Monday, 29 October 2007

A walk by the rocks, busy weekend, more building work

Friday - a lovely 2.5 hour walk through Broadwater Warren to Eridge Rocks

On Friday I decided to get out of the house for the day. I was sick of the building work, so I loaded up my three girls and off we went. I had to call into Tunbridge Wells to get my hair cut and then we went to our favourite place for a walk. Broadwater Warren is so lovely, it's a well kept secret and is very peaceful and not many people use it. It has recently been bought by the RSPB but they promise they aren't going to make too many changes. It was my regular daily walk when we lived in Tunbridge Wells but I still get to walk there a couple of times a week as it's only five minutes or so from Mum's nursing home.

Anyway, I decided we'd do a really big walk and so we went right out to the Eridge Rocks which doubles our regular walk at this lovely place. There are two paths by the rocks, one goes right along the top and the other comes below the rocks. We headed out on the top path and came back via the bottom one. The paths along the rocks are a good quarter of a mile long and it can be quite eerie especially if you walk along the lower path in the dusk. However, Friday was a nice day and it was lovely to wander along the rocks.

I have to be very careful with Abbey along here as she has a tendency to climb the rocks and a couple of years ago got stuck up high and instead of waiting for me to come and get her hurled herself off and landed at my feet. I thought she had broken her back and was in a real panic but after a few moments (obviously she was winded), she got up shook and trotted off. It was very scary and I have always been very careful and make sure to have her on a lead in certain places along this walk!

We were out for 2.5 hours and the girls were very tired by the end of the walk. Abbey is amazing, she was still going strong at the end of the walk. Here are some pictures of the walk including a shot of one of the paths which was half muddy and half dry. Abbey chose to walk straight through the muddy bit rather than the dry bit and was plastered up to her knees! Why she had to do that I just don't understand - bless!

These are some of the smaller rocks at the beginning of the lower path

A little cave which my dogs love to explore

This rock looks a bit like a toad!

Naughty Niamh at the base of one of the rocks.

A view from the lower path

Abbey & Poppy nosing round the rocks

And which route did Abbey choose to take through this space - yep the muddy one!

Back in the main part of the forest where all the colours are turning to gold

After the walk I gave the girls a drink and some biscuits in the back of the car and then we drove back into Tunbridge Wells. I had a nice browse round the shops and a lovely lunch at O'Briens - they do the best sandwiches in the world and their coffee is lovely too! Then we popped out to Pembury and I had a wander round my favourite garden centre. It's a Nottcuts and they're a bit more traditional and less commercial than some of the garden centres around. Lastly I called in to see Mum on the way home. She was in pretty good spirits so we watched Ready Steady Cook together and then I gave her a full manicure which was quite difficult as she pulls her fingers away all the time, she tries not to but can't help it. It took a long time to get through all her fingers but we made it and she was very pleased with the end result!

By the time we arrived home, the builders had gone for the day. Andy had walked his three so they were nice and tired, we lit the fire cooked some supper and fell in a heap in front of the box!

On Saturday I did a training day for Sue Dennison. A great bunch of people and dogs in both the morning and afternoon session. The morning was geared to G5-6 and the afternoon was for beginners. I really enjoyed both sessions. I took Poppy along as she loves to watch training days. She is such a good little girl and just lays by the side with her chipmunk in her mouth and shakes it every time someone sets off! When I put her in the car at the end of the day she fell onto her side and didn't wake up 'til we got home. Lucky Poppy - I wish I could have slept all the way home!

On Sunday I went to Downland agility show. It wasn't too early a start as the clocks had gone back so it didn't feel too bad. However the scheduling of the show was a bit of a pain with our first run being at about 9.30 am and our last two runs at 5.00 pm. A long day but I didn't want to go home as I knew the kitchen would out of bounds. We decided to take up all the old quarry tiles and Andy decided Sunday was as good a day as any ... more about that later.

