Project Milking Goat

This week we celebrated two momentous occasions on the farm – the first being Cs birthday and the second being the departure of the goats to stud! C was exceptionally gracious about sharing her ‘special day’- no, who am I kidding,sharing isn’t a strong point in our house at the minute, with a resident ‘threenager’ and a baby learning to say ‘no’. Whilst C spent her morning helping King Thistle and Holly escape from a marauding T Rex I managed to disappear for an hour or so to load the goats.

The night before I had carefully checked Amy and Bernadette over to make sure they were fit to travel.  A last minute ‘mani-pedi’ hoof trim to ensure their feet were perfect before the off and I left them munching on their hay nets, oblivious to what lay ahead of them.

Fortunately they loaded very easily. I had anticipated all sorts of shenanigans, but no, they were exceptionally polite. Almost too polite…

The journey to the stud farm passed uneventfully. Sam (short for Sambucca) was waiting to greet us, legs jauntily angled as he posed over his stable door.

The girls were impeccably behaved whilst we unloaded them and sorted out the obligatory trees worth of paperwork. They settled into their stable without so much as a backwards glance at me, stuffing their faces with hay as if they’d never been fed before.  Slightly miffed at their lack of clinginess to me (but yet pleased that they had become such confident creatures) I made my excuses and left, fingers and toes crossed for a successful ‘holiday’ stay. Good news came within 48 hours of their arrival; the stud owner assuring me we shall hopefully have our first goat kids in April 2017. We shall get them scanned to check that they are carrying babies, and so we can make sure we feed them appropriately.

People keep asking why on earth we are wanting to start milking the goats. The reasons behind this are quite simple.  C had been suffering from eczema and tummy aches. Many trips to paediatricians and GPs had led to repeat medication and the same old dietary advice (more water, more fruit) . The treatment we were getting was coming up short, and C’s behaviour was starting to nose dive. Noise phobias, introversion and tantrums started to fill our days. When it came to the point that I was starting to avoid certain everyday activities because of the behaviour they might trigger from C I knew it was time to seek help elsewhere.

A friend of ours who is a behaviour therapist listened to my fears and the symptoms C was experiencing. She suggested trying to switching her milk from Cows milk to goats milk. She felt there may be an underlying Cows milk protein intolerance which was triggering the health problems and now leading on to the behavioural changes. Slightly sceptical but at the same time at the end of my tether with the NHS and ‘traditional’ thinking I headed straight to the dairy aisle and bought a bottle, just to try.  Within 24 hours, her eczema had disappeared. Her behaviour improved and her tummy troubles have settled. Miraculous!

Since we have made the swap I have properly looked into goats milk as an alternative source of dairy, to discover exactly why it doesn’t cause the same problems as cows milk.

One of the main reasons seems to be the proteins within it. Cows milk proteins, especially Alpha S1 Casein, are the substances most likely to cause problems in people. Goats milk contains much less of this protein, meaning people have a greater tolerance of it.  However, if you are allergic to cows milk protein (rather than just intolerant) you’ll probably have the same reaction to goats milk

Goats milk also has smaller fat globules than those found in cows milk, although the actual fat content in both forms of milk is almost identical. Smaller particles are easier to digest, making goats milk easier for our gut to deal with.

It also contains less Lactose than cows milk, obviously a win for those that are Lactose intolerant.

Finally, goats milk  doesn’t cause us to produce mucous, unlike cows milk. Anecdotal evidence suggests that persistently runny noses can dry up almost instantly after swapping to goats milk.

Unfortunately goats milk doesn’t come cheap. A quick  calculation led me to think that raising our own goats to provide milk for the house would be much more economical (as well as fun and rewarding) than relying on shop bought produce. It would also give the girls another opportunity to experience ‘farm to fork’ with their food, and help with raising a different species. Of course, the initial outlay is quite a lot, with purchase, transport and stud fees, but hopefully it will start to even out soon!

 

 

This house….

