Archive for January, 2009

The morning after the night before

Those of you who read JennieWorld Today will no doubt have already had a good chortle over your cornflakes this morning.

If you don’t, head over there now and see what Tia and Scrumpy got to yesterday while I was driving B to her parents’ house for a long weekend…

Right, now that you’ve stopped laughing, picked yourselves up off the floor and dusted yourselves off, here’s how things looked in the cold light of day.

Following Jennie’s evening phone call letting me know what had happened, and a long drive back to south Wales, I had a rather sleepless night – not helped by one of the cats who spent a good proportion of my duvet time trying to wake me up. He (don’t know which one, lucky cat) batted my nose til I opened my eyes and then, when I had the cheek to close them again, jabbed the tip of my nose with his claws – and then couldn’t work out why said eyes had such a murderous glint to them when they reopened… The little shit then retreated and did the same thing to my toes. He was, unsurprisingly, booted off the bed!

Hmm, where was I? Oh yes, the other cause for my sleepless night was the dream I was having before the cat got bored. According to my imagination, the spillage was just one sack and the mountain of sprouts was just one or two that the birds had eaten before my arrival, leaving me with very little clean up work.

Of course, as my body settled back down to go to sleep, my brain woke up and started worrying. Once I’d convinced it that the clean up really wouldn’t take that long, it started mulling over the reasons Tia and Scrumpy got out in the first place (I knew they would do something but didn’t put the electric fence on, reasoning that with one flat battery, the two working ones were better off with the chickens not the pigs… ha!) and what I will do with them over the next couple of months. The problem is quite simple: I’ve run out of dry ground. There is one other patch they could go on but it’s got some rather sodden patches that I’d rather use later in spring so it doesn’t get ruined. Neither their existing patch nor the proposed new site have got anything worth eating, but at least the other site would be fresh ground for them. What to do?

(Now that it’s daylight, the answer is obvious – but Jennie won’t like it one little bit… :D)


I arrived this morning feeling somewhat befuddled and sleepy but ready to take whatever the pigs could throw at me. Having seen Jennie’s photos on her blog, I was expecting the worst but was pleasantly surprised by the reality:

Not the disaster I was expecting! 31 January 2009

Not the disaster I was expecting! 31 January 2009

I think they only emptied three, maybe four sacks. Annoyingly, they ripped two of them wide open so they’ll have to be cleaned and used as something else. The worst damage is to the path so I had to use the cardboard I was saving for the lasagne garden to repair the damage.

Unfortunately, the sacks were filled with things that pigs shouldn’t eat, such as oranges, parsnips, pineapples and tomatoes. That did not, however, seem to stop them as I discovered numerous scraps of orange peel dotted around. They were, however, chirpy and excited about breakfast so I doubt they’ll come to any harm.

All in all, it only took about half an hour to clear up, mainly because Jennie and her man did the bulk of it yesterday. But it’s more or less back to normal now:

The after shot! 31 January 2009

The after shot! 31 January 2009

They certainly had fun in the field and dug plenty of holes to keep me busy the next time the mud dries out:

Beware the hole! 31 January 2009

Beware the hole! 31 January 2009

But it could have been very much worse. There’s one patch of grass that I am saving for the next litter of piglets, whenever that will be and I don’t care how much rain we have, only piglets (and their mama!) will be housed on it.

Of course, it’s not actually fenced off so Tia and Scrumpy enjoyed some of its grassy goodness during their fun time. But – crucially – they didn’t leave any of their trademark pits, only a slight amount of turfing that, as you can see in the second photo, was easily remedied using my foot:

Turfed! 31 January 2009

Turfed! 31 January 2009

the after shot! 31 January 2009

Turfed: the after shot! 31 January 2009

Mind you, I found out this week that one of the sows (Brini’s sister) I sold to a friend of mum’s has also been exploring beyond her boundaries. The other morning, he overslept and woke to discover the sow and her piglets at his door, demanding their grub. He quickly got dressed and using the tried-and-tested method of a bucket, walked them calmly back to their field. Until, that is, he got to his vegetable garden. Well, more precisely, the remains of it… He’s an adept gardener and had been nursing several winter vegetables through the worst of the weather, doing such a good job that they even survived the frosts. But not the pigs. What they didn’t eat, they’d demolished and trodden into the mud. So, you see, it could have been so much worse!

Seed catalogues

I am starting to look at vegetable seeds in an attempt to decide what I want to grow this year and whilst I’m no closer to deciding what I want to try my hand at, I also need to make a decision about where on earth (excuse the pun!) I’ll get whatever it is I plan to grow.

