Friday, December 30, 2011

Carding Fiber - Fiber Friday Spotlight

Wool/fiber carding is the process of brushing the wool fibers with wire teeth to align the fibers for spinning.

Hand carders, drum carders, combs and flicker brushes are all used to prepare fiber. All work in different ways to achieve the same results...get the fiber opened up and pointed in generally the same direction.

I started with dog brushes. They work fine, very cheap, just small and can be time consuming if working large amounts of fiber. My next step was a set of Ashford hand carders, love them! I still use them to this day and will never be without a set. They travel with me when the drum carded can't. Hand carding is actually methodical and relaxing to me.
 Hand carders create rolags. The fibers are usually perpendicular to the length of the rolog. You card out some fiber, and then roll the fiber together off of the hand carder.

The next investment was my drum carder. My precious Fancy Kitty Kitten. Made in the USA, right here in the state of MO. She can handle anything I throw at her. I highly recommend the company, their customer service and products.

Batts come off of the drum carder.  Sheets of fiber, that are used to spin from.   In the photo above is white Shetland wool on my drum carder.

My next investment will be combs, not sure if I really need to invest the money to purchase a pair or just have the better half make a pair for me. I have seen homemade combs that use plastic hair picks from discount stores to hand crafted comb sets made of wood and nails. I haven't ran across a large need for combs as of yet, but imagine when I decide to step it up to combing a lot of top I will.

I can see a need for Flicker brushes, since we grow Mohair and long wool locks which need to be opened. A flicker brush looks like a mini hand carder, it is used to separate and tease fibers in prep for spinning by working the fiber against a stiff piece of leather. I use my hand carders to flick open locks though really need to invest in a Flicker brush.  They say a flicker also works well for cleaning the drum carder like a doffer.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year Resolutions

Since the New Year is almost here, I’ve started to think about my resolutions for 2012. Each year I make a list of resolutions, I manage to keep some with seeminly no problems and others fall to the way side. This year I am approaching things a tad bit differently. Instead of making resolutions I am setting goals, SMART goals. Ever heard of SMART goals? SMART stands for “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.”
The idea behind S.M.A.R.T. goals is that it gives you something concrete and realistic to work towards, instead of a general resolution you would like to achieve in the New Year.
I have so much I want to accomplish this year, not only on the farm, but with the farm business, also have a couple personal goals. I am looking at 2012 as a year full of possibilities, opportunities for growth and just plain getting more out of life.

Knitting Goals
1- Knit down my stash by creating 1 - 1 skein hat project each week to donate to charity in November 2012. There is a local coats for kids charity I plan to donate the hats to.
2 – Create a Finished Object Book for my knitting. With each finished project (be it hat, scarf, shawl, socks, blanket) I will document it's creation, the yarn, pattern, etc. The book will include photos of the finished project. Begin creating the FO book, January 1st.
3 – Finish “The Blanket”. I have one UFO that nags at me. I started a wool blanket for our bed a year or so ago. I had the idea of creating a reversible blanket from our sheep’s wool. Felted wool panels on one side and patchwork hand spun wool yarn knitted squares on the reverse side. Half of the felted panels are done, a few knitted squares are done. It seems the more I work on it, the less I accomplish. I would like to have it finished by Christmas Day December 25th 2012.

Fiber Goals
1- Organize and create “My Wool Book”. This is a book that will hold the history of my flock in wool; with samples of wool locks that will be stored individually in little zip-loc bags, each labeled with the name of a sheep, type of sheep, and shearing date. It will be organized chronologically, the wool locks will show the direction of my breeding program over the years.

2 – Learn to Spin. This is a subject for discussion at later date.

Personal Goals
Everyone tells me I turn in a hermit during certain times of the year. With all the work needing done around the farm, working from home, lambing/kidding time, tending the livestock, gardens... I suppose it seems that way. I enjoy my solitude, the peace and quiet of the farm and truthfully, I rarely leave the farm. In an effort to show I don't totally isolate myself from the outside world my goal is to:
1 - Blog here at least 2-3 times a week, post once if not twice a week to our farm blog, update the shops status daily.
2 - Read and comment more on blogs, participate more in different forums and take at least 2 online workshops in 2012.
3- Attend one local craft/fiber event each month between April and December 2012.

