Sunday 30 October 2011

Markets and meetings

Well, our first foray into the London market scene went pretty well I think.  Early start to get to Balham in plenty of time to get set up for 9am opening and had to leave David milking the goats (what a good man he is!) but think it is hopefully going to be a worthwhile exercise.

The stallholders were very welcoming and pleasant and the customers were all very enthusiastic about the goatie produce we had on offer.  I believe that I am the only person doing raw goat's milk at any of the London markets and so word had already gone out via email from LFM that I would be at Balham.  I had taken a fair amount of milk with me and had sold out well before the end of the market, which was very encouraging. 

Several of the customers said that they would be coming regularly to buy milk and one lady rushed over to my stall saying that they had only come to the market because they had heard I was going to be there.  How popular we are!!!  It was wonderful.

The market manager was pleased with the stall presentation and several of the customers also remarked on how nice the display looked. This is the 'milk' end of the table ..

I always try to make an effort with a stall to make it interesting - plenty of information for people to read if they want to and always samples of cheese and milk on offer for everyone who wants to taste.  Very important with goat produce as many people have a pre-conceived idea that they will not like goat's cheese.  My job is to convince them otherwise!  Not so difficult usually when they have tasted our cheese and milk.

This morning I left David milking yet again as I had to drive up to Shrewley in Warwickshire for my British Toggenburg Breed Society goat meeting.  It's a long drive there and back in a day but it's only once a year and it's always nice to catch up with other goatkeepers.  I was delighted to meet one particular retired breeder who I haven't seen for about 5 years.  Graham bred some of the earliest goats to join our herd and was thrilled to know that we still have Footsie, Flora and Foxglove.

You have met Flora and Footsie in earlier blogs, but not Foxglove.  Here she is, looking gorgeous at the Kent County Show a few years ago:

Like all the other goats we had from Graham's Mellan herd - large, stroppy and very confident!  Also, very good milkers.  All of his girls have given us lovely kids and although we have sadly lost Fancyfree, Fig and Firefly, we still have three of the original girls left.

Cheesemaking tomorrow - probably a batch of Ellie's but maybe Shaggy's camembert to get the stocks up. Will make my mind up on the way to the cheese plant in the morning!

Thursday 27 October 2011

Odd one out

I thought we would start this blog with a simple visual goatie test.  Can you spot the odd one out in the following photo of the milking parlour taken early this morning?

Yes, indeed.  Well done everyone.  There would seem to be someone facing the wrong direction.

Hello Tinky goat!

You may remember that I said the goats were starting to get naughty as they became more used to the parlour.  This is one of the things that small naughty goats have discovered is quite fun to do.  When they have finished their food, annoyed the goats on either side by grabbing their ears and exhausted all the possibilities for naughtiness in one direction, some of the youngsters are small enough that they can turn themselves round in the stall and face the opposite direction while they are waiting for the larger goats with more milk to finish.  This is always good fun as you can watch the humans and have a nibble on all those lovely milking pipes hanging down from the ceiling.  Great fun!

Well, we survived the visit from London Farmers Markets on Tuesday.  Having met Cheryl at Ashford station around 11am, I then spent the rest of the day showing her around the goats and the various places where we make the cheese.  There was also a fair bit of paperwork to go through, so we adjourned to Macknade Fine Foods in Faversham for lunch in their newly extended cafe.  Very pleasant it was too! 

I have to say that I have been very impressed with the LFM organisation so far – they are extremely thorough in checking out their stallholders.  When I visited Balham market a couple of weeks ago, I also found the market manager to be very professional – he was meeting shoppers at the gate, had lots of information laid out for people to read and take home and, according to Cheryl, will also happily take food samples off your stall and walk around the market with them handing them out to shoppers.

Anyhow, hopefully we passed our test and I am certainly being allowed to attend Balham Market this Saturday, so it’s all systems go!  It will mean an early start for me and I will almost certainly have to leave David finishing off the goats so that I have plenty of time to navigate the traffic and set up the stall in advance of the 9am market opening.  I expect it will be pouring with rain – nothing quite like struggling with a gazebo in the rain!

