Thursday, April 26, 2018

more than halfway there

Each Spring, after weeks of daily plodding out to the barns with my basket-o-brushes, there's always a point when I know I'm on the long, slow, downhill side of the annual cashmere harvest.

I haven't found a feasible alternative to these giant ziploc bags.
But at least I reuse them, as you see by the elegant labels.

People are often surprised to hear how long this process stretches out. I have only a small herd, but the variability in shedding is extreme. Acer always starts shedding in February; Dara has just begun and April is nearly over!

Right now, some goats are functionally "done" and will just need one or two quick clean-up combing sessions so the last of the undercoat will be off and fresh air and sun can get to their skin. Like Sambucus here:

But there are some goats who will still need more hours of careful combing despite already having been thoroughly combed at least three times. Case in point: Azalea.

It takes a lot of very gentle work with a slicker brush to remove loose cashmere without tugging on this long, thick topcoat. It took over an hour working on just her left side (above) to get to the point where a rake would run smoothly through her coat:

And as you see, it's still picking up a few wisps of cashmere.

A few days after a thorough combing, Azalea will look like the top photograph all over again, and we'll have another session. I'll be collecting less cashmere next time, but she is still carrying quite a bit.

Betula is another long-coated goat. We've worked very hard this year, Bet and I, to harvest as much of his cashmere as possible. But now he is dropping the remainder so fast that it immediately becomes a matted layer trapped in his topcoat. I'll keep working to get it off, but more for health and comfort than for useful fiber. This is all discarded fiber from one combing of Betula this week:

With the harvest drawing slowly to a close, I'm already starting to think about knitting again. The past couple of years I've had to put all WIPs aside when the combing starts, because even though my mind misses the restful quality of knitting, my hands can only take so much in one day. This year, that meant a pair of nearly-finished socks has been waiting since February for toes.
Soon, socks. Soon.

Right, Azalea?