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A Walk With My Son.

Could farm output improve along with biodiversity?

With the ever extending lockdown combined with home schooling, trying not to loose ones mind becomes ever more difficult. Thankfully for us we have the farm and land around to keep us busy. For the last 7 years almost to the day we have been trying to increase farm output by an ever increasing move towards intensive farming practice. With this mindset last autumn the sheep were sold so that we could focus on more fields for hay cutting and then grazing greater numbers of goats in the late summer and early autumn.

This year my outlook has changed somewhat on the farm and its management. Stripping the farm of the sheep throughout the winter has indeed increased the amount of grass available for hay cutting but other changes have occurred in the process, insect life seems as though it has shot through the roof with large numbers of butterflies populating the farm once more I’m asking myself is this because the variety of flowers have increased too now the ground isn’t grazed year round within an a blade width of the soil? Or have they, is it just that I have the time to slow down and appreciate it more? Certainly one memory shortly after we purchased the farm stands out, having been left for many years to do its own thing. I was walking through the long grass, thick and deep kicking up clouds of butterflies with each step, seemed like so long ago.

Back in September 2019 I found my love of birdwatching again. Bird watching was something I did with my father as a child. Having found the passion again I have started looking at recording the species flitting between the berry rich branches of the hedgerows surrounding our fields! In 15 minutes 25+ species could be counted with ease, with nine of those being on the endangered species red list and a further five on amber list! At this time we have 3 red species nesting in the farm yard area alone! It unfortunately isn’t all good we have seen at least an 80% decrease in swallows over last 5 years.

In contrast to our own farm, in late autumn last year we took a walk around another farm just the other side of the valley, not more than three miles away. This farm is in HLS (higher level stewardship) management and had won recognition for its work. Excited to see a greater number of species as a result of the “farming for wildlife” and the work that had gone on, I was to say at the very least shocked! In comparison to my own farm and my 15 minute walk with 25 species, this thirty minute walk about that farm revealed just a handful of birds with a species diversity that could be counted on one hand, and my ears were deafened by the silence! Was it that I was that used to the hedges and fields of our little patch being filled with the vocalization of over 25 species at any one time?

It is true that farmland birds have decreased rapidly over the past few decades as a result of the ever increasing use of intensive farming practice involving herbicides and pesticides, but what I could suddenly see was how the other areas of management were impacting the food reserves available. For example hedges across the local area had been flail mowed decimating the berries that would have formed on the tender new growth through the summer and opening up the heart of the hedge so no small bird could shelter from the cold east winds. What we have on our own farm without planning was in effect an oasis in a desert!

Now I have always felt that things happen for a reason and I recently listened to an audio book (I rarely have time to read) by Isabelle Tree called Wilding. In this book she discusses the naturalisation of her 3000+ acres of estate and the increase in biodiversity that subsequently occurred. I am encouraged by her methods and results to try a little bit of what Isabelle writes about. Now don’t get me wrong this wouldn’t work for us on just 11 acres, I cant help but think that this would ensure a rapid collapse of the business that we have grown, but it revealed to me that there might be a different way. Take the ideas of naturalizing and rewilding our farm, one in which invertebrate rich meadows and hedges filled with birds could work for us! As a result I have started formulating a plan, a plan that I hope will work! And so today took my son William for a walk down the field to collect the memory card from the camera trap and see what he thought of the plans, if he couldn’t see the logic I knew he would tell me, he’s like that.

As we headed into the ‘spring paddock’ I stopped, “Hear that?”

“No?” was the reply from William,

“Listen to the bird song” I pause while I wait for it to start again “….that one!”

With typical childish “Yer what” from William I gently fall to my knee, pull my phone out and play the song from a variety of species starting with the Robin, “we must try to match the tune pitch and tempo to what we can hear just like we did in music lesson the other day”

“Nope that’s not right” he says. I play Blackbird next, “No wrong tune”, then I play the song of the Mistle thrush “That’s it! What is it?” William asks me.

“That’s a Mistle Thrush, they are a red list bird” I say.

Suddenly more interested as he has heard me talk about the red listed birds and recently the thrushes “Excellent we don’t have many of them!”

We move on down the field I explain “They are here along with a lot of the birds because of the thick hedgerows that give them places to hide and find food, in this country we like to cut the hedges, why do you think that is?”

