All posts by RuitFarmNorth

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.

A little night music

Autumn paddock

The late autumn weather is definitely upon us.  We just had the second of two big windstorms in the last two weeks, and during both we lost power, as well as many of the remaining leaves.  During the nor’ easter two weeks ago, the power was out for 4 days (3 of which I spent in NY, lucky me!).  This past Friday we lost power about 5 a.m. and it came back on yesterday about noon, which wasn’t so bad.  We have a large generator which is partially hooked up to the electrical panel, so once my husband gets the generator going, he just has to get into the basement and flip a master switch or something (I don’t go into the basement anymore as it is a gymnastic event, jumping down through a 4′ door onto an upturned bucket, etc., etc.  Not for arthritic me!).  We have a few kitchen lights, bathroom lights, hot and cold water, tv and internet.  And we have the wood stove, so we are not roughing it, by any means.  It does take a trip into town each day for more gas for the generator, which can get expensive!

Winnie in the weeds, looking for crickets and grasshoppers, yum!

The weather is forecasting cooler and cooler nights from now on, and we have had two or three mornings of pretty hard frosts.  Winnie and I always walk up to the paddocks where the goats lived, and there she hunts grasshoppers and crickets to her heart’s content, as the long grass is alive with them.  I love hanging out up there to listen to the cricket song, and even after dark when we go up, there is a chorus to meet us.

But, last night we sat and sat, and there was no night music.  :*(   There was none this morning, either, and I am hoping the sunny afternoon wakes them up.  I enjoy winter and the seasonal changes, but I really, really miss the song of the insects and tree frogs when it gets cold.

Ah well, this too shall return!  In the meantime, I am wondering what Texas Winnie is going to think of snow!  She could be getting her first taste of it on Friday, we shall see!

Rhinebeck 2019

Some of the woods in front of our house looking very autumnal

It’s been a week since I got back from our annual trip to the New York State Sheep and Wool show.  As always, I went with a group of friends and we stayed in our favorite AirBnB house north of Rhinebeck.  And, as always, we had a fantastic time! It’s always funny to be down in the NY area and then return to Maine, where autumn suddenly looks like it’s almost over.

It takes two vehicles to get our group down there, and we usually take along just about all the food we will need for dinners and breakfasts.  It’s so much fun cooking and hanging out with the ladies, and the festival is great too!  Sometimes it’s nice to get out of Dodge, and we had pretty good weather this year, not too cold, and not as hot as it has been some years (not great for vending wool products!).  One year it snowed, as well :*)

Swaledale combed top

This is the first year in a long time that I have not come home with one or more raw fleeces.  I did not even allow myself to walk amongst all those raw wool fumes, as I know that I would have been totally unable to resist.  I kept my purchases pretty light, and came home with 2 lbs of combed Swaledale wool and some dyed roving.   Swaledale are sheep that are from Great Britain, native to the Yorkshire area but found elsewhere as well.  It is a breed of sheep that I have never come across in the U.S., but have always wanted to have a crack at.  The sheep themselves are beautiful, and I expected the wool to be much coarser that it is.  I don’t know what I will use it for yet, maybe for something woven.  The wool is not pure white, but slightly off-white, and there are some very fine black hairs and fibers in the fleece, but you can’t really pick it out from the rest.

Swaledale ewe
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swaledale_sheep
Into the Whirled lovely goodness!

I also headed over to one of my favorite vendors, Into the Whirled, and bought some of their dyed roving in the “Rhinebeck” colorway.  Always a favorite of mine (dyed on Polwarth roving).  I also got two bags of their odds and ends rovings, small amounts of various colorways and fibers all in one bag.  Lots of fun to spin up together!

I only spent Saturday at the festival as my hip is not in good shape and I didn’t think I would be able to drive on Monday if I limped around all day on Sunday as well.  So I had a lovely day of knitting in front of the wood stove with one of the other ladies, and it was a very nice time.