A bit of googling brought up these sites, all of which seem to be recommended by various allotment sites.

But, are they any good? Are they over-priced or spot on? Is there somewhere better I can go?

Suggestions and advice for a novice, please!!

Waterproofing the Eglu run!

For months and months, I have been meaning to get arse down to Ikea to buy one of their 90p transparent shower curtains to put over the Eglu run to stop the chickens from getting soaking wet every time it rains (no jokes about it being Wales, thank you!).

On Tuesday, I finally did the deed and lost my Ikea-virginity. And my, oh my! What a large store! I got lost too many times to mention and spent most of my time muttering “how much?” under my breath – mainly because everything seemed to be either ridiculously cheap (such as my shower curtain, down to 87p!) or ridiculously over-priced.

Still, it was an experience, and I think British developers could learn a thing or two from the store’s ground level car park, protected from the rain by the two shopping levels above it. Genius!

Yesterday, I attached the curtain to the run and today I will find out how things worked out (yesterday being cloudy but not rainy).

Eglu and its new shower curtain run! 28 January 2009

Eglu and its new shower curtain run! 28 January 2009

Attaching the curtain was dead easy. I put the end with the proper holes at the house end of the run and attached it using the ties that come with freezer bags. I put the house back over and no rain can leak in above the door! I put the shade that comes with the Eglu over the curtain to hold it in place at that end and used a bungee cord to hold the top of the shade in place (if you have an Eglu, you’ll know what I mean. Apologies for the terrible description.).

I made some small holes at the base of the curtain on both sides and used the sandwich bag ties to attach it to the run, hopefully leaving enough slack that it doesn’t come free in the wind. Like I said, hopefully…

It’s not great, but the Cube offers protection from the rain in its run but the chooks in the Eglu have always been drenched so this should do the trick. I’m not after perfection, just chickens that don’t look like drowned rats!

I’ll keep you posted on how this works out 🙂

Why aren’t your pigs rooting?!

Last week, as I was cleaning out the chickens in the orchard, a car pulled up by the house and on seeing me wave, the driver walked determinedly over to me. He had a grim look on his face and my spider senses started to tingle.

“Are they your pigs?”, he barked?

I paused for half a second. What’s happened? Did someone from the livery stables up the road fall off because their horse spooked at one of the pigs grunting? Are they out on the road? Is the bloke from the council, here for an impromptu inspection?

“Yes,” I replied making a real effort to stop myself from asking why.

“Are they ringed?”, was his second question, which threw me completely. I stood there staring at him like a prat until I worked out what he meant.

“No,” I stammered.

“Then why aren’t they rooting?”

“Erm, they’re Kune Kune pigs, so they don’t tend to root the same way that traditional pigs do. Just peel back the turf.”

“That’s what I was told we got ours, but they’ve ruined a two acre paddock!”

Ah. I suddenly got what this was about. He’s got a couple of Kune Kunes and, no doubt being youngsters, probably out in a fairly wet grass field, have rooted the entire place up because the grass either has no nutritional value for them, or because there’s no grass left as they’ve poached it up thanks to the rain. Either way, they’re hungry and know that when in doubt, dig deep for roots, beetles, bugs and other assorted tasties.

He’s been feeling misled regarding the purchase but was no doubt keeping a stiff upper lip and all that and then, through the hedge, saw my lot who are on the bank, clearing the undergrowth and brambles to allow grass to grow come spring. They’re barely rooting because, well, there’s nothing too root – and what there is, is at the top so they don’t need to dig for it, just push back the top soil.

Here’s how, courtesy of Bailey!

Going in...

Going in...

Stand clear!

Stand clear!

I told you to stand clear!

I told you to stand clear!

Mmmm, tasty bramble roots! Yum Yum!

Mmmm, tasty bramble roots!

From a distance, it looks as though all four pigs are being perfect angels, but it’s only when you look closely (and know what you’re looking for) that you can see the tell-tale patches where they’ve been gnawing at roots. But, being brambles, the roots are at the surface, so very little damage is done!

To cheer him up, and to demonstrate that contrary to popular opinion, Kune Kunes do root, I showed him Tia and Scrumpy’s little project from December/January:

What do mean, there's no buried treasure?

What do mean, there's no buried treasure?

(Note: the brown patches used to be green and smooth, and the entire enclosure was level. Look closely and you’ll spot the new hillocks that, when you stand in the hole, tower above the top of my wellies!)

