Oh Christmas Tree!

It occurred to me that Sapphire has probably never really seen a Christmas Tree before. As Magnum lived and worked at a riding school for most of his life he must have seen all manner of strange things at this time of year. Sapph however, has led a much more sheltered life. So when our next door neighbour put their tree up at the beginning of the month I expected a tantrum or two. Not a bit of it! After doing a double take the first night it was all lit up she hasn’t mentioned it. The same applied when our tree went up last week. She was a little bit more taken by the flashing reindeer across the road, but after giving a good stare she decided it was probably safe , and walked in calmly in for her tea. She shake her head and mutter something about never understanding humans though.

So from all of usPoo Picking in the Dark it’s a joyful Christmas and a peaceful 2015 😎🐴🐴🐶🐶🐱🐱😃🎁🎄🎅

A Stable Environment

We don’t actually have any stables at Albert’s Bungalow ,or at least we didn’t . So one of the first things we did was apply for planning permission. What a complicated, long winded, stressful and frustrating process! However, after many objections from the neighbours, even more fruitless conversations with the planning department of Torridge District Council and our planning con-sultan; together with much support from other neighbours, and many fruitful conversations with the Parish Council, and our local District Councillor, we finally got planning permission in October .
Unfortunately by the time permission was granted it was too late to get the stables built before winter. Enter plan B. We Willl put a temporary mobile stable unit to tide us over for the winter.

We paid John Griffiths of Okehampton £2000 as deposit on a £4000 24ft x 12ft mobile block. He took our money, but we never got our stables. We have subsequently found out that we are not the only people he has done this to. Don’t worry, we have reported him to the relevant authorities. Be careful, and avoid this man like the plague. His website is
http://www.southernáshelters.co.uk
He also uses EBay to advertise his website. His username is Battfinc.
All this caused us more than a few problems, not the least of which is where to stable the horses over winter. Enter plan C.
Hal has converted our garage into stables! Thankfully Hal knows his way round a piece of wood and is handy with a saw. Also thankfully we have a generously proportioned double garage. Magnum and Sapphire have taken to it like it’s the most natural thing in the world, despite having to go in and through a really narrow door. They also seem to be OK sharing the space with their hay and bedding. The neighbours seem to be OK with it too thank all the gods!

The Grass Is Always Greener

Grass, it’s wonderful stuff. I’m talking about the stuff that grows in fields here, not the stuff it’s illegal to smoke. Us horse owners have a strange relationship with it., either we are stressing because there’s too much of it, our ponies will get too fat, get Laminitis and die. Or we are stressing because there isn’t enough of it and our paddocks are turning into barren, muddy wastelands ! We are never happy.
When Hal and I first viewed Albert’s Bungalow, at the beginning of March, I thought the fields were ideal. Gently sloping with just the right amount of grass, not too rich, but not too weedy either, and in remarkably good shape after the dreadful wet winter we had just had. When we finally moved in at the end of May we discovered we had something akin to four and a half acres of African Savannah ! It was waist high out there. Honestly, you could have lost a Ripley sized dog out there! Hal and walked around the boundaries so I could start learning the lay out. It nearly killed me! In places it was almost boob high!

I need to get more fit and agile.

A local farmer agreed to cut it for nothing as long as he could take it for silage. Result! They must have thought we were mad, but we couldn’t help getting childishly excited at the sight of various tractors and attachments on our own land. It’s a fascinating process .

Hal wants his own tractor now.

Once the grass was cut we had to get some fencing and gates put up. Then, finally Magnum and Sapphire came home.
Now the adventure really begins.

House Hunting

House hunting is an interesting pass time, especially when you are blind. In all, I think Hal and I viewed about 10 properties , and I’m both proud and relieved to be able to report that I never broke anything or fell down the stairs once!
We were on a tight budget, so the places we could afford were few and far between. Understanding this, we were open minded about the location of, and style of house we looked at. Our mantra was, “the land and stables are more important than the house”.
We learnt 2 things very quickly.
1. Hal does not like old, cold, thick walled cottages, and never wants to live in one.
2. Estate Agents never listen to a word you say.
Both things we probably already knew if we were honest.

