Archive for April, 2009

Happy birthday, B!

It’s B’s birthday today and since she’s spending the week with her family in Oxfordshire, I thought I’d post some photos of the cats who are all missing her desperately (I’m merely the mug who feeds them. She’s their Human. Cats! Huh!) in the hopes of reminding her where she lives 😉

Queenie - 29 April 2009

Queenie didn't want to be photographed. Reminds me of Wilson from Home Improvement!

Mac - 29 April 2009

About two seconds after I took this photo, Mac launched an attack on Snipe's tail!

Horatio - 29 April 2009

It took me forever, but I finally persuaded Horatio to stand still!

Happy birthday, B! Hurry home, we miss you xx

Feral beans?

This is my first spring at the farm every time a new plant starts to grow, it’s a lovely surprise. Apart from the Himalayan Balsam, which is everywhere.

I’ll confess that my knowledge of plants extends as far as grass, with the odd bluebell thrown in, but there’s one plant which has got me scratching my head until I remembered my feral garlic.

There are only two of these plants growing in the whole field, they’re both close to one another and are growing where I used to feed Tia and Bailey their veggies.

Mystery plant in the pig field

A bird's eye view

Mystery plant in the pig field

And from the side

Erm, am I barking up the wrong tree, or is my Mystery Plant a broad bean seedling?!

Swine flu: don’t stop eating pork!

Am I the only one who is refusing to get into a panic about swine flu, even though two cases have been confirmed in Scotland and the World Health Organisation has said that it is “too late” to contain swine flu?

Come on, people, enough with the hysteria:

And while we’re at it, how about we recognise that swine flu is transmitted through airborne particles, not from eating pork.

So, if you’re thinking about ditching pork, even though it carries no risk to your health (and, cooked properly, considerably LESS of a risk to your health than McDonald’s…), consider this. We’re in a recession. Stop buying pork and you’ll put farmers out of business. Of course, you do that anyway when you buy cheap and nasty pork products from the EU, where welfare standards are so abysmal in comparison to those in the UK…


Oh, and it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who is annoyed by the name:

The flu virus spreading around the world should not be called “swine flu” as it also contains avian and human components and no pig was found ill with the disease so far, the World Animal Health body said on Monday.

A more logical name for it would be “North-American influenza,” a name based on its geographic origin just like the Spanish influenza, another human flu pandemic with animal origin that killed more than 50 million people in 1918-1919.

“The virus has not been isolated in animals to date. Therefore it is not justified to name this disease swine influenza,” the Paris-based organization said in a statement.

Finally, if you were wondering how it started, read this article:

The first known case of swine flu emerged a fortnight earlier than previously thought in a village where residents have long complained about the smell and flies from a nearby pig farm, it emerged last night.

The Mexican Government said it initially thought that the victim, Edgar Hernandez, 4, was suffering from ordinary influenza but laboratory testing has since shown that he had contracted swine flu. The boy went on to make a full recovery, although it is thought that at least 148 others in Mexico have died from the disease, and the number is expected to rise.

Can you teach a young dog new tricks?!

When she was a puppy, Snipe showed an impressive willingness to learn and was very quick to grasp her first command, sit. She loved it. Getting lots of fuss and praise for sitting down? Marvellous.

She already knew her name and also loved the idea of getting even more fuss and praise if she came running up when her name was called. Excellent.

So we moved onto “lie down”.

We’re still trying.

She’s two next month and still doesn’t know what I mean when I say “lie down”. If I try to manoeuvre her limbs so she ends up lying down, she rolls over onto her back.

Ok, I thought, we’ll leave “lie down” for a while and give “roll over” a go.


She won’t do that on command either.

Fetch, however, is a different ball game (as it were) and she could keep it up for hours. Unfortunately, I can’t take any credit for that as she is a Labrador Retriever. Her genes and ancestors couldn’t stand by if she didn’t retrieve!

In fact, she’s so good at it that when I was digging the veggie garden, I had to carefully place the turf and stones behind me, otherwise she’d bring them back, a huge grin on her face and her tail thumping nineteen to the dozen!

I have succeeded in educating her about other commands. “Stay” didn’t happen for a long time but I’ve been using the command “wait” for ages (as in don’t jump out of the car the second the door opens, don’t run after the toy as soon as I throw it, etc) and I’m slowly adapting it without her realising. I just need to use the word “stay” every so often and she should start to get the hint.

Anyway, I’ve been adapting the “fetch” game so it stays interesting for both of us (ok, mainly me) and now that she’s pretty good at waiting until I say “fetch”, I’m adding “find” to the mix. The idea is that I hide the toy and she has to look for it. She already knows “catch” and knows to jump into the air to catch the toy instead of sitting like a coiled spring, so I’m trying to explain that the word “find” means her toy’s there, just not in plain view.