I got both girls eliminated in the jumping round but got both clear in the agility. This was Niamh's first clear round in G6 (actually it was G6/7 combined) at only her second G6 show so I was pretty pleased. We might have got a lowly place I'm not sure as I didn't wait until the end, just too tired!

At Downlands show I met Hazel's little sheltie puppy for the first time. She is totally gorgeous. I had seen photos which Toni had sent to me but to meet her in the flesh, well I just wanted to steal her. Her name is Puzzle and she is just eight weeks old. Here is a picture of her and her proud mum.

A gorgeous sheltie puppy called Puzzle with her proud mum Hazel. Isn't she cute!

I was exhausted by the time Sunday night came and just crashed out in the armchair and watched the Strictly Come Dancing Result .... which was a fiasco! When will those stupid judges learn that if they keep insulting the worst dancers all that happens is that the public give them the sympathy vote and then the good dancers who are in the middle of the table get into the bottom two and one has to go out. It wouldn't be so bad if the judges gave them constructive criticism but they can't stop at that they have to be rude and insulting using stupid terminology like "gorilla hands" and stuff like that! Hey ho!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007


We had a good session at training last night. It was very cold and there were quite a few people missing for one reason or another. So, in our first class with only 5 of us we were able to practise a few different things that we don't always get time for.

I really enjoyed Naughty Niamh's class although we didn't get much right! One of the sequences we had about ten attempts at and I just couldn't get in the right position. I did the same sequence with Poppy later in the evening and it worked fine. Although I think I've stopped 'babying' Niamh I haven't really. I still tend to watch her and over encourage where she doesn't need it. One of the things I really enjoy about training is trying stuff that I wouldn't normally do.

The particular sequence we worked on last night was quite challenging and the way we were attempting it wasn't necessarily the best way but it was good to practise this sort of thing for the times when you might need it (in this instance being able to layer a contact and recall your dog off it.)

Below is a diagram of the sequence with the dog's path (little dog) and the handler's path illustrated with a red line. I would have chosen to do the manoeuvre by running between the A-Frame and Jump X but Al ran first and did the layered version and it was very impressive so we all decided to try it. I always forget that my legs are much shorter and slower than Al's but I can't resist a challenge! I love Niamh's class for this reason as we all support each other but also encourage each other to push and try different things.

You could of course handle that sequence from behind but we all found by doing it that way you were left too far back for the collapsible, jump finish. You needed to get up on the sequence to get a fast finish. I couldn't get it right with Niamh as she kept taking Jump X towards me rather than coming to me and pushing away over it. That was because I was in the wrong position each time I tried. I eventually got it right after several attempts all of which caused the rest of the class much amusement! When I did the exercise with Poppy it worked really well, I still think I'm more intuitive with Pops. She has more drive than Niamh and so something like this is possibly easier with her. The sequence was made more difficult for us because Andy had made us run a simple loop to start the class which was the same start but straight into the weaves off the A-Frame so of course the dogs had that in mind ......... adds to the challenge!!

Kizzy also had a good session last night. She was doing the three jump, pipe tunnel combination in lots of different ways. We also used the three jumps to do lots of left and right turn exercises. At one point we did the three jumps and turned out of the sequence to the jump in front of the seesaw which I had moved to create a box but Kizzy decided the seesaw was still on offer and executed a perfect seesaw and target position (without Andy or the target!) So the seesaw was moved after that!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Bad blogger

I have been a bad blogger and not posted a single entry in over a week.

We've been really busy with loads of stuff relating to our building projects. The front pillars have been built ready for our new fencing to go in along the front boundary. I am really looking forward to this job being completed as it means we'll be able to shut off the road. It can be a busy road and it will be nice to be behind gates at last.

Nice new gate posts

Just as we started this job the frosts came so the builders had to wrap the newly built pillars in hessian to keep them warm and cosy over night! Luckily this worked and the frost didn't get to them.

Al is coming at the weekend and he and Andy are going to do the fence panels. It will take about four chaps to lift the gates onto the pillars. They are huge and very heavy.

