Spa 2018 coming up

Winter sun winning the day

Well, I am packing tonight to get down to Freeport, Maine tomorrow.  New England Textile Arts Spa weekend is upon us!

The vendor area at the Hilton Garden Inn will open up on Friday night at 5 PM.  It’s a great weekend, and I can’t wait!  I hope to take some great photos and share them with you after the event.

On another note, I can’t believe we had a 50+ degree day today!  It was luscious :*)  All the goaties ate outside and everyone was cavorting and kicking up their heels.  When the fog finally lifted and the sun came out midday, it was heaven.  I know that not everyone in the country had such a day, so I feel very grateful for the little bit of sun and warmth we got this afternoon.  Quite a bit of the hard layer of ice in the driveway and in the paddocks melted.  Let’s hope the temperatures stay up a little and that any bad weather we get (cough, Sunday) does not hang around long enough to turn into ice.

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Pippi the grump

Yesterday dawned a beautiful day.  I am glad because it was hoof trimming Thursday!  The sun was out for the morning and it almost smelled like Spring.

I am sure I have written before about our wonderful shearer Emily.  We always had her shear the sheep when we had them, and as I have some issues with my back, she comes to us to do hooves every few months.  I don’t know what I would do without her!

Our sweet Twig

Our goatie girls have long memories (as does Jingle the donkey).  One or two of them hold grudges for quite awhile after we have someone like the vet out to see them.  Twig is actually the worst.  She wouldn’t talk to us or let us pet her for a few weeks after the vet did Rabies shots last fall.  She was seriously pissed with us.  The other one who has fits is Pippi, our Lamancha herd queen.

Pippi in a pout

When Pippi sees the vet or anyone she is not overly familiar with coming down the driveway, she tries to make herself scarce, running into the adjoining paddock and standing in the corner (you can’t see me here, right???).  All of our goats are extremely friendly, we have culled any that are difficult to handle, and mostly we have no problems corralling them.  Yesterday Pippi did her usual mad break for it, but when we got her on the milk stand, she would not eat the grain we had for her.  Instead, she just put her head down as low as she could get it, and stuck her tongue out at me.  I try not to anthropomorphize animals, but it just killed me to see her standing there giving me the stink eye, with her tongue sticking out like a child who has been caught being naughty!  She stamped and did her best to throw Emily off, but the humans prevailed.  Pippi wasted no time getting back into the paddock, and we all had a good laugh.

It was good to get the hooves taken care of before the girls get too big with babies.  A little over a month.  I am starting to get baby goat fever :*)

Livestock guardians

Jingle mugging for attention

Our Jingle the guard donkey frequently gets overlooked in the social media department, even though she is a very integral part of our farm, and has been for many years.  She is our only guard animal now and lives with the boys.

When we first got our sheep, we added two llamas to the mix as guardians and had a terrible time with them.  Very difficult to handle, they were half brother and sister.  Good deterrents to predators, but dealing with them became very difficult because all they did was fight with each other.  We finally moved the female llama along to another farm, and after that Zorro became a real pussycat with us and just did his job quietly with the sheep and goats.  We always kept him in with the girls and the moms and babies, and he loved those little ones.  He even tried to reunite a stranded new born lamb with his mother, as she was having a very difficult second birth.  Zorro was patient as the day is long with the lambs and the goat kids, and they used him as a jungle gym until they got too big to do so!

Jingle wants kisses

I was very happy to have Zorro with my moms and Jingle the donkey with our boys.  That worked very well for many years, until Zorro died of old age.  I really didn’t know if having the donkey in with just the one group would count with the local coyote population and I thought maybe Jingle should be in with the girls and babies during the spring.  I guess she is in her perfect comfort zone with the boys, because she raised such a ruckus when we moved her, that we didn’t keep her there for long (it became a dangerous situation for us and for the girls).  Maybe it’s been too many years, I don’t know.  Guard animals have to get along with their livestock charges, or the whole thing doesn’t work very well.

