I only hope I can recover from surgery as fast as my pony!

As I ended my last blog on a rather sad note with both ponies unwell and me facing surgery AGAIN, I thought I’d update some good news.

Carmella got the all clear on her eye today so no more eye drops thank heavens.  She was a very good girl about it but she’d had enough and we hated having to force her to have them, although lots of bribery with apples made the process easier.

As for the big fat one, she’s made an absolutely astonishing recovery, even the vet was a bit stunned at just how quickly she’s improved.  She spent 2 days hobbling on 3 legs and dragging the toe of her hoof on the injured leg on the ground, completely unable to lift it, I’ve never seen a horse that lame before, it was horrible to watch.  Both me and the vet were a bit fearful she’d broken or fractured her shoulder.  On day 3 she was able to lift her leg and place her hoof flat on the floor.  Day 5 she managed a trot and yesterday she came cantering across the field to get her supper.  The vet says she’s sound enough to stand for the farrier which is good because she’s 2 weeks overdue and is looking a bit pigeon toed.

They are both very pleased that the grass is growing again after we finally got some rain.

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As for me, I have a date for surgery, the 30th August.  At my consultation the doctor wanted to complete the surgery with a progesterone implant in my womb, which along with estrogen patches will fend off the worst of the side effects of my going straight into sudden onset menopause after the surgery.  The insurance company were umming and ahhing about funding this, but they’ve agreed to cover the cost, so I’m all set.  The surgeon is hoping (but not promising) to do keyhole surgery, if she can, I won’t even have to spend the night in hospital.  Fingers crossed.

Today I managed to finish a job I’ve been working on for a while.  A year ago I sowed a large number of foxglove seeds.  A year of pricking out, potting on and generally fiddling about with them I ended up with about 120 plants, which I’ve planted out in our woodland.  This will look awesome next year and I’m hoping they’ll selfseed and perpetuate so I won’t have to faff about in the greenhouse.  Anyway, they had to go out because I need the space in the greenhouse for my next long term gardening project, I’m going to plant a lavender hedge around the veggie garden, so I’ve currently got about 200 tiny tiny lavender plants I’ve germinated from seed that will need tending for a year or so before they can be planted out.

The flower beds I planted up a month or so ago are maturing nicely and looking good.  Only problem with the lovely rain we’ve had recently is a weed explosion in the gardens and the paddock.

Had a visit from Mr and Mrs C snr yesterday, they helped me out with 2 pony problems, with a trip to the vet to pick up Carmella’s eyedrops and a run to the tack shop to get some liquid plaster to try to cover Rosies wound because the flies won’t leave it alone and it’s pretty much impossible to bandage a horses shoulder and the adhesive wound plasters drop off after about 5 minutes.

Mr C then set to with mowing the lawns and making the place look tidy and Mrs C resumed her war on nettles, picked all our ripe raspberries and gave me a hand clearing the weeds in the woodland to get it ready for planting.

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So a much happier update this time and now I’m off to make raspberry jam.

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From the sublime to the horrific.

When I last wrote, I was lounging on a sunbed watching MrC sieve dirt whilst sipping a glass of Pimms. Alas, this state of affairs didn’t last long (about an hour and a half).  With works complete on the patios and paths, we’re on a deadline, 1 week until family and friends descend on us for a BBQ.

Before they come, I need to sort out the wildlife pond, every year this turns into a weed strewn mess. It’s a fairly big job this so with heavy duty gloves on time to remove all the bramble and nettle and other assorted weeds that have taken up residence.  I have finally decided what I want to do with this, I’m going to plant it up with mostly ornamental grasses and some self seeding flowers like aquilegias.  It does look nice once it’s finished and if I can get it planted up next year, hopefully there will be less weeds to deal with.

 

I also need to dig over and plant out the new flower borders we’ve created, with MrC snr’s help I removed the grass and then started digging. As we’ve had no rain for months now, the ground is completely solid, I had to use a mattock to dig them.  This weather is not ideal for planting but I’ve been watering them daily (takes forever) and with luck I won’t lose too many to the heat.  When the shrubs start growing this will all fill out and look amazing.

I managed to get most of the jobs finished in the nick of time and it was time to start preparing for the hoards to descend upon us…

I can’t even tell you how much I love having people over to eat good food, have a laugh and conversation, and Pimms, and for the kids to go nuts, the rules are simple, no running with the ponies, stay out of the asbestos outbuildings and a new one for this year, if you spray me when you’re having a water fight, your barred!!!

Carmella had the best day ever, 11 children to play with, she loves kids so much she was literally dancing with excitement and almost every photo taken where there were children, had Carmella photobombing the background “I’m here, I’m absurdly cute and tiny, make with the kissing already”.  Rosie also likes kids, but would struggle to eat a whole one.

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Many thanks to MrC snr who did all the cooking and MrsC snr whose mighty lists of what needed doing and the ticking off thereof were definitely key to the success of the day.

During the BBQ Jan had a word with me, she apparently had a garden table and chairs cluttering up her garage that need a home and would we like them, heck yes we would, very much please. Now she downplayed the fact that they’re awesome so when Mr and MrsC snr hauled them over in their trailer a couple of weeks later I was so delighted, they’re completely perfect, need a sand and an oil, but otherwise perfect, we wouldn’t have been able to afford something so lovely, I’m very grateful, and comfortable when sitting on them.

 

IMG_0638.JPGSo now we’ve got posh garden furniture, it seems that MrC decided that my tatty old plastic sunlounger wasn’t cutting the mustard anymore, he told me to watch out for delivery drivers as he’d bought me a present, and lo, a chappie turned up with a sack of paddock grass which totally made my day, MrC gave me call and apparently, that wasn’t the present, and an hour or so later a John Lewis van turned up and delivered a rather posh wooden sunlounger and my tatty old plastic one has been banished from the back garden. I rather like my tatty old plastic one though, and it will live on in the summer garden, although, I barely have enough time to lounge on one, I shall be hard pressed to give two the attention they deserve, but I shall try (and a sack of paddock grass is an awesome present, I got 2 presents in one day and I did nothing to deserve them, I married the best man in the world).

