprint and hill training where my heart managed a new peak rate at 191bpm I spent the afternoon focused on core strength, or shovelling pooh from one part of the runway to another.
 All under the watchful eyes of the Mangalitzas who had seen the delivery that they really like, new beds
 which were in the form of a DIY kit or mantest some 100yards away. As I don't have any such luxury as a tractor with a pallet lift or front loader yours truly then had to break up said monster bale and distribute amongst pigs, goats (pause to give them a pedicure) and poultry (pause to congratulate turkeys for laying 6 eggs and chastise hens and duck for not)
 The I am a rectangle reference will be wasted on all those readers who lack an apprentice smallholder who likes to watch Mr Maker while redecorating the lounge with craft materials, but soon the bale was defeated and no longer dominated the yard with its bulk. That proved a useful warm up to the next session of power lifting using a dog as a weight.
 Reuben weighs a shade over 50kgs dry and after a number of failed attempts we managed a few reps.
Its his birthday so he has a lot to smile about.

Friday, 19 April 2013

On top of things

Update on Crispie (that's not him that's Levi keeping on top of breakfast) is that the poor lad is photophobic, that is to say he is staying away from the light and refusing to cross over into the celestial greenery. He has lain on his side for 48 hours, not eating or drinking and it got to the point that if there was no improvement we decided that he should be put to sleep. Fresh rations arrived at HQ today, an event that never fails to excite the critters, and little t who likes big green tractors carrying heavy loads. Cripsen who had not moved for 2 days was struggling to get up, this was impossible so he did the next best thing and sat up and ordered fresh hayledge with a side of sheep nuts and 2 litres of water. As I type he has demolished the lot and has ordered seconds of hayledge. He is still very weak, but if dies tonight its on a full tummy.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

What if?

 I was asked the other day what would I do if I didn't have so many animals. Not sure really was the answer, make airfix models or something equally geeky.
 Well today as part of my paid job I got to go out and explore and was even allowed to meet real people and spent several very entertaining hours talking to them about their personal lives, motivations and hobbies.
 They were really nice people (even though they didn't offer any biscuits or cake with the much needed cuppa) and had a very interesting life in a really nice house with lovely dogs and kids. In fact I liked them so much we made plans to train them as foster carers.
But their neighbour obviously has a hobby that I would really like to do. Regular visitors will have already seen pictures taken by yours truly of vehicles with character, like knackered tractors resting, but mainly of WWII Dodge Weapons Carriers that visit rural shows. There were a number of American bases round these parts in the war, they even used the Bonsai Mountain for artillery practice. Kington had a military base and the one at Leominster was a hospital. After the war a number of the vehicles were "borrowed" and made into farm trucks. Not sure of the history of this Dodge ambulance, but I want one, anybody got one they want to donate I'm willing to travel.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Who fell over?

If I thought falling off my bike was going to be the low point of the day then I was in for a shock 2/3rds of a mile further on. But first my encounter with gravity, it was it has to be said a triumph of clumsiness over balance. Yours truly has for a while been using SPD pedals so I am attached to the bike by my footwear, metal cleats in the soles lock into the pedals and away we go.
The uninitiated to this style of pedal will almost certainly spot the flaw, that when you stop you cannot put your feet down. The solution to this, apart from an excellent sense of balance and timing which negates a lot of stopping (which I have yet to master) is to twist your heel sharply away from the bike and your foot is released from the death grip. The trick is to remember to do this before you have to stop at a junction, otherwise you topple over and provide endless opportunities for people to earn £250 on you been framed.
 I have only ever done this the once after a longish ride in Portsmouth I came to a junction and could not remember which way it was to my ship and in that moment of indecision I fell over. Until today that was a lesson learned.
Today as I arrived home, or rather in the yard of The Oracle, the location of the gateway to our world I unclipped my right foot and placed it on terra firma. Unfortunately the rest of my body made preparation for my left foot to be on the ground and in total slow motion, watched by Jess the collie and a huge ginger cat, yours truly fell sideways and as I was still attached to the bike which somersaulted over me to land, still hanging on to my foot, in one massive tangle of metal and limbs. Once the puzzle of how to get up was solved I limped home up our track.
 Crispen has been missing for two days, not a good sign when one of the flockers goes missing, especially our elderly ram. As I walked slowly past the pig pen I saw him, looking very dead, against the wire. The poor lad had toppled off the bank and rolled down against the fence. Passers by would have seen a fluorescent coloured Mamil wrestling with what was once a prize ram and dragging him to the lane. He wasn't dead, but was very much in the exit lounge. He couldn't stand so a wheelbarrow was used as an ambulance and he is now in the medbay. Comfortable on a fresh bed, nice food and clean water, but we don't think he will be with us long. Ten years is a long time for a randy ram and hes going to pastures new.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A minor set back

