Sunday 31 August 2014

Like father, like son ...

At this time of year, it always makes me chuckle to see the little stud boys strutting their stuff in front of the girls (usually their mums and aunties!).  Young Magnus is glued to his dad Daramac and is learning all those hideous male goat habits from him.  I haven't worked out yet if Daramac is a proud dad or just resents the competition!

I managed to snap this pic of Daramac and eldest son Magnus with one of his younger sons bringing up the rear.  Nice photo for the family album!

Meanwhile, back inside the goat shed and completely oblivious to all the macho posturing going on outside, Valerie was safely tucked up underneath the hay rack.

Yesterday was a long day for David as he was fighting through the undergrowth in a field which has been neglected for several years.  The farmer wants to bring it back into use and so David was sent out with the heavy flail mower to try and beat it all into submission so that the ploughs can go in next week.

It was a hugely overgrown field and David said that some of the plants were so high, they were above the tractor cab!  He took this pic out of the front window to give me some idea of what he was up against ... the red thing is the bonnet of the tractor (about 6 foot high!).

So, what to do with a weekend of no markets? Well, I was tempted to load everything into my van anyway and just drive around .. but then I had to get to grips with the VAT return, do a couple of deliveries and catch up with my email. 

Today, however, we gave ourselves a couple of hours off and went into Faversham to the Hop Festival.  Beer and curry ... an excellent combination!  And, of course, you have to get into the spirit of the day by wearing the traditional head gear ..

Even the dogs joined in the fun!


Thursday 28 August 2014

The best cheese in the world?

And so, you may remember that we were lucky enough to win a prestigious Gold Medal for our yummy Shaggy's Beard camembert at the International Cheese Awards that were held in Nantwich a few weeks ago ...  Well, yesterday, I received a box from the ICA which I opened immediately, thinking that it would be some of their nice labels for our prize-winning cheese.

Imagine my surprise when I found these inside the box:

Yes indeed, dear readers, The Delamere Dairy Trophy for Best Goats Cheese in Show.  Apologies, but I have to do that in big letters   BEST GOATS CHEESE IN SHOW!!!!!!  How utterly fab is that?!  When I checked the results sheet all those weeks ago, I never even glanced at the trophy results.
Our little dairy beat all those professional cheesemakers from all over the country (and beyond!) to get BEST GOATS CHEESE IN SHOW!!  Sorry to keep repeating myself ...
Whooping with joy, I immediately called David and Jane the Cheese and Julie our fab cheesemaker to give them all the good news.  They were all delighted, as you can imagine.  I ran into the goat shed and announced the news to the goatie girls and thanked them for all their lovely milk.  As you can see, they were overcome with excitement ..
Back to normality .. David was busy with hedgecutting when I called him with the BEST GOATS CHEESE IN SHOW news ... a short while later he phoned back to say that the tractor had broken down.  So I had to drive off to find him with a set of large jump leads ..  Fortunately for him, there was another tractor ploughing in the same field as so we used him to get going again ..
Young Epi is still a regular visitor to the 'naughty corner' in the milking parlour.  She has come to expect all kinds of treats when she arrives there .. she was very interested in the yummy cakes in David's Fortnum and Mason's cake box ..

 And, as the temperature dropped this week and the nights started to get darker, the boys decided that it was most definitely 'stinky beard' time of year.  And so those lovely big boys have started to display those very undesirable male goat characteristics ... They are starting to smell already and it's only been a few days!

Hugo was busy strutting his stuff for the ladies this evening during milking ..

And finally, the good news is that all those blood tests turned out fine and a big group of our youngsters are off to Herefordshire next week.  So much to organise before they go!

And did I mention that we won BEST GOATS CHEESE IN SHOW???  Shaggy would have been very proud ..

Thursday 21 August 2014

The endless task of harvest

It's pitch dark outside but I can still hear the combine harvesters running .. Everyone has had another frantic few days trying to get harvest done whilst the weather holds out.

Rained off for a few days, David has been busy carting straw bales again this week.  He managed to borrow a large trailer from another farmer so that he could move more bales in one load (22 instead of 16 on our trailer). 

However, when some b***ards decided to start setting fire to some of the bales still in the field one night, he decided that an even larger trailer was needed to get everything off the field as quickly as possible.  Another farmer very kindly lent us a HUGE trailer ... 36 bales ...

And so, to everyone who has been crawling along the A20 behind a red tractor with a very long trailer full of straw ... humble apologies :-)

You can just see the tiny dot of a tractor slightly to the left of centre in this picture.  Large field and around 500 bales to move.  Great sigh of relief when it was all finished tonight and all straw safely in barns.

Needless to say, goaties have been completely oblivious to all this frantic activity which has been taking place in order to provide them with food and bedding for the year ahead.

There was some anxiety though during morning milking when 3 sheep appeared in the goats' 'old' field.  They must have wandered through a weak part of the fence and were happily trotting along the hedge munching all sorts of yummy things.
They were spotted by Lulu and a couple of the others .. 

But no harm  done .. and they soon wandered back down the field and disappeared back through the hedge!
Wild Country Organics sent me home with a lovely bag of bits and pieces after Parson's Green market on Sunday.  Here's Wilma helping herself to a selection of yummy greens and carrots.

