Sunday 25 December 2016

Merry Xmas everyone!

The goaties and their humans at Ellie's Dairy would like 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.


Saturday 12 November 2016

Monkey finds love ..

So life continues apace here at Ellie's Dairy.  Our new young man, Hilton, has been a very busy boy and has had been keeping many of our ladies entertained over the past few weeks.

Young Monkey goat was one of his latest conquests and they enjoyed a romantic dinner for two without anyone else for company ..  Young love!

Tonight he was looking rather worried at the prospect of having to deal with one of the more outspoken members of the herd .. But, fortunately for him, Peaches is still milking well and won't be put in kid this year.

She managed to keep quiet long enough to eat her dinner in the milking parlour, but it didn't last very long ... Just in case you have ever wondered what a goat in season sounds like .... here she is at full throttle!

And note that waggy tail just at the end!

Meanwhile, farmers markets continue to be busy and there was a great moment at Blackheath last weekend when Alex from Cakehole found his space to be already occupied by a car whose driver had clearly not read the signs .. Not to be outdone, he set up his stall carefully around the car ...

We were all so disappointed when the driver did not appear during the market .. Perhaps they did come down but were too embarrassed to come over and say anything!

And finally ... we just had another of our Dairy Hygiene inspections .. Olu, our lovely inspector, is very keen on goats and always enjoys the chance to make some new friends on his visit.  Vivien was quick to come and greet him .. Just in case he might have a little treat for her I suppose!

Saturday 29 October 2016

Never a dull moment ..

As the days get shorter and the mornings get darker, it becomes increasingly difficult to get those goatie girls out of their comfy beds for milking.  Some of them take advantage of an empty hayrack to bag the best spot in the barn ..

Others just stay curled up fast asleep and hope that you won't notice them .. Not sure who that ear belongs to!

And in the evening, they are all very keen to get back indoors - they don't like standing outside in the dark.  One side of the barn is just made of thick wooden boarding at the bottom which goaties like to gnaw .. Over the years they have gradually worn it away in places and there are odd holes which they can stick their heads through.  It all needs to be properly replaced before bad weather sets in, but at the moment they can still use the holes as windows ..

So, in the evening as darkness falls and goaties are still outside, this tends to happen:

And from the outside, the view is something like this ..

Never a dull moment with goats!

Our dear Husky goat is gradually drying off that one-sided udder which she is extremely pleased about as it means that she does not have to come in for milking twice a day.  So, back to her old tricks, she takes full advantage of her new status as one of the 'useless goats' and helps herself to food out of the wheelbarrow and anywhere else that takes her fancy.

And should her chosen bucket be tightly closed, it would appear that this is no obstacle to a determined Husky goat ..

Young Hilton is still a very busy boy with lots of girls queuing up for his attention.  This morning I could hardly see his pen through the crowd of wagging tails.

The girls outside his house are noisy and fight to be next to the gate so that they can talk to him .. the girls inside just won't leave him alone!

And amongst all this noise and chaos, old Betty goat just soldiers on in her own little world .. But even she can still raise a smile with her antics.  One day last week there was just something too tempting at the very bottom of a bucket ... And this is what happens to naughty greedy goats ..

Poor Betty!

Saturday 15 October 2016

'Tis the season for romance ...

Well, I am not sure that 'romance' is the right word ... but, following on from our last post, our new boy Hilton has suddenly become a very busy boy!

David rearranged the hay barn to give young Hilton a lovely big house where he had plenty of room for entertaining any ladies who may show an interest in visiting him.  The gates at the far end were positioned so that he had a panoramic view of all the goatie girls in the main barn .. and they were also able to talk to him ..

His first visitor was one of our older ladies who was spotted making eyes at him through the gate and wagging her tail earnestly ... I let her in with Hilton (who was very excited to have his first romantic encounter) but it seemed that all she wanted was to stick her head in his food bucket and eat all his breakfast.  As Hilton approached, she growled at him and clamped her tail down firmly over her bottom!  Poor boy was most upset ...

But, all was not lost as later that same day one of our little fat goatlings, Clarissa, took a fancy to him.  And so it came to pass that young Hilton finally began his new career as the Head Boy at Ellie's Dairy!

He has had a quiet few days with no visitors but there must have been something in the air this morning as he had quite a crowd of girls around his gates, all wanting his attention. While I was busy at market, David had his hands full with hordes of noisy hormonal goats!  At the last count this evening when we put another group in with him, he had 'entertained' around 20 girls today!  I think he should sleep well tonight (if the girls allow him to)

The weather has continued to be fabulous and the goats have been making the most of the dry weather to continue grazing in their field .. not sure it will carry on for much longer though.  They are quick to run outside after milking and are still enjoying their pea straw as the early morning mist rolls up the field..

