Monday 28 December 2015

Growing kids ..

I thought it was about time that we found out what all those youngsters are up to!  Most of the female  kids, as you already know, went to their new home in Herefordshire some time ago.  So, we just have about 8 little girls left now and they are all living quite happily with the little meat boys.

David was very popular this morning as he arrived with their breakfast ..

Especially as he rolled out some new straw for them as well!

Everyone likes to play in new straw ..

Whilst some prefer to wear it as a disguise ..

As always, there is one particularly special little chap ..

Yes, still on milk at this time of year!  He was not doing very well at all and was not eating properly, despite being given lots of attention.  He became so poorly that it was time for desperate measures and so I tried putting him back onto bottles of milk to try and get some nourishment into him.  And it worked!  He is fit and healthy again and growing stronger every day .. but he does still demand his milk at breakfast time.

Thursday 24 December 2015

Festive cheer!

We made it!  Over the past couple of weeks, Joe and I have both felt like we wouldn't actually make it to Xmas ... Extra days and long hours at Borough have taken their toll, even on a fit young chap like Joe!  I have a stinking cold and Joe is absolutely exhausted.  But we made it ...

Borough Market is such a fantastic place to be at Xmas .. all that wonderful food from all over the world.  The best of everything, right at your fingertips!

Even the Shard had a Xmas hat on this morning:

But that was nothing compared to one of the Borough staff, Phil, who has been sporting a different outfit each day in the run up to Xmas.  And, on Xmas Eve, what else could he wear but a Santa outfit:

Certainly added a bit of festive cheer to the place.

Our own stall was stacked high with goatie produce, beautiful gift packs, bars of soap and those wonderful kid skins hanging from our umbrella ..

But our little towers of goatie cheese were dwarfed by our fellow traders at Gorwydd Caerphilly:

and the stacks of Comte from Borough Cheese:

That's what you call cheese!!!  Apparently, they had 7 tons of the stuff in storage ready for Xmas ..

The last farmers' market of the year at Parson's Green last weekend was strangely quiet, so our very talented market manager decided that she would make balloon hats for all the stallholders.  I was presented with an excellent goat, whilst other stallholders had Xmas trees, tomatoes and reindeer!

Meanwhile, David has been keeping the goaties in order.  The hideous wet weather has turned the farm into a swamp ..

So the girls have been spending their time indoors, chomping on their hay ..

and generally being extremely lazy!

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.


Thursday 10 December 2015

Mountains of cheese!!

Just got back from the Borough Market Evening of Cheese.  And what a fantastic evening it was! Virtually all the cheesemongers from Borough set up their stalls in the Green Market.  Wall to wall cheese.  Mountains of the stuff!

There was hot mulled cider on tap from New Forest Cider and the festive Porter brewed especially for the evening.  The crowds of customers were in high spirits and there was a great atmosphere

We had a good spot right next to the Xmas tree ..

And took the opportunity to showcase our wonderful festive gift packs and truckles:

And the little wooden boxes of perfectly ripe Shaggy's Beard camembert!

Marmite Cat and I are off to bed now for a few hours of well-earned rest.  Night all ...

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Rafia, boxes and bows

Wrap, wrap, wrap .. bits of rafia and ribbon everywhere.  Stacks of gift boxes and little wooden camembert boxes all over the place.  It must be that festive time of year again!!  Yes indeedy folks, the Ellie's Dairy team is currently hard at work making extra cheese and making it all look pretty for your delight.  Dairy Fairy Julie and Notting Hill Marketeer Rosie have been spending their evenings wrapping our wonderful soap whilst yours truly seems to spend every spare minute tying bows round little boxes!

So, no excuse for lack of blog ... Just one of those festive things.

Quite a lot has been going on (apart from the wrapping) since we last met.  Our little stud boys have moved on to their new homes.  Massey and McLaren went to join our girls in Herefordshire and Ferguson and Landini went to Somerset to work in one of the big herds down there who have had many of our boys in the past.

