I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. So much has been happening so fast around here I’ve hardly had time to think, much less blog. So, here’s a quick rundown of news.
1. There was one more surprise lamb born about a month after Atlas and Tucker. This one was a ewe lamb, from Susie. Her name is Stella, she’s adorable and has a gorgeous fleece. I can’t believe I haven’t shared a single photo of her here yet. She’s 2 months old already, shame on me! So, without further ado, here she is a few days old (born 5/4/12).
2. I acquired another little goat kid. He’s the product of my sister’s Nigerian Dwarf doe and my buck, Four. His name is Blue and he thinks he’s a dog after spending his first 2 weeks sleeping in the crate with my Mom’s poodles :)
3. Another addition to the farm came in the form of a month old shorthorn calf. I’ve been thinking that I would like a cow or two to work as pasture cleaners for a while now. Cow prices in VT have been very high this year, so it was a bit out of reach for me. Until my friend and sometimes neighbor Erika told me about some farmer friends of hers over in NY who she thought would be willing to sell a calf for a reasonable price. She volunteered to check them out while she was over there for a visit. She emailed me a picture of the little guy and volunteered to bring him home to me. So, now I have a calf. I call him Boo. We’re still working on learning to lead, and he’s still on the bottle for about another week. He’s a sweetheart.
4. Kittens! Mice are taking over my upper barn and house, so I have relented and adopted a couple of kittens from my friend Amy. They are a boy and girl, Fred and Ginger. They are currently about 7 weeks old and totally adorable. I’m allergic, so they have been living in the fiber room, with occasional supervised romps outside in the yard. It’s been more than 20 years since I’ve had kittens in my life and I forgot how absolutely hysterical they are. I could sit and watch them play all day long. Their mama is a great hunter, even clawing her way in thru the screen window to bring a chipmunk in to her babies while I was picking them up at Amy’s house, lol. I’ll wait til they get a bit older and larger to move them out to the barn permanently.
5. And one last farm addition…just yesterday I got a new guard llama! He’s a handsome, mellow dude. My neighbor and fellow shepherd saw the listing on craigslist and alerted me to him. I called right away, borrowed a trailer from my boss’s wife, and John and I went up to Dalton, NH yesterday to collect him. He’s in the barn alone at the moment while we get to know one another, but I’m looking forward to introducing him to the flock in a few days. Today we are working up to going out for a walkabout. He’s as yet unnamed, but I hope we can come to a decision on that soon.
6. The most amazing and crucially important new addition to the farm this spring is fencing! Real, serious fencing. With the help of a few amazing farm supporters I was able to have two of my three pastures perimeter fenced with 5 strand high tensile fencing! This is a huge, huge, HUGE deal! Along with the new fencing came an 18 joule charger, so all that new fence is HOT! I can run all the perimeter fence and as much interior fence (for rotating pasture and ensuring that they really clean up the areas) as I want. So, the flock has been moved over to my far pasture and they are busy cleaning up that area. I started them out there last summer, moving them around in net fencing every couple of days. The areas where they grazed last year came back with about 50% more grass this year, so I know that in a couple of years that old overgrown pasture will be nice grass again. For now, I still supplement them with some hay in the evenings and grain in the mornings to ensure that they are getting proper nutrition. The other bonus to having them out there is that there are few parasite larva and eggs out there, so I’m not having the parasite issues this year that I did last year. Hopefully the introduction of Boo (and hopefully I’ll find him a friend or borrow a calf from a neighbor) and my neighbor’s draft horses to the pasture rotation will help keep the parasite issue to a minimum.
Future shepherd Arden loves to come visit and hang out with the flock. His current favorite is Blue.
Tallulah kidded while I was at work on Tuesday, April 10th. I came home to find this little bundle of joy, soaking wet and shivering outside the barn. I quickly toweled him off and grabbed an old thrift store sweater and cut the sleeve off to make a little sweater for the kid, since all my usual coats were too big for him. He was pretty tiny. Of course, I carefully put my scale away so I could find it at lambing/kidding time and couldn’t find it to weigh him, but I think he was in the 5-6 lb range. I didn’t know if he had nursed or not, but when I tried to get him to latch on to Tallulah he was clueless, and had no sucking instinct at all. First I thought it was because Tallulah hadn’t been sheared and so there was too much fleece down there. I called my neighbor Lisa (shown holding him above), and she came over to help me wrangle Tallulah so I could trim her udder and teat area so the little guy could find the teat. That didn’t help, he still wouldn’t suckle.
