Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Where 'Ya Been ?

It's that time of year again - catch-up time. It's hard to believe that it's been 4 months since our last post. Time flies around here in the summer and early fall. Hopefully things will slow down a bit and we'll get back to a regular routine. Happy Thanksgiving !
PS. This is NOT our turkey !

Thursday, July 23, 2009

From the Dye Pot

We've been spending a lot of time this summer trying to catch-up with fiber processing. While the unusually wet weather has put the kabosh on outside farm work, the cooler temperatures make for a good opportunity to get a jump on getting things ready for the fall fiber shows.
This is a batch of kid mohair that I've dyed in anticipation of a roving colorway. Roving kind of takes on the colors of the fiber that comes out of the dye pot in our mill. It seems that no matter what color I "plan" on, the fiber takes up different color components of the dye bath at different rates. This is actually a good thing for me because it provides endless possibilities for combining color. It makes many colorways unrepeatable though making it all the more important for us to encourage customers to get the quantity they need at the time they are purchasing roving ( or yarn for that matter. ) This is one of the many pluses, but also one of the minuses ( for some ) of small batch dying.

Perspective - Cat in the Garden

Cat and Zucchini Plant

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Watching the Garden Grow

We planted a bunch of "stuff" the end of May. In June it rained - not just a bit, a whole lot'ta rain. Ark building type rain. We just hoped our vegetables would survive being continuously wet and cold. And then the sun came out a couple of weeks ago, not all the time mind you, but just enough to inspire the plants to open their flowers. So, here's where things stand today - in the sunshine !

This is a very small bell pepper

Swiss Chard


Zucchini again -

Rows of staked tomatoes - Brandywine and Roma

Eggplant flowering

Green Cabbage

Basil and Italian Flat-leaf Parsley

This year we decided to put down a ground cover and then mulch on top. A really good decision. The result is virtually no weeds. Years past our garden was always overcome with weeds ( we do not spray anything and there is never enough time to spend weeding ). We debated regarding the ground cover - did not want to use plastic - and decided on using a cloth or fabric variety. Our hope is to be able to re-use the cloth next year. Having the hay mulch on top keeps weeds from sprouting beneath and also may preserve some of the integrity of the cloth as well. We'll see what happens. By the way, we needed to put the split firewood down on top to keep everything from blowing away - we're in a windy spot !

Monday, July 13, 2009

Is That The Sun We See ?

After almost 5 weeks of rain without much more than a day of non-rain in-between ( can't call it sunshine 'cause there wasn't any ), we're finally back into the swing of making some hay. If you look closely you can see a "square" bale being "kicked" into the wagon, from the baler. An "Action-Shot". Now we have an awful lot of catch-up work to do. Because of the late first cutting of our hay this year, we're going to have a lot of clover in our round bales which makes for a really nice feed. It just takes an extra day or so to dry and this week we've got the time to make it - 4 days ( predicted ) of good drying weather !
These square bales are also full of clover. We'll be using them next February to feed our nursing nannies so they make a lot of rich milk for the 2010 kids.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sheep and Wool Workshops

If you have not taken a gander at the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival's workshop offerings this year - take a look:
Please spread the word to anyone who you think may be interested.

This is an AMAZING work of art - not part of the workshop program - but just something at which to marvel. About a gazillion tiny glass beads and counting - all placed by a steady hand.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Meanwhile Back at the Ranchero

This Spring has been extremely hectic for us. We've been to a bunch of Fiber Shows -- Maryland, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Seen a bunch of folks and talked a lot about goats. This is a photo taken about a month ago of our very own "Three Amigos". The only bottle kids this year, who, thankfully are now weaned, grazing and happy.

This is also a picture from a while ago of a group of kids. All different sizes and colors and all much bigger now than that photo shows them to be.

And finally, a kid, well...... just being a kid.

The garden is almost planted - we have a few more rows to go. And soon we will start cutting hay - weather cooperating.