This house is old and crumbling. Every time I turn my back something else seems to be broken,cracked or falling apart. Today I noticed the skirting board in the living room has started to pull away from the wall , exposing the bare stone behind it. In the corner behind the television I notice a chunk of board has disappeared ,leaving a pile of amber dust in its place. Dry rot is creeping insidiously around the downstairs rooms. It has chewed its way through several of the parquet flooring blocks in the other downstairs room. I sigh,turn around and gently close the sitting room door behind me. Today has been a long day and I can’t face dealing with any more ‘problems’ today. After all, the living room has only been redecorated three years ago. When we lifted the carpet we found old fertiliser bags from the 1950s acting as underlay!

The story of our farmhouse will be familiar to many farming families. Contrary to the belief that seems to be held that all farmers live in mansions, quite a lot live in run down,dated farm accommodation. In recent times the financial struggle faced by many of us has lead to a tightening of farm purse strings. Indoor renovations come at the bottom of a very,very,VERY long ‘to do’ list. A lot of the properties are hundreds of years old. They are often quite large as previous generations have added extensions in a piecemeal fashion over the decades.

Our farmhouse is ancient.A dwelling has stood here, balanced on compacted earth with little or no foundations, for over 300 years. It probably started out quite simply, a two up two down flat fronted dwelling. over the years extensions were made, walls moved and bits added. When restoration work was carried out on the modern day kitchen, no fewer than 7 joins were found tacking on to the original 4 roomed structure.
It has had almost constant occupation, with 6 generations of one family having lived and died under its beams. As far as we know it has only been uninhabited for a period of 20 years, when Fs grandparents moved out. Before F moved in restoration work was carried out which kept a few key rooms functional, and the rest of the house remained locked up in a time warp.

Over the past few years we have started the Sisyphean task of making all of the house safe and comfortable to live in. We have so far managed to create a living room and a dining room downstairs, and have central heating in most of the house!Central heating has only just been put into the upstairs bedrooms, and two rooms are still awaiting this ‘mod con’. It is a frustrating task though, as with every one job we complete another two urgent repairs become apparent!

I have to keep reminding myself how much history is contained within these four walls and how privileged we are to live amongst it.In essence it is a living museum, housing 3 centuries worth of farming history.I suppose an estate agent would have a field day listing all the ‘original features’ that add to the ‘character’ of the property. I know many people dream of living in a farmhouse (I know I did once upon a time), but dreams don’t always meet up to reality. Hopefully one day we will get on top of the long ‘to do’ list and drag the house into the 21st century! Until then, let me show you some of the most remarkable features.

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The kitchen is a lasting part of the original dwelling. There is a recess on one corner were the hearth once stood, with a giant oak beam the only reminder of the vast chimney that once stood above it. It now contains an ikea kallax (a staple of all ‘modern’ homes with children under 5) and a play corner. The hooks that my children now hang their coats and bags on were originally added in the 1930’s. They were installed for the 3 little evacuees sent far from their city home and into the middle of working farm life.Their arrival created an instant family for the newly married farmer and his wife!

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Above the heads of the evacuees home made puddings would have dangled from strings balanced on iron hooks.These hooks are another ‘original’ feature leftover from the days of the open hearth. These hooks are still useful today- I use them to suspend muslins when making jams and preserves!

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In the hall stands a handsome coffer- dark wood with brass handles. It takes up an awful lot of room and, I’ll let you into a secret, I think it’s really quite ugly. But oh,if it could talk. It dates from the 18th century and has quite a story associated with it. It belonged to an elderly widow woman who found herself homeless, being the only personal possesion she had been able to keep.The man farming here at the time ,f’s great great great grandfather, took her in rather than see her carted off to the poorhouse. She lived the rest of her days on the farmyard in one of the barns.  You can still see the spot from her candles on the stones of the barn.

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Another living piece of history now serves as a step linking the patio and the garden. In a previous life it formed a part of a slop trough that stood in the passage between the old kitchen and the dairy. All edible waste went into it, where it was heated to turn it into pig swill.

If I listed all the special parts of the house I would be here for weeks , having no doubt written thousands of words and bored you all to tears!

