Spring and potatoes

…it is always nice to look forward to being a baby goat perch when your work is done. 

Spring on the farm is…a lot. We’ve been working long hours in the garden, preparing for the market, and getting ready for a fiber festival, but we still feel so behind! And then the days disappear and suddenly it’s the beginning of May. (It’s the beginning of May, right??)

Our task list is still long, but we’re feeling ok about it now and taking today as a “vacation” day, which I think most people would call a “weekend” day, even though it is Wednesday (is it Wednesday?). We’re discovering a weird thing about working for ourselves in an isolated way, which is that common contemporary schedules mean nothing to us. Days of the week, or even times of the day are mostly all the same. We eat lunch at 3 in the afternoon or 10 in the morning because we don’t have an employer telling us the time of our break. It has created very natural rhythms that feel good.

But… it also means we don’t have a defined work day. So, on one hand, I can still be in my pjs at 9:30, but am also working at 8 pm and have lost that defining line between work times and off hours. We’re trying to figure out how to make sure all of life isn’t work. So far, I think we’re doing ok. But when we make a plan to not work all (or part) of a day we’re calling it a “vacation” day, when I think it’s really just a weekend.

I’m not complaining! Promise. It’s exciting to want to be doing the work we’re doing and to not have it feel onerous. I’m just giving a long-winded excuse for neglecting you lately. I didn’t realize I was doing it! Time is different to me now that Bill is home always, and I’m still figuring out how it works.

For proof of our work, here’s some photos from last night’s potato planting. The sky was so beautifully blue and the air was just cool enough. Having sheep and goats grazing in the pasture right outside the garden really helped set the mood, too. And it is always nice to look forward to being a baby goat perch when your work is done.


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This photo was taken because I was being artistic. Not because I was tired and wanted an excuse to lay down. I’m not old. Just artistic. Also, the sky was amazing. And I wasn’t tired!

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Maybe it’s time for a vacation day…

Ten days in the life of a baby goat

Two healthy baby girl goats are in the hiz-ouse!!

Aurora and Georgina were born in the very, very early  hours of March 7 to our sweet Pandora. Their birth was fully unremarkable (we were sleeping), and Panny has been doing a fabulous job taking care of them. We noticed Pandora was in labor when I peeked at the barn camera/baby monitor on my phone, and when we made it to the barn both kids had been born. Within 45 minutes, the kids were standing and nursing and they’ve been growing crazy fast ever since.

Like most herbivores that generally live in big, open areas, goats are prey to many carnivores. It is important, then, that the newborn babies be agile quickly, in order to keep up with a moving herd and evade predators. By the time they are 24 hours old, goat kids start bouncing. They practice running. They spring up into the air from all four feet at once, and they jump on things. Constantly. It’s adorable. But, I think it also serves two useful purposes. First, it hones the kids’ agility. They are practicing evasive moves that will help them escape a predator. Second, they are demonstrating to any predators that may be watching or stalking the herd that they are fast, capable, and healthy, so maybe that wolf should think about chasing someone else instead. Play is fun, but it is also important in development.

We keep new babies locked in a stall with their mamas for 3 or 4 days, depending on the health and thriftiness of the animals, as well as the weather. The gate to the pen has open slats, and the other animals like to check in, but keeping the newborns isolated helps keep them out of trouble while they practice those gross motor skills, and it makes sure they bond sufficiently with their mama. Aurora and Georgina are the only two babies in the barn at the moment, but Pandora still smells them every time they are near her and especially when they nurse. She recognizes them by scent and wants to make sure no one else’s babies are stealing her milk.

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After a few days of isolation, we do supervised excursions out of the pen. We divide our pastures with electric fences and it’s important that the babies learn how they work. Goat kids, and lambs, learn by touching, sniffing, and biting everything. It only takes two or three encounters with the electric fence for the kids to learn to stay away from them. We want to be there when they are learning so that we can help them out if they get tangled in the fence, or end up on the wrong side of it. Bill and I work together to teach the kids about the fence with one of us being near the animals and the other standing next to the fence switch, ready to turn it off if needed. It is a little heartbreaking to watch the kids get shocked, but the fences keep predators away from the herd, and the babies need to learn to stay away. Plus, it only hurts for a second. (I’ve been shocked many times. Because I’m not as smart as a baby goat…)

When the goat kids are about a week old, they are usually fully integrated into the herd – sleeping and grazing along with everyone else. This afternoon when I went to check on them, Aurora and Georgina were sleeping in a hay feeder in the barn while Pandora was out eating the paltry pasture offerings with the rest of the goats and sheep. The kids woke up when they saw me and started bouncing around, heading for the barn door.

