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News archive for 2011

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Well done Jenny & Edward, two Kune Kune piglets who were born in January 2011 here at Mill Cottage and who now live at Vauxhall City Farm. They appeared in minutes 30-36 of the Alan Titchmarsh Show on Wednesday 19th October 2011. A clear message was given about the joys of pig keeping as well as blasting the myths about "micro pigs" and keeping pigs inside the house. Also secretly pleased Jenny & Edward tried to escape, despite heavy iron weights on each corner of the pen... just like the 4 we have left here at the farm of the same age, who have now stopped coming our on MCFE visits for that very reason! Tom and I had been wondering why "Jedward" hadn't tried to get out when there was clearly a carrot just out of reach the other side of the bars... we even debated if they were remote control pigs... and then we breathed a sigh of relief...they were real...and they could lift the bars (and iron weights) with their snout!


Faith gave birth to eight live piglets on Friday 30th September - right in the middle of our Macmillan Coffee Morning! All doing well, and they will be able to come out on farm visits once they are at least a week to ten days old. Take a look at the pictures and film clips to watch them being born!

Our alpacas are on bedrest at present as they had their little boy op last week. They needed to be at least a year old before they had this done. Both are recovering well, but will not be on visits for 2-3 weeks.


This article appeared in the Holybourne Magazine and focuses entirely on the amusing things children say on our MCFE bookings. It certainly has us giggling and we hope you enjoy them too. Many gems are missed or forgotten but occasionally pen and paper is close enough to hand to note them down quickly before the memory fails.

We always begin each visit with a safety briefing. These are sometimes very straightforward and we can move on quickly. However, we have had the odd curve ball thrown at us. We like to think we challenge preconceived ideas about what a farmer may look like:

"Hi, I'm Farmer Sarah...."
"Are you a man?"

Some children just have no idea what animals to expect on a farm:

“Where are the monkeys?”

We try to encourage children to think about where their food comes from, in relation to the animals they are looking at. Let’s begin with milk:

"Where does your milk come from?"

Or alternatively,

"I get my milk from the goat – (pointing to the udder) see this is where we get the milk from. You get your milk from a cow don't you?"
"No, mine is shopping milk!"

And a classic is the insistence that chocolate comes from cows. As soon as a chocolate producing cow is created, we hope MCFE will be able to purchase the first one!

Meanwhile, the birds also present issues:

"How do you know this is a chicken not a duck?"
"You are a silly farmer!"
"What do we get from chickens?"
"And can we eat chicken?"
“What about chicken nuggets?”
“They come from McDonalds”
What can you get from ducks?”
“Eggs...and you can eat them...and you can eat goose, and lambs and doughnuts”
“Can we eat turkey?
“Is there a special time when we eat turkey?”
“When we go to The Barley Mow”

And how would you have answered the following?

Child 1: Why do chicks hatch from eggs but people don't?
Child 2: Yes, cos I grew inside my mummy's tummy like a cow grows inside it’s mummy's tummy.

There are often moments that cannot be repeated, such as the time one Year 3 girl’s jaw dropped when she realized that there was a tiny bit of flour inside each wheat grain.

We do not allow the children to go into the alpaca pen as they have strong back legs and can kick. However, one of our staff told one group of children that they could not go into the alpaca pen because the alpacas were scared of children. A little girl said later "Why are they scared of children? We can be really nice sometimes."

The sort of comment we really love hearing is “This is the best farm ever”. We decided not to analyse the number of visits to farms that the child had made previously to become an expert on the subject.

Finally, sometimes we are just baffled by the responses. If anyone can explain the thinking process behind the following, we would be delighted to hear!

"What about ducks?"
"Eggs...and you can eat them....and you can eat goose...and lamb...and doughnuts!" And that's why food and farming education is so easy

Emma likes this for its total loonyness

"Can the guinea pigs ice skate?”
“Can you make the sheep poo again?”

We will keep noting them down...... but our educational services are clearly very much needed!


It has been a busy few weeks - not just with MCFE visits....apologies that we have not been keeping this page up to date. If you join us as a friend on facebook, you will receive more regular news....just search for Mill Cottage Farm Experience. The Facebook page is kept up to date and we try to add an amusing anecdote from each day - often a delightful comment made by a small child!

