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Frankly speaking…..every day is independence day for a goat

Good morning fans.  Today is July 4th.  Independence day to those of you who live in the U.S.A. (my international fans will just have to zone out here)  the day that the US constitution was adopted by the 13 colonies, and independence from England was declared.

Well, if fences are a goats england, then every day is the 4th of July for goats.  You see goats pretty much make the rules.  We go where we want, when we want, and fences are merely suggestions.

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Neeman on the other side of the fence

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Annie, usually our leader in the declaration of independence area

I do have to respect that builder, though…. he spent a lot of time and energy, and some significant dollars, putting a fence from the opposite side of the access road, all the way to almost the river, so that we could have some fresh browse.  He calls us with his goat song almost every day, so we can cross over to the riverside and have some fresh grass.  Sometimes we even respond to his song, but, not wanting him to think he is in control, sometimes we don’t bother.  Depends on the goat mood of the moment.

SO, in other news, we have new family members….. Sarah Jean got married over the last weekend, to Giles, and so now Giles and his two kids, Dylan and Olivia, are official people in our family.  They also have a new puppy, Sonny, who is a great pyranese, a breed known to be a livestock guardian dog.  He’s only a baby now, though, so he’s not guarding too much, but, he’s pretty cute and a good boy.  He visited this past week with Christian and Amelia while Sarah and Giles were on their honeymoon.  Hunter was just getting used to his annoying play behavior when they went home.  There are photos of all this, but, as USUAL, wench is having a hard time with the upload.  sigh

While they were gone at the wedding, we had a new farm sitter.  Pam, our neighbor, was taking care of us, making sure we had food and clean water and plenty of animal crackers and peanuts.  She’s being promoted to AUNT PAM in my book.  The great thing about Aunt Pam is that, while she is all gooey about the babies in the barn (she was a pediatric nurse in a former life), she understands my place, and gives me the respect I have so richly earned as the Chief Executive Goat around here.  So thank you, Aunt Pam, for taking such good care of us.  I know the rabbits appreciate you, too.

In other news, wench went to see the puppies that were born over in Piney Creek, and picked out a little sister/seeing eye dog for Hunter.  I think he’ll like her.  Thinking about Harper for a name, but will need to see how her personality fits.  She may be something other than a Harper.  She’s a chocolate lab, and her daddy is HUE-MUNG-O and mommy is protective.  Her daddy weighs 110 lbs.  Scooter, our first lab, weighed 135, but of course he was mixed with a little St. Bernard, so what do you expect?  anyway, we are hoping this little girl will fit right in around here.

All of Daisy’s babies are growing up nicely.  Of the five giant angoras born, one will go live in Alabama and then two does and two bucks will stay here and grow for a while and maybe hit the show circuit in the fall.

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I need to get wench lessons on photo uploading.  There are photos, but – nevermind – I won’t even go there.

Looking forward to Hailey coming to visit at the end of July – wench is going up to retrieve her right after the West Virginia rabbit seminar she’s doing on July 23, about heritage breeds, etc.  Hailey is my girlfriend after all.

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Well, without the photos, I can’t really continue.  I mean, it’s ok just to read my prose, but pictures make it so much more interesting.  It’s a burden I must bear, this wench and her handicaps, but, maybe one day she’ll learn something.  sigh.

 

In the meantime, thanks for reading Frankly speaking….

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Frankly speaking…one thing or another

Good morning everyone… Frankie here, reporting in from the mountain.  Wench got home last night around 7:30 PM from the last rabbit show of the season.  Glad that’s over.  Now maybe she’ll be around once in a while (doubt that).  Not too many angoras shown, and so the fun was not as great, and it was hot and late, and all that jazz… so, now we go into our slow season.  r i g h t

Wench brought home six more fleeces from the nice folks over at Red Ridge in Tennessee, so that will be part of the summer fleece washing project.  Some of it will most likely go to the Blue Ridge Fiberworks blended yarns, some of it may be added to our fleece.

