Tag Archives: goats

The Goat Escape (again)

First things first – we arrived today with a list of things to do, and the first thing we saw was a massed escape of goats. They had clearly been peckish, and if there’s one thing a goat likes it’s some nice twigs. Things weren’t helped when a flat battery allowed them to climb over the so-called electric fence.

They have much more character than sheep. It’s just a shame that they express this character in making such determined bids for freedom.

It was a busy day yesterday – another 100 salt dough shapes ready for Flintham Show, an improved Wheatsheaf loaf, and an element of panic as we realise there is not enough time. That, of course, is not unusual: there never is enough time.

As you can see, the poppies are coming along nicely, though they do take a lot more salt dough. For one thing, they are bigger than many of the shapes we use, and for another, they need to be thicker to pick up the detail.

The thickness isn’t a problem when you are making biscuits, but when you have to glue them to a stalk it can be tricky, as experience shows they can overbalance or pull themselves of the stalks. I’ve invested in better glue this time!

We had a look in the mobile bread oven and found it was full of cobwebs and a small barbecue.  Yes, it was a surprise to me too.

One thing we haven’t done is test the oven or dry any wood. That’s because the farmer doesn’t believe in planning and hates using wood to check things are working. Farmers hate spending money, even if, as in this case, it does grow on trees.

When it all goes wrong tomorrow it will be my fault.

Do you know how many colloquial expressions there are for “goes wrong” in the English language? More to the point, do you know how many of them are suitable for use in polite conversation?


Nanny McFlee

Well, it was either that or Billy and Clyde. tarnegolita has suggested a few others so I’m in  a good position with titles now.

Even as I was writing the last post the goats were out again. The only one that doesn’t escape is the youngest one: she just stands by herself and bleats. We think it’s possibly because she’s the youngest and may have been weaned too early. The rest of them are now fully recovered from being taken from their mothers and are enjoying a rebellious youth.

The mothers all seem happy and relaxed now the kids are off their hands.

On the subject of goats and relaxation, the Kenyans are coming at the weekend. They will make a big fuss of the goats, which is one of the reasons we keep them, as they feel it is a way for children to keep in contact with their culture..Although we never use the term I suppose the goats are culturally appropriate livestock. I may start calling them that, as it sounds more important than goat. Being constantly outsmarted by culturally appropriate livestock also seems more respectable than being outsmarted by goats.

One of the big attractions on Saturday will be the traditional nyama choma.

That’s the other reason we keep goats.

So far nobody has told them they are invited.




Running out of titles

We’ve had The Goat Escape and we’ve had ‘scapegoats so I’m running out of goat-related escape references.

That’s the trouble with goats, they can escape quicker than I can think of new puns. I’m thinking of Kidnapped and Do Androids Dream of Electric Fences? but neither of them are quite right.

We were on the way home last night. I stopped and looked left to check it was safe to drive out and…

…I was close to driving off, but my conscience got the better of me. At 7 pm I have better things to do than round up livestock for farmers who can’t keep their fences in order. On the other hand it isn’t fair on the goats or passing drivers to let livestock wander free.

Once we got them trapped and moving they went back in the field without too much trouble, which was good because they had escaped via a neighbour’s orchard and it could have been complicated to get them back. Instead we just got them moving in the right direction and waved a few branches (broken from nearby hedges) at them. They love eating hedges so they just followed Julia back to the field to chew on the branches.

It’s simple when you know how.

I’ve included a couple of pictures of the village pinfold. Under the 1959 Highways Act it is still lawful to detain an animal in the pinfold if it is found wandering on the road. This happened to us once – we had a phone call to say there was a goat on the road but couldn’t find it. When we did track it down someone had shut it in the pinfold, where it was busily chomping its way through the floral display. We were multiply unpopular after that.



Fedge, feathers and flutterbys

The pollinators have been active today, but the butterflies haven’t been about much. The difference is that a stiff north westerly breeze leaves plenty of room for a pollinator to operate, but it doesn’t do much for a butterfly. If you have generously proportioned wings they are going to act like sails in these conditions.

As I see them zip past I’m reminded of a story I once read as a child where a small sailing dingy was blown off course by a storm. I can’t recall the name of the book, though I suspect it was probably a device used by several writers, as I’m thinking both C. S. Lewis and Enid Blyton.


Main job of the day was tidying up the willow work in the central area – tucking some back in and trimming the rest. The ones that are woven back are mainly secured with plastic cable ties. Even professional willow weavers seem to use them. The fedge is starting to look good, though I’m still not sure it’s so far from being a hedge we need a new word for it.

The trimmings are a great favourite with the goats, who prefer hedges to grass. As a youngster, having read that Native Americans chewed the bark of willow to deaden pain, I gave it a go. It’s probably the bitterest thing I have ever tasted. It’s worse than sloes. The goats love it.

Incidentally, they are in disgrace after breaking out of their pen last night and invading a neighbour’s garden. I think that makes them ‘scapegoats.




What do you say?

One of the parents said: “They’re very excited about this visit.”

