Sheep, Goats, Alpacas, Llamas, Border Collies
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Yesterday we decided a day off
from everything was necessary for mental and physical health. We got up
early, took care of the livestock and headed for Montpelier in Orange
county, VA, to the Fall Fiber Festival & Sheepdog Trials.
What a beautiful day! We still
can’t believe how clear the air was . It was a little cool when we left
home but by the time we arrived, it was in the mid 70’s. An added
benefit to the trip was the leaves are starting to turn. We took in
everything – all 5 large tents with rows of vendors selling everything
fiber – beautiful hand dyed silk and wool blend yarns and rovings –
there was a lot of yarn. It seemed that the vendors choose to cater
more to the hand worker than the spinner.
We passed by the outside tents
and went over to the Livestock Exhibit tent. They had a good example of
various different fiber producing animals – the Angora Rabbits, Llama
and Alpaca were not represented very well in this exhibit but I later
found more of them in the outside tents. After looking around we found
our friends Magi & Jay from Magi’s Wood Farm, you know, where we just got our Icelandic’s from.
Magi & Me
She was happy to see me because
she had let a child play with her wheel and it wasn’t working. She’s
been having a problem with it every since she got it but it was worse.
Later in the day, hubby found the same wheel and discovered her problem
is incorrect set up. Hopefully the pictures he took of the correct set
up will fix her problem.
Hubby wanted to take in the
sheep shearing demos and I really did want to check out those outside
tens, so I left him. My first stop was the Fleece Sale tent. Lot’s of
beauties in there. I found a CVM Sheep fleece that was really
beautiful – when I looked at the price, I came very close to passing
out – 2.2 lbs./$102.00. Needless to say that didn’t come home with me.
As I walked by the outside tents
– something caught my eye – A spinning wheel! It looked to be very much
like an Ashford Traditional but then again..it didn’t. I’m not going to
tell you the price yet. This wheel had suffered a child assult on
Saturday and it was broken. I got a handful of roving and a chair and
set out to fix this cool little wheel. Whatever this child had done to
it, I don’t know but it would not spin at all. Hubby came to find me
and got involved in the fixing process. An hour later, I walked away
with a fixed $60.00
spinning wheel! It is a mystery wheel though. I’ve added a photo, maybe
one of you may have an idea about who made it. It does need work but it
will spin yarn.
The New Old Wheel
Armed with mystery wheel, we set
out for food and Sheepdog Trials. I was a bit disappointed in the food
options. In years past there has been lamb chili and fruit plates. Not
so this year, so we got a heavy BBQ, set up our chairs and became
spectators. The dog trials were great! We stayed to the end and we got
lots of photos.
At The Pen - Look real hard..see the green on her shoulder? It's a Parrot!
This lady works without a crook or a whistle..she's amazing!
It’s so enjoyable watching a dog
work..they take their job seriously. I am so happy we have 7 Border
Collies of our own to work with.
We left the event feeling
invigorated and hungry. In the town of Orange we went to a restaurant
called the Silk Mill Grille. As you may have guessed from the name, it
is an old Silk Mill and the place is decorated much of the old salvaged
accessories and processing equipment. Had a great meal and we were home
I have a lot of readers that
know very little about this side of my life – they know me for the
goats and goats milk products. You see fiber and fiber arts is my true
passion. Any opportunity I get to do a day like this, I will put all
else aside to do it. My only regret – Didn’t go both days!
I’m going to add an events page
to my Blog so everyone might have an opportunity to see and possibly
attend what’s going on the rest of 2009. Some I will be a vendor..some
I will just visit.
Parting comments and a little
rant! Please, if you bring your children to events like the Fall Fiber
Festival, try to pay attention to what they are doing. One of the
wheels that was messed up yesterday is a several thousand dollar wheel.
We want everyone to come to these events..especially children, they are
the ones who will keep this going in the future but vendors and
demonstrators put their life into this and it shouldn’t be destroyed by
an adults carelessness of not watching their child. At this event, I
saw big pulls of rovings run off with, a driveband ripped right off a
spinning wheel, Angora bunnies being plucked through the sides of their
cage by uncontrolled little fingers, hand crafted wooden knitting
needles being used as swords and a grape snow cone dropped on a
beautiful silk scarf. Please bring your children and please be good,
aware parents! Rant is done.
Have a wonderful day!
Posted by MaLinda
@ 04:01 PM EDT
This weekend is the Montpelier Fall Fiber Festival and Sheepdog Trials
in Orange, Virginia. Every year, at this time, I am reminded of how we
got into farming and I remember fondly our first year with sheep.
Hubby and I were both
professionals in the Corporate world, living in the country on a few
acres. Each weekend we would look for things to do, farm related, to
learn about what was out there because I especially knew being an
accountant was not my life long dream. When we met a farm owner/fiber
artist from West Virginia at an Alpaca Festival in Charlottesville, VA,
I knew we would follow much the same path that she and her husband were
following. The next weekend was the Fall Fiber Festival, we attended
and made the commitment. We purchased our starter flock of Romney x
Border Leicester sheep. We were on our way to raising sheep for fiber.