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I know I should be pleased the summer is so hot and lovely, but I’m not, in fact, this horrible hot weather can just get lost, the ponies have no grass to eat, which is a problem, because they basically just eat grass, they should be fetlock deep in lovely green grass this time of year, but all they have is a brown burned mess. Thank heavens Mr Murton our lovely local farmer had done a cut and bale of most of his hay fields and could bail me out (pun intended, come on…).  The ponies are loving the fresh lovely hay, but I’m worried, they are basically eating their winter fodder, in the middle of summer, what on earth am I going to feed them in winter?? Normally the farmer would get 2 cuts of hay, if not 3, but this year, just one, I think a lot of livestock is going to struggle this winter and I’ve a sense of unease, last year there was a shortage of hay because the winter was so wet and we couldn’t get the animals out on spring grazing until very late in the year so the price of hay went sky high, I dread to even think what’s going to happen this winter and it’s not just fodder that’s been poor this year.  In the veggie garden I’ve had a lot of failed crops, the onions were a disaster, I had to remove our entire grape crop due to grey mildew, all of my root crops, carrots, parsnips, celeriac and swede have failed completely.  Apart from the carrots (which Rosie isn’t allowed anymore as it causes her to have outbreaks of an affliction called mallenders), these are all crops I use to supplement the ponies diet in the winter.  It’s worrying and I’ve just got 2 ponies, my heart goes out to farmers with herds that they might not be able to feed this winter.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, sprouts and leeks are thriving, and my butternut squash is making a good effort at world (ok, garden) domination, the cut flower garden is producing a lot of flowers for the house and the soft fruit garden is bountiful.. The tomatoes are doing well, as are the cucumbers and I had to ask on a local facebook site if anyone out there would like some marrows as I was drowning in them.  I had a couple of people come round to get some, and one lovely lady bought round her 2 or 3 year old toddler when she came to get them, oh my goodness, Carmella went nuts, she spotted the child and tried her very best to get through the fence, neighing and jittering from hoof to hoof with excitement, of course she got pats and cuddles and kisses, and I had to apologise to the lady who came round as I’m pretty certain a large amount of any money she has in the future, will be spent on riding lessons….

Other news in the garden, harvest has come nearly 2 months early, garlic, the sad and tiny onions that didn’t die, and maincrop potatoes have already been lifted, which is crazy. Plums and apples are ready for picking, although the greengages which are normally the first fruit of the garden are hard and bitter and I wonder if they’ll ripen at all.  I very much hope this summer is an anomaly.

 

I’ve been writing this entry for about a month now and just not got round to posting. In the last couple of weeks there have been a few bad news items.  Poor little Carmella had a serious reaction to horsefly bites, she got incredibly itchy and took large chunks of her fur off rubbing on everything in sight, this needed a course of steroid injections, which worked nicely along with a soothing mudpack on the face which she’d rubbed so badly.  That’s the first time I’ve ever applied mud TO a pony, a big thank you to my friend horsey Maggie (I have to call her horsey Maggie or the hub thinks I’m talking about the cat) who gave me the powder to make up the mask…  Carmella now has a small but nonetheless significant ulcer in one of her eyes that with the advice of the vet I’ve been treating.  She’s such a good little girl for treatment, lets us pull her about with very little struggle, she had a vet check this morning and it’s not cured yet, so we’re continuing treatment, after Maggies eye problems and the eventual loss of her eye last year, I am trying not to panic too much.

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Yesterday, Rosie had a very nasty accident, I was putting the ponies to bed in the evening and Rosie decides as I’m closing the gate to canter at it full throttle and impales herself on the 8 inch pointy bit that locks the gate, that’s bad enough, but the pointy bit had a plastic tip on it, HAD a plastic tip on it, the plastic tip is now deeply imbedded in the pony. After checking she didn’t have an arterial bleed I ran to the house and made a panicked phone call to the vet who thank God gets here in less than 20 minutes. She had immediate surgery, the plastic bit was removed, wound cleaned and stitched and pony is drugged up to the eyeballs on painkillers. She’s hopping lame and the vet isn’t sure if she may have fractured or broken her shoulder, we’ll need to wait a few days to see if the lameness improves, if she’s still bad on Friday the vet will do some x-rays.  I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps I’m not cut out for horse ownership after all.

And finally, I am not without health troubles myself, about 2 months ago I started to feel off colour, in the same way I did when I had to have a huge ovarian cyst removed in 2017. I lied to myself for a while that I couldn’t be that unlucky, but after a slightly inebriated chat with my friend Marco, who was also lying to himself on a health issue, we had a mutual “I’ll go to the doctors if you will” pact.  The upshot of which, after many undignified tests at the hospital, yes I am that unlucky, I have a  cluster of cysts on my last remaining ovary, which I shall have to have removed as soon as possible.

I hate to end on a negative note, but I try to keep this as warts and all as possible.

Hopefully Rosies lameness will ease and her shoulder damage is just muscular and not a fractured (or a possibly life-ending broken bone), she’s definitely improved since this morning and Carmella’s eye will heal quickly and I’ll get sliced and diced and be back digging, weeding and chopping down trees soonest. I’ll keep you posted.

Here’s a pic of my beautiful girls before their health problems being treated to a bouquet of willow leaves (one of their favourite snacks) by my darling hub.

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Horseflies suck

 

We’ve been busy, I didn’t think anyone apart from me read this, but the amount of complaints I’ve had for not updating for ages I guess people do.

Where to start…

We’ve been busy, very very busy, and for the last 4 weeks I’ve fallen into bed about 10pm (I’d go earlier but I feel guilty leaving Mr C on his own) and sleeping like a log kinda busy.

When I last blogged, Mr James had been and made a start on the patios/paths (and was off elsewhere for a couple of weeks), the raised beds had been started and the ponies were grazing over the road in my neighbours field.

Alas, I had to pull the ponies home even though we’ve almost no grass left due to the lack of rain, as the grass is so long over there, it’s rife with horseflies, one evening when I went to bring them home Rosie was in a terrible state, covered with flecks of blood from fly bites, sweating and panicking, poor little girl had been utterly savaged by the bloody things, Carmella wasn’t so badly affected but there was no way I could put them through that again, so even though the grazing here is very poor at the moment, both of them are fatties so they’re staying at home from now on.  I too am covered in horsefly bites, but I’m getting a kill rate of about 80% now and I’ve been bitten so many times I seem to developed an immunity to them.

