Category Archives: Maine

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!

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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.

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!

Slowly

Peanut lounging in one end of the old greenhouse this morning

But surely spring is showing itself to us.  The end of this past week was very warm, unnaturally so, but this weekend has been mostly sunny and breezy, with more normal temperatures in the 60s (F).

Battie’s beautiful girl watches from the back of the greenhouse

As the leaves are finally popping out, we have been moving toward making the new greenhouse more amenable in the warmer weather.  We already removed all the sectioning panels that we had up during the kidding months, and Sam cleaned out all the old straw, hay and debris.  The last of the ice that was lingering under all those layers of straw is finally gone!  It’s a big, wide open space now so the girls can find a spot with their babies without getting nudged by someone else.

Open greenhouse gable end, difficult to see properly

The only thing left to do, however, was to figure out when it would be advisable to take the plywood off the driveway gable end of the greenhouse.  That end was totally closed off, which is the north side, so it was a huge help during the winter.  But now it is becoming important to get some air moving through there, so Sam took it down on Friday.  It has made a big difference, and I am glad, it was time!  I am not a fan of really hot, humid weather, but when it does come, at least we will have about as much air circulation as possible.  The goats seem to appreciate it, and our Peanut has another vantage point from which to watch for our approach!  She is using it well :*)

Baby pile in the morning sun

I was able to sneak up on her this morning and get a photo after she had her bottle and was lounging next to another baby pile.  They were all happy and dozing in the sun.

It was quite the Friday

Mr. Fergus

Yesterday we got up extra early (after I had a bit of a sleepless night), and got on the road to Monmouth, Maine, to take Fergus the yearling buck to have his man parts removed.  Because I wasn’t sure where my husband was going to be, we also took our house goat, Peanut, with us, in her little Rubbermaid tub.

Fergus has been a very vital part of the farm for the past year, but I really need him to be able to hang out with an unbred girl or girls, or really any of the goats on the farm, without being afraid of his getting the girls pregnant.  I don’t particularly like putting castrating bands on baby bucks or rams as when they grow, their urethra and their urinary tract does not grow well without the hormones coming from the testicles being present.  I lost a ram lamb to urinary calculi, which was a bit of a wake-up call, and when you castrate them as babies, this is a much bigger problem.

Fergus and Jingle, breakfast

And so we don’t do that with our little guys.  But if we want to keep them and not use them as breeders, we really need to get that taken care of.  So we had him surgically altered today, and they also tried to do something about his recurring horn scurs (even though he was disbudded while still a baby, those boy hormones keep the horns growing afterwards, but they break off regularly and bleed all over the place).  I hope that when his hormones have died down, they won’t keep re-growing.

Apparently there were many large animal emergencies yesterday, so poor Ferg didn’t get his surgery until the afternoon.  Which meant that Sam, Peanut and I were at loose ends.  Just a little too far to go home and return, we made the best of it, going back into Gardiner and eating a late breakfast at the wonderful A1 Diner.  Later on when we realized he hadn’t even had the surgery yet, we hopped on over to Augusta and spent some time at Barnes and Noble.  Peanut seemed to enjoy the traveling, although she didn’t get much exercise.  We are making up for that today!  And Fergus needs to stay quiet for a few days, so that will be the biggest challenge of all.

 

Snowstorm Stella

Fergus at the gate. Complaining, as usual!

They have been promising us another blizzard-type storm.  And it is here.  Blustery and blowing from the north, it’s a white world again.  Not what any of us want to see in March, but this is Maine so that’s how it rolls!  (I won’t curse here, I promise).

Betsy and the little ones

We are definitely keeping busy with Betsy and her little ones.  Betsy is coming along slowly, and I am hoping that she revs into high gear sooner rather than later and gets some eating done.  We need to put some weight on her (we are doing all the supportive appetite-inducing things, as well as making sure she has vitamins, probiotics and plenty of minerals, salt, etc).  Even though we are bottle feeding those little bugs, they continue to nosh on her as well.  At some point I need to decide whether or not it is putting too much stress on her, and if I think it is, I will have to take the babies away.  I really don’t want to do that, they all need each other and that could be just as stressful to Betsy, but as the vets say, she is in a ‘negative energy’ zone right now, and I hate to think of her body trying to produce the milk for those hungry, hungry twins.  Sigh.  It’s always something on a farm!

Betsy’s little doeling enjoying some head scratches

Dorcas is the next doe in the lineup, and she could freshen at any point.  Difficult to tell, and most of our attention is focused elsewhere, so I suspect she will have a big surprise for us any time now.  And that will be the halfway mark for us.  4 more girls are due end of March, beginning of April.

Twig in the feeder, looking like a good farm kid with a stalk of hay in her mouth.

The 4 older kids are having plenty of action-packed adventures in the meantime.  They can’t help but have fun, because 4 is much more exciting than 2!  They love to run the fenceline and torment Fergus the buck on the other side.  He very sweetly sniffs them through the fence, and then they hippity hop away to torment someone else.  For a few days there Olive, one of Delta’s girls, was trying to sneak treats from Eleganza.  El is wise to her now, but for a few minutes there I thought Olive was going to get away with it.  They are all too funny.  And Twig has figured out how to get into the Sydell blue tub feeder…  that is one of the highlights of every goat kid’s life!  It’s not a perfect design, because of that, but none of the work-arounds I have tried keep them out.  And so it goes.  A goat kid’s world is a wonderful place, most of the time.

Just about time for afternoon chores.  Time to go out in the storm.  Ugh.  They say this one is a fast-mover, and I hope they are correct!