Inside things are coming along nicely. The garage and utility are completely finished and currently being painted. It makes such a difference when the plaster is covered over. We've chosen new floor tiles for the utility and have decided to bite the bullet and take up the old quarry tiles in the kitchen and replace with the new ones so that the floor is the same in both rooms as it'll look so much nicer. I quite like the quarry tiles but we couldn't find any to match so we decided to opt for larger tiles which I think are a bit easier to clean as there aren't so many joints. More disruption!

The new colour in the utility area. That damn fridge will move eventually so there'll be a nice walk through from kitchen to utility. Dennis is making us an oak doggie gate so we can restrict the dogs to the utility room if they get a bit grubby in the winter. Not Abbey of course. She always comes in the office regardless! That colour is going to come right through into the currently white (and thus 'cold') kitchen. I'm looking forward to the end result but not the process of getting there!

We're also having the kitchen re-painted whilst Andy is here (not Andy as in Hudson!) so that the colour flows straight through the two rooms. We are so boring, we've picked our favourite colour again. It's called Dorset cream and we had it in our last house and can't find anything else we like as much! I like it because it changes so much in different lights. In the bright daylight and sunshine is has a lovely yellow glow and in the evenings it's a rich dorset cream colour. Andy is also painting the new garage and will finish up by painting the floor before we put our mats down. It means we'll have a lovely clean space ready to receive the Harley Davidson back - Dan has been looking after it since we moved. I think he'll be sad to see it go as he has been out for the odd ride on it!

On Friday evening we're off to Ikea to see if we can get some more kitchen units for the utility to match the existing. Luckily they still make the style that we inherited in this kitchen which isn't too bad at all. We won't be having granite worktop in the utility though, that's what's in the kitchen and it was £400/m! Um no way, our money is running out so it'll be standard worktop in a similar colour to the granite!

Been busy with agility too. Did a training day for Polly on Sunday which was great fun. The weather was amazing, cold but sunny all day. As usual I had a great time. Am going on Saturday to Sue Dennison's to do another training day. I don't know all the people on this one but I am really looking forward to it and hope the weather stays good. Then on Sunday is Downland show, I think I will go even though I hate the venue, it's so noisy. I will be very tired as I always am after training days but I want to do the competition with Naughty Niamh and of course Perfect Pops!

Kizzy's training is coming on really well. Her weaves are almost upright and Andy is practising the two difficult entries with her (still on lead). Her contacts are looking good and they are having a great time together. I tried to do some video of their training yesterday evening but the battery ran out. I will endeavour to get some on video to post on the blog in due course!

Monday, 15 October 2007

Grooming & Trimming

With a busy weekend gone and another busy weekend coming I thought I'd better grab some time this morning to give the dogs a good groom.

I got the table in so immediately everyone made themselves scarce except Kizzy who quite likes being brushed. She lays on her back half asleep while I cut her toe nails and trim her feet. She is just so easy to maintain!

It's very hard work and rather tedious and normally I do three dogs one day and then three later in the week. However, last time I did this I forgot to do the second three and was horrified when I looked at Abbey's claws last night. They always grow fast as she's very light on her feet but they were like talons. Becky and Murphy's were very long too and that's when I remembered I'd only done the other three and that was about four or five weeks ago.

Abbey's dew claws have started to curl and grow like hooks. Recently she has twice got her dew claw caught up in her collar. Luckily we've been in the room with her to sort her out. I had decided to take her collar off whenever we leave her in future. Now I know why it was happening. She is also able to walk much easier on the hard floors. I feel very guilty that I let her claws grow too long. Bad mummy. I will never do just half the dogs at a time again.

I also trimmed all their feet. I like to keep all my dogs feet trimmed because it looks nice and come this time of year it also makes life much easier in terms of keeping their feet clean. It's so much easier to wipe trimmed paws than horrible hairy feet, quite apart from the fact that they look like cart horses.

