Monday, 17 March 2008

The Goat House Rocks

Geisha the Anglo Nubian goat is now at the Rock.

After Herculean efforts from Tracey, Karl and myself we managed to get the goat house fully functional late Saturday afternoon.

But what a day!

The usual Rock Routine involving feeding the birds, the sheep and horses. Luckily the dogs are on a self exercise programme so as we work with the various beasts, ferrying buckets of feed and water to all points of the compass the pack career up and down the hill chasing rabbits, each other and their tails. Faith the Gordon setter only has two speed settings, flat out sprint and collapse. She is really busy in the mornings making sure no blackbirds ever land in the hedge, and if they do she is there to intercept. So she spends most of her free time running pointlessly up and down the lane, tongue out, and white foam flob all over her head as she harasses the birds of the hedgerow.

Once all the jobs were done we settled to a Rock special breakfast, this consists of a piece of toast with two pieces of bacon on top, a piece of eggy bread on top of that, then a fried egg and either a piece of bread or fried bread on top of that. Delicious and almost totally calorie free.

We took Karl over to see Steve, the nice man who is going to build our stables, and to see the two litters of Berkshire pigs. Beth our 19 year old daughter also joined us on this trip, we don’t usually get her out on countryside pursuits, particularly if they involve going outside and daylight, but the temptation of seeing piglets that were only six days old was too much even for her to resist. Luckily she didn’t find the experience too taxing and there were no serious side effects of being exposed to daylight. They were gorgeous, we committed ourselves to having four of them, and hopefully they will arrive at the Rock late April. By then we will have some spare capacity in the outbuildings, space in other words, this does depend on Steve finishing the stables and Tracey not rescuing more animals.

We had a quick tour of his stable block and showed Karl what can be achieved if you follow plans and measure wood before cutting it accurately. To call it a stable block is to do it a disservice, it’s more of an equine cathedral constructed of wood. It is an amazing building, built by a man who takes a genuine interest in his work and wants it to be as perfect as possible. This is in complete contrast to Karl who adopts a unique approach to carpentry, one that usually involves using a hand axe as a hammer and six inch nails bent over once they stick out the other side of the wood. Karl cannot pass a plank of wood without succumbing to the overwhelming desire to saw it in half. Steve was particularly interested in my reasoning for having a seven inch deep concrete pad on which he is to place the stables, tack room and dairy. He would have only put four inches down, in fact his monument to horses in only on four, apparently what I had put down you could build a house on. I refrained from the banter as Karl gleefully told him how I had miscalculated on the concrete block front having ordered 240 breeze blocks and finding we only needed 41 to build the retaining wall in front of the kennels. In fact, put the blocks with the over order of timber currently resting on the concrete pad there probably was enough material to put up a pretty decent bungalow.

After an hour at Steve’s we raced over to the builders merchants and spent another fortune on materials to house the goat in luxury. This time I had measured properly and didn’t over order on the just in just in case principle.

It rained the whole time we were outside, Torrential heavy rain that saturated our clothing and washed away our senses of humour. Tracey saw first hand Karl’s fantastic measure once cut twice technique as the over order of planks was cut down to size, sometimes the right size but more often not. We got the roof on, and in my effort to save cash and not have spare material found, to my acute embarrassment, that I had got it totally wrong and we were going to be one piece short. The builders merchants would be shut, the roof on the pens would not be finished and it was still raining. Heavily. The only bit of luck we had was that the nice man at the builder’s yard couldn’t count and had accidentally given us an extra sheet of corrugated roofing. Hurrah!

After hours of hard work we finished and trudged through the mud back to the cottage to put on dry clothes to get the goat. As we have no trailer and the van is unserviceable due to my having parked it under a tree whose branches could not bear the weight of the snow fall last November. It broke, fell on the van and smashed the windscreen. The only way of transporting the goat was to take two of the rear seats out of Rene the RX4 and have Karl hold her while Tracey drove us back. I was exempted goat holding and driving duties on account of my bad arm.

We got over to Maggie’s farm just as it was getting dark and foggy. Things obviously weren’t going to be hard enough so the weather decided to add to our difficulties.
Maggie was as usual an absolute star. We met her at the Three Counties show last year where she and her daughter Gabby were showing goats, winning as usual. She is the UK’s expert on the Anglo Nubian, written a book, prints the t shirts and so on. She is a goat goddess and totally friendly to amateurs like me. We were very lucky that she had decided to sell us one of her precious charges as her herd is renowned for its prize winning bloodline.

As she and Gabby showed us around the goat house I got quite emotional at seeing such lovely animals. I was reminded how sad it was when our lovely Anglo Nubian died last summer, she went from a healthy goat to corpse in 24 hours.

If I thought piglets were cute they were nothing compared to week old goat kids! They oozed cuteness as they bounced around the pen. Karl spotted the Billy, for a split second I thought about not warning him that you shouldn’t stroke Billy goats as the smell will kill you. As Karl would have to travel in the same car as the rest of us I warned him just in time and Karl managed to avoid being irresistible to female goats and the need for a shower.

It all went very well. Geisha was calm and well behaved and seemed to enjoy the car trip. She lay in the back, occasionally bleating along to the prog rock from the car stereo and happily sneezing goat bogies over Karl’s last clean pair of trousers.

Back at the Rock she was installed in the new goat house and settled down for a quiet night. I was happy that by autumn we would be thinking of having goat kids of our own, and then goat milk. The goat was happy eating fresh hay and singing Marillion songs to itself in its new home. Tracey was happy to finally being allowed to sit down after a hard days work, relaxing with a copy of goat news and a coffee. Karl was happy, he was one day closer to escaping his forced labour at the Rock, even more so when he got himself a kebab. Well, you can overdo the organic stuff!

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