I’ve had some success, and she’s very pleased with herself whenever she spots it, and pounces like, well, a happy Labrador – all legs and tail! Yesterday, I alternated between throwing her ball into the pig ark or behind it. She cottoned on pretty damn quick but then let success get to her head and got silly. So much so that when she couldn’t see the ball behind the ark but failed to look properly in the ark, she decided it must be on the ark and did her best to climb up the sides to get her toy!

I had to sit down, I was laughing so hard.

As I calmed down, I thought the story of her climbing up the sides of the ark would make an amusing blog post for a Monday morning, and that it would be best illustrated with a photo of Snipe and her ball.

Which is where things went really wrong.

Apologies for the number of photos, especially if you’re on a slow connection…
Continue reading

Trying to think good things about the rain

Over the past week, I’ve been spoiled rotten with the good weather. So much so, that I didn’t even look at replacements for my leaking (as in massive rip in the sole) wellies when I was in the my local animal feed store yesterday.

Today is not going to be a nice day. It rained overnight. It’ll rain for most of the morning.

This is good for the newly planted veggies.

This is good for the newly sown grass seed in the field.

This is good for me as I won’t have to carry endless buckets of water across the field for the pigs. They all get a scrubbed water bowl and a fresh bucket once a day as a matter of routine but on hot days, they knock the bucket over to make a mud wallow, and I obviously need to make another trip to refill it. Sometimes, this happens two or three times. It never puts me in a good mood so the other morning, I decided to pre-empt them and changed everyone’s water in the morning, carefully tipping it over to get the ground nice and muddy.

Now, I always change Tia’s water in the afternoon as whenever I change it in the morning, she knocks it over within an hour. If I don’t touch the water, neither does she. I don’t know why.

But I decided to take the risk on the grounds that she might be tricked by the newly softened ground.

Nope. Pigs are far more intelligent than humans.

One empty water bucket! 23 April 2009

Tia didn't even wait for me to leave the enclosure before she knocked over her water!

Tia makes her wallow - 23 April 2009

Tia makes her wallow, commenting that two buckets of water makes things much easier than with one. Hmph!

Tia in her wallow - 23 April 2009

Tia settles down in her wallow

Bailey wants a belly rub - 23 April 2009

Bailey looked longingly at Tia in the mud but obviously heard me telling her off, so decided to be cute instead!

Muddy Tia! 23 April 2009

Muddy Tia! 23 April 2009

Muddy Tia wants a belly rub - 23 April 2009

And then the cheeky so-and-so lay down for a belly rub!

See, there’s always a silver lining!

Can’t see the trees for the … brambles!

Regular readers will know that I’ve been on a mission since moving the pigs into their field as it was covered in brambles.

And when I say covered, consider this. According to some local farmers, it’s been at least a decade since the field was last grazed, probably closer to two…

So clearing them has been quite an undertaking but I’m getting there slowly, mainly thanks to the pigs. We have a system. I cut them down to the root. They eat the leaves, stand on the cut stems and break them and then dig up and eat the roots. I clear up after them and get the ones they’ve missed.

I’m happy to admit that the bulk of the hard work is done by my Kune Kune friends, but my bit’s not exactly easy so I was really pleased when I cleared a massive area of brambles yesterday that had grown over some young (and very old) trees, and were so dense that even Midge struggled to get through them.

Typically, I only thought about taking a ‘before’ shot once I’d finished, but this is how it looks now:

The ex-bramble forest - 23 April 2009

The ex-bramble forest

To give you an idea of how it looked before, this is a small patch I haven’t cleared yet:

Brambles on the to-do list! 23 April 2009

Brambles on the to-do list!

It took me over three hours to clear that jungle and what amazed me is that despite all the noise I was making, Tia and Bailey stayed asleep in their ark the whole time! They woke up just as I was finishing and wandered around in amazement, looks of “what happened?” on their faces! Then they discovered the fallen brambles and gorged themselves happily on the leaves. By the time I made it back with their tea a few hours later, they’d explored their new ground under the trees and seemed pleased with the results.

If only that was the last of it!

Making some time for the DS

Last week, I treated myself to two new games (well, one really, as they were BOGOF) for my DS Lite and yesterday afternoon, having carried numerous sacks of yuck (you don’t want to know) over to the compost garden, I settled myself down for a wee while to see what they were like.

Being me, I really enjoyed Roller-coaster Tycoon on the PC but was extremely disappointed with the DS version, Theme Park. It seems to be lacking all the features that I enjoyed, almost a highlights version rather than an properly adapted game. Sad face!

Still, I’ve got another couple of games that I’m not overly fussed with (Sim City and Brain Training) so at least I can trade them in for something else. I’ve got my eye on Mario Bros, Sonic or Lego Star Wars, so my games should (I hope) give me enough to get one of them.

CSI Dark Motives

CSI Dark Motives for the Nintendo DS

Luckily, I only got Theme Park as the second game in the offer. My real choice, CSI: Dark Motives, is fantastic and highly addictive. It’s also extremely frustrating and I’ve already been forced to turn to some hints and tips on the internet, even though I’m only on the first case! Hmmm, maybe it’s a good thing I never trained to be a crime scene detective!

