Friday 30 December 2011

Socks and artichokes

As it was a bit chilly again today I decided it was time to test drive a pair of my Xmas socks when I went out delivering:

Angora and wool - gifted by Jane the Cheese.  So far, so good.  Lovely and toasty!

As predicted, a short delivery day today and the traffic was thankfully very light driving up to South London and back.  My furthest delivery spot is Franklins Farm Shop in East Dulwich - a small but VERY nicely appointed shop that specialises in seasonal and British produce, sourced as locally as possible. 

It's always a job to find somewhere to park nearby and I have had several run-ins with the local parking attendant.  However, so far, he has been a very nice man and let me off both times he has caught me parking on a double yellow.  But I figure that I can't push it too much and so recently I have been driving round and round in an effort to find a legal space!  Today I was lucky and managed to park right in front of Franklins, so I thought I would take the opportunity to buy my fruit and veg in there, as I haven't got the luxury of my farmers markets this weekend. 

So, what do you do with a Jerusalem artichoke?? 

They always catch my eye but I have never been sure what I could do with them.. Grasping the bull by the horns, I bought a handful today and have luckily found a recipe for artichoke and chicory gratin .. sounds yummy, so will give that a whirl over the weekend.

On my return to the farm, yet again I found a lot of very lazy fat goats lying around.  Some of those young goatlings are starting to really look pregnant now - when they lie down, those huge fat tums just spread out:

Peaches goatling

The beautiful Johari - known to her friends as JoJo

If the pregnant ladies do not dry themselves off ready for kidding, we have to encourage them to stop producing milk so that all their energy is channelled into making themselves and their kids strong.  We try and dry them off at least 8 weeks prior to kidding and so are now starting to look at the early deliveries.  Some have dried off already (Foxglove and Footsie always get lazy in the winter and prefer to lie about eating hay rather than coming into the parlour for milking!) and others are well on their way to being dry. 

Those who have been dry for a while automatically move to the non-milking side of the barn at milking time but the 'newly dry' are not yet in the habit and have to be moved across by the humans.  As milking time can be rather busy, the best way to identify your goats is to spray a red mark on their backside so that you can spot them from a distance and separate them off. 

Here's Moonstar sporting a red rump - not very glamorous but it helps the humans!

Anyhow - must dash!  Nearly time for evening milking ...

Thursday 29 December 2011

GeeGee the Parrot gets her own blog!

Seems that Sara was so impressed with our Ellie's blog that she has decided GeeGee parrot should have one too.  GeeGee has many friends and admirers, not least in Sara's office, and so it is only natural that everyone would want to read about her.

So, if you fancy a change from goats, go to  to read GeeGee's Parrot Tales.  Very entertaining they are too ..

In the world of goats it was a relatively uneventful day apart from the two HUGE bales of new straw that were rolled into the milkers pen this morning.  The weather was threatening to be a bit rubbish today and so the girls were showing absolutely no signs of wanting to go outside at all.  When I looked in later during the morning there were a lot of very comfy looking goats just lazing around in their new beds! 

They were certainly very glad of it after milking tonight when we had a sudden storm of gale force winds and sleet, just as the last two goats came out of the parlour.  I've never seen Minnie and BammBamm move so quickly! Down the ramp, across the barn and in through the gate so fast it made everyone else jump and snort with surprise.  I braved the elements to shut all the gates quickly and then we were all snuggly and warm for the night.

Tomorrow will be a short delivery day as many of the farm shops are still closed - gives us a chance to (hopefully) build up some cheese stocks in time for markets later in January when the milk yield is really going down!

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Another relaxing day

After the frantic action of last week, it was nice to have another relatively leisurely day today.  In between goatie activities, I had time to catch up on paperwork and such like.  I can now see my front room carpet again (it had disappeared under a sea of paper!)

I managed to get my 'kidding calendar' sorted out and now have a complete list of which goat is due to kid when and how many kids she is due to have.  Kick off on or around 28 Feb, then we are going right the way through March and into April/May for the last few.  Busiest weeks look to be the middle two weeks in March when we have about 70 kids due in 10 days.  Sleep is over-rated anyway I think.

