Tag Archives: autumn

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
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!

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!

Peanut’s big moment

Peanut’s last bottle

The time has come.  Our little girl is almost 6 months old, and she finally, finally, had her last bottle a day or two ago!  Yay for our Peanut!

I know it seems like a long time, and under normal circumstances we would not have let a kid bottle feed for this long, but it just seemed to be doing her a lot of good.  She didn’t take to grain very easily or quickly, and I think she needed it.  Our Twig the Tank is still nursing on her poor mother Eleganza, and you can definitely tell :*)

Peanut’s hoof trim

In the morning we are still giving Peanut a grain share, but she eats it outside the paddock.  No one else gets morning grain, but since Peanut is really a person and not a goat, she has to come out and help us with the chores anyhow (i.e., standing/jumping on the pile of hay that we carry in a canvas sling – this hurts -, racing back and forth from the driveway to the back of the paddocks, flying onto and off of the milking stand, and so on), so it just makes sense that she can have her feed in peace.  But now instead of having a milk chaser after her grain, she must make do with water.  She is still complaining, but not very hard…  I think she was ready.

Twig gives up the fight

Peanut and Twig were not very impressed last week when it was hoof trimming day!  Our friend Emily, a shearer, comes every few months to help out with the feet, which is very hard on the back for me these days.  We didn’t put the littles on the milk stand like the mamas (their heads would just come back through the stanchion), so Emily had to sit them down on their butts.  Goats have extremely pointy, bony behinds, unlike most sheep, so Peanut kept sliding over, where she just stayed in the end.  Twig twisted around and landed on her back  and just gave up,   although I got the big stink eye from her.

Reddog the studly one

And so it goes.  The weather is gorgeous, cool nights and warmer days.  The bucks are in bucky heaven, pissing copiously all over their faces, beards and legs.  They are very impressed with themselves and are ready for action.  (Too bad there won’t be any girly time until almost November!  Poor things.)  I am looking forward to a beautiful autumn season, and am trying to enjoy every moment of the crickets and the grasshoppers and the singing of the tree frogs while I can.  I think I miss that most when the windows get closed and the frosts come.  But we still have awhile yet.  It’s all good.

October fiber fun

It’s been quite a month for fiber activities.  It finally cooled down, although the autumn continues to actually be warmer than usual.  Much nicer to work with wool when it’s not humid and hot!

I have had a list of fiber projects as long as my arm for many years.  Some of them on the list are knitting projects, but many more are spinning projects (I am not going into the weaving project list right now, that would be embarrassing!).  And so I have begun to prioritize them.  (Of course, spinning projects turn into knitting or weaving projects in the final analysis…)

Friends Folly Farm singles. I really need to ply these - I need the bobbins for my next project!
Friends Folly Farm singles. I really need to ply these – I need the bobbins for my next project!

First on my spinning list has been to finish a beautiful 50/50 mohair/wool blend from Friends Folly Farm.  Last week I finished spinning up the pound of singles, now it’s in the queue for plying.

Jacob batts on my old Fricke carder
Jacob batts on my old Fricke carder

Second on the spinning list is to card and spin the beautiful Jacob lamb’s fleece that I split with a friend 2 years ago.  As soon as we received it from our friend Debbie at Hearts of the Meadow Farm in West Virginia, I washed it and carefully put it away.  It has been floating around in the back of my mind for quite awhile, and I am very excited to say that I have begun to process it.  (Although, true to form, when I broke out my drum carder, it turned out to be so dirty that it took about a week to finally get it cleaned out.  My husband took it to work and used an industrial grade compressor to blow out all the little bits that were lurking in there for quite a few years.  So that put me back a little on the project).

Shetland fleece on the drying rack
Shetland fleece on the drying rack

Project three in the spinning department is the Shetland fleece that came home with me from NYS&Wool this year.  Yum!  I can hardly wait.  That is definitely #3 in line.

