2012 Blog Entries


Narnia

Monday, December 31, 2012
This time of year, I feel like changing our farm's name to Narnia. As beautiful as the landscape is, the air is bitingly bitter with cold. After a while, my fingers feel like they are going to break, even with good gloves on. This is when I start counting the days till Spring.

I wish you could see this slide of snow that froze in place along the eve of the shop.  It slid, changed it's mind, and just hangs there - with icicles a couple of feet long curved in towards the building. 

I no longer slog my way through the snow on that side of the building to go through the gate in back. It would be my luck for the whole thing to come down as I got half way through it.

The goats are full of cashmere and almost ready to comb.  I have two that are already loose with fiber, so will comb them on Wed.  Decided to comb all 54 goats this year, instead of shearing.  Have moved two stall heaters to the center of the barn so we can stage the stanchions there and at least have some heat while we do it.  Katie will help this year, so that will make it go much faster. 

I took a look at what it costs for all the heaters to be on in the barn for three weeks after shearing to keep the goats warm while they acclimate to not having their warm winter coats. Between that and the cost of shearing, the savings will more than pay for Katie's help, the goats will be happier and warmer with their guard hair left in place for them, and the combed fleece will require fewer passes through the dehairing machine.  Nice to shear and get it done in one day, but even though it takes three combings over a period of three weeks, there are some definite advantages. It also causes less breakage to the fiber and gets the full length of cashmere off the goat.

Actually, once you get set up and start combing, it is almost therapeutic.  Seeing the product of all one's efforts for the last year slipping off the goat, feeling the feather light fiber sliding softly through your fingers, placing the promise of beautiful yarn in it's bags, always is a gentle reminder of how interconnected we are with these beautiful animals in a spectacular place. 

We are blessed......even if it does feel like Narnia right now:-) LOL

Winter Wait

Thursday, December 13, 2012
Every year, chickadees nest in this birdhouse under the deck.  It's pretty quiet here on the mt. with most species of birds gone.  But, this reminds me that it won't be but a few months and the woods will be filled with song, and the little pair of chickadees will set up housekeeping once more.
Smart birds go south for the Winter :-)

Liberty Farm's Sugar Daddy and girlfriends

Thursday, December 13, 2012
We are planning late April/May babies this year.  Been there done that with -4 degrees March 2008.  That was the worst, but March can still be pretty brutal up here as far as weather and it the cold is hard on moms and babies.  Also hoping for more grey fiber out of this buck.  Outside color does not determine cashmere color underneath, but grey and dark brown fiber almost always comes from black goats.  The grey fiber dyes a more intense color, so bought this buck to maximize production of that color.  
Under the old apple tree.

Here Kitty, kitty, kitty

Friday, December 7, 2012
No trouble here since the dogs re-educated the cougar, but thought it a good idea to put up a critter cam.  That way, I can check everyday to see what kind of animals are passing through the property.  Put the camera up  by a well used deer trail where it comes up into this area.  May move it depending on where tracks in the snow are.  They will let me know where the traffic is.

What took it so Long?

Thursday, December 6, 2012
Not that I'm complaining!  Knew that warm November weather would not last long.  Snowing lightly today.  Heard a single, high pitched bark and looked out the door.  There stood Mya below the house..  She does not like having her goats separated and last year we went through the same thing.  She is the only dog that jumps gates.  So........she jumps the gate of the Winter pasture, and patrols the pasture that has the buck and does to breed. When done there, she sits below the house and barks her short complaint for me to let her out of the gate that has wire she can't get over. She bullets up to the little bucks pasture to check everyone out there, and then down to the barn for me to let her back in to join Max and Ghita.She is never completely happy about the setup until all the does are back together.

Have had to separate Ghita and Sophie.  Ghita is almost 2 1/2 now and has decided to test Sophie for dominance.  Terrible fight, resulting in stitches and a pretty mangled ear for Sophie.  Am told by other breeders that if the males fight, they get over it and get on with life.  If the females fight and one does not submit, fighting will escalate.  The females hold grudges.  Kind of sounds like people, eh?

Arizona Arwen

Thursday, December 6, 2012
So fun to see pics of the pups we have sold.  Rick and April  purchased a pup in Spring 2012 and named her Arwen.  I love these pics April sent of Arwen in the grass, and their male Maremma, Gandolph in the water. Rick is a professional photographer.  His site is www.cp-studio.com. There are two things Maremmas absolutely love - snow and water.  

Our dogs are not happy that we fenced in the riparian area, so they can't go swimming or sit in the water to cool off like Gandolph is doing.  Fence doesn't stop Mya, though.  She just climbs the gate and goes for a swim in Summer.

Not uncommon in the midst of a blizzard to see the dogs burrowed down in the snow, instead of going inside the barn where they could be warm and dry.  Their coats must provide plenty of insulation.  They love playing in the white stuff.
Arwen looks exactly like Ghita, her mother.

Nemesis on the Premises

Thursday, November 29, 2012
Seems a feline visitor has figured out we lock our goats and dogs in at night to keep the dogs from barking and waking our neighbor who has to get up at 4 a.m. for a job.  Couple of weeks ago, the dogs started bringing in deer bones.  Deer season is ongoing, so thought someone may have shot a deer that ran to our place, jumped a gate and died here in the brush somewhere. This morning, while opening a gate, I looked down the hill where there is a lower gate that goes into part of the property not fenced for the goats.  Pretty wild down there.  Anyway, in a draw below our pond lay a dead deer.  I let the dogs out and followed them down.  The dogs were all over the place taking in the scent of whatever.  Once I got down there it was apparent it was a cougar kill.

