Monday 30 April 2012

Lazy goats everywhere

So here you are then - ZsaZsa and her new babies:

Very bouncy for day old kids!

Figgie decided that she would have her babies today as well - she was mooching around this morning and so I gave her a little house all to herself next to ZsaZsa who you can see in the background.

She soon settled down and enjoyed having her own private hay rack.  Look at the size of that udder!  Makes a nice comfy cushion

She hung on for the whole day though and produced her babies just in time for tea - two boys, one white and one brown.  So that answers the question of who the father was - looks like Bramling was a busy boy on the day of the Great Escape!

I always enjoy just sitting in the barn and watching the goats.  This morning was quite warm and sunny and everyone seemed to be very lazy.  There were piles of kids fast asleep and it's always nice to have a friend or two to snuggle up to:

Some of the milkers were strolling around the field, whilst others were just lounging around in the barn.  Like the kids, they always like to find a friend as well:

Even the big old males were just chilling out - here's Max and Fremlin (looking particularly dopey with his ears down!!) 

 So, hopefully a quiet night ahead as Patsy isn't due until Wednesday and wasn't looking like she was intending to stay up all night.  Just going back to check on those new arrivals and make sure that Figgie has given them another nice big bedtime feed.

A demain, mes amis ..

Sunday 29 April 2012

More new arrivals

So, Friday night didn't produce any babies but ZsaZsa had two little white people just after I arrived back from a very wet Wimbledon market yesterday afternoon.  I will try and get some pics tomorrow.  She had them all by herself without us hearing anything, despite the fact that David and Francesca were both in the barn with the goats!  She is a very proud mum. 

This week should bring us our little 'surprise' kids from when the milkers organised their mass break-out and a couple of very naughty goats had their wicked way with young Bramling and Caffrey.  Yes, Figgie and Patsy are both due this week.  On the day of the break-out we knew that Figgie had been in season and so had her scanned earlier in the year.  However, Patsy did not appear to be in season that day but as she has stopped milking and is now noticeably fatter than the other goats, we have to assume that she was a naughty girl as well.  So, that will be a real surprise as we don't have a clue how many kids she is carrying.

The weather was more or less as predicted this weekend - Wimbledon was wet but not so windy whilst Parson's Green was exceptionally wet and windy.  I chose a spot in a corner of the market so that I could tie my awning down to the railings - I could foresee some serious problems otherwise!  Every time there was a particularly strong gust of wind, all the stallholders simultaneously reached up to grab hold of their awnings!  Sadly, the good people of Fulham preferred to stay warm and dry in their houses and the market was pretty quiet.  Good for swapping at the end though - cheese for a large bag of veg, cheese for yummy cake, cheese for apples and juice.  I just love it!

Last week, we were delighted to have our dear friends Alice and George over to visit the goats.  Both work as cheesemongers in excellent delis and there is a lot of domestic rivalry between them as to who can sell the most/best cheese.  I have been hauled over the coals on several occasions for giving one of them more cheese than the other on delivery days!  I am sure that they take their delivery notes home and compare them!

Anyway, George took some lovely photos and videos so I will try and post up them up for you. 

Here's one of those gorgeous little Nubettes:

And, watch out for this handsome couple on the next series of Strictly Come Dancing:

For some reason, Caffrey was determined to put his feet up on my shoulders.  Just showing off how tall he is now I think!

And here's a couple of little videos for you.  First one shows two greedy goats, Thelma and Footsie, enjoying a banana with Francesca:

And this one shows some of our babies in action:


Friday 27 April 2012

Ladies in waiting

Just a very quick post before I head back up to the goat shed for the night.  Both ZsaZsa and Figgie were looking a bit 'goatie' earlier this evening - standing about, shifting their weight from side to side and looking generally a bit preoccupied.  Probably just uncomfortable but I think I will stay up there just in case of nocturnal events.

There was certainly something on the move inside Figgie this morning - I think one of her kids was having a good move about and we kept on seeing little feet and a head pushing at her left side.  I took a photo on my phone - not sure how well it will reproduce on here but take a look at the lower part of her side nearest the camera and see the couple of little lumps sticking out.  Aliens ....

And while David was unloading hay from a trailer yesterday, he spotted a small nest which a bird had built in between the bales whilst the trailer has been sitting in the tractor shed.  He carefully moved the nest to a beam on the side of the shed at the same height it had been on the trailer, making sure that he didn't touch the tiny chicks inside.  Mum was flying around inside the shed later in the day so hopefully she will have found her relocated nest and fed her babies. 