You could tell that from the fact they were milling about looking at everything and chattering. It was clear that this wasn’t going to be a night for reflection and following instructions, and although I had all the stuff ready for toasting marshmallows it was also clear that it wasn’t a night for naked flames!

If they ever come back I’m going to be sure to pack a rugby ball and my whistle plus some maps and compasses. As it was, we did think about running them round the farm but it started to rain. So it was visit the sheep, visit the chicks and keets, look at the young goats in their new field (they aren’t happy at being taken away from their mothers), view the guinea fowl doing impersonations of vultures, strain to see the geese (who had taken up a position at the back of the field) and go back to the centre.

Julia set them going on making folded paper animals (Orifarmi, as LEAF call them) and I set up the butter-making, which is generally enough to sap the energy from the most energetic of small people. It just about worked. We are getting more cunning as time goes on.

In amongst the frenetic effort there were quite a few questions to field too – about the building, farming and animals. Even whilst running about they didn’t miss much, and you need to be on top of your game .

It’s nice seeing all this youthful enthusiasm but I wouldn’t want to have to try and direct it every week. I really don’t know how their leaders do it.

I’m off home now – not sure what awaits us as the kids are cooking the evening meal. I suspect it will feature chicken, vegetables and salad. I’m sure it’s healthy and wholesome, but it’s not food as I know it.

(It turned out to be sausages in baguettes, with red onions and barbecue sauce and chips and a modest salad on the side.)



At last. I love my job, but after six visits in six days you can have too much of a good thing.

As it happens, the 1st Calverton Guides have been here more than any other group, so it wasn’t a difficult day. Out to the chicks, on to the workshop (because I’m trying to sell the idea of coming out to build nest boxes) and into a technical session on eggs. It was their misfortune to be used as guinea pigs for my new presentation. They said it was fine, but the glazed expressions suggested I might need to do a bit more work on it. Fortunately Julia has just taken delivery of a box of egg resources, though I didn’t feel confident enough to open it and start using it without practice.

The goats got out twice, which provided some light relief, and England beat Australia 44-40 to mark what is probably a false dawn in English Rugby. It’s good, and it looks like a cracking game from the reports, but it won’t be the first time an English sports team has failed to build on success. That has nothing to do with the day really, but it felt good to write “England beat Australia”. having said that, after Thursday’s vote on leaving the EU I’d better start being nice to the Australians as we now need them for more than just bar work.

The afternoon cookery session was seeded cheese scones using rapeseed oil (or vegetable oil as the Bowdlerised version has it). It’s a recipe from the Home Grown Cereals Authority, based on the fact that we are self-sufficient in oilseed rape and that it is less fatty than butter. I like it because it’s easier than rubbing in butter.

They must have liked it because we are already discussing the next date – all I need to do is find another activity to do!

So, it looks like I managed to end on a high note, though that was mainly due to the chicks once more. Personal high point of the day was when they did the washing up for me – after six days of visits that was a big positive.

Now I’d better get working on next week’s visits and on cleaning the incubator.


Bread, butter and Brownies – Part 2

Well, I’ve updated the gallery page with a slideshow, if you’re interested, and I’ve re-read Part 1 and realised that I may have been slightly less than accurate in my comments on butter making. It’s easy, as I said. However, twice it has proved to be impossible. I did it as a unit of a PTLLS course I took some years ago – the cream was hot from being in the back of the car and the evening was humid and the classroom unventilated. After half an hour of shaking, as I showed signs of passing out, they decided to let me off that bit. It still took me an hour after that to stop shaking. The other time was similar, hot and humid day, trying to make butter at a care home. Fortunately, with a clientèle that were all around 90 we were able to nip to the kitchen and substitute butter from the fridge without anyone spotting it.

So, butter making is generally easy. Apart from when it isn’t.

I’ve just been run into the ground by 23 Brownies. I don’t think I could cope with being a Brownie leader – the enthusiasm is great, but I don’t have the energy to keep up!

It’s also trickier doing the visit on your own, but as Julia was working at her “proper” job tonight we didn’t have much choice. What is a seamless performance with the two of us working like a well-oiled machine (I may be exaggerating a bit here), becomes a touch fraught as you have to prepare everything in advance and go from one to the other hoping that it all fits together. It just about did. I forgot the picking of herbs and chillies for the soup until I had them all washing their hands in the outside sink so I had to alter my choice of herbs to sage and golden marjoram – those being the ones they could see from the sink.

There was also a bit of  a gap where I needed to serve up the soup, but the leaders covered that for me with a song about gorilla snot. Yes, it was a surprise to me too.


In the end it all went reasonably well, kids and leaders seemed happy, we had no accidents, the animals behaved (OK, apart from the goats) and I’m left with a feeling of well-being as we head into tomorrow and the fifth day. I’ve a few points to improve on but nothing too bad.

List for tomorrow – cream crackers, fly spray (it’s not good weather for those of us with waterless toilets), air freshener (ditto), long bamboo skewers (for our November Project), and bread for lunch.

