Tour de Fleece

Mystery wool singles yarn

Tour de Fleece usually comes and goes and I totally miss joining in.  This year, however, I am having loads of fun with it!  (This is a program for handspinners who spin as much fiber as they can during the Tour de France.  We join into teams and go for it, spinning on all the days the riders are competing, and see how much we can get accomplished.  I am on Team PortFiber, a group associated with a lovely fiber arts shop in Portland, Maine).

I have spent the first 6 days of the Tour spinning up some wool roving that is a “mystery” blend I bought from Jenny of Underhill Fibers.  It was a bit of a challenge, even for me!  The blue wool is a long staple sheep’s wool, and the white bits are fluffy little short bits.  So getting them to all spin up together was a little challenging, but fun.  I love the yarn – it’s bouncy, soft and light.  I don’t know what I will do with it, I only have about 532 yards, but perhaps it will make a nice woven scarf.  Who knows!  I can’t stop for long and think about it, I must get back to Touring the Fleece!

Finished 2 ply yarn

I still have a bit of work to do on my big production spinning wheel, however, before I get back to work. I was nearly finished plying the blue and white singles into a two ply, the wheel’s drive band frayed and jumped off the wheel. I was watching closely and playing chicken with it for that last short skein, and I lost :*<.   But, I hand plied what was left and it all came out just fine.

Anyhow, now on to some new spinning after getting a new band on that big wheel.  I can get going on my smaller traveling wheel, a Jensen Tina II, now if I want, and I just may do that and save the maintenance job for later.  I think I saw some camel/silk roving in my stash, and I also have a pound of a flax/wool roving that is going to be lots of fun.  I will have to let you know!

 

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Three little goaties

Twig and her babies in April

And now we are three.  This past Wednesday, Twig and her doeling went up to live with their new family in Temple, Maine.  They seem like lovely people, and Twig and her baby are settling right in.

It’s definitely much quieter around here, for sure!  Remaining are two bucklings, both Eleganza’s, and one of Saffron’s doelings who is supposed to be going to a woman nearby.  They are busy little bees, and all seem just fine without their moms.  The two boys are quite the boisterous duo, and Olive (which is what I call the doeling), stays out of their way as much as she can!

No interest yet in the bucklings, but we shall see.  Most folks don’t begin thinking about a herd sire until closer in to the autumn when its time to think about getting that started.

And so it goes!  In the meantime, last week I took a lovely class at the local fabric shop (Alewives Fabrics) and learned the basics of English paper piecing (a different type of quilting technique).  I love it!  I will post some photos when I get a little more done.  We are having a lazy Sunday, enjoying the cooler less humid air that came in over night.  Delightful after the humidity and torrential storms last evening!

Busy week and some moving

Saffron with her babies

Yes, it’s been a busy couple of weeks.  Out of 9 goats in the girls’ pen, 4 have now moved on to their new home.  Luckily enough, they all went together:  Eleganza, Saffron and two babies.  They couldn’t have found a better home in Sarah and Tully’s place in Westbrook, Maine, where they are with other goats and young children.  I hope to get some updates, although from the sound of it they are all well, and from photos it looks like they are in a lovely spot.

And then my special baby, Jingle the Donkey, left for her new home last Sunday.  We have also lucked out in that she is not too far away for me to visit, and for the first time since she was very young, she is living with two other donkeys!  There are goats there as well, which will certainly not require her to do any adjusting, at least not much!  I have felt like a mom whose oldest child has just started kindergarten or preschool, wanting to know if he/she is making friends and having a good time!  Her new owner has been keeping me updated, and it sounds like she is getting the hang of things there.  Jingle has hit the sweet spot with these folks, as they are very knowledgable and loving animal people.  I can’t be too sad knowing where she is!  (You can read about her new adventures on Daryl’s blog FairWinds – she has two lovely posts up about Jingle)

And now it seems that we are finally getting some introduction to summer, although they are still predicting a bit of rain for the weekend.  It’s such a kick to have the leaves out on the trees again and to have some sun to enjoy along with it, that I hope we don’t get too much rain!  I am so relieved I won’t have to figure out hay for next winter… it’s not looking like a great haying season so far with all the coolness and wet.  Fingers crossed that this passes and lots more hay can be cut!

