2011 Blog Entries
Cuddly, soft and OH SO INCREDIBLY CUTE!!!
Some things remain the same
If you don't put the lights up, Mom, we'll come home to do it!
Late Next Spring
Brave little Mya
From this to THIS is one week?!
Patterns are now included free in the kits!!
They are here!!
SNEAK PEEK! Pics modeled right here at Ravenwood of finished items soon for sale.
One of my favorite things about this business
Absolutely Gorgeous Brackenhill Shawlette Pattern now available
Duck Tape Bracelets!
Fund raiser at Gallery of Thum here in Spokane: Celebrating an Artistic Life.
Many of us know Cecile, owner of this wonderful Gallery in Spokane. She has been going through extensive testing for cancer. To help offset medical costs, a fundraiser is being held on Friday, Sept 16th 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
For those who can go, please do and help support Cecile during this time. She is offering many of her beautiful personal paintings towards raising her funds. Cecile has always been a dedicated champion and avid supporter of local artists and their works. She has devoted years of her time and dedicated her Gallery to promoting local talent.
Gallery of Thum
2910 N. Monroe
Friday, Sept 16 5-9 p.m.
Mya and her goats
Now, that Mya has healed, she is showing her personality. We are having to work on one thing. She is an avid escape artist! There is no gate or fence that can contain her. At least she is not a digger. So far, she has never tried to dig under a thing.
In an attempt to train Mya to stay with her sheep, the previous owner had her cattle dog chase her back to her flock every time she left it. To escape the cattle dog, she had to clear fences. Oh boy...... She is getting better at staying in now that she is bonded to the dogs.
She is also not socialized. She is very standoffish to people and does not mind well. However, she is always excited to see me in the morning, and I require her to come into the barn at night to eat undisturbed in her pen. Takes a lot of coaxing, but she needs to learn that if she wants to eat unmolested by the goats, she needs to come into her pen. She hates being confined, but is getting better. By morning, she has escaped out of her pen and is in the pasture waiting for me again. I am hoping as she increases in weight, and over time as trust is built and her bonding continues with the other dogs, this behavior will fade.
On her very positive side, when she first started escaping her pen and clearing two fences to our smaller pasture, it was to be with the goats. So, the transfer of loyalties from sheep to goats does not seem to be a problem. She is also extremely affectionate to me in the mornings, but let's me know her principal loyalties are to her goats now.
All the dogs have done a great job of accepting her, and she trots along to the pond every morning with Max and Sophie to take an early dip and to patrol fences. Ghita still has one week more of confinement to make sure she is out of heat and is not happy about that.
I've included a couple of pictures. One of her with Max and one of her with the goats. There is a dry slope on our property where the goats like to lay in the afternoon and 'dust' themselves in the dirt. Helps keep bugs off them, but does not do great things for my pasture. Every year I seed it. Every year the grass comes up and does well until Summer heat. Every year they paw this particular spot out. The only thing I can think of is there is a wet seep there in the Spring and perhaps there is just enough coolness in the underlying ground during the Summer, that they prefer that spot above others.
Valiant Little Mya
Mya has come to us as a rescue dog. Two days ago, coyotes tried to attack a small herd of sheep a friend of ours has. The owner came home to find Mya laying in the middle of the flock. When called, she tried to crawl to the owner but collapsed. She was covered in bites and her eye was punctured.
A trip to the vet and then an eye specialist found the eye could not be saved. The owner could not afford the surgery and vet bills to cover her care. She was going to have to have her put down. We offered to pay all bills and save this brave little girl, if she wanted to sign her over to us.
After the valiant fight she put up to protect her sheep, we could not let her be destroyed. Undersized, and only 6 months old, she fended the coyotes off, giving up herself in an effort to protect the flock. Not one sheep or lamb was lost.
The eye was removed and stitched shut. Eventually, she will be integrated with Max, Sophie and Ghita. Right now, she is confined for two weeks while she heals, and for observation, since she had not yet received her shots. The vet says she has been through enough trauma and does not want to start vaccines for two weeks.
She growls at the sight of the other dogs. She has only known the dogs on her farm, and the only other experience she has with canines has been with the coyotes. It will take time, but I am confident she will come around. Here she can still live her life and eventually do what she was bred to do. She will have plenty of backup protection from the other dogs who have already persuaded local predators that this is no place to come for an easy meal. Confrontations with local wildlife have become very rare this year.
