Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Still waiting - and the guilty party

This is the guilty party. He is a ram that I bought from someone in Oregon a few months ago. He was thrown in with the ewes on his way here and I am sure that you can guess the result. By the way, he needs a name. Suggestions?
This fawn colored ewe is due ANY moment. I have quit worrying about her, since she has had lambs before. I would like to be sure that all is OK. She is not getting any larger, but still no babies.

This moorit ewe is also pregnant. Her udders are not as well developed, but I have learned that their size is not everything. She is stressing from the heat, but I don't want to lock her in a pen. She is not a first timer either.
Anyhow, I am still waiting.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

How to beat the heat - Animal style

It is officially hot and humid in Tucson. All of these pictures were taken this morning about 10 A.M. Each of the animal breeds tolerate and accommodate the heat in different ways. The geese have it the easiest with a pond/pool. We had to wait for the goslings to be large enough to not drown before we could fill the pool. We have placed it under a tree, so they get shade, the pool does not get gross from algae, and the tree gets soaked when we empty the pool.
Joshua is always sitting in the sun, so he must not feel the heat. His wool is now about 3.5 inches long and must be insulating.
Most of the Shetland sheep take cover under trees. In the background, there is a structure with shade cloth. The cloth does not even last a whole summer. Last year's cloth is disintegrating and will be replaced by a new solid structure.
The chickens did deeper to get to the cooler surface. They also tend to pluck their feathers.
The angora rabbits get fans and bowls of water. One of Cadbury's bowls is always empty. I have caught different rabbits putting their front paws in the water as a means of cooling down. If it is not a heavy bowl, it will get dumped eventually like the stainless steel bowl has been.
The white doe is by far the friendliest. She was all of the way in their bowl this morning. The rest tend to crowd in front of the fans. Since it has been so hot, I have left the fans running all night. Everyone says to try the 2 liter from soda bottle. The rabbits tend to move as far as they can from them, so I quit using them.
Geoffrey is enjoying the mister that Marc set up earlier. Brillo and Emmy usually are sitting with their faces in one of the sprays.
You can tell that the angora goats are too hot when their mouths are hanging open and they are breathing rapidly. These goats are standing under the mister hanging from two trees.

A sprinkler, weighted down by the tire, is running under a few trees in the main pen. Absinthe and her two kid bucks are not shy about getting wet. I just missed getting a photo of 10 of the white goats all crowded around it.
Goats are smart opportunists. When the mister between two trees is on, the faucet drips. We have decided to not put a washer in the hose to correct it, since it gives the goats another place to get cool. Dark Chocolate is standing so the water drips over her horns - the goats regulate their body temperatures through their horns and ears. Dairy goats that have been disbudded have been done a disservice!
We humans are enjoying the pool. It is solar heated and now 95 degrees!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A vest and shades of red

A while ago I posted about the southwestern freeform yarns that I was spinning. I decided to make a vest from them and these two pictures give details of the back. One front side is already finished. The freeform yarns are a lot of fun to knit with. Since I knit them, I know what is in them, but never know exactly how they will appear in a finished project. I call them my Hidden Treasure series because there are all sorts of little things thrown in. There are orange rosebuds and a southwestern hat and boots hidden among the coils. They show up very clearly to the naked eye. Since the yarns have a mystery to them, I am a lot more likely to finish my project. I have 4 crochet shawls in progress. One is a new design. I have been trying out a crochet symbol chart software program and slowly getting the hang of it. My wish is to someday publish a book with my designs in them. Right now I am selling patterns individually and getting a feel for the ones that are the most appealing.
This was a photo that I took of the front rack in my shop yesterday. I needed new photos for my Patagonia application. A few of the yarns are listed on etsy. I am probably going to start listing some of them for sale on my website.


Red kid mohair, which is actually shades of brown, vary from angora goat to angora goat and change with the seasons. Barbara's fleece shorn three weeks ago was a very pale shade of tan. Her current fleece is very dark in comparison. She still has a very fine fleece at the age of 6. She is my oldest red doe and all of her line is exceptional. I have a few of the more traditional reds available for sale. They are lovely and, bred to a buck from Barbara's line, gave me lovely kids.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Black Sheep Gathering

This past weekend I went to the Black Sheep Gathering with two missions in mind - to find two new bucks, that are as good as the ones that I already have, and to get fiber inspiration. I succeeded in finding two bucks that have the qualities that I most prize in the white angora goats: the fine quality that lasts for years and the lack of sticky grease.

The buck on the left was my choice for the yearling buck. He is a lot skinnier than any of mine, but he has the soft fleece and feel of my goats - and most important of all - he has different bloodlines. An absolute must at this point. I can no longer breed for quality without inbreeding, which I want to avoid at all costs. I bought him and the kid buck below on Friday morning. The kid is from a different line, but of the same style, so he should be wonderful as well.

What makes my buck purchase especially exciting is that the breeder called me this morning to say that the yearling buck won the Black Sheep Gathering Cup. It is uplifting to realize than I can pick a winner!

The above is a wrought iron sign that is representative of one that I have ordered for the ranch. There will be a few changes - size (bigger), some of the sheep will become goats, and "unique designs by kathy" will go in the top portion somewhere. It is going to go somewhere in the area right before the second set of wrought iron gates. I took one look at it and loved it. It will come with my bucks in August!
As far as fiber inspiration is concerned, I did not get it. Most of what I saw was commercial or millspun and can easily be bought on the Internet. There was very little handspun. I asked a few vendors about it and they said that theirs was too expensive and would never sell. There was no novelty yarn - except for some tailspun by one breeder. My thought is - if you don't bring it, you don't know what will sell. The colors all fell about the same range and one booth blended into the next. There was no nuno or wet felting. So, in terms of getting new ideas, it was a loss.
On the positive side, I am excited that my yarns and designs are still new and innovative compared to what I saw.

