Riverside’s little goat herd has grown. Birthing photos! (Graphic)

On Tues evening, Marigold went gently and quietly into labour and produced a beautiful little female kid. We have named her Anemone.

Here are a few photos showing the birthing process and the rather fabulous end result!

(The pics are best avoided if you are a bit squeamish)

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At the beginning of labour the ‘bubble’ appears. It may burst or remain intact. You may be able to see two tiny white hooves inside it. Normal deliveries are head first with the head between the feet. The tongue is often hanging out. This is normal.

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Here you can see the tiny white hooves and a pink tongue and nose appearing. The ‘bubble’ has burst.

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And a few minutes later the kid is born and mum licks and licks to clean her.(Softly bleating all the while) I do intervene a bit and clear the kid’s nose and mouth of mucus and give the kid a brisk rub with a rough towel.. and then let mum take over.

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Warm water with molasses is appreciated after the birth .

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Welcome to the world Anemone xxxx

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What a gorgeous girl! Anemone xxx

Mum and baby x

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Both doing great!!

……….and here is a link to my favourite website about goat keeping and kidding . Enjoy!

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An offer for my readers, Facebook Backyard Farming Group members and members of LSSSC

Lincs Self Sufficiency Club Click here > http://www.lsssc.org.uk/

My Backyard Farming Group > https://www.facebook.com/groups/Backyardfarming/

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The grass is always greener…………….after rain.

Everything is so green and lush and vibrant here now. I am loving it! The recent rain has sent everything into overdrive. Grass in the fields and all my vegetable plants are growing fast! Trees are in full leaf now. Better late than never! There is rich dappled shade to sit under on sunny days. I love that contrast of light and dark.  It is wonderful!

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The grazing, that I rent further up the lane, really needed the boost and the paddocks that I am resting til later in the year are looking lush and healthy at last.

I shall strip graze the paddocks using electric tape to allow the ponies to access a little fresh land each week. Shetlands and other native ponies do not need too much rich grazing. In fact it can be dangerous for them to be allowed too much spring grass, as they tend to be more prone to laminitis….(and mine are right piggies and will scoff and scoff til they bloat!) Both of mine came to me as previous sufferers of ‘lami’ and one has Metabolic Cushings Disease, so I have to be extra vigilant.

By dividing the paddocks off into weekly strips, not only is it a better use of land but it also means the grass gets grazed down evenly and tends to grow better as a result. I can control how much they eat and watch them for signs of weight gain and loss etc. I simply move the posts forward once a week ( with the tape still attached but the energiser turned off) and I ensure they have access to water.

I  have just purchase two secondhand Aquaroll 40 litre water containers, large cylindrical containers that you can roll out to where you need the water..so no heavy buckets to lug across fields. I only need to do this in the middle paddocks luckily,  as both end ones have water containers set under a gutter systems that run off the roof of each shelter and they are self filling every time we have rain. So I rarely need to top those up.

Because two of the paddock areas have large field shelters in them, if we are forecast severe weather the ponies are simply put into those ones and in Winter when the grass is sparse and low in nutrients, the paddocks are only divided in half. That way the ponies always have access to warm stabling  with thick bedding and one paddock is rested completely for 6 months, ready for spring. When it all starts growing again and needs dividing up into smaller areas I simply bring out the electric fencing again..

Seeing as the weather has warmed up now, we are heading towards June after all!…..and the ground has dried out here at Riverside, I have moved my hens back outside onto a new piece of ground. Electric poultry netting gives you so much freedom to rotate your animals grazing areas. I use it for my goats, geese and hens here…and I use electric tape for the pony paddock dividers, the main fencing is post and rail with electric  wire on the inside. It is a great system for those with a small amount of land. Flexible, secure and easy to move.

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One hen (A Pied Sussex named Blackberry) is still in the winter coop, as she has just hatched a clutch of eggs, so she is enjoying some time alone to rear her babies. She will be re-introduced to the flock once the babies are a bit bigger. I am hoping for at least two hens  out of her chicks, ( Sod’s Law will mean they all turn out to be cockerels no doubt haha). We could do with a couple more egg layers here, so fingers crossed.

