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 !

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lynne Sherwood's Prize Winning Shawl

It is always nice when yarn customers show us or tell us how they have used our product. This beautiful lace shawl was entered by Lynne in the Skein and Garment Competition at the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival in Hemlock, NY. Look at the "close-up" below. Amazing!

Thanks Lynne !

64 Days 'Til Spring

Thursday, January 15, 2009

How Things Look From Here

Today's Weather :
10 Degrees F

66 Days 'Til Spring

Monday, January 12, 2009

Maremmas LOVE The Snow

This is Sirius our 8 year old Maremma Livestock Guardian. He is the patriarch of our family of 5 adult and one adolescent working dogs. When we get a snow storm of significance - say anything more than 3 or 4 inches - we drive the tractor through the fields making paths for the goats to access water, hay and feed. So here you have a perfect example of where a livestock guardian situates himself when he does not want his group of goats to head off down the path without him.
Good Boy !
69 Days 'Til Spring

Sunday, January 11, 2009

70 Days 'Til Spring

Even though its winter we're still busy here on the farm. The cold weather can make animal care more challenging in many ways but the cold also offers some "pluses" that we appreciate. For one thing it assists
us with pasture management. Cold kills off a lot of parasites. It is a cleansing force for the pastures in this respect. We try and leave a couple of our smaller area pastures "open" or devoid of animals during the winter months. This allows the pasture to "cool off" and get ready for newly weaned kids and lambs come spring.

Our first kids are due mid-February. Lambs April 1st. They'll be ready for grazing just about the same time our pastures are really growing full out.

We do a lot of work in order to prepare for kidding season. We began last year after we moved the final group of our ewes and lambs out of the barn in late May. The barn floor had been built up with a layer of composting bedding, with always fresh, clean material on top. This allowed the warmth generated from below, to keep the kids and lambs comfortable during the cold months.
All this had to be removed or mucked out and scraped down to the concrete. We then use lime to neutralize the effects of manure. The kidding pens ( areas of the barn where we can isolate new mothers with their kids from the flock for "bonding" purposes) are treated in much the same way.
Then, during the summer the barn interior is whitewashed. It's an old practice that again uses a lime slurry to clean and disinfect the barn. Every reachable surface is sprayed and the inside of the barn is sparkling white. If we're lucky we can manage a day or two of sparkling white, but not too often. It's a good feeling though fleeting.
This time of year we're starting to build up the heating layer of the barn floor
so the bedding is thick and warm once again. Feed and water pails need to be inventoried and cleaned. Supplies need gathering. We try and intervene as little as possible and let the nannies "do their thing", but kidding in February in upstate NY can be chilly. The newbies need to get dry and warm - FAST. So we always have plenty of towels, a hand held blow dryer and a heat lamp available if the need arises. Barn checks are every couple of hours once the festivities begin and you can always count on a blizzard timed perfectly to occur at the first signs of a laboring nanny. The barn stays toasty warm though and we usually take the latest book being read with us to await the birth.
Its the circle of life on a small scale.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A New Year

It's been quite a while since we've had the time to even think about the luxury of sitting at the computer to post something on our blog. But now that winter has truly arrived with a BANG ! and the out of doors work has slowed a bit, I need to spend a bit of time catching up here.
When I last posted an entry we were getting ready to shear kids. Well, here's what's happened since then ( Monarch Note version) :

-We sheared 100 adult goats (actually our shearer Jeff Traver sheared, we skirted, vaccinated etc.)
-We did our second cutting of hay
-We stacked the hay in the barn
-We fenced in a new 10 acre pasture
-We processed 250 pounds of fiber for our Fall shows
-We harvested 10 huge red cabbage from our garden
-We made and canned 15 pounds of sauerkraut
-We harvested bushels and bushels of tomatoes
-We canned quarts and quarts and more quarts of sauce
-We harvested peppers : sweet peppers, fry peppers, hot peppers
-We roasted and canned lots of peppers
-We dried a lot of hot peppers
-We attended the Fiber College in Searsport, Maine
-We attended the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival in Hemlock, NY
-We lost the brakes on our truck on the way home and had to replace all the brake lines
-We placed 6 bucks with 6 groups of nannies for breeding
-We purchased a beautiful fine fleeced, natural colored ram lamb from Alice Field
-We placed 2 rams with 2 groups of ewes for breeding
-We processed more fiber
-We attended the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival
-We removed all the breeding bucks and put all the nannies back in the same pasture
-We repaired our sock knitting machines with the help of Marvin our sock machine repair friend
-We ate Thanksgiving dinner
-We ultrasounded all our breeding nannies to confirm breeding
-We discovered that one of our bucks had not done his job
-We attended the Hawthorne Valley School Yuletide Fair ( a truly wonderful local Waldorf School)
-We had a huge ice storm and were without power for 6 1/2 days ( Yes, even though we have the solar panels, we net meter or feedback electric to the grid. When the grid goes down our panels must shut off as well. If we were to continue producing power and feed it through the grid it would electrocute those folks working to repair the lines - not a good thing.)
-We celebrated the holidays and new year with friends and family
-We wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year
-We took a deep breath.

There- now you' re up to speed !
Cheers !

Summer Sheep