I have always slept in the goat shed during kidding time.  I like to be near to the goats and would hate to think that one of my girls might be struggling during the night whilst I am tucked up in bed at home.  The first year (in a smaller building) was a basic camp bed in the middle of the shed:

The second year was a bit more up-market as I got my own pen:

My lasting memory of that year was waking up suddenly in the middle of the night to find a rat running over my head. (OK - how many of you squealed when you read that?!)

The following year, we had moved into the larger barn and it was pretty cold to sleep in there just on a camp bed.  I did think of putting a tent up in the middle of the barn but I think it would have freaked the goats out too much.  David had a brainwave and suggested that we move the goat trailer into the barn:

It was absolutely perfect.  Windproof (mostly), nice comfy mattress and loads of sleeping bags and quilts.  Over the years I refined the number and type of layers required and got it perfect.  And so I spent several kidding seasons in my trailer, sometimes in temperatures down to -11 degrees.  

As we had much larger numbers to kid this year, there would be no space for my trailer in the barn and so we had to come up with an alternative.  And here it is:

Kindly lent to me for the season by Jane (Cheesemakers of Canterbury) on condition that there were to be NO animals allowed inside.  Yes Jane ...

She is intending to sell it in 2012 but I have hopefully managed to talk her into hanging on to it until we have finished kidding again!

Also today, I thought that I would have a go at shooting a couple of videos on my phone.  Not brilliant quality but it makes a change from still photos.

The first one was taken this morning at the barn where the young female kids are living.  A couple of them were play-fighting whilst everyone else was tucking into their hay:

The second was taken tonight in the main barn.  Remember I have blogged before about being trampled by goats rushing to get to hay racks?  Well, here they are - running to hay racks newly filled after milking this evening.  I think you will get the general idea!

Just like the January sales ...

Sunday 25 December 2011

Merry Xmas everybody!

A very Merry Xmas to everyone!  Hope you all had a good day.

Our day, as usual, started early with milking and feeding all the animals.  However, milking on Xmas day does involve a little more alcohol than usual and here is David enjoying a healthy breakfast of Bucks Fizz and Russian Honey Cake.  Just what you need at 5.30am on Xmas morning.

Note Bucks Fizz elegantly served in mugs!

Yummy Russian Honey Cake from Wye Market

After milking we moved Navajo back in with the other boys and then David helped me chop all the boxes of fruit that Francesca had brought over yesterday evening.  We ended up with 3 huge buckets full of banana, melon, apple, pears and apricots which we shared out and it was all gone in less than a couple of minutes.  As you see, everyone was very eager for their Xmas treats:

Over to feed the youngsters in the other barn and then home to start getting lunch ready.  Just David and myself and Marmite cat.  Nice lunch - not turkey! - and then we loaded the doggies into the truck and drove over to see the Gracie Moos.  We confused them by entering the field via a different gate to usual and we managed to get all the way across the field and put food into their troughs before they realised that it was us!  Then we were spotted and they all came galloping across:

Nell and Ben are not so keen on travelling in the truck, but they are very happy once they are out of it:

Then it was time to go and see the youngsters again and fill their hay racks.  Back to the farm and milking and feeding all over again! 

Evening milking at Xmas is similar to morning milking in that it also involves alcohol.  As we had to do a bit of driving about during the afternoon, we didn't really drink at lunchtime and saved most of our very nice bottle of 2007 Barolo for the evening.  Seems that David may have had a little too much of it though as he seemed not to be entirely in control of his milking clusters .. Note the cross-over.

Best Xmas card of the season - received from Jane (Cheesemakers of Canterbury):

And the best Xmas text message received this morning from Carla at Winterdale Cheesemakers; 'Thank you for making Xmas morning so believable.  The reindeer s**t worked a treat!'. 

Explanation ... they have two young children (4 and 6) and, like many parents, set up their lounge as if Father Xmas had been to visit during the night.  I supplied a small bag of fresh goat poo (the nice dry pellet variety) which they sprinkled liberally around their new lounge carpet to simulate reindeer poo.  Obviously worked well!!  Maybe I've found a gap in the market - we could start bagging it up and selling it for next year.

Back to normal tomorrow as I am off to spend the day making cheese.

