So...... do we no longer have them here, that is the question.
The sheep give us most of our meat, their fleece I use for spinning (and weaving eventually), and they emit a calmness which is very soothing, unless they are in ditsy mode, and then they can be a barging force of collective bodies.
Lissie, our cow, has been giving us milk since March 2013. She gives us back a lot for looking after her as well as we can. Soon we shall let her dry out so she can have a rest until her new calf is born in August. Bonny, her 2013 calf, will be artificially inseminated later on this year, or early next year. That means that there will be times when we have two cows being milked, producing a splendid amount of milk for a smallholding, so lots of cheese, lots of yoghurt, and the food bill for the pigs can be reduced. Bonny and Elise are friendly and approachable, and feel part of our team here.
On the subject of our two Tamworth pigs, sometimes we think that they are not as productive as they ought to be, but that is only because we have not been able to organise them properly. To have breeding pigs we need to have more paddocks, and this we are in the middle of doing. Fencing poles have gone in, and once they are wired up then we can manage the pigs better. We are also giving them more food from the smallholding which helps the food bill. And the pigs are friendly too, and are always willing to have their backs scratched by a garden rake, or their ears tickled. They also like to have a chat. They are interactive with us, so are part of the team.
As for the chickens ...... they are definitely part of the team, particularly when it comes to making a raid on any food that the dogs have left in their feed bowls. Frequently we find little piles of poo scattered over the floor as evidence that a raid has taken place, or else we catch them mid-raid, and then we have a lot of ditsy panic as they head towards the front door, often with the rottweiller girls hard on their heels. And there is always a hen or two hanging round the front door, and when we are outside it is not often that there is no chicken following us to see what we are up to. They are definitely team members.
As for the geese and the Muscovy ducks, they are themselves.
But as for the goats. We had a lengthy discussion yesterday about the keeping of them. It is likely that we shall not be keeping them in the future. In truth, I do not think that they fit in very well with our smallholding, and I don't think we fit in very well with them. If an animal feels that it fits, then it is interactive with us, enjoys life, is calm, looks content, then, and only then, can we slaughter it for our food table and then enjoy the meat it gives us. It is the cycle of life on a mixed farm-type smallholding. Our animals are not pets, but they are respected and valued. If they are happy, then we are happy. We do not think the goats are happy. Perhaps it is in their nature to be aggressive with each other, perhaps they are just being goats, but they give us an uneasiness which the other animals do not give us.
Before we came to France we often had discussions about whether we would keep goats or a cow. I favoured goats, Lester favoured a cow. And then, in summer 2012, within two days, we had purchased both goats and Lissie. It would appear that having two cows is going to be the way forward. We shall see........
Sometimes hard decisions have to be made for the sake of the whole.