Sometimes when I am alone in one of the older parts of the house I do like to sit and wonder how many souls have walked over the floorboards, or forgot to duck and smacked their heads off the oak beam over the fire. Countless babies have been born here, and no doubt  many people have drawn there last breath here too. This is a side of farming that seems to be forgotten- the generational legacy, things that have remained unchanged over time. Farmers are guardians of so much more than land and beast. After all not many people can say at least 7 generations of their family have lived in one house.

Batty about bats

I have been coveting a bat detector for ages now. The niggly little desire to own one began way back in June with the 30 Days Wild Challenge. Unfortunately I was on maternity leave at the and I couldn’t get my meagre budget to stretch enough to get one . Seeing as I’m now back at work I decided to splash out. Not as extravagant as the new Joules wellies I’ve also had my eye on, but equally practical! I did my research and the Magenta 4 bat detector seemed to fit my needs- affordable and easy to use. The parcel arrived just in time for some Halloween bat detecting. I love getting Amazon parcels, even though I know what they are and  that ive paid for them its still a little bit like Christmas!

For once Amazon hadn’t gone overboard on the packaging and I managed to get into it pretty quickly. My heart sank a little when I realised that batteries were not included – noooooo!I’d made the school boy error of not ordering any. Fortunately the house is quite full of those annoying talking childrens toys that require tons of batteries, so I raided them instead!  4 AAA batteries later and I was ready to roll!

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I am a complete novice when it comes to bat detection. The magenta 4 is brilliant-it comes with really straightforward instructions on how to assemble (well, insert batteries) and how to get started. It also has an inbuilt torch which proves extremely useful, not only for working out what frequency you are currently set to, but also in preventing me from face planting in the mud! The detector also makes listening in to bat echolocation possible, picking up sounds that can’t normally be detected by our ears and translating them into ‘clicks’, ‘slaps’, ‘tocks’ and ‘chirps’. As each bat species uses a different frequency locating it’s prey and navigating the environment using a detector can help figure out what bat species are about.

We know that we have bats on the farm.  On summer evenings I have watched at least a dozen bats flitting about over the main yard. More  hunt low over the fields to the rear of the farm. The farm does provide ideal habitat  for bat species. Ancient farm buildings, a lot of which are unused and undisturbed, provide plenty of roosting opportunities. In fact when the car is parked alongside one of the barns it gets covered in a layer of bat poo! We also have a large number of dead trees with cracks and crevices that can offer homes. The pasture, woods and water courses around the farm offer a reliable source of insects for the bats to feast on. The hedgerows and fencelines act as navigation aids and allow safe passage between hunting grounds and roost site. Sometimes they even decide to pay us a visit indoors!

Unfortunately, by the time I managed to slip out and start waving the detector about (probably not the intended technique) I couldn’t see any bats flying. It isn’t the best time of year for using a detector. The evenings have cooled suddenly and November is the time bats start to hibernate. They have spent September and October building up fat reserves to see them through the long winter. As the temperature drops, bats will enter Torpor,  to decrease the amount of energy they need to stay alive. They can go in and out of this state, depending on ambient temperature. As the months march on and daylength shortens the bats start to hibernate. Hibernation is different from Torpor– the bat’s body temp and metabolic rate drops even lower and they stay in this state for prolonged periods of time.

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Despite not picking up any flight sounds, I did pick up something with the detector. There was an awful lot of ‘clicks’ ‘chirps’ and ‘slaps’ coming from beneath the roof of the kiln, one of the barns used to house calves. I picked up similar noises from under the arches of the grain store, the old bull barn and stables, as well as the workshop beside the farmhouse.These noises were part of the social calls that bats produce when roosting.  The noises could also have come from mice which can produce ultrasonic squeaks that can be mistaken for bat chatter. However, the sites at which the detector picked up noise are definite bat roosts, so its more than possible that I was eavesdropping on bat conversations!

Either way it made a nice change  to be out in the dark instead of wasting the evening in front of the telly. The stars were out too; another awesome perk of living in the countryside means minimal light pollution and a clear view of the milky way. I can’t wait for summer and a chance to really get to grips with bat detection!