Monday 28 May 2012

Glorious weather!

Well, here I am at the cheese plant.  Can't even get a mobile signal up here today but I can get a stonking 3G mobile broadband connection.  Hurrah!

So what a glorious sunny weekend for all our events and markets!  Wimbledon market was wonderful as usual though it did entail getting up at a ridiculously early hour.  As I have no Francesca any more, I am feeding all the babies and big boys while David concentrates on the milking.  I had to have all my babies finished and the van loaded by 6.30am in order to get away to market on time.  It takes about 3 hours to feed everyone in the morning .. so you can work out the rest for yourself!!! Yawn ....

There were some extra plant stalls at Wimbledon this week which made for a great display in the sunshine.  And my friends at Sorbitium Ices were doing an absolutely roaring trade with their delicious ice creams.  GeeGee Parrot's Mama came to visit as usual so we enjoyed an ice cream together in the shade.  Very pleasant, I can tell you.  How that woman manages to look so damn elegant all the time beats me!  Come wind, rain or belting sunshine, she always looks so lovely. 

Here's a few shots of the market stalls on Saturday:

Ellie's Dairy with Perry Court fruit and veg behind


Some of the plant stalls

Farmhouse cheddar & butter and Isle of Wight tomatoes

Over the weekend, the remaining mums returned to the main herd and so I have lots and lots of babies to feed now, although the older group are now starting to get weaned.  All the new tinies are doing really well and have taken to their bottles and teats very quickly.  They always look so grown up when you first move them from bottle feeding on your lap to feeding at the bottle rack or on the teats:


I am still feeding the two Nubian boys on bottles as well, as they will be going to a new home at the Museum of Kent Life in a couple of weeks.  As they will be bottle fed there it is better for them to keep going on bottles rather than confuse them with moving onto teats and then back onto bottles.  The little girl will be staying with us - I have to think of a nice exotic Nubian-type name for her, so any suggestions will be gratefully received! 

Mum Johari often likes to watch and check that we are feeding her babies properly:


As you approach the barn first thing in the morning, everything is so quiet and peaceful.  Then you get spotted by one of the milkers (usually Peaches or Winky) and they let out a bleat to let everyone else know that a human is approaching.  Then as soon as you walk into the barn, you are greeted by lots of babies jumping up and running over ready for their breakfast.  The noise of 150 small bleating, shouting goaties has to be experienced to be believed ... David fills up his food trough and beats a hasty retreat to the quiet of the milking parlour, leaving me to deal with all the little people!

Here are some of them waiting (not so) patiently for their feed:

And where on earth did you get those ears??!

Finally for today, a short video of Saffron with her two little chaps taken last week.  Saffron was having a well-deserved lie down, but babies decided that they wanted her to stand up (presumably so that they could feed).  This is the technique for getting mum up on her feet: 

So, what does this week hold?  More sunshine, I think, a trip to leafy Sussex to our wholesaler (so that's bound to be a wet day, given my usual luck) and lots of goats and cheese.  The coming Bank Holiday weekend should be interesting as I have to get to Parson's Green on Sunday and there are a lot of road and bridge closures because of the Jubilee.  Could be a looooonnnnnngggg journey home on Sunday afternoon!

Thursday 24 May 2012

Quick Jake update!

Turn your back for one minute and what happens?  Jake the Peg starts bouncing around the barn on his 3 good legs, dragging the 4th one behind him in its plaster cast ... Then he leaps up onto the lucerne bale .. and then down again .. and up again ...  That bad leg doesn't seem to be handicapping him at all.

So, tonight I have put him back into the big pen with all his old friends.  He was snuggled up with a group of them when I left.  The tiny babies are wondering where their big friend has gone but it doesn't seem to have spoilt their appetite!

Sunday 20 May 2012

They think it's all over ...

It is now!!!  Kidding has finished!!!!

Well, I did get an early night last night but was woken around 2am this morning by young Martha in labour.  She popped out one male and one female, cleaned them up and settled down pretty quickly, so I was back in my sleeping bag before 3am.  Which was good, considering I had to be up again around 4.30am.

Martha can be quite a scatty little goat at times and so I was expecting her kidding to be a bit of a drama but she surprised me.  Here she is with her two little people - one at her side and the other tucked in below the bucket on the left of the photo:

So, this morning after I had sorted everyone out, we loaded up Caffrey and Bramling and I set off for Somerset to take them to their new home.  They are going into a large commercial unit which already has two of my older boys in there - Badger (Larkin's brother) and his friend Tolly moved in there 3 years ago and are still going strong. 

