Sunday, December 18, 2011

Furry Snow

     We had a freezing fog one morning last week which created ice crystals on top of the snow.  It made the snow look like it had a layer of fur on it.  Pretty!  I took a walk around the upper pasture and saw all kinds of critter tracks, rabbit, grouse, mouse, and of course, deer.  No mountain lion or other predator tracks were seen, thank heavens!

This yarn I spun for one of the CSA shares.  It's hanging to dry in this picture.  Now it's in it's new home waiting to be knitted up into something wonderfully soft. 
    The does are all bred now for next Spring.  There will be lots of babies bouncing around here come March and April, even into May.  There were a couple of does that didn't take on the first try in with the buck, so they are now bred for May kids.  The week of the 24th of March will be when the majority will pop out.  A busy week that will be!  Hope the weather is nice then.
  We are having a fairly mild winter now.  After that first blast of 16 inches, it's only snowed about 5 inches more since then.  Yesterday it was 45 degrees and sunny!  That melted a bunch more snow.  We are down to about 5 inches in most places now.  I am rather enjoying the lack of snow.  A half inch here and there to freshen things up, and I'll be happy. :-)
  The goats are all in full fleece now.  I love going out and petting them this time of year.  They are so soft.  Little Oksana is still squeezing through the cattle panel squares and getting into everything.  I think she's ready for another growth spurt, then she won't be able to get out.  She can barely get out now, it's a pretty tight fit!  Her brother Socks quit a long time ago.  He got stuck one day, luckily I was here!, and decided that it wasn't worth it to try that any more.
   I don't know how other goat raisers can keep their bucks together and not have catastrophies.  I had Hercules and Midnight in together, they grew up together so you'd think they would be okay, but once breeding season started they were fighting all the time!  Both of them ended up in pretty rough shape, so they are in seperate areas for the rest of their lives.   Every time I've tried to keep any bucks together, they end up almost killing each other.  So from now on, each buck gets to have his own space. 
   I pulled each one out and took them to a different pen out of sight of each other for breeding the does, but once they were back together again, the fighting started up again.  Never again will any two bucks be together past the age of one year.
  I'm going to have to get a new buck that is completely unrelated to anything I have here for next year.  I need "new blood" around here.  I'll cross that bridge when I get to it late next summer.  Maybe a road trip is in the works!  That would be fun.
  Well, I hope everyone has a wonderful, spectacular, Holiday Season!!  May 2012 be a year filled with Peace, Joy, Happiness, Abundance and LOVE for everyone! 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

   Today was a beautiful, wonderful day!  The sun was shining, there was a little inch of new snow to freshen everything up.  It was great!  I took my interns, Colin and Heidi, up to the Rocks so they could see the spectacular view from there.  It's about a 45 minute hike up, and 35 back down.  That is, if you follow the trail as it used to be.  Sometime in the last year or so, a microburst went through there and knocked down a whole bunch of trees, so now detours are the norm.  I'm going to have to re-flag the trail so we can find it easier again.  We did some bushwhacking today. ☺  There sure is a lot of good firewood up there now, with no good way to get to it!  Bummer!! 
   Surprisingly enough, the only tracks we saw were from rabbits, squirrels, and deer.  No mountain lions, coyotes, or any other predator.  There was an old track up near the top of either a lion or wolf.  There was new snow in it, so it wasn't really clear anymore.  I thought I saw toenail prints, so that would be a wolf.  It was a big print, that's for sure!  Bigger than any dog around here.
Here are Colin and Heidi up on the Rocks.

Here is the Rocks from our place down below.  A half-moon is rising.

 Here is the view to the west from the Rocks.  Our place is tucked into the hillside below here so you can't see it from up here. 
     I do believe I am one of the luckiest people on the planet to be living here where I do.  There are a few inconvieniences to living here, but on days like today, they are nothing, and it is well worth it to be able to be here!  The goats love it, wandering through the woods eating all kinds of good food all summer long.  I love it, following them around through the woods, watching them enjoying their goat lives.  Winters get interesting around here sometimes, but it's beautiful. ( after we are all dug out and everyone is adjusted to the snow).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December Already!

    Well, the snow did melt quite a bit.  We still have about 6 inches or so, but that's way down from the almost two feet we started out with!  Now our road is pretty much solid ice.  Glad I don't have to drive it every day.  I will have to go get a big round bale of hay this week-end, so the chains will have to be put on the truck.
    Today was a nice sunny day.  I've started the trimming of the goat hooves for their winter pedicure.  The wether pen is done, and today I did a couple of the does in the main pen.  I'll have everybody done by Sunday.  Lots of little feet out there!  188 hooves all together.  I've almost wore out the orange hoof trimmers I got 10 1/2 years ago when I first got my goats.  They've held up well through all the trimmings.
   It's hard to believe this year is almost over with already.  It's been an eventful year, that's for sure!   Lots of interesting events here on the farm.  Getting my interns has been the highlight, I think.  It has been so extremely wonderful having help with all the projects needing done around here.  The goat pens are the cleanest they've been in two years, and they all have enough shelter now, more than enough, actually.  There's room for expansion! :-)  With 19, soon to be 20, does pregnant, there will be plenty of new kids that will need housing next year.  The last week in March, especially around the 25th, is going to be a busy one!  Kids will be popping out left and right.  Hope the weather is good that week.
   I'm almost done with dehairing outside cashmere for this year.  Then I can get to mine, which I should have all dehaired by Christmas!  At long last.  I have two years worth of my own cashmere to dehair now,  then I'm shutting down the machine till Spring.  Next year I'm doing mine first, then I'll do other people's.  Somehow I let myself get talked into doing everyone else's cashmere before doing my own, when the whole reason I got this machine in the first place was to do mine.  But, not anymore, mine comes first. ☺  I'll be happy to do others' after I'm done with mine.  It's been a good learning experience.  I've seen a good cross-section of the cashmere on this Continent, and mine is as good as anyone else's, and it dehairs easier than most, so I've got some good goats to work with!  I'm a happy person.
   Now that the Holidays are upon us, I hope everyone has a wonderful month!    