Romney/silk roving
Romney/silk roving

And number 4:  the lovely Romney/silk roving that I brought home from Rhinebeck.  Two pounds of it means that I really need to hunker down and commit to the project, and I feel like that will be a very good mid-winter project.  Particularly if The Polar Vortex returns to darken the doorstep!

Post-Rhinebeck week

Lovely yard behind our AirBnb house
Lovely yard behind our AirBnb house

I am finally able to write about my adventures at the NY Sheep and Wool Show!  Retirement has its benefits, for sure.

Traveling to Rhinebeck, NY, with a lovely group of fiber friends is the highlight of the year.  The Hudson Valley is usually at its peak of fall color; we rent a house, bring lots of lovely food and libations, and just have a great time.  The sheep and wool show is absolutely fantastic as well!  (Not an afterthought and certainly our reason for being there).  We also get to visit with many vendor friends who are there at the show.  Sometimes this is the only visit we get.

View from the porch
View from the porch

This year our AirBnb rental got a little mixed up, and we ended up staying in a different place than usual.  Lovely, large farmhouse, with all the seating and sprawl areas that we could have wanted, and a great kitchen as well.  You never know how those things are going to work out, but it was a great choice.  With the drought in the northeast continuing, we ended up having perfect weather, too.  Sunday was almost too hot!

Shetland fleece on the drying rack
Shetland fleece on the drying rack

Having had a lovely flock of Coopworth and Border Leicester sheep and crosses for many years, I really never need anything at a sheep and wool show (I have tons of roving and yarn left from our crew).  But in the last year or two I have been loving the adventure of trying out wools from different breeds of sheep.  This year I knew that I wanted to find a Shetland fleece, as that is something I have never spun or knit with.

Foster Family Farm yarn
Foster Family Farm yarn

There were a plethora of fleeces to choose from, and I had a difficult time deciding.  I knew I wanted a dark fleece if I could find one, but a reddish-brown one was second on my list as that is a color you don’t find in Coopworth or Border Leicester sheep.  And so I came away with a lovely small fleece, just enough for me to have some fun with, and maybe spin up for a small shawl.  This hogget (or yearling fleece) came from a farm on Cape Cod, Freddy’s Farm Shetlands.  Lovely, very clean fleece.  This one is not a dual-coated Shetland, as many are (Shetlands are considered a “primitive” breed, so they would typically have a hairy outer fleece layer with very soft undercoat.  And you really want to keep those two products separate when spinning!).  So I waited in the long line in the fleece area, got to look at what everyone else around me was buying, and had a great time!

Romney/silk roving
Romney/silk roving

I also found more little treasures at the show:  some beautiful Romney/silk roving, and two skeins of Wensleydale/Romney yarn.  I bought enough of the roving to possibly make myself a sweater or a vest.  The red yarn is for a cowl, Purl Soho’s pattern ‘Cowl with a Twist.’

And so it goes.  Yesterday was so beautiful and warm that I was able to wash the whole Shetland fleece, and it was almost totally dry by dark.  I also plied up some Coopworth grey singles yarn to use for the accent color on the red cowl.  It was a beautiful day all around, and our Rhinebeck weekend was pretty spectacular!


Oh boy!

Reddog surveys his domain
Reddog surveys his domain, that handsome guy

The heavens have aligned and yesterday was the day that we separated the group of girl goats into two (intended breeders and those who will not be bred).  And it also worked out that we were able to grab Reddog the buck and put him in with the intended four does.  We planned for every eventuality, going into battle calmly and carefully (if you have ever handled a buck in rut, you will know what I mean!).

Oh my!  I try to get the buck in with the does when none of the girls is in heat so they get used to each other for awhile before the buck gets to do his thing.  (Bucks are very aggressive with the does, and sometimes I think the girls get scared and will do their best not to have anything to do with the big stinkpot, even when it’t time).  This time it worked as planned, none of the girls is in heat at this point.