Despite having never been off our farm, they travelled well in the trailer and settled in to their temporary house very quickly, investigating the hay rack and their next door neighbour:

They have a couple of days' rest here before they are moved onto the larger unit - they will go straight in with a large group of females who require their services.  I would love to be there to see their faces when they realise that all those ladies are just waiting for them to arrive!  They will be very busy boys!

While I was away, David was attending to Saffron and Moonstar who both decided to produce twin boys this afternoon - so there we go.  All over!!!  Last babies born on 20 May, 2 days ahead of schedule.  Tomorrow I will do a final count of how many we have had, just out of interest.

And so I leave you with the final mums of 2012 - Saffron and Moonstar:

Saturday 19 May 2012

Into the last week of kidding ...

So, we're into the last (hopefully!) few days of kidding with only three girls left to kid now.  Twinkle went back in with the main herd yesterday morning, leaving our two new mums Daisy and Bunty with their babies.  Daisy produced two lovely little white people (one male and one female) on Wednesday:

And here's Bunty's two little people (again, one male and one female) born on Friday morning just as I was about to leave to do my deliveries!

It looks Martha and Moonstar may have something on their minds tonight as well so I'll be back up there sooner rather than later this evening.  To be honest, I was hoping for an early night as I have to take Bramling and Caffrey to their new home in Somerset tomorrow and could do with getting a good night's sleep.  Looks like it may not happen!!

We had a very exciting Thursday here in the goat shed as Andy the Cheese came to pay us a visit to pick up enough milk to make some cheese for the Young British Foodie awards dinner.  He has made it into the final three!!!!  So, we are all very pleased for him.  Footsie, of course, was delighted to see him, especially as he came with a bag containing bananas for her.  Here they are meeting for the first time:

Andy was delighted to meet all the girls and has written a piece about us on his own blog, along with some pictures that he took.  So, check out
 for the full story.

Today was a sad day for us all as it was Francesca's last day with us.  She is back off to her little hut in the Kenyan bush in a few weeks time.  We will all miss her very much and hope that she comes back to visit us very soon.  She is such an asset to us during kidding - I don't know what we would do without her.

One of the house rules at Ellie's Dairy is that we always need to have a lot of cake!  Francesca obliged this week when her mum and niece came to visit, bringing with them the most enormous Victoria sponge you have ever seen.  Needless to say, there isn't much left ....

It was a lovely warm day today but there have been a few very chilly nights this week.  The babies in one pen all snuggled up together in a big pile - there wasn't a single one sitting on its own!  Nice and cosy ..

But across the way, over in another pen, it seemed that the bucket was the place to be:

Right - I'm going to have a quick bite to eat and then it's back up to the barn for what looks like it may be a long night.  I leave you with some of the goats enjoying the sunshine earlier today:

Monday 14 May 2012

Sunshine and foodie competitions

Just heard from Andy the Cheese that he is one of five who have made it through to the next round of Young British Foodie.  Congratulations!!!!  However, the judges need to whittle them down to just three finalists - so, cross your fingers everyone ...  Andy has also been asked to make some cheese for the events dinner, so he will be coming to collect his milk this week and is going to meet Footsie in person.  She is VERY excited about this ... the prospect of a new person coming especially to visit her is a thrill.  Especially if that new person brings bananas with him.  Andy has been briefed about Footsie's requirements :-)

You will be pleased to know that young Jake the Peg is doing well and is learning to hop about with his plastered leg.  Hasn't stopped him eating at all, which is a good thing.  He is larger than the babies he is sharing with so they all think that it's great fun to jump on him when he sits down.  Fortunately, he doesn't seem to mind.  I think he's quite enjoying the attention from everyone, epecially when he gets the teats all to himself at feeding time!

So, the weekend weather was MUCH better than last week and Balham market went with a swing.  A lovely lady called Lucy came to see me at the end of the market to do an interview for a book she is writing about green spaces and living simply in the city of London.  She produces a wonderful magazine called 'Lost in London' which was launched at the end of 2010 and is aimed at country-loving city dwellers.  It is a beautiful publication and has the most wonderful photos in it as well as really interesting articles.  She will be coming to visit the goats with her photographer very soon!

Check out Lucy's website at

Friday 11 May 2012

Jake the Peg

With his extra leg. Diddle diddle diddle dum.  For those of you old enough to remember the classic Rolf Harris song.

