The Pemaquid Peninsula is home to our small goat farm. Our herd consists of Guernsey and LaMancha dairy goats. Up until a few years ago we raised Coopworth and Border Leicester sheep. I am a spinner, dyer, knitter, weaver and cheese and soap maker. I am a retired school librarian and John works as a truck driver.
Holy cow! Time is really flying by. Much of what is going on in our lives is the minutiae of getting older and dealing with some health problems. I am not feeling quite as energetic as I used to because of higher beta blocker doses (that really seems to sap the energy!) and my ongoing battle with some crazy painful bursitis in my hips. And so I am moving more slowly and trying to be mindful of not doing too much, as I always have in the past :*) It feels like it’s becoming a full time job.
After our yearly NY Sheep and Wool/Rhinebeck trip in October, my dear Pippi went off to the butcher. Thankfully, her boy found a great home, so we were spared sending him off for meat. And then breeding began and ended as quickly as I have ever seen it! Everything just fell into place in spite of itself, and in spite of not having much of a plan in place. Our girl Peanut, who I am not going to breed this year, if ever, was in heat middle of the first week in November. So that passed and on Sunday the 11th I woke up to the sound of aother goat in heat, screaming at the top of her lungs. Eleganza made no bones about her predicament, and so I grabbed our sweet Ephraim, the very laid back buck, and threw him in with the girls. I gambled on Peanut not coming back into heat, which could have happened, but it didn’t. (Although I will keep in mind that she was in with the buck and make sure I don’t miss anything as the winter goes on). And as if I had planned it, Saffron and Twig came into heat during that week as well, and all of our 2019 babies are due between April 9th and April 16th! It really couldn’t have worked out better.
And I don’t believe I have to worry about Peanut, because she has just spent the beginning of this week screaming at the fence, in heat again (and I am sure the whole neighborhood knew about it, too!).
The last few weeks have been very busy ones. I had been advertising the goats I needed to move along, without any response, and I was feeling a little down about it. I really hated the thought of sending these beautiful girls to the auction, but I was beginning to think I would have no choice.
But, then, I actually found a farm that wanted all of them! Edna with her two doelings, Battie and her daughter Betsy. All together, which made me the happiest of all. And so last Friday they all got a nice ride to their new farm. I hope they do well, they are in a very good place.
Pippi and her buckling from this year are still here, although they have a butcher date in late October. Pippi is still milking well, but she is losing her teeth at an alarming rate, and she is elderly. If I leave her to try and winter over another year, I am afraid I will lose her at a time when we cannot bury her… and I hate using the goats as coyote bait, but a lot of folks do that around here in the winter when they can’t bury dead animals. And so she will provide us with a little stew meat, and her circle of life here will be complete. She’s been such a great little goat, my fierce Herd Queen! (Saffron is lining up to challenge that position, but Pippi is no slouch, she is not giving in one little bit). Pippi’s buckling may actually have a home lined up, but if that does not work out, he will go with his mama.
And so the seasons are moving forward, and I am moving forward with our little farm. Chores are so wonderfully uncomplicated now that we are smaller, and much more enjoyable. More time to actually hang out with the goats and enjoy our time together. They are awfully good company!
And I should not forget Jingle the Donkey, who will never leave! So maybe I should say, now we are 9 :*)
Wherever you find yourself, there you are. And that is life, as usual. Now that my son is not here to help with the chores, the first thing I really need to deal with is selling a few of the goats. I have too many to handle by myself now that he has moved on. Every day, twice a day at chore time, this truth reveals itself, whether I want to acknowledge it or not.
Tonight, it was just a mess at milking time. I had the boys and Jingle in a neighboring paddock eating down some tasty weeds, and when I let the big boys back into their home paddock for dinner, the little buckling would not follow. Well, I left him in the other paddock with Jingle the donkey while she ate her grain allotment for the day, and when I was getting her back into the home paddock, he slipped out behind her and got loose. Wandering the work area and the places outside the paddocks. He is a little bit shy of people, so I could not grab him right away.
Well, I decided I could work around him for awhile, so I started to get everything ready for milking and the evening feed. I got the first girl up onto the milk stand, and realized I had left my milk buckets up at the house. I was sweaty and hot, it was raining, the milk stand was half in and half out of the greenhouse and the goat’s backside was getting wet, so I decided to just milk and toss it. Awful, I know, but it was about all I could do. (I was also trying not to get the halter heart monitor wet. The doctor wants me to wear one for a few days to see if they need to tweak my beta blocker meds a little. I could not have picked a more perfect week, hot humid and rainy. Yuck!). And so chores went the way that chores have so many times in the past, downhill very quickly. After I milked her, the little buckling came wandering into the greenhouse where the feed is stored, and I was able to grab him and get him home. Phew!
