Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sheep for Sale

Those of you who attended the Gagetown Fibre Fest in June of this year will remember the fabulous Elvis, the four horned Jacobs Sheep ram and his family. He and his flock are for sale, along with their longtime companion and guardian donkey.

Jacobs Sheep are a very ancient breed and are classed as a small to medium sheep. They are easy care and known for being hardy. The cool thing about them, besides their horns (both ewes and rams can have up to 6), is the fact that they are spotted, giving you both white and black wool that is quite nice for handspinning.

If you are interested in the flock, you should get in touch with Barb and Roy Telford via e-mail at Or I can always pass on a message!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Long time no write

Okay so I haven't updated my blog for quite a while. I know what you're saying: Join the club. Or maybe not. Actually, I don't really know what you're saying. Let me know...

The biggest news Tangled Flocks has to ofer is the arrival of our very first, home-grown cashmere goat, Maverick, or Mavi for short. He was born at 8 pm on Friday June 11, a very civilized hour. We were having a farewell dinner at the farm for the aunts and uncles, down from Upper Canada, and had just finished dessert and were having a little sing-along with Sadie, when we were alerted to the fact that Legacy was making odd noises.

"I think she's having a baby," we were told, by the aunt who had gone out to take a few more photos of the horses on the lawn before dark.

We all tumbled out to the barn, and sure enough, the baby's front feet were already out. Within a quarter hour, and with an audience of sixteen, out slid a little silver buckling - the spitting image of his Mom. He was born without incident - the only catch was we were missing a towel in all the excitement so we dried him off with the hem of my skirt.

Mavi is the first offspring of Lakota and Legacy, last year's bottle babies from Cornerstone Farm in River John, Nova Scotia. It seems like just yesterday that these two were hanging out in our living rooms and beds, needing warm milk every four hours. Now they are starting a whole new generation.

Mavi was a big pile of jello, wobbly as could be for the first few hours, but, now, at two weeks, he is a sturdy little fellow who loves to chase chickens and already has well sprouted charcoal grey horns.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fast Friends

When we brought Gabe to live at the farm, we were a little worried. He is an angora wether, and, by all accounts, these goats are somewhat atypical in that they're not very hardy, nor are they as outgoing and boisterous as many of the goat breeds. We very quickly learned that he is, in fact, a special goat. While quite fond of people, as a former bottle baby, he nevertheless is extremely cautious and emits a definite aura of quiet wisdom as he seems to evaluate every situation from the back of the crowd. Gabe is almost always the lone goat, quietly sunning himself on a rock, and he is also the greatest escape artist, wiggling through holes and under fences with raccoon-like skill, soundlessly achieving freedom while the other goats jump, batter and climb the barriers with varying degrees of success and a great deal of wasted energy.

Generally he has done well. He isn't terribly sociable with the other critters, but he has carved himself out a niche, all the while growing his gorgeous, soft and shining mohair. He hasn't pined away from loneliness, as he has managed to get a good deal of human attention with his gentle manners and quiet determination.

This past winter, we came across another young angora wether looking for a home. Alvin had been kept as a pet, and had been living with an aging gelding for a while longer than he had ever lived with goat kind. His owner had had a change of circumstances and couldn't spend much time with him anymore, so she was looking for a good forever home.

Goat politics are an interesting thing. Sometimes they remind me of people, but most often, they make me think of cats. Every one of them is fiercely individualistic, and yet, they do form alliances, and friendships between them seem to be very strong, as are the bonds they forge with certain people. We had concerns about introducing Alvin to a goat world which he had never known, and we wondered whether he would be able to cope.

Only having had one angora goat, we had no way of knowing whether Gabe was in fact typical of the breed, despite what we had been told. Alvin seems to be the proof, as, despite being a little older and a little heavier, he pretty much mirrors Gabe's behaviour in every way, except for the escape artist bit, which seeing as there is nothing much to eat beyond the pasture fence, and there is certainly lots of tasty hay to be had within, no-one has much aspired to anyway. We will see, later in the summer.

Meanwhile, the two of them have settled into a steady friendship and go pretty much everywhere together. While they can't be brothers, I wonder sometimes if perhaps they are cousins somehow. I don't exactly know Alvin's pedigree, but it's possible that he comes from the same line as Gabe, seeing as there aren't really that many of his kiind in the province. More likely though, they get along so well because angora goats just like to do certain things in certain ways and having company is a wonderful bonus. At any rate, while Gabe was always a special goat with his loner habits, it is heartwarming to see him with a buddy: two loners, together.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Not Invited

My researches have led me to discover someone who loves wool and natural fibre even more than I do. Normally, I would be thrilled to have someone like this over for a cup of tea and a chat, but this someone is definitely NOT INVITED.

