Sunday 29 July 2012

Students go home ...

Well, the end of a very hot week.  About 1000 bales of hay in the barn so far.  Hurrah!!  Well done David.  Some of the taller goats have discovered that if they stand up right on their tippy-toes, they can JUST about reach the bales stacked against the corner of their barn.  Look closely in the far corner and see Cassie happily munching away!

Our vet student, Jo, has finished her time with us and went back home on Friday evening.  Apparently, she had tickets for Olympic badminton on Saturday ...  We thoroughly enjoyed having her here and, as Molly stayed with us again last week as well, it will be VERY quiet in the goat shed this week without those two around!

I think that Jo fitted in with us very well and I was pleased that I managed to feed her successfully for the two weeks without giving her food poisoning!  We are both very partial to a bowl of pasta and I was thrilled to find some dried pasta with a veterinary theme:

We had an enjoyable meal sorting out the various animals .... We really should get out more.  I blame it on sleep deprivation ...

One of Jo's final jobs on Friday evening was to give Sadie goat her last milk feed.  Sadie is the kid who would not feed from a bottle or a teat - she had to drink straight from a jug.  Well, now she is weaned.  Much to her disgust.  She had got used to having her jug of milk every evening and so there was much pitiful bleating last night when she only had her hard feed with the other kids.  She tried giving me a hard stare ... a pitiful bleat .. and then a very sad little face ... poor Sadie.

The grown-up goaties had a good week out in the field, especially when the electric fence came down and they were able to reach the hedge.  Yummy ...  It proved quite diffficult to get them back in for milking but eventually they all came running down the field:

The heat also made them especially naughty and here is a small selection of bad behaviour from last night:

A view from outside the parlour ramp.  Notice the black goat at the top of the ramp - Martha waiting for the door to open so that she can run back inside the parlour to check for any leftover food.

Willow and Magenta outside the parlour.

Diddi and Sibyl having a snack from the feed barrow.  They have already been milked and fed but ran back down the inside ramp to find the extra food.

The boys are enjoying their summer quarters out in the cattle yard.  Still eating well and eyeing up the ladies from a distance.  They are all ready for action when the time comes!

And before Jo and Molly left us, they decided on a name for our little Nubette.  Molly and I had thought that something exotic and Eastern would be appropriate and, for some reason, we both came up with 'Shakira'.  Mmmm ... Then Jo and I both thought 'Cleo(patra)' would be a nice name.  So, 'Cleo' it is.  Or 'Miss Cleopatra Shakira Nubian' as the students decided!

Tuesday 24 July 2012

First hay of the season

And here it is ... the first bale of the year.  With our official taster - Miss Ginger Goat:

Apparently it's rather good.  And you can't believe what a relief it is to have some hay baled and waiting to come into the barn.  SO happy!!!

Young Larkin went off on his 'working' holiday today to spend some time with the goatlings.  He is a good lad - very laid back and gentle - and all the youngsters were quite impressed with him.  I think he will be very popular with the girls although they are not quite sure about him at the moment!

One of our little male kids went off to a new home this evening as well.  A very nice family sadly lost one of their goats a few weeks ago and wanted a new youngster to keep their remaining goat company.  He's a really sweet little chap and was a favourite of Jo's as she was bottle feeding him this week:

If you look at this picture closely you will notice a naughty white goat directly behind Jo.  Just after the picture was taken, this goat pulled a sizeable chunk of her hair out!

With the weather being so hot today we spent quite some time making sure that everyone had lots of fresh water.  The weaned babies are drinking quite a lot now and have an automatic water bowl in their pen - how big and grown up!  But they still love to drink from a bucket whenever they get the chance and some of them like to drink straight from the tap.  As I was trying to fill a bucket this evening I had a small audience of little goats sticking their heads under the water tap:

Sunday 22 July 2012

Sunshine at last!!

At last!!!  The weather forecast looks hopeful for the next few days and so David has been mowing grass in earnest ready to make hay (while the sun shines!).  We have quite a few acres mown and down at the moment so keep your fingers crossed for warm and breezy weather for the next few days.  We are getting absolutely desperate to get some hay into the barn for all those hungry goaties! 