One chick appears to be a very pretty subtle blue/ grey colour! They are mixed breeds, as the cockerel I ran with the hens this time is a  multicoloured frizzle cross, so we get surprise colouration/ feathering/ shapes and sizes and we like it that way. Hybrid vigour and a hotchpotch of colours!

The wild moorhen that settled here has hatched all her eggs. I haven’t done a proper head count (They are tiny and they move so fast and in all honesty I don’t want to disturb them too much) but it seems I may have got it wrong thinking she had lost some of her eggs before hatch day, as I am sure I have seen at least 5 chicks! They are in the water already..darting about between the reeds and calling for their mum when she strays too far.

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Holly-Hot-Pants my broody goose is still sitting tight on her nest inside the shed, ( no idea how many eggs she has!) with Teasel-Tussle the gander guarding her. I am the only one that can get  anywhere near close enough to feed them, change their water and tidy the shed.. albeit tentatively! I haven’t disturbed the back of the shed where her nest is. I will clean it properly once she is up and about with her babies.

Daisy-Do-Gooder, the other female goose I have here, is being ignored by them both. She seems to be piggy in the middle and appears to be no use to either of them. Poor Daisy! But she remains devoted to Teasel, bless her,  despite being given the cold shoulder and she refuses to be  parted from them even if given the choice.

Marigold my VERY pregnant goat doesn’t have long to go now. Her official due date is in the first week of June..but she is looking HUGE!..and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if she popped early. I am hoping for twins or a single kid.Triplets would be a lot for her to cope with, she is a first kidder and I prefer to let the kids feed naturally on their mothers rather than be bottle fed. So two would be more than enough. Hoping for females of course!

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This shared milking system I have used here has worked well with Tansy and her twin kids.  I am still milking every morning and am getting around 1.5 litres a day from her. Not bad  from just one milking session. I am making lots of cheese and yoghurt and kefir and using it in my tea and coffee etc. Even people who tell me they dislike goat’s milk have taken it in tea and coffee when visiting me here and have remarked at how lovely it is.. No goaty tang at all!

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Although despite all this lovely raw milk I have here I am still buying in some organic cows milk, just to culture the kefir grains that I sell online and to experiment with more cheese recipes. Not sure if I’d be allowed to use my raw milk for kefir sales..so I am playing it safe with shop bought stuff for my customers.

I will be doing two milkings a day once the kids are fully weaned, which going by their progress won’t be long, as Tansy is letting them feed less and less and they are happily eating concentrates, plenty of good hay and are grazing/ browsing well outside and they drink plenty of water. Time flies!

My little incubator is still going. I set some duck eggs into it straight after hatching the quail. I just adjusted the humidity for duck eggs ( quail eggs need far lower humidity).

I was hoping for the best really, as these were eggs gifted to me from a neighbour of my parents. She gave them to me to feed to my dogs, as they were past their best and a bit too old for humans to eat.

I risked it and tried my luck with the incubator, having nothing much to lose. I popped them in to see if any were fertile and on day two, disaster!!… we lost power ..So I thought they’d be  well and truly done for. If any were going to be viable then chilling them on day two was probably not the best way to get any to develop! However, miraculously 5 have survived and have continually candled fertile! Amazing! So we shall see what we get from our pot luck, chilled and re-heated, rather old dog food duck eggs.

If we get any at all it will be remarkable!

Sadly during that power outage we lost three quail chicks, as it happened in the middle of the night when we were sleeping and their heat lamp went off. I awoke at 3 am noticing we had no light/power so rushed out to check. I was too late to save them all sadly, as one had died under the huddle of chicks trying to keep warm, but we quickly set the brooder cage in front of the woodstove and got a good fire going and set tea-lights all around it to keep the temperature up til we sorted the power problem out. A day later we were left with 17 healthy chicks from 20 and so not all was lost, but things like this really do get you down.

It was such a shame. My daughter was so upset. She had got up with me at 3 am , helped me move the brooder cage in front of the stove and she had tried everything to revive the tiny floppy cold chick..but her efforts were in vain.

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On a brighter note the veg garden here at Riverside is doing well. No major hitches (yet) this season . I have not grown as many plants that need heat or protection this year, after struggling with some tender plants last season.

