Sunday 28 October 2012

It's mucking out day!

So while I was busy out and about this morning, David set about mucking out the other side of the main barn while the weather was dry and the ground fairly hard.  The huge amount of straw and muck has to be transported down the road to be dumped in the field behind my house where it will sit and rot until next year when it can be spread on the field.  Problem is that as the tractor comes back out of the field, it drags a lot of mud out onto the road and it can get quite messy, despite David's best efforts.  So, he prefers the weather to be as dry as possible to minimise the amount of mess.  I think he did pretty well today!

I always enjoy the final part of mucking out when the hayracks are filled up and the fresh straw spread all over the floor.  Then the gate is opened and all the goaties dash across, eager to get to back in after being confined to the other side of the barn all day.  Although, apparently, most of them did venture outside for part of the day as it was dry and sunny for most of the morning.

As David opened the gate today, I had my video phone at the ready to capture the mad dash across the barn.  Stand well back - here we go!

And Kitty jumps straight up on top of the bale of haylage:
Eventually, the excitement passes and everyone settles down.  It's exhausting, this mucking out business!


And the food for the day - tomatoes!  How about this for a range of colours?  From the Isle of Wight Tomato Stall at Wimbledon Market yesterday:

A feast for the eyes!

Saturday 27 October 2012

Thermals, mad dogs & weird vegetables

That's what I like about English weather .. you're never quite sure what it will do next.  Having had 4 days of solid dreary fog with quite warm temperatures, we arose this morning to find it barely above freezing and with a biting north wind.  And so, thermal t-shirts and hats were the order of the day.  For both goatshed and Wimbledon market!  But at least I didn't have to drive through snow to get to market like some of the guys from East Anglia.  Apparently the M11 was a complete nightmare!

The sudden drop in temperature last night also seems to have kick-started a lot of those goatie hormones and, as I approached the barn in the dark this morning, all I could hear was the yelling of girls in season.  Beamish and Fremlin already had a number of ladies for sleepover last night but this morning I opened the door to find two of the female kids had jumped out of their pen and were leaning over Beamish's gate wagging their tails and fluttering their eyelashes.  Far too young for that kind of thing!  A stern telling-off from mum and they were put back in their own house.  Didn't stop them standing on their fence and yelling across to the boys though.  What a racket!!

And one of the little black men has taken to jumping out of his house and running about the barn when we are around at feeding times.  He loves to jump up on the big bales of hay:

Difficult to tell him off though as he is such a sweet little man. 

And while we are on the subject of creatures jumping on things ... David snapped this picture of Ben earlier this week.  Hideous damp foggy day .. you would expect the dogs to be curled up all snuggly inside their kennels.  Or at least, in their bed.  So can anyone explain why Ben decided to fall asleep on top of his kennel?  Looks really uncomfortable to me!

As I arrived yesterday at Franklins in East Dulwich I was met by a large snake on one of their coffee tables.  How about this for a butternut squash?

Came from a friend's garden apparently.  Glad I'm not the one who has to peel the thing!

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Margot learns a new trick

Generally speaking, white goats are pretty well behaved.  It is the brown ones which are naughty.  However, like anything else in life, there are exceptions to the rule.  Like Margot.

You may remember triplets Mora, Marlin and Margot from the last post.  Margot is the one to the right of the photo:

As you see from her rear view, she is dry at the moment - hence the red mark on her udder to show that she should not be milked.

But, sometimes she still likes to come through the parlour so that she gets a good helping of food.  Usually, dry goats are not given as much food as those who are still milking as they can tend to put on weight very easily and get fat.  But Margot is not a very large goat and a little extra weight would not hurt, so we allow her to come and eat whenever she likes.

Although white goats are not naughty, they can be extremely stubborn and determined.  Margot is a prime example of this.  Sometimes she ends up on the 'dry' side of the gate when we are dividing the goats up ready for milking and so cannot get up the ramp and into the parlour.  So, she has now figured out for herself that if she walks outside and down the side of the barn, she can arrive at the back gate to the milking area. 

Here the humans have a door that is open, but the gap is blocked by a metal hurdle.  No problem.  Simply put your head against it and push ...

And here she is in action:

Clever old Margot!

