Friday, 13 January 2017

A night of weather

Well the weather certainly came in with a vengeance last night!  Part way through evening milking the snow began falling quite gently .. and then within minutes we had a raging blizzard. Unsurprisingly, those goatie girls were very reluctant to go outside and milking did become a bit of a battle towards the end.  Once out of the parlour, the girls have to run up the outside of the barn (very briefly) to get back inside .. not happy.

Inside the barn, the snow was blowing in and there was a lot of consternation and ear-pointing going on .. As David and I battled to shut all the doors, block gaps and clear drifts, the goats gradually settled down into their cosy beds for the night ahead.

Fortunately, it did not last more than a couple of hours.  Sadly for David, it did not last long enough to warrant getting the snow plough going ... Which was a shame as we have a brand new shiny (and bigger) one this winter ..

This morning was very icy and driving up to the farm was interesting to say the least .. even with 4 wheel drive!  As the sun rose, the fields glistened and it was all rather pretty:

And I just love all those little footprints around in the fresh snow.  Looks like the rabbits were busy picking up little bits of barley last night!

Our two new arrivals, Lara and Zenobia are bravely venturing into the parlour every day now.  Lured in with buckets of food, they are happy to stand and eat while everyone else is being milked ..  Notice how they are careful to place those enormous ears outside the bucket!

Some girls continue to find the whole milking experience too much like hard work and just prefer to stay asleep as long as possible before they have to come into the parlour.  Coco goat curls up next to her much naughtier sister Beanie while they wait until almost the very end of the session ..

And for those of you who have been missing Husky in action .. she still prefers to drink her water straight from the tap ..


And, back for the winter, the Gracie Moos are content in their yard.  Oodles of lovely barley straw and fresh hay .. beats standing in a field in the cold and snow!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Happy New Year!

And a very Happy 2017 to all our readers!

I trust that everyone had a wonderful festive season and New Year ... Life continued much as normal here at Ellie's Dairy - the goaties don't stop producing that delicious milk, so their humans don't get a chance to stop either!  But it is a little less hectic for a week or so, once all the Christmas cheese chaos is out of the way.

Christmas morning was much like any other morning ..

As always, the Ellie's Dairy team worked their little goatie socks off for several weeks to make sure that we had as much delicious cheese as possible for all our customers. Joe and Julie worked particularly hard and were both absolutely exhausted by the time we all drove home on Christmas Eve .... Julie also made a couple of guest appearances at Borough Market with Joe:

Whilst I was entertaining the lovely Phil the Elf ..

And yes, I am bending down!!

Borough looked wonderful as usual with decorations and twinkly lights .. all very festive!

As our milk is seriously limited this time of year, we did run pretty low on some things .. As I always say, when I am Queen, I will move Christmas to around June or July when we have loads of milk and unlimited cheese!  But the stall looked wonderful and I think we put on a great show for all our customers

The Borough Market Evening of Cheese was unbelievably busy.  Joe and I struggled to keep up with customers and we used our entire weekly stock of cheese in less than 3 hours!  Apparently, the event made the national papers and came in for some criticism as so many people had attended.  I think that next year, things will be considerably different!

I spent a happy Boxing Day making more cheese ... a table full of Shaggy's Beard camembert and bags of fresh curd draining ready for the weekend ..

Enough about cheese!!  What about the goaties?

Well, just before Christmas, we adopted a couple of lovely Anglo-Nubian girls.  Meet Lara (lying down) and Zenobia:

Big and beautiful and pretty stroppy!  They came from a lovely old goatkeeper near Canterbury who is sadly suffering with dementia and is now not able to look after her goats any longer.  It is the same place where our big chap Hugo came from a couple of years ago.

These two lovelies spent a couple of weeks in their own pen, meeting all our other goaties through the fence .. and then we let them loose into the main herd.  We need not have worried - they are more than capable of standing up for themselves!

Having only ever lived in a very small, quiet goat shed, our herd is a bit of shock to the system and they are still quite nervous of us.  But, they are getting gradually more trusting and now appear at the parlour gate at milking time.  Lara has been brave enough to come in a couple of times but Zenobia is still not too sure about things.

Chaos still reigns at milking time and I do wonder about my sanity sometimes ... One particular night had Shares standing in a bucket while Husky was drinking water from a tap behind her ..

It's all just like a circus ..  Where the goats all just do their own thing and the humans have no control!  But at least they are happy and that's all that matters.

The end of the year also sees me sitting down to bring all my goatie paperwork up to date .. and it's always a sad task to flick through all the 'pink slips' for our dear girls and boys who have passed away to that big goatshed in the sky.  We have lost quite a number of our older ladies and I have a feeling that 2017 will also bring some sadness .. but, as our herd gets older, it is only to be expected.  I have already given Tammy (14) and Betty (13) a serious talking to ... they are not allowed to get ill and they have to live forever.  So that's all sorted!

Having moved the Gracie Moos back to the farm for the winter, the front field is now empty and so David spent a happy time yesterday ploughing it all up ready for reseeding.  He thoroughly enjoyed himself and did a pretty good job of ploughing, even though it is not something he does very often.  Here's a little clip of the man at work ..


And so, on we go into 2017 .. We have a few projects in the pipeline and hope to bring a few more new products to you this year.  Fingers crossed and watch this space!

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!