So lets see...
Specific, yes each one is.
Measurable, yep.
Attainable, yes, reasonable.
Relevant, definitely.
Time-bound, I do believe so. Begins January 1 and I will review month-by-month.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Twas The Night Before Christmas

‎`Twas the night before Christmas and all around me
Was unfinished knitting not under the tree.
The stockings weren't hung by the chimney with care
'cause the heels and the toes had not a stitch there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds
but I had not finished the caps for their heads.
Dad was asleep; he was no help at all,
And the sweater for him was six inches too small.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I put down my needles to see what was the matter.
Away to the window, I flew like a flash,
Tripped over my yarn and fell down with a crash.

The tangle of yarn that lay deep as the snow
Reminded me how much I still had to go.
Out on my lawn, I heard such a noise,
I thought it would wake both dad and the boys.

And though I was tired, my brain was a bit thick,
I knew in a moment, it must be Saint Nick.
But what I heard then left me perplexed-ed,
For not a name I heard was what I had expected
"move, Ashford; move, Lopi; move, Addie and Clover
Move, Reynolds; move, Starmore; move, Fraylic–move
"Paton, don't circle round; stand in line.

Come now, you sheep wool work just fine!
I know this is hard semi, it's just your first year,
I'd hate to go back to eight tiny reindeer."
I peered over the sill; what I saw was amazing,
Eight woolly sheep on my lawn all a'grazing.

And then,in a twinkle, I heard at the door
Santa's feet coming across the porch floor.
I rose from my knees and got back on my feet,
And as I turned round, Saint Nick, I did meet.

He was dressed all in wool from his head to his toe
And his clothes were handknit from above to below.
A bright Fairisle sweater he wore on his back,
and his toys were all stuffed in an Aran knit sack.
His cap was a wonder of bobbles and lace,
A beautiful frame for his rosy red face.

The scarf round his neck could have stretched for a mile,
And the socks peeking over his boots were Argyle.
The back of his mittens bore an intricate cable,
And suddenly on one I spied a small label.
SC was duplicate stitched on the cuff,
and I asked "Hey Nick, did you knit all this stuff?"

He proudly replied "Ho-ho-ho, yes I did,
I learned how to knit when I was a kid."
He was chubby and plump, a quite well-dressed old man,
And I laughed to myself for I'd thought up a plan.

I flashed him a grin and jumped up in the air,
And the next thing he knew he was tied to a chair.
He spoke not a word, but looked in his lap
Where I'd laid my needles and yarn for a cap.

He quickly began knitting, first one cap then two;
For the first time I thought I'd really get through.
He put heels on the stockings and toes in some socks
While I sat back drinking Scotch on the rocks!!

So quickly like magic, his needles they flew,
That he was all finished by quarter to two.
He sprang for his sleigh when I let him go free,
And over his shoulder he looked back at me.
And I heard him exclaim as he sailed past the moon
"Next year start your knitting sometime around June."

-Author Unknown

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fiber Friday Spotlight - Natural Colored Wool

One of the main reasons we raise Shetlands is the natural color of their fleece.  Shetland sheep can be black, brown toned grey, dark silvery grey, medium or light silver grey, ivory, fawn, golden honey color, a broad range of reddish moorit or dark brown.  I love the variations of the natural greys, browns and blacks.  Yes there are white Shetlands, white is a dominant color in the breed, however we chose to breed for color and spots in Shetlands.

Some of our natural colored woolie boys. Grey, black and moorit brown.

You see thousands of years ago, all sheep were natural colored. Like many animals, their coats blended in with the colors of their environment, to help protect them from predators. Over the years when people found they could dye white wool a rainbow of colors, natural colored sheep became less common.

Primitive breeds such as the Shetland and Icelandic sheep have few dye sites.   Dye sites are the places on the fiber that will accept and lock in the color with the least amount of dye. How well a fiber dyes, depends on how many dye sites or absence of color there are in the fiber.  Very white animals dye easier than natural colored.  Many modern breeds of white sheep have been bred for this specific very white wool to increase dyeing properties with more dye sites.   Natural colored wool will over dye nicely, creating a more muted tone in color. 