Friday, November 18, 2011

Winter is Here!!!!

   It is COLD out! 8 degrees at 8pm.  It has been snowing all day today, 9 inches on top of a settled base of 15 inches.  We've had snow for only 5 days and I'm ready for Spring already.  Sunday night and Monday we got 16 inches, then a break, then 5 more on Wednesday, then more today. 
  Things could get quite interesting next week as it's supposed to warm way up.  I hope a lot of this melts, we are already out of room for plowed snow on our access road.  It's pretty narrow.  This is the amount we usually have in March, not the start of winter! 
  I took the runner sled out this afternoon and did a run down our driveway, which is a very steep hill.  That was fun!  I need to wax the runners though, I didn't go very fast.  I'll try it again tomorrow.
  I'm sure glad the goats have good housing this year.  For once I'm not too worried about them in this cold.
 This picture was taken on Tuesday, before all the snow today!  We are getting way too much snow!
    Here is Luna, one of this year's kids with all her cashmere on.  This will be easy to dehair next Spring, no long guard hairs!  I call her Looney, she's such a wild girl.  I don't like having goats I can't just walk up to, but her and her mom are fairly wild.  Once I get a hold of them, then they are okay, but they sure don't want to be caught!
     I'm not even attempting to run the dehairing machine in this cold.  I'll wait till Sunday when it's warmer.  Now I'm spinning and crocheting, in between all the shoveling, etc.  Ah, winter.  One is supposed to be able to slow down a bit, but not around here with it snowing all the time!  Oh well, it could warm up and all of this melt in a month, too.  We'll see.
   Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!    

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ready For Winter

   Well, I think I'm ready for winter now.  The goats are all situated, everything is picked up and cleaned up, and the does are all bred except for one.  Somehow I missed her heat cycle this last time, even though I was watching her pretty closely.  So, next time around she will get put in with a buck.  It's probably a good thing she will be bred later.  She seems to have her kids in the very early morning hours, which I miss most the time, so if it's in the middle of April, it will be warmer, and hopefully they won't freeze like the last ones did.  I just barely saved the little boy, and the girl was already dead when I got out there.  So I really don't want that to happen again! 
   Today was a beautiful sunny day in the upper 40's.  I got all the gates into the hayshed re-done so they swing easily, then dehaired all afternoon.  Now that the days are short, I have to quit dehairing at 4pm so I have time to do the chores before it gets dark. I can't start till noon, so it's short days for dehairing now.  Good thing I'm almost done with outside orders!  Then I can finally do my own! Yippee!!!

   Tonight just before dark as I was filling water buckets, I watched the local Murder (flock) of Ravens, 36 of them! do their nightly fly-by.  They have a rookery, or whatever you call the nesting grounds of ravens, over on the other side of the hill behind us somewhere.  They always take a nightly group flight in a big circle around this area.  Kind of eerie when they fly over enmasse like that.  Especially when they call out occasionally.  Spooky!  Someday I'm going to go find their rookery and see what it looks like around there.
   Well, I'm off to spin some more yarn and crochet some mitts for a customer.  More as it happens....

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hunting Season

Today was the first day of the general hunting season around here.  I didn't hear a shot all day, which is nice.  It's bucks only this year, so there aren't as many choices for the hunters.  I haven't seen a buck up here since early summer.  There are plenty of does around.  They are getting into the gardens and even right up by the front door.  I swear if we left the door open they would walk right in.  The dogs are afraid of them since grandma deer used to attack them.  I don't think she made it through the spring this year.  I haven't seen her since April.  I think a mountain lion got her.  There for a while, about every three days, another one of the "gang" that hung out here would disappear.  Kind of sad that grandma didn't make it, she had been around for a few years.  Although now she can't bring any new generations of deer in to learn to eat all our vegetation.  She was a big deer, too!
   The fall colors sure are pretty.  Looking out "across the way" to the other side of the draw, it's all golden with the larch and aspen trees turning color.  We have plenty of aspens and larches on our property, too, so it's a beautiful time of year.  Makes me wish I still had a horse to ride.  This is my favorite time of the year for riding.  Oh well, life changes, goats take over, and the old days are gone forever.  I can still hike all over the area, it's just not as fast as on horseback.
  We are having a pretty good rain right now.  Hope all the goats are in their shelters!   They are so mean to each other, it's unbelievable.  One goat will take over the whole barn area and not let anyone else in, even though there is a good 15 feet of open space to share.  Glad I have lots of little "pallet" houses out there.  They actually work better than a regular barn.  The low ceiling keeps their body heat in better, it's a small space, so they stay warmer easier.  They are easy to build and tear down, and move.
  Well, that's it for now.  Things are coming together quite nicely around here.  I'm a happy camper these days. :-)  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Busy Times

