Wednesday, March 11, 2020

fluff piece

The cashmere harvest is well underway now.

 This is Mallow, having his second combing session of 2020.
Mallow doesn't think much of the idea.
He likes the carrot penny and peanut part, but that's about all.
The careful combing for 20 minutes to get half a sandwich bag of raw fiber?
"Meh," he says.

Sheep say "Bah!" but goats invented "Meh."

I'm trying to comb two goats each dry day, but sometimes only manage one. And days like yesterday, when I had a medical appointment and was away for half the day and exhausted when I got home, it was all I could do to get everyone fed and watered.This morning my back is still aching from yesterday but I intend to get two goats combed if at all possible. The pressure is on: we've had a couple of very warm days, and everyone is at some stage of shedding now.

The time to get the cleanest fiber with the smallest percentage of top coat is as soon at the goat starts to shed the cashmere undercoat. In just a couple of days I've seen some goats go from extremely clean cashmere to cashmere containing so much shed topcoat I wonder if it's even worth keeping. Likewise, a couple of my goats also temporarily get flaky skin toward the end of their cashmere shed. They don't have chronic dry skin, and after several years of unsuccessfully using dietary supplements to try to prevent the flaking, I now think of it as a harmless seasonal celebration of air getting to their skin after a winter of wearing cashmere underwear under a topcoat. But it means I can get beautiful clean cashmere from that goat on Monday, and when I check it again on Thursday, I'll see flakes. Well, I can only try my best to keep up with everyone and harvest the fiber at the best possible time. Tick-tock.

Speaking of time, it's a great time to look for Venus in the evenings.

In other fiber news, the hap is off the needles (!) and awaits washing and blocking. This picture was taken when I was putting in a lifeline before the final rows, in case the experimental bind off wasn't acceptable and I needed to rip back and return all those stitches to a 40-inch circular needle. There were 560 stitches in a row at that point, so a lifeline seemed like a good idea.

I'm seriously considering building a hap stretcher to block this hap, instead of painstakingly pinning it out on mats. At the moment, it's hard to carve out time to do either, but we've got a rainy day coming up, and my goats aren't comb-able on wet days. A trip to the hardware store would be needed to get material for the stretcher frame, then there'd be the actual construction, but every time I think about the pinning option - which would probably take a couple of hours on my hands and knees, and then a couple of days of keeping the cats and Piper away from an intriguing area that would undoubtedly draw them like a magnet - the stretcher frame seems like an excellent idea. Stay tuned.

By the way, if any readers have ever used a hap stretcher, I'd love to hear about your experience and any tips you'd like to share. I've read a couple of excellent tutorials on making and using them - here's a link to a very detailed tutorial, in case of interest - but I've never seen one in use. In fact, I've never even seen one not in use, so I don't know if there are any pitfalls to avoid.
Please feel free to comment or email - thanks!

Now, it's time to slice some carrots.