Too close to the house for my comfort, so the neighbors will have to put up with dogs barking tonight.  This cat needs a refresher course in why it would not want to be inside our fencelines.  Reed and I hauled the carcass off to a more remote area, but figured the cat would probably come back at dusk to find it's kill.  We decided to leave guardian, Sophie, in with the goats, and leave the other three dogs loose.  I would not want to be that cougar if it decides to revisit the scene.  Three dogs, two weighing about 100 lbs each, barreling down the hill like a freight train with mayhem on their mind, should be plenty of discouragement for this cat to come back here anytime in the near future.

100% Cashmere Cloud for Spinners

Friday, October 5, 2012
By request, this dehaired cashmere cloud will be added to our product line soon. So light and soft,it will spoil you :-).

The Three Amigos

Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Since discovering that grey cashmere dyes a more intense color, I have been thinking about adding a buck with grey cashmere to my breeding program.  I settled on Liberty Farms black Sugar Daddy, a yearling proven buck with grey cashmere of very nice staple length, crimp and yield.  He should contribute some really great genes to my herd.  I'll be breeding him to my black does with grey or brown cashmere.

Ravenwood's Blue Smoke is in the middle of the picture.  He is this year's little grey buckling out of Chance, whom we lost this last Spring.  His mother, Sadie, is one of my consistently great producing does that always throws  great fleece on her babies.  He is well covered and growing cashmere of nice staple length and crimp.

Ravenwood's Calypso, one of this year's white bucklings, is by Zephyr and out of Caramel.  Caramel is also one of our premier does and Zephyr is out of a doe that I keep breeding, trying to get more of her genes in my herd.  She is a very high producer of great yield, crimp and staple length, and remains a consistent 17 microns, even at 7 years of age.
Already buddies.

Oh Boy

Sunday, September 23, 2012
The garden runneth over!  Yesterday I made grape juice and processed it, salsa and processed it, and have spicy zucchini dehydrating into chips for dips.  Pulled up the Walla Walla onions which are huge and have them hung to dry.  Garlic is finished drying and I'll put it in brown paper bags and store the bulbs.  Still have another full batch of grapes to pick and process, and will dice up some of the onions, swiss chard and leeks to dehydrate for soups this Winter:-)  

I want to get cheese made and freeze it, and, and, and.............Folks, there is just not enough time or me to get it all done!  Older equals slower:-)

On the other hand, there is no better feeling than being able to take something from it's beginning to it's end product - all on your own. Doesn't really matter whether it is cashmere goats and the yarn they produce, or a garden that provides healthy food for us.  Ravenwood is good for my soul:-)

Need to get going on dehairing the rest of the fleece.  Learning curve continues.  One harvest bag of several white fleece that I dehaired and sent off to be spun was barely long enough to spin.  Diana at GTTS called and said that the fine low micron of that batch of fleeces coupled with shortness equals difficulty turning into roving.  It went through the carder just fine, but the weak, fine fibers began to break as it was being turned into roving.  Since it was half dozen does who have had their fleece spun before, it was probably a problem with the shearer not getting close enough to the skin to catch all the cashmere.  So............what to do.  If we did not have so many goats, it would be nice to just comb everyone and not worry about that.

Diana said it was beautiful fiber, made a nice web, but just too fine with the added shortness to spin by itself.  I have been wanting to try something lately and this gives me the opportunity.  Cashmere/merino blend has already been tried and makes a wonderful yarn, but I have been thinking along the all American route and looking into other fine wool sheep that I could blend with for 3 ply yarn and designing larger projects.  I talked to Diana about Targhee - a breed of sheep originating in the United States and developed in Idaho around 1926.  It is a fine wool with a nice handle and spring to it.  

I'll send her the Targhee top I ordered from Sweetgrass and try a blend of 20-30% of the wool with the cashmere.  I am excited to see how that is going to turn out.  With the fine wool, it could make a beautiful yarn that could be slightly lower in price because of less cashmere, but at those percentages still retain it's incredible softness and strength.  

I am going to call it my EAST MEETS WEST yarn:-)


Basket of cashmere and canned grape juice and salsa.

Where the Sam did Summer Gooooooo?!

Sunday, September 16, 2012
Unbelievable.  Haven't posted on the blog for 2 months.  Not for lack of excitement, that's for sure!

Garden, fencing projects, moving stall for horse to come home, new dehairing machine, hours on it (like watching grass grow:-).  Then there was the CAE debacle and an Identity theft fiasco that brought a lot of stress. Had to buy a newer car since the one we had had so many rust issues, I was afraid the motor would drop out from under me while driving down the freeway.  Hated to buy another car with the economy like it is.  Been nice to not have payments for 11 years.  BUT, Winter is coming.  Need I say more.

Good news: great goat kid crop and a lot of really good cashmere coverage on them.  Rainy June contributed to lots of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and now blackberries, peaches and grapes.  Raised beds in the garden, filled with compost from our barn cleanings, delivered the best garden produce I have ever raised. Brought my horse, Dakota, home to enjoy for a few months.

Designer, Jen Hagan, is working on new patterns for us - Fair Isle Hat and men's scarf.  FUN!!