  Lots of things have been happening around here lately!  Colin is almost done with the pen cleaning, which I'm sure he's quite happy about.  He is a great worker and a huge help around here.
   The deer have eaten the garden, so that is all but done now.  I still have to get the carrots out of there before the ground freezes.  We haven't had a killing frost yet, so if the deer hadn't gotten in, we'd still have food coming.  The apples are starting to get nice and ripe.  I made some applesauce today, yum! 
   I'm almost done with the last batch order of cashmere, then I'm on to the individual fleeces, which will be great!  I did a little bag of my combined fleece from way last year.  I did separate out the different fleeces, and came up with some nice variations in shades of brown now.  Since they didn't get my 2010 harvest dehaired at the mill before they quit dehairing, I haven't had time to do it yet.  But that will change here pretty soon.  Then I will have a nice assortment of natural colors in my fleeces.  I am getting excited about that!  White, cream, silvery gray, a couple of shades of brown/taupe, it's going to be pretty nice.
   It's breeding season now.  All four dairy goats are bred, at least they all visited a buck.  I will wait till their next heat cycle to see if they all "took" and are really bred.  The end of the month, all the cashmere does will be ready to breed.  15 of them will be bred this year.  There will be babies everywhere next spring.  It will be a fun time.  There is nothing cuter than a baby goat!  I'll put lots of pictures on the website.
   It sure is nice to have an extra set of hands around here.  This place is starting to come together nicely.  The goat pens are almost done.  Then it will be feeder building time.  I'm going to re-do some of the pen configurations to make it easier to feed and handle the goats.
  I'm finally going to haul some hay next week.  I haven't been making enough money dehairing other people's cashmere to get any hay money saved up, so I've been a bit panicky lately.  I was at my wit's end trying to figure out where enough money was going to come from to buy the winter's supply of hay, when I got a call from a friend who has goats too, and she offered to send me some money to get the dairy goat's supply in for the winter.  Thank-you J.!   I can't get to their barn once the ground gets wet and snowy with a vehicle to put hay in, and I really didn't want to have to carry 3 tons of hay, bale by bale, up the driveway and around to their barn.  I don't think I could do that and survive to tell about it.  But, now I can go get their supply of hay next week and at least have that taken care of.
  Our road isn't conducive to pulling a trailer full of hay up in the winter time.  It's too steep and slippery.  Once there is ice on it, it will be practically impossible.  I'm not sure what I'll do about the cashmere's hay yet.  I'll get the dairy goat's hay in and then worry about the other.  That will be 15 tons, which is $1800.  I could sell the goats, but then I wouldn't have any cashmere to work with and sell, so there would be no point in having the dehairing machine.  I've worked pretty hard to get the lines I have now, and my cashmere is easy to dehair and spin, so I really don't want to have to give it all up now!  My fiber CSA  shares are starting to sell, one at a time.  If all those sold, then I'd have my hay money.  It will all work out in the end, somehow, some way. 
  I do love dehairing and working with cashmere!  From raising the goats to spinning, to crocheting the cashmere into wonderfully soft accessories, it's all good.  What's that saying?  "Do what you love and the money will follow"?  It's following a bit too slowly right now. :-)  But, I've made it this far, so I expect I'll continue to make it, day by day.  I've got lots to be thankful for, it's a good life up here, even if it does get to be a bit challenging once in a while.   I'm healthy, all the animals are healthy, I have helpers now, I'm doing what I love, I live in a great place, it's all wonderful!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September Already!

This year is going by way too fast!  There are just not enough hours in the day any more, it seems.
  My helpers are here and getting settled in.  It is so wonderful to have some help around here!!  The goat pens are getting cleaned out one, by one.  Colin is doing a great job!  The goats are happy with their clean pens now.  The mountain of poop is getting quite large.  Plenty for everyone who wants some for their gardens.
  Colin is getting pretty good at milking now.  He's still not getting quite all of it out at a time, but the goats are getting used to him now and are starting to be a bit more cooperative.  Miss Dottie still can be a real pain.  She just does not do well with change at all.
  Heidi is busy teaching school.  I think she is going to be one of the best teachers in the country in the coming years!  She's coming up here and helping out a bit on the week-ends, getting used to the goats, and they are getting used to her.  Teaching all week doesn't leave much time for working around here.  She needs time to do things around their house on the week-ends.
   The dehairing is going okay.  I'm in a big push to get a couple of orders done by the end of next week.  Don't know if I'll have them done, or not.  Each batch of cashmere is different and they take different amounts of time to dehair, so trying to keep to a schedule isn't really working all that well.  Batches that I think will go fast, don't at all, and the ones that do go faster are rare.
  I have quite a bit to do before I shut down for the winter!  I'm done taking in new customers now.  When I get done with the ones that are scheduled now, I'm done for this year.  I still haven't got to do my own fiber yet.  I did a few fleeces a couple of months ago, but now I'm back to doing everyone else's again.  I did do some kid fleece, and it turned out really nice.  I spun it up into yarn and am now making a cowl with it.  It's so soft!!
  The goats are getting their winter coat on pretty good now.  Even the horses are starting to get fluffy already.  The geese are starting to fly over heading south now.  Nellie sure doesn't like them!  She's out there barking so hard I think there's got to be something major going on, so I go outside and here she is barking at the sky and a flock of geese flying over.
  We lost Stubby yesterday.  He was the guinea whose toes froze off a couple of winters ago.  He survived and was getting along just fine.  But yesterday the neighbor's rottweiler chased them on the driveway and I think Stubby died of a heart attack or something.  He disappeared into the woods and I haven't seen him again.  The dog didn't get him, so I don't know what happened to him.  The two remaining guineas are very quiet now.  They are also staying home now and not venturing outside the fence where they are fair game for anything.  Maybe they learned their lesson yesterday with Stubby's demise.  Rather sad...
   I think next spring we will get some new guineas and some new chickens.  There is a hen sitting on 5 eggs now, so hopefully they will hatch out around the end of the month.  These girls are all getting past their prime, so it's time for some new ones.  Maybe I'll try a different, more colorful breed this time.  The Jersey Black Giants are good birds for both eggs and meat, but I'm tired of black chickens.  It's time for some color out there.  Might even get some turkeys again.  
   Well, that's all for this post.  I'll try to remember to write sooner next time!      

Friday, August 19, 2011


     Are we having fun yet?  The days are getting shorter already.  I can't believe summer is almost over with!  It seems like it just began, and now it's winding down.  At least the temperatures have been almost perfect this week.  Not too hot, not too cold.  The sun has been shining most of the time, too.  Good for working outdoors in.
    Poor Astrid, her kids are driving her crazy. ☺  They are mr and miss independent, and do not listen to their mom when she's calling to them.  They can squeeze through the fence still, although it's getting pretty tight, they are struggling to get through.  They kind of just go where they want to.  At least they are getting a good variety of food.  Socks always looks so innocent, and Oksana is always right beside him saying, "who me?  I didn't do anything."  They are cute, even if they are little pains.
  This morning when I got up and looked out the window, I about had a heart attack.  The goats were all in the yard and all the gates coming into the "inner" yard were open!  I got out there very fast and made sure there wasn't major damage done.  Thank heavens there wasn't.  The poor lilac got trimmed again, but only a couple of branches and not the whole thing like in the past.  They ate one of the lily buds, but only one.  I'll still have some pretty tree lilies.  The goats did do something good while they were out.  There is patch of thistles at the top of the driveway that they ate all the tops off of, so that got rid of the seeds and flowers.  So that was good!  They didn't get to the fruit trees, either.  For once, no major damage was done.  With 28 goats being in the yard, that is pretty good!  The ones in the other pens that didn't get out were quite bummed and complaining because they weren't out, too.  Ah, goats, the most loveable, frustrating creatures on the planet. ☺