Right now, I am spending a lot of time in the kennel with her, trying to reduce her anxiety and building a bond with her. She is accommodating and submissive, although movements have to be done slowly, or she flinches. She is taking her medications and easier to deal with every time I see her.
Local Fibers Resource!
Wild Fibers Magazine
Look for our ad in Wild Fibers Magazine this Fall. We are reaching out to an international audience to let them know about our high quality yarns.
Wow. Summer has arrived. Things are drying up. Over a month in the forest and almost 100 goats have barely put a dent in the brush beyond the hill above the pond. What they have cleared, they are keeping nice and clean and free of invasive weeds and brush. Place looks better every year.
Kids are growing fast, cashmere fiber is appearing, peeking out beneath outer guard hair. Some of these kids are going to be heavily covered this next Spring around shearing time. The goats seem happy. They disappear into the woods off and on during the day, come back to relax and chew their cud, before starting out again. The maremmas patrol first thing in the morning, come back and lay on high ground listening and watching for any signs of trouble. They are pretty laid back, napping most of the day in this heat. But, the first scent on the wind that is foreign, the first sign or warning calls from ravens, or snorts from the goats, and they are immediately up and charging off.
Garden is finally growing and producing. Visiting grandkids have a ball picking raspberries. Blueberries are coming on.
Planted salad greens in containers on our deck. Henny Penny, an injured hen, is put in the garden in the mornings where the other chickens won't bother her. At night, she runs for me, talks to me, squats at my feet and waits for me to pick her up and put her in her private cage for the night. She eats all the salad greens in the garden, but since that is the only safe place for her, I figured I could plant things for salad near my kitchen on the deck. As every farm wife knows, no routine is spared when it comes to animals. Always finding compromises somewhere.
Three Handsome Boys
Ravenwood's Lady Gaga
Done with bottle babies for the year!
New Dancing Shoes
Goats need to have their hooves trimmed several times a year. Once Summer arrives and they are out all day, walking and browsing on vegetation, they keep them worn down and will not need additional trimming until Fall. Their hooves grow just like our fingernails, and need to be cut periodically.
Here is Reed, Will and Paula helping out. Paula was the official wrangler, getting them into the tilt table. Reed gave any shots that were needed and stabilized the table. Will and I trimmed hooves.
The tilt table is a big labor saver. The goats settle down as soon as they feel the pressure from the squeeze plate, the table is tilted, the floor is dropped down, and they just lay there while we trim their feet. When we are done, the floor is lifted back up, the table tilted upright, the squeeze plate opened, the end gate opened and out they go! It sure makes it a lot easier on our backs as well.
Happy goats with new dancing shoes!
Look at what designer, Jen Hagan, has going on - Junebug party!
Looks like a lot of fun to me, and you even might win a prize!!!!
Thank you for your support
I need to thank everyone for supporting the American farmer! The response to Clara Parkes article on our yarns has been reaffirming and heartwarming.
When I went to the post office today to mail the packages, I was holding up a long line of people. I apologized for their delay. Someone asked if it was Christmas somewhere.
I explained what a wonderful surprise it was to find so many orders from our website, what we were all about, and how grateful we were for people who support American farms that are struggling to survive. I wish you could have seen the grins from ear to ear on these people. They were genuinely happy to hear our good news, and there was not one complaint about their wait!
Thank you again, everyone.
Little goat lost - and found again
Well, SHE thought she was lost! Somehow little April got through a gap in the gate. When I returned home from town, all was quiet and the goats were peacefully grazing high on the slope above the pond.
20 minutes later when I walked outside there was total chaos. I could hear a lost or trapped kid bleating up the draw, far, far away from where the herd was. She'd cry loudly. Then the matriarch of the herd would answer, trying to coax her over to the herd.
Where was the mother? I ran in the house, changed my shoes, grabbed a jacket, and took off down the logging road. I could still hear her constant crying, but at least it was closer. She was headed in the right direction. Then, she would take back off in the other direction. It was thundering. It was pouring rain. I was counting how long it was going to take me to get to her and how many predators within a mile could hear her.
