Sunday 30 December 2012

A leisurely weekend (for a change!)

What a lovely leisurely weekend that was!  Yesterday was the first and only Saturday that I have not had a market in 2012.  A whole day off!!!  Well, almost .. usual goatie tasks and a quick cheese delivery to Faversham and the rest of the day was my own to get stuck into the mountains of paperwork that litter my floor.

This morning we put piles of new straw and haylage in for those big old Gracie Moos outside in the yard:

And then this afternoon David and I took the doggies out for a run in the woods near to the farm.  A rare treat as we never get time to do this type of thing any more.  Years ago in the mists of time, before goats (was there ever a time before goats?!) I would spend hours walking the old dogs through the woods.  I knew all the tracks like the back of my hand.  And in all those hours I never ever met a single other person.  I love those woods.

Margot goat is much happier today and came through the parlour for her dinner tonight.  Fremlin, on the other hand, decided that he couldn't cope with the excitement again and so he stayed over the 'non-milking' side of the barn tonight for his supper.

Meanwhile, Cristal just continues to grow:

Saturday 29 December 2012

A change of plan for kidding

Followers of our little blog may recall that naughty Margot was scheduled to kick off the 2013 kidding season around 25 Feb. 

Well sadly, there has been a change of plan as Margot lost her babies yesterday.  Poor Margot.  She was a bit off colour at the end of last week so that may have had something to do with it but we will never know.  Nothing to see but a bit of a mucky tail end and lots of pitiful bleating.  When this kind of thing happens, those old goatie hormones kick in and Margot thinks that she has actually had her kids.  So, she spent yesterday wandering around bleating sadly and looking for her babies. 

It is so heart-breaking to watch and that sad bleating is just too much.  She was just so miserable yesterday she wouldn't eat and I think she was still pretty uncomfortable as well.  And believe me, there is nothing so miserable as a miserable goat.

But today she had perked up and by this evening was tucking into her food and enjoying a banana treat.  We let her wander around the barn while we were milking so that she could have a good old munch.  Much better! 

No doubt she will be up to her old tricks in a couple of days, shoving that gate open to get into the parlour. 

So, kidding should begin now on the following day with young Twiggy goat, our miraculously pregnant girl!  Closely followed by lovely Hebe with her triplets.  But of course, things never go according to plan so it will probably be one of the goatlings who starts us off!

And who is this handsome chap in the feed barrow?

Yes, indeed, my lovely Fremlin.  He decided that he wanted to stay over the 'milking' side of the barn this evening but wasn't quite brave enough to head up the ramp with the girls.  So, he just sauntered through into the parlour and got stuck into his dinner.

What a gorgeous boy!

Thursday 27 December 2012

The Sin Bin

It would seem that the small naughty brown goats have finally tipped David over the edge.  There are three of them who come in for milking and then play around on the 'out' ramp.  They wait for the door to be opened to let the next lot of goats out and then they rush back in again to see if there is any more food to be had ..

Lara, Charlotte and Blossom.  Very naughty goats.

So, last night, David finally snapped.  Having pushed them outside for the umpteenth time, he decided that enough was enough.  And so, the next time they came back in, they were thrown into the Sin Bin.

The Sin Bin is one of the old goat pens in the corner of the parlour.  No longer used, except in dire emergency, it enables David to keep the naughty goats out of the way for the rest of milking while they can watch everything that is going on.  Not as much fun though ...

And, we also managed to get a photo of Ellie Goat in action.  Having turned herself round in the parlour, she launched herself off the platform and headed for the dustbin of food.  Here she goes!

And finally .. what of little Nobby goat?  Well, he and his brother are doing fine and I managed to snap a picture of them still fast asleep as I entered the barn this morning ... all cosy and comfy.

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Merry Xmas everyone!

It's a well known fact that when you have animals, something will always go wrong on a Sunday or a Bank Holiday.  We had finished milking and feeding, having also enjoyed our customary early morning Bucks Fizz in the goat shed, and I was just feeding the little girls when my mobile rang.  It was Mary, our goatkeeper friend in Margate.  No, Daramac was not ill .... but she was wondering if she could borrow our old milking machine as hers would not start this morning and she had had to milk her goats by hand.  Fortunately, Mary has only a few goats to milk but it is still a very time-consuming process.

The plans for a nice long bath (well, it is Xmas after all!) and a leisurely lunch were quickly abandoned as David and I got the old mobile milking machine together and scrubbed it all down.  I still can't believe that we used to milk over 100 goats using this!

Cleaned and gleaming, we loaded it into the truck and off we went to Margate.  In torrential rain.

So, that was our Xmas morning sorted out ... Me standing in the rain holding tools and David ferreting about in a small cupboard trying to fix Mary's vacuum pump!