Either sow could have been a contender for Gold in the porcine Olympics, but there was a simple reason for the activity. There was nothing for them to eat, so they found their own. Pigs are grazers, it’s no good giving them lots of nuts a couple of times a day and expecting that to do the trick – they like to nibble away throughout the day. If there really is nothing, they’ll sleep instead, which is why so many people keep them in sheds with or without access to a concrete yard over winter.

Although I did my best to convince him otherwise, and spoke at great depth about rotating grazing areas and reseeding, I have a horrid feeling that he is going to ring his pigs’ noses 😦

So, here’s my top tip for anyone who is thinking about getting pigs, as pets or otherwise: Pigs root! Learn to live with it!

Holocaust Memorial Day 2009

Today, 27 January, marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Nazi Germany’s largest concentration camp.

That was sixty-four years ago.

Time is passing.

I was listening to Good Morning Sunday on Radio 2 on Sunday, and one of Aled Jones’s guests was Rabbi Pete Tobias who spoke movingly about the Holocaust and seemed to say that the need to commemorate the Holocaust is increasing as time goes on, not decreasing in line with the decreasing number of survivors, as they pass on to join the spirits of the fifteen million murdered by the Nazis as part of their “Final Solution”.

He read a message penned by a French Rabbi to the Last Survivor but I have been unable to find a copy online. So I’ve transcribed it via Radio 2’s “listen again” function:

To whoever is going to be the last survivor, where ever you may be, whenever that may be, I shall be there with you, the last survivor.

Because you will be the last survivor, I shall be there, I promise you.

I promise to be the memory of your memory.

I promise that what you have endured will not be erased from the human conscience.

I promise you this ultimate justice: that neither your name nor your suffering shall be permitted to vanish from world history.

You were one man, one woman, but it is as if you had been one suffering humanity.

And because you will be the last, it will be my duty to take over your martyrdom, as one takes over in a relay, not in order to relive it, but to relate it for all time, to bear witness before history in order that criminals shall no longer be absolved, to teach children that having become adults, they may build a society concious of its past and resolutely turned towards a future of justice, love and peace.

Chick update!

It occurred to me last night that I haven’t posted any photos of the chicks for ages so here you go!

Mama Silkie and her chicks - 24 January 2009

Mama Silkie and her chicks - 24 January 2009

What a change since they hatched in November:

Silkie / Bantam chicks - 24 November 2008

Silkie / Bantam chicks - 24 November 2008

Mind you, look at how much Buffy’s trio have changed since they hatched in July:

Buffy's chicks - 16 July 2008

Buffy's chicks - 16 July 2008

Buffy's chicks - 24 January 2009

Buffy's chicks - 24 January 2009

Italian Job conundrum is ‘solved’

I’ve always loved The Italian Job*, from the mini chase to the best quote ever (“you’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”) to that ending. Every time I see the film, I hope that the ending will change, just so we can find out what happens but … no!

Until now!

Some boffin has done the maths and has come up with a theory of what happened next when Charlie turns round and says “Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea.”

The Royal Society of Chemistry has announced the winner of a competition to solve the conundrum at the end of the iconic UK film The Italian Job.

The winner, John Godwin from Godalming, had a … practical solution involving a three-stage process.

First, the coach needed to be stabilised. This involved smashing out the windows on the part of the coach overlooking the drop and smashing them inward at the front end to improve the weight ratio slightly.

One of the bullion raiders is then lowered outside and deflates the wheels to stop the coach from rocking.

Second, its weight distribution needs to be changed, particularly over the rear of the coach which is overlooking the drop. This involves emptying the fuel tank which John Godwin discovered was at the rear of the coach. This, he estimated, would contain 140kg of fuel.

Third, he would allow a member of the team to leave the coach and bring rocks in to the front of the vehicle to ensure it was stable and the gold could be removed.


* the original, starring Michael Caine and directed by Peter Collinson

EDIT: I’ve been reading through The Italian Job website and have come across the following from 2003, which totally contradicts Godwin’s theory (and the RSC’s competition):

It was cinema’s greatest cliffhanger. But now Michael Caine has blown the gaff on the ending of The Italian Job.

More than three decades after the release of what has become a cult film, the star has solved the riddle playing on the minds of so many fans: what exactly happened after the credits rolled as his gang’s getaway coach teetered on a precipice?

“Hang on a minute, lads. I’ve got a great idea,” Caine’s cockney rogue blurts as the robbers’ £4 million haul of gold bullion threatens to send them over the side of a mountain.

