Category Archives: Animals

Nanodairy Gathering

At the end of last month I attended a Nanodairy Gathering at Monkton Wyld Court in Dorset. The gathering was an information sharing event for people who are interested in small scale milk production, mostly looking at raw milk from one to four cows.

The event was specifically for cows and not goats or milk sheep.

The event was spread over two days with the opportunity to look around the diary at Monkton Wyld, a whole afternoon  with a vet and Christine Page from Smiling Tree Farm who sells raw milk joined us for most of the second day.

Monkton Wyld Court has Jersey cows, there has been a ‘nanodairy’ of three to six cows since at least 1941 making it possible the oldest dairy of it’s size in the UK.

Christine Page runs Smiling Tree Farm which sells raw milk, again from Jerseys’ cows, to local customers and via mail order. Christine’s farm is completely pasture feed and there was some interesting discussion about the benefits of this. Christine milks her cows once a day, keeping the calves on their mothers until they are around six months old. Only milking once a day results in an approximant drop of a third in milk yield. Christine has not had any problems with milk fever is moving over to pasture feeding.

My notes from the event

Pasture management:

  • Meadow is mown and removed (by taking the crop away the fertility is also removed), pasture land is grazed (grazed land will slowly increase in fertility as a crop is not removed)
  • Grass growth goes up from March, peaks in July, falls in August, raises a little in September then falls off through the winter
  • Rye grass is liked by cows, grows fast and is high in sugar but has shallow root systems
  • June hay is higher in sugar, July and August hay is higher in minerals
  • Plantain is a natural warmer

Raw milk/milking:

  • Older cows have higher butter fats, younger cows have higher sugar content
  • Cream comes at the end of milking
  • ‘Let down’ happens for 4 – 5 minutes, after that milking is harder
  • Cows need a ‘dry’ period of six to eight weeks to allow the udder tissue to repair
  • Mastitis can be spread from hands, washing clothes, flies, etc.
  • Younger and healthier cows should always be milked first
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Bringing home the milk

Our first house cows; Primrose (left) and Sunshine (right)

Our first house cows; Primrose (left) and Sunshine (right)

It has been a few years now since we lost our house cows as TB reactors and they have been sorely missed. We have not been completely without cattle in that time, but none of whom have worked out as a bomb-proof provider of the household milk that we need.

The plan has always been to get another cow and after several failed attempts we decided to go right back to the start and go through what it was we need from a cow: a small breed of cow that does well on rough grazing, something hardy that can live out all year and a young calf who could fit into the family and our set-up right from the start.

To begin with I was very set on a Jersey or Jersey-cross as that is what worked so well for us in the past. There is something special about Jerseys too; the shape, feel and sound of them somehow added to the ‘real cow’ feel to me. However they don’t really meet all the requirements we have as they are not the hardest of breeds and don’t do so well on poorer grazing. Also for me personally the milk from pure breed Jerseys is too rich and so I can only drink it once it has been skimmed or cooked.

Dexters seem like the obvious breed meeting our needs but having had three different heifers plus followers since we started keeping cattle in 2001 I have come to hate the breed; they have an un-tame streak in them that makes them difficult to manage and seem to escape from anywhere and everywhere whenever they see fit (three or four times a day at one point when we had our first mother and daughter team). Perhaps one hand reared from a calf would be different but I felt I wouldn’t have the same enthusiasm for a Dexter calf as other breeds.

After mother researched a few breeds (I was still set on a Jersey calf at this point) she came across shetlands; who fitted all our needs being small, hardy and ‘the original house cow’ although nowadays are mostly kept for meat. So I was convinced to go and see a herd who had some six month calves for sale.

Red Shetland herd - July 2013

Red Shetland herd – July 2013

Red Shetland herd - July 2013

Red Shetland herd – July 2013

When we came away we agreed that Shetlands seemed right, although the ones we had visited weren’t the right ones for us.

