Tuesday 28 August 2012

The Garden of England

Ellie's Dairy is fortunate to be located in one of the most beautiful areas of the North Kent Downs and slap bang in the middle of the 'Garden of England'.  At this time of year, with the sun shining and the sky blue, there is nothing more glorious than the sight of acres of hops ripe and ready for picking.  Traditionally, the picking season starts on the first Monday in September and the Faversham Hop Festival is all set to celebrate the start of the season this weekend.

One of our most favourite shops, Macknade Fine Foods in Faversham, needed to have some fresh hops for their festival display and so I called in to our friends at Syndale Farm to collect some especially for them.  We had special permission from the Hop Daemon to cut a bine early!!

The hop gardens looked glorious in the sunshine:

I had to select which one I wanted:

And down it came.  Must admit that my little van smelt absolutely wonderful for the short journey to Macknade!

As a couple of our boys may be going off on a 'working' holiday soon, I needed to get some pictures of them to send to their prospective foster parents.  I managed to get David out of a tractor long enough to snap a few photos for me .. Not my best side, but I am only in the picture so you can see the size of the chaps.  Big aren't they?!

Here's Navajo looking magnificent:

And Daramac:
 Hard to believe that Daramac is the baby of the male herd - he's only just over 2 years old!  Still got some growing to do!

Meanwhile, back in the barn, the milkers were hard at work:

No, not dead goats.  Just exceedingly lazy goats.  Having emptied the hay rack, Coral and Dumdum decided that it would make a very comfy bed. 

This is what we have to contend with at milking time - try getting these two to come in for milking!  Note the slightly open eyes and disdainful stare - 'do I really have to get up??'

Sunday 26 August 2012

A busy week means a full barn!

David reckons that he's managed to lose a couple of stone in weight doing haymaking.  Who needs a gym membership?!  Hard work in very hot weather and loads of stress - that's the recipe for weight loss!

And the result of his efforts can be seen around the farm - a nice full barn and a few stray piles waiting to be loaded in:

Lovely lovely hay and straw.  Just a small amount of oat straw to bale and bring in and that's it!  Hopefully we should have enough this year to get us through to next harvest.  It's a great relief, I can tell you.

As I sit at my laptop writing this blog, I can smell a rather unsavoury odour.  Smells suspiciously like a small dead rodent ... courtesy of Marmite cat.  I haven't been able to pin the smell down yet to anything particular but years of experience tell me that there is something small, furry and deceased lurking in this room. 

Anyway - it was a hard and very busy week but as it came to an end we were thrilled to welcome our friends Andrew and Jennifer and their boys Robert and Scott for a flying visit.  On their way back home to Huddersfield from a brief holiday in France, they arrived on Friday night and stayed over until this morning.  Andrew and the boys are always keen to help with the goats and it was good to have some help in the parlour after a week of coping single-handed with all those stroppy milkers!

Jennifer dragged herself out of bed early on Saturday and came to Wimbledon market to give me a hand.  It was great to have an extra pair of hands and she seemed to enjoy her day out - here she is taking a well-earned rest!

The girls had the much better deal on Saturday as David had a rather more mucky job lined up for the boys who stayed behind  .... After some brief tuition, the three of them spent a happy day muckspreading!  Andrew was in charge of loading with the JCB:

Whilst Robert did the tractor driving and spreading:

Scott lent a hand with both and all of them managed to get absolutely plastered in goat poo.  Fortunately, they had a wash before we all retired to the old grain store for a barbeque as the rain moved in.  Those large plastic-wrapped stacks are huge bales of lucerne for the goaties.

And what of the goaties this week?  Well, it was just them and me for most of the evening milking sessions and although they were reasonably well behaved, there was the usual naughtiness.  Don't be fooled by all those innocent little faces as they relax in the sunshine waiting to come in for milking:

As soon as I start rattling about in the parlour, they are up on their feet and waiting at the gate, ready and eager to come in:

And once the gate is open, there's a mad dash to be first in.  Let battle commence!

Once in the parlour, they are fairly well behaved though:
It's only when they have finished their food that the bad behaviour starts!

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Balloons and broken toys

At 10pm last night, David had both tractors broken down in the shed.  Oh dear ... Small old tractor had a fuel problem and had broken down earlier in the day.  The newer larger tractor had arrived back at the farm when suddenly one of the rear tyres started to go down ... rather rapidly.

So, a late night for David fixing the little tractor and an early morning for those wonderful chaps who fix agricultural punctures.  They arrived just after 5am this morning, having finished work yesterday sometime after midnight.  It's harvest silly season and they are very busy ...