I have a weekend of markets ahead of me.  From the sound of the weather forecast I think I had better take my wellies with me .. could be a very wet and windy Wimbledon and Parson's Green!

Thursday 26 April 2012

Water water everywhere ...

Is is the torrential rain that makes my internet connection disappear do you think?  Three days without a decent connection.  Tonight I am writing to you on snail-pace mobile broadband ... I have a few pics to post but who knows if I can stand the pain of trying to upload them over this tin can and string connection.

Anyhow .. hideous weather don't you think.  Yesterday morning was particularly brutal.  Having fought manfully to keep the covers over some of our straw that is stacked outside, David finally threw in the towel and gave up battling the gale force winds.

No point in covering them up again now they are soaking wet so we will just have to wait for some sun and wind to dry them off.

And just for sheer entertainment value - a photo of  my good self looking a little damp:

 And a sad day as we said goodbye to our trusty old 7.5 ton tipper lorry yesterday morning. It has been standing in the yard for a couple of years now as David didn't really use it any more. It had a few problems and would have cost a lot to fix so the scrap man came to take it away to the lorry graveyard .. Poor lorry. Nice big space in the yard now though!

As is traditional in bad weather, I drove to Sussex and back with a delivery for our wholesaler, but by the time I got back late in the afternoon, the sun was starting to show through the clouds and there was a pile of little goats all taking advantage of the sunshine and warmth:

You will be pleased to know that the Nubettes have settled down and are now MUCH quieter than I reported on Monday.  Good little babies.

Anyhow - fingers crossed that someone somewhere fixes my internet connection for tomorrow.  Night night everyone!

Monday 23 April 2012

A birthday treat for Monica

In between all the goatie activity of Sunday, I spent an extremely pleasant couple of hours in the company of Monica (our acupuncturing vet), Sharon (our extremely efficient cheese-assistant-person), Kay (Reiki-lady who talks to goats!) and other lovely horsey ladies.

At the end of the month it is Monica's birthday.  I shall not reveal exactly how old she will be but, suffice it to say, that it is a significant birthday.  You know the ones ... end with '0' and generally involve some kind of mid-life crisis and shouts of 'I cannot be THAT old'!!

Anyway, Sharon had arranged for a special riding lesson for Monica which involved being taught to ride side-saddle on Murphy (one of Sharon's horses).  As a non-horsey person I have to say that it looked like extremely hard work!

However, Monica did really well and had a wonderful time, despite being chucked off once by a grumpy Murphy.  It was an elegant landing however and no injuries were sustained. 

Here's Murphy's companion Hadrian, another gorgeous boy!

After Monica's lesson, we all retired to the comfort of Charlotte's beautiful house for a delicious tea and a glass of something sparkly to celebrate the forthcoming birthday.  I would have sat there and chatted for a good while longer but I had to get home for milking and baby feeding again.

Those little long-eared babies (I have nicknamed them the Nubettes) were exceedingly noisy last night whilst waiting for their tea.  The Nubes have quite a characteristic strange cry and as the three of them stood in their pen shouting for their tea, many of the milkers stood up on the gate and stared at them.  They had never heard anything like it before and were quite intrigued as to where the strange noise was coming from!

We moved them out of their little pen this morning and in with the younger group of kids.  They are much tinier than everyone else but, according to Francesca, have spent most of the day running around and playing with all the others.

I was hoping for another night with Marmite tonight but I think it would be wiser to spend it next to the goats.  ZsaZsa is due to have her babies on Thursday but was starting to look a bit restless earlier on this evening.  I don't expect that anything will happen tonight but I want to be on-site just in case ..

Saturday 21 April 2012

A respite from kidding

So, as I have already said, things have slowed down a little bit on the kidding front now.  All mums are now back with the herd and babies are all being fed by us.  JoJo was the last mum to come out this afternoon.  Here she is snuggled up with her babies earlier this morning:

She was housed right next to some of the younger kids and I lay in her pen for a short while to talk to the kids through the gate.  Of course, being a goat, she had to come and see what I was up to.

She managed to come through the milking parlour this evening without too much noise and kicking - she was pretty well behaved actually.  Not sure how long that will last!