So, Jake the Peg.  Mmm .... Remember the short video of the showjumping white male kid from a couple of days ago?  Kept jumping out of every pen that we put him in?  Well, this morning he jumped one gate too many.  He caught one of his back legs as he came over and landed on 3 legs with the other one dangling.  Thinking he had twisted it, I got hold of him and had a look ... only to find that it wiggled strangely in the shin area.  Broken.  Oh dear ....

One of the unpleasant commercial realities is that we cannot spend a lot of money on the little meat boys.  Of course, we look after them and medicate them if they are ill exactly as we would do with the females, but with something like a broken leg that could be VERY expensive to fix, it just can't be done.  I called our vet (very early but he was awake!) and had a chat with him about it.  I was fully expecting to have the little chap put to sleep but Peter said that he would meet me at the surgery and take a look to see if there was anything that could be done easily.

So, David splinted up the leg quickly with a couple of wooden lolly sticks and some stretchy bandage and off I went with the little man in his cage.  I think David must have warned him about my driving as he didn't try and stand up while I was racing along to the vet.  Wisely, he decided to lie down.

Anyhow, Peter decided that it was a nice clean break and should heal nicely.  So, he applied a quick plaster cast and that was that.  A much better outcome than I had anticipated!

And here is Jake ready for the journey back home - bit difficult to see his cast properly as all his legs are white!

And here he is back at home.  We have put him in a pen with the tiniest new babies so that he won't be bullied or pushed around.  I have to say that he seems very happy.  Needless to say, he is getting plenty of extra attention!

I managed to catch up with Twinkle today as well - here she is with her two little girlies:

Some of the girls took advantage of the better weather today and spent some time out nibbling at the grass:

And finally - a random 'out of the window shot' taken whilst driving back from Somerset yesterday.  This is one of my favourite places in the whole wide world .. especially on a cold wet day.  Just awesome ..

Thursday 10 May 2012

So here I am in Dorset!!  Dorset?!  Not in the goat shed?!  Nope .. I have a day off.  A DAY OFF!!!!  Can you believe it?  No dedication at all.  I have left David and Fran at home in charge and I AM ON HOLIDAY ....  wooo hooo ..

As a member of the Goat Veterinary Society, I used to be able to attend their conferences regularly twice a year.  Then we got more goats .. and more goats .. and more goats ... and I just couldn't spare the time to attend, which was a shame as the conferences are always excellent and it is a great opportunity to network with people.  Where else would I get the chance to talk to Angus who runs St Helen's Farm or Roger who owns Delamere Dairy?  Serious goat businessmen ..

Anyhow, this spring's meeting is at Taunton racecourse today and David suggested that I should travel down yesterday and spend the evening with some goatie friends of ours in Dorset.  And so here I am .. 

Did a delivery to our Sussex wholesaler on the way and then spent a few rainy hours travelling down to the most beautiful (if a little soggy) part of Dorset down near Dorchester.  Rolling green hills, few houses, no motorway.  Idyllic ..

Having arrived late afternoon yesterday I then spent a few hours wandering round Richard and Sandra's goats, helped (or maybe hindered) with their milking and then settled down to dinner and lots of goat conversation.  The highlight for me was catching up with Geronimo who came down here as a male kid about 3 years ago.  When he left us in the summer of 2009, he looked like this:


And now he looks like this!  Grown a bit ..

Beautiful boy!  And he has some lovely daughters too.

Back at home, Twinkle decided to have her babies a couple of days early and so I was woken around 1am on Tuesday morning by her shouting.  Two females delivered without any problem and everyone was cleaned up and fed very quickly so I managed to get back to bed for a few hours.

Wednesday night was not so good as another of our little kids looked like she was suffering from bloat.  I was determined not to lose another one but had a busy evening ahead, in preparation for my going away for a couple of days.  I just couldn't stay in the goat shed but wanted to keep an eye on her.  Only one solution .. take her into the house with me.  So here she is, helping with my filing.  Notice Marmite in the right of the picture, observing from a safe distance on the table!  Baby goat was fine, by the way ..

And here's Figgie's two little men:

And finally .. I took a little girlie to the vet for disbudding on Tuesday morning and dropped in to visit the goatlings on the way.  They were very curious to see what the little bouncy thing was in front of their house!

So, I'm off for breakfast and then drive to Taunton.  Still raining ...

Saturday 5 May 2012

Young British Foodie

It's that old mobile broadband problem again .... I'm now on my 3rd network to see if I can get one that actually works.  So far, so good .... But I can't believe that it will last!

Anyhow ... what's been going on then?  No more babies ... Twinkle is not due until next week so I am spending a few nights at home with Marmite cat who seems very pleased to see me.  She hasn't been happy with the weather over the past few days - it seems like a good excuse just to stay curled up on the bed all day.  Think I'm going to come back as a cat in my next life ...

