Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Cold is getting old...

We are getting a bit tired of the cold and sure hope for a warm up soon. We did have a couple of days of warmth, with rain. Then back to the cold. This cold, warm, cold weather gets some of the baby goats sick and we have to treat for the snotty noses. Sometimes when I send babies to their new owners, I will send antibiotics just in case they start getting sick. Goats are susceptible to shipping fever, which usually looks like a cold with the runny, snotty noses. This can happen to any goat, regardless of age. It is always best to plan and look for this, so as to treat quickly and avoid future problems.

This week has been very busy with cross fencing and power coming to the farm. Every morning has had thick frost. The fence company did our cross fencing in 3 days. The above picture is some of the new fence. The frost has been heavy every morning and the men worked hard in the cold to finish the job.

The picture to the left is the machine used to drive the wooden posts into the ground. They did a great job and we should never have to replace the fence in our life time. It was expensive, but worth it.

We were delighted when Alabama Power showed up to put in posts and run our power lines. Our property is dryer then the farm next to us, so they put up our wire and will hook us up when they can get into the field on the other side of our property line. So, it will be up to the weather when we are actually turned on.
The pictures below are of the crew and nice young man who did the work for us. We really appreciate all the work everyone has done to make our dream come true and our farm progress into the future.

Once the power is on, an electrician will come in and wire the barns and well. We will then be able to hook up automatic waters to the troughs. This will save a lot of time and labor keeping everyone watered and the farm running smoothly. The lights will save me from having to shine truck lights into the barn at 6 am to feed. Milking will be much easier with power as well.
The farm is progressing slowly but surely. We hope to put up a pole barn next year, but for now we will make due with the sheds we have and make improvements as we can afford them.
I want to thank all of our Clients who have purchased goats and we are here to help everyone when they need it. It is really rewarding to see people enjoy their goats like I do. I can still remember my first goats and how excited I was with them. I still feel the excitement with each new kidding and never get tired of spending time with them. It is rewarding to see the flock come a running when they see your truck approaching and holler a welcome, come feed us... It is all worth while to see others enjoy what I enjoy. The fresh wonderful goat milk is worth the effort as well. There is nothing as good as ice cold fresh raw goat milk.
You all take care now and more later...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Cold Continues...

Wow, it has been cold the last couple of days. I have been off from work Monday and today. The north west wind has been rough. Even though sunny, it has been cold, officially in the 40s but the wind chill is much colder.

I was following Thunder Snow around to get a shot of her lady beard when she stuck her tongue out at me. I think she was getting annoyed... She is pictured to the left. I also noticed in the picture my orange handled hoof nippers are in the photo. I had wondered where they went, and yes I did find them...

The fence men are out doing my cross fencing. J & J fencing out of Tuscaloosa, Al. They have done all my fencing. Fencing, if one has ever tried it is one of the most difficult jobs. These folks do the job and are quick and do a great job. They are NOT CHEAP, but worth every penny. Remember this... Good Fences Make Good Neighbors... I am sure my neighbors, which my property is on the edge of a subdivision, would not appreciate my goats dancing on their cars and eating their roses and vegetable gardens.

I had misplaced my camera for a couple of days... But found it. I will get pictures to share of the machinery used to put in the fence. The posts are put in by a vibrating machine. These folks do this for a living and are very efficient at what they do. My cross fencing will be complete shortly. The cross fencing is so we can rotate pastures and control parasites. The worst parasites have a 28 day cycle. Moving the livestock to clean pasture saves on wormer, prevents resistance, and the animals are healthier. The livestock does not over graze either. We will continue to hay the fields as well which will also cut down on parasites. In sheep and goats, parasites are the number one problem and is the number one cause of mortality in young stock especially.

The picture to the left are of one of my young 100% Boer does with her Nigerian crossed does. They are so hardy and even though their ears are a bit goofy, are growning like little weeds. I dehorned them with the rest of the Nigerians. I prefer not having horns and eventually my entire herd will be hornless. This reduces injuries to other goats, especially young stock from the larger does and to me when I handle them. Some folks like horns and that is fine with me. I sometimes leave the horns when individuals ask me to do so. I usually leave the horns on the 100% Boers because it is preferred in the show ring if one wants to show one of my stock. But the dairy goats are shown without horns and are disqualified if they have them. If I leave the horns on for an individual and they decide to not purchase the goat, then I usually have to ship them for meat. Once the window to remove the horns safely and humanly is passed, it is a bloody mess to remove the horns of an older goat. I recommend having them removed by a veterinarian who is experienced in this process.