On the cheesemaking front, it’s been another busy week.  Made the usual batch of Ellies on Monday, cow’s milk Brie and Camembert for Cheesemakers of Canterbury on Wednesday and have a small batch of Fremlin’s Kentish Log sitting in the cheese vat today, ready for draining and moulding over the weekend.  Then Ellies again on Monday and milk to Dargate on Thursday for Kelly’s Canterbury Goat hard cheese.

This time of year, the milk starts to drop off quite considerably and, with a growing number of bottled milk orders, we struggle to keep up with demand.  We have to try and educate everyone that goat’s cheese is a seasonal product and, just because you can get it from a supermarket all year round, it doesn’t mean that Ellie’s Dairy has mountains of it all the time!  It can take careful marketing ... keep enough going for everyone to have a little and look forward to the spring when supplies of milk rocket as all the new milkers come on stream!

Monday 24 October 2011

Magic needles!

At Ellie’s Dairy we prefer to try and treat any ailments with alternative therapies such as herbalism and homeopathy wherever possible.  We have also used acupuncture on several of our goats in the past – mainly for joint and muscle problems - and have had fantastic results.  We use a local vet, Monica David, who specialises in veterinary acupuncture.  Prior to meeting us, Monica had not worked on goats but had spent her time with horses, dogs and cats.  However, the principles are exactly the same – the question was whether the goat would stand still long enough for treatment! 

Our subjects have ranged from a young kid with a very badly swollen leg joint to our dear Fremlin, who was starting to lose condition in his back legs.  As you can appreciate, a large male goat needs to have strong back legs and so we gave Fremlin several treatments to try and strengthen his muscles to prevent his legs giving way on him.  However, it is a naturally degenerative condition and so we cannot totally repair the damage, but Monica has managed to get him to a stage where he is now much fitter and stronger and is able to work with his ladies without falling over!

Although Fremlin is a big soft old boy, I was slightly concerned that I would not be able to control him when he was in the middle of a barn full of females and was having needles stuck in his legs.  However, I needn’t have worried – he was extremely well behaved and just happily stood next to me for the full 15 minutes of his treatment.  He was so relaxed that, on one occasion, he actually fell asleep and ended up on the floor!

This picture was taken one dark and cold winter evening - note the winter hat and number of layers that I am wearing.  I am not actually restraining him at all - just giving him a nice cuddle!  He would just stand like this with his head cradled in my arms.

During the spring, one of our girls was desperately ill but we managed to nurse her through a horrendous couple of weeks to an almost complete recovery.  She could so easily have died but I was not going to give up on her as she clearly wanted to fight to stay alive.  As many goatkeepers will know – once a goat makes up its mind to die, there is not a lot you can do.  They are very strong-willed and have to want to fight.  Siouxsie fought and won.

However, she has been left with a slight facial problem in that she sometimes has problems chewing her food and it can often end up packed in her cheek, rather like a hamster.  Although she has gained weight since being so ill, she still could do with a little more and I wondered if some acupuncture might stimulate the facial nerves and muscle function so that she can chew her food properly and get all the nutrients that she needs.  It’s worth a try anyway!  So, Monica came over tonight and Siouxsie had her first treatment.

If you look closely you can just about see 3 of the needles on the right side of her face – 1 behind her eye and 2 in her cheek.  There was also another one further down her neck.  Poor Siouxsie!  But, as you see, she was not bothered about the needles at all and was a very good girl.  She will have several more treatments on a weekly basis and then we will see if there is any improvement.  Fingers crossed!

I have my official visit from the London Farmers Market organisation tomorrow and so most of the day will be taken up with showing Cheryl around the farm and the various locations where we make the cheese.  Wish me luck!

Saturday 22 October 2011

Thermals and sunshine

Well I have to say that's it's been a bit of a funny week .. Seem to have been very busy but don't seem to have much to show for it!  Sound familiar???!!