He did manage to get it going but wasn't happy with it, so that has come back to the farm to be stripped down and sorted out tomorrow.  Meanwhile, Mary has our old machine to do her milking tonight and tomorrow morning.

The bonus of the visit was that I was able to visit my lovely Daramac and wish him a Happy Xmas!  I took a couple of apples with me and he was very pleased to have those.  However, Mary has moved him away from his little mate Casper as it seemed that he was starting to be a  bit of a bully and beat the little fellow up.  Can't have that from a visitor!  So, Casper has his own house now that he shares with a couple of friendly geese to keep him company.  No way he was coming out in that rain this morning though!

Meanwhile, back at the farm, we decided to dismantle the boys' pen and let the three of them out with all the milkers to give everyone more space.  Everyone should be in kid by now and so there is no problem with letting the boys have free run in the barn.  It is so nice to see them sharing with the girls!  Fremlin is having a wonderful time and has a real twinkle in his eye.

So, I hope everyone had a pleasant Xmas day.  I leave you with a lovely piece sent to me by another goatkeeping friend last night.  It was written by a goatkeeper in Wales and sums up exactly how we feel about our animals.  I hope that you enjoy reading it and may gain a little understanding of why we do what we do.
Merry Xmas!
There is a very lovely ancient tradition that holds that on Christmas eve, at midnight, animals are given the power of speech. I’ve even heard it said that at midnight, all the animals sing songs of praise.

Walking into the warm barn, coming in from the icy, windy dark outside, it’s easy to believe this lovely story. I look into the slender faces of my familiar, much loved goats, with their dark eyes and knowing expressions, and I can easily imagine them opening their mouths to sing at midnight. Glenda, Wandi, Patsi, Juliette – I know all their names, and I can tell them all apart, as identical as they might seem to a stranger. I can imagine just how each of their voices might sound, raised in the choir. Juliette rears up her hind legs to have her cheek scratched – just there, by the hinge of her jaw –and to rub her head lovingly against my shoulder.

I come here every day, twice a day, to milk these goats and commune with these lovely animals, and they have taught me a thing or two about miracles.

They have taught me about dedication, and patience, and discipline. Waking up at 6 am on a freezing morning, and going outside sounds like a punishment when I’m wrapped in my duvet. But as soon as I haul myself up and out, and into the barn, I realize the truth of it – coming into the barn is my reward. The teaching really is in the practice – putting my hands on the goats, tending them and receiving the healing milk that they give me, is all I need to know of magic.

The Christian tradition holds that the king is born in midwinter. The pagan tradition too, speaks of rebirth in the time of darkness. It is a principle as old as man, when we were frightened and crouching in the caves, waiting for the light to return. Peasants have milked goats as long as humans have been around, and I follow this time-honored tradition with gratitude now, as the warm streams of milk hit my pail in a fragmented melody.

In that song, I can hear everything I need to know about rebirth. These goats are pregnant in the darkness, gestating new life. In the spring the kids will be born, and the milk will be freshened. The life force dies back, and blossoms up again. New life. It is a miracle that we few – who are lucky enough to tend the farm – learn over again with our hands and feet, arms and eyes and hearts, every year without fail.

Christmas eve, in the darkness – the goats and I wait together in the silence. We wait for the rebirth that is certain. It is certain as life, certain as breath, as certain as the knowledge that someday, spring will come again and light will return to the world.

Monday 24 December 2012

Who's a lucky goat then?

Footsie is a very lucky goat.  Today she received her very own Xmas card.  Addressed to her personally.  With a lovely picture of a sheep in the snow.

So who is mad enough to send one of our goaties a Xmas card?  Well, there is a clue in the address ... There is only one person who comes into the shed and yells 'Footsie Woo!!' ... Yes, indeed, our lovely Francesca.  Barking mad ...

Footsie was a bit disappointed that there was no banana in the envelope and so she took a bite out of the envelope instead.

Maybe Santa will bring her a banana in the morning.

Saturday 22 December 2012

Toads in search of shelter

I know it's wet but this is ridiculous.  Even the toads are fed up with the rain!  Meet the newest inhabitant of the goat shed:

I found him toddling around on the floor this evening completely oblivious to the fact that Ginger goat was about to step on him.  I whisked him away from her prying little goatie nose and put him back outside in a nice damp bit of grass. 

What rubbish weather!  It was absolutely tipping down this morning when I went off to Wimbledon market and I don't think it stopped all day.  But they are a loyal bunch in Wimbledon and so the market was as busy as usual despite the weather.  We had a small group of enthusiastic carol singers entertaining shoppers as they arrived and even the market cow had got into the festive spirit:

I was quite pleased that the world didn't end yesterday as predicted by some but I was rather taken by the rather unusual time on the clock in my van when I was out delivering on Thursday night:

Don't see that every day do you?!

