Friday 29 June 2012

Eat your heart out Fanny Craddock!

Those of you older than 21 may remember that very first TV cook - Fanny Craddock.  What a fabulous woman she was.  Perfect hair and makeup with her ever-faithful husband Johnny lurking in the background:

Well, in a couple of weeks time, that will be me.  Mmm... 

The Produced in Kent organisation recently contacted their members to see if anyone would be willing to do a short talk or demonstration in the 'Why Farming Matters' area of the forthcoming Kent County Show.  I am always happy to talk to people about goats or cheese or anything else that takes their fancy and so I said that I would be willing to do something if they were interested.  I figured that, as we had won the Food Farming and Landscape Award, we should be prepared to do something.

And so, today I spoke with the lady who is organising the whole 'Why Farming Matters' schedule for the show weekend.  Turns out that she wants me to talk about goat's cheese.  And what to do with it.  For 30 minutes.  In a cookery demonstration.  Yes, that's right.  Wearing a head mike and working in a complete kitchen, I have to talk about goat's cheese whilst preparing delicious food.  Multitasking at its finest. 

Farmer?  Yes.  Goat keeper?  Yes.  Cheesemaker?  Yes.  TV chef??  Definitely not ... But then I'm always game for a laugh so I think it could be quite entertaining.  The challenge will be to get through the whole 30 minutes without chopping any of my fingers off.

So, if any of you happen to be at the Kent County Show on Friday 13th July (what an auspicious day!) make your way to the 'Why Farming Matters' demonstration kitchen at 2pm for a bit of goatie entertainment.  And some free cheese.  Should be a blast ...

Tuesday 26 June 2012

New girls and old girls

Well, with the weather being so nice again today, it seemed such a shame to keep the new girls indoors in their pen.  So, during milking, we opened it up so that they would get to meet all the other girls gradually as they came out of the parlour.  We left the pen in place so that we could move them back in if they looked as if they were getting a hard time.  We fully expected a bit of a punch-up as new goats have to find their place in the herd and we do have some stroppy old milkers who don't take kindly to strange goats in their barn!

But we needn't have worried.  All the new girls are pretty feisty and are perfectly capable of looking after themselves.  There was a bit of head butting and hard stares from Betty, Daphne and Thelma (some of our oldest goats) but soon everyone got bored and they all went outside to graze.

It was lovely to see the new girls outside.  Their old home did not have grazing - they just had a small outside yard to wander around in, so I think they were all a bit overwhelmed by the lush green field that awaited them.  They spent a lovely day wandering around in the sunshine, nibbling at grass and generally enjoying the sun on their backs.  Here they are in the yard between the barn and the field:

The two goatlings, Takira and Angelique, are inseparable.  They wander everywhere together as if they are joined by a piece of string.  Where one goes, so the other follows!

Even dear old Betty goat was outside for most of the day today.  She often prefers to lie around in the barn nibbling on hay but she was out there today with everyone else, although she did keep her distance!  Betty is in the centre of the picture - everyone else is out of shot to the right!

Meanwhile, in the barn, naughty kids were also having a lovely day, bouncing up and down all those straw bales. 

Badly behaved children.  I blame the parents ...

Sunday 24 June 2012

Flowers and sleepy kids

You'll be pleased to know that Marmite is helping me write this post for you tonight:

It's always useful to sit in the filing tray on the particular book or piece of paper that I am working on.  Typical cat ...

With all the rain over the past few weeks, everywhere seems to have gone very green all of a sudden.  The wild flowers are all bursting out and there are poppies all over the place

And it's getting to the best time of year for one of my absolute favourite things - elderflower

Made into elderflower cordial it is just delicious!  But remember to ask permission from the tree spirits when you cut the flowers, otherwise bad things will befall you.

As usual, all the kids started shouting this evening as soon as I walked into the barn.  They see someone coming and think it must be feeding time!  However, one little girlie was completely oblivious to all the pandemonium around her - she stayed fast asleep for ages!

Back to cheesemaking again tomorrow and another busy week to look forward to.

Saturday 23 June 2012

Wow! What a week!