But, in the end it turned out to be a great chore evening. When I finally got all the milking mamas back into their paddock, I had to go in to move some feeders around. It really began to rain pretty hard then, and I just hung out with my girls and relaxed. Pippi was rubbing her wet and itchy head on my hip, one of Edna’s girls was sniffing my arm and nibbling on my shirt, Peanut wanted some head rubs, and we all just stood there together and waited until the worst of the rain was over. A little cluster of wet, itchy souls, waiting for the bus, or whatever.
And so it goes. No milk for cheese tonight, but tomorrow it will be better. I have not hit my routine stride yet, but it will happen, and it will be a lot easier if I can move a few of the herd on. I don’t need to be milking 4 goats, it’s too much milk for me to deal with, and just that more to do on my own. It will be difficult to let any of the girls go, but it’s what I need to do. Life always seems to be a work in progress, doesn’t it?
And boy does it sound like it out there! The crickets and the grasshoppers are playing their music frantically. I don’t know if it’s the drought, or just the usual. Whatever the reason, I love sitting and listening to them, it’s a most comforting sound. The rain is finally making a brief appearance every once in awhile, but the days are growing shorter again, which always surprises me for some reason.
We have had an insanely crazy summer so far. My husband has been traveling back and forth to NJ. His dad, 94, was getting feebler, and ended up in the hospital and passed away just before the 4th of July. And so many trips up and down, alone, with me, with our son and grandson later, it’s been nuts. Very sad to have lost my sweet father in law, but also nice to have had an opportunity to see much of the family again.
In the middle of all this upheaval and emotional stuff, my older son, the one who has been with us for a little over 2 years and has been a huge part of the goat farm, had the opportunity to move back to NJ, which he did this past week. And so it goes! When it rains, it pours. Change just is, and I am old enough to not be surprised by it. But it does every time.
Today John came back from NJ once again, and I think he can stay for a week or two before heading back south. The summer traffic is epic, and it took him almost 10 hours to get back today (it’s a 400 mile trip, should only be about 6-7 hours). In the meantime, my schedule has changed drastically, as my son was doing a lot of the feed prep each day, and it will take me awhile to get into a different groove. I know the goats are standing around scratching their heads wondering why everything is taking so darn long :*) Ha!
My weaving work has continued well, and we are exploring double weaves right now. It’s so much fun! I also finished a set of Summer and Winter weave hand towels a few days ago, which I just love. I made them from cottolin, and the colors are lovely. We only have about 2 months left tin the grant timeline, and I have a few projects I need to work on aside from what I am doing with Nancy. I need to really get cracking on them.
The hot and humid weather can turn me into a very cranky soul, but so far we have had pretty small doses of it until this past week. It’s been a tough one, and I know that the animals are feeling it as well. I certainly am not very sprightly during this hazy, humid stuff, and living in Maine, we do not have air conditioning except in the bedrooms (although living only about a mile from Muscongus Bay definitely helps, particularly when we get breezes off the water). The next 3 or four days are supposed to be better, and then the stickies make a return appearance. Ah well, this is summer, and this too shall pass! I am not wishing it away, the green and the warm don’t stick around for more than a blink.
Time is flying by as usual, and this past week has been a doozy. My husband had to travel down to NJ to help with some things and his 94 year old father, I have been weaving like a crazy person, and 5 of our 8 babies have moved off to their new homes.
It’s so nice to meet the new families that are taking on our little Guerseys, and I know they are all going to new adventures and great lives. Most of our Guernseys are unregistered, and almost all the families who are taking them are doing so for the same reasons I choose the goats I do: their temperament, their size and their nice milky butterfat.
Saffron’s girls went off to New Hampshire with a wonderful young family last weekend. Little Red and Blue are now called Lucy and Gidget! Great names for these sweet girls. (Gidget is the darker red girl whose ear tips were bent from birth, pretty perfect name!). It sounds like they are settling in well at their new farm.
Eleganza’s boys have gone off to different farms here in Maine. They are sweet guys as well, and I know they will have lots of girls to keep them busy in the future!
And the last to leave this week is our sweet little doeling, Pippi the Lamancha’s girl (Pippi is our Herd Queen). If I could have kept any of the babies from this year it would have been her. I am really happy, though, that she is going to a wonderful farm in Vermont, to a young family with whom we are acquainted. She will love her new friends there, some mini Nubians and some Nigerian dwarfs. Who knows, maybe she can aspire to being the new herd queen!
And so it goes. Spring is quickly turning to summer, and we only have three little ones left to move along to new homes. Things are much quieter already, it will be a real shock when these little ones leave! And now, on to serious milking and some cheese :*)
I have just finished week 13 of my weaving apprenticeship! I can’t believe that we have been going for this long already. I am having a great time and learning lots of good things, many of those things through mistakes, as is true of most learning experiences.