The biggest baby of the lot is Naughty Niamh. She is pathetic and shakes so hard that the table wobbles. Abbey hates it but isn't too bad. Poppy and Murphy continually pull their feet away which makes me mad. Becky and Kizzy are little angels and just lie there enjoying the experience. Becky has the biggest coat of all our dogs and you could groom her all day and the hairs would still keep coming out. She has a huge undercoat which sheds almost all year round. Kizzy is a doddle in comparison with Becky. Her coat is similar in texture to Becky's, obviously quite a bit longer but not quite the depth of undercoat thank goodness! Niamh is almost bald and takes just a few minutes to brush, most of the time is spent standing her up because she insists on sitting down every time you try to brush her tail or trousers. It's maddening!

Anyway, we eventually got done and then we went for a run down the paddock and the trauma of the morning's wicked grooming session was all forgotten about!

Here are a couple of pictures of the two little angels. It is prior to their grooming session so please don't look too closely!

There were two in the bed and the little one said - roll over!

Very busy weekend

On Friday I visited Mum and went shopping in Tunbridge Wells for Andy's birthday present. I bought him a bag for his new camera and a v-neck sweater in M&S which he's been after for ages. I also bought him a trendy scarf but I'm not sure if he'll wear it! As I was out that way I walked the dogs in Eridge (my favourite forest walk) and took some photos of the cobwebs. They're not very good as I used my mobile. I was inspired by Karen's lovely photos of same on her blog.
Spiders Webs - hopefully you can see them!

Naughty Niamh amongst the foliage which is rapidly changing colour

What a busy weekend. I thought things should be nice and calm now that the agility season is winding down.

Saturday was Andy's birthday and we had a hectic morning with my regular four people who come for some agility training. They are complete beginners and a lovely bunch of people with some super dogs. Heaps of potential. The come for an hour but we usually run over and this week was no different. Andy came and helped so we could get them started on the v-weaves and the dog walk. Then it was a mad dash indoors to get showered and changed ready to be picked up by Dan and Mac who were taking us to the Royal Oak in Crockham Hill for lunch. As usual the food was lovely and we had a good time. We got back in time to take the dogs for a good walk well in time to sit and watch Strictly Come Dancing (I shall dedicate some blog time to SCD another time as I have a lot to say on the new format!) and more importantly be settled for the all important Rugby semi-final. What a match, it was brilliant. Karen and I were texting each other throughout the match, it was so exciting. At the end we screamed so loudly all the dogs vacated the sitting room except Abbey who can't hear much and Kizzy who isn't bothered by much! I felt so sorry for the French team at the end of the game ........ not!

Sunday was completely manic. Andy cleaned up another batch of bricks ready for the front pillars to be built and I cleared the agility equipment ready for mowing later. Then we had to pack the v-weaves in the car and get up to Sarah (our riding school land lady) by 12.00 pm. Sarah invited us to a hog roast lunch to celebrate the sale of the oast house on her farm, not our cup of tea being vegetarians! That said, it was a locally reared free range pig, slaughtered locally so about as good as it can get. As always there is no such thing as a free lunch and Sarah decided it would be a good idea for us to put on a little agility display. Sarah likes small dogs and specifically wanted Kizzy to do her stuff as well as Poppy and that "mad fast black one" as she refers to Murphy.

We knew there'd be lots of people there including children so decided it was best not to take the Naughty Niamh as she's quite scared of children and it wouldn't be a good place for her to be. Pops, Kizzle and Murphy are bomb proof.

There were between 40 - 50 people at the lunch which was held in the indoor school. Sarah had caterers in and it was all very nice. It was a mixture of hunting, shooting, fishing people and serious horse bods (dressage and eventing.) We knew quite a few people and it was nice to see Julie and her husband Gerry, Julie is one of my beginner handlers and by co-incidence she gardens for Sarah. There were some famous faces amongst the visitors including Brook Staples the Australian international eventing rider and his partner Jeanette Brakewell who was part of the silver medal winning team for Britain at the Sidney Olympics. Jeanette has a collie herself and was interested in our training methods, she wished she'd brought her collie for a try out! Anyway name-dropping aside there were lots of 'serious' animal trainers there so we felt a bit nervous to say the least. Sarah wanted us to do the demos and give a commentary on what was going on.