So many things to be thankful for.  Working on the dehairer is slow but it produces a beautiful product.  So nice to be independent and to be able to do everything but spin the yarn.  Going to the Sun Fiber Mill continues to spin beautiful yarn for us.  Grow it, shear it, wash it, dehair it right here on the farm - ultimate quality control:-)  Waiting for that first batch of yarn off our machine was so exciting.

Fall is definitely in the air with cooler nights.  The last hot, dry month has dried out all the browse and pasture.  We are back to supplementing hay.

Moose are after my favorite wild apple tree. I wish I could find someone to graft branches off of this one.  It is the perfect eating apple and great cooking apple as well.  I wait all year for these apples for a favorite apple cake recipe I make in the Fall.  

Wild turkeys are a permanent feature here since they have a water source and Reed's bird feeders.  6 ft. bird feeders do not deter them!!
I need to reseed some places in the pasture and I know the dang things will get most of the seed, but they are part of the mountain world wildlife we enjoy in spite of it.

Had a gal out here the other day helping me linseed the stall that was moved out to the round pen for my horse.  She said, "I love coming out here. The animals all look so happy."

Best compliment I could have:-)

The ultimate balancing act.

Fruits of One's Labor

Tuesday, July 3, 2012
The composting of the daily barn cleanings of manure, hay and straw in our 4x4 ft. worm bins is paying off in a grand way.  The plants are very happy in our raised beds filled with this compost, and we are enjoying wonderfully flavorful, crisp salads and produce. Pesticide free, healthy.

It's a bit strange to feel the 'scurry to keep up" attitude drifting into a new paradigm shift.  The bottle babies are as big as our herd kids and will soon be integrated into the herd. The vulnerable period following shearing, confinements from bad weather, kidding, bottle babies, newborn/ growing pups is behind us.  The vigilance is now relegated to our Maremma livestock guardians, Max and Mya, as far as protecting our livestock and investment of energies and concerns for the rest of the Summer.  Sophie has been commissioned to guard the chickens and bottle babies.  Ghita is confined another 10 days while she is in season, anxious to be out with the others.  Life here is changing to a different rhythm.  A relief I must say, along with a weary sigh:-)

Plenty of work to do with the dehairing machine, that adds it's own ticking rhythm here on the farm.  Such a slow process, but I am always amazed at the result in the soft, downy cashmere that drifts off the rollers into the bin. The independence it provides is also a worry off our list.

A family farm is not a place, nor an occupation.  It is not a huge, corporate, only for profit, endeavor.  It is a life vibrating with the energy of being part of something bigger than the latest electronic gadget to buy, or the prestige of a successful big city career.  It is a lot of hard work.  But it is also a connection on a deep level to the land and living things one cares for.  It is an appreciation for the cycles of life, and a gratitude for the yield living things provide us in return for all our efforts.  It is a haven for us, children and grandchildren.  It is a place they will learn to appreciate the opportunity to work, that it can be fun and fulfilling, and they have the opportunity to develop a work ethic - something rare nowadays.

When I lay this weary, aging body down at night with all it's aches and complaints I realize one important truth.  It's all worth it:-)  We are doing exactly what we want to do, exactly where we want to do it, and with exactly who we want to be doing it with.  It's a good weary.

That's my story and I'm stickin to it! :-)
Happy vegetables in our compost filled raised beds.  Piper, one of our bottle babies.

In Memoriam: Time for a very serious Talk Folks.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Chance was born 2008, the first buckling born here.  He was a bottle baby and grew into one of our premier bucks. Tame, and loving human attention, he was like a pet. For the last four years, his long flowing coat shown like silver blue in the green grass.  We held off using him for breeding until last Fall, using other bigger bodied bucks to add size to our kids.  I was so excited to see how many kids he would throw and if they would inherit his wonderful color, cashmere and yield.  12 March 2012, he was euthanized.  It was a needless death.

When he was born, thinking he would thrive best if fed goat milk since he is a goat, we searched for someone to buy milk from.  A lady my husband knows has raised goats for years.  She shows them, ships them, sells them.  Being new at goat raising, we did not know much about raising bottle babies, let alone questions to ask.  It seemed she would be a good source.

Fast forward 4 years and Chance comes up lame.  Vet is called.  Blood is drawn.  Test comes back CAE positive.  My heart sank.  In the years that passed since he was born, we have learned about many diseases.  How could he possibly have that?  Did it come from his mother that we purchased...........or did it come from the milk we purchased?  His mother had been sold a long time ago, but her other kids would turn out to be negative.
SInce we had bought the milk, Reed asked the lady about CAE and her herd. Yes, she had CAE in her herd, and she was oh so sorry she had not told us.
The simple solution to the problem would have been to pasteurize the milk. She should have told us. Why someone would not is beyond me.

Fortunately, Chance had never been pastured with the herd.  His only partner in his own paddock was another little buck that had been placed in that paddock at three months and never returned to the herd.  That lessened the exposure to the herd, except for the 11 does we bred him to last Fall.

CAE (Caprine Arthritis Encepalitis) is not curable
CAE is primarily transmitted through mother's milk and body fluids, making them most contagious during birthing and immediately after.
90% of goats that get CAE never develop symptoms, however, long term exposure to CAE positive goats in a herd can result in 20% of the herd turning positive over the years. They can be contagious and spreading the disease without anyone knowing it is present.
CAE can be transmitted through blood, saliva, droppings, although rarely
CAE can be transmitted through breeding bucks, although very rare.