Watching for her supper

Zorro has been gone for a few years now, and we continue to keep Jingle in with the boys.  We have a lot of coyote activity in the area, all around us, and we even see tracks right near the goat pens.  So far, we have not had an incident.  I know that wildlife biologists say that if the coyote population is stable, there should be enough to eat for them without attacking domestic animals, and I hope that our situation is in that category.  We have acres of woods with small game and lots of deer, so hopefully that keeps them moving past our goats.  And I think that Jingle’s smell and her presence may count for something as well.

Jingle on a much warmer day

Besides, we love Jingle just for herself!  She is a sweetie.  She begged for soft donkey nose kisses this afternoon and wouldn’t let me stop.  She loves people, and can’t get enough attention.  Even luckier, she is in love with the farrier :*)  She is also the neighborhood alarm clock if breakfast doesn’t come her way at the right moment.  Donkeys are the best!

Some fun news

Masham fiber that I got from Into the Whirled at Rhinebeck, 2016. Lovely springy fiber!

Lest anyone think that I have been idle all winter, I have not!  I have been alternately messing around in and re-organizing my studio loft area.  I can get so easily sidetracked with all kinds of things, like book binding, embroidery, quilting, and of course, spinning, knitting and weaving, that I can make chaos in a very short amount of time.

Before I retired I knew that one of my very biggest goals in retirement was to get back to my weaving.  I have been fooling around with looms, both simple and multi-harness, since I was about 12 years old.  Nothing fancy and nothing complicated, but always I come back to it.  I learned everything from books, and now that YouTube and online tutorials are so widespread, I have used some of those to get my feet wet again in weaving, but I really wanted to do a more organized and thoughtful study of weave structures, not just fool around with the odd project here and there, to really learn how to design and weave what I want to.

I had met a local weaver a few years ago when I was driving to Bethel, Maine to pick up a buck from my friend Jane, who is also a production weaver.  The local professional weaver, Nancy, was picking up a loom from Jane at the same time, so we caravanned over in a snow storm (what else is new).  At the time I had only spoken to Nancy a little bit, and asked her just in passing if she would be willing to work with me after I retired, and she said, “Sure!”

When I finally got in touch with her last November, we had just heard about the Maine Crafts Association and Maine Arts Commission opening up the application process for grants to artisans wishing to apprentice with a master artist (Maine Craft Apprentice Program).  We talked about it and decided to give it a try.  It was quite a process, but we got the grant application in before the December due date, and then promptly forgot about it with the holidays and the bitter cold weather ushering in the new year.

Waffle weave dish towels, cottolin

When we got the notice in mid-January that we were finalists, I really couldn’t believe it, and a week or so ago we found out that we are one of two master/apprentice groups to receive the grant for 2018!  I am very honored to think that the committee liked our proposal and am very excited to get started!

In the meantime, I finally warped and wove off a set of waffle weave towels that I have been trying to goose onto my Macomber loom for over a year.  I know there is a threading error, but I can’t find it, and I am very happy with the towels, perfect or not!

And so the adventure begins.

New Year catch-up

It really has been awhile.  I can’t believe that I have been absent for so long from the blog!  The end of 2017 came and went, and it feels as though the winter is picking up speed and galloping toward the finish line, faster and faster.  Or maybe that is just wishful thinking!

The more daylight we find ourselves with, the happier I am, though.  I don’t get seasonal affective disorder or anything, but it’s just cheery to look up and realize it’s 5 PM and the sky isn’t as black as night.  I know what comes next in the weather department can be the worst of the winter, but it won’t be long.  Spring will show up one of these days!

Twig, waiting for some love pats

Our winter program for the goats has been going along fairly well, although we have had some trouble with the electrical supply to keep the water buckets from freezing.  Hopefully we can upgrade that once the weather gets warmer so that we don’t have these issues next year.  The brutal cold spell that we had earlier on in the winter is mercifully just a memory now, and we all have our fingers crossed for more middle of the road winter weather for the rest of the season.