Most of my 'spare' time has been tied up with trying to get the VAT return done ... worth the time spent though as it looks like the Revenue owe us a bit again this time.  Always nice to get something back ..

The weather is still gorgeous, although the temperature has dropped considerably since last week.  It's officially autumn/winter in the goat shed now as both David and myself have donned our thermal t-shirts and hats for the early morning milking.  It's chilly getting out of bed that early in the morning ...  And dark ...

As the weather has been so nice, we have been trying to encourage the goats to go outside into the field to graze rather than stay indoors and eat our hay.  Like most other farmers in the South East, we did not have a good hay crop this year and will be struggling to make it last through to next summer.  So, before the winter sets in, we are trying to conserve as much as we can by only feeding a little hay.  It always makes me happy to see the girls outside in the field - that's how goats should be, not stuck indoors in a barn all the time.

Some of them stayed indoors and just enjoyed the warm sunshine:

Or hung about in the yard between the barn and the field - nice and sheltered, out of the wind:

However, David relented after milking this evening and decided to give them all a treat by putting one of the large round bales into their new cradle.  This was the sea of expectant little goatie faces all waiting for the tractor to finish so that the gate could be opened.

Once the gate is opened, you have to stand well out of the way to avoid getting trampled in the rush!  It sounds like thunder as they all gallop across the barn.  I expect to find a herd of very fat contented lazy goats in the morning!

No markets this weekend but I am trying to get things together ready for my first London market at Balham next Saturday.  I also have my official visit from the market organisers this coming Tuesday to see if they approve of us and what we do.  The rules for London markets are quite strict and they come to verify that you do actually produce what you say you do.  Seems fair enough to me!  So, looking forward to meeting Cheryl on Tuesday.

By the way - this blog has been live for 6 weeks now and we have had 1,244 pages viewed.  Not bad eh?!  Only 4 followers but there must be plenty of you out there dropping in just to read the latest news.  I am thrilled that we are so popular.  Hope I am managing to keep you all entertained!

Time for another cute goatie pic ..  any excuse ;-)

So, how many kids can you fit in a bucket?!  Three, it would seem ... 

Wednesday 19 October 2011

What's in a name?

All our goats have names.  Many people ask how we name the animals, so I thought I would do a quick blog on the subject. And yes, we do know all of them! 

We have a pedigree herd and all our goats are registered with the British Goat Society.  Their names consist of two parts - their herd name and their proper name.  Our herd name is 'Shanvern' and so all the animals born in our herd take this prefix.  'Shanvern' is an amalgam of David and myself - David SHANnon and Debbie VERNon.  Simple really ... 

Goats that we have brought in from other herds have different names and as we started by buying in several goats, we have a nice selection of other herd names as well.  Some examples are - Mellan, Zeila, Alailah, Wrotham, Moonlin, Dulyn, Langhome, Willowdown, Dresden, Monach, Laxfield, Tetherdown, Thameside and Patricaken.

Willowdown Quince and Willowdown Hebe

As for their proper names ... many serious breeders like to identify breeding 'lines' and so may start all their names with a particular letter.  We have a few goats from one herd where one of the lines began with the letter 'F'.  So, we have Flora, Firefly, Fig, Foxglove, Footloose and Fancyfree.  Another breeder started with 'M' and so we have Mora, Marlin, Margot, Maisie, Meryl and Moyra.

Zeila Marlin

David and Mellan Footloose (known as 'Footsie')

Another goatkeepers' favourite naming convention is to begin with a particular letter one year and another letter the following year.  For example, all goats born last year would start with 'A' and all goats born this year would start with 'B'.  Next year would start with 'C' ... and so on ...

True to form, David and I took a totally different approach to naming our animals and so we normally use the names of characters from cartoons, movies, books and anything else that takes our fancy.  Chaos theory!!  No pattern whatsoever.  The only general rule that we have is that stud males are named after breweries, beers or hops - hence Fremlin, Beamish, Bramling and Larkin.  British Alpine females (black and white) are usually named after soul or motown singers - hence Nina, Aretha, Billie and Etta, to name but a few.

