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?