Thursday morning was a bit traumatic for our little calves as the vet came to do some dehorning.  But they did have a bit of fun first as we had to separate them off from their mums and move them into one of the barns to await the vet.  They are such strong little creatures and the larger of the boys landed a well-aimed kick on David's leg which sent him sprawling in the mud.  I didn't laugh.  Much.

But we did get them all without too much trouble and they only had a few minutes to wait before the vet turned up.  Look how much they have grown!

Meanwhile, in the goat shed, Max has just gone back in with Fremlin and Beamish

There was a bit of manly pushing and shoving but it was all just for show.  They are all good friends and I think that Max will enjoy a bit of male conversation this evening.  It will be nice when we get Daramac back from Margate after Xmas and then all the boys will be back together for a while.

And finally - that little teaser I set on the last post:

Well, Sue was getting warm with her idea of goat poo.  In the picture, I am holding a jug right behind a goat in order to catch some nice clean poo before it landed on the floor.  Then I put it all in a bag and took it to Winterdale Cheesemakers ... As last year, Carla and Robin wanted to make their young children believe that Santa had been to the house with his reindeer.  And, following the success of last year, they planned to sprinkle our 'reindeer' poo along their drive and outside the house.  Worked a treat last year but we will see what happens this year!

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Xmas quiz

Here's a little teaser for you .... What is this woman doing?

Clue .... this is a picture of me taken early this morning doing something related to Xmas.  Answer on the next blog!!

Not only is it the festive season, it's also fat goat season ...  Here's our lovely Cristal still snuggled up in bed this morning when I arrived in the shed:

We were unable to get Cris in kid last year for some reason and so she has spent the last year just being dry.  All of a sudden she started to get fat and we assumed that she had gone into a cloudburst (phantom pregnancy).  However, scanning last week showed that it is not just fluid but twins!  What a good girl.  At the moment she is probably the fattest goat in the barn and still has a couple of months to go.  Poor fat Cristal goat!

Monday 17 December 2012

Sticky brown noses

As the girls are now mostly pregnant and spending most of their time indoors, we figured that they may need a little bit of a boost to their winter diet.  Although they have lots of lovely hay to eat, the exceedingly wet weather this year has meant that the hay is plentiful but not as nutritious as normal - the nutrients are 'watered down' a bit more this year!

So, with advice from our nutritional specialist, we have added a couple of nice sticky mineral licks into their pen.  As with all our feed, we specify that they must be GM and soya-free.   The milkers usually have a large mineral/salt block that they like to lick at but these new blocks are huge and round and sticky with molasses for lots of energy.  We haven't used them before and didn't know if the girls would like them or not but they are a great hit as you can tell from the crowds around them!

And you can always tell who has been a bit of a piggy by the sticky brown marks on their noses!



The little girls have settled into their new home very well and are enjoying their newly refurbished feeding station.  You may remember that it used to be at ground level and had become too low for them all to feed easily.  So, David decided that it required a bit of modification .. and raised it up on legs.  Much better!

Of course, they can't all fit round it at the same time and so we are still using a number of low troughs for them as well.  This makes sure that everyone gets a good feed .. especially those who are much smaller than everyone else.  Yes, little Fizzy goat ...  Here she is next to her friend Cleo (with the big ears):

I'm convinced that she hasn't grown at all for weeks.  At least in an upward direction.  She just seems to be growing outwards and is getting more square every day!  She really is so much smaller than the other kids ..


 But in her own mind, she is a big goat and is exactly the same size as everyone else.  She is pretty feisty and happily shoves others out of the way to get at what she wants.  Here you can see her nipping Cleo to make her move out of the trough!

Sunday 16 December 2012

That was the week that was ...

For those of  you old enough to remember :-)

Right .. it's been a bit of a busy week.  Not sure why it was so busy but it seems to have come and gone in a bit of a blur for some reason and I didn't get a chance to blog.  Merciful relief for you all perhaps!

Anyhow - main highlight of the week was the visit from the scanning man, Michael, on Tuesday.  Absolutely freezing cold day and I have to say that my fingers and toes were all completely numb by the time we had finished them all late into the afternoon.  I was so busy writing numbers down that I didn't have a chance to get any pics for you, so we will have to make do with one from last year!  It's all the same every year - just more goats!

This was young Dipsy goat being scanned last year. 

I haven't yet had a chance to go through all the notes and sort them out (a task for this week!) nor have I added up the total number of kids due (for fear of giving myself a nervous breakdown).  But here is the news (as they say) ..... 

Despite putting our lovely Larkin boy in early with the youngsters, it would seem that he didn't get any of them pregnant before he went off to Somerset.