So, this makes our naming totally random.  And it also makes it extremely difficult to remember everybody's names! 

There are exceptions of course for names that we just like or which someone else has chosen.  Francesca, who helped with kidding this year, has lived in the Kenyan bush for several years and so some of our kids this year have Swahili or Samburu names - Mamakina, Nibor and Nyaupe.  One of our vet students was a Harry Potter fan and this gave us a huge selection to choose from - we have Hokey, Diggle, Dumble, Minerva and Hermione (and many more!)

Hokey and Diggle (tiny person on the right!)

The goats tend to learn their names as they become milkers as that is the point when their lives become a little more routine with having to come in for milking twice a day.  Some animals will learn their names earlier but most only when they keep on hearing it called out to them.  Of course, some names can sound similar and a call of 'Cora' will also encourage a bleat from Mora and Flora.  And some goats will answer to anything if they think there is a chance of extra food!

Sunday 16 October 2011

Happy Birthday David!

Happy Birthday David!  21 again ...  And what a beautiful day for a birthday!  This was the view from the goat barn this morning as we were milking.  Taken on my phone so not fantastic quality but gives you some idea of just how gorgeous it was being up early with all that mist around.

Remember the little chap who kept jumping in the hayracks??  Well, there was two of them at it yesterday and so I moved them both into another area in the hay barn with another group of kids so that they couldn't do it any more.  Spoilt their fun!  Kids in hayracks are just accidents waiting to happen as they invariably get their feet or legs caught up at some point and then we have nasty injuries or broken legs.  I wasn't going to wait for that to happen and so moved them both out.  They are having great fun making new friends and running about in the new area.

However, this morning, there was a further 3 naughty little people boinging in and out of the racks ... I could not move all of them and so David and I changed the fencing that the racks sit on in order to make it higher.  So, now the racks are too high for them to jump in.  Problem solved!

New improved and higher hay racks

We had already decided to give ourselves part of the day off in order to celebrate David's birthday.  We don't get out much these days and so it was a rare treat.  We even had a wash .. 

I had already booked us a table at a fab restaurant in Tankerton (near Whitstable) called JoJo's.  It is a while since we treated ourselves to a meal there and they have moved into new and larger premises - absolutely gorgeous.  Here's a few pics from their website:

The food was stunning, as always, and it was great to see Nikki and Paul doing so well. 

After a wonderful meal we took a short stroll along the prom and watched people enjoying the glorious weather at the seaside.  The sea was absolutely calm - not a ripple in sight.  Again, pics taken on the phone:

The second picture was taken in the direction of the Wind Farm but as the resolution is not so good on a camera phone, the turbines disappear into the mist somewhat!

The afternoon passed all too quickly and it was soon time to return to the farm to start the evening milking and feeding.  No rest for the wicked ... or goatkeepers ...

Saturday 15 October 2011

Cheats never win!

This morning Wye Market had an 'apple' theme and there was a competition for the longest apple peel.  Pauline, our Market Manager, had provided apples and a strange peeling device (knives not allowed for health and safety reasons!) and shoppers and stallholders were invited to try their hand at creating the longest single peel.  Having checked with Pauline in advance that we were allowed to bring our own apples, I arrived with two very nice Howgate Wonders (obtained from a friendly local fruit farmer).  Here's a picture of Jane (Cheesemakers of Canterbury) showing off her nice pair:

As you see, HWs are somewhat larger than your average apple so we thought we had a fair chance at winning the competition. I was first into the ring and with my borrowed knife (thank you Enzo's Bakery) set about my HW.  The technique is to peel narrow but deep.

Absolute concentration!

However, I hit an obstacle and my peel broke off at 60cm.  Feeble!  Still, everyone watching enjoyed tasting the apple. 