   I have re-done the website, which took 10 hours!  No wonder the website designers charge so much, it's a time consuming ordeal to do a site.  Now it's official.  I'm only doing individual fleeces and I've started a cashmere fiber CSA!  Kind of scary going in a new direction and against the norm.  It's all on the website now.  I think that doing the individual fleeces is a good thing.  The ones I've done of mine are spectacular!  It's amazing the difference they have when done by themselves.  Much more uniform and smooth looking, and the fiber is easy to work with.  It spins up beautifully!  For people with a few goats and that like to spin it themselves, this will be perfect. 
   I also found a mill in Colorado that actually likes to process cashmere!  They do a good job, too, from what I've heard so far.  He seems to know what he's doing, and is one of the few people that like to work with the cashmere.    Spring Too Fibers is the name of the mill.  So if you have fleece that you want made into yarn and you have more than a few fleeces, this is the place to send it.  If you only have a few fleeces and want to spin them yourself and want them individually done, then I'm the one to go to. ☺  Now there are starting to be choices for us cashmere raisers.

   It's almost time for my helpers to arrive!  They should be coming this next week, if all is going well.  I have a list of projects to do that will keep us all busy until the snow flies.  It's going to be good to finally be able to get all of this done! 

   I heard a wolf howl last week!  That sure set the dogs off.  Nellie was barking and howling, the neighbors dogs were barking and barking.  They don't know when to quit!  At least my dogs quit barking and listen to see what's happening.  The neighbor dogs just bark and bark, and bark.
   The wolf wasn't too close, probably a mile or so away, over across the way on the switchbacks.  They've been around for years, but the only other time I've ever heard one was on my birthday in the wee hours of the morning a few years ago.  It was fairly close, it woke me up!  Didn't bother any of the goats or other critters, just howled for a bit then left.  That was before we had Nellie, too.
   We live out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by national forest, with every predator known to man up here.  I have only lost one goat to a mountain lion, and that was 6 years ago.  Everything since then has left my critters alone.  They reduce the deer population, but do not come near my goats, chickens, or anything else.   We have an agreement, they leave me and mine alone, and I'll leave them alone.  So far everyone is holding up their end of the bargain. 

   It's time for the annual rat migration.  Two so far.  yuk!  I hope there aren't very many out there this year.  Well, that's it for now.  More as it happens.....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Life is pretty good!

   Life is pretty good these days!  I'm getting help around here finally.  I am so excited, I can hardly stand it!  I've been wondering how I could get some help around here.  I'd been talking with people down at the Hamilton fiber festival about an organization that has people who work for room and board to learn all about farming.  I've got the "board" but not the room.  Then a week after that conversation, I get an email from a couple that were looking for a place to park their RV while she is teaching school in Kila this year in exchange for helping out around here.  An answer to my prayers!!!  I've been saying I need three of me around here to get everything done, and now here are two people willing and able to work, and they are bringing their own home!  How cool is that!
As you can tell, I'm just a little excited about this. :-)  I'll finally be able to get this place looking like it should.  Thank-you, H and C!
   As for the dehairing business, I have decided to do mainly individual fleeces for people, instead of combined batches.  Since the only piece of equipment I have is the dehairing machine, it doesn't make good economic sense for people to send me their cashmere to dehair, then send it back to them so they have to send it someplace else to be made into yarn.  I want to help the person who will work with it themselves, and only wants it dehaired.  By doing individual fleeces, that gives a marketing edge over the bigger general herd cashmere.  The way more and more people are wanting to know exactly where their purchase is coming from, selling cashmere from individual goats, whether it's cloud, yarn, or finished product, gives that person an advantage in marketing that fiber.  At the Farmers' Market in the last couple of years, I've had quite a few customers ask me if something they were looking at came from a particular animal.  When I said it was a combined effort from the herd, they didn't want it, they wanted it from a specific animal.  
   Since there isn't any way right now that American Cashmere can compete with the foreign stuff price-wise, or quantity-wise, our advantage is marketing it individually.  Plus, I've discovered that just like human hair, cashmere fleece varies a bit from animal to animal, and by dehairing each fleece by itself, it comes out a lot better looking!  More of an even length, uniformity in style, and easier to spin.  I've done a few of my fleeces now, and each one has come out much better than if combined.  Plus, even in goats that are the same color in the guard hair, each fleece comes out a slightly different shade.  And to top it all off, the individual fleeces are smaller, so they get done quicker, and I feel like I accomplished something that day! 
  Yesterday I was looking at my business plan that I wrote up a couple of years ago, and I haven't been following it at all!  Doing individual fleeces has been the plan all along, I haven't been doing that.  That's why I've been feeling out-of-sorts doing larger orders, I'm not in line with the Plan!  So from now on, it's mainly individual fleeces.  I'll still do a few combined fleeces, but I'm concentrating on the individual.  I really think that will give us a definite niche in the American Cashmere market.  There aren't any mills capable of mass-producing the cashmere yarn here in the USA, so smaller niche markets are going to be the way to go.  As knitting and crocheting are becoming more popular all the time, demand for handspun cashmere yarn from a local source will increase as well.  Homegrown, local is the "in" thing now.
  Well, enough marketing for now. :-)  More as it happens....


Monday, June 27, 2011

It's almost July already!!