Our vet student Jo decided to stay with us for the weekend rather than go home and come back for her second week.  As I only had one market over the weekend, I decided to give myself some time off and take her out to a couple of places.  After Wye market yesterday we enjoyed a delicious lunch in the Goods Shed in Canterbury and then went for a walk around the city - it's years since I have been into the town.  Plenty of tourists around, especially at the entrance to the cathedral:

And today we took a trip to the Whitstable Oyster Festival to watch everyone else working. It was great to be able to wander around and not have to sell cheese!!  We started with a chilled glass of Prosecco around 11am:

And then ate our way round the festival for the new few hours.  The weather was glorious and the sea was flat calm:

And being an Oyster Festival, there were more than a few oysters around .. this was just a small part of the discarded shell mountain!

It was lovely to have a few hours off and enjoy the sunshine and some very nice food.

Back to work now though .. I have told Jo that there will be no more lying in or time off until she finishes with us on Friday.  Hard woman that I am ...

Friday 20 July 2012

Getting ready for the Olympics

Great excitement in the goat shed yesterday as the Olympic Torch Relay came to Kent.  Jo and I went to feed the goatlings at teatime and then drove up the road a bit to wait for the convoy.  The torch was being carried further along the main road but we couldn't really leave David doing all the milking and feeding, so we just had to be content with seeing the convoy go past.  Presumably the flame is in the back of someone's car!!  Nice to see the police motorcyclists waving though :-)

I have to say though, it's all going to be a bit of a pain in the bum for the next few weeks.  I will have to do my London deliveries at ungodly hours of the day and night to avoid all the traffic and it will certainly be interesting trying to get to the London Farmers' Markets.  Once in a lifetime though so can't really complain!

We have got a couple of new additions to the main goat shed this week as we moved two of the goatlings up to the main herd.  We are getting ready to send young Larkin down to spend some romantic time with all those lovely young goatlings but we had to move his two daughters away first.  Irma and Fuschia are now with all the big girls in the main barn and seem to be fitting in very well.  They seem to take more after their mother Foxglove rather than their father and they are certainly cheeky enough to cope with the rest of the milkers.  And they like to help getting the hay into the hay racks after milking:

The world is full of cheeky, naughty goats ..

Wye Market tomorrow morning and I have promised Jo that she can have a lie in and not come into the goat shed early.  She is very excited about not having to get up at 5am ...  But she is coming to market with me so that should be good fun.  Look out Wye, here we come!

Tuesday 17 July 2012

The latest student

Our latest temporary addition to the Ellie's Dairy goatie team is Jo who is a vet student from Bristol Uni.  Here we see her working hard with David in the goat shed:

We have been pretty lucky with all our students so far and Jo is no exception.  Lovely bubbly personality and very enthusiastic.  She has particular interests in animal welfare and compassionate farming so hopefully we will fit her ethical requirements!  Her mum Julie drove her down to us on Sunday evening and Jo went straight to work.  I have to say that she does have the snazziest wellies seen so far on a vet student.  We're not used to such elegance in the goat shed!

As Jo lives some distance away, she is staying with me at my little house.  She brought some yummy food with her and we are planning on cooking something very chocolatey with one of the ingredients!  Marmite has already made friends with her and splits her night between Jo's bed and my own! 

The weather was a lot better today but still not good enough for David to get started on haymaking as the forecast is for rain again tomorrow.  It's possible that we might get a few days next week but we will see.

The goatie girls spent some time in their field today but came in when the sun got too warm.  Everyone lay around dozing and Daphne fell asleep standing up with her head on the gate!

Off to bed!  Night nigh ...

Sunday 15 July 2012

Mud mud glorious mud ...

Good evening dear readers ... Another stunning week for weather.  And boy has it rained!  Came down in sheets.  All over the Kent Showground in time for the County Show.  What a mudbath that turned out to be!!