Saturday 24 December 2011

They think it's all over ....

it is now!   HURRAH!!!!  All cheese sold and delivered.  All milk bottled and gone.  Hurrah ... It's been a very long week of late nights, early mornings and frantic rushing about to get everything done in time for Xmas.  The final event was an extra Wye Market this morning which was absolutely blinding.  And now I have no energy left at all.  I shall be forced to sit and eat and drink myself silly tomorrow.  In between milking and feeding the goats of course!

Navajo has been a good boy and 'seen to' all his ladies, apart from one who still doesn't seem to have come into season.  We will move him back in with the other boys tomorrow morning so that they can spend Xmas together.

Here's all the boys snuggled up for the evening:

From L to R - Larkin, Norville, Beamish, Fremlin and Max

Evening seems to be the time when Daramac lets himself out through his 'cat flap' and goes for an evening stroll in the main male pen.  He checks out all the troughs to see if there is any food left, makes sure that the hay is up to standard and then stands up on the gate to have a look round:

When he's happy that everything is as it should be, he goes back into his own pen and lies down.  Looks like he may be going back to Margate in a couple of weeks as his friend Gus is recovering well from his bad leg and is really missing his best mate.

Francesca, our assistant goatherd who spends a few months with us in the spring to help out with kidding, came to visit tonight and brought lots of treats for the goats.  Boxes of pears, bananas, melons and apples have appeared in the goat shed so I have a busy morning ahead to chop that lot up ready for Xmas breakfast!

Meanwhile, as you can see, everyone is very busy getting ready for Santa Claus:

Hebe and Quince taking it easy

Little men, fast asleep

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Xmas comes early for Navajo!

After the scanning last week, we were left with 7 girls who were not showing as being pregnant.  A further problem was that none of them were coming into season either ... the hormones had all gone a bit wrong somewhere.  In this situation, the only way to get things back on track is a small hormone injection which kicks their systems into action. 

Many people ask if we use hormones or antibiotics - they are referring to the routine use of these, sometimes in feed, which can be commonplace in some cattle dairy herds.  Our answer is always a firm 'no' but with the caveat that although we don't use either routinely, there are certain specific situations when they are required and necessary.  This is one such situation.

We injected the girls yesterday morning and so, this morning, there were a number of semi-waggy tails and bleating goats.  To help nature take its course, we penned all the 7 girls into one large area and then set young Navajo to work.  An early unexpected Xmas present for him! He has great attention to detail and is very thorough in his work - he just loves being in with those ladies! 

This picture was taken earlier in the year when he was clean!  I will try and get a photo of him tomorrow with his harem.  I had forgotten how tall he is until I was walking him round to the girls this morning and realised that the top of his head was almost level with my shoulder (and I'm 5ft 10in).  And he's not fully grown yet either.

Monday 19 December 2011

Gracie Moos move house!

Although it's December, the mild weather has meant that the Gracie Moos (David's pet cows!) are still outside.  All the farmers are leaving their animals out grazing as long as possible as everyone is short on hay and winter feed this year.  Sussex cattle are a particularly hardy breed anyway, but we do bring the pampered Gracie Moos into the yard for the winter. 

We have recently taken on some new ground not far away from the farm and David moved the cows over there last week to give them some new grass.  They now have a HUGE 18 acre field to trot about in!  David or his dad go over there every day to check on them and so they are used to human contact.  As soon as  they spot a human at their gate, there is a chorus of mooing and a sound like thunder as they all gallop across the field.  And here they are, several tons of beef approaching at speed!

It never ceases to amaze me just how big these girls are, especially as they exist purely on grass and very little supplementary feed - they get the odd mouthful of barley or lucerne as a special treat.  Here are a couple of the older ones:

And those cute little calves have grown!  Solid little people.  And boy, can they run fast!

And just to give you some idea of just how much space they have now - those little dots in the centre of the picture are the Gracie Moos!

I don't know how much longer they will stay outside - just depends on what the weather does over the next few weeks.

Meantime, it was a late night making cheese last night.  We desperately need more fresh cheese to sell this week and so I pulled a late shift at the cheese plant - went up there after evening milking and made cheese.  Got back to the farm by 1am this morning ... yawn ... 