We set up a small half-course and Kizzy was first on. She did her v-weaves which are almost upright but not quite so this illustrated nicely how we use them to teach the dogs. (I don't think I'd use them to teach a large dog to weave but for small dogs they are brilliant!) Then she did some ad-hoc tricks and some jump, tyre, tunnel combinations. Most of the stuff Andy did using the clicker. Every time Kizzy did something they all clapped and cheered. Kizzy was totally unfazed and just got on with her job. She was a little star.

Everyone was impressed with the clicker training technique and were amazed at how Kizzy offered up different behaviours in order to get Andy to click. They were also amazed at how focused she remained for the whole session especially when they found out she was only eleven months old.

Poppy and Murphy did some bits as well and got lots of cheers and clapping and then some of the children ran Poppy round the little circuit. Jeanette also ran Pops round and then tried to dog nap her!

It was good fun but very tiring. We put the equipment away at the end of the session, luckily with lots of helping hands and whilst we were doing this Poppy stayed amongst the children and people presenting her chipmunk to anyone who looked mildly interested in playing with her.

We dashed home to cut the grass in the garden and the agility paddock ready for the coming week and then indoors to do some housework before Nat and Matt arrived to see the garden and stay for supper. To Nat's disgust we decided it would be good to watch the Rugby in order to hex South Africa, sadly it didn't work and we've got them in the final next week.

Oh, wasn't there some other stupid football game on at the weekend .... think we won that but not bothered in comparison with the Rugby!!

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Lovely long walk

We moped a bit on Sunday and spent some time doing the little blog tribute to Tina. Even though she was very old and frail it still takes time to sink in that you won't see her again. Tina was with us for such a long time and it seems like the end of an era. I am glad though that she's at peace.

Andy went with Dan to visit Mum. They took Ellie with them and Mum was delighted to see her. The most upsetting thing at the moment is that Mum keeps saying she wants to get up and dressed and go home. She says she thinks she will be fine to cope by herself now. It's so hard trying to talk to her about this without patronising her but at the same time being realistic. The fact is she can't do anything for herself but doesn't seem to realise this. She is very bright at the moment and seems able to have more detailed conversations. This makes things so difficult.

When Andy got back home we decided at 4.00 pm to go for a nice walk in our local fields. We had a lovely time and what was supposed to be an hour's walk turned into nearly 2.5 hours. The dogs were very tired when we got home which meant we could watch the rugby (Scotland vs Argentina) in peace. Well, Andy did. Karen called me to see if we were OK after losing Tina and nearly 2 hours later I put the phone down! We had a really good natter. Naturally Andy kept making sarcastic comments about aching jaws blah blah!

The rugby on Saturday was just brilliant. We watched the England match fully expecting the Aussies to thrash us. But no, we played brilliantly and won. Then to make things even better France beat the hot favourites, the All Blacks, so it means we meet France next weekend. It would be just magic if we could win this semi final and have a shot at retaining the crown.

Here are some photos of our lovely walk on Sunday afternoon. It's nice looking at them now as it's currently pouring down outside and is very dismal.

Murphy waiting for the girls to catch up!

Kizzy joins in the collie line up! Abbey and Poppy were too busy sniffing to join in!

This above photo shows a nice perspective of our lovely runways. The fields are owned by a farmer who hires them to a syndicate of flyers. They have microlights and a couple of little light aeroplanes (one owned by our GP.) They keep the runways mown and it's lovely to walk along them. You know when to be careful, if the big barn doors are open it means the aircraft are out and you just have to keep an eye and ear out for take offs and landings.

Collie line up with small intruder again!

An interesting riverbank to sniff along!

More sniffing, the little black dot at the back is Murphy waiting for them to catch up and play!

Naughty Niamh - I really think she has the biggest tongue in the world!

Kizzle sharing a sniff with her best friend Poppy

Beautiful Becks

On our way to the runways

Kizzle taking a look at the river - that's as far as she will go. She isn't fond of getting wet.

