Sunday, July 26, 2015


It's been a busy week in Goat World.

The vet came out Wednesday for the annual herd check and shots. One of the injections (in the thigh muscle) is quite unpleasant for the goats. Even placid Azalea tried to run right through me.

I couldn't help it. It HURT!
(I know, Azalea. I'm sorry.)

Some of the goats are still walking stiffly and LeShodu, the matriarch doe, was limping this morning. I'm keeping an eye on her, in case something other than the shot is causing a problem. Four days seems like a long time for an injection site to be causing increased discomfort. Meanwhile, I added a water bucket inside the barn, so LeShodu doesn't have to go up and down the long ramp just for a drink.

Thursday I pulled out all the 2.5-gallon storage bags of 2015 cashmere, and began choosing and preparing fiber to send off for a professional assessment. Actually it is a fleece competition with fiber judged by age groups and gender and so on, but I'm not expecting any prizes for this fiber. I'm just very interested in getting specific feedback from a very experienced judge of cashmere.

The rules require sending entire, raw, fleeces. No cleaning, dehairing or other treatment is permitted, except the requested removal of what fiber-folk call "VM." This is vegetable matter. Bits of hay, seeds, etc.

If you knit or crochet or weave, you may have noticed occasional tiny bits of plant material spun right into the yarn. It's not uncommon, even in commercial yarn. In very "rustic" yarns, some of which are quite expensive, there may be a lot of VM. Individual knitters have different thresholds for how much is acceptable. Personally, I don't like it. But I think for some people, finding a bit of hay spun into the yarn makes them feel more connected to the original source. Fortunately, in the wide, wide world of yarn, there is plenty of variation to keep us all entertained!

I chose five fleeces to submit. One was unbelievably clean:

(As always, left-click to embiggen.)

This was the total VM removed from the entire fleece:

The little areas that look out of focus? Cashmere fibers.

The other four fleeces got more attention. One I decided to go through quickly, removing only pieces of hay which I could easily grab and tease out of the clinging cashmere with my fingertips. The other three fleeces, I spent several hours on - carefully examining one cotton-candy handful at a time and removing every tiny bit of leaf or seed with finepoint tweezers. These fleeces weren't terribly full of VM; I just really got into the process - it was meditative.

from Azalea's very first combing

Also it was enjoyable to be handling the fiber again. During harvest season, the combing goes on and on (as long-time readers can attest), and there's a constant concern about the weather, the condition of each goat, and my ability to comb. By comparison, spending a couple of days prepping fleeces was downright fun!

I wasn't sure of the best way to mail five 2.5 gallon bags, so I put them all together in a huge plastic bag and carried them into the Post Office like Santa Claus. The funny thing was - and it was funny, even the helpful postwoman laughed! - this massive bag weighed 25 ounces. Yep. That's cashmere.

I regretfully smooshed the air out of the bags and got them all into a medium-sized shipping box. But the zip on each bag was left open just a tiny bit for air flow, and when the recipient opens the box tomorrow, those bags will all puff right up again. Not quite as much as Dick Van Dyke's famous package, but still...puffy.

Originally I had planned to attend this event, which includes a workshop on fiber assessment (much needed) and a lobster bake on the beach (much anticipated). I rented a room through AirBnB for a couple of nights so I could rest after the drive up and before the drive back - several hours each way. But my yearn to learn had sidestepped reality. I've had to reluctantly admit that I'm just not up to it physically.

So yesterday I cancelled my reservation. I won't get to see the fiber from other herds, and that is a loss. And I won't learn more about fiber assessment firsthand from a top-notch judge. Not this time. But I did manage to select and prep and submit five fleeces from my little gang, so I feel pretty good about that!


Dara says:
You don't have to go anywhere to learn about cashmere.
I'm right here! What do you need to know?

Monday, July 20, 2015

the pause that refreshes

Looks like today will be another in a series
of hot and extremely humid days.

In terms of daily activities, I am currently enjoying one of the precious Everything Is Working lulls, when the hours of routine chores are mostly low-key and slow.