Tomorrow I have to go and do some more deliveries to shops that have sold everything I delivered on Friday!  And then it's up to Dargate to visit the Cheesemakers of Canterbury Open Day.  If you are in Kent and have the time and inclination - Jane has opened up the cheese plant at Dargate for 3 days so that visitors can come and see cheese being made.  We also have a number of other local producers selling their delicious produce including Rough Old Wife cider with their stunning warmed spiced cider.  Warms the parts other ciders cannot reach!

Saturday 17 December 2011

Reindeer, donkeys and snow ...

Well, the Radio 4 weatherman was correct - we did have snow yesterday morning.  When I got up it was actually relatively mild and a bit drizzly.  A good way into milking, the temperature suddenly dropped and it started to snow.  We had a pretty good covering that lasted most of the day up here on the Downs - enough to be annoying but not enough to build a snowman.  As I went out delivering, it looked like places lower down hadn't really had anything at all.

And today - glorious sunshine but freezing cold.  Good for the cheese, but not so good to be standing at markets!  It's silly hat season (and many layers) as demonstrated by me and her (Jane of Cheesemakers of Canterbury) at Wye Market this morning.  Note festive holly decoration ...

The market was buzzing today and we were pretty busy for the whole morning.  I am back there next Saturday on Xmas Eve and I think I will be very busy sorting out last minute cheese for everyone.

Today we had a visit from Paddy the Donkey.  He comes to Wye every Xmas market and sells mistletoe for charity.  Last year the weather was so bad that his owner could not get out of her property and so he missed the market.  Today however, he was in fine form.  He is such a gentle creature - he just stands and lets everyone stroke him and children sit on him.

Faversham Mission Brass Band did a sterling job of keeping everyone entertained with their brilliant festive tunes and I have to say that they did sport an excellent selection of silly hats.  Obviously, not as silly as my own, but there was some stiff competition there.

And what of the reindeer?  Well, that was provided by the Wife of Bath.  Not in person, you understand .. the luscious restaurant in Wye.  They have a stall on the 3rd Saturday of each month when they sell the most wonderful quiches and cakes and yummy bits and pieces.  Today, Robert the chef had obviously been in the festive mood when he was making little chocolate cakes ..

Tomorrow - no markets for me but Jane will be very busy (hopefully) at Whitstable whilst other members of the Cheesemakers of Canterbury team will be at Cliftonville market.  Another mad week ahead in the run up to Xmas and then it will all be over for another year!

Thursday 15 December 2011

Pregnant ladies and comfy goatlings

And here she is, Moyra goat.  Due to kick off the kidding season in 2012.  She is a pretty huge goat at the best of times but is now getting quite 'portly' and still has just over 2 months to go.  We have a daughter from her already - Cristal - and a granddaughter, Minerva, born this year.  Moyra also has a twin sister Meryl, who is quite a lot smaller than her, but with a much longer beard!!

And just how many goatlings can you fit in a hayrack?

Taken on my phone when I walked into the barn this morning, so not the best quality, but there are actually 3 goatlings curled up in there!  As you can see, everyone else looked pretty comfy as well.

Spent the day making cheese again today.  Why does Xmas come when the milk yield drops and we don't have enough cheese to go round!  It's a constant juggling act at this time of year to try and keep everyone happy.  Priority is always given to the bottled raw milk customers and so cheese has to be made whenever we have enough milk left.   If I ever get to be Queen, I shall move Xmas to the peak milk production time of the year - round about June/July should do nicely.

As well as making the cheese, I also have to do a bit of Blue Peter with it this time of year and make some gift boxes for Xmas.  The Shaggy's Beard camembert always goes down well in the nice little wooden boxes.

A busy few days ahead now with deliveries and markets.  This time last year we were battling the elements with the snow and the Radio 4 weather forecast this afternoon was promising a little snow for tomorrow morning.  We shall see what the morning brings ..

Meanwhile, here is a photo of the dairy entrance taken last year when it snowed.  We had to dig our way into the goat barn at one stage as the drifts covered the main door ...

Monday 12 December 2011

Everyone's a daddy!!!

Looks like all my boys have done their jobs again this season and everyone is going to be a daddy, including our new little men Bramling and Caffrey.  Well done boys!  I was particularly thrilled that Fremlin is going to be a dad again - I wasn't sure that he was up to the job this year, given the problems he has had with his back legs, but seems that I underestimated the old chap! 