So, then it was Jane's turn .... as her peel started to dangle precariously, she thought that it would be better to rest it on the ground to try and prevent breakage:

A good attempt at 107cm! 

The gauntlet was down ... This was war.  Round 2 ...  I managed 76cm with a normal size apple and Jane lost her peel around 60cm.  One all.  We decided to call it a day at that as we had a queue of customers waiting to be served cheese!

The official judge decided that stallholders should be placed in a separate category (presumably for cheating!) and the competition was eventually won by the last gentleman to take part. Sitting on a straw bale he diligently peeled the entire apple without a single break.  Respect is due ...

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Daramac has been busy with his ladies.  Two of our milkers, Hebe and Margot, had a sleep-over with him last night and I have to say that he was looking a bit weary when I switched the barn lights on this morning!  He has also taken to scratching the top of his head on one of the metal pillars - this leaves him with a lovely red head as you can see ..

Daramac sired a lot of our kids last season - here are some of them when they were smaller ..

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Waffle and hayracks

I spent yesterday evening in the company of a charitable group in Sittingbourne called the Catenians.  I had been invited to speak to the ladies of the group at one of their meetings, while the gentlemen discussed more serious business matters.  Laptop and digital projector in hand, I sallied forth to regale the ladies with tales of goats and cheese.  My allotted hour passed extremely quickly and the ladies all seemed to enjoy the talk and the many pictures of goats. 

Everyone in the group was extremely welcoming and I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening, especially as I had been invited to join the group for dinner, which was delicious.  As a green-haired, lentil-eating vegetarian type, I had prebooked my meal with my host who had advised that I had a 'roasted vegetable bake' to look forward to.  However, on arrival, it seemed that there had been a slight change of menu.  Returning from the kitchen with a broad grin on his face, my host announced that I would be enjoying a nut roast with, yes you've guessed it, goat's cheese topping!!

I had prepared a cheeseboard with a full range of the Ellie's Dairy and Cheesemakers of Canterbury goat cheese and, so that the gentlemen could enjoy this as well, we decided to offer the cheese after the main meal.  There were a lot of very positive comments about the cheeses, including one gentleman who said that he would be taking some down to his house in France on his next visit as he considered it better than the French goat cheese!  I did notice that there were an awful lot of empty plates at the end of the meal .. not a scrap of cheese to be seen. 

Pictured with Steve Goldsmith, Vice-President of the Swale Circle of Catenians, who was my very generous host for the evening.

I managed to get a fairly close picture of the Gracie Moos today as well - look how big those calves have grown in a couple of weeks!

And, jumping in hayracks seems to be the new sport in the goat shed.  The British Alpine goatling that we have already seen was at it again this morning ...

And it seems that she has become a bit of a role model for the kids across the way ...

This little chap has discovered that he can bounce in and out of the hayracks very easily, so there is no stopping him now.  Fortunately, noone else has copied him.  Yet ...

And the big chaps also got a whole new big bale of straw in their pen this morning.  As they spend so much time pacing around blowing raspberries at the girls, they tend to make part of their area extremely muddy, so we have to load it up with fresh straw on a regular basis to keep them comfortable and clean.

  As you see, Norville found it extremely comfortable!  The small black goat to the left of the picture is Caffrey (son of Max), one of our little apprentice stud boys who will hopefully be moving to Somerset later this year.

And here's some of the big fellas as a couple of the girls grabbed their attention!

From the left, you can see Larkin, Max and Fremlin behind him.  Beamish is up close and personal and you can just about see Norville in front of Max.  Navajo was taking it easy out of camera range!

Sunday 9 October 2011

Talented people and gorgeous things

It's been a weekend of markets for me.  I drove up to South London on Saturday to check out Balham Farmers Market as I will be starting there in a few weeks time and just wanted to get a feel for the place. 