 The green yarn in the photo above is over dyed emerald green on a natural light grey wool, the orange is white domestic wool dyed orange, the bottom three skeins of yarn are natural colored Shetland wool.  Moorit brown, grey and fawn colored wool.

 Natural colored Fawn brown hand spun Shetland yarn

 Natural colored grey hand spun Shetland yarn

Natural colored black and white spotted Shetland drum carded batt.

Now if you really want color ~ a natural colored white Shetland
will give you a beautifully dyed rainbow!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cross Breeds Wool

The majority of our fiber is considered to be from long wool breeds. This year we are planning to cross a select few of our girls to different breeds of rams in hopes of producing a shorter, finer and more lusterous fiber. We are hoping that the cross will bring out the best qualities of each breed in the offspring.

Cheviot wool - The Cheviot has a medium fine fleece (50-56's spin count) and a generous staple length (4 to 5 inches). For the hand spinner, Cheviot wool is durable, easy to spin and they say impossible to felt.

Dorset – Considered to be a medium wool with a short staple of 2-3 inches

Southdown Babydoll Wool- The wool of Babydoll Southdown sheep has a short 2-3 staple with a 19-29 micron count. The wool is fine and dense with a medium crimp. The grade is 55-60. The wool is great for blending.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shetland Wool

The majority of our sheep are Shetland Sheep. The Shetland is a small, fine wool breed of sheep originating in the Shetland Isles. Shetlands are classed as a landrace or  an "unimproved" breed, retaining many of the qualities of the original imported stock.

Our Shetlands have a dual coated fleece; an undercoat of soft, short, downy fibers, with a soft and strong outer coat. Their fleeces can be up to 8 inches in length and wavy. Most refer to this type of Shetland as the "primitive-style".
The primitive fleece is quite multipurpose, the over and undercoats may be separated and spun separately or combined and spun together.

Grey Shetland Handspun Yarn by Phyllis

Our foundation sheep are direct descendants of those from the original importation. Their fleeces are soft and lustrous, with each sheep's fleece being unique to the animal that grows it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bluefaced Leicester Wool

The Bluefaced Leicester is very distinct with its Roman nose, long, upright earset, and deep blue skin contrasted with soft, white, semi-lustre wool. They have a clean head/face, legs, and belly (free of wool).The BFL is classified as a Longwool breed. It is one of the three Leicester breeds of sheep… the English Leicester Longwool, the Border Leicester, and the Bluefaced Leicester.

Blue Faced Leicester wool has excellent qualities for hand spinning, is fine and dense with a good luster. The long locks are well suited to combing. The Blue Faced Leicester fleece is highly prized for its likeness to mohair.

Sherlock our BFL and Adrian one of our Shetlands

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Week Before Christmas

Here we are a week before Christmas. I know I have totally neglected the blog. I had such high hopes of updating and posting on a regular schedule. A little explanation...since there is no true down time on the farm, computer time which includes not only blogging, reading blogs on my blog list, checking and responding to email, having my daily Face Book fix, researching, reading, etc... is all crammed into a brief time during the wee hours of the morning with my morning cup of caffeine. I have to admit I am not my best or brightest at this time so the blog suffers.

I have been busy. Surprisingly with customer order hats and scarves along with my personal knitting (family gifts and my own projects). I have 2 more quick knit Christmas gifts to finish, ha, a week to finish, maybe pushing it, though I have faith I can finish them.

We are spending Christmas at home on the farm this year. Just us, our son and my parents. This year I plan to take a break from my normal routine the week between Christmas and New Years. Doing only the “have to do” farm chores which include caring for and feeding the animals and milking. I plan to spend what free time I can find resting, enjoying family and the sheepies preparing for the New Year. 

Lots of new changes coming in 2012!  New sheep, new fiber, new yarn, new barn, new shearer... so stay tuned :-) 

Wishing each and everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ideas For The Holidays

A Facebook Friend shared this with me and I thought I would share with you.