“To keep them tidy?” William questions, his head tilted to one side reminiscent of a dog asking for a treat.

“Yes but do we need them tidy” I point at an entangled patch of brambles, sloe, and hawthorn some 12ft wide. “Is it in the way”


“So long as they don’t encroach to much some sprawl is ok! When they get to much we can lay the hedge to let it regrow.” Laying is the art of cutting half way through the trunk of the tree so it “lays” down, this thickens the bottom of the hedge and promotes regrowth, and I hadn’t realised until recently this was also a way of farmers of old feeding the stock in the winter by feeding the trimmings.

Pausing to remove the memory card we had come to collect from the camera trap, a butterfly seemingly randomly skips past. Taking the opportunity the wildlife was providing me I prompted William with the question “We get lots of bugs on the farm because we don’t use sprays to kill them, what might kill the bugs if we got to many?”

“The birds!”

“Exactly, if we can give them a home then they are here waiting and eating the bugs. What else might we get?”

“More bugs, different ones and some of them might be rare!”

“Yes William and that’s biodiversity in action”

“I like that word, bio-di- ver- sit-e” as he recalls the word lodging it in his memory to recall later in a spate of verbal diarrhea.

“Lets walk up to ‘New Wood’” I say lifting William over a new fence we have put in to restrict the goats browsing out the lower parts of the hedgerows later in the year. We walk through what has been for the last few years the main sheep field, now knee deep in grass.

“Could you leave this as meadow dad?” William questioned

 “If I change how and when I mow the grass for hay it will change the plant species in it. You know I always try to cut everything in the same week, that is not going to happen now! Some of these fields will be left until the grass and flowers seed, this will give us more types of flowers and somewhere that the grass snakes can hunt”

“We have Grass Snakes?!”

“We used to have lots but they have all but gone with the constant grazing”

We crouch in a clump of grass next to New Wood. Our ‘New Wood’ is 300 trees of different types, planted in a day whilst William was at school just before Christmas. At the time it looked like a collection of dead sticks shoved in the ground in a random pattern. Now about 4 months later each stick had a pompom of leaves bursting from the top in an explosion of green.

“Wow you have a lot of oak trees” William exclaimed. Not all the trees are oak trees but his Mum does love them and why would she plant anything else?!

“There’s all sorts of trees here, this will form an island in the farm for animals to take shelter, it will also lead to more biodiversity”. From our clump of grass where we are sat I start pointing out the different tree species, “That’s an Oak, Willow, Rowan, Silver Birch, Alder those are the big trees in Grandads wood, Poplar”

“Oh I like that name! Pop-la” he repeats

I point to the ground at his foot a small flower spike with a clump of random pink flowers, “That’s Milkmaids”

“It’s pretty”

“Can you name any others?” I ask him.

“Clover, Thistle, Dandelion…” a thoughtful pause as he had run out of what he knew and drew a blank.

We stand and walk uphill back to the house to start the next home school lesson, “These ‘weeds’ are an important part of grass land habitat but soon these weeds will be suppressed by other new species in competition with them now there’s no sheep grazing all year, those species will be better diet for the goats and we won’t have to spray them.” I see a fluffy seed head of a dandelion “should we blow it?” I ask.

“No let the wind do it!”

So now that I have the sons blessings to keep our small plot wild, we shall be doing our little bit to continue to be an oasis within the desert.

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We have Milk!

We have Milk! Been a very bust time down at Ganders Farm, the Ice Cream production room is up and running and our little Ganders Goat Gelato Ice Cream Wagon is out and about selling some fantastic flavours and super tasty treats that have half the fat and calories of other (cows milk) ice creams, not to mention how good it is for those of you who have a lactose intolerance! You can find out where we will be next on the events page or you can even hire us!

Out at Market!
Out at Market!

Pheew! What a busy busy month or two (or even three!) it has been down at Ganders Farm. First we started off with our older set of girls kidding, we have been very lucky and only had to assist on a couple of them. Each of our original girls now has two or three new kids, so our gorgeous girls did really well this year. If you would like you can see some of the videos of the girls giving birth and keep up to date with their naughty antics on our facebook pages, but here is a run down of what happened!