We are usually pretty busy here at Ellie's Dairy but this week seems to have just been absolutely non-stop!  I've also been getting to bed very late and haven't had time to blog.  So, get yourself a stiff drink or a nice cup of tea - this could be a long one!!

Monday was cheesemaking with Julie as usual.  She is doing brilliantly and I can quite happily leave her alone in the cheese room now, with only the minimum of interference (which I am sure she appreciates!).  We always make a point of having lunch together on the days that we make cheese and have come to an arrangement that I will provide pudding on a Monday and she will bring it on a Thursday.  We decided on this arrangement after we both turned up with pud on Monday!!  Fortunately, Dave and Jane both turned up at the cheese room as well, so the extra rations came in handy.

Monday also saw the arrival of our latest work experience student, Molly.  She is a friend of ours who is doing lots of work experience in order to be accepted into vet school.  She is staying with us for 3 weeks whilst she does 2 weeks work with our own vet and then the final week solely with us, helping with the goats.  She is very keen and loves the goatie girls.  Here she is with Footsie:

Tuesday was more cheesemaking!  This time, brie and camembert with cow's milk for Jane.

Wednesday just did not have enough hours in the day!  Our vet called in at 7.30am to give our dogs Nell and Ben their annual vaccinations.  Then, later in the day, I saw him again as I took young Jake the Peg to have his cast taken off.  Here he is on the way to the surgery:

He was very well behaved and was so pleased to have his leg free again.  Peter was very pleased with how well it had healed and Jake was certainly glad to be able to give himself a good scratch!  Judging by the bits of hay that had fallen down inside the top of the cast, I think his leg must have been getting very itchy - he spent ages just licking and nibbling his leg to groom it.  He is bouncing around the barn now on all 4 legs.

So, having sorted Jake out, Molly and I loaded some goats into the trailer and took them up to the cheese plant for an open evening.  We had obtained a special exhibition licence from Defra in order to be able to move the goats just for the evening - I had imagined that it would be a long and painful process but it was remarkably simple to achieve.  I had decided to take Footise, as we know she loves people and is great entertainment, and a selection of 6 kids to show the various breeds that we have on the farm.  And here they all are:

Jane and Dave had been very busy tidying and decorating the old grain store so that they could set up tables inside.  We had also invited Biddenden Vineyards with their wine and cider, Tony from Hopdaemon Brewery with a couple of his beers and Andrew from the Bottle Shop with a great selection of Westerham beers.  We had quite a few people turn up for the evening and everyone seemed to enjoy the cheese, wine and the trip around the cheesemaking plant.

And I had the chance to wear my birthday t-shirt that Jane had ordered especially for me.  Bit difficult to see clearly but here you go:

'Keep Calm.  I'm a cheesemaking goatkeeper'.  Fab eh?!  Makes a change from 'Ellie's Dairy' !!

Thursday - more cheesemaking!!!

And finally, Friday .... I went off to do all my deliveries and David went off with the trailer to Dorset to pick up 4 nice goaties that a lady had offered us.  We very rarely bring new animals into the herd for many reasons, but we decided that these four would hopefully give us some nice different breeding stock, as well as a bit more milk.  David collected 2 black British Alpine type milkers - sisters Dannie and Maggy -  and two white goatlings - sisters Takira and Angelique.

The traffic coming back to Kent was absolutely horrendous and it took David almost 6 hours to come home.  I had built a separate area for the new arrivals while they get used to everyone else.

Maggie and Danni are only used to be milked by hand and so we expected that it would be a bit of performance to get them through the parlour.  But, they were extremely well behaved and stood very well, even though they were a little bit nervous.  We will get them out with the rest of the herd early next week, once they have all had a chance to get to know each other through the barricades!

And talking of barricades - the naughty little goats have been up to their tricks again.  First of all, they decided to take a wander into the big boys' area:

Fortunately, the big males are very well-behaved this time of year - Fremlin doesn't look too impressed with the little upstarts walking around HIS area though!

Once they had got bored with that, they decided to start climbing up on all the stacks of straw waiting to be used:

Bad bad little goats!  They seemed to be enjoying themselves though, which is the main thing.

Right .. that's about it I think for today.  Hopefully more tomorrow.  I'm off to bed.  Night night!