We are, of course, beginning the countdown to goat babies.  Pippi and Saffron have the earliest dates, round about March 23.  Our only real wild card is Edna…  she must have been in stealth breeding mode, as I never caught her in heat or even with the buck.  But she looks like she has a very nice baby bump coming along, so we just have to watch her.  Everyone is looking very healthy, thankfully.  Peanut and Twig are as sweet as ever, providing a lot of cuddle opportunities every day.

And so it goes.  I am just about up and around after a good 10 days of the Type A flu.  Being asthmatic, I try to be especially careful, but this really caught me off-guard.  It was a particularly bad one.  Wishing everyone a very belated Happy New Year!

The problem with bucks

Ephraim after the trip

The problem with bucks is that you can only use them for so long.  That’s why most of us are always on the lookout for new genetics, and it seems as though we have found some!

Ephraim is the new boy on the farm.  He is a big, beautiful Guernsey, with polled genes (born with no horns).  He is quite a laid back fellow, although at this time of year it’s difficult for any buck to be mellow with all the possible love that’s in the air!

He likes to be petted

We went Wednesday to pick him up in Vermont.  It was an uneventful travel day, but very long.  4.5 hours there, almost the same home.  And on the way home we had a frightened and very stinky boy in the back of the Subaru…  we took him away from a doe in heat on his home farm, threw him in the car and went!  I can’t fault him his nervousness, and he does appear to be fine now.  He has lots of ladies to cluck over and sniff at through the fence.  They are making him a little nuts, honestly.  He is sharing a paddock with Jingle the donkey, who is being very circumspect with this new guy.  She is keeping her distance, for sure :*)  (Not that he can do anything to her except spit a little and maybe get in her way at the hay feeders).  Smart donkey anyhow.  We like the ‘live and let live’ approach around here.

Jingle having a bit of a pout on Tuesday

And so we will have him on the home farm for the action next year.  I took Reddog out from the girls’ pen on Tuesday, so he is back with Hagrid and Fergus.  Hopefully we have the roommates sorted out for the winter now.  And new genes for the future!

4 down, 1 to go

Well, it looks like we have gotten through the storm of Halloween 2017 in one piece.  We were in a little pocket of houses that did not initially lose power last week.  They did shut us down for awhile while they were making repairs, but we got by without the problems most folks in Maine and NH were faced with.  I am extremely grateful, as we are in an area that is almost always hard hit.

And so the breeding has proceeded apace, storm or no!  Four of the girls have been bred by Mr. Stinky Reddog, but Edna has not shown any signs of being in heat yet.  I have my fingers crossed that she will come into heat soon, as I would like to get everyone situated for their winter quarters asap.  Unless I missed her heat and she and Reddog did their thing while I wasn’t looking (very possible), it would seem like she may be the last one to kid again!  What’s up Edna???  I guess we will know in the spring :*)

The only other news is that we have officially decided to sell Reddog the buck.  The friend of mine who owns him with me has not room for him and is concentrating more on her Angora goats now, and I have found a replacement buck with very nice genetics (and no horns!).  I don’t have a big enough operation to keep numerous bucks around.  If anyone is interested, I have a page for Reddog’s particulars.

Reddog the stud muffin

Nothing better than a good spreadsheet

Not sure what Pippi means by standing there with her tongue stuck out. Thinking hard about Reddog, perhaps!

When I pulled down the driveway Monday evening on my return from NY Sheep and Wool, I was greeted with the sound of Pippi absolutely bellowing her head off.   My son said that she had been at it all day, and had not really eaten while on the milk stand that morning, just kept trying to go over as close to the boys’ pen as she could get, and mooning about, bellowing.  As I don’t want kids too early in the season, I had been waiting until after the Rhinebeck trip to put the breeding group together.  And so I took the opportunity to get Pippi bred on Tuesday when we moved Twig, Peanut and Betsy to a separate paddock, and moved Reddog in with the 5 moms-to-be.  Jingle the donkey misbehaved badly with the non-breeding group, so we put her in with Hagrid and Fergus the wether.  (Donkeys hate change of any kind, and I think those young girls freaked her out.  She sees them through the fence every day, but she didn’t care for their company at all.  Ah well, it’s a donkey thing).