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Carmella is so plump, I was wondering if she might be pregnant, so I followed her around for a few days and managed to do a pregnancy test on her (although not in the same field there was a stallion at her previous home, and where there’s a willy, there’s a way), but nope, no foal, she’s just fat (I’m often covered in horse poo, but this was the first time I’ve been covered in horse pee, for the record, I prefer the poo).

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Rosie is once again afflicted with feather mites so all the hair had to come off, it looked like I’d sheared a sheep by the time all the fluff had been removed, but I can now treat her properly and with luck and a fair wind, eradicate them properly this time. She’s got strangely elegant feet under all the hair.

 

While Darren is away MrC has been working on a few of my “can you justs”, as he won’t allow me to play with power tools (we’re quite a long way away from the nearest hospital so this is fair). Here he’s removing a metal spike from the veggie patch that was in my way, but as it turned out, it was buried about 3 foot deep, into a buried wall.  Nothing is simple in this place…

We were paid a visit by the very lovely Philip Stack who has sprayed half the paddock for ragwort (the bit Rosie trashed over the winter), I’ll keep them off this as long as possible, ideally until late September, but unless we get some rain soon, I’ll have to open it up earlier for them.

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Ironically, the grass in the orchard does need to be cut, it too was sprayed a few weeks ago and needs to be cut before I can put the girlies in there to graze it. This was a day with men on tractors to the rescue (than you Mr C snr).

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The garden is starting to produce fruit and veg, so I’ve had a crack at making rhubarb cordial, this was amazing, tasted like summer in a glass (along with a healthy slug of vodka and some lemonade).

Mr James returned and cluttered up the drive with sand to make large amounts of cement for laying the stone. Here we have the very first slab being laid!

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He also arranged for a huge load of woodchip to be delivered to cover over the weed suppressant membrane in the veggie patch. I had a bit of help from Mr and Mrs C snr, but I moved most of this by the medium of shovel and wheelbarrow (I currently hate woodchip and never want to see any of it ever again, in unrelated news, my bingo wings are a thing of the past).

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Once he gets started, he doesn’t hang around does Mr James, this path was laid in no time flat.

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So at the end of the first day of paving, it looked this this…

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The next day, Darren decided that laying the stone on the existing path near the house wasn’t going to work, there were millimetres involved apparently and this provoked much muttering and measuring, but the upshot was, the path had to go. I had hoped, due to us removing about 2 tonnes of buried asbestos near the house the last time Mr James was here this would be an asbestos free job, just once.  But no, I swear to God, Darren is like a bloody asbestos seeking missile…  The path had been laid on a bed of asbestos, time for me to get the red bags out again.

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Once that was sorted, Darren laid crush down, whacked it down and then started laying stone.

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I in the meantime was shovelling woodchip, at this point in time, nobody could get in or out of the driveway due to about 6 tonnes of the damn stuff in the way. We’re awaiting a delivery of railway sleepers to complete the raised beds so I just had to pile it up until that job is completed.

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Mr James started work on the circular patios, this involved a lot of muttering and measuring.

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Starting to look really good now!

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There was a lot more muttering and measuring but the second circle is complete!

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Thanks to both Mr C’s the raised beds have finally been completed, the bloody woodchip has been spread and the veggie garden is looking a lot more tamed and manageable (at one end at least).

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Of an evening, the lady of the house likes to come out to inspect the works, thus far they are pleasing to her…

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Darren has finished the sweeping curved paths that encircle the oak tree (and will be laid down to lawn for a picnic area eventually), we’re definitely nearly there now!

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Final day of the week, Mr James begins the pointing, he’s using a special lime mix that apparently has removed all of his fingerprints (could be handy for a petty crime spree). This job should take three days, but I think Darren is sick of my company, so he gets it done in one.

It’s given the Maggie seal of approval!

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Darren has done an amazing job, as per usual, he’s just one more day here to do a bit of clean up. In the meantime, we’ve a deadline, in just a week the Casey clan and others will be descending upon us for our niece Jessica’s birthday.  Time to make the place presentable and safe(ish) for about 11 kids ranging from a few months to 16 years to let loose and have some fun.  MrC started on the large bed that will become a herbaceous shrub border, being extremely conscientious and sieving the soil.  I started on testing the patios by getting out the sunbed and pouring myself an enormous glass of pimms!

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That’s an update till about a week ago, I’ll do the rest soon, I’m busy!

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I feel like I’m in an episode of groundforce (although, they only took a week)…

 

It’s been an utterly mental week here at Purbeck, which was expected as the redoubtable Mr James and various bits of heavy machinery paid us a visit.

The bit of garden outside the back door has undergone several transformations in the time we’ve been here, firstly clearing the almost unimaginable amount of weedage that was present, then we discovered a couple of tonnes of asbestos which had to be dug up, bagged up and removed. There was an ancient fountain and pond made of large pieces of Purbeck stone which was dismantled and I spent several weeks making the land a bit flatter.

Now, it’s time for its final transformation, Mr C has designed a lovely garden layout, there will be a couple of circular patios, lots of paths (this bit of the land is the most heavily trafficked) leading down to the paddock, the greenhouse, the orchard and other places. There will be a grassed picnic area under the oak tree and lots of flower beds (mostly perennial shrubs).  I’ve been collecting a lot of these from the “rescue” section of the local garden centre when they’re on sale for just a few pounds and  bringing them back to health, I also got a great deal from an online plant sale where I got 22 bareroot shrubs for £25.00.

So, it begins, Gerald the lovely chap who supplies us with all the plant we use (of the mechanical variety, not the leafy variety) dropped this pair off. Oh how I love a digger, it’s a very very close thing which I love more, a skip or a digger…  Nope, can’t call it, if there is a digger here, I love diggers most, if there is a skip here I love skips the most.  If at any time we should have both here, I might have a nervous breakdown.

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When we very first moved here, this was the view out the kitchen window.

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Gradually we whittled away at all the debris and exposed the waterfall and the Purbeck rocks.

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This is what it looked like a week ago, before Mr James came round.

Let chaos commence…

This was a moment of pure joy for me, this damn post has been getting in my way for nearly 3 years, but we couldn’t dig it out because of it’s location, cess pit on one side, concrete path on the other, it’s gone now thanks to Darren and his digger (did I mention I love diggers??)

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We had a huge delivery of stone, we are using natural stone, Indian sandstone and the variety we’re using is called mint fossil, it’s very beautiful and has a lot of plant fossils in it.