Michael came and scanned all the pregnant ladies this morning and it looks like we have over 120 kids due at the moment, with a few girls still to be scanned and confirmed in a few weeks.

Here he is scanning Dipsy:

When scanning the goats, Michael wears a backpack which holds the equipment and a set of special glasses in which he can see the scanned image.  The scanning head is run under the goat's stomach - there is no internal work like you get with cows!  When he is working in the field and scanning hundreds of sheep, he views the images on a large TV screen instead as it is easier and much quicker when dealing with large numbers. 

Michael is very experienced and can tell us how many days pregnant the goat is, how many kids she has and whether they are viable or not.  Occasionally, for example, he will say that he can see 2 kids but 1 looks like it may be having problems.  We then know to keep an eye on that goat and we can also have her rescanned a few weeks later. 

So, our big stroppy white girl Moyra will kick off the 2012 kidding season on 28 February or whenever she decides that the time is right.  She will be closely followed by several more within a few days and then we get really busy towards the middle of March.  So far, noone has been scanned for quads this year but we do have 5 sets of triplets due. 

I was also delighted that some of our older girls are in kid - Flora, Betty and Wilma will all be 8 years old next year and Tammy (at 9 years old) is also due to have twins. This may possibly be the last time that these girls will be kidded but we will see how they all get on next year.

And Ginger goat?  Triplets.  Do you think that will stop her trying to climb over gates and squeeze through gaps?  Probably not.

Sunday 11 December 2011

All I seemed to have done over the past few days is to load and unload my van with boxes and cheese and gazebos and all the other assorted paraphernalia required for markets and deliveries!  My poor little van is quite worn out!

Saturday in Balham was a beautiful but freezing cold day - pretty quiet though, as I think everyone was out doing their Xmas gift shopping rather than buying cheese.  Not a bad day but certainly not as good as the last market in November.  I expect that next weekend will be much busier, but I won't be there to enjoy it!  Lenham market today was wet and cold and also fairly quiet but those customers who did venture out were spending, so that was good.  A country dancing team came along and gave a short performance - myself and a couple of the other stallholders joined in.  Great way to keep the feet warm.  Sadly no photos though ..

Just a few more markets left for me now before Xmas - guest appearance this Thursday at the Charing W.I. market.  I did it a couple of months ago for a Food Festival that was going on in the village.  Seems that everyone enjoyed our cheese so much that they have invited us back for the pre-Xmas market.  Always a nice cup of tea and a bit of cake at the W.I. functions!

Milking tonight was largely uneventful, apart from a surprise appearance from Peaches goatling.  She was obviously too busy eating hay when we split off the milkers at the start of milking and so ended up being left behind, instead of moving across to eat with the rest of the goatlings.  As the last milkers came into the parlour she was left on her own and so started to complain very loudly about it.  We managed to coax her into the parlour and so here she is enjoying her tea in very unfamiliar surroundings!

What a brave goat she is!  It does the goatlings no harm at all to come through the parlour from time to time - they get used to the machinery and the noise and so it's not so stressful and strange for them when they become milkers and have to do it for real!

Everyone is in for a busy morning tomorrow as the scanning man is coming to check out all our (hopefully) pregnant ladies.  My last job for tonight is to sort out my list of girls with their possible due dates so that we can cross-check with what the scanner shows.  Full report tomorrow night!

Thursday 8 December 2011

Ginger strikes again!

Remember Ginger, the goat who likes to climb over the gates?

 Well, since David mucked out a couple of weeks ago, she has been a bit miffed.  As the straw level went down, so the corresponding gate level went up and poor Ginger can no longer quite reach over.  David was pleased that he had put a stop to her naughtiness but, as I suspected, she was just biding her time before she found another interesting way to wind him up.

Last night we had Ginger in the parlour 3 times.  The second time, I thought that my goat recognition ability had failed me and that it must have been a different goat that had already been in.  Strange that she didn't have a lot of milk though, but nothing really unusual as Ginger is a 'maiden milker' and so doesn't produce enormous amounts.  However, when she appeared for a third time, along with several other goats who seemed already to have been milked, we realised that something was not quite right.

