ARAPAWA GOAT HOUSE
From the Museum of Early. This is the sort of thing we would like to build for Brenin and Mistie.
The ancient woodland here hasn't been managed in years so there is a lot of thinning that could be done to build the house and rails.
We would love to make this a social project if other will come and help. Food and some beer and a fire pit can be provided.
When I got my first two goats I was quite frankly terrified of them. They jumped up on the stable door and seemed bigger than I was. They were loud, noisy and tried to grab hold of whatever I was wearing and my hair. I got them because I wanted to make cheese and have milk for the table. I had fallen for the old myth that you can keep a goat on anything and I could sell the milk and cheese to supplement the smallholding "business". Take rose coloured glasses off, put them on the floor and jump on them!
The laws had changed. You now need a license to do things like that. You need a state of the art milking parlour tiled to the ceiling... You need to comply with EEC regulations... But, if you want milk and cheese for the table and your friends, keeping a goat is the most wonderful thing. They give love, they give milk, they can give you a structure to your life that may be missing. Also I have now been told that you can sell a small amount. "Small" being about 8 l so not so small for most people with a few goats.
It didn't take me long to realise that where a dog will give you unconditional love, perhaps these goats wouldn't. The love they gave was earned, as was their respect. That respect then became a two way street. I came to understand them a little more and in that time those girls became very special.
I started out like most people do with the Alpine types, a British Toggenburg and a British Saanan. They are big and give a lot of milk. But, I got interested in the Old English Goats and started looking around for a doe (nanny). It was just a chance conversation on an email group that drew my attention to the Arapawa Goat and quite frankly it changed my life.
These cheeky and lively little goats are a joy to be around. They are hardy, undemanding (except at feeding time) and small enough to be easily handled. Like the pygmy goat they are too small to be commercial milkers but their milk is very high fat. As I wanted to make soap from the milk that seemed ideal. I'd already branched out into Anglo Nubian Goats by then. They too are high fat milkers.
The story of how they are being wiped out on Arapawa Island broke my heart. That they might be our original Cottager Goat, although yet to be proven means that they are important to this country. If you can't do a lot, do a little. If everyone did a little we'd collectively do a huge amount.
My initial thought was that if the New Zealand Department of the Environment are wiping them out because they are not native, if there is a story that they were brought there by Captain Cook and if it has been proven that they aren't any other goat, then they must be ex British! So in a way the six that were flown over to protect the bloodline were coming home. This may be a very simplistic approach to it, but it is how I felt about it at the time.
Betty Rowe who lived on Arapawa Island became their champion and to the day she died she fought for them. Many a beautiful creature owes its life to that woman and she will always be remembered by those who hear about the breed and hear about her.
BETTY ROWE ONCE UPON AN ISLAND
The fight must go on, not just on Arapawa Island.
The original herd had been dispersed due to the ill health of their original owner and I was put in touch with Anne and John May. I cannot begin to describe their kindness and open heartedness that they allowed me, a mere beginning goat keeper, to have such a great honour of being allowed to actually own one of these beautiful creatures. The day the little girl arrived was one of the high points of my life. Mystie came here to Wales and joined us, followed a year later by Brenin, an entire buck. It truly felt that we were part of something so very special and that in some small way we were helping to keep this ancient bloodline alive. If you can't save the world at least save a bit of it.
They aren't commercial goats, they are small and in comparison to the Alpines they will have tiny udders. But, they are our history. We hope over the years to come to build a herd here and occasionally part with some of our little ones to strengthen herds all over the country.
If you believe in keeping our diversity of species then losing just one is one too many. If one can be saved, then another can be saved.... That any were lost is a tragedy.
They are small and they are hardy. They served our ancestors well and generations were raised on their milk, why can't they fulfill that role again?
The next year Hope was born. She has a letter from Prince Charles' Office wishing her mother well as she is the first born Welsh Arapawa.
The next year Snowy was born. Named in honour of Snowy Hurst, Site Warden of Horley Scout Camp, Wroxton. A true good soul who devoted his life to helping others to enjoy the great outdoors.
The next year Joy was born. Named in honour of Joyce Timms, a wonderful woman who unfailingly worked to try to support those she believed would build a better world.
In 2016 a doe and a wether were sent to Mary Arden Farm. They found her a boy and they were there for Shakespear's Centenery.
We wanted somewhere to start a sanctuary so Old Castle had a great attraction when we first found it. We have been here since March and in 2018 we are hoping to start a project to give Brenin and Mistie an authentic and warm home. We have their daughters so hopefully we can find a buck for them one day now that we have more space. We are also hoping that Davina's kid Opal will come and join us as she can mate with Brenin. If they have a boy then we have our buck.
OLD CASTLE ARAPAWAS
When it came to making a decision as to whether to stay at Pengraig in Mid Wales or to move it was mostly because of the Arapawas that we set about finding the perfect place for them. We searched and we looked at many places and I was at the point of giving up when we found Old Castle.
It is perfect as it is not only a good place for Smallholding it is also a Post Medieval Earthworks, an Ancient Woodland and surrounded by Green Castle which is owned by the Woodland Trust. So if we want to make this a permanent sanctuary and a Trust to carry on into the future and let the Woodland Trust have the rest of the land after we pass away we can guarantee a future. Having no children to carry on what I believe it is all I can do.
We moved here in March and it is slow going. We have given up a house to live in a caravan but that is no sacrifice as the goats are happy. They have the perfect place, they can go out and forage and come home to a warm dry and really large barn at night. What more could you want?
The place is a "game of two halves". There is the perfect old bit and the "farming bit". We obviously have to make an income or nobody gets fed so we were really pleased when we found the idea of a shared smallholding. That way we can "rent out" the agricultural fields and still carry on a smallholding while giving anyone who is prepared to put in the work the chance to be a smallholder. That will help us fund our non commercial activities (which seems to be most of them!). This also means that we can pay for the Arapawas.
We tried to fundraise for a specific Arapawa area as that is not possible on the funds we have available. We are trying to tie this in with our Living History Project which will be tied looked after by the Trust we are setting up.
The dream has become a reality... it was a reality ten years ago and it still is. We carry on, that is all we can do. We need people to join us now as we cannot do all the things that need to be done ourselves. Surely there are those with a dream out there...