The market only started on 17th September, so it's still pretty new and it always takes a while for shoppers to get into the habit of coming to a market regularly.  Not a huge market but some lovely stalls with delicious food and a steady stream of shoppers spending money (which is what we like!).  And it would have been rude to go all that way and not buy anything, so I filled my bag with yummy goodies to bring home.  Raw cow's milk and buffalo mozzarella from Alham Wood in Somerset, fresh ravioli filled with courgette flowers and ricotta, the most fabulous baked cheesecake you have ever tasted and freshly made salsa dip.  Delicious!

Today was my local market at Lenham and, although we set up in wind and pouring rain, the sun did eventually come out and brought the good shoppers to our stalls.  Lenham is classed as a 'country market' and features a lot of craft stalls as well as the traditional food and plant stalls.  I always admire the craft stalls - those people are just SO talented, they make you feel very boring and plain!  One such exceedingly talented lady is Claire Matheson who designs and makes the most gorgeous handmade scarves, handbags and jewellery.

These photos don't really do her justice but they give you some idea of her range.  I am the proud owner of one of her bags (the large giraffe print one above) and it really is the most wonderful thing.  I make no excuses for advertising her here as she is one of the most talented people I have ever had the pleasure to meet.  If you are looking for unusual or unique presents, then Claire is your woman.  She doesn't have a website yet but you can email her on   and she also does personal visits and party bookings.  Fab ideas for Xmas ... 

Back at the ranch, the goaties have been enjoying their new hayrack again today.  Seems that the British Alpine goats are getting a head for heights:

Friday 7 October 2011

The boy is back in town!

My white boy Daramac arrived back from his vacation in Margate yesterday as planned.  When he left us at the end of last season, he was only a kid:

But you know what kids are like ... they leave home and grow up.  They grow beards and forget to wash.  They start to think about girls.  And then they come home again.

Like any male goat, he has developed a few bad habits and it's a good job that you can't view this blog in full 'smellyvision'.  The odour of a male goat in season has to be experienced to be believed. 

Walking a very large and powerful new male through a group of 150 girls is quite a challenge but I managed to get him in without any mishaps as we had the element of surprise on our side - I managed to unload him out of the trailer and get through the back gate of the goat barn before the girls noticed we were there.  I put him straight in with a specially selected group of goatlings (goat teenagers!) and they immediately all snorted and ran to the far end of their area.  Although they have been getting to know our on-site males, they have not yet had the opportunity to experience a large male at close quarters and Daramac was a bit more than they bargained for! 

After the initial panic and a lot of snorting and running about, everyone calmed down.  The goatlings are getting used to having him around and some of them are even brave enough to go up to him for a chat.  He has settled in very quickly and is having a lovely time with his harem.  Our other boys are a bit put out about the whole thing though as they are still outside at the moment and the new boy has gone straight into the barn.  It's just not on, you know!  Their turn will come ...

Wednesday 5 October 2011

A goaty day

Today was one of those rare occasions when I managed to spend the majority of the day with the goats.  Usually I am dashing off somewhere to make cheese or deliver milk but today I was allowed to stay in the goat shed for the whole day and it was great!

Although it was a bit windier than previous days, the weather was still warm and sunny and the girls wandered out in the field for a short time.  Quite a number of them were fluttering their eyelashes at the boys again - there are far too many hormones floating around at the moment!  I have managed to get a few mated already but we will start in earnest tomorrow when my boy Daramac returns from his holiday in Margate.

Mac lives with another pedigree milking herd for most of the year to keep their stud male company and returns to his home for a few months to 'work' with our girls.  Part of my day was spent sorting out the fencing for his area so that he will have plenty of room to relax with his harem of lovely ladies.  He will have over a dozen goatlings living with him permanently as well as the odd milker coming to visit from time to time.  I always think that our male goats have a great life!

I also managed to get a couple of photos of one of my little men with strange ears. 