Here is a round up of the last few weeks.....

Lambing went very well this year – 15 ewes had been running with the ram, 13 gave birth to a total of 25 live lambs. George and Sydney were not finished though .... they broke through a fence to get to the 3 ewes we were saving for September lambing. The result is that we are lambing again now, at the beginning of June! Caroline gave birth to 2 ewe lambs (Milly and Mandy on 10th June, and we are still waiting for Fiona and possibly one other ewe to give birth.

We have recently bought Borat the boar and so he will be a permanent fixture here at Mill Cottage. He is currently with Faith and we are hoping to have piglets born at the end of September. At the end of August, we will move Charity in with Borat so that we have a range of ages of piglet to take out.

Champers and Charlie our alpacas have settled in really well and have been on many visits out and about with MCFE. They are a real hit! They were shorn at the beginning of June – not sure how impressed they were about this, but the fleece has been given to Christina who will spin it for some original Mill Cottage Alpaca Products!

We were delighted to hand over a cheque for £810 to the British Kidney Patient Association at the end of May as a result of our fundraising at Open Day 2011. We are already planning next years event - we hope to have the Hampshire Air Ambulance as our chosen charity.

On Saturday 11th June we attended Churt Fete as an attraction. The staff member working with me that day, Emma, talked me into entering Chester into the Dog Show. It was a difficult decision for which class: Most handsome? Waggiest tail? Dog & handler most alike? We settled for Best Veteran (7 years upwards). Noone was more surprised than me when my gorgeous 10.5year old Cavalier WON FIRST PLACE!! Well done that dog!


What a fab day we had on Monday!

Thank you to everyone who attended - there were over 1000 of you - and for helping to make the day the success it was. The morris dancers and jazz band created a lovely country fair feel to the event enabling people to relax with their hog roast and ice creams in a relaxed atmosphere. There were several well attended self sufficiency and craft talks given by various experts in their field and the sheep shearing was very popular.

This fantastic turnout has enabled us to be able to donate £810 to BKPA - a great days work! Photos can be found on our facebook page (search for Mill Cottage Farm Experience) and more will follow once we have the official ones through.

We are already looking at things to include for next year, Easter Monday 9th April 2012 so if you have any ideas, do get in touch!

Meanwhile, shearing has begun in earnest here at the farm!"


Dolly waited until the 3.30am bottle lamb feed to produce her single lamb - Sean. It meant we were up until midnight, then Tom insisted on doing the bottle feed run at 3.30am and ended up staying up until 430am. Then up at 6am to pack the trailer ready to go off to Southwood Family Preschool for the morning. The tag team will work again today.... Sarah is on lambwatch until lunchtime then off to teach. 7 ewes to go...At this rate, it coule be all over by this time next week! Remember, sheep haven't read the book though!


Clocks going forward? Lose an hours sleep? :-) Overnight, sometime between the 3.30am and 6.30am bottle feeds (BST) Bluebell gave birth completely unaided and unobserved to triplets: 2 ewes and a ram lamb. Katia, Maria, Nate. Our houseguests, who had been desperate to be woken in the night to witness a lambing, missed it all....! Amaryllis had it all sorted...she waited til we were back from church on Sunday evening before going into labour and gave birth at the sensible time of 8pm-8:15pm to Ophelia & Philippe. And our houseguests (who had car keys in hand ready to leave) managed to witness it all.


The sheep have behaved themselves! We have had 3 MCFE bookings today: Greening Colden Common campaign, Whiteley Community Centre plus a birthday party in Hedge End. Don't ask how we did it...but we have... precision planning played a part! The tag team worked again....and the sheep have hung on during the short while neither of us were... here. Phew!


We cancelled our plans for a day off socialising today, and spent the morning getting so many essential jobs done - quite a relief! The job list went from 26 items to just 7 left to do. Really pleased we made the decision to stay at home.... Gemma gave birth this afternoon to a single kid, Joey. So that's all the goats done. Just ten ewes to go....