By the 5 am feeding he finally figured out the bottle, and started to actually suck it and drink. I was ecstatic! I was also happy that I had been hearing Tallulah calling for her kid in the night (thanks to the baby monitor sent by Krysta). These 2 things boded well for a reunion of mother and son. I skipped the 9 am feeding, and brought the kid back to Tallulah instead, and this time, she followed me right into the former chicken coop/kidding pen when I brought him in, and he started to nurse immediately. Such a huge relief! He suckled both sides, ate and ate, and then the 2 of them curled up for a nap. That may have been my happiest moment as a shepherd/goatherd to date.
Hi! I'm Tucker, 2 days old.
So, I’m happy to report that Tucker is growing, playing and sproinging around like a champ. He and Atlas are great buddies. They play king of the mountain on the big rock pile, or their moms, and launch themselves off of everything they can, like little skateboard punks. They are too much fun to watch, and it’s very hard to get any real work done around here, what with all the cuteness out there. More pics to come.
My shetland ewe Anna, gave birth today to her first lamb, and the very first lamb ever born on my farm today. I have an Easter lamb! He told me his name was Atlas, and was up and sproinging amazingly fast. Mother and lamb are doing great. This was the first time I’ve been actually present for the birth, and it was awe inspiring.
Now, how will I ever tear myself away from the farm to go to work tomorrow? It’s bad enough I have to leave the barn tonight. Thankfully, I have an awesome baby monitor in the barn so I’ll know if anything should go awry in the night.
Who’d a thunk it? An Easter lamb! Feeling very blessed tonight.
The internet is a wonderful thing. I’ve been so lucky to meet so many wonderful people online, especially since I won the goats. Anna Branner is one of those amazing people. She is an extremely talented spinner, weaver and potter. She has created a wonderful hand thrown tumbler just for Gilead Fiber Farm!
I had purchased a couple of mugs from Anna, featuring adorable sheep, from her etsy shop. And I just fell in love with her portrayals of farm animals, especially the angora goats. So, I approached her about doing a special design for the farm. My only real input was the shape of the tumbler, I like a big mug, and am not so keen on handles. I had some tumblers at one time, made by another potter friend, whose shape I loved, but they were long broken and lost, so I knew that I wanted something in that basic shape.
Anna has outdone herself, the tumblers are gorgeous. They are also nice and thick, so your coffee or tea or whatever stays nice and hot. I love the Gilead stamp at the bottom so much, it makes my heart swell every time I see it.
You’ll be supporting both Anna’s pottery and the Gilead Fiber Farm with your purchase. Anna very generously directs a portion of all the tumbler sales to me to help with expenses around the farm, hay, grain, medications etc. If you’d like to read a little about Anna’s motivation to be my clay goddess hero, you can check out her blog post about it at
I apologize for the formatting weirdness and link issues. WordPress has changed the way you insert these things since I’ve been on blogging hiatus and I haven’t quite figured it out yet. But I wanted to share in the meantime. I appreciate your patience with me :)
Right now, it’s March, it’s finally snowing here in central VT. This winter has been pretty mild, both in temperatures and snowfall. I’ve only had to run the snowblower once all winter. It’s snowing today so that may change. I think we missed out on all the snow since I got an amazing Christmas gift from a group of farm supporters…..a Mountain Boy Sledworks Kicksled! You know how once you are prepared for something, it doesn’t happen.
The flock is all doing well, the girls are looking large, bellies swollen with new lambs and kids to come. They are due to start lambing and kidding any time after the end of this month. Anna is looking huge, and will probably be the first to go. I’ll be amazed if she doesn’t have twins. I’m really looking forward to lambs and kids. Hopefully it will all go smoothly.
In other news, I am finally officially divorced! We had a little fiber play date to celebrate. I invited some of my fiber friends over to play and drink champagne. We even converted a new spinner :)
I’ve been doing lots of spinning, and some knitting. Mostly right now, I’m finishing up skirting and picking fleeces to get them out to the mill. I have a little bit of a back log of fleece…but should have it all out for processing before the shearer comes this spring.