30 or so lambs have been born and are out grazing with the ewes.

We'll take some more up to date photos and hopefully be more faithful to getting some posted here.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring Has Come

Farm life has been busy these past few days. The goats are just about done kidding. The sheep should start lambing any day now. We've spent the last 10 days shearing sheep and goats - 21 Ewes remain to be sheared and about the same number of Bucks. 120 ton of lime has been spread on the pastures and hay fields. A lot of time has been being spent on cleaning up our fence lines which were littered with debris from winter storms - tree limbs down, fence posts heaved and broken, wire needing tensioning. We're also trying to get fiber prepared for our Spring Fiber Show Schedule. We've taken a bunch of new pictures but have not been able to get them posted yet. Maybe this weekend ?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Heard (Herd) Around the Water Cooler......Almost

We've had this solar water tank for about 3 years. It is really great. Uses passive solar to keep the water from freezing. How it works is the tank within a tank method. There is an inner tank that holds the water and an outer shell with a plexi-glass "window" on one side. In the winter, the tank's window gets oriented toward the sun, in our case south. The sun passively heats the inner tank via the plexi-glass window. In the summer, the tank is turned 180 degrees so that the window stays in the shade keeping the water cool.
The tank comes with a heavy black oblong floating lid to keep debris out and the heat in. The goats were not able to press hard enough on the lid supplied with the tank to get to the we cut this goat sized lid from a piece of foam we had around. During the last 3 years we've had to replace the foam lid as the Maremmas tend to think that it is great fun to "steal" the lid and rip it to shreds. This year the dogs are a bit older and wiser and would be embarrassed to be caught in the middle of such foolishness - NOT ! (If you look closely you can see distinctive teeth marks in the upper left hand curve of the blue foam lid. Dogs: you've been discovered and exposed! Ha! That'll teach 'ya!)

BTW - What do you suppose goats talk about around the water cooler ? We'll never know and maybe that's a good thing.

5, Count'em, 5 Days 'Til Spring

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sheep To Be Sheared

Yesterday we sorted through a bunch of our ewes. Now that kidding is winding down, its time to get ready for lambs. We have 22 bred Cormo and Cormo Cross ewes - we think. The Cormo Crosses are our Natural Colored Fine Wool sheep. So, starting next week, we'll be shearing some sheep as we prepare for lambing. We like to get the fleece sheared before the ewes lamb -- for one thing it allows the lambs to find a teat with ease and for another it keeps the fleece from getting contaminated from the birthing process. We also have the remainder of our goats to shear as well - yearling does and bucks, adult does and bucks. So in the next few weeks we need to harvest the fleece off of about 100 animals.
As we shear, we do a "rough skirt". That means we remove as much of the undesirable parts of the fleece as possible before putting the fleece into a bag. Undesirable parts include; any fleece with manure stuck to it ( these are called "tags" ), any fleece discolored by urine ( called "stain" ) , any parts with a lot of vegetable matter ( VM , the handspinners nightmare in fine wool ). We also separate the wool from the underside of the sheep's body - the "belly wool" - and bag that separately. This wool can be very different from the rest of the fleece. Sometimes it is shorter in length, sometimes the crimp is different and sometimes it is of a different "fineness". Most of our sheep are covered which keeps a large percentage of the fleece very clean and free from debris. This fleece is then carefully re-skirted, bagged and offered for sale. Some of our fleeces - the really special ones - are kept and entered into competition at some of the local fairs. There is nothing more beautiful than a pristinely clean, freshly sheared fleece.
This year, the Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Growers Association, a local sheep breeder's association to which we belong, is having a Spring Fleece sale. It will be held on Saturday May 16 at the Elmendorf Inn in Red Hook, NY at 10:00AM. We'll be participating with some of these beautiful fleeces. See you there?