Reddog is quite the hunky boy!

And so Pippi was a happy camper all day Tuesday.  As it happens, by Wednesday morning it was clear that Saffron was having a good time with Reddog as well!  Now when I sit down at the milk stand in the morning I can have a full dose of buck stink up close and personal.  (Bucks who are courting a doe rub their heads anywhere they can on their intended – and that head has been drenched with all kinds of stinky hormone-filled pee.  Delightful to a doe, not so nice for humans!).

A new spreadsheet makes the coming breeding season seem a little more real!

And so my new spreadsheet has been inaugurated.  First babies due on Friday, March 23, 2018!

Turning another corner

The two last doelings of 2017 (with Twig napping in the background)

It is finally the end of the kidding year!  Well, really, just the end of the movement of kids from here to wherever they are going to land in their new homes.  Yesterday, our last two goatie girls, Dorcas’ doelings, left our farm to join a lovely family in New Hampshire.

Older of the two girls

Our first kids were born on March 3rd, and these two girls were born last, on April 12th.  It was a crazy and eventful kidding year, and even though I knew I had to sell these two, I have not been trying very hard!

Younger of the two girls

Awhile back, Dorcas had gone to live at another farm.  The babies were ready for weaning, and Dorcas really needed to be her own herd queen.  I hear that she is very happy with her new situation, and yes, she is in control!  But when she left, and so many of the other kids were leaving, her two girls became even more joined at the hip (they never go anywhere without the other), and they just seemed to be a little lost.  I always feel bad in these situations, but there is not much to do about it, and they did have each other.

It’s a party around the big bale!

I am not sure when it happened, but one day we began to notice that the two girls were always at the feeder near Saffron.  Her babies had found their new homes quite awhile ago, and as the days went by we saw her cuddled up with these two in the morning, together in the field, and almost always together at the hay bale.  They found a surrogate mama, and I am sure Saffron enjoyed the company as well!

Saffron lying by the big rock while the two Dorcas girls play on and around it

It’s always interesting watching the social interactions in groups of farm animals.  There is always something happening that has the ability to surprise.

But now, good bye babies for the year!  Twig and Peanut will be our only hold overs.  Nice to get our feed calculations on a steady course and begin looking forward to next year’s new little ones!

Summer in Autumn

Peanut voicing her opinion

I am sorry to have been so long without posting.  Cardiac rehab is still dominating my schedule, but I feel like I have a little more breathing room now.  And the summer weather has continued to shine on us even into October!  We are very dry here, but we have hopes of some rain coming in early this week.  This evening is a misty one, and it’s looking good for some precipitation.

There is a lot to take care of on the farm at this time of year.  I am looking forward to breeding season, which will happen here after I get back from the New York Sheep and Wool show around the third week of October.  (I can’t wait!)  But, in the meantime we are making sure that the does are on a steady and slowly rising plane of nutrition.  Have to get them in shape for their amorous interlude with our stud, Reddog!

Round bale delivery

It’s a difficult thing for me to balance, this nutrition rise.  At this point I have cut back to a once a day milking routine, which means that the milking mamas are getting less grain, so they don’t make as much milk.  And since they are still in milk, they need their calories for that as well as for the energy to get into their breeding cycles.  Sometimes I dry them off before breeding, but this year it’s been so mild I think I will milk them well into November, or even into December, depending on the weather.  We decided to put a second cut round bale in with the breeding girls today, so they have that extra nutrition without the extra grain.  I am hoping that this will be a good plan.

It’s a party around the big bale!

And so it goes.  I will get their Selenium shots to them before I leave for Rhinebeck (as well as their annual Rabies vaccines), and then we shall see what happens.  We have chosen 5 girls to breed this year.  Another full house can be expected in the spring!

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