The end of the rabbit show season is always bitter sweet; won’t see friends for a while, won’t be traveling too much for a while, and all the rabbits will have NO COATS for a while.  That’s a good thing. Come September, they’ll begin to gear up again.  By that time, we will almost be ready for our next shearing.  A circle of fiber life. I must say, summer is my favorite time of year… just look at the lushness of our browse!

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As you can see, fences are merely a suggestion, and there’s me, on the lower left side of the photo, reaching through the fence for the greener part.

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This shot was taken from the third floor of the barn and shows our new job, eating the woods down to the nubs

So, now that wench will be ‘resting’ what will she be doing?  Well, this week she will be going to guild for dyeing lessons on Tuesday, and then Thursday, she is taking Neptune to be neutered

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excuse me, what’s ‘neutered’?  is it going to be fun?  I get to ride in the car?

Sorry, little buddy, neutered is NOT fun, even though you do get to ride in the car, and, it seems like every ride in the car usually ends in a ‘not fun’ time for a goat.

Then on Friday, she will be at the Independence Farmers Market selling the shirt off my back, and will bring Schroder if the weather is cooperative.  Here’s Schroeder, while at Ohio, getting ready to launch himself off the grooming table.  He’s a card, and, once this market event is over with, he’ll be losing his coat and meeting his second wife, or is it his third, I can’t keep track, over at Aunt June’s place later on this month.

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I’m pretty sure I can fly… just gotta get my launch stance ready…

Then after Friday, she’s participating in the Farm to Table dinner at the Alleghany Farmers Market on Saturday.  Another busy week the next week culminates with the wedding of our very own Sarah Jean with Giles Hoback III.  We will be supervised by Pam, who lives across the road and has been taking care to learn our routine.  We’ve almost got her trained, but I’m sure we’ll have a few shenanigans up our sleeve when she is here on her own.  (insert evil goat laugh here)

So how’s that for taking it easy.  It might be the end of the rabbit show season, but not the end of the craziness around this joint.  I will report in again in a few weeks.  Thanks… for reading frankly speaking!

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S.W.A.K.!

Frankly speaking… talking the talk

So, I guess I’ve been known to coin a phrase or two….. many folks look at our banner at various fiber shows, etc., and comment that the word “flerd” isn’t really a word.  Well it is, although I can’t take credit for inventing it.  I can’t recall where I first heard the phrase, but I must have heard it somewhere.  In any event, the time has come for a new word – so here it is:  Fiberista.

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Here is our banner at Powhatan Festival of Fiber.  NOTE:  wench brought the wrong tent top.  I swear, I don’t know what I’m going to do with her.

What, you may ask, is a fiberista?  Well, you’ve heard of a barista, right?  (barista: noun:  a person specially trained in the art of making special coffee drinks).  We needed a word for this, apparently because it is in the internet dictionary.  The word “fiberista” is not in that dictionary, so I just made it up.  hahah

A fiberista is a person trained, sometimes at the school of hard knocks,  sometimes with formal training, in the art of working with fiber – wool, mohair, angora, alpaca, quivet, silk, whatever type of fiber you can think of!  A fiberista will create art from fiber, either spun, felted, sewn, woven, knitted, crocheted, or tatted.

A fiberista is usually pretty creative, and not willing to go to Target or Wal Mart and buy a scarf for $5.99 when she can spent $75 on materials and three months of her time, to make one herself.  These fiberistas are mostly women.  Once in a while you will find a man at such gatherings, and I suppose they should be called fiberistos.

Fiberistas tend to gather together in herds (or flerds) at places such as guild meetings and fiber festivals, little yarn shops,  educational workshops, and even sometimes at farms where special events take place such as shearings.    I understand that when they gather at guild meetings, or in each others houses or studios, many times there are chocolate treats available, as this seems to be a food that they all are drawn to.  This could be a clue as to who might make a good fiberista, but that’s way over my head right now.