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Whilst Mr James is trashing the garden, Mr C and MrC snr tackled the veggie garden, Darren had dumped some topsoil on there and had dragged it about with the digger to make it mostly level.  The MrC’s then rotovated and raked to get it properly flat (to the level of the new path).

Never thought I’d see Mr James doing veggie gardening…

 

More Chaos..

Darren did do a few of our “can you justs” for us, the muckheap has been turned, as was the pile of grass cuttings

More Chaos, but it’s starting to take shape now…

I made a tactical error, we were expecting a delivery of crushed limestone, but it was late. I wandered off to give Rosie’s tail a wash (Rosie’s tail is disgusting, it always needs a wash, even when I’ve just washed it, it still needs a wash), leaving 2 bored men and 1 teenager alone with a digger.  When I got back to the house, they were digging up the sewerage system…

In fairness, we’ve had a problem with that pipe for ages, the toilets do back up on a fairly regular basis, which is why we’re the proud owners of a full set of plumbing rods.

The main sewerage pipe was broken, the guys dug it out and MrC went off to Jewsons to get a replacement.

New pipe was installed, they stole some shingle from the drive to bed it in.

Yay, all flowing properly again, we can now poo with impunity!

The crushed limestone finally arrived.

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More chaos…

 

The crush is all in place and flattened.

It’s really starting to take shape.

We are on a bit of a hiatus for a couple of weeks as Darren has another job to do, he’ll be back after that to start laying the stonework, that’s when the magic will really happen, as good as he is with groundworks, Darren is an artist when it comes to laying stone.

With Darren gone the 2 MrC’s set out to construct the raised beds on the veggie plot. They look fantastic, I’ve more sleepers on order to make some more, but I’m really pleased with how these look.  My job over the next few days will be to fill them.  I’ll be using all the rotted straw and poo and mud from where I had to put a bed down in front of the paddock gate for the ponies over winter, straight up unadulterated  horse poo and a few inches of top soil from the various piles Mr James has left dotted about the place.  I can then finally get some of the veggie plants in the greenhouse planted, they’re desperate to get out of their plug pots and do some proper growing.  The white stuff on the veggie garden is a weed suppressant mat.  MrsC snr spent the day renewing her war on nettles and other weeds, I think she finds an empty brown bin an affront!

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I was starting to panic a little about the lack of grass in the paddock, we haven’t had any rain for over a month, so I’ve not been able to reseed it. Luckily, my neighbours field was terribly overgrown so the ponies have generously volunteered to help her out!  They’re spending their days over there at the moment,  no lack of grass here!  When I took her headcollar off, Rosie looked like all her Christmas’s had come at once.

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Wherein, I am mostly a pack mule.

Why does everything round here take 3 times as long as I expect it to?

Started a “small” job a couple of weeks ago, that I’ve finally finished (with some brute force assistance from the hubby.

At the front/side of the house we’ve 2 gardens that are separated by a row of (horribly overgrown) shrubs/trees.  I tried to give them a bit of a sorting out last year, but they laughed at my efforts.   So after checking for nesting birds, it’s round two.  I’m tooling up with a handsaw, loppers and other assorted pointy objects.  No prisoners this time, I shall either bring order to chaos, or make a bloody great mess.  I have a vague idea what I’m doing, I watch gardeners world…

Here are a few pics from when we first moved in…

And here’s what it looks like this year.

I chopped and hacked at it for a couple of weeks.  In truth, the actual tidy up didn’t take that long, but dragging all the debris down to the willow trees near the fire pit, trip after trip was what hoovered up a lot of my time.

We now have a truly extraordinary amount of stuff waiting to be burnt.  Fires, however, are one job I won’t do when I’m alone, especially the sort of raging infernos we have round here.  So I’m waiting for a nice day with no wind when MrC is about, or when Mr and MrsC snr are here.

I was a bit wrong in my assumption that what separated the gardens was just a row of shrubs.  It’s really not, there is a whole copse between the two that was virtually impenetrable and needed to be cleared, (mental note, everything needs sharpening).

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I got most of it cleared and sorted out, but called in the big guns for some bits I really couldn’t cut down with a hand saw.

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A lot of the dead trees in there were so rotten they can just be pulled out of the ground, something MrC rather enjoys doing so he came out to give me a hand.  I pointed out one that needed removing, with a small amount of grunting “got it” says MrC.  “erm, no” says I, “what do you mean?”, “dude, the tree you’ve just ripped out with your bare hands is still alive, the dead one is over there…?

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I married a caveman.

Having deforested the copse, he turned his attention to a tree stump and beat the living daylights out of it.

Did I mention I’d married a caveman?

The stump is now nestled between a couple of conifers to provide a nice insect hotel.

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So, here’s what it looks like now:

And the inside of the copse, that I didn’t even know existed.  Once again, we’ve some weird and wonderful trees that have grown in the most mental ways to try to get some light.  Believe it or not, that trunk that runs along the floor, ends with a living tree (that hubby didn’t get hold of).

There was an awful lot of thorny shrubs in there, I’m currently covered in numerous scrapes, bruises and assorted puncture wounds.  If I drop dead tomorrow, hubby might have some explaining to do as to why his wife looks like a battered pincushion.

On a rather disgusting sidenote, my hands are generally so full of splinters I’ve stopped even trying to remove them, I just wait for them to get infected then squeeze the pus and splinter out all at the same time, or they just get absorbed and go away, is this normal or am I just now suitably cavewoman to match the hubby?

The ponies have been turned loose to graze the lawns during the day when I’m there (I don’t trust electric fencing enough to leave them out in it unsupervised), they trashed their winter grazing, then they trashed their spring grazing so grass is a bit scarce in the paddock at the moment, I’ve re-seeded today and am praying for a bit of rain to help germinate it.  Most days I groom them and then turn them out, but one morning it had rained hard overnight and was too wet to let them out, I don’t mind them eating the lawns, but I don’t want them trashing them, so after grooming and giving them a ton of hay, I headed back to the house.  Rosie, when realising I wasn’t letting them out had a massive tantrum, I mean a full blown, toys out the pram, hissy fit.  She galloped around the paddock, bucking and neighing, she even had a try at JUMPING the fence.  Obviously that wasn’t going to happen, she’s a 13.2hh cob pony with the aerodynamic properties of a wardrobe and that fence is over 4ft tall, but she did give a go.  Pony tantrums are both hilarious and terrifying at the same time.