Birth of a New Tradition
As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods -- merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor. This year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans. There is no longer an ...excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes there is! It's time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper? Everyone -- yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local American hair salon or barber? Gym membership? It's appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement. Who wouldn't appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates. Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the Benjamines on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course. There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants -- all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn't the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this isn't about big National chains -- this is about supporting your home town Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open. How many people couldn't use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy? Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day. My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running. OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes. Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre. Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands. Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of light, about fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip. You see, Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so that China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about US, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine. THIS is the new American Christmas tradition. Forward this to everyone on your mailing list -- post it to discussion groups -- throw up a post on Craigslist in the Rants and Raves section in your city -- send it to the editor of your local paper and radio stations, and TV news departments. This is a revolution of caring about each other, and isn't that what Christmas is about?  by Pamela Pullins

Monday, October 10, 2011


Bella Black Angora Doe and her daughter Aurora

I met Bella at a Fiber Festival. She was kicked back, relaxing between two vending booths, watching the world go by, leisurely chewing her cud, totally unconcerned with the ah's and oh's of passers by. I watched as most folks would just smile and comment about what a pretty animal. I also observed a young boy about 5 squat down and get nose to nose with her putting a hand out to pat her head. The only reaction from Bella was a brief refrain in chewing her cud. Being as inquisitive as the child, I had to sit down beside and pet her. Scratch her head between her horns, under her chin, run my fingers through her fleece and pat her. This lovely lady didn't move.

Owning goats, I was impressed by her calmness, her indifference and her beautiful fleece. Not one of our goats would tolerate a child getting so up close and personal or for that matter allowing many strangers to lay hands on them. The better half watched and shook his head, knowing what was running through my mind. He wanted to go watch the shearing demonstration so he waved me on.

When we were preparing to leave the festival, I mentioned I wanted to visit the booth where the beautiful goat had been one more time on our way out. He agreed reluctantly.

I stopped and petted Bella one last time, made mention I would love to have such a beautiful well behaved goat. Bella's owner was at the booth and smiled at me when I said that. She stated Bella would never leave her, Bella was her baby, as well as the farms public relations goat, traveled to all fiber shows and events she attended. She told me of Bella's awards in fleece and showing. We chattered on about goats, fleece, crafts, etc. We exchanged cards and discovered we only were about an hours drive from each other. I petted Bella one last time and we left.

Months later the better half and I were discussing adding new lines to our Angora herd. I found the card Bella's owner had given me and gave her a call. I explained what we were looking for. She said she might have what we were wanting so we scheduled an appointment to visit the farm. We toured the fiber farm, met the goats, looked at the stock she had for sale and I was able to see Bella once again.

Yes, she did in fact have what we were looking for, 2 bottle babies. These were babies that mothers had refused, died or could not produce enough milk to support. I love bottle babies and not working off the farm allows me to raise these babies.

Bella's previous owner and I became friends. We chatted on the phone occasionally and kept in touch. Over the years when she had bottle babies she called to see if I was interested in taking them. Never refused one yet :-)

About 3 years ago I received a call from her saying that due to family obligations and emergencies she was having to sell out and move out of state ... would I please take and care for Bella?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fiber Friday Spotlight - Mohair

2 lbs. of raw white mohair

Fairchild - adult white Angora goat

The Angora Goat  is the only goat breed to produce true "mohair." This luminous fiber is shorn from the goat twice a year, producing long curly locks. Many spinners love the brilliant color achieved from dyed mohair. Its warmth, softness and loft define this breed and fiber.

I am concentrating on breeding for black and white fleece. White for dying, blacks for the deep to light shades of silver, gray and black.   Fleeces vary animal to animal. Crimp varies by animal and some fleeces can be used for doll hair. I shear the animals myself, at times I do not shear in whole fleeces. If not shearing in whole fleece, I shear the clean areas first and put them aside for spinning fleeces and toss the rest.