I have also given up with growing sweetcorn, after losing three sowings of expensive organic seed last year, to hungry mice! I hope they enjoyed it as much I would have if it had grown and developed cobs haha

I am desperately short of  growing space here ( If I had my way the lawn would go completely! Not sure my landlord would be so keen though) and so the space for things like sweetcorn etc which needs to be grown in blocks for successful pollination, can be used for other things that I know I can grow easily and successfully. I love my leafy greens, garlic, leeks, soft fruit, herbs and salads, so am using the space that I do have for those kind of things…and cramming edibles into every available space. I am also still planting trees on the river bank…Lots of trees.

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I am trying to get more hardy, heavy cropping and perennial edibles in the garden. Dotting them in amongst the flower borders. I am planting out soft fruit  bushes under trees (grown from cuttings)  and then low growing herbs grown from seed and other fruiting  plants like strawberries under and in front of those. Areas between trees have been sown with a wildflower meadow mix…and I am not mowing that area til after it has set seed.

On the subject of mowing, I now mow all my grass with a small push mower. It is leaving a bit more length to the lawn and the other plants that grow in the lawn don’t get decapitated, which is great for bees, as flowers like clover etc are left in place… and is so quiet and easy to use, even on a big plot like this. I am so glad I gave away my two petrol mowers!

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With the weather in the UK ( and worldwide) so unpredictable now and temperatures so slow to warm up each year, I guess growing hardy edible perennials/ annuals is the way forward, if I want to have plenty to eat. Unless you have space for massive polytunnels!

I don’t have a polytunnel yet, in fact I only have a tiny lean to greenhouse here atm (which is a bit too sheltered/shaded), so space for protected crops is severely limited! I aim to fill the garden with stuff I can grow well in our weather and I aim to do all this on a mega tight budget..so plants are mostly grown from seed/ cuttings. Patience is required, with quite some time passing before some plants are mature. So it is a work in progress and maybe something I will never see reach fruition  But half the joy is discovering that something does really well on your plot, especially where other things have failed and in watching them grow steadily, even if you never see the end result.

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Keeping fingers firmly crossed that my tenancy here goes on for a few more years yet. I do so love it here! But with private rental properties you just never know…….

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I’m keeping on my rose tinted spectacles…..

Despite the many hardships smallholders/permaculturists and those following their own path to self-sufficiency endure, it seems to me that there are far more positives to this lifestyle than negatives. Or maybe that is just because I really do see everything through rose-tinted spectacles and that’s how I enjoy living it?

It certainly isn’t an easy life or for the faint hearted.

Some examples: Well there is the lugging of firewood, the cutting, stacking and sawing that accompanies a life in a basic cottage where wood is the only fuel that heats your home and your water. Then there is the dusty job of cleaning out the stove/ fireplace, the making of compost, the baking of bread, cheesemakiing, brewing and fermenting food and drinks, mucking out animal housing, erecting fencing, growing food, walking to and from your paddocks daily, the carrying  and stacking of bales of hay, filling of haynets and hayracks, filling and carrying of water buckets and topping up of troughs, the carrying of hefty 25kg sacks of animal feed, much sweeping of yards, the heavy wheelbarrowing of loads of well-rotted manure onto veg beds, preserving your food and cleaning up your clothes and cottage interiors of all the hay and mud that seems to be the identity badge of the self-sufficient / small-scale farmer.

I have days when utter exhaustion wipes out any sense of wellbeing and enthusiasm, just like anyone else does, yet those rough days tend to be balanced out with far more days filled with pure joy at having witnessed something wonderful. Today it was the joy of seeing some jays, four of them actually, a bee fly and a red admiral butterfly on our walk back from the pony paddocks and at having achieved a long sought after goal or dream, like getting a long-awaited pre-loved, used polytunnel frame gifted to me!

I may spend my days covered in hay and animal hair now. I may not look smart or glamorous. I may even be considered scruffy by some!  ha! But it is the special moments that make it all worthwhile, ……moments such as when I am heading outside to milk one of my goats, Tansy…
I have dragged myself out of a warm bed reluctantly.( I love my sleep!)
I am alone.
It is very early in the morning.
The world is just waking up.
Birds in the surrounding trees and hedgerows are singing their uplifting good morning song and flitting from branch to branch, foraging for food. The moorhens that live on the river here, scuttle out of my wildlife pond and rush up the steep bank back onto their own territory, embarrassed at being caught out trespassing in the garden wildlife pond or occasionally a pair of mallards, that also often visit my pond, catch me unawares and fly up in front of me as I walk across the garden, making my heart leap out of my chest! haha!