Sunday 21 October 2012

Bustling markets

Where does the time go??  I'm sure there used to be 24 hours in a day ... I need a Tardis.  Then I could disappear inside, do a load of stuff, come back out and it would still be the same time as when I went in.  Good idea eh? Mmmmm ...  In the meantime, I suppose I will just have to carry on rushing about everywhere.

This week was extra busy as my trusty cheesemaking/cheesepacking assistant Julie had the temerity to go away on holiday.  Can you believe it?  So, not only did I have to make my own cheese this week, I also had to spend most of Thursday packing and labelling it and getting the orders ready.  Fortunately, Julie is back to work tomorrow.  Hurrah!

So, the excitement of a new market at West Hampstead on Saturday was tempered with anxiety about how to get there.  I know South/Central London and the City all very well, but once I get north or west of Kensington, I am out of my comfort zone!  I figured out a route straight through the centre of London via Waterloo Bridge and Euston and it all turned out a lot easier than I thought it would be.

Apparently, the good people of West Hampstead have been waiting for years for a farmers market to come along.  The main problem, apparently, was that noone could find a suitable site for it.  Until some bright spark had the idea of a station forecourt ...

And so, every Saturday, the forecourt of the Thameslink station is transformed into a colourful and bustling market.  It's not a very large space but the market managers do an excellent job of marshalling everyone and by 10am there are stalls up in every available position!  Some of us smaller people have to share a pitch and so I was under the awning of the Isle of Wight Tomato Stall sharing with a very nice lady called Jenny.  As you can see, right next to us was the veg and flower stall. 

It was a very busy market with lots of very enthusiastic customers and so I didn't go home with much at all.  Very satisfying!

Meanwhile, the goatlings had a busy day on Thursday when our foot-trimming lady Natalie came to give them all a pedicure.  Natalie works at Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats but in her spare time (!) she likes to visit other goats and do a spot of foot-trimming.  I do actually enjoy foot-trimming but just don't have enough hours in the day to get everyone done as regularly as I would like, so we have enlisted the help of Natalie for a few hours.  She's great!  She has a sticker on the back of her car which says 'Crazy Goat Lady' ... so you have some idea of what she's going to be like.

Anyhow, the girls were all very excited to see someone new ..

And soon, many of them were sporting red dots on their bottoms to show that they had been done:

But, once Natalie had gone and I went back down to give them their evening hay, I noticed that she had obviously got bored with spraying dots and had branched out into something more artistic, as you can see from young Dottie:

Our first three white goats were triplet sisters who came to us in 2006 from our good friend Mary who has a small milking herd near Margate.  Mora, Marlin and Margot are all lovely girls and excellent milkers and it amused me that all 3 came into the milking parlour together yesterday:

The weather was pretty dismal all day today - fog and rain and general horridness.  Goaties did not even stick their little noses out of the door, preferring to snuggle up inside instead.  Of course, by evening milking, they were all thoroughly rested and ready to cause mayhem. 

Figgie, Firebird and Saffron are always right at the front of the milking queue, waiting to come through the moment that gate is opened!

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Happy Birthday David!

So what does a farmer do for his birthday?  Well, we had a day off.  Yes, that's two this year.  Standards are certainly slipping here at Ellie's Dairy.

After we had done all the usual feeding, milking, chasing naughty goats around the parlour, dealing with exceedingly stinky boys, packing up milk for the courier and other exciting goatie type chores, we drove to Ashford Market to the Tuesday livestock sale. 

David wanted to see the calves and cows going through and we had also heard a rumour that there may be some goats for sale.  Not that we had any intention of buying them, but we were interested to see why there were goats being sold at market (very unusual) and what kind of price they were fetching.  As it happened, there were none there.  Something for which I was quite grateful actually as I don't really enjoy the livestock market.  Lots of nervous and frightened animals being herded in and out of pens.  Not my kind of thing at all.

We had a quick walk round to look at the lovely piggies waiting in their pens - they actually looked pretty content and many were lying there fast asleep!  We watched the very young calves being sold - some very tiny ones at only a couple of weeks old.  Those huge eyes!  Beautiful little creatures.

Then it was time for the afternoon's excursion .. over to Birchington to a tractor demonstration day.  Whoooooeeeee!  We certainly know how to enjoy ourselves!!!