Shetlands were originally classed as a dairy breed grazing in the harsh environment of the Shetland Isles were they developed as a breed on the isolated islands to provide milk for the Crofters even from it’s poor grazing and pasture land.  Shetlands became a duel-purpose breed when breeders where encouraged to cross them with meater breeds, and after the second world war the Government denied subsidies to breeders unless they were crossed with bigger cattle which caused the breed to become classed as ‘critically endangered’ in 1981 by The Rare Breed Survival Trust when little more than 100 pure bred cows and bulls could be found. Shetland Cattle are now kept mostly on the mainland and have crept up the The Rare Breeds Survival Trust’s  watched list to ‘at risk’ meaning there are 450 – 750 pure breed cattle that are known about.

We wanted a young calf to bottle feed, ideally about six weeks old however possibly as old as three months if nothing younger was available. Although Shetlands are a duel-purpose breed many breeder keep them as a meat breed as the tie of milking is too much for many people, this is something we have found with other cattle breeds and goats too.

After some searching we were pointed towards Epicure’s Larder who have a small herd of Shetlands (or possibly not now as they were moving to New Zealand) for cheese making. After contacting the herd owner they seemed like the prefect place and so an order was put in for a calf if a suitable one came up this spring.

At the end of March I got an email saying that two heifers had been born, and so a day trip to Yorkshire was arranged for the end of April. When the day arrived we hired a van and set off early, the drive took a good while with lots of road works. When we got there we made the final choice between the two calves opting for the ‘friendly and milkier’ breeding of the two.

Bridie Moo ~ May 2014

Bridie Moo ~ May 2014

After a day settling in we taught Bridie about bottles, something she picked up very quickly although we did need to use a lamb bottle with a softer teat for the first few feeds until she’d got the idea. Then a few days later she learnt about leading reins and then being tethering on the green outside and being brushed.

Bridie is very good about everything and takes everything in her stride, just what we’d wanted!

Bridie Moo; one of her first times out on a tether ~ May 2014

Bridie Moo; one of her first times out on a tether ~ May 2014

Bridie Moo; one of her first times out on a tether ~ May 2014

Bridie Moo; one of her first times out on a tether ~ May 2014

Bridie Moo; bottle time with my niece ~ June 2014

Bridie Moo; bottle time with my niece ~ June 2014

Lambing 2014

Lambing is all but over now and feels like one that should be noted as a success, with a few hiccups along the way the commons around our little safe-hold are green and lush with spring grass and ewes with lambs at foot finding their way around their new bright world.

Sophie and her lamb's first trip out after being kept in together to form a 'mother and daughter' bond ~ 9th ‎March ‎2014

Sophie and her lamb’s first trip out after being kept in together to form a ‘mother and daughter’ bond ~ 9th ‎March ‎2014

Lambing started again sadly with Sophie giving birth to another dead lamb on the 4th of March. This is the third year she has had a stillborn lamb and the last that we will put her through. No more ‘one off’s’ or ‘terrible lambing year’ after three times we think it is fair to say that there is something that is causing her to be unable to deliver a healthy lamb and it is not fair to keep putting her through the heart ache. After over a day of searching both by us and a grieving ewe we found a farmer with a set of triplets and bought the extra lamb home for Sophie who, in spite of the many words of warning that it had been too long and she was unlikely to take to her new charge, adores her bundle of joy and took to her straight away.

The next part of lambing past by more or less uneventfully and happily enough with three sets of twins and three singles arriving, mostly on days when I was at work!

Common of ewes and lambs ~ April 2014

Common of ewes and lambs ~ April 2014

My main lambing day was the 19th of March when I was ‘it’ whilst mother was on a course and sister was busy with my niece for the day, thankfully I had help from a friend as the day was busy; it started before I arrived back from work after a sleep-in with a text to say that Pixies’ water bag had appeared but there was still no sign of any lambs and could I get home as quickly as possible*. When I arrived back and checked her over there were no real signs that she was lambing or that something was wrong as there should have been that long after producing a water bag. So after checking the pen over to see that she hadn’t given birth to a stillborn lamb and walked off and left it we took her to the vets who diagnosed ring womb. After a short time our vet delivered a limp and bright yellow ewe lamb, lambs come out yellow when they have become stressed during labour. For a minute or so it was unclear if the lamb was dead or alive but a heartbeat was found and the lamb coaxed into life and then another, seemingly unstressed at all ewe lamb was delivered by the vet. Pixie was very good and did what she could to clean the lambs up in the space she had before we took her home and put her in a shed. The first lamb to be born was notably weaker than the first and Pixie was tired, sore and didn’t have any milk.

