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Alex and Graham get to grips with the realities of French rural life on their Normandy smallholding. More Info

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January 2011
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Putting Down Roots

Nellie the Poitevine

January 25, 2011

Quite a French thing to do on a Saturday afternoon; driving along with a goat in the back of the car, a Jack Russell terrier in the front, a trailer load of hay towed behind.    I found a Poitevine goat for sale and she ticked all the boxes; young, healthy, in milk, no horns.  It was an eight hour round trip to get her; France is a big country with lots of gaps in between things, we’ve discovered.

  Poitevine goats are dark brown/black and white, with long hair, and their milk is prized for making cheese.  Nellie, our new goat is called, and she was being sold by some lovely English people who were giving up goat keeping.  When we arrived we were given a glass of Nellie’s milk — the best milk imaginable, sweet and creamy.  We had also arranged to buy their very good hay, hence the need for Nellie to be transported home in the car instead of the moutonnière as we needed to use the ordinary trailer.  A long day, and one given a slight edge by the fact that on the way there our car did something funny with the accelerator, and at one point we simply ground to a halt on a steep bit of main road.  Fun!  Graham’s an intrepid soul and pressed on regardless, but we were soooooo relieved to get home again.  By the time we arrived it was dark and raining, so there was a difficult hour or so while we decanted the new goat in with the others, got the hay under cover, shut up the chickens and fed the goats, dogs and cats.

  The goats will soon be moving for the spring and summer into the old bread oven building which is almost ready after some fairly grim clearing out of all the rubbish.  Zephirine and Rose have  been out in our newly fenced field most afternoons. The solar-powered electric fence unit we bought is a success.  It’s my job to test that the fence is working each day, by holding a blade of grass on the wire; this just gives a little tingle, unless it’s been raining and I touch the wire with a big raindrop, in which case I shout and swear a lot.  This seems to afford Graham a certain amount of amusement.  Actually, you can tell the fence is on by the little red light on the energiser; but I like to make sure.

 So … chickens are safely housed, goats pretty much sorted.  Now we can get back to the orchard and potager, and finishing the chainsaw work on the boundaries.  We are really looking forward to getting everything up and running for a productive year.

Nellie's in charge

 Some time later …that Nellie is a right little madam.  Within 24 hours she had made it abundantly clear that she would be in charge of the goat department.  Zeph and Rose are in total awe.  As for milking, well, it’s been a while since I milked a goat and we had rather a lot of hoof-in-bucket the first time.  But there is now a bottle in the fridge containing fresh goat’s milk.  Brilliant.

by Alex. Find out more about Alex here.

Categories: Goats, Livestock

6 Responses to “Nellie the Poitevine”

  1. Yes, at last somebody that shares exactly the same thoughts and ideas on this topic as me. Great stuff. Absolutely love your blog.

  2. Thanks, Gilbert. The goats are settling down now after some unseemly jostling for position (Nellie came out on top). And the solar-powered electric fence is great, as is the lighting in the old pig sty, which comes from a little solar panel on the roof. Even the man who came to read our water meter was impressed!

  3. I am impressed too! I look to you for inspiration – I was planning on getting goats next, and the solar electric fence seems like a very good idea indeed!

  4. Goats are my favourite animals, Emma; I reckon you would love them. And yes, our solar powered stuff seems to work. All three goats have had a little shock from touching the electric fence (on their soft and damp noses – ouch!)and they just do it the once. If you want excellent advice on goat-keeping, have a look at

  5. Hi there!
    I was the crazy lady who bought Dianne’s other Poitevine, Roxy. We too had a long journey, but not so long as yours.
    Poitevine goats are my passion; I have two young ones as well as a castrated Billy. Unfortunately my milker died last year, but she used to give me so much lovely milk, I was into cheese production in a big way.
    Good luck with Nellie

  6. Hello, Lois! How is Roxy doing? I can see why you love Poitevine goats, they are so sweet and quirky. We’re looking forward to making cheese, Nellie’s milk is lovely and creamy.