Thursday, 16 March 2017

30-something .. and counting ...

The new arrivals have been steadily appearing this week .. No major traumas (so far) but there's still plenty of kidding time left!

The glorious spring weather has made life much easier and it's lovely to have all the barn doors wide open with the warm sunshine flooding in.  The girls have been spending a lot of time out in their field enjoying the sunshine and even our two new girls, Lara and Zenobia, were also spotted testing out the electric fence!

David has been busy getting the front field ready for sowing new grass seed.  You may remember he ploughed it .. well, the next stage of preparing the ground is with a power harrow - this breaks up the big clods of earth left by the plough and leaves a lovely fine soil which is then rolled before the seed is drilled in.

As with all boys' toys, a power harrow is a big bit of machinery that fits on the back of the tractor ..

The plough turned the soil and left the field very rough ..


And it's interesting to see where the worms have been hard at work in the newly turned soil .. Their casts show up as darker soil where they bring everything back up to the surface .. We like our worms!


The power harrow breaks up the soil and you can see the difference here ..


In between arrivals this afternoon, I had a ride in the tractor with him, just to enjoy the view and watch what was going on.  


This is all so important for us - getting everything right now means that we will have great forage for the goats to eat and that means we will have lots of lovely milk!

Anyway, enough about fields ... We want pictures of baby goats!!

So, here's a quick selection of new arrivals for you to enjoy ..

Many more to come yet!

If you use Twitter, keep an eye open for our postings on the new arrivals (when we have a mobile signal!!)  @elliesdairy

So, that's it for tonight .. I'm back off to my little caravan at the side of the goat barn .. Another night of listening and waiting ... Night all!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

I now declare the kidding season officially open!

Over the past month there have been many trials and tribulations .. but, as usual, we got through it and the kidding season has now officially begun!

As happened last year, the Gracie Moos beat the goats to it again as our oldest and (in my opinion) loveliest Gracie quietly gave birth to a beautiful little bull calf.  All by herself with no fuss and bother .. he was there all clean and ready as we arrived to start morning milking yesterday morning.

He's a stocky little chap and is happy with all the attention he is getting from mum and all his aunties.  Shouldn't be too long before he is joined by a few more little people.

Meanwhile, David spent a busy few days mucking out the goat barn and moving gates around to put everything into kidding mode.  There are a lot of very large goaties around at the moment ... here's  Poppy and Pippi looking slightly rotund ..

But our main contender for the Dolly Parton Award 2017 was our dear Shares who was sporting rather a large udder yesterday evening:

Due to kid today, she looked absolutely nowhere near this morning.  But early this afternoon as David walked into the barn to investigate a strange growling noise, he found Shares fighting a crowd of goats who were all eager to see the first new baby of the season!

And here she is ..

Every year I just marvel at how tiny and perfect the new babies are .. Just gorgeous!  Our first baby looks strong and healthy and hopefully there will be many more to follow.  It remains to be seen how mummy Shares copes this year .. regular followers may remember that we had to leave her two boys with her permanently last year as she kept on jumping gates to get to them!

Next week promises to be a hugely busy week with many girls due to have their babies .. My little caravan is cleaned and ready for habitation as I prepare to spend the next couple of months sleeping (I use the word very loosely!) outside the barn.

I will do my very best to keep the blog and twitter updated with all those new arrivals, so watch this space!

Saturday, 4 February 2017

A night of scanning

Yes folks, it's that time of year again when the scanning man came to call to check which goaties are pregnant and which are just fat and lazy!

We decided on a different tactic this year and ran them all through the milking parlour so that Michael did not have to crawl around on his knees to get under their ample stomachs ... It all worked very well (helped by a little extra bit of food in their troughs), although there was a bit of ear-pointing as they came running in for the second time that evening!

So, I have still yet to collate all the information, but it looks like we are due to have around 160 babies starting around mid-March.  Only a few sets of triplets this year - mostly twins.  And some of our older girls are due to be mums again as well.  But the best surprise of the evening was one of our stroppy new girls, big brown Zenobia goat ..

In kid with twins!  Very exciting as, although she is over 4 years old, she has never been put in kid before by her previous human and we were not sure that she would take ... the stress of the move to our herd could well have affected her but it seems that she and Hilton did indeed have a little romantic encounter when noone was looking!

