Thursday, 19 July 2012

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud

Why the long absence? I could tell you that I bagged myself a six figure book deal and have been beavering away on my first novel. But I’d be lying. Would you believe me if I told you I’ve been on an all expenses paid trip of a lifetime to Africa? No, I wouldn’t either. How about if I said I’d spent the last two months trapped under something heavy? If a weight of rainwater counts then that would be closer to the mark! The truth is even more mundane. I simply blinked and the past two and a half months slipped passed me in a drizzly damp blur.

As you may have gathered it’s been a bit wet here lately. It’s been a bit wet everywhere lately. It’s still a bit wet here. It’s still a bit wet everywhere. Summer, schmummer ….. mustn’t grumble though (grumble, grumble), as compared to some of our fellow Cardies we’ve come through the worst of it unscathed. While others in the north of the county were watching their caravans bob about like giant buoys or scrabbling to save belongings from the raging torrent in their living rooms, all we lost was some stones from the drive. Not easily deterred, our guests at the time braved the overflowing stream to head out for dinner – this was what greeted them at the bottom of the drive ….


… but when you’ve got to eat, you’ve got to eat, even if it means swimming to the restaurant!

The pigs take a similar approach, though their trip to the trough is more of a bog snorkel than a swim. The pen is so thick with liquid mud in places that I’m considering setting up Dave in a tent with his guitar, rigging up a bar in the pig ark, and calling it a festival. 


Desperate times called for desperate measures. We stole a patch of field from Babs, Margo and Myfanwy to give Larry, Pip and Mo a daily break from the mudfest. A few harsh lessons were learnt when snouts met electric fence, and Teri rediscovered what happens when fur meets 12 volts, but the conclusion of this sophisticated scientific experiment is that sheep have better memories than dogs as Babs, Margo and Myfanwy have steer well clear of the new pop-up boundary and were in need of no shocking reminders. Electrocution aside, judging by the high levels of bum cheek slapping, side to side tail wagging going on the pen extension has been a source of great pleasure. In two weeks, our trio of porcine rotivators turned this ….


into this ….


The boys are serious rootlers and clod tossers. Everyday the lower wire of the electric fence has to be dug out from under piles of sodden mud clods and strips of turf. Available for hire for garden clearing at the price of a box of stale cakes per pig per hour.

Other headline news from the frontline of smallholding:

Black Rock shock as six become two

Hera turned all Ray Mears on us, insisting on spending nights under the stars, which went pear-shaped for her and dinner-shaped for Foxy Loxy. Six became five. Two days later, to celebrate Athena’s miraculous recovery from her egg bound hell, we captured her in a fishing net and packed her off to market with Aphrodite and Hestia. Five became two. Blodwen and Branwen kept their distance and eyed us warily for a while, but the bullied soon became the bullies when the new pullets on the block turned up …

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– Dilys (perfect) & Deryn (bird) the Calder Rangers and Eira (snow) & Enid (spirit) the Speckledys.

Sheep lose coats and dignity on road trip

On a miraculously sunny day in June we packed Babs, Margo and Myfanwy into the trailer for a mini-road trip to visit the mobile shearing unit. The speed and ease with which I write those words is inversely proportional to the speed and ease with which the described act happened. Obviously we had to go through the usual Benny Hill style sheep chasing shenanigans. It’s harder to fool a sheep than you think. Once at the shearing unit our girls were on the receiving end of some rough handed man handling – those shearers have no truck with sheep tomfoolery, it’s grab, tip, shear, grab tip, shear. Zippity zap and the coats were gone, exposing three rather round tummies and rumbling my secret treat feeding regime. Whoopsie.

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Queen goes missing, colony at risk

Where do I begin with the bees……. two steps forward, six mile jog backwards. This has been the summer from hell for my colonies. I had three colonies in March, down to two in April, down to one in May, up to two in June. Lack of sun means lack of nectar flow. Too much rain means too little foraging. My one achievement was to do my first artificial swarm. The glow of satisfaction soon became the fug of despair when the old queen absconded anyway, probably flicking a V sign in my direction as she departed. A few phone calls later and a new mated queen and entourage arrived in a travelling cage packed in a jiffy bag labelled “URGENT – LIVE BEES INSIDE”. I bet the postman loved delivering that package. So now I have two colonies, each with a new queen. Sit tight, wait for the sun, hope for the best, try to make the remaining few jars of last years honey last until August 2013.

Accident prone cat saves local veterinary clinic from financial ruin

Not content with scaring me silly with his brush with death by poisoning, Charlie decided to go for a hat-trick of “bad things”. One morning he’s fine, the next afternoon he’s hobbling along on three legs, the fourth being a puffy club foot of a paw. Suspected broken leg, vet talks of feline orthopaedics and metal pins, flashing pound signs in his eyes. We fork out for anti-inflammatory drugs and x-rays. Turns out it was a bad sprain and Charlie is under vet’s orders to rest up for a few weeks. So what does he do? Heads out and comes home with a big bloody hole in his neck. Back to the vet. More fur shaved off, gaping hole is cleaned and stapled (yes, STAPLED!) closed. He can’t walk. He has metal staples in his neck. Charlie has transformed into “Frankenhobble”.  Vet’s bill arrives. Sharp intake of breath. Reach for cheque book. Take big swig of wine.