Maizie's-white-faced-lamb with her one day old lamb ~ March 2014

Maizie’s-white-faced-lamb with her one day old lamb ~ March 2014

I was on the phone sorting out what would be the best feed to give them when I spotted Nesta, one of our older and experienced ewes, lay down in the hedge line and begin pushing. The problem of Pixies’ lambs first feed was sorted and so we stopped and watched whilst Nesta delivered a white ewe lamb. Nesta began the job of cleaning up her new change but was quickly interrupted by a yearling (known as ‘maizies white faced lamb’) whose water bag bust as she ran up to inspect the new-born. It was clear she thought that taking on this lamb would be a much better idea than going through the ordeal of giving birth to her own and I can understand why as when we stepped in to deliver her own lamb I thought its head would never come out it was that big! My friend managed to deliver a very large ram lamb whilst I went off to fetch a more experienced shepherd neighbour.

During this time Nesta delivered another ewe lamb, this time the first and to date the only coloured lamb of the year, with little fuss or strain. We moved both ewes as far apart along the green as we dared as the yearling was still very interested in the first ewe lamb to be born and allowed them both to clean up and feed their charges before moving them to the lambing sheds and pen. Once their I used Nesta to give Pixies’ lambs a first feed, much to her disgust but then she knows her humans have funny ideas sometimes. I later topped them up with a feed of powdered colostrum and Pixie took over feeding them after a day or so of topping them up with bottles until her milk came through.

Days totals: 4 ewe lambs, 1 very large ram lamb, 2 happy ewes and 1 tired and sore ewe.

All went quiet for a week or so until Lucy gave birth to a ram lamb on the 9th of April. Lucy is always a ewe we watch closely especially at ‘stressful’ times of the year. Lucy was born within our flock and when she was around six months old was run over and broke her leg which we nursed her through and put her back out with the flock again only to be hit by a car and break another leg!! I can’t remember if it was a front leg that was broken first or the back but she recovered well and most of the time you would never tell she has ever had anything wrong with her but sometimes when she is heavily pregnant or shearing is due she will limp and become unsteady on her back end.

Later that day a yearling also lambed; a very large ewe lamb that had to be helped out. The size of the lambs we have had for the last few years has made us question replacing our ram with a smaller breed. Bailey is a lovely boy and stunning as far as a sheep can be but Cotswolds are a large breed which doesn’t seem to make such a difference when a ewe has twins but the single lambs are very large and this seems to effect the first time mothers most of all.

Yearling with her lamb at about 10minutes old ~ April 2014

Yearling with her lamb at about 10minutes old ~ April 2014

When a ewe has problems lambing it can cause problems with them bonding with their off-spring which is not a trait we want to encourage. With this last ewe she walked off as soon as the lamb had been pulled out and didn’t take any notice of her lamb until it was placed in front of her much further down the green. With the yearling on the 19th of March we also had to intervene to ensure her lamb got the attention it needed after it was delivered.

It is also harder to spot problems with first time lambers. We know our flock both as a whole and individually; we know each ewes family history, where they are likely to lamb (normally as close to where they were born as they can get), in roughly what order they lamb in (Sophie has been first to lamb for the last three years, the year before that it was her half sister Charlotte. We know ewes in that line normally lamb early in the year) and what problems they have and what to watch for (Lucy becomes unsteady on her feet when she is close to lambing, Lily had a funny shaped pelvis which meant the left leg of her lambs had to be pulled first when she was giving birth).

An educated guess can be made for some of these things but others are completely unknown and so problems that effect yearlings are more pressing. Changing to a smaller ram may tweak this problem and mean less intervention on our part.

We have found Sophie and her lamb, named Saddy by her new keeper, a new home with a pet flock belonging to a friend who keeps them for their fleece and to manage the land she has. Her flock are not bred from and so there is no worry that Sophie will keep having still borns year after year and will still have a useful and productive life a head of her.

Saddy bought in an eye infection with her that we have had to treat and has meant some ewes have had to stay in off the grass longer than normal until their sight has returned to being 100%. Thankfully this doesn’t seem to have had to much of an impact on the condition of the ewes or the growth of the lambs although we have had to keep Lupin in for over a week now as she still doesn’t seem able to see clearly. Lupin is still one of the few ewes we are still waiting on to lamb and then it will be another phase of the year complete.

