Sunday 29 December 2013

The day the scanning man came to call

Yes indeedy - it's that time of year again.  Doesn't seem 5 minutes since we did it all last year.  Michael had his work cut out for him this morning with over 180 goaties to scan but we have a pretty good system set up and we got through them all in about 2 hours.

Only 4 sets of triplets due this year, although young Ellie may also have triplets - Michael could definitely see 2 babies but there was a possibility of a third hiding round the corner!  Most of the other goaties are having twins but we do have a few just with singles.  As we still have milk this winter, we are leaving quite a few girls to 'run through' - ie. they just carry on milking and we don't put them in kid.  But a quick calculation tells me that we have somewhere in the region of 170 kids due.  It's going to be busy!

So the scanning highlights of today .... poor Bunnie has only one tiny dead baby inside.  She was a bit poorly a couple of weeks ago and so that probably has something to do with it.  However, the kid is small enough for her to reabsorb and so her body will just break it down and it will disappear.  It's a strange phenomenon but does happen.  And Maisie who kept our winter milk going virtually single-handed last winter, has finally got in kid again.  She has been milking since she kidded in 2009 and not stopped or had kids since!

Approx date for start of kidding is 7 March with Mora and her daughter Millie both due on that day.

As always, there are a few girlies who should be pregnant but aren't .. so we will be sorting them out this week and sending the boys back in to finish the job!

Meanwhile, Mary's youngsters have made themselves completely at home and seem very happy in their new house. 
 However, as they were eating their tea tonight, they were joined by a very nosey young Husky who decided that she might like to have a taste of their food ..

Saturday 28 December 2013

More new arrivals ..

So I hope that a good Xmas was had by all ... David and I managed to get a few hours in the middle of the day to have a nice meal and a rest but otherwise it was a normal day for us - up early for milking and back into bed quite late after evening milking and feeding.

Today was a special day as the remainder of the Zeila goat herd arrived on our farm.  Our dear friend Mary has finally taken the decision that it is time to retire from goatkeeping and so she arrived this morning with her goatlings and kids to add to our collection.  She also brought a large bag of parsnips with her for the milkers and so they were very pleased to see her!

The kids are really sweet and very friendly.  One of them is a daughter of our lovely Daramac so we will be able to see if he has passed on any of his undesirable habits!

We have put the youngsters in with Mary's milkers as they are all used to living togather and it will help them settle in better.  But tonight there seemed to be not even a hint of homesickness as they tucked into their evening meal.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

A new calf for Xmas

Big old Gracie Moo decided that she wanted her waistline back and so this gorgeous little creature arrived on Sunday afternoon:

Another little heifer calf.  Wasn't too keen on coming out apparently and so David had to call in more experienced reinforcements to help her on her way (thank you Alan!)

I think she is going to be a big girl like her mum as she is about the same size as the other two older calves already!

I have to say that the weather has been a bit rough the past couple of days.  Just a tad windy and wet last night!  We were very lucky and didn't even lose power which was something of a miracle as it tends to fail at the drop of a hat!  There are a lot of trees down though and water everywhere. 

Talking of water .. the goaties like to drink from the large blue buckets outside the milking parlour as they finish milking and return to their barn.  However, every morning they are rudely disturbed from their little routine.  What has this white goatie spotted?

It's Ben!  As David's dad walks round to check on the cows, Ben dashes round the gate and heads straight for the concrete block by the water buckets, scattering the goaties.

He is convinced that something small and furry lives inside the block and he spends quite some time with his nose stuck in it, patiently waiting.  Every morning - the same routine!

At last, all the cheese is delivered and the fridges are empty.  Although our goatie routine continues as normal over the festive period, we can hopefully have a little bit of a rest as we don't have to rush about delivering for a few days.

And as last year, I leave you with a delightful piece written by a goatkeeper in Wales.  Merry Xmas everyone!


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.


Saturday 21 December 2013

It's starting to look a lot like Xmas ..

I will be glad when Xmas finally arrives and we can all get our breath back!  Since my last post, I seem to have spent my entire week bottling milk and dealing with cheese - making it, packing it, weighing it, putting it in my van ... Fantastic!  I love to be busy but this is getting a bit ridiculous now ..