Winter returns

Handdyed, handspun cashgora yarn (by a spinner in Tajikistan)
Handdyed, handspun cashgora yarn (by a spinner in Tajikistan)

I can truthfully say we are still waiting for our goat babies.  The spring-like weather is disappearing tonight, and we face some crazy windchills in the next few days, and I am down with the chest flu (milder than it could be if I had not had my flu shot, but it’s punched me up a bit).

And so we hope that we do not have to have babies arrive with 20-40 mph wind gusts, but if we do, we will manage.  I do not use heat lamps, as straw, hay and inquisitive goats all make for a very volatile situation.  We rely on windbreaks, getting babies dry quickly, and getting them fed up with colostrum ASAP (and lots and lots of straw).  And so we continue our sleepless nights, but tonight I have a reprieve and Sam is doing the late night and early morning checks.  Maybe by the end of the day tomorrow I will feel better :*)

Kiwi Pop Studio yarn
Kiwi Pop Studio yarn

In the meantime, I am resting and ogling my NETA Spa purchases, and also my raffle win.  I am totally over the moon with my Tajik handspun/handdyed cashgora yarn from Casey at Port Fiber, my purchases from Cari Balbo/Ridge Pond Herbals, and also my very unexpected skein of yarn from the raffle at the Spa Fashion Show (Kiwi Pop Studio)!  I have to consult Ravelry for a nice project that will make the most of my cashgora yarn, and for my raffle prize, I am beginning to picture it as an accent to a larger shawl project.  Not sure where I will go with that one, it is not one of those skeins that would have called to me all alone, but now that I have it home, I really see the potential of the sparkle and the glitz and color!

Cari Balbo's Ridge Pond Herbals eye balm, hand cream, tallow face cream, and solid bar skin cream
Cari Balbo’s Ridge Pond Herbals eye balm, hand cream, tallow face cream, and solid bar skin cream

It’s all good, and the whole point of the Spa weekend at the end of February is still just as compelling as it was 15 years ago:  it’s a great break during the winter to meet up with fiber friends and just have a great time relaxing, spinning, knitting, crocheting, and generally having a good time, with a lot of laughs.  The spur to keep up the good spirits until the warmth returns late in the spring.  And so it goes.  Nice.  Very nice!

Blizzard 2017

Looking out the living room window to the west, where the almost 5' tall Rugosas are looking like dwarves in the drifting snow
Looking out the living room window to the west, where the almost 5′ tall Rugosas are looking like dwarves in the drifting snow

Has definitely been here.  It’s almost gone, but the work entailed in dealing with it is going to take at least another day.  What a mess.

Greenhouse snow caves
Greenhouse snow caves.  Our fences appear to be getting shorter as well!

It certainly is a beautiful, white world out there, and the snow is light, but when 2 feet of it falls in such a short time, it’s not so light to remove :*)  We will deal better tomorrow with the paddocks, but for now the goats are fine in their houses, which really are looking more like snow caves tonight.  Even the metal donkey shelter (portahut) is covered in snow, as it’s so high up the sides, the stuff on top had nowhere to go.  I don’t know how much snow the wind will shift tonight, as it is roaring again out there, with 30-40 mph gusts.

Stuff this deep is really a struggle for me to get through as I am so short.  But I have to say that the goats are doing well, and when we showed up at 3 this afternoon for the supper run, Pippi broke a trail through to the new greenhouse, where she knew the grain would be offered.  She actually almost knocked me down going past.  Fergus, however, stopped to jump up and say hello, and see if he could get my hat from me before I noticed.  Not a chance, Fergus!

Ut oh, you can't change direction on a path that narrow!
Ut oh, you can’t change direction on a path that narrow!

Most of the photos I took look like nothing but white, with a few higher white things sticking up here and there.  But it was a doozy, and we are supposed to be seeing a storm Wednesday night into Thursday that could bring another 6+ inches.  I truly hope not!

Almost there

Fergus
Fergus

Sorry to have been away for so long, but things at work have been cranking.  It’s the end of the school year as well as the end of my work career.  Wow!

Saffron waits patiently
Saffron waits patiently

And so it goes.  The goat kids are growing like hot cakes and the weather is getting more beautiful every day.  It’s almost summer, and I can hardly wait!

Tomorrow should be my last day at work.  I will be breathing more easily after that.

Whew!

May grey

View of Mohegan Island from lighthouse park, on a much more pleasant day than we are seeing this week!
View of Mohegan Island from lighthouse park, on a much more pleasant day than we are seeing this week!

Not sure if we have had any sun since May 1st!  It sure feels like we have not.  It’s grey, overcast and damp.  The good part of this has been that we are getting a little of the rain that we need, but in-between, we have not seen the sun.  Complain, complain, grump, grump.  It’s been really bone-chilling damply cold at work, probably because the heat is already turned off!

Pickles is speaking her mind!
Pickles is speaking her mind!

Well, we are getting there, but I suspect that one day soon we will wake up and it will feel like summer, and we will walk around complaining that we had no spring…  just winter into summer.  That’s Maine, for you!

Pippi is popping
Pippi is popping

But the days are flying by now.  We are waiting on the next two goats to kid, one next week, and one the week after.  Pippi is due next and she looks big as houses!  We are calling her ‘Saddlebags.’  Poor thing is waddling, but she still finds the time and energy to boss the other goats around at the feeder.  Pickles the yearling is the next up after Pippi, and I am hoping that she has a single.  (Pippi has never had a single, she just keeps popping out those twins!).

And so it goes.  28 work days to go :*)