Reddog and Saffron have a truce
Reddog and Saffron have a truce

When we put his stinky butt in with the 4 girls, he went absolutely nuts!  The first doe in his sights was Beezus, the extremely shy brown doe.  He chased her around the paddock with his nose up her tail, until he realized that she is not in heat.  And he did that for each of the girls in turn.  It was very funny for us, although probably not for the does.  In time, the action ratcheted down, and you could see all the girls relaxing.  So we left them to their own devices for the night.

The girls cluster around some of the feeders. Not anywhere near the big boy!
The girls cluster around some of the feeders. Not anywhere near the big boy!

Today things continued to be fairly low-key, but every once in awhile you can see Reddog catch a whiff of something interesting, and off he goes to investigate.  A lot of that involved trying to get a sniff of the girls in the next paddock…  it’s always greener!

And so we wait to see how things go.  Reddog was only able to breed one doe last year, and I am desperately hoping that he has grown up and can meet the challenge!


36 hours

And so October is in and we finally got a little rain.  I don’t even think it amounted to 0.5,” but at least it was something… we even have a few puddles in the driveway!  That’s quite a novelty for us this summer.

Pippi is not happy with me
Pippi is not happy with me

Since I need to be finished with milking before I go away toward the end of this month, to that end I have been spacing out the milking schedule a little more and more.  I know some folks go from twice a day, or every 12 hours, to an 18 hour divide (which means the middle of the night), but I back it off to once a day as I am lowering the feed ration a bit.  The first few days are tough, lots of milk in that udder and almost tough to get it emptied before the girls rebel and want off the stand.

Next to last milk bucket for human use this year
Next to last milk bucket for human use this year

And so I am working on this right now.  I don’t want to stop milking, I love the milk that we get in the autumn, the curds are larger and we get more cheese for our efforts out of each 3 gallon batch I make.  But this year family obligations and another weekend (a fun weekend), have conspired against me!  Two 4-day weekends in a row that I will be out of town.  Neither my husband or my son milk.  Even if one of them started, the girls wouldn’t be trusting them all that quickly.  The milk and cheese thing really is my specialty, so I plan accordingly.

I have been milking just once a day for the past 5 days, and I did my first 36 hour separation today.  I won’t milk again until Tuesday morning.  On Wednesday the girls are going to be wormed in preparation  for breeding, and that will effectively mean the end of the milk usage, even though I will continue milking farther and farther apart.  We have a 7 to 9 day withdrawal on the wormers that we typically use, so by the time that is up, so will the milk!

Something new to chew on
Something new to chew on

Another year’s cycle is coming around, and as much as I love Joni Mitchell’s rendition of The Circle Game, I am kind of sad to see this part of the year go into dry dock.  But, then we have the excitement of the Breeding Game to attend to!  Farming is all about the yearly cycles, and each one is exciting in its own way.  And this year I get to experience it all without the stress of the day job.  Yay for retirement :*)

September just flew past

Late September skies
Late September skies

I really am having trouble believing it’s the 29th already.  In a blink, it’s just about over.  The autumn is upon us, and the nights are great for snuggling under the sheets and sleeping well.

The drought continues, however, and most of the trees are turning brown with curled up dry leaves.  I don’t think that there will be much bright color.  It’s a shame that so many others have been overwhelmed with rain this summer, but we can almost count on one hand how many raindrops we have had.

Greenhouse bones
Greenhouse bones

Things have settled down since SnowPea went to freezer camp.  I still have 3 girls for sale, but the dynamics of the group are a little bit less frantic.  We are working on putting up a greenhouse that we took down a few months ago, to give us some shelter, a little storage, and dedicated kidding pens away from the others when the time comes.  (I want to have a “nursery” type set up which is less crazy after the kids are born.  The singletons tend to pick on the new little ones, and I would like them in a slightly smaller, more controlled area).  I also want an internal catch pen, one that is not outside the main fencing.  We have got the bones of it in place, mostly, and now need to tackle some ends for that greenhouse (I would like to have a wooden end on the driveway side, if possible!).

Time for baking bread
Time for baking bread

And so autumn has arrived.  My most favorite time of year.  The days are definitely shorter, and knitting and fiber work have a much greater allure. Just wish we could get a little rain!