Incidentally, dear Wilma is expecting twins within the next few weeks!

You may remember that we had a few 'late' girls due to kid ... we had our scanning man in last week just to check a few of them over and we also have a couple more 'surprises' that we had not planned!  So, in a couple of weeks, I think we may get rather more kids than we expected.  But it's all good and it means that we will have more milkers still productive as we go into that 'winter dip'.

And finally .. what of Marmite cat?  Well, as I write to you this evening she is curled up on top of my printer .. very helpful!

Friday 15 August 2014

All boys together

Another busy week!  The weekends seem to come around so quickly these days .. and I have to say that the nights seem to be closing in very quickly!  Or is it just me?

It looks likely that most of our lovely goatlings will be moving to a new home near Hereford to start up a new milking herd.  They will be accompanied by most of our 2014 babies as well.  Fingers crossed that it all goes according to plan! 

We already have around 200 milkers and don't really need to keep all of our youngsters at the moment, so it seemed a good idea to try and move them all on as a large group so that they settle in better.  More details nearer the time .. but marathon blood-testing is scheduled for Monday when our lovely vet Peter will come to do battle with them all!  Hopefully just a formality but we need to make sure that there is nothing nasty lurking in our goaties .. starting off someone else's herd is a huge responsibility that we take very seriously.

So, here's some of our lovely goatlings ..

 We will be keeping a few of them. Ones that are special to us for various reasons (like my little 'caravan' girl who spent 3 weeks living in a box in my caravan - remember??), or ones which are still quite small and aren't really up to standard.  And, needless to say, Fizzy won't be going anywhere!!

Dear old Betty goat decided to take herself out into the field during milking one evening this week.  For some reason, noone else went with her and so she just stood on the mountain all by herself.  Seemed perfectly happy!

And yesterday, the tractor was put to a different use as our milk bottle delivery couldn't make it down the lane as the lorry got stuck under the low branches.  The driver did try his best but had to admit defeat as the cavalry (aka David) were called in ..

The little stud boys and some of their friends have all settled in well in their new accomodation in the outside cattle yard .. but today they were joined by their dads and uncles as the Big Boys were moved outside as well. 

Although it is still quite early for the girls to be coming into season, there seemed to be an inordinate amount of unauthorised 'activity' this morning amidst rather a lot of gobbling and macho posturing!  And so The Boys were whisked outside rather quickly!

Max muscled in with the little chaps:

whilst Beamish, Hugo and Daramac (and one little chap) all stayed together:

and a crowd of the little men all piled into the same feed trough!

The big boys are very gentle with the youngsters and everyone is quite happy living out there together.  Soon it will be time to move the boys back in with their specially selected ladies .. hopefully Hugo will work this year!

We do still have a few new kids waiting to arrive .. we called our scanning man in last week just to check over a few of the late expectant mums.  Many were empty but there were a handful in kid, so we are expecting a few new babies at the end of this month.  Excitement once again!

Thursday 7 August 2014

Tastings, markets and bales

Our lovely goatie helper Anita has been out of the goat shed promoting our delicious goatie products to the good people of Kent.  She ran a very successful tasting day at Macknade Fine Foods in Faversham (the finest deli in the known universe) and introduced many of the customers to our milk and cheese.  Positioned in the centre of the shop, they could not get past her without trying something!!  The table looked lovely with lots of samples and pictures of goats ..

Macknade were really pleased with the event and have invited us back again in September and also for a late night tasting event in the run up to Xmas.

And last Saturday Anita and her lovely friend Annette took Penshurst Farmers Market by storm in their red spotty pinnies.  Mind you, from what I heard, I think they may have spent rather too much time on the cake stall next door!!

But it was back into overalls and wellies for Anita on Monday as we lifted and shifted a lot of the kids around.  Some of those little boys are getting way too heavy to carry and, being goats, refused to walk where we wanted them.  So, I thought I would try a different technique ... seemed to work, although I did feel like something out of the Bible ..

Once we had moved them all around, some of them seemed to settle in very quickly .. here is one little chap with the best seat in the house!

Chickweed's babies are doing great - we have left them in with mum for a bit longer than usual to give them a good start.  As you see, the little girl is quite happy to use mum as a climbing frame in order to get to the hayrack!

From the very young to the very old .... Betty and Wilma peering round the parlour door waiting to come in and have their dinner out of the wheelbarrow:

And Epi is still in the 'naughty corner' at regular intervals.  I think she actually enjoys being in there especially when she gets a few banana treats!

Meanwhile, David has been absolutely flat out.  Hedgecutting season has started with a vengeance as the crops are harvested and the hedges need to be cut before the next lot of cultivation is done.  As well as trying to keep those customers happy, David has also been making hay for ourselves and today he was busy baling barley straw for the goaties.

When I spoke to him just before 8pm tonight he had done over 400 bales and was still going!  The weather is meant to be bad tomorrow and so he needs to get as much baled up as possible tonight otherwise we will lose it.

Balham and Blackheath markets for me this weekend - not sure what the weather has in store but I expect that I will get wet at some point!

And finally .. those naughty girls Diana and Vera are now well settled in with their new goatie mum Flo.  I get pics of them emailed to me at regular intervals .. here they are.  With attitude!