The car parks turned out to be the main problem for everyone as the fields got churned up and cars couldn't get in or out without the help of tractors.  Then the car parks were closed to the public .. who stayed away from the showground .. and all the traders got quite upset as there weren't many people around.  The livestock areas weren't too bad but the Young Farmers were up to their eyeballs in a bog.  But everyone was in pretty good spirits and we managed to sell some cheese as well!

This morning I decided to go in the truck so that I had half a chance of getting in and out without the aid of a man in a tractor.  Good move I thought.  But the parking stewards had decided that all 4x4 vehicles are good in mud and were happily directing everyone who looked they had the remotest bit of grip into a nice wet field the other side of a swamp.  Made it interesting to try and walk back through the swamp to get into the showground on foot ... Here's a piccie of my wellies:

I have lived in my wellies all weekend.  I feel that an apron and wellies is always a good look when selling cheese to the public:

And I did my cooking demo in wellies as well.  Fab ...  The demo actually went rather well I thought and I was quite pleased with my efforts at 'doing interesting things with goat's cheese'.  Quite a few people sat and listened all the way through and everyone loved tasting the dishes at the end.  Lemony leek goat's cheese tart, crostini with tomato cheese and basil, meringue with mango and lime coulis and goat curd ... yum ..

Our stand was next to Karen of Kingcott Cheese who make the wonderful Kentish Blue.  Karen and Steve are dairy farmers and also took the opportunity to try and get some publicity for the 'fair price for milk' campaign that is in the headlines at the moment:

The cattle farmers will all be very hard hit by this latest drop in milk price and we all need to support the campaign.

We stayed pretty mud free behind our stand but the entrance to the marquee and the area immediately in front of us was pretty bad for most of the weekend:

Most people had the sense to wear boots or wellies but, during the quieter moments, Karen and I were having fun spotting people in unsuitable footwear.  I think I won the prize for spotting a young lady in a pair of white (yes, white) espadrilles.  Good choice ....

Just a couple of stalls along from us, the Chilli Pot were getting into the swing of things with ridiculous hats ...

Whilst Gadds Brewery and some of the cider makers were just taking it easy:

So that's that for another year!  And most of us are stupid enough to be doing it all again next weekend at the Whitstable Oyster Festival!  But at least that's all on concrete and not in the middle of a field ..

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Who remembers Ginger goat?

Cast your mind back to last year ...  Remember Ginger goat?  The Houdini of the goat shed?  Used to climb over or through gates?  Then Ginger got pregnant and was too fat to escape.  And she had babies and everyone (ie. David) thought that she had settled down.  But, you see, it was just as I thought (and I happen to think like a goat) ... she was just biding her time and waiting ...

Yes indeedy ..  Photos taken tonight at milking time.  I can't tell you how impressed David was that she was up to her old tricks.  Not.

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, many of the babies are now feeding from troughs hung on the outside of their gates.  We have a lot of troughs but not enough to hang on every gate, so some of them are moved back and forth between the babies and the milkers.  So, as soon as the troughs are moved off the gate, Ginger seizes her chance and wiggles her way out.  Bless her. ...

As I write, I can hear the rain thundering down again outside.  Good job my best friend Linda sent me a surprise present this week.  How about these for a pair of wellies?!!

How utterly fab and gorgeous are those?!  Grass and daisies .. just my style.  The goats will love them.  Think they might go down a storm at the Kent Show as well .. Looking at the weather forecast, I think I might be needing them!

Monday 9 July 2012

A break between students ...

Apologies for the blogging delay once again!  Was the internet very busy this weekend or was it just me having a hiccup?  I managed to get on the blog on Saturday and Sunday evenings but was completely unable to do anything .. Must have been everyone checking out the Wimbledon results ..

Anyway, here I am ... Managed to finish off both of the work experience students last week!  Think they slept well over the weekend :-)  Molly came with me on Saturday to help with the Open Day at our veterinary practice. 

The weather wasn't particularly marvellous and a couple of heavy downpours sent everyone scurrying for shelter.  Our little goaties were warm and dry in one of the practice stables so they were very happy!  In view of the weather, we decided to take only the kids and leave big fat Footsie goat at home - it would be a lot easier just to deal with one pen of babies rather than a second pen for a large stroppy milker as well!