Our young goatlings are all growing into quite big girls now but they all still tend to stay together as a group.

That's Mbuzi staring at the camera!

Some are very brave and are venturing into the milking parlour with the older girls.  Needless to say, those two naughty brown things (collectively known as 'The Chocolate Frogs') were the first of the youngsters to come in:

At the opposite end of the goatie spectrum, we have also had to say goodbye to a couple more of our older ladies, Columbia and Magenta.  These two sisters were over 10 years old and have always been inseparable.  These pics were taken a few years ago by our talented artist and photographer friend Sue Clinker:

Magenta had recently lost a lot of weight and, despite tempting her with all manner of treats (like digestive biscuits and bananas) she was clearly not happy.  She suddenly became very unsteady on her feet and David found her one morning struggling to stand .. There was no hesitation in calling the vet ... but we also took the tough decision to have Columbia put to sleep at the same time.  She was starting to look thinner and, although she was still pretty bright and alert, she would not have done well without her sister by her side.  They were always together and never apart ... so it was only right that they should make that final journey to the big goatshed in the sky side by side.

Meanwhile, life in the dairy continues as usual with yours truly having to turn her hand to lots of different jobs again as various members of our team take some well-earned holiday before the madness of the festive season begins ..

Whilst Joe was enjoying a restful fishing holiday, I was working on our stall at Borough Market and enjoyed having the chance to snap yet another early morning picture of one of my favourite London views ..

I never get tired of looking at the Shard!  It's just stunning ..

And for those of you who only ever see Joe working at Borough .. here's another side to his talents ..

Thursday 22 September 2016

There's a new boy in town

As the evenings draw in and the temperature starts to drop, those goatie eyelashes start to flutter and those little goatie tails are starting to wag.  Yes, dear readers, mating season is almost upon us once again.  The air will soon be filled with the unmistakeable aroma of male goats in season and there will be much gobbling noise and flapping of tongues!  Don't believe me? Well, when it all kicks off, I shall be sure to take a little video for your enjoyment.

Our main problem this year was our lack of male goats .. we have two little stud boys in waiting, Magellan and Ivanhoe, but they are far too tiny to work with our stroppy old milkers yet.  Of course, we have our big old Hugo but he has been busy for the past few years and is just kept on now for a few very special long-eared ladies!

As the years pass, there are fewer and fewer pedigree breeders around and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find good male goats.  But, with some persistence (and a lot of luck!) I have found a lovely brown boy - from the same breeder as our dear Fenn.

So, today I whizzed up to Cambridgeshire and picked up our new boy ... Hilton.

As I pulled into the farm, I think the girls must have been able to smell him as there was suddenly a great deal of interest in my direction ..

He will need a few days to settle in, so he he has his own house round the corner near to the other kids and the other side of a gate to the milkers.  As you see, it didn't take him long to spot all those lovely ladies!

 He is a lovely young chap and seems very keen to start work!

Saturday 17 September 2016

Back in the land of blogging!!!

Well, it's been a while but here we are again!

It's been a good few weeks of long solo evening milking sessions for me while David has been frantically hedgecutting, trying to keep ahead of the farmers harvesting and re-sowing their crops.  To be honest .. by the time I've been getting home at night, I haven't had the wits to string two decent words together for you ..

Added to the fact that my trusty old laptop crashed .. terminally ... some weeks ago.  I have commandeered David's laptop but have had to rebuild it with all the software that I need.  And then discovered that it didn't have an internal Bluetooth adapter .. so I couldn't transfer my photos onto it.  And, let's face it .. what's the point of blogging without piccies?!

Anyhow ... having dredged my old IT memory banks and remembered how to do all this stuff, I think I am almost there and now have an (almost) working laptop again.  Hurrah!

So, here we go!!

The last few weeks have been utterly glorious .. if a little too hot in places.  There has been a lot of lying around panting, although some girls do enjoy catching some rays after morning milking .. Here's Campie soaking up the sunshine!

But generally, those goatie girls don't like it too warm and have been pretty grumpy recently.  Much happier when the weather cooled down ..but then it rained and they were grumpy again.  No pleasing some people.

Babies are growing bigger and noisier every day.  Only a few left on bottles of milk now as most of them are all weaned and grown up.

