Thursday 26 February 2015

Just over a week to go ..

David and I are pretty certain that Husky is going to be a dreadful mother! We fully expect her to throw a tantrum and refuse to look after her babies .. but we shall see.  Just over a week to go until young Madam is due to kid .. she is starting to look very tired these days and prefers to spend most of her time lying in her favourite spot under the hayrack.

However, she does still demand to come into the parlour and drink from the tap ..

Someone else who has become very demanding of late is our little deformed Fizzy Wizzy goat .. Since most of her friends are now coming through the parlour, she doesn't like to think that she may be missing out on something and so she comes round to the back door and shouts until we let her in.

Then she runs up the ramp at the first opportunity ..

Small but very feisty.  Noone messes with a Fizzy Wizz!

This year's Dolly Parton award goes to Meryl (with Florence a very close second).

Poor Meryl still has a couple of weeks to go before the arrival of her babies.  I can't believe that her udder can grow much more before it explodes!

Monday 23 February 2015

Happy New Year of the Goat!

Surely that's got to be a good thing!  The Chinese New Year of the Goat ... There were the usual celebrations in London yesterday with processions through the streets.  At Marylebone market we just displayed a discreet little sign .. just to make sure that everyone knows what a great year it should be!

I managed to snap a quick photo of Handsome Humps standing guard over mum Valerie this morning.  Still inseparable, even though he is very grown up now.

And that tail (from a previous blog) has been identified .. it belongs to young goatling Laurel.  Just thought you would like to know that ..

The sad news from the barn is that Poppy goat aborted one of her kids over the weekend.  Perhaps that was the cause of her having problems with her back leg .. Close inspection revealed that it was a small female - not fully formed, but it did have very long paper-thin ears.  A little Hugo daughter.

Poppy seems much happier since and is now back in with the rest of her goatie friends.  She was scanned for 2 or 3 kids (Michael wasn't completely sure) and so we will see if she manages to carry the rest of them until her due date.  Needless to say, everyone is keeping a very close eye on her bottom end in case anything else happens!

Thursday 19 February 2015

Students, visitors and little fat goaties

This week saw the arrival of our first student of the year.  Emily wanted a couple of days work experience on a goat farm as she has an ambition to own and run one herself.  She already helps to look after a couple of goats for a lady near where she lives - and it turns out that these goats originally came from our dear friend Mary!  Small world eh ...

Emily settled in very quickly and the goatie girls just loved to have a new person to fuss over.  Big old Roz enjoyed a bit of attention and she was quickly joined by KiKi who didn't want to miss out on anything.

Emily was equally popular with the youngsters who all came bounding over to meet her.

And all credit to Emily's dad who hauled himself out of bed at some unearthly hour this morning to get her up to the goaties for early morning milking!

Barely had we said goodbye to Emily this evening when our young friend Leoni and dad Neil turned up in the yard.  As you may remember, Neil is a very old friend of David's and his 8 year old daughter Leoni is a big fan of the goaties and an avid reader of our little blog.  Whenever they are visiting family in Kent, Leoni always demands to come and visit Husky and the girls and it's a great excuse for Neil to come and chat to David about how they used to be racing drivers!!

Leoni was a great help with the milking and was happy to see her friend Husky again!

The weather over the past few days has been utterly glorious and the goaties have been out in their field from time to time.  But many of them are getting very large and lazy now and just prefer to lie around in the barn and relax..

Not sure who that tail belongs to!!

However, as pregnancy progresses and girlies get heavier, some of them start to struggle a little.  Our first invalid of this season is young Poppy goat who has been enormous for quite some time.  We are not sure if she has hurt her back leg or if one of the kids is just resting awkwardly and has perhaps trapped a nerve or something.

Poor Poppy suddenly went very lame and refused to put any weight on one of her back legs - she was very reluctant to stand or move around at all.

As she was not able to get to food or hay or water and was being constantly trampled by everyone else, we decided to move her into her own pen.  This means that she is right next to the others (you can see them on the other side of the gate) but she has her own food bowl and pile of hay that she can just enjoy at her leisure.

She does seem to have improved a little over the past couple of days and is happy to stand up a bit more now. Hopefully she will be back to normal before she is due to kid in around 3 weeks time, otherwise she will just have to be on continued 'bed rest'!

And I just love the way that big round pregnant goats sit on their bellies with their little legs sticking out to the side .. Here's our tiny TiddlyWiddly goat sporting a rather rotund waistline ..

Saturday 14 February 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!

From all of us at Ellie's Dairy.  Especially our little Hokey goat who has that wonderful heart-shaped patch on her forehead!

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Friday 13 February 2015

Just waiting ....

At milking time there was big old Florence waiting to come in for her dinner ... snuggled in behind one of her oldest daughters Figgie who is always the first in the queue for milking, she was totally relaxed and was happily dozing off with her chin resting on the gate ..

Then there was Marmite cat, sitting in the window of our new flat, waiting for me to come home.  Spot the little brown and white face in the right hand window:

 At night as I drive in, I can always see her face at the window.  She peers down (to check that it is me, perhaps) and then disappears.  I know that she will be running down the stairs and that as I open the front door, she is there waiting for me.  Always a nice welcome!