With his brother

When the two boys were born, their mum Pebbles was quite impatient for them to stand up and feed and she spent quite some time pulling them both up by their ears.  We kept a close eye on her but eventually we had to separate them from her (just the other side of a fence) to let everyone calm down and have a rest for a few hours.  She was able to see them and lick them through the fence but couldn't reach through far enough to pull at their ears.  After a few hours, we put them back in with her and there was no further trouble.  Both these boys should have ears that stick up but as you see, one of the little chaps suffered lasting damage and has the most wonderful little floppy ears.

Monday 3 October 2011

Difficult choices

I always find it extremely difficult to take my male kids to the butcher, as I have mentioned before.  The worst part is having to choose who will go on a particular day and then carrying them out of the goat shed.  All kids are special and all are beautiful (to me at least!) and, although we do not allow ourselves to have favourites, there are always a few each year who win a special place in your heart.  It may be because they have a certain character or perhaps they have been unwell or needed some special attention when they were tiny babies, but for whatever reason,  it is especially difficult when it is their turn to go.

This morning was one such day as I had to take the last of my little British Alpine men.  He was the black kid who, with his sister, jumped on top of the feeder and ran around in circles (see an earlier blog).  He had a very characteristic face and strange little bleat and was a very sweet boy.  My only consolation is that he had a very happy life and will be greatly appreciated by the customer who receives him.

On a lighter note ... it would seem that Marmite cat has discovered a new favourite place to spend her afternoons.  The window to my greenhouse is automatic and opens far enough in the sunshine for Marmite to scale the hedge and climb in.  Once inside, she installs herself on the very top shelf of my wooden staging and snuggles down into a wooden trug to sleep away the afternoon in the sunshine.  Her only problem is that she stays in there for so long that the sun goes in, the window closes and she can't get out again.  So, when I come home in the dark from evening milking, I always have to open the door and let her out.  It has become something of a routine now!

And finally - the Gracie Moos.  I haven't yet managed to get a close up picture of the new calves as mums are very protective.  So, here's a picture of them taken from my bedroom window instead!  Note the 4 small brown lumps in the field - 3 calves lying together and the youngest just behind his mother further to the right.

Saturday 1 October 2011

Shorts and Santa

I had a very surreal experience yesterday when I made a brief visit to one of the local garden centres, wearing shorts in the searing heat of the day and finding the place full of Xmas trees and Santa in the snow.  I suppose that's what it must be like to celebrate Xmas in Australia!  And again tonight - blistering hot day but almost dark by 7.45pm.  Weird ... 

Still, the good weather has meant a good turn out for the Broadstairs Food Festival which is going with a swing.  Wye Market was pretty good this morning and everyone was enjoying the glorious weather.  I don't expect that I will be wearing shorts for the next market in a couple of weeks though, especially as the long range forecast is threatening snow at the end of October!

I am also currently talking to the London Farmer's Markets organisation about the possibility of doing a few markets up in town.  It's something that we have been considering for a while and I think that we really have to try it, just to see how we get on.  There is certainly a demand for goat's cheese and, more especially, for unpasteurised milk, so hopefully we will have no problem selling our products.  I am hoping to go and visit a couple of the markets next week just to get some idea of what I am letting myself in for!

More importantly, we managed to get our first goat mated today.  Moyra, a rather large stroppy white goat, did not get in kid last year and, despite our best efforts (and those of our male Daramac!) she remained barren and not milking for the rest of the year.  As Daramac is still with another herd at Margate at the moment, we had to select another boy to do the honours today.  None of our males are related to her and so every one was a potential suitor but the winner would be whoever managed to get through the gate first!  Not surprisingly, it was Navajo who seized the opportunity and pushed all the others out of the way as he dashed out to woo his lady.  Job done, he then returned to the other boys with something of a smile on his face!  If Moyra holds this time, we are scheduled to start kidding at the beginning of March 2012, a couple of weeks later than usual.

And so, in celebration, I thought we should have a photo of a white kid, just to get everyone in the mood ..

This tiny person was born at the end of February this year.  Only a couple of hours old and mum decided that she must be feeling a bit chilly and so virtually buried her in the straw - just left her little head poking out.