Cheesemaking and milk bottling has all continued apace ... It has been lovely to have all our staff back fighting fit and working hard!  We have been busy at Borough Market and all our farmers markets throughout the summer ... and it's really nice to see all our customers returning refreshed from their holidays!

Sadly, we have lost 3 of our older ladies over the past few weeks.  As time goes on, we have an increasing number of 'oldies' and so it is inevitable that we will have to say goodbye to more of them .. But it never gets any easier, especially when they are girlies we have known and loved for many years.

So .. RIP to our beautiful Foxglove (one of our first goaties) who left us recently, aged 11 years ..  Here she is as a younger mum a few years ago.  Beautiful girl.  We think she had some kind of stroke as we found her collapsed and unable to stand one evening.  Emergency call to the vet confirmed that there was nothing to be done and so she drifted off to the big goatshed in the sky.

And last week we said a planned goodbye to Margot and Kim who were both getting very unsteady on their feet.  Both around 11 years old, they have suffered with arthritis since last year and were starting to struggle a little bit.  With the cold and damp weather just around the corner, we took the tough decision to send them to sleep before they suffered too much pain.  Our lovely vet Peter sent them away together side by side on a beautiful hot sunny day, surrounded by all their friends.

Kim was a particularly sweet girl - she came to us as the eldest of the 'Mary' goats only a few years ago.  She was barely in milk when she arrived and has never kidded with us .. she was just a beautiful, loveable old lady who has enjoyed her last few years in retirement.

As David finished our own harvest some weeks ago, he also managed to acquire a few bales of pea straw.  The girls have never experienced this before so, as it can be a bit messy, David decided to erect one of the old round hay racks in the field and put a bale in there for the goats to try ...  Took a few minutes before they all piled out there .. but it seemed to be very popular with everyone!

Shares has been looking after her young chaps very well and they have grown hugely since you last saw them ..

Dear old Betty is still going strong .. grumpy as ever ..

And we still enjoy seeing double as Cleo hangs out with mum JoJo ..

 And finally .. managed to snap a rather lovely pic of Gilly as she was waiting patiently to come into the milking parlour yesterday ...

Don't forget that you can always catch little updates and piccies on Twitter (when we can get a mobile signal!).  Check out our feed @elliesdairy.

So, it's lovely to be back.  I will do my best to keep you up to date with all the goatie news from now on!

Night all .. 

Thursday 21 July 2016

Babies safely delivered!

The hottest day of the year was forecast for Tuesday - exactly the same day that I was due to take the second and final lot of kids to their new home in Herefordshire.  David had also intended to come with me but reluctantly decided to stay behind to make the most of the good weather and get the rest of the hay baled.  When the sunshine comes, you have to get harvesting!

Initially, we had reckoned on me leaving around 6am so that I would be with Andrew and Diane by lunchtime.  But the hotter the forecast got, the earlier my departure time became!

And so, around 2.30am on Tuesday morning, the babies were woken up in the darkness and gently loaded into a trailer.  There was great excitement as we set off and all the little heads poked out of the side to see what was going on!

Sunrise was somewhere around the M40 and we finally reached our destination just after 8am as the temperature was beginning to rise ..

We unloaded them all into their great big new house ..

And they were soon tucking into their breakfast and investigating the new spaces under the hay rack!

They settled down very quickly and looked like they had been there for ages!

These girlies (and 2 stud boys) are very lucky people to live on this farm as they will be well looked after, along with all the other goaties that we have taken there over the past couple of years.

It was fantastic to see their massive new barns and see how all our little girlies have grown into lovely big milking goaties.


The girls are all very well looked after and Andrew cuts fresh grass for them all every morning ..

It is such a beautiful place .. would love to live there myself!

Saturday 9 July 2016

A day out with the Rackers ..

This week saw our annual visit to Rackspace Green Fayre near Hayes to see all those hardworking teccies.  We set up in our usual space on the grass ..

One of the Rackers, Els, had brought two of her lovely chickens along as well.  They were really happy scratching around on that perfectly manicured grass!

I had taken our 4 youngest babies out for the day.  They were a little nervous at first but soon came trotting out of the trailer to explore the big wide world ..

It didn't take long for people to start coming to visit and soon there were bottles of milk being handed out ..

Some people just loved to get close to those cute little people!

But the excitement was all too much and eventually everyone collapsed in a heap .. and they slept all the way home!

Oh .. and congratulations Serena! From someone who was named after you ...