It's almost the fourth of July already!  We haven't even had any summer weather yet, and summer is almost half over.  I just got the garden planting finished today!  This is the latest I've ever been.  But, with the weather the way it's been, I'm sure this garden will grow fine.  With Square Foot Gardening, it's easy to cover any beds that need it, and one can grow 100% of the food in 20% of the space of a regular row garden.  We started doing that last year, and it worked great, so we are doing it again this year.  It's so much easier to take care of!
  The dehairing is going good.  I just got done with some that a customer had sent to another mill, got it back still full of guard hair, and then sent it to me to clean it up.  The mills that advertise dehairing, then only run it through two passes are NOT getting it even close to being properly dehaired!  This stuff I just did started out at 14.7 ounces, and ended up having 6.3 ounces of waste! (guard hairs)  There were some noils in it, too.  Those mills don't charge very much for the dehairing, but then they aren't really dehairing it, either.  Just opening it up and fluffing it, while removing less than half of the guard hair.  This is one of the big problems in the cashmere industry.  If the cashmere doesn't have the guard hairs removed, then it can't be sold as quality cashmere, and if it is sold, people will get the impression that American Cashmere isn't very good.
   AC is really good, actually, if it's dehaired all the way.  So far in all the batches I've done, there hasn't been a really bad batch yet.  When it's all dehaired, it's pretty much looking the same, and feeling fairly similar.  There is some difference in quality, but it's not huge.  The dehairing is the most critical part, and the slowest, of the whole process.  One has to have a lot of patience to run the dehairing machine! :-)  I like doing it, it's rather neat to see how it improves with each pass of the machine.  I have to make sure the speed is right, or it either doesn't get enough guard hairs out with each pass, or it starts to noil, or something.  It's not a machine you can just throw some fiber onto the belt and walk away, and expect to have a well dehaired product.  You have to monitor it almost constantly.  No two batches use the same speed, either.  So far each one I've done has been run through at a different speed.  Not huge differences, but it's amazing how just a couple of points difference, make a huge change in how the fiber comes out.  I'm enjoying the process!  It's a learning experience, too.  Some day I'll be really good at this!
   We've had a couple of days of nice summery weather now.  Hope it continues for another week or so, so the hay growers can get the hay cut and baled without any rain getting on it.  The goat pens are dry enough I'm going to start cleaning them out tomorrow.  Finally!  
  Well, that's it for now....   

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fiber Festival

I went to the Big Sky Fiber Arts Festival down in Hamilton, MT yesterday, just for the day.  Left here at 7am and got back home and into bed at 2am.  That made for a very long day!  It was fun.  My one and only festival for this year.  Now it's back to work again. 
  I saw my fibery friends that I only get to see at these events.  It was great to catch up on what's happening in their lives.  I resisted buying more fiber, except for one roving that I just couldn't pass up.  A Merino/Tencel blend in a pretty blue color.  It should make a very nice scarf or maybe even a shawl, we'll see.  I have enough to spin just with my cashmere, but I just couldn't resist. :-)  I also got some beads, and a festival T-shirt, since they had a cashmere goat on it this year.  First time that has happened, at least since I've been going to it.
  There sure is a lot of high water everywhere in this state.  Most everyone I talked to at the festival has water problems this year.  There is still tons of snow up in the mountains.  Up in Glacier National Park at the Logan Pass visitors center, it's still mostly buried in snow drifts, and the parking lot is under feet of snow.  They might not open the Going to the Sun highway till July at this rate.  It just keeps snowing up there.  We are getting a lot of rain down here, but it's still snowing up in the high country.
   I finally was able to let the goats out today.  Boy were they happy!  They went running from spot to spot, eating as fast as they could, then running a ways and eating again.  They did this as a tightly packed herd.  They looked like a school of fish or something.  It was funny to watch.  Then we had another torrential downpour so they headed for their pens and shelter.  They will get let out again tomorrow.
   Thursday and Friday I was in seventh heaven.  I was actually dehairing my own fleece!!!  I have finally realized my dream, to dehair my own cashmere.  I did one fleece, and it turned out wonderfully.  Now I'm working on one more, and then it's back to customers' fleeces on Tuesday.  It was so cool to be dehairing my own fiber.  
   Well, that's it for now..... 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pretty Flowers

Here are a couple of pictures of my daffodils and tulips this year.  They are so pretty, I just love to go out and look at them and smell their perfume.  There are over 200 blooms on the tulips this year.  This picture is just one section of them.  All the rain as made for some pretty flowers all around this year.
  The rain is not making for a clean goat pen though!  Just when I thought it was almost dry enough to clean out, it rained again, and now it's a mucky mess once more.  At least the goats have a "high side" to their pens, so they don't have to be down in the muck.  It's been cool enough that the browse out in the woods isn't growing very fast, so the goats are still having to be cooped up in the pens.  They are getting so bored!  Starting tomorrow, I'm letting them out into the yard and driveway to eat for a bit.  The yard grass is growing pretty good, so they can eat that down for me.  I just have to make sure all the gates are closed and the "inner yard" is secure, so the goats can't get to the apple trees, garden, or flower beds.  It's rather stressful letting them out, always wondering if they will find a weak spot in the fencing, but they need some fresh greens.  One more week, if it warms up, and the browse will be tall enough and growing good enough to let them out into the pasture/forest.  They can hardly wait!
  I checked the lower fenceline last evening.  Surprisingly enough, it's in good shape, even after all the snow and everything this winter.  There is one spot where a deer got stuck momentarily and popped the wire off the post that needs repairing, but other than that, it's all good.  I saw a freshly shredded stump just on the other side where a bear had been.  Glad we have the perimeter of our place fenced entirely now.  Keeps out a lot of the critters!  Nellie does her job pretty good, too. 
   I've been doing some dyeing lately.  It's always fun to do.  I never know for sure what it's going to look like coming out of the dye.  So far, it's turning out very well.  I'm making wrist warmers out of these two skeins.  I should be able to get two sets out of each one ounce skein. 
  Well, that's it for now.  More as it happens, or I get the time to write. :-)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Spring is here!