This wool lover is known as the case making clothes moth. These little nasties are none too fussy, and will feast on grain as well as pretty much any natural fibre, including the wool felt inside the piano, dog hair hiding under baseboards, and dessicated dead mice or old bird nests in the walls and attic. The moths are nondescript and shy, preferring dark corners. They themselves are not really the problem . It is , of course, their offspring that do the damage. From their microscopic eggs, little hungry larvae emerge. These make themselves protective silken cases, in which they hide, and which they drag around with them as they feed. The case can apparently take on the colouration of dyed fibre they are munching too, which can make them hard to spot.

Just like their cousins, the webbing clothes moth, they prefer things which are less than clean, and they thrive in dark corners. They dislike extremes of cold or heat, nor do they like overly dry conditions.

Knowing more about these miniature monsters has not made me happy, but I am trying to maintain perspective. It seems that the best way to avoid them is to keep wool and other fibres clean, dry and well aired, preferably in the light, or sealed up in impenetrable plastic or possibly cedar chests when they have to be stored. Frequent vacuuming to avoid build up of tasty deposits of woolly lint is also recommended. Apparently lavender is one of the scents that they dislike, so sachets may help deter them as well.

Temperamentally, I will admit that I am not suited to the job of housekeeper. I am not especially bothered by clutter and I'd rather draw than dust. But in the interest of preserving a year's worth of hand raised, hand shorn and plucked, hand processed yarn and fibre, I will happily deploy my vacuum cleaner and hone my cleaning skills. Unlike the clothing moth, I actually like a clean, well-lighted, dust-free and lavender scented house. I just never had such a compelling excuse to keep it up.

I would love to hear from anyone who has any tips or pointers on how to keep these pests at bay, especially non-toxic deterrents and practices.

An article about managing clothes moths can be found here. More information on the case making clothes moth, which is also a grain pest, can be found at the Government of Canada Grain Commission website here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Jago and Sage in the blue morning light or why here?

One of the nice things about living here is seeing the horses playing in the snow from my living room window. Back in Dartmouth, the equivalent would have been watching the neighbourhood kids throwing their "friends'" gym shoes over the telephone wire. Jago and Sage are at about the same stage of their development, but somehow, watching them kick up their heels and race around on a warmish snowy day that turns the dawn sunrise blue is just more aesthetically pleasing.

This was what the start of my favourite dog walk looked like back in Dartmouth:

And this is what it looks like here:

Well, it works for me.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Legacy, how we love you

In a small barn in Gagetown near the creek so deep
Lived eight little goats and four little sheep
The smallest one was Legacy

While it was true that she was wee
She had an awesome pedigree
Caprine aristocracy

The softest cashmere was probably hers
But this little goat was covered in burrs
For though she was a princess goat
She never cared much for her coat
And given half a chance would rather
Hang out where the sheep would gather
In amongst the apple trees
And burdocks, coincidally.

So now that it is harvest time
For cashmere she is shocked to find
Her combing is a tiresome grind

There is a tiny compensation
And that is how her daily ration
Has increased in straight proportion
To the time spent in the stanchion.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cashmere Dreams Part Two

Spring is a ridiculous thing. You can't feel it. You can't smell it. You can't see it. You certainly can't rely on any calendar to tell you that it is here. It plays peekaboo with your senses, convinces you to leave your jacket behind and then sticks an icy hand up your shirt back. it's here nonetheless, and the animals on the farm don't seem to need a thermometer to tell them what's going on. We are putting extra sweaters on under our barn jackets to go out to comb, because, above zero or below, sleet or snow or balmy sun, the goats are losing it big time. Their cashmere that is. It must be in the light, the couple of minutes the earth's movement is tacking on to the beginning and end of each day, because, like a magic boon from our goddess of the pantry, the hens have decided that it is now time to lay as well.

Kashew is the cashmere all-star this year, with a harvest so far that fills a zip lock bag that is about the same size as the carry-on bag I took on my last plane trip. It's a big bag, but we're afraid to weigh it. A volume that would cover a table top might only weigh an ounce or two. It's a kind of cashmere miracle, but it's still hard to get over that discrepancy between volume and weight.

Kashew's success with cashmere production is probably partially due to our new stanchion. Last year we were more or less free combing, and Kashew, sensitive soul that he is, decided that being combed was just too restrictive iof his goat-ly freedom. He'd do almost anything not to be combed. Kilo would be lying across our laps like a contented dog, soaking up all the attention, and even Gabe, the angora goat with the tangled dreads would let us pick away at burrs in his forelock, but Kashew would be hiding under the car or hightailing it for the barn the second he even suspected there were combs about. So we didn't get a lot of his cashmere.

It's a bit of a race, trying to get the undercoat collected before it just floats away on the breeze or becomes so loaded with the overcoat's coarser hair as it sheds out that it's unuseable, but hey, it's a race in the right direction. Longer days, warmer temperatures, more eggs from our underworked and overpaid hens, a good crop of luxurious cashmere - what a life!