Time

Babies in the creep

I do apologize for not having taken the time for some updates and news.  The days just fly past and suddenly another week or month is gone.  The babies are growing like gangbusters, and we are finally, finally getting some reasonable weather, 70F, breezy and sunny.  Playtime out on the big rock may now begin in earnest!

Twig’s little boy

Unfortunately, I have news of the farm.  I struggled with this all late winter and early  spring, and finally have made the decision to let the goats and Jingle the Donkey go.  I can’t even tell you how difficult this is for me, but I am not up to the work anymore, and I don’t think I could manage another winter as icy as this recent one.  I suspect that winters here will continue to get warmer, which will only mean that much more ice for us here on the coast.

I am certainly fine with the day to day chores in the fine weather, but I am falling behind on the real infrastructure maintenance, both physically and monetarily.  I am on a fixed retirement income, and am just managing the hay prices, which keep going up.  (I ran out of hay right around the time the babies were born, and this time of year is not optimal to be buying it as everyone is jacking up the prices to ridiculous levels).  I am hoping that farmers are out making hay this weekend, as we are having a beautiful 4-day stretch of lovely!

Peanut with her new friend

And so awhile back I slowly put the word out that my goats are available, and I have to say that all but one buckling has been spoken for at this point.  Peanut was a particularly special case, as I needed to find her a home where she will not be bred (not easy at all).  But, a friend contacted a friend of hers and Peanut now lives the life of luxury not far from here, on a place where some horses and another adorable goat were rescued.  I have visited her and she is loving life!  Not being pushed around by the older goats here anymore, she is simply best buds with the dwarf goat over there (they have a great view, also!  I am jealous).

I have also found wonderful homes for the other mamas and babies, and Jingle the Donkey is going up to a farm not far from here to live with other donkeys and horses.  A great setting for my lovable girl.

And so it goes.  I have always thought that I would have my goats until I was at least 70, but that may have been wishful thinking!  It took a very long time for me to make the final decision, but in the end I knew that it was the right one.  I can never go anywhere between April and October because of kidding and then milking, so this will allow me to do a little traveling in the good weather, as well as actually having the money to do other things.  (Although I am seriously mourning the loss of that lovely milk and the chevre…)

The mamas and babies will be leaving toward the end of this month or early July.  It’s going to be altogether too quiet around here very soon!

 

 

 

The Saffron conundrum

Saffron

When waiting for the babies to arrive, I always think longingly of when I can start getting more sleep, and of when the order and organization of the day can get back to a new normal.  I don’t know why I am so surprised when that doesn’t happen like the flip of a light switch!  And this year is not going to pass without a bump in the road, either.

Saffron had a very tough time last year when I thought she had toxemia or milk fever after her babies were born and it turned out to be mastitis.  She mothered her babies but had almost no milk for quite a long time.  We bottle fed those girls and they did fine in the end, though.  I have been watching her very closely for signs of mastitis this year, and unfortunately, she has it again.  Although this year I didn’t waste time treating her for other things and just got right to the antibiotics, vitamin B, and udder massages.  Her babies are only drinking from the right half of her udder (which runs out of milk pretty quickly), and the left side keeps getting bigger and bigger, and they can’t get on the distended teat.  I can get the girls on that side after I milk some of it out, but once I am back in the house I don’t think they touch it at all.  It also seems to be a little tender for Saffron, and that could be part of it.  And so my new normal has been making many trips a day and into the evening to milk her left side and also to get the girls on that side of the udder.

Freedom!

The biggest difference this year is that Saffron does not appear to feel sick like she did last year, which is a huge relief.  She has been very much herself, and never stopped eating her grain and hay.  I have had her and the two sweet little girls in a nice large pen in the back of the greenhouse where they are surrounded by everyone else, but I know that is quite restrictive and I was as ready as Saffron for them to be released.  Her girls gained a pound since yesterday and are really full of beans, so after the worst of the rain today, I let them out into the big paddock world.  (The girls had not been gaining as well as they should have, although they have fared better than I expected).