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Other little jobs I’ve done, the shed got a clean-out as it was so full of junk I couldn’t actually get in there anymore.

The strawberry bed got a weeding, I can’t wait for them to start fruiting

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On the veggie patch, this sorely neglected bit was where the brassica cage was for the purple sprouting broccoli, that’s been eaten and the cage has been moved to protect the broad beans.  Time to prepare this ready to sow winter root veggies for both us and the ponies.  Digging that over by hand nearly broke me, I like a bit of digging, it’s a very satisfying pass time, but that was a bit much.

The plant that remains is a parsnip that I missed harvesting over the winter, I’ve left it there because I’m curious what a parsnip flower looks like and also to try to harvest my own parsnip seeds for next year.

We also had our first BBQ of the year, just Mr and MrsC snr and the hubby and I, it was lovely to sit outside and enjoy the place for a little bit.

Friends and people who have read this for a while, will recognise this face…

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Yep, it’s that time again, Mr James will be returning soon to create chaos and destruction out of which, something beautiful (and functional) will emerge.   Sadly, this time I’m going to be laboring for him, so for 2 weeks I think I have to be nice to him.  This is going to be a struggle.

OMG it’s cold, no wait, hot, no wait, wet…

 

I know, it’s been a month since I last updated, but this time of year it’s pretty dull reading..

Weeded some stuff, trimmed some shrubs, weeded some more, did some weeding, planted bulbs, planted seeds, raked up some winter debris, did some weeding… That’s when it’s not snowing or so wet you need a pair of flippers to get about.

I’m not entirely sure how we went from having a foot of snow to baking summer in the space of 3 weeks, but now I’m not ankle deep in mud I’ve managed to get a few non mundane things completed.

On the pony front, it’s shedding season and I remove about a bucket full of hair off the pair of them every day and it’s still coming, everything we own is covered in horsehair. Rosie did a post stretch shudder in the paddock a few days ago and a massive cloud of white hair was slowly carried away in the wind.  It’s got to stop sometime, doesn’t it?? Before we all drown in pony fluff?

Carmella had a visit from the farrier and had a good trim, she was not impressed and it was 3 days before she’d let me catch her again. Then just when she’d settled down from that, she had more trauma as it was time for a visit from the horsey dentist Mike.  This guy is so brilliant with the girls, even before he started on her teeth he got down, nose to nose with Carmella and spent 5 minutes making friends.  She was terribly naughty at first, a whole bunch of rearing (with the whole raking the air with her legs at the top of the rear, she made a very nice shape) and bolting round the stable.  She’s such a tiny little thing it would have been easy for Mike to just bully her into submission, but he was so gentle with her and by the time he’d finished she was standing nice and calm.  Hopefully the next time she’ll remember it’s not so terrible and there will be slightly less theatrics.  Again it was a few days before she’d let me put the headcollar on her, but she’s utterly incapable of resisting extra strong mints, so we’re friends again now.

Poor Rosie has feather mites again, so she’s had a course of injections from the vet, fingers crossed this will work, otherwise we’ll have to shave her feather off again and treat her legs topically, she’s spent all winter growing her rather magnificent feather and they look so lovely now they’ve got so long.

My friends Anne and Kev came over for a visit and Anne helped me give Rosies disgusting tail a good wash. Her tail, even though I chopped a substantial chuck out of it, is really heavy, and she doesn’t or can’t lift it very high when going to the loo, so it’s covered in all sorts of unpleasant things… I did some research on how to get heavily stained tails looking a bit whiter and so we mixed up a concoction of whitening shampoo and bicarb of soda into a paste, massaged that in and left it for 20 minutes.  Then we rinsed it off with white vinegar, shampoo’d again and then conditioned it.  It’s not exactly gleaming white, but it certainly looks a whole lot better than it did before.

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The sudden hot weather hit the ponies hard, they’ve both still got winter coats, but Rosie was worse, under her abundant mane she was drenched in sweat, so she spent a few days rocking a really ropey set of braids to try and give her a bit of relief. I definitely didn’t miss my calling as a hairdresser…  And why is it, that a pony that doesn’t even notice getting rained on has a nervous breakdown when I try to pour  a bit of water on her to cool her off a bit???

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The good news is, they’ve definitely bonded, they graze and sleep together although I’ve not yet seen them grooming each other (would save me a job, but they’re probably worried about swallowing half a ton of horsehair).

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I found a buyer for my old car and she’s been hauled away to have an overhaul and a new lease of life with someone who’s head over heels in love with MX5’s. Apparently she’ll be heading over to Europe in July for a bit of a holiday, I’m just glad she’s gone to someone who’ll have fun with her.

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Out in the gardens, the trees are finally blooming, especially the magnolia which is utterly magical.

I have a new toy, as MrC won’t let me shoot the local wildlife in the face and the local wildlife insists on eating my overwintering veggies, with the help of Mr and Mrs C snr, we erected a smallish polytunnel. Unless the pigeons, squirrels, rabbits and deer develop opposable thumbs, my broccoli should be safe next winter.  I’m also going to use it to grow melons and chilli’s over the summer as they love heat.

The asparagus beds we planted last year are bearing fruit, so to speak… You’re not supposed to crop until the third year, but I might snaffle a small taste.

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Life is bursting forth in the greenhouse, soon I shall be potting on and planting out like an insane person, I figure for every plant I put out, that’s room for one less weed (please don’t disillusion me on this one, it’s a life raft for my brain when faced with the tonnes of weeds we get round here).

The first potatoes of the year are in! MrC snr brought them round and planted them, I can almost taste them already.  A big thank you to MrC snr for mowing the lawns for us and Mrs C snr for her renewed war against nettles.

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I have finally completed a project I’ve been looking forward to, had to wait until the weather had cheered up a bit before I could start it. When we moved here, the back wall of the garage looked like this…

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Since then we’ve cleared all the rubbish away and painted the house (not much I can do about the window, it’s broken and rotten and needs replacing). I’ve sanded and painted the facia boards and used up about half of the massive pile of rocks we’ve got cluttering up the place to create an alpine rockery type garden.  I’ve managed to do this really cheaply, the rocks we already had, the plants I’ve been collecting for ages, mostly from the “rescue” section of the garden centre and have nurtured them over the winter, I ordered a set of tiny plug plants in the autumn and have brought them on overwinter and some I’ve grown from seeds.  So although this does look a bit Alan Titchmarsh instagarden, I’ve been planning this for some time.  I think it cost about £65 including the compost.  I’m really pleased with it.  Although hauling all that rock was back breaking.