I have seen articles on banding off horns and knew a man who tried this technique. It was difficult to keep the bands in place and when the horns finally fell off, it was very painful and still a bloody mess. I do not want to put one of my goats through this. That is why I dehorn when babies, if not, they keep their horns. Blue was my first Nigerian. She had horns and I accepted the fact I would not be able to show her because of the horns. She can be a bit mean to the other goats, spiking them with her sharp horns and hooking them.

The picture to the right is Blue, my one Nigerians who has her horns. See how long they are, she is five or six now and they continue to grow. Blue is pictured here with her two blue eyed daughters sired by Buddy. Also, the horns can be problematic when one milks because you bend over the goat and can get a horn hooked in your eye. This has and does happen on occasion. This is why most dairy goats are dehorned.

The Boer's horns are curved under and do not go straight back like a dairy goat. It is less likely one would get hooked by a horn on a meat goat. But like I said, I do leave horns on when requested.

I will be glad when the temperatures increase a bit and have several goats going to new homes this weekend. You 'all take care...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Getting Ready for the DEEP FREEZE...

We are getting ready for a really cold next couple of days... I have wrapped the well in extra insulation, the water lines are turned off and drained, and I fed everyone a bit more corn to generate some heat for the night. The north wind is starting to pick up and we are expecting temperatures to dip into the teens.

I have included a picture of URosie in full fleece to warm us all up. We can all use a nice warm fleece right now. It is almost 6pm here in Alabama and the temperature is already down to the 30's. It really has been a cold winter here in the south. Between the cold and the rain, it has been a tough winter all around. We are thankful we are not up north where those poor souls are dealing with below zero temperatures. I am from up north and have experienced that kind of cold. That kind of cold is beautiful and deadly all at the same time. I remember the air never being cleaner or clearer then when the temps dipped below zero. But I have experienced slight frost bite and do not ever want to go there again.

I have experienced some hot, hot and muggy days here in Alabama, but they were still manageable and unless one had some medical problem, would not terminate one.

Enough for now, need to add some logs to the fire. You'all take care and stay warm...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Icelandic Sheep continued...

We had sent off to a tannery in Penn. a couple of pelts to see how they turned out.

The pelt on the left is a badger faced ram lamb.
We were very pleased with the beautiful pelts and will offer them for sale at the March 14th Goat and Sheep event being planned in Wetumpka.

The event will include sheep and I will bring an Icelandic or two. We will have some sheep shearing and have Angora rabbit fleece, some Mohair from the Angora Goat, some Cheviot lamb Fleece and of course Icelandic Sheep roving hopefully will be back in time for the March 14th show.

The event will also have a youth only goat show for wethers and commercial does. It is open to all age kids. I believe it will be a meat goat show. When I get more details, I will post it on the blog. We will also have a goat meat cook off. I plan on entering a dish with Goat Sausage and a dish with Goat Chops. There will be hot dogs and other food as well. If I remember correctly, after the winner is announced, the goat dishes will be offered for tasting by the public. YUM!!

The pelt on the right is a gray moorit ewe. She had a lot of color in her fleece. Both these sheep died of natural causes and were not slaughtered.

On occasion if I loose one of my sheep and they have a really nice pelt, I will remove it to have it processed. This is an easy way for people to see and feel the wool of these beautiful sheep without stressing the live animals. It was unfortunate we lost these two sheep, but saved a small part of them.

It has been a good day to catch up on paperwork and stay in the warm house. It was in the 40s when I fed today. I wormed a bunch of babies and put purple yarn around Brat's doeling's necks. Both Brat, and her two daughters have kids so similar and all are does, it is difficult to tell them apart. I marked the kids with an orange paint stick to keep track of who was treated and who I need to catch and treat. I have about 6 more little stinkers to catch and worm. I also need to put some yarn on Onyx's kids. I will then know who is who when it come time for registration. I am looking into purchasing some really small ear tags, but still have not found ones small enough to suit me and not cause to much stress to the small goats. They must be small and not big and ugly. Tattoos seem to fade and are hard to read sometimes. The goats will be tattooed because it is required to register, but If I can find a small tag, will make identification so much easier.