Oh my gosh, those girls did not hesitate a moment!  They began running and jumping with all the rest of the little ones, and mama Saffron was standing in the middle of the action trying to keep them in her sights, calling to them the whole time.  They didn’t stray too far, but they are fast little imps and took great advantage of their new freedom.

If we could just get a nice stretch of weather at some point, they will really be tearing up the place and enjoying the days.  Nothing better than sitting with the girls on the rock pile, watching the action in the sun.  And in the meantime I will ponder whether Saffron should ever be bred again.  And so it goes on the farm.

Saffron’s day

Saffron and one of her girls

And so our last but not least girl, our herd queen Saffron, had her kids Thursday morning around 8 a.m.  It was a warm day, cloudy and a little breezy, but really pretty perfect all around!

Wednesday night as I was doing my midnight rounds, I found Saffron up in the paddock whining and crying, very softly.  I was a little alarmed, and couldn’t tell if she was talking to her babies and encouraging them to make an entrance already, or if she was upset at being alone up there!  The two other moms were in their jugs with their babies, and Peanut unfortunately doesn’t count as a real goat with the rest of the crowd, so for all intents and purposes, Saffron found herself on her own.  It was quite unusual, watching her walking slowly around the paddock under that bright moonlit sky.  She definitely had no signs of active labor, so I went in and got into bed but didn’t turn the light out so I would get up in another hour or two and check on her again.  Same thing going on at 2 a.m. as well!

Saffron’s girls

John checked on them around 4 and 6 a.m., so I headed up to chores about 7:30 on Thursday morning.  It was already comfortably warm, and Saffron was still doing the same thing.  Talking, crying and walking around!  She didn’t show any signs of wanting breakfast, though, so I knew she must be getting close.  And sure enough, while I sat in the greenhouse with the babies and moms, I was able to watch her on the little hill, pop that first doeling out.  She made quick work of getting that little girl dried off, and nursing, then her second doeling made her entrance a little under a half hour later.  I left them where they were for as long as I could, but the breeze was a little stiff and I didn’t want those babies to get chilled.  As I was carrying the doelings slowly toward the greenhouse, Saffron was frantically licking them both, and ended up washing my arms into the bargain!  She is such a good mama.

Bellies are full, time to nap!

And so our kidding year is closed now.  I am very grateful, and getting more sleep is a very good thing.  I am still sitting up around midnight wondering why I am awake, though!

Twig’s big afternoon

Twig’s first!

It’s been a busy few days!  All of our girls have now delivered their babies, just in time to avoid the rain that is coming in this afternoon.  (Actually, I think it is already drizzling).

Yesterday I came and went over and over again up to the paddock, and around 1:30 I decided to take the lawn chair to just outside the girl’s greenhouse, and relax for a few minutes.  The sun was warm, and there was a breeze, but not a bad one.  I closed my eyes, and then realized I was hearing two things:  Eleganza, who was in the greenhouse penned with her babies, was calling to Twig, her 2 year old daughter, who was outside in labor, grunting.  Oh my!  That goes to show that you are never finished with being a mom!  It was so sweet.  Twig grunted and growled, and Eleganza called.

Lighter is the doeling

Twig was doing really well, and didn’t even get up to get that first baby out, a little doe.  What a cutie she is, very spunky at a minute or so old!  I didn’t have to guess her sex, as after only a moment, she squatted to pee!  That is something I have never seen before.  Twig is showing herself to be as good a mother as Eleganza; she had that baby cleaned up and on her feet in record time.  As the afternoon wore on, however, I realized her next baby in line was having issues.  He had his head tilted up and back, and one leg was all the way forward and out, while the other was all the way back.   I don’t think I have had to help any goat births in about 10 years, and here we had two situations in two days that needed a little push.  You just never know!

As soon as I got the little guy’s head down and out the back door, she didn’t have any problem getting him out.  He’s another beautiful red buck, with a little white blaze on the top of his head.  They are both very active babies and are doing well.

And so it goes!  4 babies down.  I’ll tell you about Saffron a little later!

