“Aaah, that was the best night’s sleep I’ve had in days…..”
Tony sighed as he basked beneath the toast-warm duvet in a long, luxurious stretch. It was his usual enforced getting-up time: 0930am; & I’d just brought him up a hot blackcurrant drink dosed with paracetamol, to coax him out of his supine slumber over the next half-hour or so.
I slammed the cup – slopping purple liquid – smartly down on the bedside table, before furiously turning on my heel & stalking out of the bedroom. At least he’d managed to enjoy sweet, uninterrupted dreams….hrrrmph. Alright for some.
I don’t just have bags under my eyes, lately; I’m lugging two huge suitcases.
To be fair on the poor man, I did feel sorry for him after he’d had to literally limp his recent Syria flight, back to Heathrow: the virus which has troubled him since ‘drying off’ the goats prior to kidding – over which time we had to make the temporary switch back to cows’ milk – has plagued him with a vengeance during his absence; causing him to hibernate for a few sorry days in his hotel room whilst the rest of his crew explored Aleppo’s ancient souks without him.
And he hadn’t realised quite how ill he was, until during the descent to Heathrow his blocked oestation tubes erupted in agony – thank goodness, that the aircraft hadn’t had to decompress or he’d probably have burst his eardrums (which can be a bit of a career-stopper for a pilot, I gather).
However in the meantime, I’ve been doing the several-times-per-night check of the livestock; until the goats, clearly unhappy with my continual invasion of their privacy, persuaded me to unearth the baby monitor again & use that during the silent hours for their comfort, instead. Except that they’re not exactly silent….
To be honest ever since we switched back to cows’ milk, our respective health has suffered. I started getting strange heat rashes across my legs; & Tony has been unable to shake off this nasty virus, whereas before the most he’d been inconvenienced with was a mild cold for a couple of days whilst his cows’ milk-drinking colleagues suffered far worse. And my hay fever has returned with a vengeance – quite a feat for midwinter but every time I handle hay & straw now (which is every day of course) I have to dose myself up with antihistamine, beforehand. And I too have had a long-suffering bout of the sniffles, although having the windows wide open to keep the Rayburn fumes at bay, can’t exactly be helping.
I was aware before of course, that goats’ milk is considered superior in its’ health benefits, to normal dairy; however having now experienced this at first hand (feeling far more robust therefore less susceptible to the ‘doing-the-rounds’ viral infections; having soft, clear skin after years of problems; & my hayfever having subsided dramatically) I’m now a complete convert, convinced that there are definite advantages to drinking goats’ milk.
And that’s before I even mention the taste; which, if the milk’s handled correctly – i.e. is rapidly chilled as soon as possible after leaving the animal & then stored at the correct temperature – has no ‘goatiness’ whatsoever; just a pure, fresh, lightly creamy taste far nicer than any cows’ milk we’ve ever had.
I’ll never forget the day we tried our first sip of milk from the initial recruit of LittleFfarm Dairy’s herd – the lovely Woodie – & the nervous trepidation with which I poured the snow-white liquid into the glass. Our fear, of course, was that dreaded taint of goat: fine in a carefully-matured cheese, but not what you want in glass. We were amazed. It was utterly lovely: cool, creamy, luscious & light; & deliciously refreshing.
Recent research shows that fresh milk is the best thing to drink after participating in sport; as unlike water & even isotonic drinks, it most immediately & effectively replaces all the essential nutrients, vitamins & minerals lost through exertion – & goats’ milk being closer in composition to human milk than is cows’, the benefits are even greater. On a hard-working day here on the Ffarm, there’s simply nothing more refreshing & thirst-quenching than a long, inviting glass of our ‘white stuff’. And in the winter when we hurry in, muffled up from the cold, a real treat is a deep, foaming hot cup of ‘cappriccino’ – a latté-type milky coffee I make, which always hits the spot & is a big favourite with visitors & guests.
Anyway as poor Tony’s sinuses have been so blocked, he’s been snoring. And not just loudly: very, VERY loudly. It’s a bit like setting up camp on the threshold of the runway at RAF Marham (home of the Tornado fast jet fleet) & having one take off beside you every 30 seconds or so. The roar of the aircraft’s powerful engines thankfully fades into the distance……only to be replaced with another one powering up the throttles beside your tent & waking you again with the din. My answer to Tony’s current ‘take-offs’ is a swift dig in the ribs; although it doesn’t wake him, he just sort of snuffles a bit, readjusts his position…..& snores. Again.
Meanwhile in the other ear, I now have the pleasure of the goats. And because Tony snores so loudly I have to successively turn up the monitor’s volume until it’s on full; then it really is like sleeping in the shed with our whole herd of thirty-three. So firstly there’s the sound of the clock on the wall of the milking parlour. Normally inoffensive, during the darkness of the night & with the amplified monitor, it might as well be Big Ben in there…..tock. tock. tock.
And then there’s the goats. I have the sound of stereo cudding as thirty-three sets of jaws work furiously to digest the day’s ruminations, normally such a peaceful sound; but not when magnified tenfold. If one of the girls shakes her head, the sound of her ears flapping is like a manic flamenco dancer playing the castanets; & God forbid if one of them decides to defecate – I almost duck, it’s so reminiscent of the sound of being shot at with a sub-machine gun. And they too burp, snore, & fart…..
Meanwhile one of our twin goaty girls, Aerona, who was born last July keeps having nightmares; the poor little thing wakes at around 3am pretty much every morning, & starts crying for her sister in a panic (why they don’t curl up together if it worries her, is beyond me; but there we go). As the baby monitor is a two-way system – at the press of a button I can send my disembodied voice floating through the pen – I sometimes talk to her to calm her down, if she’s really upset; & it works well. (It’s also very useful if one of us is down in the pen & notices something is wrong – we can alert whoever’s in the house just by shouting; & vice versa, if relaying a message to the pen from the house. In fact I’m very impressed that the monitor works as well as it does – the cottage is quite a distance from the shed; & the signal also has to contend with the dwelling’s three-foot-thick stone walls).
So in terms of noise levels, our pastoral idyll feels more like a tube station platform at rush hour, than a secluded farm in the middle of the night. And add to the general goat+husband hubbub the continual, manic shrieks of owls over the valley; the wild baying of vixens in the woods & our stud male, Merson, getting fruity with the now extraordinarily athletic Brian at around 04:30 every morning; & hopefully the whole explains why I’m standing on that platform, with the pair of aforementioned huge suitcases.
Perhaps, I muse, we should decamp from this quiet little corner of Wales for a while, & rent a smallholding on the threshold of RAF Marham’s runway – goats & all – for a few months? Or even an inner city farm….?? That way, I might be better prepared for the rigours of kidding & lambing – & like Tony, enjoy my best night’s sleep in a fair old while.
Sweet dreams, everyone…..