Right now, I’d like to tell you about a little group of fiberistas that I know.  Thrown together by their diversity and also by what they have in common, my very own wench, and two of her fiber buddies, Vivian Thompson and Nancy Liebrecht, have formed this co-operative of fiberistas, and they call themselves BLUE RIDGE FIBERWORKS.

Blue Ridge Fiberworks starts at the beginning.

First to the farmer:   Blue Ridge Fiberworks can provide a market for your fine wool.  If you have fiber animals, and would like to learn more, get in touch with one of our fiberistas and she will explain how they can help.

Second to the mill:  As you know, wool can be spun into yarn by hand, but, let’s face it, none of these fiberistas is a spring chicken, and, even if they were all named Rapunzel and lived in a tower, they couldn’t spin it all in their lifetime.  Blue Ridge Fiberworks is using local, boutique mills, (dependent on your area) to mill fine yarns from local sources.

Next to the consumer:  yarns in every shape and size.  Custom yarns for your yarn shop!  A website should be up and running within the next few months, and local yarn shops are getting in line to have their own exclusive blend made.

Lastly, a legacy:  The Blue Ridge Mountains are rich in history, and textiles are a big part of that.  Today you will find a few mills still in this area, spinning cotton or polyester or blends, making fabric for t-shirts, to be shipped overseas and made into garments.  It seems that over the past ten years or so, a lot of the mills have left town.  We’d like to change that.  We’d like to build a mill to support the farmers, create some jobs, and make some pretty yarns for the future fiberistas out there.

So, that’s what’s happening around the farm.  No grass growing under their feet, those fiberistas… always busy busy busy.  Last week, wench and Nancy went to a local farm and attended a shearing – selecting the finest fleeces for the season:

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Nancy talks with the farmers and looks over the fleeces.

imageInto the car they go.  (this is one bag of three)

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So, be watching… I will too

If you are out and about this coming weekend, and live in the Raleigh, NC area, stop by the Got to Be NC Food and Wine festival.  Wench and Vivian will be stationed outside the rabbit barn, spinning and weaving, and selling the shirt off my back, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  They can tell you all about Blue Ridge Fiberworks.   The following weekend (June 4th) be looking for them again, at the Local Cloth fiber extravaganza at the Western NC Farmers Market in Asheville – yarns, fleeces, raw fiber, etc., will be for sale there, and all of them (the three fiberistas) will be in attendance.  These chicks get around.

Thanks for reading Frankly speaking!

Frankly speaking …. an ode to the moms

As a goat, I can attest to the wonder of moms -“nanny” goats make great moms – most of the time.   My own sainted mother, April, was an exceptional goat.  Taller than most angoras, she was able to leap tall fences with a single bound.  She had a taste for rabbit chow, or any other food not meant for goats, or that she had to break into somewhere to get. which she did frequently.  She was affectionately known as a ‘rascal’.  I miss her.  BUT, I have my sister, Annie who looks a lot like her and has inherited her curiosity – so, I am reminded frequently of my sainted momma April, and her momma, my nanny nanny, Naomi.   I am grateful that, after I came to live with wench and builder, they both came to stay with us, and moved to North Carolina with the crew.

If your mom is still with you, make her feel special on her day today.  If she is already in heaven, remember the good times, shed a tear and know she is by your side, in spirit at least.

Wench is excited for mother’s day this year.  Dan, (the staff photog) Amber and Hailey (my girlfriend) are here for the day.  They drove all the way from New York to see her for Mother’s Day (and to attend a DMB concert, but, we’re telling wench it’s a mother’s day thing) and bring her a bottle of Love My Goat (her favorite, of course).

In farm news, so much is going on!  Builder bought a pick up truck, so we are excited to know he can go get feed when wench is on one of her many trips, and that if we need to go somewhere we have a truck to ride in.  The first thing he did with his truck, is go get sheetrock.  Pretty hard to get that into the del Sol.  hahah. The project du jor is the building of a summer kitchen, sort of, a fiber washing room and produce washing sink which will be a big benefit to the farm.  This is being constructed at the back of the garage.