We only had two specifications. The property must be under a specific value. The property must have no fewr than 4 acres of land that was suitable for grazing horses on. It’s amazing, well actually more like frightening, how many property details we were sent for houses way out of our price range, with forestry instead of grazing, with agricultural ties, or with no land at all! It was also surprising how many houses have land that isn’t actually adjacent to them. On two occasions we viewed properties that the owners subsequently told us we’re no longer on the market! A shame because one of them would have been a real contender!
We saw some truly horrible places, and we saw some others we would have have gladly called home. We also were halfway round a property when we realised we had stayed there when it was a B&B!
We were actually going to buy Tina’s, and we’re almost at the point of signing when some complicated legal problems arose. We reluctantly withdrew on advice from a barrister. We were devastated, as was Tina.
Out of sheer desperation Hal did an Internet trawl and arranged to view 3 properties, on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of March. The property we viewed on the 3rd was possibly the most horrible house I have ever come across. So it was with little hope that we travelled through a snowstorm to the village of Shebbe to view a 4 bedroom bungalow with about 5 acres.
We didn’t ‘t bother with th viewing on the 4th!
Hal and I finally moved in on 30th May with Quincey.Ripley and the cats joined us a few days later, and the horses arrived on 3rd July.

On The Move

So once again Hal and I found ourselves desperately trawling around trying to find somewhere to keep Magnum and Sapphire. The situation hadn’t goth any better, and I was genuinely frightened about what was going to happen.
It was my Vet who saved the day. When he came on a routine visit I told him about our problem. Later that day he phoned me with details of another client of his who was looking to take on a livery. It turned out that this lady, Tina, and I used to know each other when we were in our teens! Her yard was lovely, so. In September last year Magnum and Sapphire moved to Tina’s.

Tina was very helpful and supportive, and understood that, as we were actively house hunting, we had no idea how long we were going too be with her. Om the other hand though, Tina was going through a protracted and complicated divorce, so her place was for sale! Was this meant to be? Well, no as it turned out, but that’s another story.
Eventually though we found the place we now call home amd our adventure really began.

I Didn’t See That Coming!

We stayed at Jim’s for almost exactly 2 years, and we were happy there. However, keeping horses on a working hill farm is not without its challenges, especially when you can’t see.
Cattle, sheep, dogs and chickens have a nasty habit of moving around.. Pigs escape, chickens lay eggs in your hay, kittens get born in your bedding, and yes, you do occasionally find a dog in a manger!
One of the things about being blind is that, in order to survive, you constantly make maps of where everything is in your mind. Or at least I do. It saves time, helps prevent accidents, and stops you feeling stupid when you get lost in your own home. However, it’s impossible to map anything if things are never in the same place twice. When I finally slip off this mortal coil, and the Great Auditor tallies up the ways I spent my time, I shudder to think how many years of my life will have spent either frantically searching for things that are right in front of me, or trying to find items that people have ‘helpfully’ moved so as I don’t walk into them or knock them over! So keeping horses on a working farm, or at a riding school, or busy livery yard is really hard work for us blind types, and that’s before taking the horse care into account.
It’s worth it though!
As I said, we were happy at Jim’s. However it was during our time there that our fantasies about owning our own little yard grew into solid plans.it was also during this time that Hal began to learn to ride.
What we didn’t expect was to be forced to leave Jim’s before we’d bought somewhere. Unfortunately Jim is a tenant farmer. His land lord, or rather the land agent for the estate, suddenly after 18 months of us being there, announced that Jim was breaking the terms of his tenancy by renting to us. Jim had no choice but to ask us to leave.
Once more Magnum and Sapphire had nowhere to live.