The weather is a bit changeable at the moment don't you think?  Francesca and I are both back in the thermals for the moment - it gets a bit chilly early in the morning.  Mind you, those oilseed rape fields are looking cheerful:

Wye market was fairly good this morning and the rain held off right until we had packed the last box in the cars at the end.  Pretty good timing for a change!

For the first time in weeks, I have decided to spend the night at home with Marmite instead of in the caravan outside the barn.  Hopefully everyone will be snug and safe tonight - at least I know that JoJo won't have the chance to sit on her babies!

So, that's me done.  I'm going to spoil myself tonight and have an early night and sit in bed and read a book - a very rare treat at this time of year.  Back in the caravan soon though awaiting ZsaZsa (due Friday) and then Figgie and Patsy the following week.

Night night!

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Sun and rain

Beautiful day (mostly) yesterday and the girls were out in the field for a lot of the time despite the wind:

This is a rather confused Ellie goat.  She wandered up to me with a strange expression on her face, licking her lips and bleating oddly.  It took me a couple of minutes to figure out what was going on but I think she had been trying to eat nettles!  Those fresh spring greens play havoc with your lips!!

Needlees to say - the hideous weather today kept everyone firmly indoors complaining about the rain!

Managed to get a couple of close ups of those little aliens - how cute are these?

And it seemed that the best place to curl up on a cold wet day like today was in a bucket:

One of the older kids has discovered that she is now big enough to scramble out of her pen.  Great fun!  Lots of skipping about in the barn and jumping into the lucerne bale:

And there's no sneaking up on the goatlings now.  As soon as they hear someone coming, they are up on the fence waiting for their hayracks to be filled up.  This is what greeted me as I walked round the corner to their house:

Well, I'm off to our wholesaler tomorrow with a delivery of frozen milk so I can guarantee that the weather will be foul.  I predict gale force winds and torrential rain!

Monday 16 April 2012

The aliens have landed

Well, Persi and JoJo were very good girls and let me sleep most of the night.  I awoke around 4.30am yesterday morning to the sound of Persi yelling the barn down.  However, all went well and easily and she presented us with a very large and healthy female kid a short while later.

JoJo managed to hang on until lunch time and then popped out the 3 strangest looking little creatures we have ever seen.  Being used to other breeds of goats, the Anglo Nubian kids are quite a novelty.  They are quite small but have very long thin legs and the most enormous ears .. I expect that they will grow into them eventually!  They are also the spitting image of their mum .. it's really odd looking into the pen and seeing a large black goat with white ears and 3 tiny mini-me goats all the same!


JoJo is doing OK for a first time mum - she is incredibly laid back about the whole thing but not terribly maternal.  She feeds them but doesn't seem to talk to them at all and she certainly doesn't lower herself to cleaning bottoms.  Guess who gets that job?!  And she is quite lazy she is having her breakfast out of her bucket that was hung in the pen when she was lying down.  How lazy is this?!

Here's a good view of some of the kidding pens. 

They are made of recycled plastic and are strong enough to withstand a goat standing on the side to reach a hayrack!  They are big enough for most goats but larger girls or those with more than 2 kids are usually housed in larger pens made out of metal hurdles.  But, these pens are great - nice and snuggly for those born on cold nights!

Well, we have a bit of a break now until ZsaZsa decides she is going to give birth (in about 10 days time).  I was thinking of actually spending a night at home with Marmite but I am a little concerned about JoJo squashing her babies in the middle of the night, so I will be going back up to the caravan shortly. 

This concern is not without substance - I woke up around 2am this morning to hear a kid squealing loudly.  Leaping out of the caravan in my pyjamas and wellies into sub-zero temperatures, I raced into the barn to find JoJo lying on one of her kids - just the little head poking out and yelling very loudly.  She was completely oblivious to it and was trying to work out where the noise was coming from!  So, as you see, perhaps a night in the caravan might not be such a bad plan after all.  Poor Marmite will just have to wait another night ..

Saturday 14 April 2012

Slippery elm and bicycles

Not a bad few days since I last blogged.  A few new arrivals and some more new mums but things are really starting to quieten down on the kidding front now.  Only 11 more goats to kid right through to 22 May when we finish with young Martha.  I think we have a total of 127 babies at the moment.

Here's a little pile of them:

Very warm and comfy.

Next door are a couple of little white people - the smaller one is the one whom you met in the last blog being fed by foster mum Cilla:

Cilla has now gone back into the main herd and so Meryl is being her foster mum.  She is slowly learning to feed from a bottle but it looks like it's going to be a long slog.  So, to make sure that she gets fed, she goes visiting any Auntie who looks like she may have some spare milk for her!