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But, since mom was way out in the back field, I encouraged them to return to their nap. I picked one up in each hand, noticed their bellies were quite full, and plopped them back in the hay feeder. They stretched and snuggled back to sleep. The sun is shining, but today is pretty cold – still below freezing in the late afternoon. If it were a nicer day, I bet the goats would be napping in the field. The kids seem to know to stay put when mom is away and I’m sure Pandora will be checking in on them regularly.

At this point, the kids are only starting to explore hay and grass. They pay attention to Pandora when she’s eating in the pasture or at the feeders, and try to copy her behavior. To me, this is as adorable as bouncing. There is nothing cuter than seeing a tiny baby kid standing at a feeder with enormous sheep and goats. It is going to be a while before the kids’ rumens develop and they’ll be able to eat hay, so for now, when the adults are eating, the kids spend most of their time jumping and napping. Soon, though, they’ll be munching on grass and burping up cud with the rest of them!

The last exciting milestone to discuss is the initiation of sheep surfing. I saw a precursor to sheep surfing this morning when Georgina was standing casually on sleeping Clara’s back. Climbing on a sheep that’s laying down is the first step toward jumping on a standing one. It may happen in the next set of ten days, and I hope to bring you photos when it does!

 

Spirit Vegetable

Last week, I was craving some pumpkin bread, so I pulled out my next-to-last North Georgia Candy Roaster and…well, roasted it up. 

There are a number of reasons why winter squash are my spirit vegetable. Their season is autumn, which is the best season. They come in a lot of different colors, many of them orange. Pumpkin cake and squash chana masala are delicious.

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Mostly, though, I love winter squash because they are so chill. Easy to grow. Easy to harvest. Easy to store. Tomatoes get cracky if they don’t like how they’re watered. Beans and stupid cucumbers have to be picked every 2 or 3 days lest they become enormous, inedible beasts. And eggplants…I don’t even know what the eggplants want except to spend their whole lives as two bug-eaten leaves that refuse to turn into a functioning plant.

But squash will grow through neglect. Weeds? Whatever – they power through. Harvesting? Whenever you want! A pumpkin will just sit in the sun and wait, hoping you remember to bring it inside before the first frost. And then you don’t even have to eat it right away! Winter squash will store for months and be at the ready when you’re craving some pumpkin bread.

Last week, I was craving some pumpkin bread, so I pulled out my next-to-last North Georgia Candy Roaster and…well, roasted it up.

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I love this heirloom squash. It is said to be the originator of pumpkin pie. The fruits are crazy fun to look at, but also so easy to use. Many squash are actually death traps. Trying to cut into a pumpkin or recalcitrant butternut is a hazard to my precious knitting fingers. Not our good friend the Candy Roaster, though. She has nice thin skin, but isn’t too delicate to store for a while (like Delicata squash can be). Her shape is conducive to cutting, and once cut, the seeds are a cinch to remove. I  have so much love for this rare, heirloom vegetable!

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…as do the chickens who get the seeds. And the goats who try to steal the seeds from the chickens.

I roasted the squash until it was tender and then divided it in two. Half the squash was cooled and then put directly in the fridge to wait a few days. Half was scooped into a bowl, blended with my stick blender and then immediately became pumpkin bread. I love this recipe from Dishing Up the Dirt because it uses honey instead of sugar, calls for whole wheat flour, and contains chocolate chips. It is my go-to pumpkin bread recipe now. I did make the vanilla bourbon glaze (because bourbon), but neither Bill nor I found it to be necessary. A few days later, I made Maple Pumpkin muffins with the leftover squash. Also delicious.

There is only one Candy Roaster (and one butternut) left in my squash storage for this year. It’s a good thing spring planting is just around the corner!

Shop Update tonight!