7 Days 'Til Spring

Friday, March 13, 2009

Kids Do The Most Amusing Things

Well, it has been a while since we've had time to sit still long enough to update this blog. A bunch of kids have been born - 34 to date, 8 within the last 36 hours. We've moved a bunch of the older kids and nannies outside to our leanto area. This area has access to the rear portion of the barn but also allows everyone to go outside if they choose. The kids have a large area to race around in and the nannies have a lot more room to stretch their legs as well. With our oldest kids being almost 4 weeks of age now, they have started doing all those things a goat must do to a goat. A real goat climbs on things ....

A real goat gets into things....... like this round bale feeder. This little girl is not stuck, she's just thinking that there's got to be something more here than this big bale of hay. Although you can not see the whole of the round bale, these bales are large - 5 foot diameter and 4 feet tall. They weigh about 900 lbs. We use a surrounding "round bale feeder" fence with large squares of fence left open so the goats can get to the hay without getting into the hay. Keeps the VM out of the fleece. It also makes for a much more efficient method of feeding and a lot less waste. They are made by a company called Premier One. Premier manufactures and sells a lot of small livestock equipment that really works. They have a flock of sheep themselves and test out all their products before offering them for sale. The result is that the products you purchase have been put though their paces by a tough panel of "test sheep". We've had good luck with these round bale feeders and would recommend them. We also use Premier electric net fence which we like as well. We have no financial interest in Premier. Just sharing the name of a company we think has the right idea about testing products first, and products that work.

8 Days 'Til Spring

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Kids in a Row

A bunch of kids have been running around one side of the barn now for a week. Every once in a while they all get "pooped" at the same time and collapse into one giant "mass-o-kid". Usually this happens in a relatively cozy location away from the threat of being stepped on by a rushing mother coming to look for her kid. Oh yes, and there's usually a spot of sun involved in the selection.

18 Days 'Til Spring

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ducks in a Row - Almost

These are Muscovy Ducks. We got them from our friends Pen and Andy at Cobble Rock Ridge Farm. Muscovy ducks are the kind of duck people either really like - or not. They are very different from the average white duck in the neighborhood pond. For one thing, they do not quack. Vocalizations from these guys are more of a "hissing" or back of the throat noise. When they walk around the barnyard, their heads move back and forth from front to back extending and retracting their necks. But the thing that is really the most fun, is watching them fly - and they are expert fliers. No matter where they are - on the pond, grazing with the goats up on the hill ( And yes ! ducks do graze for young shoots of tender grass. They also "graze" for insects.) when the grain hits the feed trough the soaring Muscovy is to be seen gliding in for a perfect landing right next to the grain. They also have acute hearing capabilities.
This time of year, the ducks spend most of their time in a lean-to off of the main barn where we house some of the goats. There is a small wooden box, with hay as bedding, that they use as a "duck house" when they feel the need to be inside. Otherwise they are out and about, sometimes floating in the water trough that is gravity fed from our main pond. Even on the coldest day, those ducks take to water for their bird bath. They always seem to be a harbinger of Spring despite the cold. It seems that, around here anyway, everyday is a good day for ducks.

19 Days 'Til Spring.

Friday, February 27, 2009

More About Maremmas

A picture is worth a thousand words and this one speaks volumes about the intelligence of this breed of livestock guardian. Our dogs provide us with a sense of ease about the safety of our sheep and goats. Always on duty, we can rest assured that they are on the watch.

This is Laika our adult female.

Sirius as a serious puppy.

Laika as a puppy.

Days 'Til Spring ?

Now it's 22 ! YES !

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Break in the Action

Well, its been a very busy week since our last chance to post something here. To date we have 18 kids - 6 boys, 12 girls. Not quite half the nannies have kidded.

This is a brother - sister set of twins born on the 21st.

A group shot of week old kids playing in a corner of the barn.

Another section of the barn with nannies waiting their turn and one very frisky one year old.