*This is why wise sheppardess name the sheep in their flock, so as it is easier to communicate what is going on. Oh how we are laughed at and seen as ‘soft woman’ by many for this but I would never give up the knowledge of knowing each sheep personally even if they are destined for the dinner table 

Winter

The seasons have slide their way smoothly from one to the next here; the mornings have a chill to them and I had began leaving for work in the dawn light before the clock change. The harvest moon bought with it heavy rain and winds to bring down the first swirls of bright yellow, orange and red coloured leaves and since Samhain some of the dark evenings have held the promise of bright frosty mornings but as yet first light has only revealed rain soaked grounds or views hidden beneath a layer of mist.

Changing forest; October 2013

Changing forest; October 2013

The sheep have busied themselves searching out acorns before the wild boar begin to creep closer to the village edge in search of easier foraging and trips out with the goats have been spent underneath the sweet chestnut tree searching out the larger nuts before the goats snaffles them up. Sweet chestnuts are my old nanny’s favourite autumn treat.

Garden

At the end of September I spent some time reorganising my front garden to make it more of a usable space instead of an ‘unfinished projects’ staging area. I cleared the spreading mass of alpine strawberries, cut back bushes and removed a compost bin from the only area of soil and found space for two raised beds. These were filled with home made compost, leaf mould and well rotted manure from the patio’s potato buckets and now boast a mixture of cauliflowers, purple sprouting and leeks. On the table in the kitchen there are paper bags of onion sets to fill in the gaps.

After more alpine strawberry clearing I have managed to turn the rest of the ground I have between the steps and the patio into two separate-but-connected areas; one has been planted with kale (which I hope will recover from the caterpillar attack) mixed with wallflowers and I shall add garlic to the area. The other patch is defined by being between a winter flowering heather and the new raised beds; this area I have added spring bulbs to borage and self-seeded feverfew amongst a few paving stones I have added for access. In the spring I plan to sow poppies, sweetpeas and sunflowers and hope some of them survive the slugs.

Livestock

During the summer we have downsized on the number of goats we have and thankfully have managed to find lovely homes for the three ‘rescue pet’ goats we had. We now have our six breeding females and a meat wether. It’s so nice to be able to spend time out on the greens with them without having to arrange for two people to be there. The reduced feed cost has also meant that we have been able to think more carefully about the feed we use and have changed to a goat mix that has no GMO ingredients; something we are trying more and more to be aware of in all areas of our purchases.

Bella and Broiny grazing the green back when with had some sun: August 2013

Bella and Broiny grazing the green back when we had some sun: August 2013

Earlier in the year we had scab in our flock of sheep, the better summer we have had has helped them recover but it has meant that none of the fleeces have been suitable for sending off to be tamed and so we are keeping everyone on for this winter. (Fingers crossed it will be mild and they won’t need too much extra feed.)

My new chooks; roosting for the night: October 2013

My new chooks; roosting for the night: October 2013

During some time off work in September I also got myself some chickens for the garden at my house. I had been toying with the idea of getting myself some hens for a while, there is nothing like collecting your own eggs from your own garden. Me and mother had gone to collect some hens for her and in amongst the barn of fowl to be rehomed were three small black chicks. I wanted them as soon as I saw them and so they also came back with us.

They have already grown a lot since I first got them and are much more use to people, where they came from was an amazing place where the chickens were safe to just run free (seemingly no fox problem there) and in the spring a lot of the hens had gone off to nest and returned with their chicks in tow a few weeks later. The fourth hen I have I don’t think has anything to do with the  chicks but they were quick to follow her lead and she is very pretty.

Tuesday, 23rd April 2013

Am: Am early start this morning as my house-mates car is in the garage for it’s MOT and I have said I will take him into work and collect him again later. After dropping him off I take a hot drink back to bed and knit for about am hour. I am making a baby hat for my new niece which is going to look amazing when it is done but seems to be building up so very slowly. After I get up again I go and start the days chores of feeding and checking on everyone and between me and mother we get most things done in a reasonable time. I spend an hour or so cleaning out one of the goat sheds which is not currently being used. The weather is glorious, it has to be the hottest day of the year so far and it is bright sunshine. The bees are making the most of it and are out flying busily.