Husky remains purely ornamental because of all the problems we had with her horrendous udder last year .. but her daughter, young Monkey goat, is having twins.  So, Husky will be a grandma once again!

On a more sombre note, towards the end of last year I noticed that one of our older ladies, Dusty, had a very swollen jaw ..

Lovely vet Peter came to check it out and was concerned that something nasty was going on in there.  So I took Dusty for a little ride up to the surgery where Peter x-rayed her jaw.  And this is what we saw ..

This is a picture taken of the laptop screen and the image appears in the middle.  You can see the roots of her teeth coming down the screen in the centre (under that bright white line) .. below that there is a white line which runs across the screen from left to right (curves upwards) - this is the normal jaw line.  But, as you can also see, there is a lot of stuff around this line - some kind of mass in the middle of the picture.  This is abnormal bone growth and, unfortunately, it looks like Dusty has some kind of bone tumour in her jaw.

So, what to do?  No real treatment for this kind of thing sadly ... so, put her to sleep or leave her and see how she gets on?  Well, at the time she was still very happy and healthy and was eating well.  And, there was also the chance that she was also in kid .. So, we decided to keep a close eye on her and see how things progressed.  Obviously, at the first sign of distress, she would be put to sleep ..

So, now we are a few months down the line ... Dusty is still happy and healthy and eating well.  Her jaw has not grown any bigger and we have also now confirmed that she is in kid with twins.  So, the right decision we think!

And finally ... when Shares is not busy standing in buckets ..

She is constantly demanding attention ... Here she is in the parlour tonight ..


Oh .. and she is having twins as well!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Spiced tea and Ivanhoe's hairdo

Well, it's been rather a glorious week for goaties!  Hard frost and sub-zero temperatures have meant that all that horrid wet ground and squishy mud has gone hard ... great for little goatie feet!  And so, for the first time in ages, most of the herd went running outside yesterday morning to enjoy the winter sunshine.

Plenty of people in the field..

Some playing up their mountain ..

While others took advantage of the peace in the barn to tuck into that delicious haylage..

A bale of pea straw ..

Or the freshly scattered barley straw ..

So much choice!  No wonder there were a lot of fat goatie bellies tonight!

Our oldest lady, Tammy, often trots round to the back of the milking parlour hoping to be let in and given a treat.  Like many of the older girls, she is very partial to the odd banana but lately she has taken a liking to spiced black tea for some reason.  She has tried to help herself to my cuppa on several occasions and I have lost a couple of nice mugs as she brought them crashing to the floor.

So, this morning when she started hunting round for her morning brew, I made her a mug of her own. Nothing like warm spiced tea on a cold January morning ..

David has been away at a farming machinery show for a couple of days, so I have been milking solo in the evenings.  On the whole, the girls were pretty well behaved, but there was the odd naughty person who took full advantage of a single human.

The empty stall has been vacated by a naughty goat who jumped off ... So, only natural that the girl next door has to check out if there is any food left over ..

Finally, I would like to introduce one of our little stud-boys-in-waiting .. Ivanhoe.

We decided that we would keep 2 youngsters this year - Ivanhoe and Magellan.  They are growing well and hopefully will be ready to work next year with our lovely Hilton.  Ivanhoe was quite nervous to start with but, as you see, he is now very friendly and keen to come across and see you.  He has quite an interesting hairdo going on .. I need to get a good photo of it .. Sadly easier said than done!

Friday, 13 January 2017

A night of weather

Well the weather certainly came in with a vengeance last night!  Part way through evening milking the snow began falling quite gently .. and then within minutes we had a raging blizzard. Unsurprisingly, those goatie girls were very reluctant to go outside and milking did become a bit of a battle towards the end.  Once out of the parlour, the girls have to run up the outside of the barn (very briefly) to get back inside .. not happy.

Inside the barn, the snow was blowing in and there was a lot of consternation and ear-pointing going on .. As David and I battled to shut all the doors, block gaps and clear drifts, the goats gradually settled down into their cosy beds for the night ahead.

Fortunately, it did not last more than a couple of hours.  Sadly for David, it did not last long enough to warrant getting the snow plough going ... Which was a shame as we have a brand new shiny (and bigger) one this winter ..

This morning was very icy and driving up to the farm was interesting to say the least .. even with 4 wheel drive!  As the sun rose, the fields glistened and it was all rather pretty:

And I just love all those little footprints around in the fresh snow.  Looks like the rabbits were busy picking up little bits of barley last night!