Even so, there are multiple trickles of sweat running down both sides of my face within the first few minutes of every session. Yesterday when I was filling water buckets - and counting my blessings for now having a hose near the two biggest buckets! - I took off my straw hat and just ran the hose over my head for a minute. It felt good while I was doing it. And I wasn't much wetter afterward than I had been before.

To keep my soggy spirits up by focusing on the positives,
I'd like to share a few pictures from the gardens:




There. That's refreshing!

Wishing you all a pleasant day.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

round and round

Yesterday, a long-awaited opportunity came to pass: I attended a monthly meeting of a regional spinners' group, and was kindly given a tutorial in using a spindle. Actually, several spindles!

L to R: top whorl, bottom whorl, and supported spindle,
plus three bases for the third type.

Now I have a bit of an informed starting point, and can decide whether to invest in a spindle to practice with, and if so, what kind. Everyone in the group was spinning on a wheel - and there were many different types of wheels, also! - but several spinners shared advice on who makes good "beginner" spindles, and where I might find one.

Of course, you know me...I'm thinking of making a rudimentary spindle to play with, rather than buying one. In fact, if I had access to a lathe, I would be thinking not so much about spinning wool at all, and instead would be thinking very much about making spindles! I do love working with wood.

Say, I wonder if I could build a rudimentary lathe?  ;)

I hope your weekend brought happy adventures!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

a new critter

Well, this may surprise you.
I've adopted a very large rat.

It's a long-distance adoption, though. I don't expect to ever meet my rat, or even exchange letters. My rat will be too busy to write: growing up, enjoying a year of education with a personal trainer, then living a very happy and useful rat-life in Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola, Cambodia, or some other place in the world that has been made hazardous by land-mines. Can you imagine living or working or farming or watching children play in a place where the ground can blow up under your feet? Where you've seen it happen? I honestly can't.

The work these animal do, using their sensitive sniffers to safely identify buried explosives, is nothing short of amazing. The area that a rat can check in one hour would take 2 to 4 days with a metal detector!

The training process is very interesting, and the people who raise the rats and train them and work with them in the field are clearly invested in providing a high quality of life for the "hero rats." The FAQ page on the APOPO website answered all my questions about rat welfare. Because of course I had questions about rat welfare. I'm sure you do, too.

(images from APOPO website)

During training the rats are rewarded with bananas. 

They really seem to enjoy their bananas!

And if the rats' stellar work in identifying landmines (for subsequent removal by their human teammates) is not enough of a contribution to improving life for turns out they can also accurately identify tuberculosis. A rat can check the same number of samples in 20 minutes that a lab worker would check in 4 working days.

I mean, really. These are Some Rats.

Have you heard about them? You might want to check out the website.

Screenshot from website. Because CUTE.

I'm writing about this now because although there are lots of ways to support APOPO at any time, earlier today I learned that tomorrow, July 15, there will be a 50% match on any donation made to APOPO through the Global Giving site. A $10 donation is worth $15 to the charity, and so on. Only on the 15th, only between 9AM and midnight EST, only through Global Giving.

So it seemed worth writing up this quick post, just to put the information out there. In case it will be of interest to anyone, now or ever.

And in any event, you have now seen how adorable a giant rat can look while eating a banana! That picture makes me laugh every time I look at it. If my goats enjoyed bananas, that is exactly what they would look like...cheeks out to here.
General Useful Tip Alert: this website for World Time Zones is very helpful in lots of ways when you're trying to work out what time or what day it is somewhere on the planet. (Bonus: timezone map towels!)

Monday, July 13, 2015

as it happened

Thank you all so much for your good wishes regarding my foolish injury - much appreciated! Update: my thumb no longer aches all the time, so that is good progress! I hope to get back to outdoor projects (beyond the minimum daily requirement of chores) in another day or two. This blog post will be the most typing I've done in a week!

One small achievement: after not knitting at all for a few days, I did manage to finish my hap, in a series of many, many, very short stints of knitting.


 and blocked, using roughly one million pins:

and finally, posted on my ravelry project page
two days before the hap-a-long deadline.
Photographed at sun-up:

I wish you could feel this - it's so light.
It's not even weighing down the ferns.
Not quite as light as cashmere, but then, not much is.