MrC helped me out with my compost, he got his sieving gadget out and we got about a third of a tonne of compost out of the bins that I’ve been brewing for the last 2 years. Won’t last long…

My next project is to overhaul the veggie patch. It’s just too big for me to keep weed free and actually have time for anything else, such as eating or sleeping.  So, I’m going to cover half of it with weed membrane and create eight raised beds, which we’re going to make out of railway sleepers.  But before I can do that, the veggie garden is bit uneven, so I need to move soil about until it’s level enough so that the beds don’t look drunk when we construct them, MrC has made a start on this and has rotovated the ground to loosen it up a bit.  Time to get me shovel out!

This Sunday we had the most epically biblical storm I’ve ever seen. In just a few minutes storm clouds rolled in over what had been an lovely sunny day, then in the space of 15 minutes the storm dumped about 2 inches of rain and hail.  Then it left and we had bright sunshine again.  The aftermath was a bit eerie, the ground was warm from the sun and everywhere you looked there was mist rising from the ground.  Is April monsoon season in the UK now?

 

Misty and slightly battered ponies after the storm (you can tell the rainfall was huge, Rosie looks clean).

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Sorry about the time stamp thingy on the last photos, I’ve accidently turned it on and can’t for the life of me figure out how to turn it off.

 

 

 

 

Itsy bitsy teeny weeny pony

 

Winter is definitely not my favourite season, and snow is definitely not my favourite weather. We’ve had plenty of both the last month.

Luckily before the snow hit, I decided to give Rosie a mini bath as she had balls of mud hanging off her and it was pulling at her skin, I used the light pressure washer gadget that MrC. bought me for my birthday and Rosie was good as gold, she’s come a very long way from the skittish behaviour she showed when she first arrived. Our lovely local farmer now does a regular hay delivery and dumps it all on the hardstanding for me, this makes Rosie very happy, she thinks all her Christmases have come at once.

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Then the snow hit…

It made for some very pretty pictures, but I hate it and retreated into the house to commence binge watching rubbish on Netflix for the duration…

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Maggie and I share similar views on the snow, she ventured about 3 foot out of the door, then hastily retreated back under her radiator.

Once the snow had melted, we had the aftermath to deal with…

The stream blocked up and MrC had to rescue it.

We have standing water everywhere and it’s all very unpleasant, roll on summer.

We had a visit from Mr and MrsC snr and their friend Roger, now Roger knows everything about everything as far as I can make out and he came over to help us with a job I’ve been meaning to do for ages but didn’t really have a clue what I was doing. Winter last year Hubby bought 20 apple dwarfing root stocks and they need scions grafting so we can grow big apple types, on small trees.  Roger very kindly bought us some scions (the deer ate all of mine) and showed us how to do grafting.  It took a little while, but we now have 20 apple trees that will hopefully graft successfully and can be planted out next winter.  Roger bought us all sorts of different varieties, Cox, Discovery and a host of others, we also took a few scions from trees in our orchard.

My next job was to sort out a bit of scrub and turn it into a flower bed. Turned out really nicely, lasted about 12 hours, until the deer ate the lot…  I’ve also planted 400 bulbs in this area, so we should have a nice summer display when the deer are slightly less destructive.

Next up was the yearly chop down of the miscanthus, as I’m not allowed to play with power tools when I’m on my own, I had to do this the hard way, loppers and secateurs. Hard to imagine that in just a few months we’ll have 6ft growth here again.

MrC snr has been busy with the rotovator in the veggie patch, all the horse poo I’ve carted from the muck heap has been ploughed in and with any luck we’ll have a good yield this year.

I’ve been busy in the greenhouse, it’s seed time! The fun part starts when all that lot needs potting on…

Interesting things I’m going to attempt to grow this year include, cape gooseberries, melons, butternut squash and celeriac along with the usual beans, potatoes, onions tomatoes etc.

I’ll also be growing a lot of winter veg for the ponies, it’s important when they have no grass to get a bit of fresh veg for them to snack on.

And lastly, but very much not leastly, we have a super new addition to the family.

Poor little Rosie has been lonely, so I’d been keeping an eye out for a companion for her, I wanted something small because I don’t have a huge amount of grazing and I can’t ride two horses. MrC and I went to see a Shetland who we thought would fit the bill, but that didn’t pan out.  Then I saw a post on facebook from a lady who needed to loan her falabella horses out quite urgently.  After a lot of messages and phone calls and the appropriate paperwork being drawn up, she kindly agreed to let me loan her little mare for a couple of years.

Carmella is just the sweetest little girl, as she came from Scotland she had spent the best part of 2 days in transport to get to me. She came off the trailer calm and curious (unlike Rosie, who came from 10 miles away and arrived in a massive sweat, shaking and all over the place).

I had read all sorts of stuff about introducing horses and what you should do, much of it conflicting or, as I’ve only one field, impossible. So I messaged Sam the lovely horse dealer who sold Rosie to me, she has 100’s of horses pass through her hands and asked her what she thought would be best.  “Chuck her in the field and let them get on with it” was the advice and that’s what I did.  I opened up the spring grazing just before Carmella arrived so Rosie had good grass to occupy her.

This is Rosie clocking Carmella for the first time (she’d been too involved with eating spring grass to notice her arrival)…

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Rosie then dropped her head, pinned back her ears, bared her teeth and cantered full pelt at poor little Carmella, obviously determined to establish herd dominance immediately. For a few seconds I thought it was all going to go horribly, horribly wrong as Rosie chased Carmella around the field, but Carmella luckily was all “yep OK, good, you’re the boss, got it, no problem” and they both went to inhale spring grass, narrowly averting a heart attack for yours truly.

Since then, they’ve been getting along, grazing next to each other and each guarding when the other one is asleep. Rosie is still being a bit of a bully, but mostly when they’re being fed (I make sure Carmella can eat in peace) or when affection is on offer, Rosie thinks all the cuddles should be hers, but she’s calming down, hopefully within a week or two they’ll be firm friends.  Rosie got a bit bolshie with me after the new addition, but we had a couple of fights (Rosie and I), which I won, and while Rosie is ahead of Carmella in the herd pecking order, I am firmly back on top as “lead mare”.  I will monitor them carefully, I won’t let Rosie break Carmella’s spirit, but today when Rosie was doing the ears back, teeth bared, mare face at Carmella, she let rip with a buck and a kick right in Rosie’s face which is encouraging.