And what glorious weather!  Not ... Lashing rain and gale force winds caused havoc with our straw stack on Wednesday night as Anita and myself had to use all our weight (no rude comments please!) to hold a very large tarpaulin down whilst David frantically positioned tractors to wedge all the covers back in place. 

Wimbledon market was slightly blustery today (to say the least!) and David had to screw most of my awning back together this evening where everything had rattled loose in the wind.  But the good people of Wimbledon still came out in force despite the appalling weather and sales were steady, if a little damp!

Needless to say, those goatie girls and boys have not set a hoof outside in this dreadful weather.  Looks like Mary's lot have settled in pretty well now - what do you reckon?

Nice and relaxed!

And this pile of goaties look pretty comfy too!

I have a theory that a lot of goatie behaviour is genetic.  Take Betty goat for example .. almost 10 years old and still stamps her little feet when she is being milked.  Her daughters are all the same, as are her grand-daughters and great grand-daughters.

So, how about this one? 

This is Columbia, almost 8 years old but stil prone to bouts of silly behaviour, as you can see.  She is not being milked at the moment but still likes to come through the parlour to have some food .. but then she gets bored and sits on the bar and swings her back legs in the air.

I have only ever seen 3 of our goaties do this - the first one was an old goat called Fancyfree who died long before our little blog was begun.  Here she is in the old milking parlour ..

And Free was Columbia's mum .... Interesting don't you think?!

So, off to bed for me.  Early start again in the morning - back up to London ready for another market day in Marylebone -  I do hope the weather is considerably better than today!

Wednesday 11 December 2013

More cheese please!

Cheese, cheese and more cheese!!  It's that Xmas cheesey time of year when the world goes mad ... Not being a great fan of the festive season myself, I do find it hard to believe how much extra food people think they need at this time of year.  And just how much gets wasted.  But hey ho ..

With my dairy fairy still out of action, I have been busy trying to make all the extra Xmas cheese, pack it all up and deliver it.  It's a bit of a struggle I must admit but I can't complain - it's so much better than not having any milk or cheese like last year.  Remember how dire our winter was last year??  Mmmm .. don't want to go through that again.  Much better to be snowed under with cheese than have none at all.

Our lovely goatie helper Anita came with me to help make cheese last week .. And a great help she was too!  Here she is looking proud with her cheese at the end of the day:

And here's an interesting picture of me in the maturing room .. how many legs does this cheesemaker have?!

Farmers markets can sometimes be fairly quiet at this time of year though as people concentrate on getting their Xmas present shopping done.  However, West Hampstead and Brixton were pretty steady last weekend but a lull in customers at Brixton allowed me time to take a couple of pics of the Akiki Biodynamics stall next to me .. just look at these squashes and mistletoe!

And lovely Edmund from Perry Court Farm brought over a couple of bags of sprout tops for the goaties.  Here's Betty, Wilma and Chickweed enjoying their treats at milking time:

And who is this handsome chap at the back gate of the milking parlour? 

 Yes, no other than our little Humphrey goat.  Seems to have suddenly grown up a bit.  His face is also changing and he is losing that 'little boy' look .. growing into a very handsome chap though!

He was soon joined by mum Valerie:

I think that's what is known as a 'hard stare'!!

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Meet the new girls

Look at this lovely lot!

These 9 lovelies joined us on Saturday morning as our goatie colleague Mary is still recovering at home from her heart attack.  As it will be a while before she is back at full strength, we offered to take her milking girlies on their holidays so that she doesn't have to worry about them.  Mary still has the kids, goatlings and boys at her farm so her goat sheds are not empty!

The poor goaties have had a rough week.  With Mary being ill and in hospital, their routine has been disrupted and other people have been milking them to help Mary out.  Then just as they thought it was all settling down, they were herded into a trailer and brought to a completely different place.  Different milking parlour, different routine, lots more goats!

We have given them their own area at the moment whilst they settle into their new surroundings and although some of the older girls are a little nervous, everyone does come into the parlour for milking without too much of a problem.

Talking of problems in the parlour ..two of our youngsters had a bit of a moment yesterday evening when one of them decided to do a bit of stage-diving under her neighbour..

