Wednesday 24 December 2014

Merry Xmas everybody!!

It's been the usual festive dash to the end!  Jane the Cheese, Karen the Blue Cheese and myself have been flat out collecting and delivering cheese to the good people of Kent like mad women possessed.  As we are about half way between Karen and Jane, I often end up as a bit of 'cheese mule' taking deliveries back and forth between the two of them.

But it all seems to have worked out OK.  Fridges are mostly empty, just a couple of cheeseboxes to deliver tomorrow and then that's it!

Here's one of the boxes waiting to be delivered - a yummy selection from all the Kent cheesemakers, with some damson cheese and chilli jam. 

Xmas Day will start as usual for us.  Up at 4.30am and off to milk those goatie girls.  I think we just about have enough bananas to give everyone a slice with their breakfast!

And so, all that remains is for me to wish you all a very Merry Xmas!  As is now traditional, I leave you with a delightful piece written by a goatkeeper in Wales. 

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.


Wednesday 17 December 2014

Gracie Moos come home

Yes, it's that time of year again when the Gracie Moos are brought back to the farm to spend the winter tucked up in the cattle yard outside the goat shed (recently vacated by our Big Boys).  David went with tractor and trailer at the weekend to collect them all and, apparently, they were all exceedingly well behaved and loaded without any problem.  Seems like they wanted to come home.

So, now we have all 10 of them close to home which is lovely.  Nice to hear that low mooing sound early in the morning.  And a few of the older ones are due to calve soon as well, so David will be more able to keep a close paternal eye on them.

As the saying goes .. they are big and brown and very very round!!

The goatie girls took advantage of the glorious crisp December mornings to have a little trot into their field.  Brave goaties that they are, they managed to tip-toe through the mud at the entrance and then skip out into that lovely grass for a nibble.

Young Humphrey is a most handsome chap now and still loves to come through the milking parlour with all the ladies at tea time.  He always has to be at the front of the queue ..

And Mora is definitely in with a chance for the Longest Beard in the Goat Shed award this year ..

 And goatlings will be goatlings .. the teenagers of the goat world.  Jigsaw seems to have found a favourite spot in the hayrack each morning:

But it is a little like a bunk bed .. spot those ears underneath!!

Anita and I spent a long day trimming little goat feet with all the youngsters on Monday.  Here are a few of them waiting for their turn:

Everyone is flat out at Ellie's Dairy at the moment with the festive season fast approaching.  Today was our last mail order day for milk until January and so the courier had piles and piles of boxes to collect this evening.

Dairy Fairy Julie will be hard at work preparing and packing cheese orders tomorrow and I will be busy (I hope!) at markets all weekend.  Fingers crossed that the weather stays reasonable until all markets are over .. I have vivid memories of driving home from Wye Market a couple of years ago in driving snow!

Thursday 4 December 2014

A cold, damp day ..

What a thoroughly horrid day!  Very cold and damp - the kind of day that gets into your old bones first thing in the morning and stays there all day ...  But then, it is December I suppose!

The goaties stayed firmly indoors and were very cosy in their new straw.  A few were nibbling on hay whilst others were just lounging about.  Some just seem to have a knack of finding the most comfy bed of straw ..

Bassey & Vivian found a cosy corner:

Siouxsie managed to plonk herself down on the thickest wad of straw that she could find:

As did Baloo ..

Once our bunch of goatlings and kids had gone off to their new home in Herefordshire, we moved the remaining goatlings back up to the farm to live with our milkers.  The idea is that they all get used to each other before kidding time and the goatlings also have a chance to come into the parlour and get used to the noise and machinery before they have to come in and be milked. 

Always very stressful for goatlings - kidding and then having to be milked.  One day they are a  teenager without a care in the world and the next day they are a responsible adult milking goat.  It's hard for them and so we try to reduce the stress by getting them into the milking parlour routine well before they have to do it for real.

And so it is always rewarding to see them lying in amongst the older milkers, thoroughly relaxed and at ease.  Here's our lovely young Cara goat ..

 Older followers of our blog may recall the two very poorly kids from last year that I had living in a crate in the caravan for a couple of weeks whilst we struggled to get them started:

Well ... one of those kids turned out to be Cara.  Doing OK don't you think?!

And of course, when we moved the goatlings we had to bring our little Fizzy goat with them.  We were always a bit reluctant to put her in with the bigger goats as we thought that she might get bullied and pushed around as she is much smaller and slightly deformed.  So she always lived with the younger kids who were the same size as her.

But we needn't have worried!  She is a feisty girl and can hold her own against any old goat that tries to push her around!  In her own mind, she is a big goat too.  Completely at home with everyone else .. happy and relaxed:

As the weather became colder and wetter, we moved the big lads back into their winter quarters in the hay barn.  This year, as we have all these extra kids, they are sharing their accomodation with their offspring but are happy to be warm and dry and nearer to all their lovely ladies.

Our new boy Fenn is hard at work and one of our own youngsters is keeping him company when there are no ladies to occupy his time:

Our little chap goes by the grand name of Clark (Gable) as his mum is called Scarlet.  Name that film ...

Clark was destined to go with some other kids to a lovely lady in East Anglia but as he was quite poorly when he was younger I decided that he should stay with us.  After he had recovered, we were then intending that he should go to the butcher but, as time has gone on, he has become such a healthy and handsome chap that I am trying to find reasons to keep him as a working boy.  And he is Fenn's best mate after all ..

Many of our girls should be in kid now but there are a few still coming into season.  They can be extremely noisy at this time of year and like to let the boys know that they are around!  Here's one of the youngsters in the milking parlour, just dying to get back out to see Fenn and Clark ..

And finally, what of Marmite cat on such a dismal day?  Well, she can be found in her usual place - curled up on her cushion in the airing cupboard ..
I'm going to come back as a Marmite cat in my next life!