Lunch time: At about mid-day I go back to my house to have some lunch and spend the afternoon in my garden.

Afternoon: It’s still really warm out and it is lovely working outside. I sort out bits and piece and start planting out potatoes in old flower buckets. This year I haven’t bought seed potatoes but have some bags that were sprouting and reduced in the supermarket (Shetland Blacks and Exquisa) and I’ve added a few others from the veg shop to these (Benji and Maris Piper) and have been sent some free Rocket and Piccolo Star. I only manage to plant half of the Shetland Black’s and maybe a third of the Exquisa but it is a good start. Then I carry on into the back garden and plant out the garlic I have had growing on in pots, the blackbirds here seem to love garlic and onion sets to I have taken to planting them in pots with a cover over and then planting them out when they have got going enough for the birds not to be interested.

Late afternoon/evening: After collecting my house-mate from work I go back to finish off the goats for the day. My sister is there when I get back with her baby, it’s the first time she has walked home since the baby was born and we spend some time in the kitchen before having to go off and look for some sheep that have been reported out in the next village. It’s almost 100% certain they’re not any of ours as ours are all in as there has been an outbreak of Scab mite and the free roaming animals have all had to be brought in for treatment. Ours have all been treated and we are just waiting for everyone else to before ours can get back out on some grass. There’s no sign of the sheep so after half an hour or so of driving around we go back and I finish the goats for the day and go home.

At home the Green Party candidate for the council elections drops some leaflets off as I’ve said I’ll post some through letterboxes locally. It’s still really warm outside so I carry on pottering in the garden and then sit out whilst the sun goes down and watch the bats as they start flying in the dusk

Saturday, March 30th 2012

Many years ago, when I was being made redundant from my first job which was in a community radio station, a colleague suggested that I should made an audio diary of my day-to-day life. I’ve always liked the idea but as the project folded and I became busy with other work and just general life took over I’ve never gotten around to it but it has remained an idea I’ve liked. I thought I would revive the idea here with a monthly post of what has happened during the day…

Morning: Woke up early as normal but made myself go back to sleep for a while. Yesterday I started a new job (HURRAY!) back working with young people, the shifts are long but not that much longer than I have been doing and fewer each week. When I wake up again I stay in bed for a while watching the end of an episode of A Touch of Frost I started watching the night before and ‘surfing’ (facebook/email and wherever those take me). Outside there is still some snow left but it is only really around the edge of the fields and where trees throw shade over the ground. It looks nice enough but still cold. I get up and go over to mothers spotting a ewe and her lambs we have been trying to get back from the edge of our run (the area of common our sheep roam over), the patch of grass she is on is long enough for her to stay for a while so I carry on back and collect mother to make bring her back easier. We bring her back and check the others. At the bottom of the pen is what looks like a dead sheep but lucky it is a ewe who has cast herself (when a sheep rolls onto their side, normally with their legs up hill and can’t get back up) When I reach her I found a MASSIVE lamb cuddled up behind her. I stand the ewe up, she is very wobbly on her back end not really surprisingly given the size of the lamb. I check the lamb over; he is fine but has only been half cleaned and the ewe (a first time mum) goes straight off to join the others without a backward look. We bring them both back to the house and put them in a pen, he gets a bottle and she gets a bucket of feed and some hay. We carry on with the other bottles, Enchantments and we have three lambs too. Then phone our feed merchant to check what time they are closing today it being Easter weekend. There is time to have a hot drink and hay and water the goats before we have to leave to collect the weeks feed.

Lunch time: We collect feed and a van full of hay and go back home for home made chips and butter bean curry.

Afternoon: It’s still cold and not at all conducive for working outside even though there are plenty of jobs to be done and stopping to eat lunch has made me realise how tired I am, so me and mother agree not to try with any of the extras today. We take hay and water to the ponies. At the moment my brother is fitting a kitchen and we have no outside tap, even if we did I would have thought it would have been frozen, so watering everyone involves filling our collection of 5 gallon water containers with an old plastic milk bottle from the kitchen tap. On the way home we stop by at a neighbours to drop off some feed and have a chat. Everyone is feed up of this weather; the frozen water buckets, the lack of grass, the driving wind that goes right through everything and all the extra jobs it makes. Back home I finish the goats, more bottles and I collect some eggs to take home. We open the bees and place some more fondant in with them, it isn’t really warm enough to open the hive but there was an alert go out the other day about feeding because of the cold weather and when we open the hive to add more they are out so good job we did. The sun comes out and the wind dies down and they start to fly for about ten minutes whilst it lasts. I feed the donkeys and call in on my sister on the way home to drop some bits off and cuddle the baby then home.