Kids from CAE positive does must be pulled from their mothers before nursing to prevent them getting CAE through the colostrum/milk.
CAE positive goats must be isolated from the others for their entire lives to prevent exposure.
Pasteurization of milk kills the virus, but the antibodies in the milk of the mother remain in tact.  This can result in a positive test result for the kid who received pasteurized milk and inherited the passive antibodies.  These will usually clear from the kid's system in 6 - 7 months. Trouble is, testing only detects antibodies and does not discern between passive or infectious antibodies. So, even though these goats are not infectious, they must be isolated from the herd.

We are not set up to keep animals isolated for their entire lives, and cannot tolerate any disease of any kind on the place.  We could not in good conscience sell any animal that tests positive for any disease. Chance's fate became alarmingly apparent and I wept.

The entire herd was tested. All this - just as all the does started kidding.  Every doe showing any sign of imminent birthing was isolated in a pen so all birthing fluids would be contained and immediately cleaned.  They would need to be kept penned until we got results. Talk about stress!

The tests came back.  Two others turned up positive.  One was the little buck housed with Chance.  The other was another pet doe, heavily pregnant with probably twins.  Out of all the does bred, she was the unlucky one that picked it up through breeding.  It could have been much worse, but this was turning into a nightmare that had to be relived 3 times putting beloved animals down.  My husband missed two days work, since I was so distraught over their loss and the implications it might have for our herd.  The herd would also need to be retested in 3 months to pick up any that had turned positive in the 60-90 day window of infection.

Chance, Ariel and Moe were all euthanized to eliminate any possibility of exposure to the rest of the herd.  I had bought a pasteurizer once I started making soaps,  3 years ago.  However, I had one bottle baby that had been fed the pasteurized milk, so she had to be isolated until three months of age.
Our vet kindly took her to keep for a while.  She came back home at 2 months of age and had to be penned in a 6x8 pen for another month until the next testing.

End result:

Fortunately, every remaining animal in the herd tested negative after 3 months. Vet at WSU said that with such minimal exposure because of the two bucks never being with the herd, and only one doe who was 4 months post breeding and euthanized before birthing, we could be comfortable that we caught this before it got into the herd.

Unfortunately, over $3,500 in vet bills. 

Loss of 3 of our best animals, and the twins our doe was probably carrying.

Destruction of our only two bucks.

Anxious wait to have the retesting.

Close confinement of the little doeling who sorely needed companionship and play to grow and develop socially and physically.

Yesterday, I ran Ariel's fleece that was sheared last Feb. through the dehairer.  It was all I could do not to cry all over again, feeling her wonderful down cashmere flowing through my fingers. I can still feel her leaning her head against my thigh in hopes of being petted.

Folks, especially breeders, please take note.
80% of the herds tested in the U.S. have positive goats in their herd.  And, no, it is not just dairy herds. 

No one can claim their herd is CAE negative unless they have had all their animals tested.

Every goat owner has the ethical responsibility to inform purchasers about the presence of any disease in their herd. Not telling people puts their entire herds at risk, results in the destruction of valuable animals and takes a huge emotional and financial toll.  Please, please, please do the right thing.  The fix for the purchaser of milk is simple.  They just need to pasteurize their milk. Tell them - please.

I have found that the disease is so prevalent, and so few animals actually develop any symptoms, that people are rather fatalistic about it and just assume they will lose a few animals over time.  I find that attitude completely irresponsible if one ever considers selling animals.  It is not fair to the animals or the purchaser and unethical to do so. No one likes to make the hard decisions, but if we ever want to get rid of this, those decisions must be made.

In retrospect, Chance's illness and loss could be considered a blessing.  It let us know the disease was present. It resulted in us catching the disease before it got into the herd.  However, it was entirely preventable, with an easy solution.

The second set of twins out of Chance were a doe and buckling out of one of my best does.  It was like Chance was saying "I'm baaaaack".  There before me lay a perfect little silver grey buckling, who has made the cut in evaluations of 3 month old kids.  He will grow to be another beautiful animal and I cannot wait to see his fleece.  I'll look out in the pasture and see the silvery flow of long bluish grey hair of "Ravenwood's Blue Smoke" swaying in the wind against emerald green grass.  I'll think of Chance and silently thank him for leaving me another beautiful buck of promise - just like him:-)

Miss you bud:-(

I LOVE this machine!

Thursday, June 14, 2012
This partial batch, just weighed, is 3.8 ounces of dehaired cashmere waiting to be spread out and go through it's final pass.  Yes, that is only 3.8 ounces of dehaired cashmere on that belt.  It is so light, it takes a LOT to make an ounce:-)  This comes off our 7 year old doe, Buttermilk, that still produces wonderful cashmere.  Wish I had 40 more like her!
     

The Morning After the Storm

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Whopper of an electrical storm last night!  Did you know that wild turkeys gobble after thunder?  I suppose the noise frightens them and they perceive it as a threat.  Once the storm arrives in full force, though, they are too busy hanging on to tree limbs for dear life.  They like to perch high in the pines, so they really get hammered by wind, rain and hail during such storms.  With those bald heads, I'll bet that is no fun.