  Spring has finally arrived!  All the snow is gone, the grass is green, the flowers are starting to bloom, life is good! 
  I got the yard all raked and cleaned up today.  Looks much better now!  The tulips the deer ate are actually going to bloom after all.  They got ate at an early enough stage of growth that the flower stems weren't growing yet.  So I'll have some pretty tulips blooming soon!  There are a few daffodils blooming now.  They are so cheery.
  About another week and the goats can get out to eat green things.  They are so tired of being penned up!  The four kids are doing great.  Astrid's kids are just like her in personality.  Always getting into mischief!  The little squirts.  They are so cute, though, it's hard to get annoyed with them. :-)
  The dehairing is going well.  I work outside in the mornings, spend the afternoons dehairing, then work outside some more in the evenings.  I spend the majority of the hot sun part of the day inside, so that is good.  I won't get sunburned that way. :-)
  For the amount of snow we got this last winter, things are drying out fairly rapidly around here.  The snow is all gone up here now.  The last of it melted yesterday.  Down in the Kila area, the water is all across the valley floor now.  From the highway to the mountainside, it's all water.  No houses are flooded since it's a wetlands area there anyway.  Some places the water is getting up pretty close, though.  The weather service is saying there is going to be some major flooding in the Flathead Valley pretty soon.  In some places up in the mountains, there is 600% more snow than usual!  A record amount of snow fell this year!  So when all that melts, there will be a lot of water coming down the streams and rivers.  Glad I live up high on the side of a mountain.  If we get flooded, the whole world is flooded. 
   That's it for now.... 

Saturday, April 30, 2011


I decided to liven things up with a new color. :-)   Today I took a couple of goats up to the Whitefish Community Garden for their open house they had.  I took Maggie and her kid Mariah.  They did really well considering this was the first time they had ever left this place and been around that many people. 
  Mariah did better than her mom of course, since she didn't know that maybe she should be afraid of strangers.  She was really good.  There was a little girl there that hasn't had much exposure to animals and was afraid to touch the goats.  I told Mariah to go up to her and say hi, and I'll be darned if she didn't look right at the girl and walk up to her!  The girl cautiously petted her then decided goats were okay after all.  That was a neat experience!  The girl went and got her brother and brought him over, too.  She was about 5yrs old I think.  
   The weather wasn't very good.  It was quite chilly and it started to rain just after the garden bed building demo was over.  I just barely got everything loaded up before it really poured.  It's been snowing up here just about every day.  Most of it melts, but yesterday I had to sweep the snow off the solar panels since it wasn't melting.  The end of April and I'm having to sweep snow off!  I will say, though, that I'll take this any day over the tornadoes and severe weather down South.  Snow melts, that other stuff can destroy everything in seconds. 
     My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by that storm system.  I wonder how many goats were lost in that?  That's a major meat goat raising region.  The media rarely reports on animal losses, just human.
  Yesterday I finally joined Facebook, after just about everybody I know kept telling me I should.  Haven't quite figured it all out yet, but I will. :-)
  Well, tomorrow it's back to dehairing.  I didn't do any today, since I wasn't here, so I'd better get back to it  This time of year there is so much to do around here.  Spring clean-up time is here!  I need about three more hours of daylight and I'd be good. :-)
  More as it happens...       

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Astrid had her kids yesterday.  I missed it!  I was in town running errands.  When I got home, here were two babies up, dry and eating.  Astrid is a great mom, with plenty of milk.  I am really surprised that she had twins after her episode a couple of months ago getting her head stuck in the fence and getting butted right in the side, repeatedly.  She had a little blood coming out her back end, and wasn't feeling good at all.  I guess me pulling her out of the pen as soon as I found her and isolating her for two days must have saved the kids. The black one is a girl, and the brown one is a boy.  Oksana and Socks.  His socks are so white, they look like splints or something.  He will be a nice wether!  They are so cute when they are little.  Today they were out bouncing around and playing with each other. Not real coordinated yet.   Mariah and Luna were just kind of watching them.  They are too big for these two to play with yet.
  This is a strange year for goats around here.  My dairy does are not pregnant according to plan.  I put Hercules in with Belle, (and the other three) last fall.  Belle was the only one in heat, so I figured the others would be safe.  Yesterday as I was milking Speckles, I was thinking her belly was getting more and more round.  So  I took my "s" hook on a string and held it over her back to see if she was pregnant.  She is!  Belle, on the other hand, is not.  So, now I need to start drying off Speckles, I've been "running her through" this year.  Now that I know she's pregnant, and due on May 24th, I need to get her dried up so she can put her energy into the babies and not making milk right now.   Not sure why Belle didn't take this year.  I know Herk got her, more than once, so I don't know why she didn't take.  I had her with bucks three different cycles, and she didn't take.  Hope she does this fall! 
  The two cashmere does had their babies a week late, each.  Astrid was right on her due date. At least they are all healthy, strong little kids. 
  We had some snow again today.  A little sun, too.  I dehaired all afternoon and the batteries still got charged.  Longer days sure are nice! 
   Well, that's all for now.... 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Is it Spring yet?

  Winter sure isn't wanting to leave very fast this year.  Except for this morning, we have had at least a dusting of snow every day all week!  Finally today was a nice, mostly sunny day.   Easter will be nice, too, then back to colder, rainy or snowy days again.  Our yard is slowly appearing as the snow is melting.  I guess I can't complain too much.  This is way better than what most of the rest of the country is experiencing with the severe storms, etc.  At least the snow just melts.
  I'm still waiting for Astrid to have her kid.  The other two are doing great.  They are so cute.  Now that Luna is old enough, her and Mariah are starting to play together a bit.  They sure have different body builds!  Mariah is going to be a solid, sturdy doe and Luna is going to be a lean, mean, racing machine.  She is going to be a long legged, rangy type like her grandma.
  I got another dehairing order done today.  It's such a good feeling to cross another one off the list!  I'm taking tomorrow off, since it is Easter, and I'm going on a cooking and baking spree.  Then I'll be back at it on Monday with another order.  I've got cashmere to dehair scheduled clear into July now!  This is a good feeling.  Hopefully I'll get to mine sometime in there.
  When Alltel switched to AT&T, we lost our phone service till we could get a signal booster again.  Of course all the equipment we had with the old phone didn't work with the new ones.  So we had to hike half-way up the hill behind the house to use the phone for a week.  Now that we have the signal booster, I can talk almost anywhere in the house!  Before, we were tied to the wall in the bedroom since that was the only place the signal came in good.  Now with the new booster, we can talk everywhere but there.    Progress is good, even if a bit expensive.  I've been taking lots of pictures and short videos of the goats on the new phone, but haven't figured out how to get them from there to the computer.  I think I need a USB cable or something.  One of these days I'll stop in at the cell place and find out.
  Well, Happy Easter to all...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Two kids now