Where were the dogs? Then I saw them. All three of them were with her, trying to coax her back to the herd. She would go a little way and then turn around and bolt the other direction. Max was worried about the herd and left to go check on them. He left Sophie and Ghita to take care of the stubborn little waif. Sophie and Ghita would nudge her and get her going again in the right direction.
Where was the mother? Ordinarily, a doe with a missing, crying kid would be running across the hill to retrieve it. As I got closer, I suddenly understood why no goat was coming - it was April, one of my bottle babies.
I am not sure who was happier to see me - the dogs or the kid. Sophie and Ghita wanted her in the herd. April wanted back to where she belonged behind the shop. They were more than happy for me to take her off their duty of protecting her. She was more than happy to see me and ran straight for me. I did not take the time to get a camera on my way out, so sorry, I do not have pics of the dogs with her.
Anyway, here is April, no worse for the wear and almost dry. Soooooooooo glad I have these dogs. It wasn't long before I heard wild turkeys setting off alarms all over the place. Her constant crying had called something in, but by now, everyone was far out of range with the dogs who had moved them toward the safety of the barn.
It's always a team effort!
Well, today has been a wonderful, exhausting day, as we have seen our products and sales soar, thanks to Clara Parkes article in Knitters Review. It has taken a lot of hard, hard work and investment to get to this point by a lot of people.
As with all things, one never arrives at any point in life without the assistance of others. The last 4 years have been filled with people who were eager to help us learn and grow in this industry. Any success is always the result of a team effort.
The producers we purchased from: Mickey Nielsen, Laurie Miller who had purchased Diana Mullins herd, Ann Keenan, Doug Maier, all helped us with advice on selection of quality animals and their care. Their experience was invaluable as we struggled to learn.
Going to the Sun Mill, who is the ONLY mill in the U.S. who separated the cashmere fiber into Prime, First and second runs readily shared how they had developed that process. Diana and Scott Blair always attended the fiber diligently, trying to get the best result for us. Diana was also the one to point out the downside of including kid fleece in yarns. This helped us improve the quality and strength of our yarns.
On notice that GTTS needed to sell their Mini Mills dehairing machine, we sent our fiber to another mill with a commercial dehairer. That turned out to be a bad decision and what was returned to us was a mess. Diana told us it could be salvaged and shared her expertise with the owner of her former machine on how to clean it up. She also rewashed the cloud that was returned to us to remove any residual oils left by machinery. We are so grateful for that advice and help in a time of great financial loss, as well as time lost.
Our fiber continues to go to GTTS after dehairing for the final carding, drafting and spinning, because of the wonderful job in finished product Diana and Scott produce.
We appreciate the cashmere producers that work with us, striving to adhere to quality control through objective testing. Lisa Knutson, Mickey Nielsen, Ann Keenan and Lee Ludden have been sources of constant encouragement as we went through the growing pains of our vision of putting American cashmere back on the radar. They have been a great support.
We were blessed to find Jen Hagan, a designer who shares the vision of promoting American cashmere, and who could showcase our yarns with such beautiful patterns. Jen has always been optimistic, helpful, positive and very supportive regarding the future of American Cashmere.
Ann Keenan, who currently dehairs our cashmere, has always been a great friend and works very hard to provide good product for us to be spun. She has always been a great support when times were hard. I remember every email where she kept telling me this was going to work and we could do it.
A big heartfelt thanks to all of you for all your contributions in helping make a dream a reality!
Wonderful Knitters Review Article on Ravenwood Yarn!
We have worked very hard to produce a high quality yarn for the consumer. A few weeks ago, I sent some yarn samples to Clara Parkes.
She has graciously written up a wonderful review of our yarns. Check it out on her Knitter's Review. We knew she'd love it!
Go to www.knittersreview.com
Click on Yarns. Alphabetical list - click on Ravenwood Cashmere.
The patterns and yarns are now on Ravelry! The site will link you back to my website to see the kits, patterns and yarns so you can place your order. Feels so good to have this all put together.
Had to revise amount of yarn used for Lace Scarf Kit. The cottage knitters are finding it takes more than the 200 yards, more like 250-300. So the kit will contain 2 ounces of 2-ply, instead of 1 ounce. Not only will that insure that the scarf will be the appropriate length, but also it will allow knitters to knit a longer scarf if desired. This makes a gorgeous scarf, so happy knitting everyone!