We have a couple of tiny brown people who have not been doing so well and have had a bit of an upset stomach for a few days.  We have started to mix a little slippery elm powder in with their warm milk and they now seem to be picking up quite well.  Here are the ready mixed bottles - notice the colour is darker than the nice white milk in the jug behind:

Slippery elm powder comes from elm bark and is a wonderful herbal rememdy for upset stomachs.  It is also very nourishing and so the babies are getting a little something extra with their milk.  They certainly seem to enjoy it and come running to the fence to be lifted over for their feed.

I spent most of today at Balham Farmers Market.  As well as the numerous street signs for the market, there is a lady who takes the market bicycle out for a couple of hours around the local streets - can't really miss this when it goes past!

It was lovely to see GeeGee Parrot's Mama again and we had a nice chat at the end of the market when it was fairly quiet.  Although it is not the busiest market, I do have quite a lot of regular milk customers there and more and more of them keep coming back.  Repeat business - that's the name of the game.

Right then - I'm back off up to the barn to see what the night will bring.  Persi was due to kid on Wednesday and is looking a bit thoughtful this evening, as is JoJo our lovely Anglo Nubian who isn't due until Monday.  It would be nice if they would let me sleep and then kick off in the morning but you can't reason with a goat!  Especially a very large pregnant one .. or two ...

Night night everybody ..

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Hungry kids and naughty goats

Here's some of our older babies feeding themselves on the automatic feeder.  After they come off mum, they are bottle fed for a few days until Francesca is happy that they are feeding well.  Then she teaches them to feed off the automatic teats - and away they go!  This is quite an orderly session - quite often they will spend more time swapping places than they do feeding.  True goat behaviour - someone else's teat is obviously much better and more interesting than your own.

And here's another foster mum - Cilla.  The little white girl needs a bit more attention but her own mum is not interested in her.  So, during the day, she curls up with her sister but when it's feeding time, we find another mum who is willing to feed her.  And, as you see, Cilla is more than happy to oblige!  Cilla only has one kid of her own and so there is plenty of milk to go round.

Milking time is proving to be a bit of a challenge again now that we have a lot of new girls and some of the old naughty ones coming back in.  This morning we had a rerun of the old '13 goats in the parlour' routine as Ellie and Pixie decided that they both wanted to be in the first stall.  Fortunately, they are both quite slim!

Remember Tinky?  The naughty goat who turns to face the wrong way in the parlour when she gets bored?  Well, poor Tinky has a touch of mastitis at the moment and so has to come in for milking right at the very end of the session.  She can't understand why she has to wait and so comes to the parlour gate to see if she has been forgotten:

And spare a thought for Florence who probably has the largest udder in the barn.  She had mastitis a few years ago and so has a bit of a wonky udder but it still takes an awfully long time to get all that milk out!

And finally .. one of the first goat books I ever read many years ago had a long section about feeding babies.  There is one phrase which has always stuck in my mind ... 'a hungry kid will bleat shrilly and angrily'.  And here is one ...

Monday 9 April 2012

Glorious weather and new arrivals

What glorious Easter weather we had over the weekend!!  Cold, wet and windy ... Lovely.  Wye Market was absolutely freezing on Saturday morning and it was pretty dismal up at the cheese plant today as well.  Never mind - it was nice and hot and steamy inside the cheese room.  Here's our new apprentice cheesemaker, Julie, all set up and ready to mould hundreds of little fresh goatie cheeses.

I have been training Julie for a couple of weeks in the hope that she will soon be joining us here at Ellie's Dairy.  There are just not enough hours in the day for David and I to do everything and so we thought that if we could have someone else to make cheese one day a week, then I could make a different cheese on another day. 

Julie already knows a fair bit about cheese as she already works at several farmers markets on behalf of Jane the Cheese.  She has also helped me pack cheese and get orders together in the past and so making the cheese was the next logical step.  I think she will be good at it too!

Back in the barn, we have had a few new arrivals over the weekend.  I am a bit behind on the photos but here's one of Florence's two little babies, all snuggled up with their arms around each other:

I got up yesterday morning to find that young Sibyl had given birth to two beautiful little kids sometime during the night.  I can only assume that they didn't cause her too much trouble as I didn't hear her shout at all.  And then her sister Pandora, did exactly the same thing last night!  