Tree frogs also love to chime in during a storm, for whatever reason. It was quite the concert with all the goings on, the flashing of light and nary a break in between thunder and lightning.  For a while I felt like I was living beneath a bowling alley with all the noise rolling in wave after wave.

It all made me smile in remembrance, though.  Grandma used to tell me the noise was nothing to worry about - it was the devil beating his wife.  Mom used to tell me it was God moving his furniture.  To a small child, neither of those scenarios brought much comfort, but you've got to love the Irish craft of making a story out of anything.  Such was my family.

It was nice to see the sun come out, and a faint rainbow adding the artist's touch to a grand canvas.  Love it here:-)



Before and After

Saturday, June 9, 2012
Red outer guard hair dehaired and cast off by the machine.  Creamy colored cashmere cloud as final product in right hand.

First Day Dehairing

Friday, June 8, 2012
There are feeder and lickers, transfers, doffer and batt -all set to adjusted speeds depending on length of fiber, how straight it is, how fine it is, ratio of down to guard hair, how coarse it is, how fast the machine is casting off the coarser guard hairs, etc. etc. etc.  My head is swimming, but today has been a lot of fun.  You just cannot imagine how a machine happily humming along can cast off all the coarse hair and leave only the divinely soft cashmere down behind.  Amazing!!  

Scared to have the manufacturer leave tomorrow, after he makes a few more modifications.  Like he says, he tries to teach us to understand what is going on and the basics of it's physics, experience will teach us the rest and he will always only be a phone call away.  I believe him.  Keith Wild of MK Machine (known as Tex Tek Technologies) out of Ontario, Canada is the manufacturer and it has been a great two days with him as he has set the machine up and patiently walked us through all the steps running fleece through and explaining why adjustments were needed. 

A new adventure and more independence.  YEAH!! 
Washed fleece going in.  Dehaired cashmere coming out:-)!

Happy Dance!  Happy Dance!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012
WooHoo, here it comes! The dehairing machine finally arrived.  Gotta tell you, Matt's Moving Company in Spokane Valley, Washington, did a fantastic job of getting this machine moved back to our shop.  They picked it up at the freight terminal, had to take this 1000+ lb piece of equipment through a narrow side yard, navigate up two sets of steps, down a gravel path, across uneven and sloping ground in our backyard.  There were a few harrowing moments, but all is well that ends well.  Keith Wild, the manufacturer, is flying in Thursday to get it up and running, training us on Friday, and flying out Saturday.  No more searches for processors to dehair our fiber, or months to get it back.  Yahoo!

Arizona Arwen

Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Two different owners of new pups coincidentally named their girls Arwen after the fairy princess in Lord of the Rings.  This little Arwen that went to a couple in Arizona, also has a companion male maremma named Gandolph!  Here is a great picture they sent me of her tackling a branch while they were clearing some land. Great picture Rick!  Rick is a professional photographer.  Check out his website: www.cp-studio.com

Trouble with pictures

Tuesday, May 29, 2012
I am having trouble saving pictures. They will load but not save. Website provider loaded the last one for me but we have not figured out the problem on my end yet.  My dehairing machine is on it's way here and I am excited to get pictures loaded of it when it arrives, as well as more pictures of pups.  Deleting a lot of earlier posts to the blog in case the memory is maxed out, but so far no luck.  Any suggestions out there?

That time of year

Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Every year I say I am not going to have a garden.  So much extra work.  Every year I give in.  Something about the warming weather, the soil waiting in promise, the seeds in hand that represent such a miracle awaiting. I never win this argument. I suppose I never will.  Too many farmers in my blood.  

Newest addition to the garden are 3x12 raised beds.  Took the contents of all four of my 4x4x4 ft. compost bins to fill them, but I am happy with how they turned out.  I can weed easily from either side of the beds and the soil will remain loose.  The plants will be happy.

Riparian project

Sunday, May 6, 2012
If you have to work, might as well make it fun:-)  Well, we are all a tired bunch today!  My age is talking to me in every joint. Yes, I know, it goes with the territory:-(  Yesterday, we finally finished up the slash burning and clearing for fencing extending from our property line to and around our pond.  

Being on top of the mt. here, we are in the watershed to Newman Lake and need to protect the water source from nutrients left behind by our goats in their droppings while grazing. Now that the goats can get into this area, it is more important than ever.   I learned of a financial assistance program for such projects through a County Extension workshop so we decided to take on the work.  Everything is ready for the fencing crew now, and it will be nice to have this area and the pond protected.

Our son, Ryan, is a master slash burner and tackled the piles with a can do attitude.  We had Will helping as well. There was a lot of tangled brush and trees in the way that kept us chainsawing and adding to the burning piles all day.  Kaylee and Brenna helped out and spent a lot of time looking for salamanders along the little creek. We roasted hot dogs on the coals for lunch.  By the end of the day, piles were gone, everything in the surrounding area was cleaned out, and the area looks really nice.  Thanks for the help, everyone! 
Roasting hot dogs with grandpa.

Last Girl gone to a Great Home

Thursday, April 26, 2012
How do you count the ways you are grateful that animals you love have all gone to good homes?  Here is another great family that found us and took one of our beautiful pups.  Always a bit sad to see them all leave, but always excited to meet the people who are accepting them into their lives and farms.
Male pup will be picked up Saturday and I'll be missing the sights and sounds of the pups in the barn and among the stock.  I already do.  Guardian Mya, who has adopted the role of 'auntie' to the pups will be missing them as well.  She has enjoyed helping watch over them and playing with them. Sometimes she would just lay there and let them maul her.  So gentle with the next generation.
.