Here's the first kid born.  She's a cutie!  Her name is Mariah.  This was taken when she was 24 hours old.  Now she's two weeks old and very sturdy.  She comes running up to me to be petted whenever I go in the pen. 
  Arianna had her kid on the 14th at around 9pm.  I missed that birth.  I went out to check on her again at 10pm and here was a kid up and mostly dried off.  So, Arianna waited till in between checks to do anything. I missed it when she had her first kid a couple of years ago, too.  Oh well, she obviously does just fine without anyone watching.  She has tons of milk.  I might end up milking her on a regular basis if it doesn't slow down.  Luna, the kid, is only using one side, so I'm keeping the pressure off the other side so Arianna doesn't get mastitis. 
  Luna is a solid black little girl.  She has long legs, I think she will be a tall goat like her mom.  Only one left to go now, and that will be sometime next week. 
  As busy as I am with the dehairing, I'm glad I didn't get a whole bunch of kids this year.  This is the fewest I've ever had!  A bit strange, but nice.
  Today I sold two goats to some people from Idaho.  A little almost a year old buckling and a yearling wether.  They went to a good home.  So now I have 51 goats.  Gained two, but sold two.  There are three yearling wethers that will be going into the freezer pretty soon. 
   Got some more goats combed out.  The one I did today has some exceptional fiber!  Better than I thought just looking at him.  Now I only have two adults left to go.  Then I'll do the kids, and then when the bucks have almost completely shed out, I'll clean them up and get them nice looking again.  Since the smell never really gets all the way out of a buck fleece, I don't ever get it processed.  I did that once, spun it into yarn, then made a scarf for my dad out of it.  I wondered why he didn't wear it very much.  After he died and I got the scarf back, I noticed a faint buck smell to it, even after repeated washings and a couple years later.  So, after that I didn't bother to collect the fleeces off the bucks anymore. :-)  The smelly dudes.
   Our snow is finally starting to melt.  The chickens got into my tulip bed and almost destroyed that today.  They also got into the daffodil bed.  I saw them in there, so chased them out before they did too much damage.  Free ranging time is over, too many things are starting to grow now.  They have a huge pen to live in, so it's time to shut them back in there till fall.  The deer are eating every blade of grass on the hill as it's coming up, so there might never be anything for the goats to eat! 
  Well, that's it for now.  I'll post more kid pictures as I get them.     

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mountain lion picture

     Here's one of the pictures I took of the lion.  He hasn't been back at all, which is good.  I hope he stays out in the forest far away from here.  We are surrounded by thousands of acres of forest land, so he shouldn't have to come around here ever again.
   There is still a lot of snow around our place.  Up by the house it's melting, and I have some flowers starting to come up!  There is a little patch of crocuses blooming, too.  They are so cheerful looking. 
   One kid has been born so far, she's a week old now.  Another doe is due any day, and then the last one is due around the 24th. 
   I went and raised the prices for dehairing cashmere the other day.  I was quite nervous about doing it, but I had to.  I wasn't making enough money to even make the payments on the machine at the old prices, so I raised them substantially.  So far I've heard from two customers who are sticking with me, and understand the need to raise the price.  Since I take the time to really do a thorough job of dehairing, and I actually like doing it, love it, in fact, I figure if I'm going to continue, I'd better make enough money to at least pay the bills!  This really is one of the slowest processes on the planet, yet it's the most critical part of the whole process.  If the cashmere isn't dehaired properly, it doesn't make nice yarn, or anything else.  For years I've been frustrated with the amount of guard hair left in the fiber when I got it back.  I would take tweezers and sit down and pick through the cashmere, ounce by ounce, removing 99% of the guard hairs so when I spun it up, it would make nice soft yarn.  Now since I got the machine, I run the fiber through till it gets almost all the hairs, then I handpick through it as I pull it out of the machine and bag it.  There will still be a very few hairs left that I've missed, but not many.  What's left is easy to pick out as one is spinning it. 
   I've almost got the goats all combed now.  Only 6 adults left to go.  The stand I put them in to comb them works quite well.  I built it out of scrap lumber we had laying around.  It holds the goats, I sit beside it in one of those white resin lawn chairs and comb away.  I'm comfortable, the goats are comfortable, and all is well.
   Well, it's time to go out and check on Arianna to see if she's getting ready to have her kid yet. 
More as it happens....

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mountain Lion Chase

I got to go on a lion chase Saturday morning!  A neighbor came driving up and asked if he could park at our place since his hounds had a lion treed just up behind us.  I said sure, and asked if I could go along.  He said yes, so I grabbed my camera and off we went.  This is the closest I've ever been to a live lion, it was pretty neat!  His two hounds were baying up at the lion the whole time, a deafening noise for sure!   We took some pictures, then he grabbed his hounds and we left and headed back home.  I had a little chat with the lion and told him he had better stay away from our place and the goats and other animals.  Hopefully he listened! :-)
   I have heard a couple of deer get killed in the middle of the night up in that area, which isn't too far away, so I know there have been lions around all winter.  I've seen tracks, too.  The chaser said this is a new one he hasn't seen before up here, so now that makes at least four different lions in this area.  As long as they leave me and mine alone, I'll leave them alone.  They can eat the deer, which there are plenty of, and leave my goats, mini horses, and chickens alone.
  Nellie, our Great Pyrenees, is doing a great job of keeping all the predators away.  We have just about every predator known to man up here, so she's a busy dog.  I think part of the reason we haven't lost any animals to them is because they don't know they are edible.  They were raised on deer, so that is what they know to eat.  That's okay, I hope they never learn otherwise!
   We got another couple of inches of snow today.  I don't think we are going to see the bare ground for at least a month, minimum.  When I was going up the mountain yesterday to see the lion, I fell through the crust a couple of times and it was over my knee!  I almost couldn't get my leg back up on top of the snow.  So it will be a while before it all melts.
   Well, that was my excitement for the week-end.  I've been wanting to go on a lion chase for years, and now I finally have, it was pretty cool!  The lion wasn't anxious or anything, he was just laying up there watching us move around below him.  Wasn't even breathing hard.  Just waiting for us to leave so he could go take a nap. :-)  I got some good pictures, so that was great.  Glad I remembered to grab my camera! 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

It's still winter!