Enough for now...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Things to knit with Icelandic Wool

It is cold and raining today, a good day to spin wool and knit. The hat to the left is hand spun wool from a moorit (brown) Icelandic sheep, a white icelandic sheep, and a gray Icelandic sheep. Now the blue is some store bought, artificial yarn to add some color. This wool is a combination of the thel and tog, which makes Lopi yarn. It is soft and very warm.
The Icelandic Wool is the ultimate luxury wool and a pleasure to work with. It spins easily and makes beautiful home made projects. It also felts
easily for felted projects as well.

The sweater to the right is made with a combination of Icelandic, cheviot and a bit of merino as well. The body is done, one sleeve and 3/4 of a sleeve is almost finished. Then all that is left is the upper section and decreasing for the yolk.

I hope to finish the sweater before the end of winter.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Icelandic Sheep Wool

Winter is a great time to chat about Wool. It makes me feel warm just thinking about this wonderful wool. This blog will let folks know a bit about the Icelandic Sheep and their lovely wool.

Now, why would someone be crazy enough to want to take raw wool and spin it, making your own clothing? Why not I ask? With the economy being in the mess it is, what would happen if everything crashed? The more self sufficient one is the better and these skills need to be passed down to the next generation. Hand made clothing from a renewable source is a trend of the future, not just a hobby.

Also, the Icelandic comes in so many lovely natural colors, chemical dyes are not needed. If allergies are a problem and skin conditions react to clothing, natural wool is an option. If you want bright colors, this white wool can be dyed with Koolaid, available anywhere and cheap! Not all wool is the same and the thel of this sheep does not itch. Fine wool is very expensive and that is why not to many people have even experienced fine wool or know what it is.

The Icelandic Sheep are a dual coated, primitive sheep. Their wool can be prepared 3 different ways. The inner "thel" , or undercoat is 3 to 4 inches long. It is a fine, soft as cashmere and lustrous. It has a 65 to 70 spinning count or is 20 to 21 microns. It is classified as a fine wool. Lofty when spun, it makes luxurious warm woolen yarn for next to the skin.

The picture to the left is an example of a raw Icelandic Fleece freshly shorn. This is a gray.

The outer "tog" is a medium wool 50 to 53 spinning count or 27 microns. It is very wavy with little to no crimp and is therefore perfect for worsted spinning. Pure tog yarns make excellent warp which can be weaved without breakage.

Most spinners today blend the two wools together, the yarn is called lopi yarn and is great for sweaters, socks and caps.

The lower picture on the left illustrates the separated tog, far left, separated thel, middle and the two together on the right. This picture is from Susan Brigg's website.

In Iceland, the two wools were usually separated and the tog was used for things such as rope and saddle blankets, with the finer Tog used as mohair for shawls and rugs.

The average adult Icelandic Fleece weighs 5 to 7 pounds and has about a 29% shrink. The locks range from 8 to 10 inches from a fall fleece grown for 7 months. The fleece can grow to 18 inches if left to grow for a year. Most sheep are sheared twice a year. If one wants to send the fleece to have it processed, most mills do not want a fleece over 8 inches long. If a spinner wants to spin in the grease, then length won't be a problem.

The picture at the left shows Havvah with the wind blowing into her lovely fleece. She is standing on a hay bale, checking out everything. One can see the luster and almost feel how soft her fleece is. She is registered as a moorit (brown), but is actually spotted, with white as one can see in the picture. Her undercoat is gray and when I have her fleece made into roving, it is a lovely brown gray and there is enough white to lighten it slightly. I try to keep the fleece as free from vegetable matter (seeds and hay) as possible. One can see how clean Havvah is. Lots of pasture and having the goats clean up burrs and thistles is the secret. We also planted winter grazing to decrease the amount of hay fed to the sheep.