And finally .. a dear friend has lent me her antique spinning wheel so that I can try and remember everything I learnt last year!  I think I may have to call in a few favours with spinning friends and invite myself round for coffee and a quick refresher course!

But this wheel is wonderful - it is over 400 years old and in perfect working order.

It just fascinates me to think how many women have sat at this wheel and spun.  What did they look like?  Where did they live?  What did they eat?  Interesting don't you think?!

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Arrivals and departures

A hectic week indeed!  A week of ups and downs, both human and animal.

The humans have not had such a good week.  Our 'dairy fairy' Julie slipped and fell on her (already dodgy) knee on Friday and has managed to tear a ligament.  Sounds horribly painful and she assured me that her knee was the size of a football and purple!  Lots of 'leg up' rest for Julie then .. so it looks like I have to do all my own cheesemaking and packing for a couple of weeks.  I think she is just breaking me in gently for when she goes away to New Zealand for 5 weeks over Xmas!

And then our dear goatie colleague Mary from Margate ended up in hospital with a heart attack over the weekend.  But as she called me on her mobile at 6am Sunday morning, it seemed that she was very much in control and directing operations from her hospital bed!  Get well soon Mary!

Over in the goat shed we had to bid a fond farewell to our beautiful old Daphne as she went rapidly downhill on Monday afternoon.  I like to think that she is now up there in goatie heaven keeping my beloved Fremlin company!

 But the good news for this week is that we now have two brand new calves.  Little bull calf arrived quite late last night and a heifer calf arrived just after milking this morning.  Here she is with mum - just born!


 We haven't managed to get a picture of the little chap yet as new mum is still getting to grips with him and is very nervous of people fiddling with her baby.  She is gradually getting the hang of him though and he will be a lovely strong boy.

That leaves just two ladies in waiting .. check out the size of the oldest Gracie Moo.  Makes Footsie seem exceedingly slim in comparison!

Thursday 21 November 2013

Out on parole!

Young Husky goat has been in prison again for a few days this week to avoid any 'accidents' with those boys.  She wasn't impressed at her new house but the high fences did the trick and kept her safe and sound and out of mischief!

She was released on parole for good behaviour last night and came in to help us with milking.  But she was so tired that she was falling asleep standing up.  Kind David lifted her onto his lap and she promptly dozed off .. looks like David did as well!

It's been a bit of a lazy week all round really as the weather has been quite cold and wet, so all the goaties have stayed indoors.  The hayracks have been very popular this week ...

The most coveted spot in the barn is right under the hayrack where a goatie can snuggle down into the comfy straw and be able to eat without having to move (or even stand up!).  Tuesday had Cecily hiding under one rack:

And Valerie and her little Humphrey settled under the other:

 Meanwhile, the Gracies were happily standing around in the wind and rain ..

We are keeping a very close eye on them at the moment as calves are due any day now!
And finally .. this is what happens when it goes quiet at the end of a farmers' market ...

 Vegetable carvings, courtesy of Galileo Farm!

Monday 18 November 2013

The end of an era

No, not Flora.  Actually, dear old Flora is doing pretty well.  We spent a very cold and restless night together on Friday and I managed to get a couple of hours sleep despite the discomfort and the occasional rat running over my legs.  (I can hear you squealing at the back there!).  The ratties are actually quite entertaining .. they run over the goats' backs and sometimes just sit on top of them.  Goaties don't mind in the slightest!  I am not particularly bothered by rats as I find them quite fascinating but they do make me jump when they land on my legs after jumping off the wall ...

No, the end of an era concerns my beloved Fremlin goat.  David called me on the way to Sunday market to say that Fremlin had suddenly become very poorly and that he was very worried about him.  I kept getting updates throughout the day but it didn't sound good ... I drove back home as quickly as I could but the traffic was a nightmare and it seemed to take forever to get back.

As I pulled into the farm, the barn was in darkness and David had obviously just gone indoors for a well-earned cup of tea before milking.  Grabbing my torch, I jumped out of the van and ran over to the boys to find Fremlin lying slumped in his pen with Daramac and Max keeping him company.  As I cradled that big handsome head of his, he let out his last breath and then he was gone.  I just made it home in time ...