In a very exposed field with a cracking view of the Reculver Towers:

David is getting very nervous about his current tractor as it is getting increasingly unreliable and, with the price of diesel continuing to soar, we need to look at getting something more fuel efficient as well.  So, he had a chat to the nice man from Case tractors, picked up some information and had a sit in a couple of shiny red tractors.  Just what a boy needs on his birthday.

Must admit, we were glad to get back in the van and out of the howling wind!  It had been a very long time since breakfast and so we stopped off at Macknade Fine Foods in Faversham on the way home and enjoyed a very pleasant late lunch in their wonderful cafe.

Macknade is one of the finest foodie shops on the planet.  I love it!

Then back home to more feeding, milking and chasing naughty goats. 

Monday 15 October 2012

A fungi kind of day

It was one of those strange days full of mushrooms in various guises ... Not your usual kind of Monday!

It started with a fairy ring that had appeared in the middle of my lawn overnight.  Obviously the fairies had been out dancing in the moonlight!  This is just a small part of it.

Then, I came across a rather sinister looking specimen that had popped up in the gravel near the cheese plant.  More a toadstool than a mushroom I think .. Inky black and dripping.  Nasty ..

I'm not good on fungi identification but I think it's possibly a Shaggy Ink Cap.  Wouldn't swear to it though!

And then, my colleague Sharon walked into the cheese plant with a handful of lovely field mushrooms that she had picked from her horses' field.  She is not a lover of mushrooms and so I got them for my supper!

Like I said - a fungi kind of day ....

And then there were the drums .... A few weeks ago I was contacted by one of my fellow farmers market stall holders called Tobi (he is a phenomenal baker from Whitstable).  He wondered if we ever had any goat skins available as he wanted a couple to make a drum.  As it happened, two of my little chaps were going to meet their maker that week and so I arranged for him to be able to collect the skins from the butcher. 

Like everything else in this world, there are rules and regulations about goat skins and Tobi had to collect them in an approved and correctly labelled leakproof plastic box.  And paperwork to go with them as well ...  But all went according to plan and he was soon the proud owner of two beautiful kid skins.  He has experience of tanning the skins himself and so I left him to it!

And here is the result:


They are gorgeous.  Shiny and smooth.  And yes, before you ask, I do know exactly who they are!  I have to admit that, as a veggie, I prefer my skins still on the animal.  But it's nice to know that they were not wasted and that someone can get a lot of pleasure from them.

This week I have to get my act together for a new market on Saturday at West Hampstead.  This new market has only been running for a few weeks but is apparently VERY busy .. My first time over that way so I need to make sure I have some idea of where I am going!

Friday 12 October 2012

Frog on the blog!

Well, a toad to be exact ..

Poor Takira goatling got a bit of surprise today as she wandered round to the back of the milking parlour in the early morning darkness and stuck her nose into the nice fresh water in the large buckets outside.  Overnight, Mr Toad had decided to plop into the bucket.  She was a bit confused by him wriggling about in her drinking water so she snorted at him and walked off in disgust.  Poor Mr Toad!

I quickly relocated him back out into the field before the rest of the marauding hordes appeared around the side of the barn.

And talking of fields ... it looks like that newly sown grass seed is just about starting to come through now ... David was getting a bit concerned that it may have failed ... But, fingers crossed, we will get some grass soon!

Despite the sunshine today, we are still up to our armpits in mud around the yard .. I do hate this time of year!  Much better to have sunny and freezing cold - at least the ground is hard and everything stays clean!

Managed to bag a couple of pics tonight of our odd little goatie, Fissi.  She and her brother both have strange back legs - we think, as the result of their mum being ill last year in the early stages of pregnancy.  She is much smaller than the rest of the kids but thinks that she is the same size as everyone else.  Totally confident, she just dives in with the rest of the kids - she has no fear and doesn't seem to care that she is half their size!  A real sweetie.

Of course, we don't yet know whether she will eventuallly grow to be a 'normal' size goat or whether she will stay as a little 'mini goat' for the rest of her life.  As long as she is happy and healthy, then she has a place in the herd.

So, off to bed for me now.  Marmite is warming it up for me already!  Early morning tomorrow and off to Balham Farmers' Market nice and early!