As the goats left the parlour and went down the ramp, David went outside to watch what was going on.  Sure enough, young Ginger goat pushed against the gates at the bottom of the ramp and let herself back into the 'milking' side of the barn.  Then she ran along to the parlour entrance gate and stood waiting to come in.  Again.  Swearing under his breath and armed with various implements, David secured the gates in position thinking that would put an end to it.

And so, to milking this morning.  Ginger came in and went out with the other goats.  As predicted, she pushed against the bottom gates but found, to her disgust, that she could no longer move them.  David smiled smugly and came back into the parlour.  As he opened the entrance gate, there was Ginger waiting for him!  Not to be deterred by an immoveable object, she had jumped over the gate and let herself back in again anyway!!  David knows when he is beaten .. I think he has given up any hope of ever keeping Ginger in where he wants her.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Lazy goats

Last night David loaded another enormous bale of straw into the milkers pen just before bedtime so that they would be nice and snuggly for the night.  They also got a whole new enormous bale of hay.  After milking, they just didn't know what to eat first!  So, this morning when I switched the light on, there were a lot of very contented and very lazy goats lying around all over the place - not a single one was standing up!

I managed to snap a picture of Poppin as she woke up - note the front legs crossed and the yawn!

Needless to say, it wasn't long before everyone was up and about - some rather reluctantly - and the usual black goats were doing their 'Alpine' thing in the hay rack:

I sent one of the earlier photos of a black goat climbing in the hayrack off to the British Alpine Breed Society just out of interest.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the December Newsletter yesterday to find our picture on the front cover!

The diary is already filling up with events for next year.  I have been invited to speak at the Hadlow College Careers Fair in February when lots of students attend to hear speakers from various farming sectors and will be putting together an exhibition stand for this - I did something similar for the College earlier this year and it was a great success.  I also already have one booking for a W.I. talk and Jane (Cheesemakers of Canterbury) and I are both looking forward to the Weston A Price Foundation Wise Traditions Conference on 17/18 March 2012.  This is always a fabulous event and next year will take place over 2 days in Epsom.  

And finally - what of Marmite Cat in this cold and windy December weather?  Yep.  No prizes for guessing:


Monday 5 December 2011

Cold feet and chaos

‘Cold feet’ describes my weekend, whilst David suffered from the ‘chaos’ bit! All will be revealed in due course.

The weekend started very nicely on Friday night as David and I joined the Cheesemakers of Canterbury for their Xmas meal. Lovely pub, great food and good company. Jane had also provided 3 bottles of rather nice bubbly to help celebrate their ‘Super Gold’ in the World Cheese Awards. Their signature cheese, Ashmore Farmhouse, was voted one of the best 50 cheeses in the world. Congratulations to all!

Here we are, with our best Xmas hats on:

Out early on Saturday morning to Wye market and the start of the ‘cold feet’ weekend for me. Wye was quite busy with a lot of regulars but I think that our next visit there on 17 December will be the busiest one with everyone getting their Xmas cheese. There is an extra market on 24 December but I don’t know how busy that one will be – perhaps a few last minute shoppers!

After a brief pitstop to get a sudden flat tyre sorted out on the way back from Wye, Jane’s daughter Kelly came back to the farm with me to spend the afternoon helping with the goats. She hadn’t seen the female kids in their new location and was thrilled that there was lots of room to play with them. Kelly loves to run round and have the kids follow her – a bit like the Pied Piper, she had all 54 of them trotting behind at one stage before she stood up on one of their boxes and got mobbed.

Quick sleep and then off to Parson's Green on Sunday morning.  More cold feet!!  It was perishing cold.  The market was good but seemed a little quieter than the last time I was there - other stallholders seemed to think it was quiet too.  Maybe it was too cold for people, or maybe they were all out doing their Xmas shopping.  

Here's a piccie of my stall - also had our lovely handmade goat's milk soap on sale, which went down rather well.

But, the main highlight for me was meeting Sara, mother of GeeGee parrot.  I did not know what Sara looked like but was expecting a mad looking woman with a parrot under her arm.  I was therefore slightly taken by surprise when an immaculately dressed and elegant lady came up to the stall, leaned over and bleated at me!  Turns out that when GeeGee was invited to come out to market, she refused.  Too cold apparently.  Wouldn't come out for breakfast to start with either, by all accounts.  Eventually, she was tempted by some walnut and goat's cheese (obviously a parrot with taste) but refused to let Sara put her in her travel cage.  And so, I did not get to meet GeeGee after all.  I am sure there will be another time.

