Monday, August 28, 2006

Goats - Ten kids so far

This morning was freezing and the tenth kid was born at 6 am.
There are two sets of twins so far and all doing well.
I took this picture a few years ago when I was running about 150 angora goats.
Angora goats produce mohair.
Angora rabbits produce angora fibre.
Mohair is a fibre - it's not wool or hair.
It is called the diamond fibre because of its lustre.
I loved the angoras but unfortunately they needed shearing twice a year and at one stage, with the cyclical price of mohair, it was costing me as much to get them shorn as I was getting for the fleece.
I gather now the price is up again - $30 to $50 a kilo for kid fibre - that's how the market goes. (Note: a good quality adult can shear 6 kilos of fibre)
The goats I have now are South African Boer goats which are bred for meat - though I don't eat them, I sell them on for breeding.
I'll have some update pictures of Boer kids later.
Photo: M Muir - Angora kids - Western Australia (c. 1996).

Friday, August 25, 2006

Goats – Associated with God or the Devil?

While goats, particularly in the Middle Ages, were maligned as being agents of the devil, they have long been providers of food (meat and cheese), milk, skin and fibre (mohair and cashmere) products, and in many countries of the world are still major providers or food and income.
I, for one, have run goats for their fibre, meat and companionship for 17 years (about the same time as I have been writing – there must be a message in that somewhere – but I’ll get back to that later).
I found it interesting reading the following on a Mediaeval Bestiary website:
The goat's love of high mountains represents Christ, who also loves high mountains, that is, the prophets, angels and patriarchs. As the goat feeds in the valleys, so does Christ in the church, where good works are his food. The sharp eyesight of the goat shows the omniscience of God and his perception of the tricks of the devil.
I also like, The Prayer of the Goat

Lord, let me live as I will
I need a little wild freedom
A little gladness of heart
The strange taste of unknown flowers
For whom else are your mountains?
Your snow, wind? – These springs?
The sheep do not understand as they graze
All of them and always in the same direction
And then eternally
Chew the cud of their insipid routine
But I – I love to bound to the heart of your marvels,
Leap your chasms
And, with my mouth filled
With intoxicating grasses
Quiver with an adventurer’s delight
On the summit of the world.

Poem: Translated from the French by Rumen Goddem
Bestiary website referred to:
Photo: M Muir – Bakers Hill, Australia

Goats – The Isle of Capri

Some scholars believe that the Isle of Capri gets its name from the Latin word Capreae (goat) while others argue it is from the Greek, Kapros (wild boar).
Being a lover of goats, I like to think it is the former.
Nestled, in the blue waters of the Mediterranean, off the coast of Naples, the Isle of Capri is a large rock. Its steep cliffs soar almost vertically from the waters.
This magical island, which has long been synonymous with idyllic holidays and romance, certainly has magical qualities. It is splashed with the colour of hundreds of different flowering plants, and it is fragrant with their perfume, all year round.
It is said when you view the island lengthwise, it takes the form of a sleeping woman – her abundant long-flowing hair waving back from her head, her face, her breasts and her body lying naked on the sea.
I sailed past Capri as the sun was setting behind it.
Can you make out the shape of the mystical woman?
Photo: M Muir – July 2006

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Goat update - New kid on the block!

Well, the goats haven't had a mention for a while, so the arrival of the first kid about 2 hours ago will change all that. Expecting another 25 or 30.
Will post a few photos and let you know how the kidding goes.
Reminds me of a couple of other goat items I should have mentioned.
Photo: M. Muir - First kid for 2007 - Full blood Boer

What a week!

It's been a great week.
Today I saw a copy of the jacket cover of the large print edition of SEA DUST. Interesting - the stern of the ship looks liitle of HMS Victory (posted earlier) whereas the ship in the story is a mid nineteenth century barquentine.
Close enough though!
Also today, I picked up my author copies of THE TWISTING VINE from the post office.
I'm delighted with the final production. My compliments to Mr Hale and his staff.
Last but not least - the first of my goats just had a kid - and it's a doe. That's a good start. The rest will all follow within the next two weeks. I could end up with 30 kids.
Image: Sea Dust - Ulverscroft Large Print edition

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Fenella-Jane Miller - Regency author