And at the end of each busy day we get to see a beautiful picture courtesy of mother nature.
Don't get me wrong, its hard work and there's heartbreak along with the highlights. This morning we delivered a breech kid that did not live. This is the story of farming and the story of life. We try to learn something from each disappointment and realize it is all part of the circle of life.
24 Days 'Til Spring.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

More Baby Goats - 30 Days 'Til Spring

No, this nanny is not in the witness protection program. She just had the smallest kid of the season. This little guy weighs in at about a pound and a half but he's up and nursing and doing well. You go guy !

A very handsome BIG buck kid. Maybe a future stud !

You know what they say "Let sleeping kids ......".

Twin red natural color doe kids.

So, to date ........ 9 kids total - 3 boys, 6 girls.
To be continued.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sunday, February 15, 2009

New Kids on the Block - They're Here !

After much anticipation the first of our 2009 kids arrived without incident yesterday. TWIN GIRLS ! Yeah ! The nanny, Allie or BWBA #9, is one of our oldest mothers this year. The new kids are BWBA #402 and BWBA #403. Both are healthy girls. They arrived a bit earlier than we had calculated but that was an arithmetic error on our part.

Welcome to the farm - girls !
34 Days 'Til Spring

Thursday, February 12, 2009

6 Days 'Til Baby Goats - 37 Days'Til Spring

Yesterday and today we sheared our pregnant nanny goats - 35 in all. This is about 20 less than we had planned on kidding but that's the way things go sometimes. On the plus side is that all of our girls looked great and we will not mind the shortened kidding season at all ! Sometimes an unexpected break is a good thing. Now in just about another week, we should have our first kids of 2009. Can't wait ! Many pictures to follow.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

8 Days 'Til Baby Goats, 39 Days 'Til Spring

Well, we've reached a milestone in the countdown to kidding time. Tonight we put the nannies in the barn. Tomorrow and Thursday we shear. Then we wait, and check, wait some more, check some more. The first kid of 2009 will be goat # 402. Hard for us to believe that we have had 401 Angora kids born on the farm. This number pales in comparison to Texas Angora numbers but for us it represents 15 + years of painstakingly breeding for a "better" fiber animal. Progress is slow. Rule of thumb is it may take 10 generations to breed finer fiber onto your animals. We have focused on this trait in our herd. Fine fiber is what goes into our products. The longer an animal produces a fine grade of hair, the more productive the animal is for us. With little exception, all of our adult animals are producing a kid or yearling grade of fiber. Most of our fiber is sold "raw" to other fiber mills and farms, or used for our own products - we only use kid. Any fiber we do not use is shipped to warehouses in Texas where customers come from all over the world to purchase high quality American mohair.
So, tomorrow we begin our spring harvest....

Saturday, February 7, 2009

12 Days 'Til Baby Goats - 42 Days 'Til Spring

Today we are processing fiber. This is generally what we do during the winter months. Other than the daily farm chores there's not a lot of things we can do outdoors with a foot of ice and snow on the ground. The barn is pretty much set for our kids to arrive and next week we shear our 35 pregnant nannies. Thankfully it is supposed to be above freezing for the next week so maybe some of the snow and ice will melt and we'll feel a hint of spring in the air. Elvis ( pictured above) is ready for some baby goat action as well.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

16 Days 'Til Baby Goats

Just a couple of weeks from now we'll have a new "crop" of kids ! That's right, our main farm crop is our fiber babies - kids and lambs. These animals represent our farm's future in both breeding stock potential and fiber production. Each day brings the excitement associated with opening a gift - we wonder with each potential birth, what's inside ?
Before the kids arrive though we will be shearing the mothers, our nannies. The majority of our nannies are experienced mothers, but we always have a few "first timers" that sometime need a hand getting started. We do around the clock barn checks and only help out when needed.
Angora kids can be delicate the first few hours of life, especially when its cold outside. While our goats kid indoors in the relative warmth of the barn, we are always there checking to make sure everything is ok. Besides, we want to be there when our gifts are opened - there's NOTHING cuter than a baby goat !
Our apologies to all you humans out there - no offense meant.
46 Days 'Til Spring