I'm well pleased with it!

It will make a cozily warm - but light! - neckerchief/scarf.

I will very likely knit another.
Hap construction is interesting, and apparently addictive:
many hap-a-long knitters made more than one,
and most of them were shawl-sized, or even blankets!

In other news, it's been raining. A lot.

When not actually raining, it's been very hot and muggy.
We had one pleasant day last week; it was very hot but not as muggy.
That day, Campion (my Champion) was not feeling well.

He's FINE now.
So I spent six anxious hours on a chaise in the paddock,
keeping an eye on him.
Apart from anxiety, it was nice to be outside and not getting rained on.

You probably can't tell, but in the picture below,
the rain was coming down in sheets.

I've been spending a lot of time on the porch.
If you come visit, you can spend time on the porch, too.

I highly recommend it.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

but will i ever play the cello, doctor?

There has been a little knitting going on the past couple of weeks. Usually in the evening, as a way to unwind and transition to sleep. Sometimes the transition is so quick, I fall asleep with my knitting needles in my hands.

They are pointy. I should probably stop doing that.

Anyway, the actual knitting has been interesting and educational. I'm using a beautiful stranded/Fair Isle pattern, free on ravelry: SpillyJane's Sea Mineral Mittens

This is a big step up for my knitting skills.
And the knitting part is going surprisingly well,
but the color selection and combining is not.
These two swatches are the same pattern in different colors.
I'm not happy with either combination, so more experimentation will come. Stay tuned. Or better yet, send advice!

Before tackling a third version of the mittens (each of those samples meant several hours of knitting), I took a break from tiny needles and cast on a very different project: Simmer Dim, by Gudrun Johnston. It's a scarf/shawl-type item, using traditional Shetland "hap" structure. (I know very little about this but lots of people do, so if you are interested and google "Shetland hap" you'll probably find loads of information.)

This project has been going swimmingly! 

Like the stranded mittens, this is also different from anything I've made before, so it's great fun to knit. And I'm using yarn sent from Shetland, which makes every stitch a special pleasure! I'm trying to finish it in time for a "hap-a-long" that ends on the 12th. And last night, when I put my knitting down three seconds before I fell asleep, I thought,

"I might finish this in just a couple more days!"

This morning, chores took longer than usual because I was feeling a little shaky after a 3-day migraine (very rare, thank goodness!). When I was finishing up the feeding, I hurriedly (cue foreboding music here) reached for a nearby bow saw to cut the twine on a bale of hay. I broke my pocketknife a couple of weeks ago, and have been using all sorts of inappropriate tools to cut baling twine ever since...a coping saw, bolt cutters, hoof trimmers...Because They Are There.
As are the Shouty Goats.
"Staaaaaarving! We are Staaaaarving! Hurry up with the haaaay!" 

Well, this morning the baling twine was resisting the big teeth of the bow saw, so I forcefully brought the saw sweeping down like a mad cellist - whack! - across the twine. thumb was awfully close to that twine.

WOW did that hurt. But...why was there only a little smear of blood?

Because a blade point had come down hard on the nail. Blood was seeping through a tiny jagged-edged hole punched right through the center of my thumbnail. I performed this act of incredible stupidity about ten hours ago and my left hand still feels like a truck is parked on it. is possible the hap will not be finished in a couple of days.

But the goats got their hay, and I still have a thumb, so there's that!

Have a wonderful weekend, my bloggy friends.
And be careful out there!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


I once worked with a fellow
who could "always" find a four-leaf clover.
Every now and then this would come up in conversation, and
inevitably, someone would say, "No you can't."
Then he would go outside and stroll around for a while,
head bent, smiling,
like a person thinking pleasant private thoughts.

And come back in with a perfect little four-leaf clover.

It amazed me,
since I have never - not once - found a four-leaf clover.

But after one of our recent rainstorms,
I found this:


Rather surprising!
I thought you might like to see it, too.