A Brief History

As with each breed of goat that comes to our farm, I research specifics, from their history to health care to herd management. With the Angora’s I also researched the history of use in their fiber. We found it interesting that Angora origins can be traced back to Asia Minor and early references in Sumerian cuneiform tablets. The Bible dates the origin of the breed to somewhere between the 12th and 15th centuries B.C. In 1849, the first Angora goats were imported into the United States, having been received by Dr. James B. Davis of South Carolina as a thank-you gift from the Sultan of Turkey for his assistance in experimental cotton production in that country.
In fiber, Angora goats produce mohair fiber (not to be confused with Angora fiber, which is produced from rabbits). An Angora goat’s fleece grows at a rate of ¾ to one inch per month and they normally are shorn two times per year, usually in the spring and fall. On average a single Angora produces five to ten pounds of mohair at each shearing. The fiber from the youngest goat is the finest and of most value. Angora fiber continually coarsens as the animal ages. Fiber also is coarser in bucks, than does or wethers.

Types of Angora Goats

When we first entered the Angora goat world, the majority of Angoras were found in Texas and the southwestern states. In the Midwest, Angoras were few and far between, with a small elite group of breeders. Like the S A Boer goats, cost was a factor in our ability to purchase a herd.

Our research also lead to the discovery there was 3 types of Angoras, the White Angora, the Colored Angora and the Navajo Angora. The type most are familiar with is the White Angora. Their registry is the American Angora Goat Breeders Association, founded in 1900.

From my understanding, breeders of the White Angoras found any offspring of color produced by their White Angoras to be inferior and felt these animals should be culled. These colored offspring were also unable to be registered by the AAGBA.

Other goat enthusiasts who found the colored offspring of value continued to breed and raise the naturally colored Angora goats. In 1998 the Colored Angora Goat Breeders Association was formed.

Last but not least in the Angora type is the Navajo Angora. Differences are seen in the fleece, coverage and size. Navajos are also normally found in the high elevation with its arid and often-harsh climate of the Colorado Plateau.

We began our herd with a Navajo Angora. As time has passed and the popularity of Angoras has increased the price of Angoras (all types) has decreased, allowing us to have a variety of types in our small herd.

Caring for Angora goats is much similar to caring for your other breeds of goats. Meeting their basic needs is actually the same. It is the exceptions of the breed that are important and need to be addressed to have a healthy, happy herd.

Lice Prevention

Yes, proper routine care of Angoras includes lice prevention. Sad to say lice can be common in Angoras. Especially the White Angoras if preventative measures are not taken. Lice are more commonly found on Angoras during the winter months than the summer.
There are 2 (two) types of lice that Angoras can have - biting and sucking lice.
According to Goat Medicine, the sucking louse has a " narrow head with piercing mouth parts" and is a bluish gray. Biting lice have “ broader chewing mouth parts" are pale and hard to see. One study conducted suggested that sucking lice were more prevalent over the withers area and biting lice were more commonly seen on brisket and shoulders (where the hair is the thickest).
If by chance you do not have a microscope to examine the little biters a way to tell is that biting lice run away from light. So if you see moving lice this means that it is the biting variety. Sucking lice will attach to the skin, suck blood, and stay immobile. Most Angoras get biting lice as opposed to sucking lice.

Fortunately, lice is easily treated with a number of pour on, oil based de-lousers such as Permethrin for the biters and Ivermec for the suckers. Recently Sterling Plough has labeled a pour-on Permethrin insecticide for goats called Ultra Boss which controls lice and flies. And if you use Ivermec for internal parasite control (de-worm), you most likely won’t have the sucking type.

For the biters, you can also “Dust” with 7-Dust, but it is very hard to get the dust down through the fiber of an Angora goat to skin level where the lice harbor. The best time to treat for lice is after shearing. Though if treatment is needed at any time it is easy to do with the pour on. You run the oil down the neck and back line to tip of tail, making sure to part the fleece to ensure you apply directly to the skin.

From our experience, rule of thumb, lice would be like worms, if one goat has it, most likely the entire herd will have it. So it would be wise to treat the entire herd at the same time. Every 6 months at shearing time we do all preventative treatments, vaccinate, de-worm, hoof trim and physical exams.

Note: Most lice found on goats is breed specific, meaning that it can not be transferred to you or other animals on your farm. The sucking lice can be transferred from sheep to goats.