And this was the cause of the puncture:

A rather large piece of metal that looks suspiciously like a chisel blade.  No idea where he managed to pick that up, but it did make rather a large hole in the tyre.  Fortunately, the nice men were able to repair the tyre ... a small mercy when a new tyre would cost over £1500.  Mmmm ...

As the sun rose, the doggies suddenly started to bark.  As I walked out of the barn to investigate, I was met by the Leeds Castle hot air balloon flying overhead:

A wonderful sight and so low that I could see the people waving from the basket!  The North Downs are notoriously difficult to fly over as the air currents are quite strange, so it's not that often that we see the balloon so close.  Lucky people had a wonderful morning for their ride.  The goats weren't too impressed with it though - as it loomed over the barn, there was suddenly a lot of snorting and everyone dashed inside.

As David was out on baling duty again tonight, I was in charge of the goatie girls again.  It was nice to see our oldest goat Tammy come through the parlour next to one of her daughters, Dipsy.  Tammy is the slightly shaggy one to the left and Dipsy is to the right - looks like those 'shaggy' genes have been passed on to the next generation in abundance!

And there was a bit of pushing and shoving going on in the boys' house tonight as well.  As I climbed up the hay stack to fill up their hay rack, I was treated to a good view of Navajo and Daramac having a bit of a manly tussle:

They are such huge powerful beasties!  Looks like Beamish (to the right) was staying well out of the argument.

Sunday 19 August 2012

Raw Milk Campaign - please support us!

The Food Standards Agency is currently conducting a review of raw milk sales in the UK.  A number of producers, including Ellie's Dairy, are being proactive in organising a campaign of information and support for the continuation of raw milk sales.  Our colleagues at Natural Food Finder have organised an online petition and we would love as many people as possible to sign it.

Here's some background information from Ben at NFF:

The Petition

The Foods Standards Agency (FSA) are currently reviewing their position on the sale of unpasteurised milk in the UK. The FSA have always been openly opposed to unpasteurised milk claiming that there is sufficient evidence that it poses a more significant risk to our health compared to other foods and as such should be banned from consumption. The FSA continues to encourage regulation of raw milk and to maintain close contact with the raw milk farms and the bacterial counts of the milk that they produce. Regulation of all food products is of course desirable to ensure quality and cleanliness standards are maintained.

According to the FSA's own report there have been absolutely no deaths recorded at all as a result of illness due to drinking raw milk across the last 17 years, but 149 deaths have been caused by bacteria contracted from eating other foods! When looking at the 242 actual cases of illness related to raw milk consumption over the full 17 years we can determine that there is an average of 14 people each year who may contract a bacterial illness as a result of raw milk consumption. Of course we do not want these 14 people to become sick, but compared to the annual average of 3,634 people who become ill as a result of consuming other foods. Should we not be looking to the other foods that are causing 99.2% of all the food borne illnesses and 100% of the deaths related to food borne illnesses and measuring them against the same stiff ruler that is lined up against raw milk?

It is an inherent human right to be able to chose the foods that one wishes to eat. No government has the right to restrict an individual's right to eat health promoting food. Milk has been consumed for at least 10,000 years as part of the human diet, with some experts estimating that milk may have been consumed for periods considerably longer than this. As mandatory pasteurisation only became a part of British life in the late 1940's this suggests that all the milk consumed prior to this was unpasteurised. There are many cultures who thrived for generations on raw dairy consumption such as the traditional mountain Swiss and the African Masaai.

Smoking is still legally sold to adults in the UK, which more than a fifth of the population still engage in this habit despite statistics showing that 50% of these individuals will suffer an early death as a result of a smoking related disease. They are still provided the legal right to choose. More than 100,000 people die from smoking related diseases per year in the UK alone. There have been absolutely ZERO raw milk related deaths in the last 17 years, yet this food has been, and is being unfairly considered for a potential outright ban. We believe that every person in the UK has the right to chose to drink safe, clean and suitably regulated unpasteurised cows, buffalos, goats or sheeps milk and cream. Please sign this petition to pledge your support to maintain our freedom to eat as we would chose without having our dietary choices restricted. If one food is allowed to be banned from consumption how long until other foods that are considered to be 'linked' to health problems are also banned?

Thank you and enjoy your high quality, healthy milk!!


Friday 17 August 2012

Ginger and her new friend

And here they are ...