Though her current work in progress is set in WW11, Fenella-Jane Miller is best known for her Regency novels. Recently, she decided to take a break from writing in the Regency era. She feels it is always possible for authors to repeat themselves.
On 31 August, her latest book, A Dissembler will be published, and the following day, LP Thorpe will reprint, The Unconventional Miss Walters, her first novel, in large print format.
Her other novel published by Hale in March, was, A Suitable Husband, and, coming up in February next year, is her next Regency title, The Mesalliance.
Living in an ancient cottage in an idyllic country setting is the ideal location for an author. And the part of Essex where Fenella lives is steeped in history. Local names and places sometimes pop up in her stories.
‘I have already sent photographs of St Osyth Priory to the artist, David Young, who creates my book covers,’ Fenella said. She is delighted with his work especially the jacket cover for, A Dissembler, and is looking forward to receiving his next rough sketch.
Apart from her three novels published by Hale Books, Fenella has written for DC Thomson’s, My Weekly Story Collections.
She has one long novel, set in England and India, partially based on her mother’s memories, which is almost complete.
Fenella has worked in various jobs, including a nanny, secretary, restauranteur and school teacher, but she always longed to be a professional writer.
Having achieved that goal, Fenella now writes every day, first drafting her manuscript by hand before transcribing it into the computer.
She has two children and two grandchildren and lives with her husband, Dusty, their border collie called Zoƫ,, and Tigger, an arthritic cat.
To read more about Fenella and her books go to: http://
Photo: M Muir – July 2006

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ancient religious book found in Irish bog

Hailed by the National Museaum of Ireland as the "Irish equivalent to the Dead Sea Scrolls", the discovery of an early Christian psalter that appears to date back as far as AD800 is the "greatest find ever from a European bog".
The ancient religious manuscript was discovered two weeks ago in a peat bog at Faddan More, in north Tipperary.
Further excavation of the site also uncovered a fine leather pouch in which the manuscript was originally kept, as well as other small fragments.
It was considered that the book may have been deliberatley hidden in the peat all those centuries ago.
The large format manuscript comprises about 20 pages and appears to be of an Irish Early Christian Psalter, written on vellum.
One page, which was open when it was found, is still legible.
Psalm 89 is set out with 45 letters per line and a maximum of 40 lines to the page.
This find is not the first from the area - six years ago, a leather satchel was unearthed in the same bog. That has been radiocarbon dated to between the seventh and ninth centuries AD. Two ancient wooden vessels were also discoverd in the bog in recent years.
The area around Faddan More bog is rich in medieval history with the foundation sites of several monastaries located nearby.
Dr Pat Wallace, the National Museum's director said that the rare find: “testifies to the incredible richness of the early Christian civilisation of this island and to the greatness of ancient Ireland." She described the find as being of staggering importance.
The psalter will now be subject to a long and painstaking process of restoration,
Source material and photo: The Irish Times, The Irish Examiner and The Guardian

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Barge building yard uncovered

John Constable (1776-1837), probably England’s most famous landscape artist, grew up at his father’s Flatford Mill not far from Dedham.
Constable lived in the heyday of the waterways when heavy cargo in the area was transported by Stour Lighters or barges. And at his father’s dry dock, the young man would have watched the wrights building and restoring the barges which serviced the mill along the River Stour.
It was his early sketches of lighters passing through the locks, and of boatmen and their boat-horses which were the inspiration for many hi famous works.
‘Boat-building near Flatford Mill’ (Constable - oil on canvas - 1815) depicts a barge sitting in Flatford Mill’s 18th century dry-dock.
Until recently this boat lock had disappeared - covered over by tons of earth.
When it was discovered in 1985 and excavated by the Stour River Trust, the dry-dock was uncovered, together with a barge which was still lying on the original timber supports.
As part of the restoration work, the Trust rebuilt the dock gates and steps (near front left in picture) using Constable’s detailed sketches.
Wandering the area a few weeks ago, I noted that Flatford Mill and Bridge Cottage, Granary Barn and Willy Lott’s house all attracted much attention, but few visitors took interest in the remnants of the dry-dock which was so significant in Constable’s life and paintings.
Photo: M Muir – July 2006

Constable Country

The setting which inspired Constable's painting - The Haywain
Photo: M Muir - July 2006

Monday, August 07, 2006

A mouse on the canal bank!

