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All grown up…

I guess every mother has those bittersweet moments when it really hits you that your children are all grown up.

I’m having one of those moments this week. Benj – my youngest, and the last of our children to fly the nest – turned 18 on Christmas Day 2024. Benj has grown up on the farm, and the Chuckling Goat business has grown up alongside him.

Benj is the reason for the business, really. When he was two, he was having so many recurrent bronchial infections, that it seemed like I was taking him to the doctor every few months for another round of antibiotics. On one visit, he had bronchiolitis and a fever so high that the doctor whipped off all Benj’s clothes, shoved him into my arms and said, “There’s an ambulance waiting at the front door. RUN.”

And I ran.

I’ll never forget hovering over Benji that night in the hospital, watching him struggle for breath. The doctors and nurses had done everything at their disposal – steroids, inhalers, intravenous antibiotics. Benj’s fever was still so high that they let me put him into a hospital bathtub to try to bring it down. No one knew what else to do, and they left me to it.

I remember thinking, “This is just not good enough. We are not going to live our lives like this.”

And when we finally got him home, I asked Rich what we should do about it. He said, “Let’s get a goat.”

I thought that was a really weird response to my question! But of course it’s known in the Welsh farming tradition that goats milk is good for eczema, asthma and bronchial conditions. I don’t know how they know it – they just do.

I’ve learned over the years that Rich is – annoyingly – nearly always right. So, we got a goat. As you do! She was a beautiful, wise, black-and-white goat named Buddug, and Benj fell in love with her straight away. Here they are together, in one of our first ever Chuckling Goat posters:

Benj started drinking goats milk, and sure enough, his bronchial infections cleared up. So did his eczema.

But then Buddug produced so much milk that it was always going off in the fridge. I went online looking for things that you could make with goats milk. (I didn’t want to just make goats cheese, as I thought it was a bit boring, and everyone makes goats cheese.)

Then I heard an interview on the radio with Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, who was using something called goats milk kefir to treat her patients. I wondered if I could get in touch with her, ask her to teach me how to make this “kefir” stuff in a therapeutic grade that she would be happy to give to her clients. I thought we might create a nice little market, and use up our extra goats milk.

I did. She did. We did.

And the rest, as they say, is history…

The business grew, and Benji grew. He was adorable at 10…grumpy at 14. Other family members came and joined us at Chuckling Goat. The team grew – 5 people, 11, 15, now 25. Rich and I worked a lot. Maybe too much. The years flew past.

And suddenly, Benj is 18. He’s a rugby player, a weight lifter, a naturally gifted mathematician who – if we’re being totally honest – probably could work a bit harder at his school work. Loves his sisters. Loves to play golf. Got a bit distracted during AS levels with cars and other teenage male pursuits. But still – and always – gorgeous. My gorgeous boy.

Benj’s school rugby team has progressed through to the finals of an all-Wales school tournament, and they’ll be playing at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Wed. March 20th. We’re taking the entire family, to go and watch. Chuckling Goat, all grown up into a proper limited company, is sponsoring his team.

I cherish the hope that someday, if we’re lucky, Benj may come and join us at Chuckling Goat, bringing his own brand of brilliance. Maybe creating a new high-performance sports probiotic arm to the business. Or something entirely different. Who knows!

And even better – Benj just wandered into my office with some sushi that he bought – after driving to town, in his own car, so grown-up! – and asked me if I wanted to share. We both love sushi. A holdover from my California past.

“I thought you seemed a bit down, Mum,” he said. “I thought you might like a treat.” And indeed I did.

All those memories – like drops of water in the ocean.

But some of those drops – do sparkle.

Love you, Benj!



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