Enjoying the sun
Enjoying the sun

Foggy was the first too drop this year with a single female who has been named Nimbus, sticking with the weather theme! Misty gave us a strong set of triplets, as did Pale Face and Carrie. GG and Shandy, the last of the old timers gave us twins apiece! Our new girls were a mixed bunch Dotty, Socks and Gobo gave us some very pretty twins and proved very early on to be great mums especially Gobo. Last of the new girls were Stockings and as previously mentioned Foggy who gave us healthy big strong single kids. And finally bringing up the rear were the girls born on the farm, Niki who is Carries daughter from last years kidding gave us a very handsome boy and a pretty girl. Shandy’s girls, Caramel and Debbie gave us three between them.

Just Born
Just Born

So if that wasn’t enough to be getting on with we have been lambing our Badger Faced ewes. In fact we are still lambing and this morning we had another set of twins! Lambs tally so far 7 boys 1 female (not including this mornings). Its been heavy on the boys this year but they are all good lookers, great markings to a high breed standard, so we made the decision to leave them entire, this means they still have their boy parts and their tails have not been docked, something that if they were being sold at market we would usually do. This is because sheep with long tails tend to be more prone to fly strike, getting a lower price per head, not something we want! Fly strike is where the flies smell the excrement around the bottom that has got caught up in the wool and lay their eggs, these in turn hatch and begin to eat the sheep (yuck! And OW!). But we are going to keep them entire as they grow better and get to a good size quicker, for example lambs from last year that we castrated and docked are still on the farm, close to being excellent condition for sending but now are no longer ‘Lamb’ they are now ‘Hogget’, if we left them another 9-10 months they would be ‘Mutton’.


So here we are, busy but very happy with all the new additions! We have been taking our ice cream along side our wonderful to sensitive skin goat milk soap to our regular farmers markets for about a month now. We have had great feedback, even when it had snowed on the first morning that we took it out!

fresh milk each day
fresh milk each day

Ganders Goat now make your inside feel great as well as your outside! How about a bath with our soap and a tub of our ice cream on the side of your tub?! Head over to the online shop for your soap and find us at your local farmers markets and soon in some excellent stores (please keep those fingers crossed for us, we are in talks with some great places!)

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What Ganders Farm Is About And Why We Do What We Do!

Reduce, recycle, re-purpose, reinvent and relax!

Iron chicken made from old tools that we made for a Christmas present.
Iron chicken made from old tools that we made for a Christmas present.

Here at Ganders Farm we have many factors that contribute to what we do on our farm, why we keep the animals we do and what drives us to produce and make the things that we have. When we started out it was all about growing our own food, but nearly 6 years on the postage stamp veg patch has turned in to nearly 11 acres, a lot of what we do is second nature to us but as the new year dawned it got us asking what are our ethics and morals that drive what we do? One of these contributing factors is that we want to reuse where we can. When we started the farm there was a lot of waste left and dumped on the land, some was in a useful state but most was just someone else’s junk. Where we could, we made good, so broken fences were repaired from other disused sections. Old tractor tyres that were left laying around the farm became vegetable beds and our old chicken shed (from the allotment) became the new farm loo, minus the chickens (most of the time)!


We endeavour to reduce the waste we create and the waste that the animals produce. For example any fires we have the ash is used for the chickens to have dust baths in, sawdust bags are our new refuse bags and the soiled bedding goes first to the muck heap and then is spread onto the hay paddocks and onto the vegetable beds, producing healthy fertilized crops from both.



Re-purposing materials and making something new from old challenges us to get inventive. I have an old scaffolding tower that has been cut and remodelled into a four goat milking stand, something I would not suggest unless you have great knowledge or a very useful partner who can weld and visualize the end results from a pile of scrap that you so lovingly bring home! Our stall that we take to the farmers markets is made from old potato chitin boxes and our point of sale displays have been put together using a mix of recycled and new to us items. Our new barn that keeps some of the elements at bay is made from some tin that a neighbour was throwing out and used telegraph poles, constructions doesn’t get much sturdier than that!

The new barn, apparently somewhere in there is a pot of gold! still looking!
The new barn, apparently somewhere in there is a pot of gold! still looking!

Mostly upcycled bits on our stall.
Mostly upcycled bits on our stall.


