Not Your Regular Saturday Night
One of the things I love about living in the countryside in France is that I know quite a few food producers. We are lucky to be friends with some stallholders at our local market and this is worth gold when it comes to sourcing good food. A young couple we’ve become close friends with, have recently taken over a goat farm in the area, Adrien and Delphine. I admire how brave they are. It’s never easy to make a living anywhere and they have chosen this path simply because it is all they have ever wanted to do. That kind of passion is truly inspiring. They have been patient. Farming is not in their blood. They come from the greater Paris region. However they have been progressing along and working towards their goal, knowing that someday, the right farm would come on the market, in the right place at the right time. And we’re lucky it’s not too far away from here!
Their work is interesting because not only do they rear and take care of their animals but at the other end, they produce cheese. This fascinates me because you have to wear two hats. The farming hat and the foodie hat! We love going to their home (not just because we get to eat copious amounts of goat’s cheese!) but because there is always something happening. Our children always have the time of their lives. Running around with the goats, the dog, and the ponies! At the moment there is no cheese being produced because the nanny goats are all either pregnant or birthing.
The birthing started last week so we decided on Saturday to go and see the new kids on the block! The first thing that greeted us was a cacophony of bleating. I don’t think I was quite prepared for the cuteness! I’ve mentioned before that I used to spend a lot of time on my uncle and aunt’s farm, but if there was one set of animal I used to keep away from it was the goats! There were a few goats and I think they were maybe a little bit wild. They were so cranky and would kick whenever we went near them (although I wouldn’t blame them now looking back. I’m sure as children we annoyed the hell out of them!). So I don’t have any memories of being attached to a goat at all. There were cows that I used to love to see. There was always a special cat or a dog. Even one or two of the turkeys had their charm. But the goats – nope! So I don’t ever remember being exposed to goat kids. The first time I went to Adrien and Delphine’s farm it was with a certain amount of trepidation but I rediscovered goats in all their glory! Now I love them and the sight of all the kids, just a few days old skipping around the place, was cuteness overload and a joy to behold. First of all apologies for the shabbiness of the photos but I’m not the best photographer in the world and the little critters were literally hopping of the walls!
The goats are wintering inside for the moment so there is quite a lot of work to be done. Feeding, bedding, birthing! Generally, like any other animal, the goats give birth without too much trouble by themselves. When we were there on Saturday night the plan was to pop over and see all the little’uns and then we were going to stay for drinks. The work had just finished up for the evening and Delphine was literally washing her hands when she noticed a nanny having a bit of trouble. We had a quick look and it was clear that there was a little mite on the way but it was coming the wrong way around! Delphine put the gloves on and said “I think we may be here a little while yet!”
Delphine expertly delivered the poor little thing with such assurance and instinct but alas he didn’t survive. However straight after, we saw that there was another one on the way. Again coming out the wrong way. Delphine had to pop the gloves on again! This time there was a happier ending! A little female. She was adorable. As soon as she was delivered all of the other nanny goats came over to join in the cleaning ritual. The poor mother looked pretty relieved but after a quick examination of her abdomen Delphine said with a smile “We’re not having our drinks yet! There’s another one to come!”
It was fascinating to watch what happened. The expectant mother put her head into a corner – as if to block everything else out and she really seemed to concentrate on the delivery. The little newborn kid was lying in the middle of about four other goats being cleaned and warmed up. Even the cat came in to see what all the fuss was about! Then big Mama weighed into the circle! But it wasn’t the kid’s Mama – it was the oldest female in the herd! She’s called Dacia! The matriarch! She chased the others away and wouldn’t let them near the kid, standing over her and protecting her while the real Mama was busy. The third kid was again breach and Delphine had to get acting quickly but sadly the last kid, a male, didn’t survive either. It tore a little at the heart to watch, but then seeing the little surviving female get up on her feet and start to suckle warmed the heart again. So many attempts to stand on her little spindly, trembling “bambi” legs. Wobbling and bleating with pride! It never ceases to amaze me in the animal world that a little tiny newborn can be up on their feet after half an hour. Imagine how weird it would be if we were like that!
After Delphine checked that everything was ok, and after a few of the goats had received a reassuring hug, we left a very quiet calm herd in the dark and made our way over to the house. Seeing life and death in the same moment – a bittersweet reminder of what everything boils down to. We can’t do anything more but take it as it comes.