Sunday, October 23, 2011

Going Forward Into Fall

If there is anyone out there who is still following this blog - well, thank you for hanging in there. No excuse really, although I like to say that I have been busy.

We have survived the hot summer weather and are now enjoying the cooler, and sometimes rainy, fall days. Today the temperature was fine - almost 60 - but we had some rain. We have three young Nigora goats who sometimes graze our backyard and today, when it rained, they took shelter in the most convenient spot they could find. The picture is a bit blurry, as I have a new camera and forget to adjust the settings, but Billy found shelter in an old rabbit cage that we have under an overhang off the back deck -

I must say, that while I love my sheep, goats certainly are entertaining!

The summer wrapped up for us with a couple of fiber festivals. Yet another picture of one of our booths - this one at Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival in Jefferson, WI - the show was a success and we can't wait until next year!

This is what our barn looked like before the festival began:

And this is what it looked like the rest of the weekend:

My favorite weekend of the year! This was our first year vending - and while it was loads of fun and financially rewarding, I did miss spending the weekend with our sheep in the Hall of Breeds, talking with festival-goers about the pros and cons of the different sheep breeds, seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

And speaking of the sheep, we are downsizing a bit this year, as we switch our focus to the fiber end of the industry. We are already booked into several shows for next year and I am finally getting some work done on getting an Etsy site set up (since I can't seem to master Zen Cart for our web site). Tonight I was finalizing the choreography for getting the sheep/goats all moved around to their respective breeding groups. The plan for this year is three Shetland breeding groups, one non-Shetland group, one goat group, a bachelor boys group and a group of lambs/kids who are not ready yet to be bred. I'm sure the rams are ready - at least it seems that Gallifrey is saying "Let's get this show on the road, already - I could go for a little female companionship!"

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Yes, I'm Still Here!

I know I haven't posted in a couple of months. I don't know why. I've taken pictures, intending to get them here on the blog. I could have posted more about the end of lambing. Or getting ready for Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Fair. Or the dreadful heat that we have had on certain days (we are about to get hit again with heat and humidity and I am not looking forward to it). But I guess I just haven't been very talkative.

Here is our booth at Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Fair. The weekend was disappointing. And I know we weren't alone, as in talking to other vendors, they were saying the same thing. Several don't plan on going back next year. Larry has family living in that area, though, so for us it is a good excuse to get together with them, even if we hardly cover the cost of getting into the show in the first place.

And since I don't have a lot of good things to say about that show, here are some goat pics. We haven't decided yet who is for sale and who is staying, but I think I would like to keep this little doe here on the farm. She is just adorable.

The kids fit through the fence and help themselves to whatever they like in the yard.

At least they are grazing clean "pasture"!

Below, you can see the mommas in the background, in the barnyard where they belong. And the kids are out climbing on the old hay bales, having the time of their lives.

We have started weaning the oldest lambs. The kids will be weaned soon. We are downsizing the flock drastically this year, so many of the ewes are going to market as soon as their lambs are weaned. The Shetlands have to be photographed and those that we decide are for sale need to be posted on the web site. But very little will be done in the next few days - I think I mentioned we are in for an extended period of heat and humidity? I could really go for a couple of inches of snow right about now!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Kids and Lambs

Last night, when I would normally be in my jammies and watching a little TV before bed, I was helping a new mom deliver a baby. This is Elfine, a Nigerian Dwarf goat, and her new little buckling, who appears to have more of an Angora fleece like his papa. She is a wonderful mom and both were doing fine this morning.

And another of the Nigerians, Sequoia, who has two little bucks, one brown and the other, pictured here, who is brown and white. Their fleece is more "Nigerian-like". This is Billy, with his mom.

Shetland lambs, so far, have been mostly ewes. This is Fontina with her moorit (or maybe musket) ewe lamb.

And the newest member of the flock, Arcateen's moorit gulmoget ram lamb, who was born sometime last night or early this morning while we slept. He looks a lot like his papa, Tarpan. Gotta love those Shetlands - he was all dry, fed and sleeping in the barnyard with his mom when Larry did the first check this morning. (For those of you who know that I never put our Shetlands in jugs - a few of the Shetlands ended up with the "BWS" and they have gone into jugs and then into the nursery as I "funnel" them out into the Shetland pasture to rejoin their flock. The majority of the Shetlands are lambing on pasture without the "benefit" of jugging, since they don't really need it - they bond so well with their lambs and are very protective by nature.)