I think that’s it…



Entering the modern era

Yes, I’ve finally done it, after being let down twice in a week I’ve drafted the letter about non-returnable deposits.

One of them was a no-show, so we’d bought materials and planned the day, putting several hours of effort in. The second was the day before, but I was away that day and only checked my email this morning, by which time I’d spent several hours planning, bought materials and ingredients and generally psyched myself up.

So we’re now in the grasping, lecturing, materialistic modern world and have a document detailing our deposit requirements and defining “14 days”. I haven’t moaned, I’ve just pointed out that we can’t keep incurring costs and suffering late cancellations.

I’m reasonably happy with it but I’m sure that the management committee will have a go at mangling it.

Coming, as it did, the day after the lady at Brierlow Book Shop taught me how to pay contactlessly. I’m really feeling like a child of the 21st century. She says she can also pay with her phone and her watch. I still think anything other than cash is a bit suspect, but I suppose I’m one of a dying breed.

The keets are all happy, though I’m not sure what we’re feeding them on. It looks a bit floury and the mill we use to grind wheat for school visits seems to be full of pig pellets. Call me suspicious but  if there was such a thing as an Olympics for cutting corners we would be weighed down with medals and people would call on us to commentate at the Christmas Scrooge Championships and the Tightwad Derby.

I’ve got the new feeder up, though I can’t afford a big one like the bookshop has. Nor could I afford to fill it. I’ve also put the window feeder up, but so far nobody has found it. I thought that if it works it’s worth a fiver, and if it doesn’t I’ll give it a wash and give it somebody for Christmas.

The old feeders all have a new feature – an elastic band over the top. It’s not pretty but I’m hoping it might work. The plan is that even if they do get mugged by jackdaws the tops should stay on. If the jackdaws can’t get to the contents they may stop wrecking them. How many times have I said that?

One of the goats escaped, but it’s now captured and penned again. I’d have left it to get in by itself (they do when they get bored) but someone called and asked for help.

He caught me at a bad time – I was just contemplating allowing the three guinea fowl in the allotment to escape from their pen. A moment later and I may have been spotted. I’ll do it tomorrow.

The pigs seem happy too, but in the absence of foresight I suppose they would, They may be the 4th most intelligent mammal, behind men, apes and dolphins, but they have never really concerned themselves with the meaning of life.This is probably a good thing.

Given food, friends and the occasional scratch behind the ears they seem content.

Added later – can anybody tell me if the plant still standing near the pigs (the only thing they have left standing, is hemlock? The main picture isn’t as clear as it could be – do these help?

Meanwhile the cereal trial is confusing me – the plots with chemicals seem greener, and have fewer weeds, but the ones without chemicals seem just as tall and productive, though a bit paler, or even yellow round the edges. The chemicals must help by providing all the nutrients the grain needs, but I’m wondering whether they are cost effective.

Busy days and Potato Pizzas

Collect the eggs, feed the lambs, avoid the electric fence round the goats…

It’s been a busy day. We didn’t finish until late last night, after hosting a group of local Brownies for pizza making and nature bling. We also saw one of the leaders make her Brownie Promise. She’s part of a good team – the Brownies were a delight to work with and the leaders did most of the washing up for us.

I managed to fit in a telephone consultation with my weight loss mentor, who thinks I eat too much cheese. I think I’m eating it to avoid eating various sliced meat products, partly through a desire to avoid additives and partly wanting to cut down on meat. This could take some balancing.

I’ve also had  a text to remind me that the dentist awaits me on Friday morning. I suppose it will be OK once it over.

Finally it was time to cook the new pizza recipe, specifically for people who don’t like tomato sauce or cheese.

Potato pizza with onions and rosemary. Well, it would have been if I hadn’t forgotten to put the onions on. Apart from the onions there are a few tweaks to make to the recipe, but it was generally thought to be good. As you can see from the picture, it was a good, fun hands on activity, though some of us need more practice handling dough.

I will put the recipe on the Recipe page over the weekend.



A question of character

We will shortly be ensuring ourselves a lively few days. It’s time for the goats to go outside again and this time they are going in one of the pens at the top of the allotment area. Based on previous years this means we’re going to be doing a regular amount of goat chasing, as they seem to find it easy to escape from, and quite a lot of extracting heads from fences. For some reason the size of the mesh in the fence is a perfect match for a goat’s head going forwards. When you try to get them out backwards it’s a different matter. With  a recalcitrant goat and a set of backward facing horns it isn’t an easy job, though blindfolding them with a handkerchief seems to make it easier for some reason.

We’ve now had over 160 lambs so we’re a touch over halfway through. That’s good because there’s only so much cuteness you can take, plus there is a limit to good humour when people keep knocking on the door asking if they can look at the lambs.

My favourite farm animals are the guinea fowl, followed by goats, and pigs. It’s based on character. Chickens I can take or leave. Sheep?  No comment.

Lots of people like sheep.

Then again, lots of people like reality TV.

No judgement, just saying…