Whilst Dozy Rosie is my baby, my very first pony and I love her to bits, I already adore this new little pony (her owner is yelling right now, “she’s a HORSE not a pony” sorry in advance Claire, I’m probably always going to call her a pony), she’s super sweet, adaptable, just so loveable and very very tiny.

She’s also a bit cheeky!

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Wet, cold, muddy aka February.

Insert usual excuses for lack of updates <here>

It’s winter, it’s wet and muddy and wet and cold and wet, with extra mud and wet.

Progress on the house has slowed to pretty much a halt, what’s left to be done, needs to be done either by professionals (new kitchen & new/repair the conservatory for example) or by MrC, things like roof fascias as I’m completely hopeless with heights, I can just about get to the top of the stepladder without my knees turning to jelly, but higher than that and I get horrible vertigo.

Still plenty of work to be getting on with outside though.

We had a lovely Christmas, with a fantastic spread laid on by Mr and MrsC snr, we always have a lovely day.

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A few days of R&R between Christmas and New Year and then time for my once a year scraping off of the horsepoo and mud and chuck on a pair of heels for the fantastic New Years ball with Mal and Ally’s parents.  As usual the marquee looked amazing, the food was sublime and this year even I got on the dancefloor (sans heels) as they had a live band that were really good.

I did catch my husband smooching with a blonde!!

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I eventually dragged myself away from the sofa and did a cleanup of the wildlife pond, this had many years of leaves and twigs rotting away at the bottom of it, which I raked and hauled out of there.  Finished that just in time, the day after I’d cleared it water started to pool in the bottom and just a week later it was pretty much full.  We’ve had a couple of ducks checking it out, but they’ve not moved in permanently yet.  Our resident moorhen is delighted with it though, no pics of her, she’s very very shy.  Looking forward to seeing ducklings later in the year (or as MrC likes to call them, natures snackfoods).

We’ve had a number of storms recently and a fair bit of storm damage.  Mostly in the area near the stream that I’d cleared earlier, I think because I removed so much undergrowth, I’d exposed weakness in the trees that had basically been held up by bramble previously.  3 old blackthorn trees down and another huge branch came off the silver aspen (which we had the tree surgeons in to sort out last winter).  Mr and MrsC snr came by to help me clear most of it, just the trunks remain which Roger is going to come round and remove and then use to create beautiful things.

This winter I’d noticed that yields and sizes of the veggies were not anywhere good as last year, so I’ve been raiding the muck heap to spread on top, this will be rotovated in when the grounds slightly less claggy and will hopefully mean my leeks and swedes will be of a good size next year.

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Although, I’m chuffed to bits with this, my first ever broccoli (the pigeons ate the lot last year).

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I spent a morning with Mr and MrsC snr, going round collecting apple tree scions to attach to the 20 rooting stocks I’ve got in pots near the greenhouse.  All was well, until the deer ate the whole lot, luckily, MrC snr and Roger have both got some scions spare, so we should be able to create some new trees in the spring.

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As far as the pets go, Maggie is fine, she’s caught a shrew for MrC, which she brought in and dropped on his coat for him, after demonstrating she was back in the game, she’s now retired to the radiator in the living room, which she can fit nicely under, and is hibernating until the spring.  Rosie is a muddy mess and has utterly destroyed her paddock, which more closely resembles a swamp rather than somewhere you’d keep a horse.  She is lonely though, but plans are afoot to remedy this.  Whilst I accept she’s going to be a mud monster until the weather clears up a bit, I finally broke and HAD to give the mud and poo encrusted dreadlock she calls a tail a bit of a wash.  Rosie will let me do almost anything with her these days, but she will try to kick me in the face if I use cold water on her (fair enough really), so I lugged half a dozen buckets of warm water down to the stables and gave her a bit of a clean up.  It’s not perfect, but at least she can swish it again.

MrC snr took this pic of Rosie with his super duper camera, muddy but magnificent!

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I had a lovely parcel in the post, my Dad (who is a teensy bit of a hoarder) unearthed these lovely hooks in one of his many sheds and thought I’d like them, I do!!  MrC has put them up in the tack room for me and Rosies headcollar and my riding hat are adorning them.

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In the gardens I’m trying to keep on top of weeding the flower borders and I’ve put in 124 summer bulbs (remember summer??  I think that’s when the mud doesn’t happen), and I’ve another 300 to go in.  Once this cold snap ends, I will be in the greenhouse planting many many seeds.

 

 

 

Pony progress :)

The last week has been cold, snowy, rainy and not really conductive to getting a lot done, but somehow, unless the day is an utter weather write off or the weekend when I practice my sofa surfing skills , I still seem to fill each day with work outside.

Loving this picture of Rosie, or at least, where Rosie had been taking a nap, it looks a bit like a pony related crime scene.

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I’ve finally got around to weeding the strawberry bed and I’ve potted up some of the runners ready for planting out in the spring.

The shed has got a second coat of wood preserver (about 2 months after I did the first coat).

The winter veggies are not as good as they were last year, but we’ve got enough to make sure MrC has plenty of sprouts with his Sunday lunch, which he’s delighted about.

The Christmas trees are up!  We’ve a fake one in the hallway and a lovely real one in the living room which we got from the local farmer.  He was really pleased with the work done on the stream, I think he’d wanted it cleared because his land drains go into the stream, I cleared out several of them for him, he couldn’t get at it with machinery and didn’t have time to clear it by hand.

Yesterday I had a huge load of hay delivered for Rosie, the stuff I’d got from the local tack shop was poor quality and had lots of thistles and dock in it.  So I ordered this from a bit further afield, it was eye wateringly expensive at £6 per bale (would have been cheaper to take her to a restaurant), but it’s so nice, no weeds and smells so sweet.  When we bought the Christmas tree, we found out that the local farmer also does small hay bales (I thought he only did the large round bales) so when this runs out, I’ll try some of his, which at £2.50 a bale is a bit more affordable.

Mr and MrsC came round today and helped me haul and stack the bales, ah, this is a sight to warm any horse lovers heart, a fully stacked hay store!