Bring on the next rainy day, I know what I’ll be doing!

When the pigs are moved, there’s time for snuggles

Hurrah! I’ve finally moved all eight pigs onto fresh ground, which is a massive relief for me and them. Ok, I’ve cheated a little with Tia and Bailey and have only moved the 100m of electric netting that makes up their enclosure, not the ark, but it means that 70% of their enclosure is now made up of fresh ground, including a soft area for them to make a wallow if required, and the cover of several trees to give them shade. If I get a chance, I’ll move the ark this week, so the ground in front of its current spot gets a chance to rest, but there’s no rush.

Tia and Bailey - 21 April 2009

Tia and Bailey approve of their new patch

So, eight happy pigs.

Which meant I could take some time to administer belly rubs and receive some piggy loves in return:

In the pig ark - 21 April 2009

In the pig ark with Perky, Scrumpy, Fergie and Brini

Perky and Jo - 21 April 2009

Perky thinks she's a lap dog

Thanks to Jennie for taking those photos (!!!!!!!!!!!) on your much needed (and deserved) break from planting all those potatoes!!

From climbing trees to the search for Doctor Who

Yesterday was another wonderfully sunny day and I spent some time doubling the size of the four pigs’ enclosure with their second electric net, giving them a circumference of 100m. No idea what the total area that makes – most of my GCSE maths has been absorbed into the unused dark matter of my brain!

Brini, Scrumpy and Perky were thrilled with their expanded enclosure and happily set about exploring the wilderness I opened up underneath a long-suffering tree, suffocated by brambles and dead branches, through to the reeds and grass beyond.

Incidentally, I’m hoping that the soft ground where the reeds are will serve as a better wallow than the area by their water bowl:

Perky - 20 April 2009

Perky enjoys the fruits of her labours. It's hard work, watching your human carry nine buckets of water across the field to refill the bowl every some pig empties it into the wallow...!

At first, the trio simply watched me, but soon figured out what I was doing, and by the time I’d cleared a path through the bramble forest, they were vigorously helping me. Brini and Scrumpy were distracted by the fallen brambles (they love the leaves) so Perky was the first one through:

Perky - 20 April 2009

Perky was the first to discover the treats beyond the wall of brambles

Fergie, on the other hand, was not impressed, partly because she gets quite confused when things change and gets lost somewhere new, but mainly because I was intent on cutting down brambles rather than dedicating the time to Fergie Belly Rubs. Never mind, she’ll soon find her way about!

While I was clearing the brambles, I made a wonderful discovery. The tree, once cleared of unwanted stranglers and the odd rotten branch, is perfect for climbing! I’d was just working out how high it’s safe to go when Jennie, who had spent the morning working on the vegetable garden, came to inform me that it was most definitely Time For Lunch:

Jennie - 20 April 2009

Get down from that tree! It's time for lunch!

It’s good to know that tree climbing is still as important to me today as it was in my childhood. Thirties, be damned!

The day passed with laughs and impressive displays of friendship (Jennie didn’t just touch the manky fruit, she handled LOTS of manky fruit. Best. Friend. Ever.) but didn’t end when the sun went down.

They are currently filming David Tennant’s last episodes as The Doctor in Cardiff and having made the discovery that they were definitely filming somewhere in the Bay area last night, we decided to go on a bit of a hunt.

Sadly, although we found their temporary base, not only did we fail in our bid to see any filming (on the grounds that we never found the location!), we also failed to achieve the main objective of the mission: not a sight, not even a glimpse, of Mr Tennant.

Ah well, it was a fun and unique way to spend the evening, and it gave me the chance to test out the night settings on my new camera phone:

Cardiff Bay - 20 April 2009

Cardiff Bay at night

Moving the pigs

Well, yesterday was gorgeous, wasn’t it? We had wonderfully hot sunshine that was complemented with a delightfully cool breeze, perfect weather for taking the dogs to the beach and enjoying an ice cream.

So instead, Jennie and I decided to move not one, but two pig arks, which means two lots of straw, four rubber mats (their floor), two sets of electric netting, two water bowls and six pigs!

I’ve blogged before how I move the arks so I won’t bore you with the details, except to say a big THANK YOU to Jennie for helping me move everything, especially as it seems she might be allergic to something at the farm! Oh dear, hope it’s not Fergie! (Seriously, I think it’s the dust in the straw.)

Scrumpy - 19 April 2009

Scrumpy tucks in to some tasty brambles

Fergie - 19 April 2009

Fergie says nom, nom, nom!

Brini and Perky - 19 April 2009

Brini approves of the new ground while Perky takes a break from it all, having emptied the water bowl to make a wallow!

Midge - 19 April 2009

Midge thinks she's on to something exciting. All she found was dirt, mud and earth...

Pinky and Curly - 19 April 2009

Pinky and Curly settle into their new enclosure at the end of the day, not knowing whether to eat the undergrowth or the bread!

Now all I’ve got to do is move Tia and Bailey onto some fresh ground…!