New life

First baby

Is always so precious and wonderful.  We finally have had our first babies of the season!  Eleganza, our beautiful Guernsey girl, went into labor this afternoon.  I wasn’t there for the very beginning, but when I went out around 2 PM, I knew that she had not just begun her labor.  She is a real trooper, and last year had two 8.5 lb bucklings without any help from us.  This time seemed to be a bit different.

Goats and sheep usually deliver their babies in an intact sac filled with amniotic fluid.  You can usually see the head resting on the two front legs, as they come to meet us as though they are diving into a pool.  This one was no exception, nothing wrong about his presentation, but there was something wrong with her ability to get him delivered.  This poor little/big fellow was coming out and going back in, which is not unusual, but our girl Eleganza was not making any progress.  I don’t tend to interfere with a birth if it looks normal, but after almost an hour, as she began to lose steam, I waited for my chance and helped the little bugger along as she was having a contraction.  He is a very big boy, over 9 lbs, and I am glad I did help him out as he had been so stressed that he was passing a lot of meconium poops into his amniotic sac.  And so we have our first baby of the season!

Baby #2

And then his brother made an appearance an hour later, just as I like to see it, so that the first could have all his mother’s attention for a bit before having to take care of the second baby.  Our little guy was up and nursing before I knew it, and the second large buckling was born with no help from me, thank goodness.  The darker red buck is actually the second born, and the smaller of the two, although he looks bigger because of the camera angles.

I love it when we have babies in the daytime!  And no, we still have no spring peepers!

Waiting, again

For goat babies, and for spring peepers!

Everyone has spring fever!

We have had some lovely weather in the 50s (F), and now today it is sleeting and snowing and blowing, but isn’t too very cold at least.  Just what I want with one of the does due to kid tomorrow!  I hope she waits until tomorrow, but compared to some of the years we have kidded and lambed, I can’t really complain too hard about the temperatures.  We have historically lambed and kidded in early March.  Brr.

Eleganza waiting patiently

Our Eleganza is the one up for tomorrow, and our Saffron due a week from today.  Both are experienced and wonderful mothers.  Twig, our two year old first time mom, is due next Tuesday.  All in all, a nice tight cluster of sleepless nights and early mornings.  Not too bad, really!  In looking back on the two older does, they have both kidded every year during the daytime.  I would be very grateful if that trend continues!

We have also been enjoying our local wild turkey population immensely.  Our house is on a mostly wooded site, with a beaver pond down back just barely visible through the trees.  And so our yard is a heavily travelled turkey route, which currently includes the back of the house at our bird feeder.  There are two or three fairly large toms that are traveling with a large group of females and a few jakes (young toms), as it is the mating season.  We have been treated to a daily show under the feeder by the tom.  His harem, however, doesn’t even give him a glance!  They are busy eating the fallen seed and the little chunks of stale bread I throw out there, and as they move on, the tom moves with them – after he has put on quite a show!  I think when he is showing off he looks like a wind-up toy.

And now I think I will be off to check on our expectant mamas again!

Icemud season

Ice and mud

What a lapse in blogging!  The days have been flying by, even by winter weather standards.  I think most of us in the northeast can agree that this has been the winter of ice, which was definitely not an easy-to-handle one.  Each snow storm we had ended in rain and sleet, and the buildup of ice in all the areas where the shade predominates has been epic.

Sunrise over the pigeon loft

And so we enter the in-between time of icemud.  Not yet mud season, but mud mixed with layers of ice… and everything re-freezes at night.  Gotta love it because there is nothing to do about it!  I am enjoying these 40F days, though, and afternoon chores are my favorite time of day.  The sun is high and warm, and even the unrelenting wind has not spoiled how nice it feels to be outside.

Peanut, Twig, and Eleganza (left to right)

On the goat front, we are just 3 weeks away from our first babies!  Eleganza is our Number 1 this year, and is due on April 9th.  The other two are due a week later.  Our first-timer, Twig, has begun to have a nice little udder, so even though she does not look incredibly pregnant, she is chugging along well.

And so it goes!  Spring is not a season that we really have here in Maine, but the trees have buds on them and the overnight temperatures are in the upper 20s and low 30s, which is delightful.  Maple trees are tapped and syrup is flowing well.  And Daylight Saving time is here, which always makes my day :*)

Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!