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Rosie seems to like the view as well, she managed to sneak in there when my back was turned and I had a devil of a job getting her out again.  I think she’s in love, she stood like this for ages just gazing adoringly at the view…

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We also had a visit from my awesome farrier Will today and Rosie got a pedicure.  She was so good, not a single bit of bad behavior from her, such a massive improvement from his first visit.  That time she was so naughty, trying to kick him, snatching her feet from him and leaping around the place.  I was a bit worried Will might refuse to come back she was such a diva, but he wasn’t fazed at all by her.  I guess if you spend all day wrestling 16hh thoroughbreds a 13hh bolshie pony isn’t much of a challenge.

Here we have the classic “being done by the farrier” pose with the owner holding the pony in the correct position.

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Here we have the, “let the horse hold itself” pose while I pointed out a bit of heel I was concerned with..

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She didn’t move an inch, that’s how much she’s calmed down, I’m so proud of her.

Excuse how horribly grubby she is, at this time of year I only groom the bottom half of her legs, her face and the mane and tail.  Grooming removes the oils in the coat and at this time of year, she needs all that to keep warm in the cold weather, the mud also provides extra insulation, so she’s going to be a mucky, muddy monster until the weather warms up (oh how I’m looking forward to giving her a bath when it does).

Also had a visit from Mandy (my horse walking friend) today,  she’s been very busy recently and it’s been ages since I’ve seen her, we had a lovely catch up over a cuppa, we’re both looking forward to the spring when we can resume work with Rosie and get out and see some of the countryside.

What a lovely day, 4 people visiting (admittedly I did pay one of them), I’m exhausted, I don’t normally people that much in a week, let alone a single day 🙂

 

Please Please Please, may I get out of the ditch now?

I haven’t blogged for a while, because to be honest, there hasn’t been much to report.  I have basically spent the last 6 weeks in a ditch.

When I started, I knew this was going to be a fairly big job, but I’d seriously under estimated the sheer amount of detritus I was going to have to remove.  So my days went sort of like this…

Hack, slash, snip, yank and swear at various detritus blocking the stream, haul it under the willow tree ready to be burnt, realise parts of my body have gone numb from cold or blood loss due to bramble scratches, go in for a cup of tea, rinse and repeat.

Luckily I had some help from Mr and Mrs C snr, they came over most weeks and had a fire and helped me haul the stuff I’d cleared.  MrC got out his trusty chainsaw a few times and cleared some trees that needed removing, he can get done in 20 mins what takes me half a day to do with the handsaw (I’m not allowed to play with power tools due to being an enormous klutz).

I’m really pleased with how it looks now, we shouldn’t have to deal with any blockages in the stream this year (touch wood).

This was how it looked to start:

 

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The inlaws having a fire/summoning a demon:

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Come rain, shine or in this case, snow, they came round and set fire to all the rubbish I’d unearthed

Hard to believe that tonnes and tonnes (I’m not exaggerating, due to the amount of things we’ve had delivered, or removed in tonnes, I’m very aware of how much, or little, a tonne actually is) of dead trees, prunings, brambles, nettles and other assorted weedage can be reduced to this!

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A very rare glimpse of a willow tree that doesn’t have a massive pile of stuff waiting to be burned underneath it!

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Finished!!!  Just in time as well, as you can see it’s starting to fill up with water, soon this will be a free flowing stream (or as hubby likes to call it, the moat).

 

This tree is on the corner of the stream and the soil under its moss covered roots has been eroded, it reminds the bayou trees you see in American swamps.

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Ironically, I’m not sure exactly how much of this actually belongs to us…  Certainly the land up to the stream bed is ours, possibly the stream itself, but the other side of the stream definitely belongs to the farmer next door (he’s far too busy to be bothered with such trivialities, but I don’t think he’ll mind me clearing it).  Anyways, as proved when the woodland next door was sold, “land disputes” round here are generally sorted out with a cup of tea and slice of cake.

I’ve picked up all the leaves from the huge maple tree at the front of the property and filled up the leaf mulcher, waiting for this lot to rot down a little before I gather up the fallen leaves from elsewhere.

As far as the pets go, happily, Mags has recovered completely from her illness and surgery, she’s also adjusted well to only having one eye, she’s jumping onto things again so her confidence there has been restored and before the weather got brutal she was out fishing and shrew bothering again.  Nowadays, she spends most of her life jammed under a radiator or asking to go outside, and then upon seeing how wet and cold it is, retreating to radiator again.

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Rosie is still lactating, we had the vet out again to give her a test for Cushings disease which can cause mares to inappropriately lactate, happily the results came back negative, so we’ve exhausted all the most obvious physical illnesses that could cause her to lactate and put it down to the fact she’s a mental moody mare who’s been either pregnant or nursing for most of her life.  The mare and foal in the field next to her have been moved, so I’m hoping without the stimulus of the foal, she’ll return to what vaguely passes for normal.

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MrC built her the most amazing manger, this will encourage her to get out of the mud for a bit and stand on the concrete so her feet get a chance to dry out.

Her field is a quagmire at the moment, she likes to stand next to the gate and often paces a bit there, so it was churned up beyond belief. One morning I came out to give her breakfast and she was standing in an inch of water on top of sucking mud, so as a temporary winter measure I’ve put down a deep straw bed there so at least at least her hooves won’t fall off.  I should point out, she’s got free access to a very expensive, warm, dry, straw and hay filled stable that she refuses to use, apart from when I put her feed in there…

Sorting the stream out was a really big job and now it’s over, I’m not sure what’s next, can’t really dig as everything is frozen, it’s not seed planting time for about a month (my very favourite time of year, go into greenhouse at 9am, emerge an hour later at 3:30pm, greenhouses steal time when it’s seed season).  Off the top of my head… The strawberry bed needs sorting out, as does the gate flower bed, there’s a bit at the very front of the property that needs a wholesale clearance (if on a smaller scale than the stream) but that needs MrC and his chainsaw to go in first.  The sprayed section of the paddock needs any remaining ragwort removing, the leaves in the bit next to the paddock and the woodland need picking up and putting in the mulcher, need to do another batch of pickled red cabbage, the shed needs a second coat of wood preserver and all the flower borders need deadheading and weeding.  Oh, ok then, that will probably keep me busy for a bit.