"Arwen" at her new home in Idaho

Thursday, April 26, 2012
Couple who bought this girl sent me this picture today.  I thought the gal that took the picture really captured the 'presence' and confidence of the pup in a nice clear picture.  I just had to share it!
Picture by Heather Huston O'Rourke.

Best experiences on the Farm

Tuesday, April 17, 2012
One of the best experiences on the farm is meeting the wonderful people that come our way.  Here are new owners of some of our pups.  The smiles say it all:-)  So grateful our pups are going to these great people who will provide them good homes to help them succeed and meet their potential. Keep their livestock safe pups!

Unbeatable Combinations

Sunday, April 8, 2012
OK, yes, I'm a proud grandma.  And, yes, I feel blessed to be able to share our lifestyle with our grandchildren.  In a day and age where everything is digital, and children are glued to one type of screen or another, here at Ravenwood life is filled with reality and dreams, magic and wonder, hard work and promise.  There is nothing like arms filled with new life to bring a smile to our faces. Kids with 'kids' - how can you beat that?!
Grandma can we hold the new babies?  Of course they know the answer to that:-)

Stand Your Ground

Saturday, March 31, 2012
Like I said, these pups are fearless.  Although, seconds later, the yearling goat accepted the challenge and butted the pup, sending him racing for his safe place.  The pups grow rapidly in confidence with size, and the day will come, only weeks in the future, when goats will recognize it is not worth taking one of these dogs to task.     
First patrol of the corral fenceline

Midnight Madness

Saturday, March 31, 2012
Reed got home from work late last night around 11 p.m.  When I opened the door to greet him, I could hear a puppy crying in distress down at the barn.  We raced to the barn.  1,2,3,.........1,2,3.......We were missing 4 pups!  Then I heard them.  In spite of piling bales in front of any space they could get through to get around the haystack, 4 of the pups had scaled the bales and bailed off over the other side.  They had waddled around to the back of the stack that was 8 bales high.  In the back, they had found a space between the pallets that the hay was stacked on and wiggled right in.  Each pallet is 4 ft in width and length and they had worked their way the entire length and turned the corner of the pallet.  The pup that had followed in last would not back out and they were all wedged under tons of hay.   So, in a bit of a panic like parents with a toddler locked in a room, Reed and I started tearing the bales down in an effort to get to the pups.  About 40 minutes later, we pulled up the last remaining bale covering their hiding place and there were 6 beady eyes peering back at us.  Reed climbed in and retrieved the 3 pups, but we were still missing one.  We followed the whimpering around to the side of the stack and there was the other one.  It was too big to get through that hole and I was wondering if we were going to have to tear the rest of the stack down.  With a lot of gentle tugging and turning we finally managed to pull the pup free. We locked them all up in their stall for the night, and this morning installed a gate in front of the entire stack where they can't get back there at all.  They were not happy since they liked wrestling and resting in the loose part of the hay. Then, we had to restack the hay!!!  These pups are fearless.
Aftermath of late night rescue of pups.

Babies, Babies everywhere

Thursday, March 29, 2012
First batch of kids born between 8-12 March.  Kids will be predominantly white or grey this year since one buck was white and the other grey. Second batch due after 31 March.  Be nice if this wet weather gave up for a while, since everyone is not inclined to leave the barn. Makes for a LOT of work everyday, but we sure do enjoy seeing the new kids.  Pups ( two wrestling in the background)  had an opportunity to get out with the goats during a few hours of actual sunlight the other day. 
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New Digs

Saturday, March 24, 2012
Moved pups out into outside stall and loafing area where we stack our hay.  Hung up a heat lamp, put up a creep gate.  Weather permitting, corral gate will be opened to the back corral on Monday and they can interact with the goats and check out their new world.  Ghita and I will keep a close eye on them while they explore.  Today, they have a 'duplex' - barn door is down most of the way, but they can check out their old home inside, or go to the new area with their kennel carrier to hide and sleep in. The creep gate in their new area also allows them to come and go without goats or mom eating their food, as well as gives them a safe place to retreat.

Pups took trip to the vet yesterday to get their Parvo shot and worming med, nails trimmed again and weighed.  Male weighed 14.3 lbs at 5 1/2 weeks.  Females are ranging 11-13lbs.  I am running out of carriers to fit them all in for the trip to the vet.  
Let me out there....I'm big....I'm bad.....and oh so handsomel!

Suddenly I heard a tapping, as if someone was gently rapping, rapping, tapping, rapping, tapping.........................

Thursday, March 15, 2012
OK......... I finally understand Edgar Allen Poe's poem:-)  I'm in the shower, hear someone knocking at the door, jump out, dry off, grab a bathrobe, wrap a towel around my head, run for the door - no one there.

Hear it again.  Run for the downstairs door - no one there.  Hear it again.  It's coming from Reed's office.  Wild Tom turkey sees his reflection in the office window and is picking a fight with it, pecking at the window!  Some people say Poe was on drugs when he wrote his poems.  Now I think he just had wild turkeys in the neighborhood:-)
Come on out and fight.

New neighbors

Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Sophie and Max checking out new additions.  Goats pass in and out of the barn through this aisle to feed and interact with the pups.  Chicken coop few feet off to the left of the bales. Barn cats have to cross through to get to their food.  Lots of new sights and sounds.  Pups started on mash this week to take some of the nursing burden off Ghita.