Thursday 5 February 2015

The day the scanning man came to call ..

Out of the dark and cold a red van appeared on the horizon and a strange man emerged, muffled against the biting wind in multiple layers of hats and trousers.  Michael had spent an exceedingly cold Monday scanning around 2500 sheep and so, by the the time he got to us, he was ready for a nice hot coffee and 5 minutes rest.

But then it was all hands on deck to unload his special scanning crate .. easy to use with sheep but not really tested on goats.  Looks like a spit roast to me!

Michael sits in front of his scanning screen and the goaties pass through on his right hand side.  Some of them needed a bit of coaxing to get through the gates and narrow passageway but they soon got the hang of it.

Hugo was looking rather anxious as the scanning started - after all, this was a test of his manhood. Given that he failed in rather spectacular fashion last year to get anyone at all in kid, his reputation as a big stud male was firmly in question.

But he needn't have worried - all his ladies were well in kid and many of them are carrying triplets.  That's the Anglo Nubian genes coming through!!  Ellie goat (granddaughter of the original Ellie) is apparently carrying quads, as is big old Florence goat.  There had to be a good reason why she is so large that she can barely fit in the milking parlour!

So, in total, we are expecting around 180 babies to arrive in the spring.  Looks like young Husky should kick things off around 8 March with her twins, closely followed by Meryl (twins), Quince and Daisy (twins) and tiny little TiddlyWiddly goat who is carrying just a single baby.

Bearing in mind that Hugo is the father of many of the babies, we can expect a lot of absolutely ridiculous ears to appear this year!

News from the new herd in Herefordshire is that some of our young goatlings have already kidded and so they will all be well into the swing of things in a couple of weeks time.  They also have 120 milkers arriving from Sussex next Wednesday ... rather them than me!

And a milestone was reached yesterday afternoon as my little white van hit 200,000 miles on the clock.  And still going strong!!

Sunday 1 February 2015

Fisherman's friend

Over the years my toes have become more and more of a problem in the winter.  Standing at markets and in the milking parlour inevitably leads to frozen, white and very painful toes.  I have tried everything .. chilli, ginger, gingko, thermal socks, 'engineered' socks, mountaineering socks, neoprene boots etc etc .. all have improved the situation slightly but nothing has ever conquered the problem.  Until yesterday ...

Balham market was like a ghost town yesterday .. not really surprising as the weather was windy, freezing and sleety.  Very sensibly, most of the good Balhamites stayed firmly indoors.  And so there was plenty of time to chat to the other stallholders.  In the course of conversation with a pig farmer, I was bemoaning the problem of my frozen toes.  Heated socks was his advice ... never fails.  Easily available in fishing shops.

On my way home, I happen to pass a fishing shop between Beckenham and Penge.  One of those shops that you always notice on your travels and wonder if they do much business ... Well, am I glad that they do!  I stopped off on my way home, feet totally numb .. and entered an Aladdin's Cave of angling wonder.  An extremely nice man accompanied me to the footwear department.  Sadly there were no heated socks but he produced a pair of long green socks that he recommended personally ... he always wore them in conjunction with a pair of thermal lined boots.

My ears pricked up .. THERMAL LINED BOOTS?????  Oh yes .... and he waved a pair at me.  GIVE THEM TO ME NOW!!!!  I shouted, in a rather unseemly fashion .. and snatched them from his hands ...

And, boy oh boy have these boots changed my life .... For the first time today I have had warm and toasty feet all day .. standing all day at Blackheath market in freezing temperatures and then tonight in the milking parlour.  Feet still warm ... And all due to these little beauties (and the green socks) ...

Boots ...

and liners ...

Next week I fully intend to go back to the fishing shop and give the nice man a big wet sloppy kiss ..

One of the people who did brave the elements yesterday was my dear friend Sal.  That woman is a saint .. cocooned in a large black scarf and winter coat, she arrived with a thermos pot of hot Algerian coffee and large tubs of Polish salad (to which we are both completely addicted).  She also brought back one of my cheese price labels which I have in picture frames - it makes them look nice, keeps them clean and (most importantly) stops them blowing away in the wind.

As you may remember, we won a Gold Medal (and Champion Goat Cheese) at the International Cheese Awards last year.  Sal decided that a gold medal winning cheese should have a gold frame and so she had stolen it away last week to take it home and gild it for me.  And it was returned to me at Balham yesterday .. stunning!  Makes our cheese look like something very special!

As you know, milking goats is usually a very entertaining business and tonight was no exception.  One of our new little goatlings ventured up into the stalls to have her tea ... framed on one side by huge Pandora goat and on the other side by huge Roz, she was dwarfed!

Needless to say, there was the usual bad behaviour ... Pavarti decided that her neighbour Charlotte must have something far more interesting in her feed trough ..

Tomorrow is scanning day and so we will find out which girlies are pregnant and which are not .. It's going to be an action-packed afternoon!