Of course the lamb fleece is the premium fleece.
The picture to the right is one of Havvah's ewe lambs, a lovely white lamb. One can see the wind moving her fleece as well. The white fleece is great for dying. The ram checking out the lamb is The Trump. He is a beautiful Gray Moorit ram. The white Mini Cheviot sheep in the background (on the other side of the fence) is a medium wool sheep.

Hand Spinners usually purchase fleece raw, meaning unwashed and carded, or they purchase roving, which is washed and carded wool that comes in a long 2 inch wide length. Most purchase by the ounce or pound of roving. Below are examples of roving. The two gray rovings at the top and far left are Icelandic roving. The one on the bottom right, is a light moorit gray (oatmeal color) Icelandic ewe. The top orange is Cheviot roving which has been dyed with koolaid, and the bottom white roving is natural Cheviot roving.

I prefer to send the wool off to be made into roving because working a full time job and running a farm leaves little time to wash fleece and carding it is a lot of work. If one wants to work out your arms and pecks, just card a bunch of wool... Wow.

So what is the next step you ask? Spinning of course! I started on a hand spindle. I purchased one from a farm and could not figure it out for the life of me and the instructions sucked! Then I met a weaver named Nancy who had another type of hand spindle and I took to it like a duck to water. It is a Schacht Spindle and has an inking of a herd of sheep on the underside. I have a photo of it to the right and below. I have an example of white yarn on the top and some black gray yarn I had spun in the raw at the bottom.

I love this little hand spindle and Nancy gave me this one and am not sure where she purchased it from. I recommend trying to spin on one of these if you do not want to spend the money on a spinning wheel. I went this way to see if I really wanted to do this before investing in a wheel. The hand spindles are not expensive and you can spin anywhere. I hate going to the doctor's office and really hate sitting there for an hour or more for a 5 minute visit. I take my spinning and spin or knit while waiting.

At first your spinning will look like binder twine, mine did. I used cheap wool to practice with and did some macrame with the ugly yarn. But after awhile, your yarn looks better and better. I used the single ply and made socks and hats out of it once I could get it even enough. You can double ply the yarn for thicker hats and sweaters or a blanket. I double plyed on the spinning wheel, just because it is easier then on the hand spindle. It can be done, but the wheel is easier.

Now for the spinning wheel. I purchased an Ashford Traveler (below left), because it was light enough to take with me and was a reasonable price. The instructions to assemble it were excellent and I had no problem putting it together. I went over to a friend's house in Watumpka and she has been hand spinning since a kid. She showed me the basics and practice, practice, practice and before you know it, you are making some decent yarn.

An example of some gray Icelandic roving is pictured at the lower right with an example of gray yarn spun on the spinning wheel, still on the bobbin. You can knit it in single or double ply right off the bobbin or wrap it into a ball to knit at a later date.

So what can one knit with the home made wool. Anything you can think of. I make a lot of caps, socks and am working on a sweater.

I will post some pictures of my creations on a later blog. Enough for now...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

We made it to 2009! We finished the water lines and put in the troughs. It is cold this morning, 28 degrees! That is cold for the south. I have been waiting for it to warm before heading to the farm. Have been doing registration paperwork for some goats and sheep.

The picture on the left is from 2006, the first time I laid eyes on Thunder Snow. I took this photo at a show in Georgia. I think she took reserve that day, but do not remember. She caught my eye and I just had to have her.

Snow is a Nigerian Dwarf. She just turned 8 years old in December and still has an udder to die for. It took some time to convince her owner to sell her to me. I was able to purchase her May 07. I was blessed with triplet does sired by a Rosasharn buck. I kept two of her daughters and have a daughter sired by Bubba by her. She is currently pregnant with kids sired by Bubba's son, Oldesouth Loud Politician, out of my Brush Creek doe Brat. Snow is the sweetest little milk goat one could possibly imagine. She has big brown eyes and long eye lashes, like a puppy. She also has a lady beard which would make a buck jealous. For a show, the lady beard would have to go, but she is retired now and I think her lady beard is cute (pictured below and to the right with her daughter sired by Bubba).

This little doe has produced many kids and is a foundation dam of the Nigerian Breed.

Since the cold weather is upon us, I will be doing future blogs about wool and focus on my Icelandic Sheep. But today, enjoy the holiday and more later...