Trout rise in the river taking gnats and other small insects from above the waterline, and then they are gone, as swiftly as the appeared, leaving behind beautiful reflective patterns made up of concentric rings, rippling outwards on the water’s surface, as they disappear into the depths again. There is so much that makes this life worthwhile.

I try to keep to a routine here at Riverside. Not because I am OCD about the endless jobs that need doing, far from it,  but because it makes everything run more smoothly. Animals get used to it and milking needs to be done at the same time each day anyway.

I feed Marigold first.. a scoop of goat mix , so that she can eat her breakfast quietly whilst Tansy is eating hers on the milking stand. Goats are not patient creatures and the sound of one eating, will undoubtedly cause the others to yell loudly, until they get some grub too. So Marigold is not made to wait. Plus I really enjoy the quiet time I get whilst I do the milking and contemplate the day ahead.

I then open Tansy’s little stable and she skips out and heads straight for the milking stand in the feed room. She hops up on her own and puts her head in the yoke and begins to eat hungrily. Goats are always hungry 🙂 I give a scoop of goat mix to her kids whilst mum is busy scoffing her own food…..and then I sit down beside her and clean her udders gently with the udder wipes.

Softly I lay my head against Tansy’s side and talk to her as I milk her, she tilts her head at me listening between mouthfuls, her cheeks bulging, her jaw in constant motion..chewing or cudding. We have eye contact..an understanding…. it is hard to explain. I tickle her tummy now and then, and she arches her back and goes all gooey eyed..she makes a mellow snickering noises..not quite a bleat, more a soft mellow purr ..Can goats can purr?…It is the sound of contentment. She knows she is loved and cared for.

Once I have finished taking all the milk I require, ( I leave some in her udder for her babies)  I thank her and offer her some sliced carrot from my pocket (You end up with pockets full of odd things when living a life-like this: baling twine, string, penknives, castrating rings, animal feed..even goat droppings! Don’t ask! lol). I unhook her lead from the milking stand and she slowly wanders back to her goat shed to be reunited with her babies. They finish emptying her udder out and then set about eating the Summer scented hay that I have placed in the racks for them. Water buckets are rinsed out and refilled. Then the poultry are all fed and watered. I have a stainless steel pail full of warm frothy milk to get inside, filter and cool as soon as possible.

Now this may all seem wonderful..but just imagine the same scene in Winter. It is freezing cold and very dark…yet all the above still has to be done daily.  In all weather. Buckets have to be plunged into icy water troughs to be filled. Ice has to be broken in order to get access to the water. Soggy mud underfoot means everything ends up with a liberal coating of dirt…..and no matter how careful you are, hay and mud ends up inside your house too!

I have come to the conclusion that you must either be eccentric, mad or extremely dedicated to want to do all these jobs with absolutely no break in routine. No holidays..No sick days…Not to mention the sheer effort involved in mucking out and any animal illnesses you have to deal with!…and on top of all that there is the ‘paid’ work that you squeeze in somehow! Often this is done in the dead of night when you should be sleeping or at weekends when everyone else if heading out on their jollies. So I am not sure which category you’d want to put me in?…. or maybe I am  mix of all three!  Eccentric, mad and dedicated?  Exhausted sometimes too …But I am happy  to work hard to keep the life I love so very much 😉 …and it is this life that makes my daughter so totally content, so desperate to learn more about the natural world….and I would do anything to keep that going for her. x

Homemade vanilla goat’s milk ice cream.

This is a recipe for a very easy basic custard style vanilla ice cream.

I made it using my own goat’s milk and my goose eggs.

Ingredients

2 pints of  fresh goat’s milk

2 vanilla pods

4 freshly laid hen egg yolks or 2 fresh goose egg yolks

4 oz caster sugar ( You could use honey)  Adjust amount depending on how sweet you like your ice- cream.