(Tip - If by chance you find lice in your fleece at shearing, put the entire fleece in a plastic garbage bag, close and put in freezer. Leave a day or two. The lice freeze, die and fall to the bottom of the bag. Remove the fleece from garbage bag, throw bag away and you can continue working your fleece lice free.)

Other Skin Ailments


Rare but has been seen in Angoras who are not properly cared for. Mites create Mange. Ivermectin will also clear this up. However, mange will cause the hair to fall out in patches, leaving your fleece unusable.


Keds are tick-like creatures that are generally found on sheep. In our 10 years of experience I have never saw a Ked on any breed of goat.

Dandruff or Scurf

Dandruff is a frequent topic of conversation with Angora owners. After shearing they sometimes find a dandruff type skin condition. There are many theories on what the dandruff is caused by or a condition of. Most have a mindset this is just dry skin. Scurf (dandruff) can also be a sign of lice. Others believe that the dandruff is an indication the goat is lacking something in their diet. Some who find the dandruff will add a supplement to the goat’s diet such as sunflowers or additional minerals hoping it will add the missing nutrient back.

Internal Parasite Control

We run fecals monthly to determine if there is a need to treat for worms. We also watch for signs of worms on a daily basis.


Angoras have horns. They are generally never de-horned. They are shown with horns. For our farm we do not believe in de-horning. Goat horns are a temperature gauge for the goat. A way of keeping them cool in summer (can you imagine being in fleece in the hot summer months) and warm them in the winter. Like all other goats, the Angora use the horns to scratch in places nothing else can reach through their fiber. We also think they make great handles to work with the goats.


Many ask one question in regard to Angoras. They have heard that Angoras are more delicate or not as hardy as other breeds of goats. We believe feeding correctly is the main factor in their overall hardiness. Their nutritional requirements are a bit higher than other breeds of goats, (they put so much energy into growing fleece at the expense of their body condition), though we have found their rate of feed consumption is lower than our other breeds. We do constantly monitor their needs and adjust to factors in their conditions. (If you breed, you will be feeding the goat, the babies and the fiber).

As all other goats they need good quality hay and/or browse. In addition to their browsing, we feed Alfalfa Orchard grass hay mix. We have found if fed only grass mix hay, they eat constantly due to the little nutrition in the grasses. Goats are natural browsers and we have observed in pasture that they naturally choose a varied diet, so the Alfalfa mix proves to be the best suited in our opinion. They also eat less with better quality.(Note: We have found when browse is depleted and goats are left to only graze on grass their worm issues can increase.)

With our having a small herd of Angoras (as well as other breeds) we chose to feed a bagged pellet goat feed from a local grain mill instead of mixing our own. In the field we set salt and mineral blocks. When new goat products came to our area we added a molasses based supplemental mineral lick tub. Other Angora owners say they find the lick tubs tend to soil the fleece and the molasses coats the fleece causing more VM (vegetable matter) to collect. We have found that the bucket style licks are more fleece friendly compared to the tub style. We also offer loose minerals and bicarb to them at all times to allow them to correct their rumen pH if needed.

We don’t add other supplements to the feed except during the winter months. We do top dress their feed with Vitamin E & Selenium crumble supplement made for horses during the winter. Winter months when feeding stored forages (hay that has lost it’s green color), you will find that Vitamin E (an anti-oxidant) is lacking. We are also on the borderline with Selenium deficient soil.

Our Angoras are actually easy keepers so to speak. They are the smallest of our goats. They are easy to handle and have a sweet disposition. They are not aggressive with their horns, towards other animals or humans. They do not fight or jump fence.

(Note: The quality of feed and care given to your Angoras will be seen in the quality of fleece and fiber they produce.)

I want to also acknowledge that I do realize there are many different herd and care management methods. The ones I have listed are what we have found to work with and for our goats.

The Fiber- Mohair

The need to shear their fleece twice a year is the main care difference in raising Angoras versus other goat breeds. To have your Angoras sheared you can hire a professional sheep shearer or shear yourself. In the beginning we hired a professional, as our herd has grown we have purchased the equipment to shear ourselves.