Monday, February 2, 2009

47 Days 'Til Spring - Ground Hog Day

The other day we were the recipients of yet one more snow, ice and rain storm combo.
Our solar panels were covered with a sheet of ice as was everything else. There is even a sheet of ice on top of the snow. This makes for a lot of slipping and sliding by all concerned. Where's spring ? What did Punxsutawney Phil say ? 6 more weeks of the white stuff ! Rats ! -or should I say Ground Hogs !

Saturday, January 31, 2009

49 Days 'Til Spring

Counting down until spring arrives helps get us through the long dark days of winter. Spring is an exciting time of new beginnings. While most people think of Autumn as harvest season, for fiber animals producers, Spring is our primary harvest time. This year we have 50 beautiful Cormo and Cormo Cross sheep fleeces to harvest ( in addition to 100 goats to shear ) . Generally, we do not like to "toot our own horn" when it comes to our products but........we think we have some pretty special wool fleeces. For those of you not familiar with cormo sheep, they are a fine wooled sheep originating in Tasmania in the early 1960s. The first Cormo were imported to the US in the 1970s. Cormos were developed by a one-time breeding cross of Corriedale Rams with Saxon Merino Ewes.
The result is a sheep that is particularly hardy and thrifty, producing a beautiful true white fleece, which has a phenomenal staple length ( 3 1/2 - 5 inches ) for it's fineness ( 17 - 23 microns). For more info about Cormo Sheep you can check out the US Cormo website at:
The fleeces in the picture above were sheared from our flock last year. They are show winners and will soon be made into yarn and roving for sale in 2009. We take exceptional care to make sure our sheep's fleeces remain clean and free from vegetable matter. In order to accomplish this, our sheep are pasture raised year 'round. In the autumn, just before we need to start feeding hay, we place a lightweight cover or sheep jacket on the sheep to keep the hay debris from getting into the fleece. Usually once and sometimes twice during the period that the fleece is covered, the jacket will need to be changed due to the growth of the fleece. This ensures the animal remains comfortable in the cover and the fleece has room to grow. The result is the beautiful, clean, fleece you see in the picture above.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

53 Days 'Til Spring

Today it is snowing ..... AGAIN ! Winter 2008 - 2009 has been pretty cold and snowy so far.
In looking through some photos today I came across this one of our "boys" in the snow with a beautiful background scene. One of the advantages of winter is it allows you to see the "bones" or profile of the landscape without the fluff and clutter ( leaves and grasses) of other seasons -- just the rugged profile of the geography of your "world".
The picture below is taken in the same general area. If you scroll back and forth between the two you will see beneath the lush foliage, the faint outline of the dramatic landscape of winter.

Friday, January 23, 2009

People We Admire - Fritz Kuebel

Fritz Kuebel has been raising Angora Goats in Texas for nearly a lifetime. Many, many Angora Goat breeders in Texas and around the country can trace their goats' lineage to Kuebel bloodlines. Most of our most highly prized, fine hair, genetics show Kuebel ancestry. Several years ago he suffered an injury to his hip and has been dependent on using a walker to get around. For a less dedicated producer, an injury such as that would put a halt to their ability to work goats, but not Mr. Kuebel. As you can see, he's still out there in his catch, evaluating goats and selecting the best to breed. As the saying goes "You can't keep a good man down".

58 Days 'Til Spring

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

60 Days 'Til Spring

Here's a photo of some of last year's tomato harvest. We planted about 90 tomato plants -
Brandywine ( a favorite ), Cherokee Purple, Georgia Peach, Yellow Pear, and Sweet 100.
We processed, canned or froze about 50 lbs of sauce and diced tomatoes.
Currently we're working on selections for this year's planting..... to be continued.....
once we choose !

Summer Sheep