New Home

Sunday, March 11, 2012
WooHoo, to the barn we go!  Ghita can jump the hay bales to feed the pups and then out to have some time for herself.  Pups can interact with all the critters.  Everyone checked each other out and then the pups ate, explored their pen, checked out the new bedroom and promptly piled in to take a nap.

Socialization

Friday, March 9, 2012
Now that the wind has quit howling bitter and cold here on the mt. , now that the sheared goats have acclimated and are not taking up all the space in the barn under heaters, now that temps are finally rising, the pups will be moved to the barn Sunday. They will be able to interact with all the critters there through 2x4 fencing until everyone is accustomed to them and they are big enough to flee from aggressive does.  In a couple of weeks, they will be exploring in and out of their safe area through a creep gate, where they can come and go and flee back to safety if mom is not around to protect them. Kidding has begun and new mother does can be hard on pups that are still vulnerable.

We do socialize our pups since we have grandchildren that often visit, people that work on the property, and lots of visitors - and very importantly,  to make it easier for trips to the vet. This week, they were getting used to our 'little people' during their trip up the mountain to see the new pups.  
Grand daughters Brenna and Kaylee.

3 Weeks old

Monday, March 5, 2012
Trip to vet today to get their nails clipped. Those needle sharp nails are scratching her up as they scramble to nurse. Bag balm helps, but getting those nails trimmed is even better.  Averaging around 6 lbs at 3 weeks of age.  Male is 6.4 lbs and so is one of the females.  Becoming very active: playing, barking, growling.  They are even tall enough to nurse with mom standing now - at three weeks!
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Ohhhh  Maaaaannnn!!

Monday, February 27, 2012
Someone please remind me Spring is just around the corner!  I don't know what happened to the 3-4 inches that was forecast.  First plowing was 6 inches, went to town, returned to find 12-14 more.  Spent a total of about 6 hours plowing, snowblowing, shoveling our way out of this storm.

When the vet arrived Sat. to examine a lame buck, it was a full blown blizzard. He was glad to be on his way back down the hill as it was piling up fast. I think January and February switched schedules.  Knew that mild January was just too good to be true.

On the upside, chickadees are calling, woods are filling with bird sounds again, wild turkeys are beginning to strut, and I even see some swelling of buds on the wild pussywillows.  Think Spring.  Think Spring. Think Spring :-) 

11 days old

Thursday, February 23, 2012
Reed has his hands full with two pups - and he has big hands!  I need to weigh one again.  At 8 days, the male pup had gained a little over a pound!  Pigment has come in in noses and footpads turning them black
male on right in picture, female on left in picture.

Oh, how fast we grow! 5 days old  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ghita's  pups taking a nap after their lunch.

Off to a good start!

Monday, February 13, 2012
Official total: 6 girls and 1 boy.  First vet check today.  Everyone healthy and good sized.  All pups 1+ pounds.  Ghita is a devoted, doting mother.  Now if I could just get her to get out of her box to eat, instead of me getting in the box and holding her bowl for her...........she just does not want to leave the pups.
Proud mama.

The Girls Have it ----- All six of them - and one boy 

Sunday, February 12, 2012
Good Girl, Ghita!  She waited until after shearing day and delivered on her due date.  6 big, strong, healthy girls so far, and one strapping boy.

After five, she got up to eat and drink. So, thinking she was done, I took her outside to relieve herself.  I put her back with her pups, and went in to get my husband to show him the new additions to the farm.  I had changed her blanket to a clean one, and came back to find she had another pup.  Last one is still damp in the picture, so off color

Folks, I will have to update these pictures since Ghita was not finished and delivered her boy after I took these.   I guess I should quit counting until morning! 
First of 7 

Shearing Day!

Saturday, February 11, 2012
The weather held out.  The troops showed up.  All went smoothly.  Another  harvest safe in the bags!  

Stressful time of year, but so much fun once everyone falls into the rhythm of doing their job.  This was Katie's first year and we've got to say she was a trooper:-)

Whew.  Now if Ghita will just have her pups all safely this weekend I can give a sigh of relief.


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More colors in dye experiment

Wednesday, January 25, 2012
I have been experimenting with a new eco friendly dye, that contains no metals.  Using it on a thinly spun 2-ply that I will use for weaving.  It is a blend of cashmere, merino, silk, bamboo.  Very happy with the results.

I am dyeing sets of all the natural colors: cream, grey, brown to see how they take the dye differently.  These are samples of the dyed cream.
Five colors down, 4 to go.

Ravens and Mya

Sunday, January 22, 2012
We have lived here almost 19 years.  There was a nesting pair of ravens here when we moved here and they continue to nest on the property every year. We have observed a lot of interesting happenings with these birds, and continue to enjoy their intelligence, sometimes playful behavior, and appreciate their added surveillance and alarms they set off for predators in the area.

I was baking today when I heard an occasional annoyed yip from Mya. I looked out the window to see her sitting in the trees, alone along the fenceline below the house. I saw a raven playing on the wind above the pasture, issuing a cluck, cluck sound that I have often heard but not been able to attach to any given communication.  Soon, though, it's mate appeared.  Together they played for quite a while on the windy currents above the pasture.  Mya came out of the trees and walked up the fenceline towards the barn.