Saturday 16 June 2012

Nubes go to a new home

So, after the trauma and upset of Thursday afternoon, I thought I would do a quick catch up on the rest of the happier events of the week!

Earlier on Thursday I took our two little male Nubettes to their new home at the Museum of Kent Life where they are set to become firm favourites.  I was thrilled to see that my other little chaps are doing well there and they were very popular with the visitors.  They were all busy tiddling around in their paddock and just love the attention that they get from people going past.

The little Nubes are going to be kept in a separate house for a short while, just to let them settle in.  Here they are with their new dad, Phil, who is the Farm Manager at the Museum.  He just loves his Anglo Nubians!

Today saw the start of the Wye Food Festival as Jane the Cheese and myself attended an extended Wye Market.  We had an extra hour of market in our usual place, then we all carried our tables (still full of cheese!) round onto the Green and carried on for another couple of hours.  It was a great day and the weather was fairly kind to us, though the wind was a bit blustery and annoying.  Still, the rain stayed off until mid afternoon - that sent everyone scurrying for the beer tent, so we decided to call it a day at that point and joined them for a swift half pint!

It was a nice busy morning:

and there were a few special attractions there as well, including a set of old village stocks:

I did suggest that we put the market manager in there and hurl bits of old cheese at her, but she didn't seem very impressed with that idea for some reason.

Talented local craftswoman, Della, sat spinning a Jacob fleece and talked to people about her work.  Clever lady ... I am hoping to attend one of her spinning classes fairly soon.

And what of Marmite Cat I hear you ask?  Well, she is back on her perch in the greenhouse again ..

In between bringing me small mice and birds ... She's very generous.

And finally ...  A couple of little videos for you.  The first one shows our little escaping goats - girlie nearest to the camera and her brother just beyond.  Nimble little things aren't they?!

And the second is a few of the larger escapees, including our little Jake the Peg.  Difficult to see the plaster cast is still on his leg, especially with the way he is jumping about!  He is the white kid to the left of the picture - you can see him limp slightly as he moves his back left leg around

His cast comes off on Wednesday.  I expect he will be very glad to get rid of it as I think it is starting to annoy him now - he keeps pulling at the wadding and nibbling at it!

Friday 15 June 2012

Alas, poor Tinkerbell

And yesterday was going so well.  But then I arrived back at the goatshed late in the afternoon to find poor Tinkerbell goat looking exceedingly poorly.  She had been off colour for a couple of days - nothing specific that you could put your finger on ... just 'not right'.  But yesterday afternoon she was clearly not well at all.  Although she was still on her feet, she was struggling to breathe, was terribly sunken in her sides, and (worst of all) started to call out very pitifully as soon as she saw me.

Immediately, I got her out to check her over, took her temperature and sat with her for a while.  Her tongue and gums were very white (not a good sign, even in a white goat!) and she was obviously in some distress.  Our marvellous vet, Peter, was there within 30 minutes to examine her.  It wasn't good.  Her heartbeat was very muffled and he was struggling to hear it.  Her temperature was lower than normal and her breathing was very shallow.  His opinion was that she had some kind of serious condition, such as fluid around the heart or lungs.  The prognosis was not good as she had obviously got much worse very quickly during the day.

And so, the painful decision was taken.  I held her in my arms as Peter sent her to the big goatshed in the sky.  Only 3 years old.

When it was over, I took her twin sister Alice to see her. When a goat dies, it's something that I always do if they have a sister or a close friend.  I think it is very important that the surviving goat has a chance to see them so that they know where the other goat has gone, otherwise they become distressed when they cannot find them.  Goats are intelligent creatures and can recognise death. 

Alice sniffed at her sister, turned and looked at me, snorted and then walked away.  Poor Alice.  Poor Tinkerbell.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

By special delivery ...

Remember the naughty little goats that keep escaping out of their pen?  Mmm ... when our courier turned up today, he got a bit more than he bargained for!  As David and I went out to help him load our packages, we were followed by several small goats - much to the driver's amusement.  As he opened the back door of his van, our little girlie leapt up inside to see what exciting things may be within.  The arm on the left of the picture is the driver taking a picture for his daughter!

We counted them all safely back into their house before he drove off!!