Our two new arrivals, Lara and Zenobia are bravely venturing into the parlour every day now.  Lured in with buckets of food, they are happy to stand and eat while everyone else is being milked ..  Notice how they are careful to place those enormous ears outside the bucket!

Some girls continue to find the whole milking experience too much like hard work and just prefer to stay asleep as long as possible before they have to come into the parlour.  Coco goat curls up next to her much naughtier sister Beanie while they wait until almost the very end of the session ..

And for those of you who have been missing Husky in action .. she still prefers to drink her water straight from the tap ..


And, back for the winter, the Gracie Moos are content in their yard.  Oodles of lovely barley straw and fresh hay .. beats standing in a field in the cold and snow!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Happy New Year!

And a very Happy 2017 to all our readers!

I trust that everyone had a wonderful festive season and New Year ... Life continued much as normal here at Ellie's Dairy - the goaties don't stop producing that delicious milk, so their humans don't get a chance to stop either!  But it is a little less hectic for a week or so, once all the Christmas cheese chaos is out of the way.

Christmas morning was much like any other morning ..

As always, the Ellie's Dairy team worked their little goatie socks off for several weeks to make sure that we had as much delicious cheese as possible for all our customers. Joe and Julie worked particularly hard and were both absolutely exhausted by the time we all drove home on Christmas Eve .... Julie also made a couple of guest appearances at Borough Market with Joe:

Whilst I was entertaining the lovely Phil the Elf ..

And yes, I am bending down!!

Borough looked wonderful as usual with decorations and twinkly lights .. all very festive!

As our milk is seriously limited this time of year, we did run pretty low on some things .. As I always say, when I am Queen, I will move Christmas to around June or July when we have loads of milk and unlimited cheese!  But the stall looked wonderful and I think we put on a great show for all our customers

The Borough Market Evening of Cheese was unbelievably busy.  Joe and I struggled to keep up with customers and we used our entire weekly stock of cheese in less than 3 hours!  Apparently, the event made the national papers and came in for some criticism as so many people had attended.  I think that next year, things will be considerably different!

I spent a happy Boxing Day making more cheese ... a table full of Shaggy's Beard camembert and bags of fresh curd draining ready for the weekend ..

Enough about cheese!!  What about the goaties?

Well, just before Christmas, we adopted a couple of lovely Anglo-Nubian girls.  Meet Lara (lying down) and Zenobia:

Big and beautiful and pretty stroppy!  They came from a lovely old goatkeeper near Canterbury who is sadly suffering with dementia and is now not able to look after her goats any longer.  It is the same place where our big chap Hugo came from a couple of years ago.

These two lovelies spent a couple of weeks in their own pen, meeting all our other goaties through the fence .. and then we let them loose into the main herd.  We need not have worried - they are more than capable of standing up for themselves!

Having only ever lived in a very small, quiet goat shed, our herd is a bit of shock to the system and they are still quite nervous of us.  But, they are getting gradually more trusting and now appear at the parlour gate at milking time.  Lara has been brave enough to come in a couple of times but Zenobia is still not too sure about things.

Chaos still reigns at milking time and I do wonder about my sanity sometimes ... One particular night had Shares standing in a bucket while Husky was drinking water from a tap behind her ..

It's all just like a circus ..  Where the goats all just do their own thing and the humans have no control!  But at least they are happy and that's all that matters.

The end of the year also sees me sitting down to bring all my goatie paperwork up to date .. and it's always a sad task to flick through all the 'pink slips' for our dear girls and boys who have passed away to that big goatshed in the sky.  We have lost quite a number of our older ladies and I have a feeling that 2017 will also bring some sadness .. but, as our herd gets older, it is only to be expected.  I have already given Tammy (14) and Betty (13) a serious talking to ... they are not allowed to get ill and they have to live forever.  So that's all sorted!

Having moved the Gracie Moos back to the farm for the winter, the front field is now empty and so David spent a happy time yesterday ploughing it all up ready for reseeding.  He thoroughly enjoyed himself and did a pretty good job of ploughing, even though it is not something he does very often.  Here's a little clip of the man at work ..


And so, on we go into 2017 .. We have a few projects in the pipeline and hope to bring a few more new products to you this year.  Fingers crossed and watch this space!