Although I sleep very soundly in the caravan outside the goat shed, I do wake up when there is the slightest hint of any goatie birth in progress - I think my ear tunes in unconsciously!  However, once again, I heard nothing during the night but was woken up by the characteristic squeaking of the new born kids.  Rolling into the barn in my pyjamas and wellies (what a lovely sight that must be for the goats!) I found Pandora standing proudly under the hay rack with a lovely little female kid all cleaned up and fed.  That's the way I like kidding to go!

We have got most of the kidding out of the way now - there are just a few fat girls left.  Moonstar is now the fattest goat in the barn, closely followed by Cassie (who was due yesterday).  We finally finish around 22 May so still a while to go.

Will try and catch up with pics tomorrow! 

Friday 6 April 2012

Tall men and small goats

So, have you missed me??  Don't all shout at once .....

Well, what can I say .. it's been a loooonnnnggg week.  Ups and downs ... So, time for a catch up on all the news from the goat shed - long overdue!

Firstly - here's my main reason for lack of blog this week:

And before you all start to think impure thoughts .. No, I am not having an affair.  This is Tom.  He is our first student of 2012.  2nd year vet student from the University of Nottingham.  And what a fantastic chap he turned out to be!  He arrived on Sunday evening, stepped out of his car and got straight into feeding babies, helping with milking and happily chucking hay and straw around for the milkers. 

He was staying at my house for the week and so I didn't feel that it would be polite to set up camp in my front room every night in order to get a decent broadband connection, so I was resigned to the caravan for the whole week.  Totally unable to get a mobile broadband signal, I was therefore out of blogging range.  That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.  Those of you who have proper townie broadband have absolutely no idea how utterly frustrating it is not to have any kind of internet connection when you need one!

So, we are all still reeling from the sad demise of little Hugo last Saturday morning.  And as an added shock, we lost his brother the following day, also very suddenly.  I was at market and got a call from David to say that he had just dropped down dead after having his morning milk.  That leaves the sister - needless to say, we have all been keeping a very close eye on her this week and she has been getting special attention to make sure that she is OK.  So far, so good ..

We have had a few more births this week and Tom has been honing his midwifery skills.  He has successfully delivered several babies and also accompanied them to our vet for disbudding later in the week.  Here he is with David returning from one of their visits:

He was a great asset to the goat shed this week and we all thoroughly enjoyed his company. Francesca was grateful for the extra pair of hands with all those babies!

So, we have had 113 babies so far.  I know you may be suffering from a lack of baby pics this week, so here's a few to keep you going:

Although the kids in this pen have a low wall to run along, they love to have a new straw bale to jump on.  Just how many kids can you fit on one bale?!

The older kids in another area had the excitement of the grain feeder being put into their house this week - they are starting to nibble more at their hard feed and this is the best way of doing it.  And it gives them something to climb on:

Mid-week saw several of our little chaps move to their new house at Continuum Kent Life (aka The Museum of Kent Life) at Sandling.  We have been in discussion with them for a few weeks as they had approached us about having some of our little meat kids to bottle feed.  This is not something that we would usually do but, having met Phil and Holly who would be looking after them, we were more than happy to let them have a few little chaps. Here they are, preparing themselves for the journey to their new home:

Having bottle-fed kids is a new venture for Phil and, hopefully, one that will prove interesting for the visiting public.  David transported them over there a couple of days ago - here they are investigating part of their new house:

We are going to let them settle in over Easter and then go and visit them once the school holidays are over.

What else?  Oh yes ... Flora and her little foster daughter.  Well, Flora has got so much better that we decided it was time to try her back in the main pen with all the other milkers.  We moved her back in there yesterday and she is getting along just fine.  She has also managed to walk up into the milking parlour and seems happy being back with all her friends again.  Her little foster daughter (whom we have called Florie, after her foster mum) is now living with lots of other kids her own age.  She spent the entire day yesterday running around and playing with them - she was absolutely exhausted by the end of the day and we found her fast asleep at feeding time!

So, I think that's you all up to date now ..  Just for a change - here's a couple of pics of someone else's baby.  One of our blog followers, Richard, is now a proud father as well after his gorgeous British Alpine Tammy gave birth to a bouncing baby boy 'with a lot of assistance and wailing'!!!  Here they are:

So, it's Goodnight from me!  Back off up to the goat shed to see what the night brings.