She sat down midway and then I saw one of the ravens dip and dart down towards Mya.  I was a bit alarmed since I like seeing these ravens and the dip was dangerously close to little Mya who is extremely athletic.  She watched the bird launch a second deftly executed dip at her and simply stepped back a few paces in the snow.  Then, the raven landed on the other side of the fence in an area we have fenced off to spray for the weed called 'hounds tongue' in the Spring.  It is one weed with little pinwheel burrs that the goats will not eat.  It is toxic to them.  The burrs get stuck in the fiber on the goats and are a pain to have to pick out.

Anyway, the raven started picking into 2 ft. of snow and throwing the snow sideways digging deeper and deeper.  That was a bit more than Mya could handle.  She interpreted that as a tease, so up the fenceline, through the corral and then over the gate she went.  They seem to have not noticed she is adept at climbing gates.  She plowed through the snow as fast as she could toward the raven.  The raven relinquished whatever the prize was, and flew halfway across the pasture with Mya in pursuit.  Finally it flew over the fence and went back to playing on the wind currents.

Mya ran to the area the raven had been working, sniffed, dug and retrieved something she began tossing around.  I got the telescope and focused it on her to find she was playing with a rubber toy she had had as a pup.  Evidently, the raven had seen it from it's high vantage point, even though it was buried in the snow, and decided to investigate.  Last I looked, Mya was still playing with it, tossing it in the air and chasing it down the hill 20 minutes later.

I am easy to entertain, aren't I? :-)

Ghita is pregnant

Monday, January 16, 2012
We took Ghita for an ultrasound this morning.  She is pregnant with at least 5 pups and maybe more.  The litter will be born around 13 Feb.  Pups will sell for $600, available at 8 weeks middle of April, will be up to date on vaccinations, worming, health checkups, microchipped and come with pedigree. Both parents are registered with Maremma Sheepdog Club of America.  We are accepting deposits of $100 on pups.  

Max has OFA certification on his hips.  This was an unplanned pregnancy, so Ghita has not had x-rays for hip certification yet.  She will have that done when she turns 2 later this Summer.
Ghita on left, Max on right, Sophie on ground in middle.

First Dyeing job:-)

Sunday, January 15, 2012
I have been paranoid about trying to dye my cashmere.  Not a small loss if I make a mistake!  So, I had the mill use some of my seconds for a blend with merino, bamboo, silk. I had them spin a tight 2 ply for me to experiment with in weaving.  I am really pleased with the result.  It has a kind of heathered look with some shine and a real jewel tone to it.  The dye I used is an environmentally friendly dye that has no metals in it, so I wondered how that would work out. 

I am very pleased with the first batch results.  I am going to try all nine dyes on three separate colors of the blended yarn, so I will have some control samples of the results.  The first experiment was in purple and the picture is a sad representation of the result.  The bottom skein was cream, the middle was grey and the top one was brown yarn.  The cream came out much lighter than the other two, the grey really is a rich purple, and the brown is more muted.  Fun!!


Witnessed it again

Wednesday, January 11, 2012
One of the most fascinating experiences in owning multiple Maremmas, is watching them work in tandem.  I got to see it again today.

I never got to see the predator, but whatever it was had the dogs worked into a frenzy.  All four dogs were in the corral behind the barn barking and on full alert.

Sophie stayed in that area to keep up the front.  Mya, Max and Ghita tore out of the corral, through the barnyard and down the fenceline in an attempt to get closer to the threat, only to find the gate closed.  They bulleted back up the slope to rejoin Sophie.

In the meanwhile, all the goats had run in from the pasture to gather in the corral in front of the barn, closer to the dogs.  This is always their response when all dogs are on alert whether in the field or near the barn.  They know they are safer with the dogs.

As the dogs ran through the herd to join Sophie, I saw Mya turn on the goats and with feigned bites at their legs and rears, drove them back out of that corral back into the pasture.  Evidently thinking they were too close to the threat, she herded them into a cluster in the open where she could keep an eye on things in every direction, then walked straight into the middle of them, sat down, no barking but remained on a highly vigilant status.

Every goat stayed with her.  Not a single one broke for the barn and the other dogs.  They knew they were safe with her and remained with her until the other dogs quit barking and dissembled.  

No single dog is wired to do the same thing every time.  How in the world they know who is to go where and what to do is beyond me, but I see it time and time again with them.  Fascinating.

Six New Soaps added to the inventory!

Monday, January 9, 2012
Added a couple more options for men: Jacob's Desire and London for Men.  Also now available: English Rose, Sandalwood Vanilla, Lime Mint and Chocolate Mint 

Happy New Year - won't be long to harvest time:-)

Monday, January 2, 2012
Happy New Year Everyone

Wish I could enlarge this picture more, so you could see all the beautiful blooming cashmere on these girls!

 I am really pleased with the crop this year.  We plan on combing all the kids, since we had so many so late in the season (see why and about the adventure of the little wether that turned out not to be a wether in former posts!)  Anyway, some are still smaller than I'd like to be put under stall heaters as a source of heat after shearing, so we plan on combing all of them.  The adults were going to be sheared mid February, but some are already casting fiber and will need to be combed. I will comb a few this week.

This Winter has been extremely mild so far, and although it makes one wonder about drought problems, I absolutely do not miss the heavy snows we get on this mountain.  

Here is to a prosperous, healthy, happy New Year for all my friends out there! 

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