Tuesday 9 October 2012

This morning in the sunshine

Well, the weekend of markets came and went - fortunately without too much in the way of weather.  There's nothing worse than unloading and loading a van when it's pouring with rain.  I think we were pretty lucky really as yesterday as pretty horrendous again here.  Lots of sad little goatie faces staring out at the mud and rain ...

But today the sun came out and although everyone was a bit reluctant to venture outside too far (lest they get their little feet wet), they were enjoying the warmth of the sunshine.  Tammy, our oldest girl, had plonked herself firmly in the best place to soak up a few rays:

Max was busy looking after his ladies out in the cattle yard:

Today he seemed particularly attentive to GinnyPink, our beautiful big black British Alpine. 

Max is very possessive of his special ladies and will always make sure that he stands between them and any interfering humans who have the audacity to venture into his area.  He is fiercely protective and gets very upset if you should even dare to try and take one of the girls away from him!

The babies were all up and about, jumping around this morning.  I always find it very difficult to get decent pictures of youngsters as they always want to see what you are doing and never keep still long enough!

Some of the little boys came to see me:

And two of the prettiest girls (yes, I know, they are all pretty ...).  Renata is especially beautiful - grey and white:

She is the daughter of two white goats but one of the grandma goats was black and white and I think some of the genes have skipped a generation to come out again in Renata!

And this is young Lois.  A cheeky face if ever I saw one!

And the beautiful Cleo:

While I was wandering around with camera in hand, I also got a couple of 'update' photos.  How about this one of Siouxsie?  Remember the acupuncture treatments that she had to try and sort out that droopy ear and one cheek constantly packed with food?

How lovely does she look now?!  In great condition and bossy as ever.  She had a year off last year whilst we let her recover from a very serious illness that almost killed her.  It would have been so easy for her just to give up and die but she fought every step of the way.  So we owed it to her to give her a chance.  And she grasped it with both hooves and is now looking just fantastic.
And I'm not sure that I have ever introduced you to the 'new' Ellie.  Here she is ... small, brown and exceedingly naughty:

Little Ellie is the granddaughter of our original Ellie after whom the dairy is named.  So, she carries on the name ... though, sometimes she is so badly behaved at milking time that I threaten to change her name to something else.

And finally - Beamish and Fremlin have had a couple of quieter days with only a little attention from the girls.  Though it looks like Beamish might be busier a little later as Magenta was eyeing him up earlier today:

And here he is, talking to his mum Cilene.

Saturday 6 October 2012

Busy boys ...

The barn seems to have divided itself into two sections at the moment.  The main side nearest to the milking parlour attracts most of the girls who just enjoy nibbling on hay and lying around in the sunshine with their friends.  Here's Daisy fast asleep with her head on Aretha's back this afternoon:

However, it's a completely different story over the other side where we have Beamish and Fremlin housed at the moment.  A hotbed of sin and depravity.  Waggy tails and fluttering eyelashes.  And the noise!! 

Beamish and Fremlin are the best of friends but when there are women involved there are no holds barred.  Here's a very short video of the two of them growling at each other across the fence as Beamish tells Fremlin off for daring to look at his girls:

The boys are hard at work all day and so when we take the girls out for milking in the evening we leave the boys to get a good rest overnight, ready for the next day.  Once they have had their supper, the two of them lie down next to each other either side of the fence - friends again until tomorrow!

Thursday 4 October 2012

Flora retires

Tonight we welcomed our dear Flora goat into the parlour for the very last time. 

Those of you who have been following our blog for some time may remember that Flora is one of our older and more 'generously proportioned' ladies who likes nothing better than to lie under a hay rack all day.  You may also recall that she has had difficulties in pregnancy in her last two kiddings, although she was absolutely wonderful as a foster mum this year.

As she has now dried off  and no longer needs milking, we have decided that we will not be putting her in kid again this year as she will almost certainly have problems and it is just not fair on her.  So, tonight was her final visit to the milking parlour and she is now officially retired.

Obviously, as the very first retirement of the Ellie's Dairy herd, we had to mark the occasion and, with no expense spared, Flora enjoyed her retirement banana with friend Marlin:

So what does retirement hold for Flora?  Well, about the same as before really .. lots of lying around under hay racks.  But absolutely no need to get up for milking twice a day.  Sounds like Flora's perfect life! 

We wish Flora a long and happy retirement!