Below is a picture that I took while traveling from Eugene, Oregon, to the coast. Green, green, green. Of course, there was the rain to go along with it. We managed to miss most of it. It was certainly a lot different from Tucson. And definitely a lot colder. Marc took a picture of me, but I looked very obviously cold and haggard! No sleep and not flattering, so I won't post it.
Marc and I went to the Sea Lion Caves. I have an awesome camera and got some great close up shots of the sea lions, but I liked this picture the best. The green of the grass and flowers in the foreground looked lovely against the blue of the ocean. Maybe a landscape someday?

It is great to get away - but it is even better to be back home among all of my fiber, animals, and friends.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

An early day

Yesterday I woke up at 3:30 and could not go back to sleep, so I finally got up, spun a little, and then went out to get the paper. I am never up this early and when I looked out the kitchen window, I noticed that the sunlight was shining on my garden in a very different way. This is Arizona and we try not to waste water, so you will notice that my garden is really small and in an old feed/water trough that rusted out. I use the grey water from washing fleeces to keep it green. I have cucumber and basil plants in it right now. Below is a patch of alfalfa that keeps on growing. The seeds self-seeded years ago. Since it is now getting more water, I am cutting every two weeks, drying it and feeding it to the sheep in the arena. It is gone in 2 seconds!
Below are two pictures of Ugly. Her goslings are still crawling under her wings. I could not decide which of the two pictures looked better, so I included both. It is funny how babies get as close to their mothers as they can.

This picture was taken a moment after the first two. The sheep were already roaming around at 5. By the time I come out at 7:30 (or later), they are usually way up the arena in the shade.

Emmy and Brillo are feasting on the Palo Verde seeds that are now dry. They have their rounds and always are at the shed waiting when I normally come out.

This is another skein in the bead series. I wanted to see how well the beads would show up in a coiled yarn. One by itself gets lost in the coils. I am spinning some black llama right now in the same style. I want to see how it knits up. This is not my usual coiled yarn.

As I went out to feed dinner I noticed the sky. I had to run back inside for my camera. I have five really gorgeous pictures. I only put one on. It can be overload! I plan to use the color scheme for a set of blue landscape batts.

Ever heard of the dancing bears? I have the Dancing Goats. This picture is slightly blurry, but you get the gist. This is why there is no vegetation at the lower levels. The goats and sheep eat it all!

Can't remember whether I mentioned that I have a Shetland sheep who is definitely pregnant. I bought her from a breeder in Oregon in February. She kind of looked pregnant last week. Yesterday there were clear signs of udder. Beats me when she will deliver, but I am praying that it will not be next weekend. She is not a first time mom, so she should be OK.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

If it gets quiet...

I have been really busy spinning yarns. I have found someone who is great at marketing yarns and she is going to promote my novelty yarns. Once it gets going, I will post more details. Above and below are two styles of yarns that I have created for her.

The above and below photos are of the first batch that I sent. It was slave labor to get them all done in three days, but I wanted to be sure that she had enough to show at TNNA this weekend.
The Freeform Spinners of Tucson are going to keep going strong during the summer. This past Saturday we continued threading the loom for the raffle laprug for the Tucson Wool Festival October 17th. I also talked two of my friends into helping pluck some of the angora rabbits. We got 4 done and have the other 4 to do. I plan to card the fibers together, so there will be enough to create something showy. We had a good time discussing all sorts of things. Fiber friends are the best!

Monday, June 1, 2009


Most people think in terms of spring, summer, fall, and winter, when they think of seasons. I have come up with my own seasons here on the ranch over the past five years. Late February thru May is baby season, May thru September is design season, October thru December is show season and January is the lull before the storm.

Baby season is the most exciting time around here, as far as I am concerned. I get up earlier and earlier to try to catch the moms, who want to hide when they have their babies. Most are obliging and wait till feeding time to deliver. My adrenaline rushes during this time of the year. This is also the period in which the animals all get sheared. This past spring I held off on some of the older does because their hair was too short. The older the doe, the slower her hair grows during pregnancy. Having had to send several nights the past few weeks shearing and watching blades go dull before I could finish shearing one goat, has convinced me that I will get all of them sheared at the same time and, if I can't use their fiber, I will compost it.

It has gotten a lot quieter around here, since the snowbirds have left and most Tucsonans stay inside to beat the heat. This is the time that I spend producing yarn and finished goods for the fall shows, as well as coming up with new ideas. The picture at the top of this post is the beginning of a vest. It will have a slight freeform style to it, since I can't (won't) knit huge stretches of the same thing. I am using the first haircut off an angora goat and it is really silky. I don't get to use my own yarns very often, so when I design I always pick the nicest fiber I can find.

I have started posting my patterns on etsy. I am also creating crochet symbol charts to go with my crochet patterns. I will sell them with and without the chart for a while. Eventually, I plan to have charts for all of them and compile them into a book.

This summer, I will also be going to the Black Sheep Gathering - that is actually in a little over two weeks. I hope to find inspiration there. I have been there once and I loved it. Of course, it might have stagnated like the Taos Wool Festival. That one limits itself to vendors from three states and, in the three times that I have been, only the first was impressive. The second two times that I visited over a five year period had the same vendors and the same products. I would almost bet that some of the items were the same ones from the first year that had not sold. Marc is going with me. It will be our first vacation together in over 5 years! Next year I am planning on the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Marc has not said that he won't go, so I am putting it on my calendar. Of course, I could not go, if it were not for my friends covering the shop and the animals. Kyle will be here for brute strength, but I can no longer count on him. He is 20 and has his own life.

Anyhow, life can be exciting - you just have to make it happen yourself sometimes!