If you are a member of my ravelry group then you already know about the Harvest Share program I’m starting. I’ve been toying with the idea of some kind of CSA or something ever since I won the goats in 2009, but hadn’t been able to come up with a model that I felt comfortable with. I have never felt comfortable with the idea of selling fiber before it exists…what if something terrible happened and all my animals died, or they all got into the burdock (like Skippyjon did in December) and ruined their fleeces for the season? Finally, it came to me. Harvest Shares. These are shares of the actual harvest, they are not sold until the fleece is in the bag. Then I determine what blends I’m going to do, what will be yarn and what will be roving, and then I sell the shares. I’m continuing to keep each mohair fleece to itself, blended with one sheep’s fleece, so you know exactly which animal your yarn or roving comes from. They are very limited in availability and so I am offering limited numbers of shares because I want the shareholders to receive enough product to make a substantial project. Since I shear twice a year, I will offer Harvest Shares on one shearing, and reserve the other shearing for festival and online stock, experimentation etc.
The first round of Harvest Shares was offered the last week of February, and is for the Fall 2010 shearing. I was amazed that they sold out very quickly, within a couple of days. I announced it to my ravelry group, thinking that then I would post the shares in my etsy shop, but they sold so fast they never made it to the etsy shop. I will be offering the next set of Harvest Shares soon, and will be the Spring 2011 shearing. I’m still gathering some fleeces for blending with those, so they won’t be available until I’ve got those all in the bag as well. I may have to wait til Spring shearing gets under way at my favorite Cormo and Coopworth farms, but I’ll keep you posted here.
I hope to be a better blogger now that the big computer kerfluffle is behind me. Thanks for your support!
Promise sporting her hand knit sweater, thanks Mom!
Miss Sophie has arrived!
The farm has grown again. I’ve added a new 3 year old doe, Sophie to the goat crew. I decided that if I was breeding Tallulah this year, and she singled again, that kid would be pretty lonely without another kid it’s age to romp and play with. So, I went looking for a nice doe to add to the flock. I was lucky to find Sophie, she is a sweet girl, who has twinned in the past, and who needed to be rehomed (former owner has mostly dairy goats and sheep, and had no place to keep her safe from their huge dairy buck). She has settled in to the flock here nicely, though Tallulah is still the queen. She and Tallulah and Four are enjoying the honeymoon suite this month, and hopefully we’ll have a few kids in April.
I also added a new ewe to the flock. She’s an icelandic/romney cross, from my neighbor John’s farm. He wasn’t going to breed her, since she’s a cross, so was going to send her to the butcher. I thought she was a pretty ewe, with an interesting fleece, so I brought her home. She’s been hanging out with Skippyjon for the last month. I think they will make beautiful lambs together.
Gabby, short for Gabrielle. She’s a talker.
In other farm news…last weekend John came down and sheared all the goats and the 2 shetland ewes, Susie and Anna. It’s a bit later in the season than I normally like to shear, but it’s been so rainy that I had to cancel 3 appts with my regular shearer. Fortunately John was willing to come and help out, or I think I’d still be trying to figure that out. Of course, the nice warm Fall weather we’ve been having skipped town right after the shearing. So, the kids got put in coats, they were shivering like crazy.
Persy is stylin' in plaid!
Promise has been successfully (and easily, surprise!) weaned. Tallulah did it all on her own. After shearing I put Tallulah and Sophie in with Four for breeding, and I was expecting alot of noise from Promise once her mama was gone. But, amazingly, neither of them seem to have noticed. Promise and Persy are buddies and always together out in the pasture and in the barn. So, that was a huge relief.
We’re just about ready for winter now…wood is all stacked, propane and oil tanks are full. I even got a replacement oven for the house so I can bake and roast all winter long. Breeding is under way, and if all goes well, I’ll have 2 bred does, and 3 bred ewes. I’m looking forward to kidding and lambing season, which should get started sometime in April.
The farm has had many visitors this Fall. Hurricane Irene has come and gone, and while the farm didn’t suffer any damage, my neighborhood and town were hit pretty badly. I’ll talk about some of that in another post. I’m trying to get the blog caught up with life, but life just keeps rolling along. I’m going to try to be a better blogger, should be a bit easier with the shorter days and fewer outdoor chores/projects to be done. I’m thankful for the mild weather we’ve been having, I’ve only had to haul water from the house one morning so far, and that was weeks ago. I’m hopeful for a mild winter, but I’m pretty sure that’s a long shot.
Tallulah was having none of the zebra coat, she was out of it in less than a minute.