Had an interesting email from a professor at University of Maryland. They are revising software that is being used for merchandising/design students, and she asked if they could use pictures from my gallery of goats in fleece. Of course! I'm proud of my goats:-)
Finally some consistent warmer weather! We have been taking advantage of every minute of it. Spring cleaning the barn, tilling and weeding the garden, trying to get the yard in shape.
We finished burning slash piles in the woods. All the snowberry brush has leafed out and grass is growing in all the cleared areas. Time to let the goats out!
I opened the gate from the pasture by the house and the dogs ran to lead everyone out through the gate. The goats ran and jumped and played like only goats can. They attacked the brush with appetites voracious for something other than the hay and grain they had been eating all Winter. The tender young leaves of that stubbornly persistent brush must have tasted like heaven to them. The natural, fresh nutrients they will get from the brush, weeds and grass will help them grow great cashmere.
Month and a half without internet! Pole and dish damaged in a storm. No one from HUGHES.NET would come out to fix it until CORPORATE reviewed the pictures of the damage. Finally called up as a new customer, ordered a whole new system and they were out in 48 hours with a whole new pole, dish and modem. Then it only took me 1 hour and 27 minutes of my cell phone minutes to get them to cancel the first account! Rrrrrrrrrrr.
Now that being off my chest, feel so much better for venting, check out some pics of new kids. That's a whole new story. 42 and counting! Little black buck my husband "neutered' last Summer spent all Winter with 50 does. I remember looking at him during the Winter. He has nice conformation and grey cashmere and comes from one of my best does and a great buck. I remember thinking that we probably should not have banded him. Well, be careful what you wish for. The band either broke or my husband missed half the equipment and we now have a great crop of mostly black kids. Some very good looking kids in this bunch, so if you are looking for some new cashmere goats for your herd, contact me.
Just had to include this picture of Sophie letting one of our bottle babies try to nurse. The maternal instincts in the Maremmas are very strong to say the least. Also, came home one day and a little black kid had gotten out under a pasture gate and it was raining. Max had it cornered by the gate and was sheltering it, patiently waiting for me to come home and put it back in the barn.
Kits are Here!
The wait is finally over! We are very excited to present, to you, three pattern with yarn kits: Lace Scarf, Bavarian Mitts and Kathy's Cowl. Cable and Lace Beret will follow soon.
We hope you enjoy the talent of Jen Hagan in her designs, the quality of these yarns, and the lovely items you knit or crochet from American Cashmere!
Yes Sir, Yes Sir, 5 burlap bags FULL
We are done with our 2011 harvest. Lots of beautiful fiber for this year! 22 kid fleece and 28 adult. Once I have the histograms back on the adults, I will get this over to Ann Keenan to dehair.
Trying something new with the kid fleece. Will have it felted in pads and then it will go to Jen Hagan for design;-) More fun on the way.
Check back tomorrow for the launch of our yarn/pattern kits!!
Anticipation is a great thing. Energizing to say the least:-)
Patterns are being printed. I am updating the website. Creme colored cashmere Cloud is at the mill waiting to be spun for 3-ply. Supplies for shipping are ordered.
Trying to organize things for the February harvest of cashmere. Logistic plans for moving animals, organizing bags, rulers for measuring fleece at shoulder, cape and hind. Clipboards for records. Horse stall heaters cleaned and lowered to keep everyone warm. Scissors for cutting off long skirt fibers, various combs for combing, shears for what needs to be sheared, hoof trimmers(might as well get them done while we have them in a stanchion),scales to weigh fleece...the list just goes on and on.....and yet, it is one of the most enjoyable times of the year for any farmer. Finally seeing the result of so much work all year puts a smile on anyone's face - especially if it is a good harvest.
The fleece looks great this year. Sophie is bred for a Spring Litter of Maremma puppies. We are getting the roughest of Winter out of the way. Yarns will come soon. Life is good.
Year of the Goat - Cashmere that is :-)
Meet 'Chance' the first buckling born at Ravenwood off season November 2008.
Depending on his histogram analysis this year, he may become our standing buck for 2011 breeding season. Chance symbolizes much of what Ravenwood is all about.