Late afternoon/evening: Back at home I get a second wind and can’t sit still for long so occupy myself with cleaning and starting an over due sort out whilst watching more A Touch of Frost. I have too much stuff; too many bags of things saved for craft project I’ve never even started, too many piles of paper work that needs filing and too many bags of ‘recycling’ so as I don’t have to put too much into the landfill bin. I think maybe next month I might try to de-clutter one thing each day; take one item I know I will never use again to the charity shop, put the bag of batteries out for collection, offer the pile of used jiffy bags on freecycle and tick off one of those sort of little jobs to stop hoarding so much of it. I find lots more packets of seeds and fill a bag of egg boxes and borrowed clothes to return to my sister. I stop at some point for some fried egg butties for dinner. It’s light until just gone seven pm and all of the snow seems to have gone from the fields, not so at mothers which still has a layer of white anywhere that is not in the open. I go to bed just after nine pm

Lambing 2013

We started lambing a week ago today. It was not a happy start; Sophie had a very large ram lamb who was positioned badly with one leg back, he took a lot of pulling to deliver and didn’t make it.

Lambing continued on Saturday after a few days rest with a much happier result; Ivy delivered twins on her own just before 8am. I was there when the second one arrived and within a minute or so it was up and looking for its first feed.

Ivy with her lambs - February 2013

Ivy with her lambs – February 2013

She had one of each: the ewe lamb was born first

Ivy's ewe lamb - February 2013

Ivy’s ewe lamb – February 2013

Followed by a ram lamb who I arrived just in time to see landing

Ivy's ram lamb - February 2013

Ivy’s ram lamb – February 2013

Since Thursday we have had much nicer weather so they have arrived with good timing (watch the weather change now) and lambing continued this morning with Clarry having two ram lambs, one large and one slightly smaller. I haven’t yet seem them as started back at work first thing this morning.

Enchanter’s Nightshade

Enchanter's Nightshade - 1st of Febuary 2012

Enchanter’s Nightshade – 1st of February 2012

Briony kidded at 430pm on Friday the 1st of February. Another large single male kid, with legs. Lots of legs.

Bets had been being placed as to when she would kid as she had been looking fit to bust for some weeks; the favorite had changed from Sunday afternoon when we were all out for my Grandmothers birthday to the very late hours of the following Sunday or Monday when I would be back at work and away for another week but she chose Friday so I would have a few days to play with the new baby before heading off again.

She did much better this year and cleaned him up, even shortening his cord which was stopping him standing, and giving him his first feed. She kept him over night as he had had a good feed and was doing well but by midmorning the next day he was hungry and was chilly right through so came away.

Enchanter's Nightshade - 1st of Febuary 2012

Enchanter’s Nightshade – 1st of February 2012

This year is an E year for names and so he has been named Enchantment and will be registered as Enchanter’s Knightshade as he will very probably be Knightshade last ever kid.

Mother found the name in a book (E is not a letter that inspires me greatly), it is a name for Circaea lutetiana which is a member of the Evening Primrose family and it is native to Europe, Middle Asia and Siberia. They grow in woods in deep shade and moist environments on nitrogen-containing clay.

Enchanter's Nightshade - 1st of Febuary 2012

Enchanter’s Nightshade – 1st of February 2012

He spent his second night with me and proved himself a fast learner and had mastered the tricky skill needed to walk on laminate flooring and even climbing the first few stairs by the time he left with me the next morning.