As you see, Ginger Goat took a bit of  a shine to our student Beth!  And, for those of you who had your fingers crossed for those exam results .... as we expected, she got straight A's.  Clever thing that she is ...  Last day today but hopefully we will see her again at kidding time next year.

That's all the students done for this year.  Next year has started booking already.  I think we must be on a list somewhere!!

So, all the barley straw is now back at the farm.  Yesterday evening, it was a bit of a marathon to get the sheeting over the top to save it from the worst of the weather.  David and I went up top and while I was up there, I took a quick shot of some of the goaties in the field below:

Our part of the country is still warm and sunny, though there are torrential downpours in the SW and Midlands.  David has been out again mowing grass ready for another marathon haymaking session over the weekend and early next week.  Looks like I will be home alone with the badly behaved goatie girls again!

This afternoon was particularly hot and although some of the girls were enjoying the warm sunshine:

some of the kids were lying on their wall to keep cool:

Off to Wye tomorrow, a visit from our Huddersfield friends tomorrow night and also a party to go to!  It's going to be another busy day ...

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Frantic activity!

It's been a busy week so far and it's only Wednesday!!  Frantic activity on the hay-making front to make the most of the good weather.  I dread to think how many miles David has done in the tractor this week - up and down the road with trailer loads of hay and straw.

The hay barn is starting to look very healthy indeed and we have a rather large stack of gorgeous barley straw slowly appearing at the back of the goat shed - no space in the hay barn!



And still 4 more trailer loads to come!

We have also taken back several fields immediately adjacent to the goats - having been rented out as arable land for years to a neighbouring farmer, they are now back with David's family.  The crop was harvested last week and the fields handed back.  This field is right next to the one which the goats use at the moment:

Early yesterday morning David's brother turned up with a rather large tractor and cultivator:

And he then spent the day working through all the fields for us.  Cultivation churns up the soil to quite a depth and throws up all the rubbish.  Leave for a short while and let the rubbish grow, then cultivate again to chop it all back into the soil.  Then you are ready to sow your seed.

All the fields will be turned back into grassland for the goats (and Gracie Moos, if they are very lucky!).  Some grazing and some for hay.  The field above will be mostly for grazing and so we have to decide what kind of grass seed we should sow.  So, this has been my bedtime reading for the past couple of nights:

Riveting stuff!!

Actually, it's pretty fascinating.  There are SO many different types of seed.  David and I have decided that we would like to sow a nice herbal ley for the goats .. problem is that it is the most expensive seed in the catalogue.  Hey ho.  Worth it though.  Has lots of lovely stuff in it like clover and chicory, sainfoin and timothy, meadow fescue and yarrow ... The goats will absolutely LOVE it!!

Some of the new hay has exciting crunchy sticky bits in it.  Here's a couple of the kids sharing a particularly tasty bit of nettle yesterday:

And, we have our final student of the year with us this week.  Beth is in her final year at school and is spending her summer getting loads of work experience ready to apply to veterinary college in September.  Haven't got a photo of her yet, but I will snap her before she leaves on Friday!  Poor girl gets her AS level exam results tomorrow morning.  Good luck Beth!!  She's pretty smart though so I am certain she will be absolutely fine.

And, just in case you were wondering what Ginger is up to this week ....

Bit tricky getting that udder over the gate!  Quick swing of the back legs and over it comes ...

Saturday 11 August 2012

While Dad's away ...

The goaties will play ...

David is very busy baling hay and straw at the moment (hurrah!) and so I am left home alone with the goatie girls for feeding and milking.  As you will know from reading previous blogs, there can be some bad behaviour in the milking parlour at times, but it does seem to get worse when they know I am on my own.  They call it 'character' I think.  And that is supposedly why we love goats so much.  I must remind myself of that ....

I'm sure that you don't get this problem with a flock of sheep ... A herd of goats is 300 individual little goatie people, each with their own personality and character.  And here is one of tonight's characters .. Florence.

At 5 years old, she should know better.  For some reason she was being especially naughty tonight and kept on running back up the 'out' ramp.  I have said it before and I will say it again - naughtiness is genetic.  Her mum, the lovely Fig, was an exceedingly naughty goat.  We used to see her at least 6 times every milking ..  She would push open any gate and just come strolling back into the parlour.

However, compared to Beanie, Florence is a saint.  Here's Beanie ... Spot anything wrong??

Yes indeed.  Beanie was actually the 10th goat into the parlour.  When she had finished milking, she decided that she was bored with being near the end.  So she lay down on her stomach and crawled all the way along the parlour under the other goats ....

