Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Birdsong and painted skeins

A new batch of painted handspun Jacob sheep wool yarn in the predawn blue light

The bird and insect symphony was so rich in this morning's predawn blue light, as I was hanging newly painted skeins of yarn out to dry. I wished I could share the whole experience with everyone. But even if I had video'd it, the richness of the morning air, the deep blueness of the light and the unique harmonies of the morning chorus would not have come through.

So, just grab a cuppa your favorite morning beverage, (mine is Dean's Beans Mocha Sumatra coffee, cold with goat's milk) take a deep breath and imagine sharing this beautiful blue morning here on Havencroft farm.

Have a delicious day.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Dipping our toes back in the show waters

I love showing livestock. Ever since I fitted and showed my first Brown Swiss dairy heifer Catalpa, as part of a class at Colorado State University, I've loved showing livestock. I love the fitting and preparing. I love seeing all the other breeds and breeders and animals in my chosen breed. I love the excitement of watching everyone get ready. But mostly love being in the class and hearing the judge give the reasons for his placings.It's an adrenaline charged way to learn good, better, best in your chosen animals.

National Western Stock Show in Denver has always been one of my favorite places to show and in 2006 the centennial year of the show, we took Grand Champion Farm Flock in the natural colored sheep division with our Jacob Sheep. That banner hangs on my wall to this day, along with several other grand champion and reserves and some pretty blue firsts.

Then we moved here to the Ozarks and had a lot of other things on our plate. But, next month, the Jacob Sheep Breeders Association is having it's Annual meeting and sheep and fleece judging in Sedalia, Missouri, only 4 hours from our farm and WE"RE GOING!
Hester getting her haircut.

I'm taking three little ewes to show. Two yearlings Hanna and Hester and this year's little Iko. That's two Canoe Lake Sonic Boom daughters and one Havencroft Dapper Dan daughter. They'll have registry inspections there, so I hope to catch up on my registrations, something else that has fallen through the cracks.

I'm donating this Corriander vest to the fundraising auction. We're figuring travel plans and packing lists and ... The show is Labor Day Weekend, just a month a way. Shawn and I are getting to go together. Yippee!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Milk or goats? Milk

Shawn and I have always enjoyed traveling together. Driving and riding in the car is a great way to focus on each other and have in depth discussions about a wide range of topics.

Yesterday, we drove down to Stuttgart to deliver another order of brooms to the Museum of the Grand Prairie. They have a beautiful gift shop and sell a lot of Laffing Horse brooms. It takes us about 4 hours to get there from Mountain View. That was plenty of time for me to prattle on about the discussion I started here in my blog yesterday. I loved my Alpine dairy goats of the past. I love my Lamancha dairy goats of the present.
Henna on the milk stand and Harley wondering what's up.

Do I want to be a goat breeder and produce top quality dairy goats? Or do I want to produce milk from well loved dairy goats. They are not exclusive. I love any goats I have, and crossbred goats can be top quality. But they do involved different decisions.
By the time we got to Pine Bluff to look at the wonderful goats there, I knew that I was looking for milkers to add to my milking string. While the romantic idea of going back to being a goat breeder was a sweet dream, it really doesn't fit into my life right now.

So, I had a nice visit with John Wagner and looked at his gorgeous, healthy goats - and came home without any. That gave us a chance to do some shopping at Tractor Supply and Lowes for supplies on the way home.

I'm still looking to add a milker or two, or a really nice doeling or two to the flock, but I am no longer looking for a buck or looking for purebreds. I just need healthy goats with nice udders who give great tasting milk. I'm still picky.

And I'm really appreciating having a partner in life to spin my wild ideas with so that I can weave a little reality into them. Thanks Shawn.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dos Manos Alpines, a trip down memory lane

I've had dairy goats since 1979. A couple years ago, my mom found a letter I'd written to my Grandma about my first goats. I learned to milk goats from Finley Nelson in Fort Collins, Colorado. Finley also taught me to drive ponies, enjoy reading aloud to friends and to like Zane Grey westerns. Finley had a fine herd of heavy milking Saanen and Alpine does. He taught me to always buy the best male animal for your flock that you can afford. That's the best way to improve any livestock, from cattle to dairy goats. After all, your male is half your genetics. When Finley dispersed his herd, and I bought a few. I loved the beautiful black and white Sundgau does.

 I met Susan Moore about that same time when I was working on a ranch in Waverly, Colorado. Her La Luna Dairy Goats became the foundation of my Alpine herd. La Luna Innocencia was my favorite doe for many years. We had her until she was 12 and then she went to a friend's herd in Penrose, Colorado. She was hoping to get one more set of kids out of her.

The bucks that shared my life at that point were Fir Ridge RR Vesta's Andre; Tenmile Rommell Knut; Redwood Hills Nobleman; and Reparte', aka Party-goat. Andre became the most agressive buck I've every had. Nobleman was a true gentleman. I eventually culled all of Party-goat's descendants from the flock. They were all fence jumpers. That seems to be a highly heritable trait.

I had my flock on DHIR test. I just recently discovered the American Dairy Goat Association's registration database online and I spent a fun few minutes researching my old herd name, Dos Manos.  Dos Manos, two hands make the work go easier, milking smoother and working on the homestead lighter. Some of my Dos Manos girls milked as well as I remembered. Others, I did not remember at all. The Dos Manos goats from the 1980's are mine. Someone has picked up the name, so all the ones in the 2000's are not.