Everyone loved the babies ... even the small people who came to visit.  Here is a young chap called Max who seemed very interested in everyone:

Yesterday afternoon I had a bit of a treat.  You may remember that I gave a talk to an organisation called the Catenians last year.  Well, my host for that evening, Steve Goldsmith, is now the President of the group and he very kindly invited me to his President's Lunch yesterday afternoon.  They had decided to have a hog roast (which looked delicious) but there was plenty of other yummy food there as well for those green-haired, lentil-eating veggies such as myself.  I also provided a small goatie cheese board for everyone to enjoy at the end of the meal.

Steve and his wife Ali had worked very hard to organise a wonderful afternoon for over 80 people who turned up.  Everyone had a thoroughly nice time and it was lovely to meet some of the members again.  Here's a few piccies for you:

So, back in the goat shed ... we did a fair bit of moving around last week while we had students around to help as we need to get the hay barn cleared in the hope that the weather will improve and David can go haymaking. 

The big males are all now out in their summer quarters in the cattle yard.  They have a large sheltered area at the back with a huge hayrack, water bowl and lots and lots of comfy straw, whilst the open area at the front allows them to strut their stuff in front of the girls.  Yes, it's getting round to that time of year again!!  Hardly seems five minutes since last season ... And the boys are getting themselves ready .. there is the unmistakeable odour of male goat just starting to arise from their batchelor pad ..  Here they are having their breakfast this morning ... look at the size of them!  They are all in fine shape at the moment.

We have also moved the kids around as more of them are now weaned.  And the older ones are now feeding out of troughs hung over the gate .. how grown up!

So, this week will be taken up mainly with the Kent County Show at the end of the week.  Then we have another student arriving on Sunday night - this time a vet student from Bristol Uni called Jo.  She is a friend of Charlotte who worked with us last year so I imagine she already knows a fair bit about us .. which may or may not be a good thing!  Looking forward to her arriving though as we have a few jobs lined up!

If you are in Kent and happen to be at the Kent Show, do come along and visit.  We are sharing stands with Jane the Cheese and will be in the main Food Tent as well as the Taste of Kent area at the opposite end of the showground.  And don't forget my Fanny Craddock session - now confirmed  as 12 noon on Friday 13th.  An auspicious date ....

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Ragwort and orchids

Today was a very hot day.  It would have been a lovely day to sit in a deckchair with a nice cool glass of wine.  So where was I?  In the middle of a field pulling ragwort ..  all day ... Fab.  David's idea of an exciting day out.  The work experience students were both thrilled with it as well. 

We rent a large tract of beautiful valley that is run in conjunction with Natural England and so we are really restricted as to what we can do down there.  We graze it and make hay from it but one particular field has succumbed to the dreaded ragwort - the land has really been neglected for many years and has not had any maintenance at all.  As you may know, ragwort is seriously poisonous to most animals, especially when dried in hay, and so we had to clear it out before David gets down there and starts baling.  Only one way to do it - walk the field and pull it all out by the roots.

It is a back-breaking task but it really is a stunning location and it was wonderful to just enjoy the countryside.  The field is packed full of wild flowers - the goats are going to absolutely love the hay - so many tasty things in there! 

The reason that Natural England are so interested in the location is the large number of pyramidal orchids that grow there.  Having only ever seen them in pictures before, I was absolutely thrilled to see plenty of them today - all in flower and looking gorgeous.  These photos really don't do them justice at all:

But the best find of the day was a hen pheasant sitting on a clutch of 10 eggs.  I almost stepped on her in my eagerness to get to a particularly juicy bit of ragwort and I jumped out of my skin as she squawked and sped off into the long grass.  I covered the nest back over and hoped that she would come back to it later.  And she did .. the gamekeeper and I walked back later on in the day to check that all was well and we were happy to spot her safely snuggled over her eggs. 

A very successful day though .. you really feel that you have achieved something when you see a clear field and two trucks full of pulled ragwort!  Also got 4 horse-fly bites to show for my efforts as well ...