Abbey taking a look at something across the river - see photo below for what she's looking at. So Cute!

Me aahhing at the little calves. I love calves, I think they're possibly the cutest baby animals.

Who are you looking at?

Surveying the scene, should have taken some piccies of the view I was looking at. Lovely hills with lots of colour as the leaves are on the turn. Will take more photos on next walk!

Below are some pictures of the bridge which crosses the river. This was as far as we went on this walk. You can keep going and going if you want but we'd already been out for ages and decided to turn back otherwise it would be dark by the time we got home! The nice thing is that you can walk back a different way so you don't have to retrace your steps if you don't want to. I like circular walks best. This is our everyday walk but we don't always go that far. You can pick much smaller walks according to what time you have free.

It gets a bit muddy in the winter but not too bad. The fields drain pretty well. We can keep our dogs out of the river most of the time, the return walk is along a smaller stream and we struggle to keep them out of that! Kizzy and Niamh don't go anywhere near, they are not water babies like the others. Murphy, Becky and Poppy love to swim, Abbey just likes to paddle!

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Goodbye Tina

Last night we had to make the decision to let Tina go to sleep. She has been a big part of our lives for such a long time.

We gave her a home when she was sixteen months old. She had been in training as a guide dog but failed at the very last hurdle as she chased a cat when in harness! That was typical of Tina. She was already pushing things to limit with her training, instead of waiting at the kerbside for all the traffic to be clear, she would wait for a moment and then weave in and out of slow moving cars. Why wait for a continuous gap when she could weave in and out!

She fitted in with our family and became Andy's dog. They had a lot of fun together in agility. She won into senior but had to retire quite young at 8 years of age due to arthritis in her front legs. She wasn't too fond of travelling and as she got older we took to dropping her off with Mum and Ed for weekends when we were off to shows. When she was 12 years old she decided to move in permanently with them and had a wonderful retirement. Mum and Ed absolutely adored her. They rescued another dog soon after Tina moved in and Ellie and Tina became inseparable. Then earlier this year Mum became ill and Eddie couldn't cope with the dogs by himself. The plan was that we would have Tina back and Dan and Mac would take Ellie. However, it became apparent that Tina just didn't want to be without Ellie and so Dan and Mac took them both. We helped out at holiday times. She was always our dog and our responsibility and we can't thank Dan and Mac enough for taking her so that she could be with her little friend right to the end.

Tina on the right with her best friend Ellie

She had been struggling for a little while and last night it was obvious that she'd had enough and it was time for her to leave us. She was just over 15.5 years of age and had a wonderful life but it's still heartbreaking to lose her.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Colours in the garden

The leaves are really on the turn especially in the hedgerow in the back garden. Soon all the leaves will be gone and we'll get to see the lovely old garden wall behind this lot. It's a really nice rich colour so will provide an attractive alternative view for the winter months.

Above taken three weeks ago when the leaves just began to turn and there was still lots of green.

Below taken this morning, much more red and leaves beginning to drop like mad!

The bad sheltie has been at it again!

This time we have a sponge storm! Here she is showing off her new purple collar (from Karen) but she doesn't deserve this lovely collar as she's such a BAD SHELTIE. Becky isn't looking as she doesn't want to be caught up in the trouble zone!

Bad wicked monster sheltie

Some pictures of our building project

Here are a few before and after pictures of our building work and how things have changed since we moved here. Things are getting close to being finished but as always the final touches seem to take ages!

Above is the old store room where they had an outside toilet and kept the washing machine, the third door nearest the stable door led into the grotty garage.
Below demolition of the store and garage
Below the new extension

Above the space where the old flat roofed garage stood; below the new garage with loft above

Above with new front windows and new roof line over garage and extension

Above before; below now

Below is a picture of the kitchen now knocked through to the new utility room. It will be nicer once the fridge moves into its proper place, it's only there as a temporary measure.

Below a few more pictures of the extension from the outside.