Category Archives: goats

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.

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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

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.

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.

A flying visit home

First ripe fruit: All Gold Raspberry ~ 16th September 2012

First ripe fruit: All Gold Raspberry ~ 16th September 2012

I mean to blog so much more than I do and my silence doesn’t mean that I am not still here or thinking through what I would like to say about the exciting and the mostly day-to-day unexciting things that are going on right now as I am doing them but at the moment the words are just not getting any further than that.

Even my plans which are so vivid and bright as they race around my head become dull and fade to a smudgy idea when I try to make sense or put them down anywhere.

Sweet Million Tomatoes ~ September 2012

Sweet Million Tomatoes ~ September 2012

Today I have had a flying visit home, one day off out of two weeks of solid work. I love coming home and walking up the garden path and seeing what has developed whilst I was away; today it was a flush of ripe tomatoes and the first ripe All Gold raspberry.

 It’s been a productive day; I’ve cleared away the last of the hedge trimmings from the path, filled a raised bed with manure, been to see my goats and done the rounds with them and the sheep and measured up and carried on clearing more of what will become my vegetable garden.

Now it is dark outside and it’s time to set myself up for an early start in the morning.

Progress

Dandelions reach up for the last of the evening sun as they close - 22nd April 2012

Dandelions reach up for the last of the evening sun as they close – 22nd April 2012

Last year was most definitely one of massive change for me; I moved house, my dad spent months seriously ill mostly in hospital and then died, I was made redundant for the third time from a job I loved and at a time when unemployment for people my age was rising each month and the relationship I had been in all of my adult life ended.

All of these things have completely changed the shape of my life forever and will carry on doing so for years to come I would imagine but it has also been the kick-up-the-bum I needed for me to take stock and decide what is most important to myself and what it is I really want from my life; a little hillside with my very own ‘hobbit hole’.

 This want is something that has been forming for years now but something over the last year has just clicked and made me realise I can make it real  and not just have it as an “if only…In a prefect world” dream.

Summer blooms - 20th August 2011

Summer blooms – 20th August 2011

I am a strong person and one of the things that makes me strong is the connection to the land I have. I feel most alive when I am out in *it*, cleaning out goat sheds, sowing seeds and watching the sky change. It is what I know and understand and when I am away from it I feel trapped and boxed in…

Willow capkins - 21st April 2010

Willow capkins – 21st April 2010

After my last redundancy I made some bad choices; I was so concerned with having a job I didn’t really consider the reason for working and told myself I could make it work. I was wrong and as a result the job/s I have had since November really haven’t been working, most weeks I worked six days a week and my only day off a week was as a result of me putting my foot down and even then that was often pushed with requests to work an extra shift; I am so much more than my job. I know it is possibly a thought that never even crossed others minds but I am a good carer*  because of the me that I am away from work and working six days a week for not enough money doesn’t leave much room for this.

However this has hopefully now changed and a few weeks ago I started a new job which will hopefully give me some sort of balance between work and home life as well as enough income, and so long as I am careful some left over to put into savings towards my hillside. It does of course come with its down sides; a week on week off rota so I shall be away every other week but hopefully these weeks can be used to learn the skills I am going to need e.g. green building and living off grid and maybe even extra time to blog and share what I learn.

Round house - 24th October 2010

Round house – 24th October 2010

Lots of things are going to have to change; the way I garden and allotment, the animals I keep… Thankfully I have my mother and sister who are happy to look after what I already have whilst I am away but thoughts of more chickens or some quail will need to go on hold for the forseeable future. I am going to need to learn and apply more permaculture methods to growing and storing food and I have questions about what to do about seed sowing next spring if I am going to be away. Growing in pots isn’t going to work as well as it did last year but it is all do able and feels like I might just be moving forward at long last.