Winnie sniffing the wool

I was a little worried about how Winnie would react to my being gone for 4 days, but she did quite well.  I think she took a few naps with John in the recliner when she was feeling a little lonely (really, this dog is never lonely and is with one or the other of us at all times!).  And now she knows that even if one of us leaves for more than a grocery run, we do actually come back!

Gremlin or muppet?

Winnie the Wonderdog comes home

Well, it’s two weeks today since we picked up our little Winnie the Wonderdog.  She is turning out to be the best little dog ever!  We have both fallen madly in love with her, and I know she loves us, too.

Winnie angling for another belly rub!
Newly anointed Couch Potato

The Small Dog Rescue of New England does a great job with placing all kinds of dogs from the south.  The only down side to their rescue operation is that you cannot meet the dogs before committing to them, you just have to go on the description of the animal and a photo.  Rescue groups do what they can to learn where the dogs are coming from, as well as what type of background, but our little Winnie was found wandering the streets of Lufkin, Texas, so we have no idea!  The only thing we do know is that she is quite well-behaved, is house trained, walks on a leash well, and loves to cuddle and play.  That’s why we named her Winnie: we feel like we have won the lottery :*)

Winnie in the car on the way home

It was all very exciting, going down to Connecticut and waiting for a big truck/transport with all the dogs.  The PetsLLC group that does the transport for SDRNE is based in Tennessee, and does a great job.  Our little Winnie got off the transport and was dancing around the parking lot with me, which was better than some of the poor pups that came off – a few looked positively bewildered, which would be my reaction!  Winnie must have been exhausted from the trip and all the barking inside the enclosed trailer, because when we got into the car she grabbed onto my arm, put her head on my shoulder, and stayed there for the 5 hour drive home.

Yard gazing from the comfort of bed

And so our new 4-legged creature is here, finally, and we are over the moon with her.  18 pounds of terrier joy!

 

And now we are none

Already overgrown empty paddock

All my sweet goaties have now found new homes.  Big sigh!  As much as I miss them, however, I do not miss the chores (or all the things I would need to do to upgrade the animal living quarters before the winter).  It was definitely the right time for me to move on.  I know they have all gone to good farms, and quite a few of them are in Maine so I can visit!

My husband and I got a start on taking down the 16′ livestock fencing, finally.  Ugh!  It’s a big job.  I also cannot believe how overgrown the paddocks have become.  While only having a few goats left toward the end, they couldn’t eat the weeds down fast enough to keep things cleared.  And now it is a jungle.  As the fencing comes down, it is looking a little sad.  But, at least we can get the tractor and the bush hog in to get things cut down now that a lot of the fence panels are out.

Lonely t-post

August and September have also brought all of the charms with it that I remember from so many summers (but not last summer).  Warm, less humid days, with cool to chilly nights.  My favorites!  In this past week we have been treated to seriously autumn-like temperatures.  I am not complaining one bit.  This is my kind of weather :*)  Today is back to warm and a bit humid, but the sun is out and the breeze is blowing so I am happy.

Lonely compost pile. The boys used to play King of the Hill here

In other news, I am very busy with my fibery pursuits.  Did some natural dyeing with some friends a few weeks ago, which I will highlight in another post.  I finished the Tour de Fleece with quite a bit of spinning accomplished, and now I really need to get more towels woven.  Working on that now!

The best news, however, is that I am adopting a new doggie!  I have missed having a dog this past year, but wanted to sort out the livestock first and have a break from all creature responsibilities.  But, I just happened to be perusing the Small Dog Rescue of New England one night, and I absolutely fell in love with a dog.  Shocking, I know!!!  She is approximately 1 year old, and is a scruffy 20 lb wire hair dachshund/terrier mix.  I cannot believe how cute she is!  I have been dying by inches, waiting for her arrival from Texas.  In two days I go down to Connecticut to meet the transport that she is coming in on.   I am going on Friday and staying overnight to make the drive home a little less stressful, as it’s southern Connecticut and about a 4.5 hour drive.  On a Saturday.  Phew!   I will of course, have photos of her after I get home :*)

And I can’t believe that September is already halfway gone!

 

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!

 

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!