These sheep must be able to read our diaries/have a wicked sense of humour. Just as we were going to bed at 11pm last night, Ruby decided that was the best time to go into labour. So we didn't go to bed.... she needed help with her huge single female, called Emily. Bed called at 1am for Sarah, but Tom was up til 2am, then 430am-5am, then the alarm goes again at 7am... We both have full teaching/farm visit days today - think more caffeine is needed!"


What is it with our sheep this year?! Heather looked like she was in labour just as Sarah was about to go off teaching for the afternoon. In a swift manoevre, which would leave would-be 2012 athletes looking like flailing fish, Tom was handed the baton as soon as he got home from his MCFE visit. However, Heather had other ideas and spent the afternoon "faffing". Eventually, late this afternoon, Tom intervened, to find once again, Breech Births were the flavour of the month. He fished out Arlene, then Cindy and finally, along came Lee too.

So far: 2/3 goats have kidded, producing three kids altogether. Gemma can't be too much longer (tonight?) 3/15 sheep have lambed, producing 8 lambs altogether, three of which are being bottle fed. Sleep is so over-rated!


That explains that then. We moved Florence up to the barn yesterday as she had been weak and off her feet for a few days. Tom was up at midnight and 2.30am. I did the 4.15am shift: could see head of lamb 1, feet back. 2nd lamb at 5.00am, same presentation. Thought that was it so started packing trailer for todays visit (what else do you do at 515am?!) Then there was Lamb 3 born at 6.00am, normal presentation. That's Franklin, Harvey and Jose . All will have to be bottle fed. Florence has obviously put everything into her lambs, but she is eating now and getting to her feet unaided...


Our first lambs born this year! Molly had Bret and Dom at 11.20pm and 11.45pm yesterday....who can guess the theme for this years names?


Jenny had her two kids this afternoon - Joel and Josie. Joel was breech so Tom had to help him out. Both are doing well. We are still waiting for the lambs to arrive!


This morning Gilly gave birth very quickly to a good sized male kid. Usually Gilly has had problems when she has given birth to twins so we are really pleased that she only had one this time and Jason seems to be strong and healthy. Lambing can't be far off.....


[Amber and Archie] Alfie and Amber have joined us! We had been looking for one dog to be a companion for Chester, but somehow we have ended up with two...! They are both Cavalier King Charles Spaniels - Blenheim colouring (a rich chestnut and white). Amber is just over two years old and is very steady, but enjoys rough and tumble with Chester. Alfie is just under two years old and is the joker of the pack! He is such a character and is already making us really laugh at his antics! They were both being rehomed due to a change of circumstances with their previous owners. We look forward to them coming out on our visits with us.


[Hope] Sady today, one of the original pigs, Hope had to be put down. She had prolapsed over the weekend and this was the only kind option for her. [Hope] She arrived at Mill Cottage at the end of August 2006 with her sister Faith I. She had a couple of litters (including her daughters Faith II and Charity, and was a very gentle lady, caring for her piglets beautifully. She will be missed.


Charity gave birth late on Thursday. Having gone to bed early to sleep off a long walk, I was very confused to see Tom standing, fully clothed with the clock saying "12:03". Charity had decided to start having her piglets at 10pm and Tom had never made it to bed! Eventually she had 9 piglets - 5 boys and 4 girls.


This morning we were up early to visit a school near Gatwick airport. It was certainly worth the early morning start - before we had left the farm! Faith was busy giving birth to her piglets. She ended up with eight - seven girls and a boy. All are a good size and she is feeding them well. As for the visit, that went very well too, and even the rain held off!


Isn't it funny what you find when you lose your way on a cycle ride?! That is just what happened to us. Having lost our way, we found ourselves staring over a fence at some alpacas. The owner came over and got chatting...and you know...one thing leads to another...and we agreed to have two male alpacas in the new year! Well, today was a very exciting day!! We travelled over to Easter Wood Alpaca Stud and collected Champer and Casper from Jeff & Sheila Easter. These two male alpacas have settled in well in their pen next to the goats, although they stare warily at the geese! It will be a few weeks before we bring them out on visits as we want them to be really settled with us first but we do look forward to having them out and about with us in due course.