Builder and wench bought the lot next door, so now the farm encompasses almost 8 acres.  Good thing – we have more work to do, clearing the land of underbrush.  This will be done in short increments on a daily basis (so as not to upset our tummies) and pretty soon, we’ll have trees and a safe place to walk, no underbrush !  Of course, we have volunteered to do this, without benefit of the fence, and every day we break out and give the people a sample of what magic we can accomplish.  anyway.  This lot goes right to the river, so pretty soon we’ll have goats in boats.  right. picture that.  Here we are, hard at work:

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This is the show season for wench, so this past weekend was Powhatan Festival of Fiber.  What a great time!  Our fiber is out there, and the folks LIKE it.

There is an additional enterprise going on regarding our fleeces, but that’s for another post.  I need more photos of some of our collaborators, and will do a post about it – teaser…. it’s called Blue Ridge Fiberworks and it’s pretty exciting.

So, anyway, HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!  My momma is no longer with us, but… Hailey is here, and she feeds us cookies, so I’m ok with that!  Thanks for reading Frankly speaking! image

Frankly speaking ….sprinter or wring?

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I know I’ve been lax – no posting in March, but I do have an excuse.  It’s not a good excuse but it’s the best I’ve got…. the weather has been crazy!  El Nino or whatever it is, one day it’s freezing and the next day it’s balmy.  What’s a goat to do?  Complain – it’s what I do best.

So, since my last post, there have been some changes – wench bought a big horse trailer, a Brenderup (that is the brand) which is a danish designed cadillac of trailers.  I suppose if we go to SAFF this year, (the goats, that is) this will be the conveyance.  It was purchased for the main reason of transporting rabbits to the processing plant.  We try not to talk about that side of the business… but it is booming and wench has been pretty busy with it all.  So, here’s the new ride:

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There’s a new logo for the meat side of the business, too… and thanks to a grant from the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Program, this logo will be affixed to all our printed media for Mountain Top Farms (not to be confused with Mountain Top Fibers, of which I AM the CHIEF, make no mistake) anyway – here’s the logo:

MTFarms logoof course it’s sideways because the wench can’t figure out how to turn it around on the computer.  oi vey, what am I going to do with her?

Anyway, moving on….. as you all know, Daisy is our giant angora ambassador around here.  Yes, we have Glitter and Schroeder too, but sometimes one bunny just emerges as the personality.  Anyway, Miss Daisy image

does have some exciting news….. a litter of her very own!

imagefive little giants born on April 11th.  Daisy is good enough to take on one french angora kit that was born to Delanna – her litter didn’t make it, so one little lilac kit will be raised in the land of giants…. I suppose it’s name will need to be Gulliver because he/she has traveled to the land of giants.  (yeah, I know, I’m weird)

Anyway, in GOAT news (the important stuff) we are patiently waiting for shearing day.  Neptune is looking a little fuzzy imagehe just looks like a Neptune, doesn’t he?  Well, after shearing he’ll be Neptune the Neutered.  poor guy.  Our two bucklings from last year, Jupiter and Moondancer, went to live in Tennesee with a nice couple with some kids, so lots of treats in their future; so now we have two little bucklings – Warbucks and little Blue (as of yet, no permanent name… got any ideas?)  and two little doelings – Laud and Taylor.  All of this year’s babies will be available to new homes after their first shearing in the fall.  Warbucks loves his momma Annie… and cries if she is out of sight for a minute.  silly boy.  Annie does not seem as attached as him. image

New yarns from our fibers have been received from Blue Mountain Farm and Fiber Mill, and as usual, they are beautifully spun.  Now being washed, they will soon be available.  The natural gray is 41% kid, 22% bunny, 27% merino and 10% silk.  The natural white is similar.  I’ll get some good photos and put up another post just about the yarn.  Nigel’s fleeces were sent off to the mill this weekend, and he will be a light worsted yarn, suitable for hats or sweaters.  Along with Nigel’s fleece  12 lbs. of english angora were sent to be made into a high percentage angora yarn, so that will be available this fall.

