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?!