The best place to purchase shearing equipment we have found is:

Their prices are competitive, their customer service, willingness to help, knowledge and shipping time has exceeded our expectations.

To learn proper shearing techniques you will want to do research for yourself as to which method you consider the best. We had watched and assisted our shearer in the past, purchased a shearing DVD, watched videos on line, plus worked with a friend who is a sheep farmer to decide on which method we preferred.

I always felt the goats should not be treated like the sheep. The sheep are rolled around every which way, sat on their rumps, turned on their sides, at times seems like they are turned upside down on their ears. That is not the way we want our goats handled. Some fiber producers lay the goats on their sides and shear that way. It seemed to me that method stressed them also. We decided to try a shearing method where the goats are standing, using one of our milk stanchions as a grooming table.

There are members in our family (including myself) who have a fiber-related craft as a hobby, some knit, crochet, spin, weave, sew and even wet felt. How rewarding it is to produce our own fiber and yarn for crafts and clothing adding to our self-sufficiency!

Selling what fiber we do not use can also add supplemental income for the farm. Some Angora owners use mohair sales to cover the cost of raising the animal. The market for raw fleece and fiber can vary due to many factors such as color and quality of fleece, location and market saturation. Age and cut of fleece also effects the selling price: 1st cut or Kid cut is generally highest and most sought after, 2nd cut slightly less in value, a yearling fleece, lower still. Adult mohair is the coarsest and least expensive.

In our area Mohair usually runs around $24 or higher a pound for Kid, others are on a sliding scale down to as low as $3.00 per pound for commercial grade (coarse or straight mohair).

A Little info on Mohair - Why is Mohair Called the Diamond Fiber?

Mohair is one of the most versatile textile fibers. Its characteristics are similar to wool, except that it does not have the scales that can irritate the skin. Mohair has several unique properties that are not found in any other animal fiber.

Insulating capacity - mohair's hollow fibers do not conduct heat; like wool, mohair provides good insulation, even when wet.
Durability - mohair can be twisted and bent without damage to the fiber; it is the most durable animal fiber.
Comfort - the smooth fibers of mohair do not irritate the skin, even for people who are sensitive to wool.
Strength - mohair is stronger than steel of the same diameter.
Shrink resistance - because its smooth fibers do not felt, mohair fabrics shrink much less than wool.
Elasticity - mohair is very elastic; it can be stretched up to 30%, and will spring back to shape; mohair garments resist wrinkling, stretching, or sagging.
Moisture transfer - mohair easily absorbs and releases moisture, moving perspiration away from the skin; it is comfortable to wear in cold and hot weather.
Luster - one of mohair's most important qualities is its ability to take dye and to display brilliant colors that resist fading by time or hard wear.
Lightweight - mohair's smooth fibers can be made into fabrics that have a cooling effect; it is ideal for summer garments.
Non-flammability - mohair will not burn unless it is exposed to a direct flame

The greatest reward for us is not in money made, but what the goats give us on a daily basis, especially in their wonderful companionship. What they produce - the natural fibers of the Angoras for our hobbies, can't forget the fertilizer for the gardens - are essential elements to our self sufficient lifestyle.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Welcome to Bless Ewe Fiber & Yarn Blog

Through raising fiber animals came my appreciation of fiber and the inspiration to create Bless Ewe Fiber and Yarn. I am a shepherdess, a fiber animal fanatic, a fiber and yarn-a-holic. My main passion is the fiber animals themselves and I love working hands on with fiber on the hoof. I process all of our fiber by hand during my free time, mainly during the winter months when life on the farm is less hectic and at a slower pace.

We live on a small, semi self-sustainable farm located in the Missouri Ozarks. We attempt to grow the majority of our own food, which includes our own meats, vegetables from our gardens, dairy products from our dairy goats and eggs from our chickens. The fiber we grow from our small eclectic flock of sheep and goats is used for our family's hobbies and crafts. What we don't use we sell locally at fiber and craft events. Though we are a small farm, we have big plans and hope to offer Bless Ewe Fiber and Yarn on line in the near future.

I hope you will come join me to share the fiber fun and blessings of the farm.