In a BBC television documentary to celebrate his 70th birthday, the actor has revealed that the gang were meant to escape.

“The next thing that happens is you turn the engine on,” he said. “You all sit exactly where you are until all the petrol has run out, which changes the equilibrium. We all jump out of the bus and the gold goes over the cliff.

“And at the bottom are the French mafia, sitting waiting for the gold.”

Far from being a masterpiece of suspense, it emerges that the ending was intended merely to pave the way for a sequel. Once the gang has escaped, “we are off trying to get it back and that is the next movie”, Caine told the Hollywood Greats documentary… “(The sequel) was never made because the film didn’t do well in America.”

See more here.

RSPB Birdwatch 2009

Earlier today, I took part in the RSPB Birdwatch and had a fantastic time doing so. As a kid, I found birds and birdwatching to be extremely dull so never learnt anything about even the most common of our British garden birds, let alone anything more exotic.

That is something I have come to regret so I decided to use Birdwatch as a springboard to learn more. John, who lives at the farm, is a keen ornithologist, so he spent the hour (and more!) teaching me the basics and by the end of the hour I was spotting quite a few on my own, including the elusive Dunnock.

I’m definitely hooked and intend to spend at least an hour a week trampling through the orchard, woods and field to see what’s going on. John has kindly said I can use his bird books and the binoculars, which will, of course, make things so much easier!

Anyway, we saw 19 species in total:

  • Blackbird x 5
  • Blue tit x 8
  • Buzzard x 1
  • Carrion crow x 2
  • Chaffinch x 2
  • Coal tit x 2
  • Dunnock x 5
  • Great tit x 10
  • House sparrow x 7
  • Jackdaw x 3
  • Long-tailed tit x 2
  • Magpie x 6
  • Redwing x 1
  • Robin x 6
  • Song thrush x 1
  • Starling x 1
  • Treecreeper x 1
  • Woodpigeon x 8
  • Wren x 3

If you want to take part, here’s how:

Taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch is simple and fun.

All you need to do is watch your garden or local park for an hour on either Saturday 24 or Sunday 25 January 2009.

Simply record the highest number of each species seen in your garden (not flying over) at any one time.

So I need to count all the birds I see, right? Wrong. Some birds will return to your garden many times in the hour, so seeing the same blue tit come back 10 times does not make 10 blue tits.

Visit the RSPB website for more information.

Return to Ogmore

I took the dogs back to Ogmore-by-Sea yesterday and was lucky enough to have the beach to myself. Of course, this could be because the wind so was strong that I had to leave after about half an hour because it gave me a headache, even through my hat!

The dogs had fun though and were reluctant to leave to so early!

Enjoying the sea air

Snipe and Midge at Ogmore - 23 January 2009

Going into the sea...

Going into the sea...

Staying in...

Staying in...

Coming out, finally!

Coming out, finally!

Snipe, that's not a stick, it's a bloomin log!

Snipe, that's not a stick, it's a bloomin log!

Hopefully, Jennie will be over the lurgy on the next sunny day and she can come too!

A dog in a coat

Midge absolutely hates the wet and the cold. So, if it’s raining and/or windy and/or snowing and/or hailing (you get the picture), then she’s bloody miserable. I know all Jack Russells have the ability to sit there and shiver for no reason but in bad weather, her shivers are genuine, especially as she is outside all day long. So Mum bought her a waterproof coat and a couple of t-shirts so that on wet days she can stay dry and on cold days, she can stay warm.

"What would Scooby Do?" 11 January 2009

Quite frankly, she looks completely ridiculous, especially in the rather vile pale blue “training for the Olympics” t-shirt that I refuse to bring out of the cupboard, but the black “what would Scooby Doo?” t-shirt looks quite funky. Her coat has a hood, which she hates, and a pocket on the back which just gets caught in the brambles but it does the job and she’s stayed dry the whole time she’s had it on. Which, at first, wasn’t long…

Midge - 19 January 2009

Midge - 19 January 2009

As you’d expect, she was not at all happy at the introduction of clothes into her life and managed to lose her waterproof within 24 hours of first donning the garment. I swore, mum swore, and we said she could get and stay cold! But I eventually found the damn thing in a bramble patch, dried it and tried again the following day. Ten minutes, it lasted! But I found it again and went through the process for a third time. Except I now put her harness on over the coat. It hasn’t shifted and she’s now quite used to it and certainly looks a lot more cheerful.