Some of you may know that we sell the excess eggs from the farm at the front gate but did you know that we can’t reuse your old egg boxes that you kindly give back to us? Even here we have a plan to recycle as we get quite a lot returned. I have been taking them home and with some recycled paper, card, hot wax and sawdust I can make firelighters that we plan to sell out the front next to the eggs. With just a small amount of effort your returned boxes that would have gone into the recycling bin can be turned into something. So keep an eye out if you have a fire at home and want an easy way to get it going!



Diversity on the farm is a huge contributing factor, we love the wildlife and want it to be around not just now but for all, our farm is maintained for the animals and wildlife. If we have had to remove a habitat we try to put another back somewhere else on the farm, so long grass for example in the hay paddocks gets cut once or twice a year to provide fodder for our animals, but when we do we leave a strip around the fiels uncut and there is always long grass in the top paddock not too far from where the hay paddocks are. Log piles and dry stone walls give great hiding spots for many creatures all around the farm. Each edge of the farm has a hedgerow, these are on the long-term plan to be laid and have extra planting put in of native and fruiting plants into the gaps that have appeared over the years! The farm has many varieties of birds that visit, pass over and hunt the land, some we have put up nest boxes for to help encourage them to stay. Many others have found their own homes in gaps between walls and in the ends of metal roofing tubes, much like my blue tit family who have nested in nearly the same spot every year since we have owned the farm and the robins that insist the post box is their home!



Some people call it enrichment, down at Ganders Farm I call it ‘Goatainment’. We try to replicate certain aspects of the natural behaviour for our goats. Foraging for example, our girls have their hayracks up high so they have to get up on their hind legs just like they would if picking leaves from a tree. They have things hung from the roof beams that when licked or nibbled, move allowing for certain playful natures to run riot! Recycled wooden boxes, beams and rocks allow for jumping, climbing and balancing when they are feeling active and there is no sign of rain! Broom heads and old brushes are tied onto the gates for scratching and the odd felled log gets just the right spot between the horns!

Salt rock hung from ceiling. Makes the goats look crazy.
Salt rock hung from ceiling. Makes the goats look crazy.

Our soap started off as a by product from the excess milk that we had left over from our house, we didn’t want to waste it and well the dog was getting fat! Turned out it was great and you know the rest! (And if you don’t, hoof yourself over to our online shop and check out some of our amazing soaps!)



With the up coming ice cream we are again keeping it local, we are using small independent businesses, pick your owns and village cooperatives whenever we can. Other farmers who we meet at the markets who produce some brilliant products will be making regular appearances in our seasonal flavours. We endeavour to keep ingredients from within a twenty mile radius just like we do with our soap, this wont change as we believe that if you say locally produced that doesn’t mean just made local it means sourced local to.

The new parlour, ice creams too tempting for little ones!
The new parlour, ice creams too tempting for little ones!


And now to relax, knowing that we really are trying to do our best by the animals, environment, your skin and tummies! Not only are we getting great feedback from customers all over the UK about how lovely our soap is but we are also bringing you some brilliant ice cream in the next few months. So if you have the appetite of a goat and want to try some head over to the event pages and find out if we will be near you soon or you can invite us along to an event your holding, like the ‘stuff-yourself-silly-with-ice-cream-day’ you know you want to hold!

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Humans + Farm + Goats = Goat milk Soap


Welcome! Oh, this is exiting, my first blog on Ganders Goat. I thought that I should let you know a little about the farm, our family and well, I guess the stars of the show, the Ganders Goat goats too! I should also explain how goat milk soap comes in to it all too I suppose.


We are a family of four-if you count Lady the dog (which we do). If I took the time and counted the rest of the animals, well I’d still be counting while you read the rest of this post! Not long after meeting (as he calls himself ‘the not so silent partner’ and some of you may also recognise him as ‘Farmer Ian’due to his work at West Lodge Farm Park) Ian , we travelled together across the USA with a tiny blue tent, confusing almost everyone we met there (most people couldn’t get over how we could travel in something so small), then travelled down to the Western Sahara where we had a ‘little’ accident and limped the remaining parts of (at the time, his dad’s) Land Rover home! So we are not strangers to small adventures, or to mending and fixing. This came in extremely handy when bought our house in Corby as it was a total mess! We knocked down almost every wall and put it all back again. Then I think that we settled down. Well we re-homed the dog, a pretty, mad collie who pops up in some, if not in most of the pictures across the site (she photo bombs the rest!).