It's that time of year when our own hay has finally run out.  Many hungry mouths to feed and so we have had to start buying in hay.  Very expensive stuff, I can tell you, but we have got a local farmer friend who makes excellent hay and was happy to let us have a trailer-load of very large bales for a reasonable price. 

The goatlings certainly seemed to like it this evening - here they are tucking in!

Contrary to popular opinion, goats are exceedingly fussy about what they eat and you run the risk of spending a lot of money on hay that they will not like.  It happened to us many years ago when we only had a few animals who would not eat a certain few bales of hay.  I watched them get thinner and thinner for a day or so, hoping that they would eventually start to eat it but, as the books often say, goats will starve rather than eat bad food.  I remember loading the hay into the truck and driving over to a horse-owning friend very late one night in total desperation, hoping to swap bales with her.  She was kind enough to agree and I returned home with different hay.  I filled up the hayracks immediately and was so relieved when all the girls started to eat - I was so happy I almost cried!!

Watching the goatlings tonight, I was again struck by the differences that can often occur between siblings.  One of the larger (and noisier) girls is called Scarlet - she is quite dark in colour, with white patches on her face:

Her sister, Vivien, is a little smaller and much quieter.  She is lighter in colour and has a deformed jaw - her lower jaw is short and slightly twisted to one side:

This gives her a rather odd appearance but doesn't seem to affect her ability to eat at all.  She has grown well and is the same size as everyone else, so I think that it is just purely cosmetic.  I have nicknamed her 'Twisty Viv'.

Tomorrow, my little Anglo Nubian boys are off to a new home at the Museum of Kent Life.  This will leave their little sister as the sole big-eared kid this year but she has a lot of smaller-eared friends in her house and so I hope that she won't miss the boys too much.  I know that I will miss them though as they are such characters.  But, they are going to be well-looked after and I will be able to visit them as they grow up.

Monday 11 June 2012

Dismal weather

I told you that there would be no stopping me now that I have broadband!!  I think the weather is pretty dismal everywhere tonight but thought you might like a couple of quick pictures taken from the hay barn .. As we are right on top of the Downs, we suffer with a lot of sea fog that comes straight in over the Isle of Sheppey.

And here is a fine example of said fog:

How dismal is that?!  Usually beautiful greenery this time of year, with the sun shining late into the evening ... And as I type this, I can hear the rain beating against the window again ..

Oh to be a goat at Ellie's Dairy!  All snuggled up with friends on a warm bed of fresh straw, hayracks filled to the brim with yummy hay ...

Sunday 10 June 2012

Old bikes, new toys and little udders!

Has everyone survived the wind?  I just about managed to get through Balham market yesterday without too much damage, although I did spend most of the morning hanging onto the gazebo, even though it was well weighted down at each corner.  I think I had the windiest spot in the market - no shelter at all.  It's quite difficult trying to cut and wrap cheese with one arm so I had the customers hanging onto the awning while I served them.  Seemed like a fair deal to me and they were all happy to oblige!  I came home with windburn though - looked like I had been out in the sun for hours.

Our new market manager, Nathaniel, was on duty yesterday and had with him, as always, his gorgeous dog Asha.  She is the most lovely animal, about 13 years old, and SO well behaved.

Nathaniel first got her as a puppy when he lived in California and she used to run alongside him as he rode his bike everywhere.  Then they moved to Singapore and this was no longer safe for her due to the amount of traffic, so Nathaniel had a special side-car built for his old motorbike.  When he moved to the UK he brought it with him and now dog and man go everywhere in it - Asha just sits in the side-car and watches the world pass by!

And so to new toys ... Soon it will be hay-making season and David will be rushed off his feet, working hard to try and get all our hay in for this year.  He does all the work himself and it is often a frantic race against the clock to try and get hay made while the weather is exactly right.  Making good hay is not just a matter of cutting the grass and baling it ... it needs to be turned and spread at least twice every day for a few days, ideally in hot sun with a nice drying breeze.  And David does make excellent hay .. ask the goats!!

Haymaking also requires a lot of special equipment which all has to be in the same place at the same time.  To make life much easier (and quicker) this year, we decided that we needed to have a loader on the front of the big tractor (instead of just on the smaller old tractor).  And so it was ordered many months ago and was fitted on Friday .. lovely and shiny it is too.  He's very pleased with his new toy!