I'll have to check the lambing sheets, but we must be at about 50 lambs and kids at this point. The majority of the "big, white sheep" are done - we still have six or eight Shetlands and Icelandics to lamb and most of the goats - although I'm not sure all of them were bred, some are still slender with no udders. Lamb percentages are down a bit this year - feed quality wasn't as good. But the lambs and kids that are on the ground look good. And such a variety - Shetlands, Icelandics, Coopworths, Polypays, goats. Colors and patterns. It's like Christmas!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dress Rehearsal

Well, the fiber is mostly all packed and ready for Spin-In this weekend. Just a few more skeins to label. We had a dress rehearsal this past weekend: This is the main part of the "store" - there's more towards the front of the booth, but the camera was dying and this is the only decent picture I got. But we're pretty pleased with the way it looks - now on to the main event. Set-up is Thursday - the vendors are open for business on Friday and Saturday. Hope to see you there!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Just Checking In

Not a lot to blog about lately, although we have been very busy. We are almost daily dyeing yarn and roving, in preparation for our first fiber show - Wisconsin Spin-In - Pewaukee, WI at the Country Springs Hotel - April 7 - 9 - click the link for more information. We are Hearthside Fibers - look for us if you are there. We're on schedule for product, I think we have just about everything we THINK we need - of course, that list could be different than what we find we actually DO need, come the weekend of the show! Just so you have something to look at in this post, here are some of our yarns - I think these are the fingering weight highland wool that we will be selling.

Yep, after studying the closer shot, I have identified these correctly.
In other news, we sheared the sheep (or rather, Roger sheared the sheep) last Wednesday. Only a few glitches this year, starting with the day we moved the half of the sheep that weren't already in our barn. The majority of the sheep and goats moved fairly easily - three of our Jacobs, though decided they were not coming with us. We tried enticing them into the barn with grain - not successful. In fact, one of them leaped over the fence, ran around the goat pasture, then decided it did not, in fact, want to run away to the neighbor's. So she leaped in with the goats, decided that wasn't right, leaped back out and finally made her way back to her Jacob buddies and leaped back in with them. At that point, we decided they could stay put and we left them where they were. I am again trying to train them to the grain bucket, so maybe, if they are bred, we can reunite them with the rest of their flock here in our barn, where we are equipped for lambing. But, as I said, the rest of the sheep and goats were fairly cooperative and the rest of the move went fairly well, in spite of the fact that the farm is a sea of mud and a fairly large pickup truck pulling a good sized livestock trailer filled with many animals does have a tendency to get stuck in said mud. But, in the end, all of the animals got into the barn and, although the truck and trailer are very muddy, they are not stuck. Must see the glass as half full. (By the way, our Nigerian dwarf goats were the easiest to move - they did not come over for shearing, but after, in preparation for kidding in a few weeks - they followed the grain bucket right onto the trailer and hopped right off when they got to their destination - I sure wish the sheep would behave that well.)
The day of shearing went smoothly - except for the two Shetlands that managed to squeeze through the fence and escape - I'm not mentioning any names, but Lavender and Maia still look awfully woolly! I will most likely throw (well, not literally) them up on the fitting stand and shear them with the hand shears in a few weeks. Maybe if I wait long enough, they'll roo for me. By the way, to my customers - the reserved fleeces have been skirted and those customers have been notified. The remaining fleeces will most likely not be skirted for a bit, as we prepare for Spin-In - but as soon as I get the new web site up and running and fleeces skirted and made ready for sale, those of you on our customer email list will be getting an email.
Lambing/kidding does not start here until mid-April - many new ewes and does this year, so it could get interesting. Fortunately, the "veterans" are all good moms and, barring any unforeseen circumstances, shouldn't cause us any headaches. I hope the new girls all do a good job, too.
And, for a parting shot - our washer died quite awhile ago - and our dryer was making an unearthly screeching noise every time we turned it on, so we finally took the time to replace them. Fuzzball thinks the new dryer is grand!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Introducing Hearthside Fibers!

I haven't posted in awhile - as usual, my excuse is, "I've been busy"! I took holiday pictures, intending to post them, but that didn't happen. This is what I have been doing instead of posting:

Those are hand dyed rovings, dyed right here in our "dye kitchen".
And we have hand dyed yarns as well:

Just a small sampling of the hundreds of skeins we will be taking to Spin-In in April (April 7 - 9, 2011). It will be our first show - if you are anywhere near Pewaukee, or planning to be anywhere near Pewaukee at that time, mark your calenders!
This is loads of fun - I usually start my day by putting some fiber in to soak, then washing the fiber I dyed yesterday, then dyeing the previously mentioned soaked fiber. Larry and I have "packaging" days - he skeins yarn, I label product. And he has been wonderful in taking over feeding most of the animals (I like to work in my PJ's and really hate having to throw on jeans first thing to feed all before I start in on the fiber). I do still tend to the chickens, the guineas and Alexander Goose, so I do get out each day and get some fresh air!
In other news, THE PACKERS ARE GOING TO THE SUPERBOWL!!! I will not be working next Sunday during the big game - I do not want to be distracted even for a fraction of a second by needing to rinse a skein of yarn or some other silliness. I have been a Packer fan for 50 years and I do not intend to miss a moment of this game.
The rams are still in with the ewes, as the weekend we were going to remove them from their harems, it was extremely cold - I believe the girls are probably all bred, as there has been no courting going on for weeks now. I'll suffer through a late lamb or two if I must.
No sheep pictures today - I wanted you all to concentrate on the fiber - the label will say "Hearthside Fibers" - we decided we wanted something cozier for our fiber line than Maplewood North, although that is also on the label, just in smaller print, below "HEARTHSIDE FIBERS" - remember the name (I'll let you know when we finally get around to creating a web site - at this point, we thought product was more important). And come to Spin-In, if you can - we'll be there!