Thursday, February 21, 2013

Must be Spring...somewhere.

WARNING: truly terrible photo alert!  

I've tried for three mornings in a row to get decent pictures to illustrate this post, and these are the best so far.  I'm very sorry.

This is a picture of a black goat.  (Trust me.  It is.)

Specifically, the part of a goat where the neck meets the shoulder.
I put a collar on the goat to help you envision this. Also, so you would believe that I am not just taking close-up pictures of bearskin rugs or something.

Now let's look a bit closer.  Watch out for the horns.

See that wisp of fluff peeking out from the black hair?

This is a sight to gladden the heart.

This is what it's all about!

This is cashmere.

Cashmere is the seasonal undercoat cashmere-producing goats grow to protect themselves from winter cold. They shed it in the warmer weather (which is not here yet, black goat!!) and the fiber is traditionally harvested - very laboriously - by combing the goats by hand when they are shedding.

Some of the outer coat is unavoidably combed out as well, and these coarser hairs must all be removed from the very soft cashmere fiber before the yarn can be spun.

Wow! More close-ups, now with arrows!!

Even though it is always exciting to see the first loose wisp of fiber that signals the start of harvest time, my reaction is mixed right now.

Actually, my first reaction three days ago was:


The weather has been variable, with the occasional "warm" day in the high-30s (F), but there have also been many days and many more nights of single-digit cold.

And snow. And ice.

This week has been one of bitterly cold wind, blowing for hours and hours.  For entire days and nights.

In my opinion, this is no time to be removing one's winter underwear.

Are you listening, black goat?

"Do I look like I'm listening?"

I've heard that some people now shear cashmere goats.  I haven't seen it done, so I don't have an informed opinion about it.  It certainly would be a incredible time-saver, but it would also mean the entire topcoat is being harvested, all of which would then have to be removed from the fiber as part of the processing.  And my (uninformed) gut feeling is that shearing a goat would leave a very sensitive animal in a very unnatural state.  But if anyone has first-hand experience with shearing cashmere goats, I would LOVE to learn about it, so please post a comment!

The black goat is shedding the cashmere from her neck first (tremendously slimming, don't you know!) so very little hair came with it.  When I start combing her body, there will be a lot more hair mixed in with the cashmere.

In this picture you can see the individual black hairs mixed in with the cashmere fiber:

You can also see how I came up with the name
Cloud Harvest Cashmere