I was lucky to be a member of a very active Northern Colorado Dairy Goat club and to have Dr Joan Bowen as my veterinarian, small ruminant mentor and friend. I loved showing my Alpines. I have pictures of my son (now almost 30-years-old) in diapers in the show pen with the kids - the four-legged kids. Another family picture that I am fond of shows my two children, bundled up in blue parkas on hay bales, surrounded by goats. Goats were a big part of their life, we have many family goat stories.

Then we moved to southern Colorado for work. As my kids grew older and we got more involved in homeschooling, the show side of my goat world slipped away. I still kept milk goats, but I stopped registering them and showing them. My focus moved to raising children. The goats provided us with good milk to drink, make cheese, raise bottle baby calves and lambs and make soap with.

I kept goats. They became a mixture of breeds with different colors, different ear styles and different personalities. I kept the ones that had good tasting milk, were easy to milk and that didn't create trouble. When Shawn and I joined households, we scrambled our names and came up with Laffing Horse for our farm name. The first dairy goat we bought together was Victoria, a lovely Lamancha doe. We decided Lamancha's were our breed. We went to Northern Colorado to get South Fork King Arthur, a beautiful black Lamancha buck kid. But, my focus was still elsewhere. While I loved, milked and kept my goats, I didn't feel the call of the purebred registry, or of the show ring.

Our Lamanchas continue to be lovely goats. My two current girls, Henna and Harley have cute little Lamancha gopher ears, though they are 1/4 Saanen. I love the Manchi's disposition, milk quality and ease of care, but, we've found that is challenging to sell good milk goats that don't have ears. We've started called the price difference between goats with ears and those without the "ear tax." I've started looking back at other breeds. I'm tired of what the "ear tax" costs.

After selling the herd down last year due to the drought, I thought I might just be able to keep a few milkers for the family, but I'm finding that two milkers is too few for my comfort. So, tomorrow, we are headed to Pine Bluff Arkansas to look at some really top quality Alpine dairy goats. I feel like I've come full circle, back to my goat start. I'll let you know what we find.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bugs and other scheduling matters

Last night, after locking the chickens up, I turned our new batch of "bugs" loose.
We've been using fly predators from Spalding Labs since moving to here Havencroft Farm. These little tiny bugs arrive in the mail and begin to hatch out inside their bag in the house.
We use both the jar fly traps like the one on the left and sticky traps like the one on the right. The jar type seem to work  best for us. Kitty likes to supervise chores from her comfortable perch atop the sheep shelter. This double hoop shelter has worked really well for us.

When they are really hatching well, we sprinkle them around the shelters and sleeping places of the sheep, goats, horse, llama and by the milk barn. You can look at the web site, if you are interested in the mechanics, but, they keep flies from hatching. We also use fly traps to entice and catch the flies that do hatch. With these controls, we seem to have fewer flies on our concentrated 5 acres than we do at work, where we haven't had any livestock in a year.
I order all the bugs for the year at the rate the company recommends and they arrive in the mail when they are needed. I don't have to think about it.
I wish I had such a system for other regular pest controls on the farm. Like dusting the angora goats. When we use diatomaceous earth to control goat lice on a regular basis, it works. Get off schedule and it doesn't. We also have flea controls for the indoor cats and dogs (which don't work as well as I'd like, anybody have any suggestions?) that have to be on a regular schedule to work. And the little dog's baths for her allergies and the new kitten's vaccinations and... I need a separate date book just for the critters. I used to keep a barn book, with everything that happened on the farm that day, weather, critters, garden and life happenings. I seem to have lost that organization. I still value chronicling, I just seem to have lost the focus.
I think I'll go weave and think about how I can become obsessive about recording life.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Meditations on rebuilding

I like to listen to audio books while I weave. I used to have shelves of them on tape, then on cd. Now they are all on my iphone. I hate headphones, so my family is used to having to listen to bits and pieces of my stories as they go by or in and out of my studio. This morning I just finished listening to Herman Wouk's Winds of War while working on the gray multi-texture shawl on my triloom.

The story ends with the beginnings of the salvage of Pearl Harbor and the bombed out battle ships. As protagonist Pug Henry deals with family issues, he also has to decide what to do with his career, as the battleship he was supposed to arrive in Pearl to command now lies on the bottom of the harbor. The story gives estimates of dry dock and rebuild times on the ships that can be salvaged and estimates of the current force and when new ships will be ready to go to war.

That whole discussion parallels what I hear my family going through in the decisions they are having to make after loosing their home in the Black Forest fire. They have a lot of work to do and decisions to make. They are still in the clean up and salvage phase. Today they are headed back out to the property with a crew to pull out the big metal, so they can sift the ashes. They are trying to list contents and deal with insurance issues on the days they aren't working. There is so little I can do to help from this far away, so for now, I just try to keep in touch, offer to help where I can (like by doing internet searches for antique values) and let them know I love them and am thinking of them.

I'm starting to search for quality Alpine dairy goats with an eye toward rebuilding the milking herd. We'll need a few more milkers when my folks move here to Mountain View. We are hauling hay in the evenings. So far, the crop looks good this year and we will have all the different qualities of hay we need. The garden continues to grow and produce yummy, healthy food. The weather this year has really been perfect, all the seasons coming when they are supposed to and being text book winter, spring and summer. And life goes on.