 While I was training tonight for the BBMC 2013 it was with the knowledge that my companion for the Big Black Mountain Challenge has just pulled out. Competition for the places is always fierce and gets harder every year
 as there is a limit to the number of fat blokes they will allow on the mountain. Tonight I did the quick up and down North Face Gully, Reuben scrambling after me
 while Bliss and Elf were a bit more relaxed about the whole thing. My BBMC excompanion would like to give the impression that he tore the ligaments in his left ankle on a massive workout in preparation for 43km of mountain mayhem when in actual fact I know he did it kicking a ball for his daughter in the park. This is a minor setback, pretty sure a replacement can be found, one already turned me down on account of taking part in a 24 hour bike ride.
If I can carry enough water perhaps a brace of Berners will accept the challenge. They've done most of the training.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Slides rule!

Little t proving the well known fact

 that red ones go faster

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Stay Frosty

 Out of the blue we got a frantic phone call from our friend the microholder who took Mr Frosty pleading that we take him back as he had got into and decimated (think agent orange with teeth and attitude) he neighbours prize garden, you know the type, the ones with lollipop bushes, hose pipe in a roll and striped lawns. Mr Frosty had apparently taken a liking to some very expensive shrubbery making him about as popular as Arthur Scargill at next weeks not quite state funeral.
Once he was safely retrieved and placed in the maximum stockade of Goatanamo (Mr Frosty not Scargill) yours truly went looking for snow and found the last patch on our Bonsai Mountain.
Until Reba found another.

Saturday, 13 April 2013


 I was going to call this post "Poles apart!" as BT Steve called and put a new pole up, left an old one for firewood and then put a brand new phone line in which means we have a landline to the outside world. Then I was going to call it "Back in action" as Applemac Steve fixed our steam powered PC, salvaging all the photos from the last 2 years (phew!) and I found the charger to the real camera so no more pics from the mobile (perhaps) so in all our technobustups have been sorted. Finally.
 Then I was going to boast about knocking four minutes off my personal best for 20 miles on my new steed, getting it down to 1 hour 2 mins 56 seconds, or bleat about the cloudburst that added 7 painful and freezing minutes to the day befores circuit. But as that would be dull in comparison to today's adventure I wont mention it.
 Today saw us in a wooden shed on the edge of a large clearing, technically it was a hide, but as we could clearly see it it wasn't really hidden and a shed conveys a more accurate picture of our location. The reason for our sitting in the shed was what was outside, 100's of Red Kites. On our visit there were some 200 airborne, when there was snow there was over 600 and the birds often cover 30 to 40 miles to get a free dinner.
 They were amazingly agile, and despite having a pretty good camera set superfast it was pretty impossible to get a clear shot of these striking birds, and the namesake of our fostering agency.
 Out of the 237 photos taken a couple were worth a second look, but none were of great detail or quality. I almost had lens envy when several "proper" photographers arrived armed with 300 foot lenses and I almost made the mistake of engaging one uber anorak in conversation but as he was boring enough to kill a goat by talking to it about shutter speeds I just poked myself in the eye as it was less painful than listening to how to take proper pictures. With all this action going on outside the shed, 200 birds of prey diving a swooping, renegade Buzzards making an appearance, crows robbing the feast and a party of Peahens looking for left overs I asked little t what could be more interesting than this?
Well a hole in a plank of wood obviously! Silly me!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Who's a pretty boy then?

 Peacocks are well know for developing curious fixations on objects other than Peahens, ours are no exception. Laurel has decided that his true love is a pile of tyres about to be used as potato planters
 while Hardy has fallen head over feathers in love with our pretty boy pony Apollo who despite the impressive come hither display
slept through it.