I had an interesting request from one of our London customers last week.  A really nice young chap called Andy orders our milk via Franklins Farm Shop in East Dulwich and makes the most amazing cheeses.  He does have his own blog - look up 'Handyface Cheese' and you will find him.  Anyway - he has entered the Young British Foodie competition as a cheesemaker and as part of the competition, he has to come up with 'the next big idea'.  Andy thought it would be interesting to make cheese from the milk of one single identifiable animal and he wondered if we could help.

Here at Ellie's Dairy, we like an unusual request and rose to the challenge.  Our wonderful Footsie goat was selected to be The One as she is rather special, very cooperative and also produces a nice amount of milk.  We had to get Footsie into the milking parlour before everyone else so that we could be certain that the milk we drew out of the system was hers alone.  Given Footsie's penchant for bananas or food in any form, this was a simple task.  Call 'Footsie!', open the gate, rattle bucket and get Footsie to follow into the parlour. 

And here she is, all on her own:

We filtered and bottled the milk separately and I delivered it to Franklins on Friday for Andy to collect.  He has made the cheese and it has gone into the moulds tonight.  Can't wait to see how it turns out!  If he makes it into the final of the competition, I will let you know.

And it's about time for a couple of wee videos.  Here is one of the older white male kids.  Even though he has been fed already, he likes to keep on coming back for more.  Probably our best showjumping goat this year:

And here's one of some of the younger kids, including the Nubettes.  For some reason they don't seem to like where one of the other kids is sitting - they prod and poke him until he finally moves, and then they start skipping about.  Watch those ears swing! And listen out for one of the Gracie Moo calves in the background ...

So, it's a weekend of markets for me.  Wye was exceedingly chilly and wet this morning.  Not sure what the forecast is for Parson's Green tomorrow and Lower Halstow on Monday.  Hopefully sunny and warm but I think I might be a bit optimistic there. 

Wednesday 2 May 2012

A sad day ... and lots of muck ...

So, after writing the last blog on Monday, I returned to the barn to find one of the little white female kids bloated and crying in obvious distress.  I filled one of the spare kidding pens with straw and sat with her for a few hours as we both watched the thunder and lightening filling the night sky.  But, despite all my best efforts and care, I was not able to save her and I lost her in the early hours of yesterday morning.  She would have been a month old on the day that she died.

It was a distressing time and, as we have had a couple of cases like this now, I decided to ask our vet to call in on his way to the surgery.  There are a number of things that may have caused her to bloat so suddenly and severely, but the only way to tell for certain is to have her sent off for post mortem at the government lab in Winchester.  We have done this on several occasions in the past and it is really the only way to learn the cause of death in certain cases.  So, Peter took my little girl away and we await the results.

As I think I have said before, kidding is a lovely time for all the new babies but it is also the most stressful time of year.  We often have to put a brave face on things, especially when we are out in the public eye delivering cheese or selling at markets .. under the surface we are often heartbroken and upset.  Unless you have animals yourself, you cannot imagine the pain of losing your babies when you are often powerless to help them.  All you can do sometimes is just hold them, comfort them and be there for them as they slip away.

Anyhow .. onto more cheerful matters!!!

As most of the kidding is out of the way now, David decided that we should spend a couple of days mucking out while the weather wasn't too bad.  So, we moved all the milkers to one side of the barn, dismantled all the gates on the other side and off David went in his tractor.  We bought a second-hand dung fork last year to fit the smaller, older tractor and it was worth every penny.  David reckons that it can scoop about a ton of muck in one go!  It just makes the job so much quicker for him.  It's a vicious looking bit of kit though - I think it looks rather sinister!

So, we did one side of the barn yesterday and the other side today.  David did have a bit of a mishap when he was bringing one of the new straw bales in ... he was coming back to the barn when the wrapping on the bale suddenly exploded and everything fell apart ..  Oops ...

Anyway, it was all retrieved and all the goaties are rustling around on new straw tonight!  Kitty was very happy that there was also a huge new bale of hay for her to climb on:

Patsy spent most of last night and this morning happily chortling away to her stomach ... she finally decided to pop her kids out mid-afternoon.  Bear in mind that we didn't even know that she was pregnant until a few weeks ago!  And who was the daddy??!  Well, here she is with her new babies - one male and one female:

So, as they are both a lovely dark chocolate brown, I think we can safely assume that young Caffrey did the deed!  If it had been Bramling, the kids would almost certainly have been white.  So, that's another mystery solved.