But we musn't be too sad as the end came quickly and he went with a smile on his face.  Against all the odds, his dodgy old legs kept going and he had been a busy boy with the ladies over the past few weeks.  Hopefully he will leave us some more lovely kids and, fingers crossed, that there will be a nice male amongst them who can take his place.

Farewell, my handsome boy!

Just born - with mum Ellie & little brother Huffkin

The young buck - at 5 months old
His moment of glory - June 2008
The older man - 2012

Friday 15 November 2013

A story of old goats

As you may remember from earlier blogs about Betty and Wilma, some of our goatie girls are getting on in years now and are starting to suffer a little with 'old lady' ailments.  BTW .. Betty and Wilma are just taking life very easy now and are fighting fit and looking great at the moment!

Sadly, the same cannot be said for dear old Daphne goat.  She has not been quite up to scratch for a couple of weeks and has been a little chesty from time to time but she always trotted into the parlour at feeding time and scoffed her meals quite happily.  But yesterday morning was a different story.  She had to be coaxed in and would not even sniff at a nice apple .. that's serious.  She was all fluffed up, struggling to breathe and had quite a bad cough.  She looked utterly miserable.  So, I gave her a good dose of medicine and spoke with our lovely vet Peter who promised to call in later that afternoon.

As is customary on these occasions, by the time Peter arrived, Daphne was in fine spirits and happily stuck her head into a bowl of food as Peter was trying to examine her.  It always makes me recall a famous Monty Python sketch where an old man shouts "I'm not dead yet!!" ...

But the prognosis is not good ... Peter handed me his stethoscope and invited me to listen to Daphne's heart. First the left side ... then the right side.  Thinking that I had put the stethoscope in the wrong place, I said to Peter that I couldn't hear her heart on the left hand side.  'Mmmm yes' said Peter.  But I could hear it beating (very rapidly) on the right side.  'Mmmm yes' said Peter again .... So her heart is on the wrong side! Mmmm yes ..... And that usually indicates that a mass of some kind is pushing the heart over to the other side .. that's why I couldn't hear anything on the left.  Almost certainly a huge tumour of some description.

So, it doesn't look good for poor old Daphne.  There is nothing we can do apart from give her lots of cuddles and treats.  As soon as she starts to feel poorly again, then we will have to take that heartbreaking final decision and let her go.  We have no idea when that might be .. could be days, could be weeks.

This was Daphne this morning ... filling her face at breakfast time!

And tonight my beloved Flora is not at all well.  We are not allowed to have favourites .. but I love Flora dearly and it will be a very black day when she finally goes to that big goatshed in the sky.  She is almost 10 years old now so it is inevitable that day will not be too far away.  But I still hope that she may live forever!!!

As the temperature plunges rapidly towards zero tonight and I have just passed the first gritting lorry of the season, I am destined to spend the night in the barn with my Flora.  Plenty of thermals and a nice warm hat methinks! Although Flora is quite a large girlie and so I should be nice and warm snuggled up next to her.

So if I look a bit jaded at Wimbledon market tomorrow, you will have to forgive me!

Thursday 14 November 2013

Makeup on - let's go party!

Our lovely goatie helper Anita was hard at work trimming feet again yesterday.  She has been busy with the milkers for some time and managed to get the final girlies through their pedicures just before milking.  As is traditional, girls are marked up with red spray - sometimes a dot, sometimes a heart, sometimes a flower.  Largely depends what kind of mood Anita is in and whether the goaties will stand still enough to have a work of art emblazoned on their rump!

But whatever the design, it never fails to be attractive to all the other goats.  They all have to come over and have a sniff at the red mark, just in case they might miss out on something that could possibly be edible.

And the result is always entertaining ... numerous goats with red noses, red eyes and red lips ... Here's a few of the best from yesterday - all a bit Barbara Cartland I feel ...

A smiling Shares

Naughty Figgie

And a rather understated collection of 'slightly pink' ...

Husky was keen to help with the milking again this morning ...

She is due in season again this weekend and her pen is already built and waiting for the first sign of that little waggy tail!

But in all this cold and damp weather, Marmite has figured out that the best place is the cushion underneath the bathroom radiator ..

I'm definitely coming back as a cat in my next life.