He was an orphan, born in the least opportune time of the year with a record breaking Winter in the forecast. That prediction came true and the Winter created a lot of adversity for us as producers, as well as the animals, but everyone made it through. We did not lose a single animal. People took one look at the little grey buckling, and never expected him to make it, they said he didn't stand a 'chance' without a mother.
I smiled, and said to myself, as most farmers wives would, "Well, we'll see about that."
I had heard that same forecast before when I took on the task of raising a premature twin foal from our Arabian mare. The vet, my veteran 85+ year old riding partner, everyone who had anything to do with horses said the same thing. "He'll never make it." We eventually named that foal Rudy after the young man who wanted to play football for Notre Dame and was issued the same discouraging mantra over and over again. But he did not give up and neither did Rudy. Rudy wound up a buggy horse thrilled with a job to do.
To me, Chance has always had the same look in his eyes as Rudy; trusting, quizzical, with only one thing on his mind-"What's next?"
The twin foal grew up straight and strong, so has Chance -and Ravenwood Cashmere is doing the same.
After everyone forecasting the same "you're doomed before you start" thing about the struggling cashmere industry in the United States - you'll never make it - there is no future for it, I have to smile and say, "Well, we'll see about that. If it doesn't make it, it sure won't be for lack of effort on our part, so What's Next?"
After a rather tough year with the loss of a processor, and a difficult time finding someone to process it as it should be processed, we are finally getting our yarns in from being spun at Going to the Sun Fiber Mill. 2-ply laceweight is already here. The cloud for 3-ply will start being delivered by Ann Keenan to GTTS next week to be spun. Launching of the patterns is about to happen! There is no quizzical look in my eyes anymore that says, "What's next?"
We very excited that we will soon be offering you a cashmere yarn that is everything cashmere is meant to be!
- Processed naturally with no harsh chemicals or bleaches that degrade the fiber and hurt the environment. Harsh chemicals and bleaches are used by large commercial processors to eliminate dander and vegetative matter during washing/scouring of the fiber before dehairing. and to lighten fiber to accept dyes like pastels. That also helps create an even twist with no bits of foreign matter. BUT, there is a price that is paid for that scouring. The chemicals also strip away crimp that is a quality characteristic of cashmere, breaking the bonds that create crimp and straightening the cashmere. "Feels' great, is still cashmere, but is degraded and creates an inferior yarn. Crimp is the characteristic of higher quality, stronger fiber that helps fibers interlock, trapping air, creating insulation and producing a very light, yet warmer than wool yarn with great loft and handle. As producers, we do not feel that should be sacrificed. We want to provide you with the strongest, warmest, most natural yarn possible. Small irregularities may exist in our yarn but you get the best quality yarn.
- Never mixed with other fibers like yak or wools stripped with chemicals to pass as cashmere. That's been a problem with some foreign cashmere in the past.
- Does not include kid fleece that is the finest micron diameter, but also the weakest tensile strength, prone to breakage and pilling. Just not strong enough for what we want in yarns.
- Never mixed with foreign cashmere. All American grown!
- Using only prime and first runs and not including shorter fibers called second's to bulk up the yarn. Seconds, along with weaker fibers like kid fleece, contribute to pilling, and the garment losing it's shape over time. The garment wears quicker. Seconds are used well in blends with other fibers, or for felting, but don't belong in our 100% cashmere yarns.
- Raised sustainably with well cared for animals from producers devoted to their animals health and the health of the environment.
- Raised by producers that use objective analysis to measure their animals fiber and even go beyond the legal parameters of the definition of cashmere. Our producers maintain that crimp raises the bar in quality and we are dedicated to retaining it in our product.
- We are all trying very hard to provide a very high quality yarn that will create articles that, with proper care, will last you a lifetime.
We also breed for all natural colors. White, in the industry, is in most demand because it is easier to dye. Foreign producers heavily cull out colored goats for that reason. If a goat is producing good fiber of color, we like to keep a natural choice. There is something intriguing about all natural, earthy tones that may include taupe, creme, white or grey. Some reds even produce a rare, slightly 'apricot' tone. Presently, what we sell in yarns will be natural colors of white, taupe, grey and creme, depending on the current year and herds contributing. Cashmere fiber accepts acid dyes very well and we may start introducing dyed yarns later. For now, we just love natural!!!!
Ravenwood Cashmere and Soaps