We also said goodbye to our lovely boys Fenn and Clark as they moved to Somerset with the two younger boys.  Although we are very sad to see them go, we know that they will be very happy (and very busy!) in their new home.  We have used both of them so much that it would be difficult for us to keep them working after this season and so it makes sense for them to move whilst they are still young and enthusiastic!

I hope that Clark is getting lots of hugs in his new home as he was a bit of a mummy's boy and demanded quite a lot of attention.  So, that leaves us just with Hugo as our solitary working male for the moment.  He had a bit of a rough start in life at his previous home and it took him a long time to settle down with us and start working.  It would not be fair to move him somewhere else as we know that he would not be happy.  Although we have used him an awful lot, we should be able to find a few ladies for him each year!

Farmers markets have been moving along very nicely, although we have had some particularly challenging weather to deal with.  West Hampstead last Saturday was horrendous and, after one gazebo took off in the wind, many of the traders took their awnings down for safety.  Fortunately, it stayed dry but we did all feel rather naked without our covers on!  It all looked very bare!

Borough Market is beginning to get that busy festive feel to it and it all looks lovely with the decorations up now.  Tomorrow is our Evening of Cheese and we are really looking forward to being part of it, along with all the Borough cheesemongers.  It's going to be just one HUGE cheesefest!  Can't wait!

The goatie girls have just been taking it easy as usual.    Not inclined to go outside at all in this windy wet weather, they have been spending their days just lounging around in the barn. Comfy straw and big yummy bales of haylage are just too tempting!

And finally ... this is how Marlin scratches her bottom after milking!

Wednesday 25 November 2015

When keys go missing ..

It's a boy thing.  Always losing your keys.

And so it came to pass that human David lost his keys to the truck.  Somewhere in the goat barn.  How do we know this?  Well .. as I walked out of the barn, the lights on the truck flashed, the doors unlocked and the interior light came on.  Which meant that one of those goatie girls must be standing on the lost key.

Needle in a haystack ....

Brainwave!  Borrow a metal detector and walk the entire barn in search of lost keys.  And this is what happened:

Much pointing of ears!

I have to say that the girls were not at all impressed with David's search.  They stared at him, pointed their ears and then ran out of the barn.  Changed their minds and ran back in ... Turned round and ran back out again.  Very amusing ..  But still no keys found.  The search continues ...

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Spitting image ..

So, here's an interesting thing ..

Early morning in the barn and the two Anglo-Nubians are sitting next to each other.  Mum JoJo to the left and daughter Cleo to the right.  So, what's so interesting about that?  Well ... as you may remember, babies are taken from their mums after about a week when mums return to the milking herd.  We continue to feed all the babies until they are weaned.  Babies grow into goatlings and then goatlings are gradually introduced back into the milking herd before they are mated and become pregnant so that life is not so stressful for them when it comes to kidding and milking in the parlour.

So .. this means that, although the goats are all in the same area, babies do not come back into close contact with their mums until around 18 months old.

Cleo is now 3 years old but it is only during the past few weeks that she and mum JoJo have been seen lying next to each other.  So, this begs a question ... Do they know that they are mum and daughter?  If so, then why has it taken them almost 3 years to get back together?  Or do they just sit together because they look the same as each other?  If this is the case, then this must mean that they themselves know what they look like .. and they know that they look different to the other goats ... and they know that there is one other goat which looks identical.  Interesting eh?!

Autumn/winter mornings always start with the same routine with us having to wake up lazy goats for milking time.  They hate getting up in the dark (who can blame them?!) and some of them will try and ignore us for as long as they can ..

Eventually, we manage to get all the milking goats over to one side of the barn - you can see the parlour lights in the background ..

Which leaves the goatlings, a few kids and the old girls over the other side of the barn to enjoy their breakfast in peace ..

Every couple of days we roll out bales of new straw so that everyone is warm and cosy in all this damp and windy weather.  And it is interesting to note that this task is handled completely differently by the male and female humans.

Male humans just roll the bale out and leave the straw flat in lines .. so all the goats sit in rows, like they are on a bus.  Female humans spend much more time laying out the straw - it all has to be spread properly and fluffed up so that it is lovely and comfy for those goatie girls coming back in from milking.  I always think it is like plumping up cushions on the sofa.  It's a girl thing ..