Countryfile

A bit of a hectic end to last week and a busy time at work has meant this is not the post I was hoping it to be but the excitement had to be shared whilst there is still time to…

A few weeks ago me, my sister and mother caused a little bit of a stir in our rain swept village when the Countryfile film crew came to record a piece with us about our sheep and how we graze and manage our flock, which is following the local tradition of grazing them out on the common waste land of the area;

Countryfile: Free roaming sheep in The Forest of Dean

This link should take you straight to BBC iplayer and to the right piece of the programme and will be there until this Sunday (16/12/2012)

Free roaming sheep are something of a marmite issue, either you love them or hate them. I am bias and think that they are a local tradition predating any of the open plan drives in the area and the tradition of keeping sheep on forest waste land saved many a starving miner when times were hard. And that is before I start on the subject of the way they help shape and manage the area or anything about our flock.

October; another one done and dusked

Well October is over and November is here and with it winter. No chance of an Indian summer now I guess but crisp, bright morning are just as good for being outdoors.

October was a bit of a sad month; somewhere near the start I got a text from mother to let me know that Knightshade had slipped a disc in his back, most likely playing ‘silly buggers’ with one of the girls coming into season. I didn’t like having to be away for the rest of the week and not being about to see him myself, it’s one thing being away for births and getting a happy text saying how many and if it’s a girl or a boy but not being there when someone isn’t well is completely different.

He was ok and when I got home to see him he was just his normal self apart from not being able to stand; he wasn’t too bothered so long as he got lots of visitors and we set the house up so the girls could go and share his extra thick bed of straw and watch grey days go by, he got lots of human visitors who would bring him treats, push and pull him about the house and every few days stick a needle in him and he just seemed a bit mystified as to why standing up didn’t happen as it use to.  

The vet had said nothing would really happen for the first seven to ten days and at the end of this time I got a chiropractor to pay a visit; it was like watching magic and by half way through her visit he had regained movement in not just one but both of his back legs. The chiropractor left being very positive but explaining that he may take a while to be up again but she didn’t see a reason why he wouldn’t make a full recovery. Things carried on in this way for another week or so and then he stopped eating and just wasn’t himself. It seemed most likely that where he hadn’t been moving around his rumen had stopped working; we tempted him with treats and gave him a drench to start his system working again but he didn’t pull through.

It’s a very sad loss and has possibly changed the way we are going to keep goats; this year we are going to try artificial insemination instead of getting another male goat. There are lots of reasons why this might be better; I already have two (three including Delta who is for sale) of Knightshade’s daughters Bella and Briony and so Knightshade wasn’t the best male for them to be put in kid to although it didn’t really matter as it just meant their kids had a ‘double-dose’ of Knightshade’s breeding but keeping any of their kids and him would be out of the question. Keeping our own male means that we can put ‘people’ into kid when we want to but really as we have always kept our boys and girls together it meant we did end up with mishaps and kidding being spread out over months, not a problem really but it would be much easier to have all the babies almost the same age so as there is less bullying at feed time or first babies living on their own for weeks (they don’t live on their own, they live in the kitchen and are carried around wherever we go). With AI we can have kids from different males for different goats and it will work out no more costly, possibly even cheaper than keeping our own male and lastly it will leave more room and time for our girls, walking them as we did when I was younger will become much easier, the branches and other greens we collect will go much further with fewer goats and even growing some of their feed becomes more possible and keeping on top of cleaning out will be easier too.

It also leaves more time for raising a calf which is something me and mother would like to do again this time in the way we know works and with a breed we know we get on with resulting in a bomb proof beauty like Primrose again.

Aside from the goats I’ve been getting on well with the garden like I’d planned; onion sets are in and I have bought some more too. Most of the leafy greens are in and, touch wood, have so far escaped any attention from the dreaded slug plague of this year. Leaves have been collected for leaf mould and are waiting in sacks for me to find a more suitable place to keep them over winter. I finished filling the first bed this week and have bought my amazing amount of crocus bulbs which are waiting for the next flower planting day I have off in a few weeks. I haven’t got round to buying garlic sets and I’m not sure that there is time to now either, the first light frosts are here now and I’m not sure how long it will be until my ice pocket is frozen over for the majority of the time.

I house-sat whilst mother went to visit her mum for a few days and spent some time working the veg garden at home and that has helped consolidate my ideas for my garden and be able to see all the small bits I have been struggling to bring together as a much bigger picture.

Hopefully I will have time to put them down on paper ready for sharing and can sort through the photos I have collected on a few different cameras to post on here in the next couple of weeks.