Be looking for wench and Aunt June at these upcoming events:  Powhatan’s Festival of Fiber (our 3rd year in a row!) on April 30th; Got to be NC Food and Wine festival on May 20 through 22nd and in between, lots of rabbit shows until June 11th when the last show of this season takes place in Shelby, NC.  On May 27, wench and Aunt June are going to Wooster, Ohio, to the fiber festival up there – to check it out and see if next year they want to be a vendor.  Big quad rabbit show there… Wool -a- Rama is always fun.

Well, in the meantime, we are hanging out on the mountain… growing our fleece and waiting for the shearing team (as usual)

imageand as usual, thanks for reading, Frankly speaking!

 

Frankly speaking…and so it begins

Good morning.  Our lovely Greta has brought forth a new baby.  This should be the height of our kidding season, but things appear to be a little off kilter this year.

Gracie surprised us very early (like in September) with a little girl, but Gracie had no milk and her little one didn’t make it.  Then in October, Annie brought us Warbucks.  Now, in a normal time frame, Greta gives us Taylor.

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Taylor

We have Carmella still to go.  Last year, Greta and Carm gave birth within hours of each other, and way late, too, like in May!  So now, because “breeding season” is supposedly October through January (apparently no one got the memo) Annie could be pregnant again, and I’m pretty sure Gracie is, too.  The little girls, Bluebelle, Ruby and Hera, are too young for that stuff. (we hope)  We really need to separate the boys from the girls, and control when breeding occurs, but, with so many projects on our plate around here, we really have no room to do that – and so, nature takes its course.

We have a few more fiber rabbits now, too.  Windchaser’s Glitter – a black giant came home with wench after PaSRBA.  She had a date with Schroeder this past weekend, so we’ll hope for some babies there.  Bella Luna, a white giant doe, will also be getting together with Schroeder in the next month or so, as will miss Daisy.  One more giant, born here, Clems Jubilee will need to grow up a little before she thinks about babies.  She’s only a baby herself, but she sure is cute!

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Jubilee at 8 weeks

Until it is time for her to be a momma herself, she will go to shows whenever there is an exhibition class.

Also joining us from PaSRBA is Windchaser’s Shauna (daughter of buttons) and HH Orion, Satin angoras of the agouti variety.  Razzle Dazzle and Sophia are looking good, and will be traveling to Georgia to the show next weekend to see if they can finish up their Grand Champion certificates.  Sisters.  Always the competition.  Each has two legs, and needs one more,… we’ll see who comes out the winner.  With five shows, maybe they will each finish!  Wouldn’t that be great!

I know I promised a report after PaSRBA, and here it is:  we did nothing.  No one was more surprised than Mikimoto

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Excuse me? Judge? What do you mean I only made the top 5?  the nerve!

Yeah, she’s a bit of a diva.  We’re seeing if she’ll hold her coat until April for the North Carolina convention, but it’s not very likely.  She will be getting together with D’Artagnan this spring, to make babies.  Also on the drawing board, breeding wise – Bronwen plus Tortellini (this happened over the weekend) and Sheena plus Orion (also this past weekend).  We’ll wait 30 days and see if litters emerge, and then up next will be Daisy x Schroeder, (Giant)  Davina x Buttons, (Satin) and then either Deandra or Colleen x Angus (French)  We will hopefully have lots of babies this spring and summer, ready for fall shows and fiber festivals.  Wench has a lot of work to do to get ready for SAFF.  I still haven’t decided if we’ll take/send goats.

In the meantime, we are growing our fleece and waiting for spring.  It’s been dripping and snowing and all kinds of weather here recently, but that’s ok. We have a nice warm barn and lots of hay and grain.