(Samples above on a straight draw threading)
In exploring weave structures I am working on things with Nancy at her studio, as well as doing things on my own at home. At the very beginning she reviewed efficient warp dressing methods on which I needed a refresher (every time I warped my loom I did it differently, which never helped me to get projects going). We very quickly moved to the study of weave structure, starting with a two-part sampler threaded with a straight draw. Very simple, but even with that there are a gazillion weaves you can achieve by simply using different treadling patterns. After I had experimented with that for half the warp, Nancy had me begin to use some of the treadling patterns I liked the most from the first half to experiment with weft texture and color(s). That was wild! Lots of very unexpected results from that. (It really helps that Nancy has a studio filled with amazing and crazy yarns of all unusual textures, colors and materials).
For my second sampler Nancy assigned me a project which I warped with 6 different wool color stripes. Some of the stripes are solid colors, and three of them are pairings of two alternate colors. Each stripe is threaded in different Rosepath twill patterns from p16-17, and a Goose Eye from p22. (I am using Marguerite Porter Davison’s book A Handweaver’s Pattern Book, revised edition, 1944). The results are mind-bogglingly fun, and again, having access to all of Nancy’s yarn collection has made this a great experiment. I have a lot of new ‘favorites’ in that sampler.
At home I began by using some of our farm yarn, a millspun Coopworth/Border Leicester cross, for a warp (hand dyed), and some hand spun and hand dyed silk/wool weft (mostly silk). It was a scarf I designed and wove off in March. Lots of fun, twill threading. colorful! (Although another lesson learned is that I made it wider than I really wanted it to be because I calculated take-up for when it came off the loom. With all the silk in the weft, it did not lose even a quarter of an inch!).
At the moment I am weaving a series of 5 cotton towels at home. I designed them as samplers using a 6 thread herringbone pattern (Davison, p25). I don’t have a huge supply of yarns at home, but I do have a nice range of 8/2 cottons. I used most of the colors I have to create warp stripes. As opposed to the 6 different threadings that I used for the sampler at Nancy’s studio, I simply used the one herringbone threading across the whole warp. My one mistake, that I did not see until I had woven quite a bit into the first towel, is that on one of the sections with two alternating colors, I accidentally placed two white threads next to each other, which switched the pattern of colors from white/turquoise, white/turquoise, to turquoise/white across. Which has managed to insert a white stripe down that section of warp. (There was no threading mistake, just a color bungle).
Despite the color placement mistake, I am loving the way the towels are shaping up! They are a lot of fun. So far I am in the middle of the third towel and have experimented with a lot of the different colors, and a lot of different treadlings. Turning the herringbone direction makes a nice effect, and I took one of the Rosepath treadlings and applied it to this threading and came out with a very nice turned twill pattern.
I am also working on a bit color interpretation project at Nancy’s, but more about that another time :*)
And today is an out of the ordinary one for Maine. 85 F here this afternoon, although we have a nice breeze so the bugs are not too big a problem.
The babies are growing like hotcakes, and the scrum around the feeder is incredible in the morning. We can barely get the hay in there before 3 or 4 not-so-little ones are jumping on and in. It’s nutty, but they are so much fun at this age. Everyone has cleared 35 lbs so far, and we are nearly ready to send some of our sweet ones out into the world with new families. Almost empty nest :*)
And so it goes. I will have to do a separate post to update my weaving apprenticeship. I have been very busy with that and have a lot of photos to share. Nothing earth shattering that any of you weavers out there couldn’t throw together in a jiffy, but the experimentation is teaching me a lot. And I am having a great time with it!
It’s that time of year when I try very hard to delight in the baby goats, and ever hopeful, delight in the weather as well. I have to say that nature has been more than cooperative, but the humans are not the only ones enjoying it… the black flies are as well. Gotta love May in New England!
All our babies are at least a month old now. They are a gang of very fast moving parts who are just delightful to sit with and to watch. They are a good tonic for the long winter and the crazy slow spring. I spend as much time as I can out there with them, and of course we also have bottle baby time which is fun as well.
We still have 4 babies that have not been spoken for, and I have them listed in the tab here on the blog – 2018 Babies for Sale. I have to get my baby time in as much as I can, because before too long they will move on or grow up. Ah, and so it goes.
Our girl Saffron, who had the mastitis, is doing quite well. Her girls, Little Red and Little Blue, are also doing well. As with all bottle babies, it’s very difficult to get a good photo of them because they are always crowded around the humans in the paddock, wanting to play and also check out why we are in there with them.
I am lucky to be getting about 3/4 of a gallon a day mostly from Battie, our doe who lost her babies. I am also milking Eleganza’s right side because her boys seem to think the milk bar is only on the left side. I am milking once a day in the afternoons, so things are pretty relaxed, and we are getting more than enough milk to feed our little Red and Blue. And my son has milk for his coffee.
And so it goes! Our two little bottle girls are already spoken for, and will be going to live with a lovely family in New Hampshire sometime in June. Our little girls are growing up!
It was such a treat to have some warmer temperatures, although the wind never seemed to let up. But the sun was marvelous, and all the mammals on the farm took advantage of it and played and sat in the sunshine.
Back into the colder and more dreary weather. Tomorrow we may see some snow. At any rate, it can’t hang around long, I hope!
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!