Though I love tall ships, I find canals and their boats intriguing.
I have to admit I’ve never travelled on one but I made a point of seeing quite a lot during my recent visit to UK as research for my current novel.
The SS Great Britain (see blog below) is situated adjacent to the Bristol Dock Navigation which is at the end of the Avon and Kennet Canal. Midway along that waterway is Hungerford and the village of Kintbury, where I spotted ‘Tittlemouse’ , a narrowboat, no doubt named after the Beatrix Potter character.
As with this boat, most owners take immense pride in their vessels keeping them clean and freshly painted and decorated with the traditional roses and castles designs. Many also have a colourful display of pot plants decorating the cabin roof.
And it is the Avon and Kennet which also boasts the most spectacular series of rises in England at Caen Hill (below).
Visit Granny Buttons at for a picture of the SS Great Britain (5 August) taken from the waterway at Bristol
Photo: M Muir – June 2006

Caen Hill's amazing 29 locks

If you were driving through to Devises near Rowde, you could easily pass the Caen Hill locks if you didn’t know they were there.
I thought Bingley’s five rise on the Leeds/Liverpool canal was remarkable but the 29 locks which make up this flight are amazing.
The series were built between 1794 and 1810 to lift the Kennet and Avon canal a height of 237 feet.
Though it’s original use was superceded by the railways in the early 1900s and eventually fell into total disrepair, restoration work thrity years ago has not only restored, but improved the system of locks. Today the Caen Hill locks are a popular and busy canal for recreational boaters.
Gazing up the 16 locks which form a straight line, one has to consider what an amazing feat of engineering it was 200 years ago.
Note: I will be writing more on the Leeds/Liverpool canal as time goes on especially the Leeds to Saltaire section. For more on this area visit:
Photo: M Muir - June 2006

Thursday, August 03, 2006

SS Great Britain - Bristol

I visited the SS Great Britain in Bristol a few weeks ago.
This extraordinary ship was designed 1839 in an era when square rigged shipped sailed the seas, and when Admiral Lord Nelson and Trafalgar (see postings below) where still imprinted on men’s memories.
Prince Albert Launched the SS Great Britain at Bristol in 1843, the same year Charles Dickens published, ‘A Christmas Carol’.
This monster ship was the brainchild of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and its construction was set to change the history of shipping. Here was an enormous iron-hulled ship that not only had a powerful 1000 horsepower engine and propeller (quite different from the paddle steamer type of propulsion), but also was rigged as a schooner with six huge masts. She was the first of the great ocean-going passenger liners.
Her first crossing from Liverpool to New York was in 1845 took 14 days.
In 1852 she began carrying emigrants to Australia in a time of 60 days.
The SS Great Britain even carried the first England cricket team down under, in 1861, and between 1856 and 1857 she carried troops and horses to fight in the Crimea.
In 1881, the ship was sold. Her engine was removed along with two of her masts and she was turned into a sailing ship, converted to a Windjammer – three masts carrying square rigged sails and staysails.
She battled the Horn numerous times on her way to San Francisco and circumnavigated the globe 32 times in her career.
But by the outbreak of World War 1, this once magnificent ship was being used as a coal supply ship. Soon after the war she was scuttled and left to rust away off the Falkland Islands. There she stayed for over thirty years.
The plan to salvage her, to bring her back to Bristol and restore to something of her former glory was a bold mission. The man responsible was Ewan Corlett, a naval architect.
After towing the hull home over 8000 miles of treacherous seas, the SS Great Britain returned to the very dockyard where she was built exactly 127 years before.
At last, in 2005, after years of painstaking reconstruction work, this remarkable ship was ‘re-launched’.
As a visitor, stepping aboard the SS Great Britain, dubbed ‘one of the most important historic ships in the world’, is like stepping back in history.
You can walk through the first class saloons, see the bunks of the steerage passengers, wander the promenade deck lit by numerous slatted skylights from the deck above, even see the heads (inside toilets) and the gaol.
Perhaps one of the most amazing sights is the main yard which carried just one of its billowing square sails. This single yard (which sat horizontally across the main mast), is 100 feet long and weighs 7 tons.
With passengers and crew totalling around 500 souls, the ship had to carry enough fresh stores to cater to the passengers needs.
On a voyage in 1864 supplies included the following live animals - 1 cow, 3 bullocks, 150 sheep, 30 pigs, 500 chickens, 400 ducks, 100 geese and 50 turkeys not to mention all the hay and grain to feed the livestock to keep them in prime condition for the voyage.
If you scroll down a couple of posts and you will see a picture of the ship’s elegant dining room and find a further comment about the ship.