Never a dull moment ...  They must think that I need entertaining when I am on my own.

It was a glorious hay-making day today.  Lots of mist around this morning as the sun rose

but it soon burned off to leave a very warm and breezy day.  Ideal hay-making weather. 

Balham Market was very 'August-ish' today ..  Everyone on hols or at the Olympics.  Certainly not at the market.  Never mind .. there's always next month!

Day off tomorrow!!  I use the phrase loosely of course, as there's no such thing as a day off when you have a herd of dairy goats.  It just means that I haven't got to go and make cheese or go to market.  I have a feeling that my day may well be spent throwing bales around in the barn!

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Small goats and Mad Max

What is it about small goats that they all have to cram into a small space to get at their breakfast?!  Plenty of room at the troughs which are hung on the gates:

But no ... we have to cram ourselves into a tiny space, bottoms in the air ...

They are entirely too big to be using the feeder now but we left it in their house as they enjoy jumping on it and sitting on the ledge.  And some of them still insist on having their breakfast out of it ... so I keep on putting food in it for them.

I suppose that it's the goat equivalent of a crowded restaurant - noone wants to go into the place that has empty tables!

So, the weather is still unsettled and David has turned his attention back to hedgecutting for the past week.  1st August is the end of the closed season and so farmers can get out to their hedges again.  The tractor has had all the guards fitted back on it - always reminds me of something out of 'Mad Max':

The guard over the bonnet saves dented bodywork and the grills over the windows are for David's safety.  Once that blade gets spinning, there can be some nasty bits flying around and it is very easy to get a smashed window (or worse).

I  was looking back at some photos of the boys yesterday and came across the one we have on the blog of Daramac - I really must update it!!  This was taken not long after he arrived with us:

And this is him now .. grown a bit I would say!!

He was quite nervous when he first came to live with us but now he is much more laid back.  Bit of a mummy's boy in fact.  When I go round to feed the boys he always comes out to the gate to meet me - even if it's pouring with rain!  I think he may be going off to Dorset on a 'working holiday' later in the year but we will see.  He was a very busy boy with us last year!

I am trying to make time at the moment to read a new book that has just arrived. Recommended by Jo, our last vet student, it is called 'Zoobiquity'

 Absolutely fascinating!  It looks at the incredible similarities between many human and animal health and behaviour issues and how they overlap.  What doctors could learn from vets and what humans could learn from animals.  Incredible reading ... Thoroughly recommend it!

Right .. must get myself sorted.  Off to make cow's cheese for Jane the Cheese this afternoon ... weird yellow milk.  Not like that lovely white goatie milk at all :-)

Friday 3 August 2012

Ginger's little apprentice

Walk into the barn most afternoons and you will invariably find Madam Ginger Goat wandering around snacking on lucerne or hay.  I think David has now finally thrown in the towel and doesn't even try to get her to stay in with the other goats!  She is quite happy tiddling about and never wanders off.  She just seems to like being on her own.

Except that she is no longer on her own.  Meet The Apprentice:

Yes indeed, dear readers .. it would seem that we have another Ginger in the making.  Only she doesn't squeeze through the gates like Ginger.  She leaps over the top of them.  No matter how high the gate.  She stands back and assesses the height ... takes a few steps back, runs and launches herself over. 

Like Ginger, she is quite content just to wander about and have the odd snack.  Then she finds a comfy bit of straw to lie on and settles down to wait for the humans to arrive.  As soon as someone walks into the barn, she runs over to greet them.

As we can't keep calling her '298' (her eartag number), David decided that she should have a name.  McQueen.  Can't think why ....  So, she has become little McQueenie goat ..

The weather has been rather changeable (to say the least).  The forecast early in the week was for mostly hot and sunny weather with a couple of isolated showers.  Good haymaking weather.  So, David mowed off one field.  And then the forecast changed.  And we have had really heavy showers.  And quite a few of them.  Despite all that, David persevered and this morning the hay was ready to bale.  So, out he went to row it all up ready for baling ... and it poured with rain.  Absolutely chucked it down.  And it looks like we may have lost the lot now.  Good job he only cut one field.

When the weather is nice, the goaties go outside to play:

When the weather is wet, they stay indoors and you can always see a couple of sad little faces peering out of the back door:

Larkin is becoming very popular with his ladies and they are quite happy to have him around.  They even allow him to share their hay rack:

Well, that's my day done!  Off to Wye Market tomorrow and then Parson's Green on Sunday.  I have to say that the London markets are fairly quiet at the moment - everyone has stayed out of town for the Olympics.