Ian and I got married a little over 5 years ago and I think I was one of the few brides who turn up early to their own wedding; I actually beat my dad to the venue! Then not long after we had our little man, William! The aptly named ‘Smudge’ who is very handy around the farm, loves helping out during hay bailing by riding in the tractor with daddy, directing him towards the next row. He is head goose herder on the farm, and has excellent technique to get them where we need them!

The house we bought had a big-ish back garden, large enough, we began to think, for a few veggies and four hens. We did this for a while before we got ideas to take on larger projects. This is where our small ideas started to gain momentum! Behind our house was a disused allotment, with thirty years of growth and rubbish. Well, of course, we got carried away! We managed this space for three years before handing back two-thirds to the council so other keen allotment people could enjoy the space and we could move on with bigger plans. We still keep one-third for wildlife management and coppicing wood that we use at the farm.


Our smaller plans then became big plans; soon we had found and bought our 10.69 acre plot at auction. This was only after four years of searching all over the UK and it was just down the road! Again it was in a bit of a state, so out came all the tools, strimmers and loppers that we’d put to good use before. And now here we are, three years later, setting up a business. (eeeck!)

On our farm we have a wide variety of livestock. We have only just recently lost our four, original stock of hens that we bought for our back garden to Mr Fox and old age. We used to sing the Ganders Farm version of Old MacDonald to William to help him learn the animals: *Young McWilliam had a Farm ee-i-e-i-ooh, and on that farm he had some (add you own sound effects!)…. ducks, geese, pigs, sheep, chickens, goats (if pretending to be a Billy goat you can blow a raspberry here!) and bees!

Goat milk soap made with Ganders Farm honey!
Goat milk soap made with Ganders Farm honey from the bees!


One of our goals for the farm was that we wanted to provide our own milk for the house so we started off with a (very temperamental) cow called Enya. She was great in the field, we were able to milk her a little if we had enough food in the bucket as she was ruled by her stomach! Unfortunately Enya was hell in a barn; this was a necessary evil to stop her poaching the ground (turning it into a muddy mess) since, when autumn comes, the hill we farm on becomes very soggy and soft and a cow’s hooves just cut through the grassy layers, leaving mud. As time went on (two winters) and she still didn’t like the barn or calm down, we realised that she wasn’t the animal for us and our hill was not right for her.

We started to look elsewhere for a solution and we found it – GOATS! Oh, how we fell in love (ok. how I fell in love); soon we had Carrie and Shandy, mum and daughter. They came from an exposed hillside in Wales where they had been kept by a great lady named Jan who couldn’t keep them in the life of luxury and pampering that they were used to due to changes in her circumstances. Here at Ganders Goat we couldn’t have wished for a better start to the herd; friendly, fun and affectionate are our first Ganders Goats. Not long after, we knew we were hooked, even the distinctive smell of a hired in billy goat didn’t put us off, especially with the great results of that pairing; we had triplets from both Carrie and Shandy, twins from Misty (the white one) and another set of triplets from Guernsey Girl (one of our two Guernsey goats). Our herd was expanding and my heart definitely did with all these silly bouncy kids about! This year we have brought onto the farm four new goats to add to our original herd, you can find them on the ‘Meet The Herd’ page and learn a little about each of the cheeky Ganders Goats.

Goats love fuss!
Goats love fuss!


The thing is Goats equal milk and potentially a lot, milking up to four litres a day, what to do with all this milk? I was chatting to a friend about my sensitive skin, who spoke of a friend who’d used goats milk to make soap, that was the spark that ignited the fire! the more i researched this i realised this could be the answer i’d been looking for. Goats milk now equals goats milk soap. we started working on recipes, much of my research had yielded many a recipe that had a long list of addition ingredients. all these “extras” would inflame my skin, it was here that the KISS bar was born! The KISS bar is goat milk soap in its striped back naked form, if it doesn’t need to be there it isn’t!

Keep It Simple Soap Simply 'Goat milk soap'
Keep It Simple Soap
Simply ‘Goat milk soap’

Hopefully you will enjoy getting to know them and us (poor you) with the help of the website. Or if you are extremely brave and in the area, by meeting us at a local farmers market, hoof yourself over to the ‘Events’ page to find out where we will be next!