And, of course, you have to make sure that there is plenty of straw sprinkled into those far corners as that is where many of the old girls prefer to settle down .. like Thelma:

Everyone loves new straw and the goatlings are always keen to help:

Then we open the back door and everyone comes running back in.  Incidentally, that noise you can hear in the background is another one of those hormonal goats in season!!

Saturday 14 November 2015

An excess of hormones!

As a novice goatkeeper, I remember wondering to myself how we would know when a female goat was in season ... Many years later, as a more seasoned goatkeeper, I still chuckle when I think about it ...

Give you a clue .. Just a quick peek into the barn early one morning as the girls were all waking up..

And that carried on all day.  Even when she was put in with Fenn ... In fact, later in the day, Fenn was lying under the hayrack with Florie standing next to him still bellowing in his ear!

The Monkey business in the parlour (and elsewhere!) continues ... Still loves to jump into the wheelbarrow at milking times.  But, as she gets bigger, she has now discovered that she can reach other things that need to be investigated ..

But, after a while, it all gets too much and she has to have a little lie down ..

Meanwhile, mum Husky appears out of the darkness at the back gate to the parlour and waits patiently to be let in ..

And it's been another busy week for the rest of the goatie girls, as you see ...

Busy eating, busy lying around, busy getting fat, busy staring at the camera .. you get the general idea!

But not even those goaties have been as busy as Marmite cat ... Hard at work all week keeping the back of the armchair warm:

Sunday 8 November 2015

Anyone got a couple of million to spare?

The Slow Food and Living Market at the very sumptuous Rosewood Hotel on Holborn is not our busiest market, but it certainly is the most interesting!  I love people-watching and there is always plenty going on in the courtyard for a nosey person like myself!

Take today for example .. two of the most beautiful Mercedes ever built, parked in the courtyard.  One classic and one modern, they are both owned by the same man.  Being a bit of a petrolhead, I wandered over to have a look ..

The classic was an absolute beauty.  Originally built in 1954, it is one of only 1200 ever made.  The very charming gentleman has brought it up to date with some modern features and it is worth somewhere in the region of 2 million quid.  I didn't quite manage to sell that much cheese today so just had to make do with admiring it and chatting to the owner - a German collector of Mercedes vehicles who had driven over from Germany yesterday.

And then, apparently, Justin Bieber was staying at the hotel.  Who?  Yes, quite .... Apparently, some singer or other.  Think I am just getting old and disinterested in 'celebrities' ...  There was a quick flurry of people, 2 large cars with blacked-out windows and a young chap flanked by minders ... Out of the back entrance they all went.  The price of fame eh?  Apparently, the police had to get involved a couple of weeks ago when a load of female fans went crazy outside the hotel ..  

And the Haas Brothers sculptures are just incredible.  If you have any change left from your Mercedes purchase, why not buy a little piece for the garden?

The stalls themselves are very tastefully constructed and I always like to display some of our beautiful kid skins up the sides:

And I always love the stalls at Rosewood .. the most exquisite produce with traders who are absolutely passionate about what they do.  Today, we had a new stall with Turkish coffee.  A small family business which has recently been brought over to London by one of the daughters.  It was a joy to watch them making the coffee, carefully explaining to every customer how to make the perfect cup of Turkish coffee.  And it was rather delicious, I have to say.  And they also had the most beautiful Turkish coffee pots, or cezve, for sale as well ..

The goat shed is still ringing with the sound of hormonal females in season, all demanding Fenn's attention!  He is doing a good job and has a couple more weeks before we send him back down the road for a rest and bring Huggy Hugo up for his turn with the ladies.

One of our more agile female kids has taken to leaping out of her house to join the milkers.  I think she has been watching Monkey goat too much ..  Mbuzi, also know as 'the small African thing' is a very unusually coloured little goatie.  And she just loves cuddles!

And, as usual, at milking time there is the usual parade of old/retired girlies who like to come in through the back door to enjoy their dinner out of the wheelbarrow.  Here's Mora and Gilly:

As we have more and more old girls, that wheelbarrow is becoming very popular!