I did manage to have a lovely chat with Sara though and she was telling me stories about her childhood in Kent when she had her own goat Victoria.  Apparently, Victoria used to keep Sara's pony company but when the pony died, Sara's mother decided that the goat would be lonely outside on her own and so she came to live in the house with the family.  Apparently, she used to curl up to sleep in the kitchen in front of the Aga!

On the way back from market, I got a phone call from a rather harrassed David who told me that he had just spent the last two hours catching goats and clearing up the mess in the barn.  Utter chaos apparently!  The girls had got bored after David had gone indoors for his lunch and had decided to break out into the barn.  They cannot do much damage but had apparently made a lot of mess, climbing all over the hay and straw bales and helping themselves to the new large bale of lucerne that had been brought in for them that morning.  However, not content with that, they then proceeded to push the gates to the little boys' pen and let all of them out as well - the little meat kids had a whale of a time running about the barn! 

Main problem for David, when he came back from lunch to discover the chaos, was that Bramling and Caffrey (our two little stud boys) were also roaming free and a couple of the milkers were in season that day.  He is certain that more than one of them got mated and, it has to be said, Figgie goat did look rather smug and pleased with herself that evening!  We could be in for a couple of little 'surprises' next spring.  The occasion has been marked on the calendar as 'The Great Escape', so that any stray pregnancies can be traced back.  Fortunately for David, the big males did not manage to get out, otherwise he would have had his hands full!!

Given all the lucerne that the girls had eaten, they did not really want any more food that evening.  There were a lot of very fat lazy goats lying around at milking time.  And just how fat can a goat be?  Well, here's a rather unflattering view of Footsie goat - not a small girl at the best of times but I think you can get some idea of how much she ate from the size of her belly!

Thursday 1 December 2011

Taste of Kent Awards 2012 - Stop Press!!!

Just checked the Taste of Kent Awards and Ellie's Dairy is currently running in the Top Ten for Kent Artisan Producer of the Year!!!!!! 

Thanks to all who have voted so far .... please keep those votes coming.  Voting closes 3rd January so still plenty of time left!

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Mad women and parrots

Do you have to be slightly odd to drink goat's milk?  Or is it the drinking of goat's milk that makes a person slightly odd? One of life's burning questions to which there is no answer I feel.  However, it must be said that many of my customers are rather unconventional and, in fact, one of my shopkeeping customers always complains that his shop is always full of 'mad people' waiting for the goat's milk delivery to turn up!

I would hate to think that we were boring!  As I have said before, one of the absolute pleasures of doing farmers' markets is the opportunity to meet our customers personally and get to know them a little.  I absolutely LOVE meeting all my customers as they are all such interesting and enthusiastic people.  And some are clearly totally mad!  Take Sara, for example.  She is 'mother' to GeeGee the parrot whom we have met in an earlier blog.  I have come to the conclusion that she is even more eccentric than I am - for those of you who know me, you may find that hard to believe.

But here's the proof ...  Sara has mentioned in a couple of her emails that GeeGee goes with her into the office some days.  There was me thinking that Sara probably works from home ... but no.  She puts GeeGee into a ferret travel cage, covers her with a Primark 'Vuitton' bag and then takes her on the bus into the office!  And what's more, GeeGee will be coming to visit me at my London market this weekend!  I MUST remember to take my camera with me.  I can't wait!

And when Sara does voluntary work 2 days each week, GeeGee is left at home.

Says Sara ... 'This is the eye of an African Grey Parrot underneath the duvet having the monday early am cuddle.. I do volunteer work 2 days a week so she is 'home alone'.. to sweeten the day, I get up 15 mins earlier than normal and she comes back into bed with me.  Right underneath the duvet!'  Now isn't that just the most spoilt parrot in the world?!

And to end the madness .. there was a great comedy moment in the parlour tonight when David started the circulation cleaning of the milking parlour, without replacing the milk filter housing.  There was a shout as a huge jet of pressurised hot water shot into the air.  He got absolutely soaked but sadly I was not allowed to take a picture!  Saves him having a bath tonight though.