The deer are getting hungry and brave this winter.  This picture was taken in early February.  There is a big round bale of hay in there that they are eyeing.  They ended up running away and not getting any, which is good, since I can't afford to feed them and the goats.  Although they do go into the pens and eat what the goats and horses don't clean up.
  We have more snow than this now.  Today was a beautiful sunny day in the high 40's, so that melted some of the over two feet of snow we have. 
  I've been busy working with the dehairing.  It's going pretty good.  There sure is some nice cashmere out there in this Country!   I am really enjoying this job!  Now that the sun is shining more, I can work a little longer and don't have to run the generator at all.  I can run the machine all afternoon on a sunny day, and the batteries stay fully charged.  This is good!  It was warm enough yesterday that I could actually turn off the heater in the dehairing room.  That was a first!  
   The snow is starting to melt, so the goats are in a mud bog again.  I am really going to re-configure all the goat pens this summer.  I'm also hiring a guy with a skid-steer and other equipment to thoroughly clean out the pens and make a really good drainage ditch so the sheltered area actually stays dry in wet weather.
  I've finally got started combing the goats.  For an older doe, Latte' sure has good fleece!  Zindy Lou who is two does, too.  I am trying to do at least two a day, plus the dehairing.  Thank heavens they don't all start shedding at once!
   Kidding will start next week!  Maggie is due on the 24th.  I only have three does pregnant this year.  The fewest kids born in years!  I wanted to see how the dehairing was going to be before I get lots of kids to play with and take up more of my time.  Astrid and Arianna are due in April.  Astrid got her head stuck in the fence in early February and got bashed pretty hard right in the side where the babies are by more than one goat.  Goats are mean to each other!   I was sure they died, but it seems that one is still alive.  I noticed the other day that Astrid is starting to get milk in her udder, and the pendulum is swinging again.  About three days after she got bashed, the pendulum wasn't swinging at all when I held it over her back, but last week it started up again.  So, I'm not sure what is going to happen!  It's never been wrong before, so we shall see.  I use a metal "S" hook tied to a string.  I learned about this years ago.  You hold it over the doe's back and if she's pregnant it will start swinging in a circle or back and forth, depending on the sex of the kid (or Kids) in there.  I don't know which is which, I haven't wrote it down when I check yet.  One of these days....
   Well, that's about it for now.  I'll try to update this a bit more often.  Happy Spring, it's got to be coming one of these days!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lovely Cashmere coming out of the machine in cloud form.  Not the best of pictures, but you can get the idea.  This is the first pass through, so there is still guard hair and other things in it.  It's still very soft and wonderful to feel.

   We are in another arctic blast of winter.  Got 6 inches of snow overnight and this morning.  It's too cold to work in the dehairing room till Thursday, from the sound of the weather forecast.  Single digits and below zero for the next couple of days.  At least the sun is supposed to shine.  The goats will like that.  Good thing I haven't had the time to comb them out yet!  They'd all freeze without their cashmere now.  I will be so glad when I get my "real" dehairing room built that is well-insulated and warm no matter how cold it is outside!  This is frustrating not being able to work, when I have a bunch of cashmere to dehair on a deadline of sorts.  A deadline of my own making, but still....
   I got two DVD's of Judith MacKenzie-McCuin on spinning and plying.  Very good!  "The Gentle Art of Plying", and  "The Spinner's Toolbox".  Both are very good and I highly recommend them, even if you are an experienced spinner.  They are excellent for a beginner.  Very helpful.  She is a wonderful teacher, entertaining and knowledgeable about everything fibery.   The only thing is, I have to be wide awake and not sleepy at all, or I fall asleep, her voice is so mellow and soothing.  Not monotonous, just easy on the ears.

   Well, it's time to get back to spinning!  More as it happens.....

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Happy New Year!

I've been too busy to write in here for a while!  Happy New year everyone! 
The de-hairing is going well, albeit very slowly.  I am thoroughly enjoying it, though.  It's pretty cool to watch a clump of washed, raw cashmere go into the machine and come out the other end a nice, soft cloud.   I'm buried in nice soft cashmere, is there a better job? :-)
   We have had quite the winter, so far.  First extreme cold and lots of snow, then lots of rain and warmer temperatures, which melted about half the snow and turned our whole road into an ice skating rink.  I went down to town today and had to put the chains on the truck.  Even slipped a bit with the chains on!  Rather scary on some parts of the road.  So now we have 4 miles of solid ice.  What fun!  Oh well, it will go away eventually. 
    I have decided that this coming fall I'm going back to the little square bales of hay.  The round ones are way less labor intensive, but having to go down each week and get one is a real pain.  So, since I'm not set up, really, for the rounds, with no tractor or anything, I'm going back to the little bales and fill the hay shed up this fall. 
   We have decided to get new chickens this Spring, so the older ones are going in the freezer pretty soon.  Lots of stewing birds.  Out of 20 birds, only getting one egg every other day is just not economical, so it's time for new, young ones.  We still have 8 turkeys to do in, too.  I'm going to kind of miss the gobbling of the toms, but then again, not so much.   It was rather annoying to have them gobble every time I said something, especially when I was talking to another person!    The two older hens are kind of my friends, so it will be hard to let them go, but, then again, we are done raising turkeys. 
    All the goats are doing fine.  Some of them are starting to release their cashmere already and I don't have the time to comb them right now!  I'm just going to have to put the dehairing on hold for a few hours each day and get it done.  I don't want to lose all that wonderful fiber!  It's rather ironic that I got this machine so I could dehair my own cashmere and not have to wait months and months for it,  and now I don't have time to do my own, I'm too busy doing other people's.  Oh well, it's paying for the machine, so it's all good.
   Well, that's it for now....