Our fleece from the fall is off at Blue Mountain being made into fingering weight yarn, so be looking for that the Powhatan Festival of Fiber.  One variety will be white, the other black.  Once Carmella is sheared in March, we can send off the oatmeal.  This year the blend is 20% wool, 35% kidmohair 35% angora and 10% silk.  FABULOUS drape.    I think that Nigel’s fleece this year will be added to last years, adding a little mohair (like maybe 20%) and made into a worsted weight yarn for making of hats, etc.

Well, I seem to be rambling, so I’ll say so long for now.  I’ve been asked to write an article for the local fiber newsletter, so I best be thinking about that.  Thanks for reading Frankly speaking!

Frankly speaking…..no one is perfect not even me!

So,   It’s been a while since I’ve published a blog post.  In case you forgot about me, here is my pretty face image  This photo was taken during my favorite activity – getting scratched.

So, about the not being perfect part….. I planned to post once a month in 2015 in order to keep y’all updated about the farm, but I got distracted this fall – my wench went through some medical challenges and we were rather pre-occupied.  However, all is well now, so it’s back to business as usual.

Our flerd continues to grow and evolve, and we have recently begun experimenting with new yarns.  The new blend for 2015 was….. 35% kid mohair, 35% angora rabbit, 20% merino and 10% silk.  This was a limited run, (which we plan to recreate) and is available on line at our partners over in Yarnthology dot com.  They are also carrying the 2014 blend we did of angora/mohair/merino.   That blend is almost gone, but there are a few skeins left here which wench will use to make things for the 2016  fall craft shows, and a few are over at Purl’s Yarn Emporium in Asheville for you locals.

We are still hoping for more fiber opportunities – maybe a mill, maybe some cooperative yarns with other farmers, etc.,  and of course baby goats will be coming in the spring (watch our facebook page for updates there).  Speaking of baby goats, today is the birthday for Neptune and Hera.  They were born a year ago.

That was then: January 2015 135and this is now:

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where’s the cookies?

They are spoiled, I’ll tell ya.  (like the rest of us).

In other news, we have begun to build our rabbit (meat) business, so that’s another reason why I’ve been scarce.  They are serving our rabbit in some of the nicest restaurants in North Carolina and Virginia, and this keeps wench on the road quite a bit.  It’s ok.  Sometimes she still finds time to participate in my favorite activity…

imagescratching me.

Smidge is beginning to fill out a little (no, she is not getting pudgy) and is becoming a beautiful cat.  She surveys her kingdom and keeps the mice at bay, all while consuming a can or two of fancy feast daily and all the dry kibble she can eat.  Who has it better than her?  She also has us and rockstar to play with all day long.

imageSpeaking of rockstar, he has become quite the fixture around here.  He knows his way around pretty good, and goes out any door that’s open, hanging out with us in the pasture, out by the sawmill, up on the 2nd floor where all the does live, etc.  We are careful to make sure he is in the barn every night and secured behind closed doors, due to the owl population around here, but he has food and water and his hay cup stationed in various places around the barn.  (he’s not spoiled either)

imageSo in a couple of weeks, wench will travel to PaSRBA for a rabbit show and I will post any good results after that.  I have to get more photos of the bunnies, as we now have our first Giant Angora baby, Clems Jubilee.  She is still in with her momma, and hopefully will become a brood doe (she’s not showable now because she is black, and only whites are showable in Giants  that sounds rather racist, doesn’t it?)  and also travel some for exhibition.  The spring breedings are being planned .

Oh, and wench is going to be the “rabbit superintendent” at SAFF this year, so be on the lookout for more information about that.  Like she doesn’t have enough to do, but the angora rabbit breeds will be displayed in force at SAFF in 2016.  yay!  I’ll probably send a few of our goats, too, for the show.  How FUN!

Well, that’s about it for now.  Thanks for reading Frankly speaking!

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SMOOCH!