We were hopeful that he may have caught a few so we could start kidding earlier than normal, but it seems that none of the girlies came into season in time for him.  The job was left to Daramac who rose to the challenge and has put every single goatling in kid, apart from one.  That's 51 small fat pregnant goatlings.  Little Fuschia goatling has shown as being empty but then she was poorly for a short time and so maybe her hormones didn't kick in at the right time.

Miranda goatling takes this year's prize for the highest number of kids showing at scanning - she is due to have 4.  Freddie and Shelley come a close second with 3 kids.  All first time mums so they will have their work cut out!

One of our older girls, Margot is due to kick off the kidding season on 25th February.  Remember Margot?  The one who comes to the back gate of the parlour and shoves the gate open?

Mmm.  Let's hope that she doesn't pass those particular genes on to her offspring. 

The rest of the girls then all follow in quick succession but one of great surprises of the scanning was when Michael confirmed that Twiggy goat is carrying twins.  Now, Twiggy goat is sister to Twinkle goat.  Twinkle is the one in front, Twiggy peering out from behind.

Twiggy was born in 2009 and, despite everyone's best efforts, has never managed to get pregnant.  As Twinkle kidded in 2011 and 2012, Twiggy just remained barren and fat.  A permanent goatling!  Although technically a 'useless' goat, we kept her in the herd (despite David's complaints!) to keep her sister company.  But this year, she has come up trumps!  A couple of hours with young Beamish seem to have done the trick.  Keep your fingers crossed ....

And what of our older girls?  Well, Betty is having twins while sister Wilma has just the one.  Daphne has two kids that she can hate and throw around whilst Thelma has one baby that she can fuss and fiddle with.  Thelma absolutely loves her babies .. and anyone else's actually.  Thelma is our Earth Mother! 

Daphne, on the other hand, is an old bag.  She hates her babies to start with - she gets very impatient with them, pulls them around by their ears and throws them about.  Every time Daphne has kids we have to keep a close eye on her and generally have to move the babies away from her for a few hours so that she has a chance to calm down.  Same thing every year .... and then we put them back in with her and she loves them to bits. 

And Tammy, our oldest girl, is due to have twins.  At 10 years old she is now considered to be a 'geriatric' goat by the veterinary world but she is still fit and healthy and so we decided to put her in kid once again.  As we said last year, this may be the final time.  But then we have been saying that for a few years now!

There are still a few girls who are too early in their pregnancy to tell how many kids are due, and a few of them have shown up as being empty.  One of whom is big fat Footsie goat.  Not sure what is going on there - I think she had such a bad time kidding this year (one little white man, a couple of dead babies and quite poorly afterwards) that she has decided she is not going through it again next year!  She may come back into season again in a couple of weeks, in which case we will send her round the back of the bike sheds with Fremlin!

Sunday 9 December 2012

Daramac goes on his holidays

Those of you who have been following our little blog for some time may remember that our lovely white boy Daramac used to spend a lot of his time in Margate with our friend Mary to keep her boy Gus company.  Sadly, Gus died earlier this year and so Daramac came back to live permanently with us. 

He has been a very busy boy again this year but finished his work when we moved the goatlings back up into the main barn a couple of weeks ago.  However, barely had he got his breath back when Mary arrived on Friday to take him away on his Xmas holidays.  She still has a couple of young ladies who require his services and so he will be spending the festive season by the seaside.

He will be sharing his hotel suite with Casper who is only a little chap and a son of his old mate Gus.  I spoke with Mary on Saturday to make sure that my boy was behaving himself as he is rather large and can be quite a handful, but she assured me that he was perfectly happy and that he and Casper were getting along quite well.  Daramac had apparently taken the best spot right under the hayrack, just to let Casper know who was boss.

The weather on Saturday was absolutely glorious and the sun shone on Balham Farmers Market.  But I think everyone must have been Xmas shopping in town as it was a pretty quiet day for most of us.  Just as well perhaps as we have very little stock this time of year - milk and cheese is very thin on the ground.  However, we do have other lovely bits and bobs to sell including our delicious goat meat, handmade goats milk soap and wonderful quince jelly.

I stacked up the jars of quince and let the sun shine through them.  Just like a stained glass window!  It certainly caught the eye of many people walking past and one of my customers stopped to take a photo for me:

Such a glorious colour!

No market for me today so David and I spent some time moving straw and hay around ready for the week ahead.  The weatherman is predicting heavy snow for us on Tuesday night and so I restacked a load of hay bales in the barn to block up some of the gaps and make it as weatherproof as possible.  I just hope that we don't get the blizzards and avalanche like we had  in February .. remember that?


No point in worrying .. we will just have to wait and see what the week brings!