3 level tsp Cornflour

Method

Heat the goat’s milk and the contents of the scraped out insides of the vanilla pods on the hob until  at simmering point. Do it slowly over a low heat. But do not boil.

Whisk egg yolks, cornflour and sugar together for a couple of minutes or so until sugar is almost dissolved.

When the vanilla infused milk starts to come to simmering point, take it off the stove and pour it in with the egg and sugar mixture, in a heatproof bowl ….and whisk continually, then return to  the pan and stir over low heat with a wooden spoon until thickened.

Allow to cool completely..Do not eat yet!  😉

After it’s cooled down, you’re ready to make ice cream!

Tip the custard-like mix into the frozen base of an ice cream maker. I got a basic Kenwood one from Freegle. You simply freeze the special double walled bowl overnight and the paddle sits on top of it  to stir your mix as it freezes. ….or failing that tip the mix into a tupperware tub and pop in the freezer.

A machine will stir the mixture as it freezes, saving you the work… but if you are doing it manually you will need to keep whisking the mix as it freezes..so check the freezer every 15 mins or so and whisk/stir thoroughly and then pop back in to freeze again.  Repeat for as long as it takes to get an ice cream consistency .

This mixing keeps the ice crystals small and allows the ice cream to be creamy rather than like sorbet..As it gets stiffer you may need to use a fork rather than a wire whisk.


Once frozen ..simply eat and enjoy!

This makes a gorgeous pale golden ice cream with tiny flecks of vanilla seeds in. Delicious and so easy!

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These hands…..

Plunged wrist deep in damp compost. Stirring in dry gritty sand. Turning and tipping, patting and mixing. My hands provide the medium for my seeds to grow in. The ingrained soil stains the tiny creases in my skin, like rivers marked on a map and it leaves them looking well-worn, like sun-bleached driftwood….the grain showing through. These hands have the patina that comes with age and heavy use outdoors. I like it.

Delicate lifting, seedling transplanting, caterpillar picking and ladybird gazing . Like fine tweezers, they serve me, but strength they provide me. Plunging fork or spade into soil. My hands, my most important tools. These hands, my gardening friends.

Gently compressing an udder. Rhythmic gentle pressure, from one pink freshly washed finger to another, as the thumb and base of forefinger act as valve. Gentle clamping and squeezing. Finger muscles working in unison. A wave-like motion. Smoothly and calmly, as frothing and creamy. These hands extract the milk.

Mixing and stirring, thumping and rolling. Knuckles are needed… for kneading the dough. These hands help produce our daily bread and a way to de-stress.

Lifting and carrying, chopping and sawing, stacking and fetching, lighting and poking. These hands prepare the firewood and tend the wood-stove, that warms my home, my water and my heart.

Tender forehead caressing, tight squeezy hugging, proud and jokey back patting, waving and clapping and secure hand holding. My hands show their love and appreciation to my children and loved ones. These hands never run out of love.

Delicate gathering, placing and carrying. Eggs from geese, hens and quail, are carried indoors to the kitchen. Doors are opened. Full baskets are lifted and into a frying pan, a porcelain shelled nut-brown egg is cracked….neatly in half….just right!  These hands provide the means to gather and cook our meals.

Sweeping and scrubbing, rub a dub dubbing, wiping and hosing with buckets of bubbles , mopping away, your dirt and your troubles. These hands clean the dirt that comes from a life spent outdoors.

Cleaning and washing, wringing and hanging, folding and ironing (although that I do rarely). Piling up, neat stacking, clean linen, fresh smelling. These hands, they allow me to be clothed in fresh fabric, keep my home tidy and bring sunshine inside.

Holding reins, as we trot along lanes, across fields, the wind on your face, carriage wheels turning, you feel every bump and steady the pace, no need to race.  Deep pressure on brush, as you groom away the dried sweat from a morning of traveller’s joy, with the sun on your backs, the smell of horse on your hands and in your head forever more. These hands care for the animals that take me places and make my heart sing.

Holding pen or pencil, crochet hook or knitting needle, typing letter or story, threading cotton through needle, mending and make doing! My hands they communicate and cooperate, confidently, they earn my keep and keep the wolf from the door ………as I attempt self-sufficiency. They try their best and that is all I ever ask of them. I can’t ask for more .

These hands…..

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