*and this isn’t just me being big-headed about myself it is what I have been told by both my employers and something I believe when I have seen the way some others work

Trundling along

This was begun a week or so ago, just after the sun had burned the frost of my hill and before yet another day of going to work… (I also knew where my camera was at the time but don’t now so now photos I’m afraid)

Things seem to be back to a ‘stand still holding your breath’ stage at the moment and even though little in roads in the right direction are being made I hate the waiting for the return of ‘normal’, whatever that maybe now. Most of it revolves around work and money, which makes the waiting even more frustrating as it is all waiting on others to take action or make their minds up whilst I am left floating along with the days turning into weeks and my plans having to be made in a months timescale instead of what I’d like… And even some of those have had to be put back.

I hate the control money has on everything and the way it makes me feel when there isn’t enough of it; as though I am in some way an inadequate person and as though there is an extra strain on just getting the day-to-day done. I so truly wish I was in a position to not have such a need but I’m not sure that that could ever be reached, and not without first having enough money to begin with. Money seems to be the line between existing and *living* and I want to live and not just for work as so many others seem to have to.

Any way, I am making small (what feel like tiny just now) inroads and this is what I’m trying to focus on… Grumpy poor-me moan over.

Bella kidded two weeks ago, another little boy. He is sooo tiny up to Dumbledor (that is what Briony’s kid was named) and I can’t believe that there is such a difference in just a month. He is darker in colour but already has patches coming through and is going to be more like his mum and Knightshade in looks. He’s been named Dougal.

Just before the cold weather hit I decided to start sowing, hence why I am sitting here with a windowsill of leggy seedlings, and popped three courgette seeds into a pot with a “three courgettes isn’t much to lose” kind of shrug and added a windowsill growing kit of chillies and a packet of Nasturtium for good measure. I think I really needed to get my hands in some soil and see the tiny shoots of hope that seed sowing brings and so far so good, apart from being a little leggy they are fine and I have added a few pots of sweetpeas to them since and then had a splurge of seed sowing last night and have an assortment of flower seeds lined up to be sown today.

I don’t really have a plan to what I am doing so far, just a vague idea of greatness, but it is making me feel hopeful and as though my life hasn’t just become work and a search for new work.

A surprise start to ‘D’ year…

When I up-dated my facebook page and Twitter feed that the first signs of kidding were appearing I didn’t realise just how close we were; 

2012 first new arrival - 14th January 2012

2012 first new arrival - 14th January 2012

 Briony kidded that very night!

‘He’ still doesn’t have a name but is a love start to our year of ‘D’ names and my first third generation of breeding. We have had to take him away from Briony as he wasn’t very quick to his feet and got a bit chilled, a warm feed and a night by a radiator later and he is a strong little boy but is still not very sorted with his feet so will be completely hand reared.

Full

Life seems very full at the moment but at the same time it is full of *plans* and *maybe’s* instead of definites.

Morning dew on a spiders web - October 2009

Morning dew on a spiders web - October 2009

Each day there is another job to enquire about, an application form to fill in, an interview to go to or a job centre visit to make but I still don’t have any confirmed work, just lots of possibles. With each job I try to work out how it would fit into my life, fit around other work and how much time it will leave for living at the end of each day, week or month. I think I may have to find something full-time, which I haven’t done for so long, but we shall see.

The kitchen, and house, is full of things to be made, done or stored. I’m pleasantly surprised by the amount of produce that has come from the allotment and garden given that I haven’t really grown anything, or so I’d thought. Ok, maybe thinking about it most of it has been forged and not really come from the allotment or garden but as least I can put a lane or track to where it has come from and it shall keep things going for a while.

Wind turbines - October 2009

Wind turbines - October 2009

And my mind is full of everything; lists of jobs to be done, plans for next years growing season, plans for what I should be doing and plans for what I want to be doing all crashing around and making it hard to see one job out before feeling that I should in fact be doing something else instead, something more important, or needed. I’ve started going to bed each night feeling like it has been another day wasted with nothing much getting done and waking up not knowing where to start or which list should take priority.

It is all very tiring but not in a good way.

The goats have started coming into season and already it’s time to be planning kidding in March and that can’t be right, surely things can’t be that far a head in the year already.

Everything it just so full on and urgent at the moment; it would be nice to be given some time to stand still and take a deep breath