Friday 28 September 2012

Game on!

And we're off!  Mating season kicked off today when our new girl Shares decided to flutter her eyelashes at the boys.  Of course, there may already have been several goatlings doing the same thing but I haven't noticed any of them making eyes at Larkin or Daramac yet - though sometimes goaties can be very secretive about these things!

Shades and her goatling daughter Silver are inseparable and as we intend to mate both of them to Fremlin, I have penned them all off together for the night.  And then at milking time, Margot goat decided that she wanted a slice of the action as well.  So tonight my dear old boy was enjoying his dinner with three lovely ladies:

At almost 7 years old, Fremlin is getting on a bit for a working male.  You may remember that we had a course of acupuncture for him last year when his back legs started to be a bit wobbly.  He seems to have recovered exceedingly well and he only stumbles on the odd occasion now.  I was intending to give him just a few of the older ladies (who can't run fast and won't pose too much of a challenge!) but with the 3 other lovely brown boys gone to Somerset, Fremlin may well be far busier than he expected.  I'm sure he won't complain though!

Whilst I was out delivering today, David was busy mucking out half of the main barn so that we can move babies around and get the other two males in and working.  We had to move all the babies out into the hay barn so that the tractor could get in and it was very exciting for everyone to move house this morning.  There was much running about and bleating. 

We have had the kids in 3 groups so far - it's only when you put them all together in the same area that you realise just how many babies there are!!

If the weather holds out, the other side of the barn will be done tomorrow and then we can start getting the girls sorted out ready for mating.  Poor Beamish and Max are all alone out in the cattle yard at the moment wondering where all the other boys have gone!  Not for long though ...

Thursday 27 September 2012

Lawrence of Arabia

It was my dad's all time favourite film and I just love that music ...  Main difference was the weather.  Arabia - hot and sunny.  Rolvenden - howling wind and pelting rain.

Julie and I donned our wellies and waterproofs and set off for our Camel Race Day last Sunday afternoon.  My emergency glamour rain poncho was brought into operation (a gift from our last student Jo) and it did actually keep the rain off!

Having tied the gazebo firmly to the van to stop it taking off, we then set up our stall in the hope that someone may venture out in the thunderstorm and want to buy some cheese. 

And they did ...  Amazingly enough, there was a pretty good turn-out despite the horrendous weather.  Judge the weather by the number of umbrellas!  Even the dogs had coats on ..

The Mongolian wrestlers drew quite a crowd.  Brave men in that weather!!

But the highlight of the afternoon was obviously the camels.  Five of them travelled from Warwickshire to be with us.  Absolutely gorgeous!  Great big eyes and lovely faces.  I love camels!

They were all dressed up in their colourful halters and saddles and then the riders arrived - they too were all dressed up in flowing robes and scarves.  A lovely colourful sight on a rain-soaked and dreary afternoon! 

The racing was hilarious and I don't know how the riders managed to hang on!  One of the young camels was particularly stroppy and excitable but she won her races easily.  I did take a quick video on my phone - not fab quality but you get some idea of the speed of these things!

And then, for me, the highlight of the day.  Camel rides!!  Hurrah ....  Most people made a beeline for the car park to get out of the weather so that meant that there wasn't much of a queue for the camels.  Julie grabbed my camera and took some pics of me on my lovely boy Kazak:

It was a great afternoon despite the weather!  Raised some money for the Wild Camel Foundation, rode a camel and even sold a bit of cheese.  Can't be bad.

Saturday 22 September 2012

Police! Stop!!

More about the police in a moment ....

I have to say that this week was busy beyond belief and I have been meeting myself coming back again since Wednesday.  Just so much going on!!

More little chaps to the butcher on Wednesday morning followed by a scheduled trip to the vet for Valerie goatling.  I noticed that she had started limping on one of her front legs and Peter came to check her out a few days ago.  He wondered if she had dislocated her shoulder but couldn't tell without further investigation.

So, off we went to the vet for an x-ray.  Not something usually done on commercial goats because of the cost involved but we needed to know if Valerie had done some serious damage.  She was exceptionally well behaved and stood very quietly for both her x-rays.  But no dislocation showed (which was good) so just some kind of other trauma.  Not much we can do except keep an eye on her.  She does not seem to be in any pain, which is the main thing, and is still happy to shove and push with the others for food and hay.

Valerie is the darker brown one nearest the camera:

I was home alone milking and feeding on Wednesday night as David went off to a Goat Health and Welfare evening hosted by one of the Ashford vet practices.  The main speaker was an excellent Ministry vet called David Harwood who has a lot of experience and knowledge of goats.  David found the talks very useful and was pleased to meet up with a couple of colleagues that we haven't seen for a while.

And then it was Thursday.  And the EHO inspector came to call.  Oh joy.  He did warn us of his impending visit though so it wasn't too much of a shock.  He was a very pleasant and helpful man and he seemed quite happy with everything in our little goatie world.  Phew!