New batts, yarn, and handspun tags added to Etsy at 8 pm tonight (2/22)!

At 8 pm Eastern tonight (2/22), I’ll be adding batts, self striping yarn, and new handspun tags to the shop.

The yarn is available on two bases:

CORRIEDALE SOCK
Fingering weight, 3 ply
75% Superwash Corriedale/25% Nylon
4 ounces/115 grams
434 yards

TARGHEE SPORT
Sport weight, 4 ply
90% Superwash Targhee/10% Nylon
4 ounces/115 grams
350 yards
Made in the USA

There will be three colorways in the update. Barn Love (4 skeins on Targhee), Wooly Mammoth (6 skeins on Targhee (3 are discounted 100 g skeins), and 2 on Corriedale), and South Island Ocean Hike, below, (7 on Targhee (3 discounted), and 3 on Corriedale).

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I am already preparing yarn for the next update, which I hope will be in mid-March. I sold out of the green colorway, County Clare, at a vending event and I’m craving green, so there will be more soon. I also intend to add a Superwash Targhee/Nylon fingering base.

Also new for this update are handspun tags made from thick scrapbooking paper and strung with cotton string. They come in sets of 10 with unique, adorable or sophisticated prints including tacos, pineapples, and beaches.

There will be batts in the update as well, and a few are pictured below. Thank you for your support and please let me know if you have any questions!

Self-Striping Experiments!

For the love of stripes!!

I’m addicted. There’s no way around it. I started dying self-striping sock yarn, and it has taken over my brain. It’s such a different way of combining colors than I am used to from blending batts, and the process has been lots of fun.

I mean, like some of the process. The time I warped 750 yards of yarn incorrectly and had to unwind it all kind of stunk. And that other time when I was over-ambitious and had to ball 4 twisted skeins by hand (without using my swift or ball winder) wasn’t great either.

But, now I have a process. And an understanding that prepping, dying, and reskeining this yarn requires unimpeded unitasking. And also Bill – the calmest person on earth – has decided “yarn touching” (helping me reskein the dyed yarn) is about the most fun a dude can have at a warping board.

If you aren’t familiar with how self-striping yarn is dyed, here are the basics… Any given single stripe is likely made of up 4-10 yards of yarn. There are a couple of different options for preparing yarn to be dyed in long lengths. I use a warping board – a tool used by weavers – to create a large loop about 20 yards around. Then, I tie off lengths that tell me where each color will be dyed and dye each section by immersion. After rinsing and drying, the yarn is put back on the warping board, and Bill helps me reskein it.

So far, I’ve got three colorways on two bases – a fingering weight Corriedale/Nylon and a sport weight Targhee/Nylon. I’m open to exploring new bases and am interested in what you enjoy – or don’t. The colorways are…

County Clare, based on a trip I took to Ireland with Bill’s extended family in the early Aughts.

Barn Love is inspired by the colors of my barn.

Finally, Woolly Mammoth was dyed to match the quilt on our bed – a large quilt with wool batting made with pieces of old clothing.

The yarns will be introduced when I vend at the Knitting Pipeline Retreat in February, and hopefully available online shortly after that. I’m starting a little slowly because I want to get to know the yarn bases before I dive too deep. But, I see lots of fun dye days…and reskeining days…ahead of me!

Wool Noir – Conclusion

I think they’re still sleeping it off out in the woods…

The last shipment for the Wool Noir batt club contained the reveal of our mystery and a gradient batt. Did you guess the corn thief?

 

Chapter Three: Missing Pieces

The falling autumn leaves were giving way to light flurries. Decidedly chillier air was descending upon the farm when Cora called for an assembly in the barn. Some things were clear, but she’d need to talk with the flock to fill in the missing pieces.

Cora arrived in the barn 20 minutes before the scheduled meeting to find the llamas already set up and waiting, goofily expectant grins on their faces – and they were making popcorn. They LOVE drama, apparently. This real-life show has been better than anything they’d seen unfold before.

As the goats, chickens, and sheep trickled in, Cora went through the chain of events in her mind one more time.

