Dawn’s dove-grey light presented a different prospect, to yesterday;
the sun was sadly obscured by rippling waves of woolpack cloud, heralding a change for the worse in the weather. However, the rain held off at least for today, so the goats were able to venture out onto the security of the lower pastures.
Even Tony was out & about early, desirous of finishing the milking with plenty of time to spare as we had our Processing & Marketing Grant Review Meeting this morning. I cleaned the house whilst he tended the animals; with one of us remaining inside, in case one of our visitors should become lost en route to the ffarm & require directions. We did get an early call – but it was from the Planning Officer, who was in a nearby village & wanted to visit the site on which we intend to put the Dairy Complex building.
I advised Tony he was on his way; by which time the Planner appeared on foot, having opted to leave his car at the top of the drive rather than going through the rigmarole of disinfecting it. He & Tony discussed our plans & he proved very helpful, anticipating no problems with our proposals. Tony then gave him a lift back up the drive in our car, as it’s quite a hike back up to the top.
Shortly afterwards, the consultants from the Welsh Assembly Government Grant Aid Scheme arrived; so I made us coffee whilst Tony – who of course had been unexpectedly delayed by the Planning Officer’s visit – hastily finished cleaning the milking parlour. We really hadn’t been sure what to expect; however, again, they appeared extremely pleased when we presented our Business Plan Point Brief, complete with some outline costings. We are always surprised when people remark how thoroughly we have done our research; appparently many prospective applicants to the scheme approach the initial meetings with nothing more than a vague idea that they’d like to apply. I suppose from our perspective, we have had this goal for some considerable time; & have only been prevented from applying for a grant as when we first started our research the scheme had already closed & was delayed with the reformation of the Welsh Assembly Government. So you could say we’ve had a fair bit of time to get our proverbial ducks in a row….
Anyway we felt the meeting was very positive & we were given much extremely useful guidance on all sorts of aspects to consider, regarding the business: even simple things, such as getting in touch with Trading Standards but first deciding whether to sell our product, volumetrically or by weight? That means wider consideration of how things are packaged & meted out into their containers, for example.
And I think I may have to seriously consider hiring one of Food Centre Wales’ business units at the beginning of next year, for some larger-scale product development; we really need to get things moving now, especially as we now have a more specific product focus in mind. Sometimes it almost feels as if things are finally starting to gel together, at last….!
We gave our visitors a guided tour of the Ffarm after they’d sampled some ice cream, curious as to why we feel something so different could potentially be successful. Well; as they say, the proof of the pudding is (in this case) literally, in the eating – & I’m glad to say they thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s funny, but David said “you must get fed up with people saying what a wonderful place this is” – but we never do; although it’s hard to believe we have been lucky enough to live here for almost two years, now. So much has happened: comedy, tragedy, hard graft & happiness – time has certainly romped by.
After the meeting Tony & I caught up on some paperwork, aware that the deadline for submitting our first VAT return is swift approaching. I had a long chat with Lorraine from Kid-Me-Not for advice on what to do with our six young male goats. Unfortunately FMD & Bluetongue have knocked the export breeding market for six; so the UK market is saturated with quality kids from breeders of long-established reputation who also enjoy full Herd Health Status (we still have another year’s qualification period before we can be officially Scrapie Monitored – basically, without that guarantee, pedigree herds will not buy our stock). But it was lovely to catch up with Lorraine & she was extremely helpful, as ever – I greatly admire her, she is an erudite businesswoman who has really put goat products on the map in Wales in only a couple of years; she fully deserves her success.
The news about the goat breeding market however, is leading to a difficult decision. There are a few more outlets Lorraine has suggested I pursue to sell our boys; but we may have to face the extremely unpleasant fact, that some of this year’s fine little chaps may have to be culled for meat. It’s a terrible shame as they are such super little goats from tip-top bloodlines who would give any herd a real boost to their gene pool. But we are swiftly learning that this is one of the hard realities of farming; things seldom happen as you hope.
Next on the agenda was the job of health-checking MacDougal & his ewes, & making sure their feet were in good order before separating them from the lambs. Grabbing a bucket of ‘sweeties’ I then headed off up the steep hill in Carreg Gwen & up to Parc Dan Fordd, followed first by MacDougal – whose head is never far from the food pail – then the ewes, with Tony bringing up the rear to head off any stragglers. However the girls happily made their way to the lush new grass in the hayfield without so much as a glance back to the barn where their lambs were by now creating quite a cacophany of bleating. This too was soon magically quietened when their supper appeared in the trough, after which it was time I fed us as well, once all our animals were settled for the evening.
After dinner, I checked up on the afternoon’s emails. I was amazed & delighted to find one addressed to Tony, which contained some very welcome & unexpected news. I can’t really say much more; but it could significantly change the path of our future over the course of the next few years – notwithstanding, in terms of the business & our lives here, our own plans have not changed: we still intend to live on our lovely Ffarm, with our goats, our Dairy & each other. That as they say, is a ‘ewe-nanimous’ decision!