As soon as he left, I loaded up the van with boxes and sped off to our wholesaler in Sussex.  Fortunately, the traffic was light and I managed to make good time.  Which was just as well, as I had a date with one of the local W.I. groups at 7pm.

I left David wrestling with naughty goats, had a quick wash (essential at this 'smelly male' time of year!) and ventured off into the dark countryside towards Sittingbourne.  The ladies of Rodmersham Green WI were very welcoming and seemed to enjoy my goatie pictures and waffle.  I do enjoy the WI visits and you are always guaranteed an excellent cup of tea!

Finished there just after 9pm, sped home, bottled a load of milk and then off to Jane the Cheese to drop deliveries and pick up the milk tanker which David has left there in the morning.

So, there I was ... almost midnight, driving back through Faversham with the milk tanker when suddenly a lot of blue flashing lights appeared in my mirrors.  Thinking that they wanted to get past, I slowed down ... Still the lights stayed behind.  So, I pulled over and stopped.  Still the lights stayed behind.  And they have an awful lot of lights on a police car at night!!!  Unusually for me, I had been observing the 30mph speed limit (as there are often late night speed traps on that particular stretch of road) so I assumed that they were pulling me over for dodgy trailer lights.

Apparently it is somewhat unusual to see a pickup truck towing an expensive stainless steel tanker at midnight in Faversham .... and so the police had pulled me over to check that I hadn't nicked it.  I did offer to give them Jane's phone number so that they could check on me, but they just laughed and said that it was fine.  And, by the way, did I know that one of the trailer lights wasn't working properly.  Don't policemen look young these days? .....

And what of the new girlies?  Well, it would seem that Shares was not impressed with her new accomodation in the hay barn and on her second day, she was out and about in the barn, fighting with Ginger.  She was put back in her house, only to reappear.  We have not actually seen how she gets out yet but assume that she is climbing out over the top, rather than squeezing through like Ginger.

Anyhow, as she was determined not to stay put, I moved her and her daughter Silver out into the main herd.  Fortunately, they are both typical stroppy British Toggennburgs and so they are not bullied by the rest of the girls and seem to have settled in there pretty quickly.  They are certainly happy to push in for food with the rest of them - they are the two to the left side of the trough.

The weather has been glorious this week but I think it's about to change ... David and I watched hundreds of swallows gathering in the field yesterday afternoon.  Looks like they are getting ready to migrate south for the winter.

I just hope that the weather holds out for tomorrow as Julie and I are going camel racing!!  And we may just manage to sell a bit of cheese as well ...

Tuesday 18 September 2012

All on the move again

I seem to have spent the past few days loading and unloading goats from trailers as we're all on the move again.  Having moved Larkin back in with the big chaps last weekend, he was replaced this weekend by Daramac who was beside himself with excitement when he found himself in a house with over 50 lovely young ladies:

So, that's him sorted with the goatlings for the next few weeks!

Meanwhile, the commercial herd in Somerset who took Bramling and Caffrey some months ago, asked if we had any British Toggenburg males available.  I suggested that Larkin, Navajo and Norville may be suitable.  Not that I wanted to get rid of them, but it made sense to move them on as we have some lovely daughters from all of them and they could be put to very good use down in Somerset. 

To my surprise the answer came back that they would take all three of them!  So, I loaded my lovely boys into a trailer this morning and off we all went to Somerset.  They went straight into their new home but into a separate area for the moment which gives them a chance to settle down before they are sent to work.  They have a huge area to live in and the most enormous hay rack:

As you can see, it didn't take long for them to feel quite at home.  It was hard to leave them behind but I know they will have a good life there and will really enjoy their work!

It was nice to see that Larkin's brother Badger and his friend Tolly are still hard at work there as well.  I took them in about 3 years ago and they have grown into fine handsome men in that time:

The two younger chaps, Bramling and Caffrey had been put in with a new lot of young ladies on Saturday and so they were far too busy to stop and chat to me!

They are in the centre of the photo somewhere!!

The final move (for the moment) was to bring two female goaties back up to Kent with me.  Our friend Sue wanted us to have two of her lovely British Toggenburg girls as she is intending to concentrate on her Golden Guernseys again.  Sue is the person responsible for getting our boys into the herds in Somerset and used to have a small commercial dairy unit herself.  Although she still has a few goats of her own, she now mainly concentrates her efforts on helping out with the big commercials, particularly advising them on rearing their kids. 

Sue has bred some fantastic milking goats in the past and was keen that her last two BTs should go to a good home where they would be appreciated and loved. And so it was that I brought Shares and her goatling daughter Silver home with me this afternoon.

They travelled well (despite rubbish traffic on the M25) and soon settled in to their temporary house in the hay barn:

No doubt they will have a visit from the great escaping Ginger Goat this evening when she lets herself out for the night.  They will stay in this house for a while until they are ready to meet the rest of the stroppy milkers!