At first, upon finding the black and white fibers, she’d assumed that Pickles was somehow involved. That theory was quickly dismissed when she realized the reason the farmer was working so hard in the orchard. Pickles, and the rest of the goats, had broken into the orchard, eating the apple trees, the raspberry bushes, and anything else they could find. An air-tight alibi. They were in trouble, but not for the corn. The farmer would deal with them.

Returning to the fence for more investigation, Cora realized that the fibers were not hairs, but bits of a feather. Following a trail, she found many more, and eventually, a large pile of mangled feathers. Black and white barred feathers. Only one chicken on the farm with feathers like that. Tailpipe. It appeared that he’d been attacked. When Cora first met Tailpipe, she’d assumed that he was molting, but this provided an alternative explanation for his crazy appearance. To survive such an attack was rare, there must be a connection with the missing corn… She needed to confront him to find out what it was.

When all the animals assembled, Cora shared what she’d learned with the denizens of the farm. When she finished. Tailpipe was near tears. “It was me. I did it!” he sobbed. “It was all my fault, I’m so sorry!”

“Why don’t you tell us what happened, Tailpipe” encouraged Cora.

“I spend a lot of time back there by the fence, because no one here in the barn likes me. One day, I saw that the fence was loose. I thought – hey – I’ll go exploring, and see if I can make some new friends! So, I made to slip through the fence. Just as I was doing so, I was snatched by a family of raccoons. I tried to fight them off, but there were too many of them. I feared that they were going to carry me away and eat me, so I tried making them an offer for my life. I told them about the corn. At first, they didn’t believe me, but I showed them. They called all their cousins, and ate ALL the corn in a single night. I think they’re still sleeping it off out in the woods-”

Tailpipe was about to continue his story when Martha interrupted him.. “Tailpipe – We are sorry. We didn’t mean for this to happen to you. We didn’t realize this until just now, but the missing corn is our fault. Not yours. We honestly thought that the goats stole it!” Martha shot a very unfriendly eye over to Pickles, who was sneaking up on the llama’s popcorn…

“Let me explain Cora, so you understand…” Martha began her story. “I see that even you have a scratch on your nose. From Tailpipe, no doubt. He has been scratching noses across the farm with in appropriate flying for years. Earlier this year, he scratched the nose of one of our lambs, as you may have heard. The scratch got infected, and the farmer thought it might be signs of a serious infection that she called ‘SEE-EL.’ She was very worried. She even talked about killing our lamb to protect the rest of the flock! Fortunately, before she made up her mind, the infection began to heal. That’s when the flock voted that Tailpipe had to go. He wouldn’t listen and stay on the ground. Stop flying onto our noses, Tailpipe!!!

“We wanted him to just leave. I asked the ram to loosen the fence back by where Tailpipe was hanging out. We figured we’d wait until he left, then make noise for the farmer to fix it. We NEVER wanted him to get hurt, just be gone.”

Cora nodded her head, and thought silently for a moment. Then she had a solution. “Martha – that was a very careless thing you did. What if one of your lambs slipped through the fence? They could’ve been eaten by coyotes!” For the first time, Martha seemed to become smaller. She realized the error of her plan – a plan enacted out of frustration and the desire to protect her flock, but with little thought.

Cora turned to Tailpipe: “Buddy, you’ve got to stop flying onto noses. You’ve not stopped when asked, so I’m afraid we’re going to take drastic action.” Addressing the crowd, Cora asked, “Does anyone know where the farmer keeps her wool shears?”

The llamas sprang to action and were back within 30 seconds, razor sharp shears in hand. Cora held Tailpipe down, while a llama descended upon the immobilized rooster with mischievous glee. One second later and “SNIP!!!” It was done. Tailpipe would never land on a nose again.

…And he was OK with that. The shears had painlessly snipped the flight feathers from his left wing. If ever he tried to fly, he simply tumbled to the ground. As he was now flightless, the rest of the farm started calling him “Penguin,” but Martha put a stop to that, saying that he’d been through enough, and shouldn’t be teased.

In the end, the incident of the missing corn brought the farm community closer together. All the animals better realized that their individual actions had the ability to affect many animals. Martha agreed to no longer lick up the chicken’s breakfast corn, and Tailpipe found contentment on the ground. With the exception of the shenanigans of Pickles, the farm was peaceful and drama free for many years.…to the great disappointment of the llamas.