While I was feeding the goatlings this morning I noticed that there seem to be a number of little udders starting to appear.  Seems that puberty has reached the goat shed!  I always think that it's funny to see these little udders sprouting .. the girls still seem so young, yet really they are teenagers.  So, here you go - a few little bottoms for you!

The milkers were out and about in the field today as there was no wind.  Here are a few of them up their 'mountain':

Needless to say, they all ran indoors just before milking time when it started to rain again.  You cannot get your ears wet!!

Friday 8 June 2012

The wonders of technology ...

Hang the flags out!  We now have a permanent landline broadband connection here at Ellie's Dairy.  Hurrah!!!!  No more (hopefully) flaky rural mobile broadband.  What an absolute luxury!  And speedy beyond belief.  So, no more excuses for not blogging .. you will get fed up with me now I have unfettered access to waffle ...
So ..... naughty goats.  We have a few, as you well know from previous posts.  Seems that it runs in the genes though ... Martha's two little people (almost the youngest inhabitants of the goat shed) have developed a great knack of slipping themselves out between the bars of their pen.  Doesn't matter how we make the pen, what type of hurdles they have or how high or low the gates are, they seem to be able to get through or over anything at all. 
As soon as they hear us in the morning they are up and out .. they come skipping over to us to say good morning.  It's hard to be cross with such beautiful little creatures when they are so earnest!
Of course, once they have been fed, they settle down and go straight to sleep!

The girls have not been impressed with the weather over the last couple of days.  That wind gets right up your bottom when you're out in the field.  So everyone has stayed firmly indoors.  Lots of fresh straw and hay ..

And the big chaps have just been lounging around as well.  They are all looking very nice at this time of year - all well fed and nicely groomed.  It won't last though - a few more weeks and their thoughts will be turning to romance.  It's incredible how much energy the boys use during their working season, so we like to make sure that they are nice and plump and healthy and at their very best for all those lovely ladies.

Here's a few of them just taking it easy:

Navajo, Max and Fremlin

Well, that's me done and off to bed.  Very early start in the morning - got to get all those babies fed and watered before loading up for Balham market.  Better take some extra weights with me to hold the awning down!!

Monday 4 June 2012

The Big Breakfast

Actually, several Big Breakfasts to be correct.  As you know, we like our nosh here at Ellie's Dairy and Saturday morning was no exception.  We decided to have a team outing to Lenham chippie - an excellent establishment that provides the most wonderful (and enormous) cooked breakfasts.  And here we all are:

Fran at the back, Julie in the middle and the two Davids at the front.  David to the left is Julie's other half - he is also a cheesemaker and works for us from time to time doing various bits and pieces with cheese.  He is also very handy at hauling the milk tanker if neither of us are free to do it.

The boys decided that they could cope with the 'mega' breakfast.  No mean feat!  And all plates were cleared at the end .. what a team effort.  Needless to say, noone needed to eat anything else for the rest of the day!  Julie and Dave went shopping in Canterbury whilst David, Fran and I mucked out all the babies to try and work off some of that fat!!

Sunday market at Parson's Green was dismal to say the least - the weather was cold and wet and there was just noone around.  Either everyone had cleared out of town for the weekend or they were all down at the Thames watching the Jubilee River Pageant.  Happily though, the traffic was virtually none existent and so I got there and back very easily.  I did see a few of the boats getting themselves ready as I drove along the river near Putney - all looked very exciting!

Well, all our new babies are doing very well and almost everyone is feeding off the teats now.  There is one exception - Meryl's little white daughter will not feed from a bottle or from a teat.  She prefers instead to stick her head straight in the jug:

The older kids still complain when they don't get any milk in the mornings!  Hay and hard feed is just not the same.  Still, it gives them more time to play while I am getting everything ready for them - a little video for you:

They just love that big metal feeder to jump on.

Julie and I are cheesemaking today - no rest for the wicked.  Maybe we will get a few hours off tomorrow for the extra bank holiday but it rather depends on what the goats have in store for us when we open the door in the morning!