And of course, a visit to Somerset would not be complete without the random 'out of the truck window' shot of Stonehenge:

Saturday 15 September 2012

The alternative feeding method - Ginger style

As you saw from the last post, Danny is a smart girl.  Here's the alternative method of getting to the feed bin - as developed by Madam Ginger:

And, talking of alternative methods ..  how about this for fresh milk delivery?  As seen in China.

Reckon that would go down well on the London Markets??!!

Friday 14 September 2012

Who's a clever goat then?

You may remember our 'wandering' girls ... 

Well, this evening, the feed bin was getting a little low and Danny was having trouble reaching in for a nibble:

So, clever girl that she is, she decided to use the ladder which was next to the bin ...  She stood up on the bottom rung and that gave her enough extra height to reach in over the rim.  Who's a clever goatie goat then?!

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Spin spin spin ..

What a beautiful sight it was!  The big tractor back in one piece and in the yard tonight:

Well done David!!

And while he was up to his armpits in oil and grease fixing the thing, what was I doing?  Working hard with the goats? Selling cheese to the good people of Kent? Bottling milk? Nope .... I gave myself the day off.  Yes.  A day off.  Well, a few hours off in between feeding and milking everyone morning and evening.  When you have livestock, the term 'day off' is relative ...

So, after getting up earlier than usual to get everyone fed and milked, taken another two little chaps to the butcher and had a wash (now there's a rare event), I found some clean clothes without holes in and set off for Godmersham Church (between Ashford and Canterbury):


And there I spent the rest of the day in the delightful company of Sue and Rosemary learning to spin.  Weren't expecting that were you?!

Our teacher was Della Newman who is a very talented local craftswoman from Wye, who specialises in using natural fibres for all her work.

Della gave us an introduction to fibres, fleeces and spinning - she had brought some beautiful hand-spun yarns with her to show us, some of them dyed with natural dyes as well.  The gorgeous peachy coloured one is dyed with curry leaf:

And then it was our turn!  We started with a fleece from a Portland sheep:

We sorted through it to find the good parts and then spent a while carding the fleece and rolling it into rolags ready for spinning:

A quick lunch and then we were off!  And let me tell you - spinning is no easy thing to master.  It is difficult enough just to get the wheel spinning in the right direction and at a constant speed.  Then you have to tease out the fleece and keep feeding it through so that you get a nice even yarn.  Bit like trying to pat your head, rub your stomach and stand on one leg all at the same time.  I struggled for ages.  Kept breaking the yarn, twisting it up, treadling the wheel in the wrong direction ... But Della was very patient and eventually I was on a roll!!

 Once we had filled two bobbins, we then had to ply them together to make a knitable yarn.  And that means getting the spinning wheel to run in the opposite direction .... Simply couldn't get my head round it.  Couldn't do it.  Failed miserably.  Eventually, Della took pity on me and she treadled while I fed the fibre through.  Seemed to work rather well and I have to say that I was extremely pleased with my first ever attempt at spinning:

Look at that!  How clever am I?!  Just enough yarn there to knit a beer mat I think ... 

Rosemary has a herd of alpacas and she had brought some of her own fleece to spin.  It was absolutely beautiful - so soft and silky:

It was an extremely enjoyable day and spinning is very addictive.  The rhythm of the wheel and the feel of the wool is just so relaxing.  Wonderful stuff!

And finally, does this look like a smug, satisfied cat?

Beneath that 'butter wouldn't melt in the mouth' look lies the cold heart of a murderer.  Marmite had obviously been busy terrorising the local wildlife today as I came home to find sundry parts of a small disembowelled rabbit lying around the bathroom floor.  Some innards and two small feet were all that was left.  Not a sign of anything else.  Tasty ....

Sunday 9 September 2012

Ellie's Dairy loses a dear friend

A simple message arrived late on Saturday night.  'Alice has died peacefully.  Worked until lunchtime'.

Those few words held so much meaning for us all here at Ellie's Dairy and it was with great sadness that we realised that our dear friend, Alice Ward, had finally succumbed to the terminal cancer that she had been living with for many months.

Alice was a wonderful, vibrant and intelligent lady who was determined to get the most out of life.  She was a truly dedicated professional and absolutely loved her work as the deli supervisor at Macknade Fine Foods in Faversham.  She was always a great champion of our cheese and the goats were thrilled to meet Alice and husband George when they came to visit us during kidding time this year.

Alice was determined to keep on working as much as possible and refused to just sit at home and vegetate.  Husband George runs Jane the Cheese's permanent stall in the Goods Shed in Canterbury, so you can imagine the domestic rivalry that caused in the Ward household!  Alice used to give me such a hard time if she found out that I had delivered more cheese to George than I had to Macknade.  I am certain that they used to compare delivery notes over supper!

The past 18 months have been a tremendous rollercoaster of emotions for Alice and George and we have had a few 'false alarms' in the past.  But eventually when the end came it was quick and peaceful and exactly how Alice wanted it.

All our thoughts and goatie hugs are with George.  We will all miss you Alice.