I remember our trip to West
Virginia to pick up the sheep. Autumn in the WV mountains was like
nothing I had ever experienced in my life. Driving through the valleys,
in a light snow fall, on our way to Romney and looking up the
mountains, seeing all the the glorious colors of Autumns’ majesty,
embracing us, let me know this was the right decision.
When we reached Tranquility Farm
it felt like Christmas Morning! Sheep, sheep, everywhere..I couldn’t
get out of the truck fast enough. Our new flock had been put up the
night before, so we made the trek to the barn to see them. We had
decided on a ram, Anthony, who was the “apple” of the farmers eye. A
big dark grey boy with a black face and black stockings. The farmer had
worked with him since birth, had shown him and they were obviously best
buds. Katlyn, a dark blue grey ewe, was a wild child free spirit whos
fleece had won several ribbons in competition and then there was Betsy.
The most beautiful champagne grey sheep I had ever laid eyes on in my
life. She was a beauty queen and she knew it. While we were in the barn
talking and interacting with our new flock, one other white sheep kept
coming up to us for scratches. She was so friendly, we figured she
might be their pet. Well she wasn’t, she didn’t even have a name only a
number 122. So, 122, a.k.a. Natalina came home with us that day too.
So began the most wonderful time
of our lives and though were are now seasoned, that newness has never
worn off. Each addition, each birth, every fleece, every year brings me
back to the first day we had sheep on our farm. Though time has passed
and flock grew with every passing Spring, our first four sheep will be
forever in our lives. Those first four are gone now but as I look out
into the pasture, I see all that have come since and with a tear for
those lost, I have a smile for those gained.
If you get the chance to attend
the festival this weekend, it’s worth the trip to see all the goings
on. Be sure to take in some of the Border Collie trials, they are
always exciting and fun to watch. If the “bug” bites you to become a
farmer after your trip, be prepared for the ride of your life. There
are so many words to describe this life, the one that comes to mind
most with me is “joy”!
This is the first part in a
series of first year stories that I will share with you – not daily,
but over the course of several months.
Tomorrow will be back to the same old, same old.
“Love what you do..do what you love.”
Posted by MaLinda
@ 12:22 PM EDT
Well every time I promise to Blog more often, I seem to get worse at it. I don't know how people who blog all the time can do it. There just isn't enough time in a day for me to get everything else done and blog too! I must be getting old or business must be better than I realize (I'm going to stick with the latter).
I'm really starting to feel like the Dunkin' Donuts guy.."it's time to make the donuts, I already made the donuts". It's really like that, I feel like I'm meeting myself in the hall, on my way to make soap again. Wow! Who knew that soap making would turn out to be a recession proof business? I might be going to far to say recession proof, but it is holding it's own.
Our late garden is coming along quite nicely. Last week, we finally got some rain and as everyone knows, rain will make a garden jump. It does make all the bugs and worms that love a fresh garden jump too. Not to mention, it washes away deer proofing that was working. We had several tomato plant fatalities due to deer over the weekend and we have these little tiny worms on our tobacco plants..did I mention, we are growing our own tobacco? That is my husband's project and it is doing fair. Those poor tender leaves are really not in love with the sun but many of the plants are looking great. If anyone has an idea about our tiny worms, we'd love the feedback. They are about 1 1/2 " long, green on top and white on the bottom. They are not hornworms.
Check out our www.breezehillfarm.wordpress.com blog to see how the Fiber CSA process is advancing. I'm not sure if any of our shareholders are reading this blog, so I thought I should mention it just in case. We do still have a few shares left in our Local Harvest Store for those who might be interested.
Well I'm off to make soap!
Posted by MaLinda
@ 02:24 PM EDT
Haven't been around much lately. I really do have to get better about my bloging. It's just been so crazy busy here that by the time I think about the blog, it's after midnight and I'm off to bed.
The soap and lotion business is doing it's impersonation of the "Christmas Rush" here in July. Which is a good thing! I've been very happy with the sales for June and this month is looking like it might just be better. We've introduced two new items to our line, Jewelweed Balm and Soap, and we can't keep it in stock. For those of you who don't know this Jewelweed is a wonderful, natural treatment for posion ivy and oak. To add even more benefit, we use just a bit of goat's milk in the soap which helps with the drying effect of posion ivy. We haven't gotten these two items on our website yet, so if you happen to be interested in either of them, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The fiber side of the farm has slowed down for now. All of this years clip is off at the processor and I haven't had time to work on the alpaca and cashmere that I held back. I miss having the time to spin my own yarn. It serves two very important purposes for me. It's relaxing and I get to "show off" my stuff! Last week, I visited our local yarn shop and they said that business is way off from last year at this time. It's a shame, all of us in this industry were hoping that more people would flock to knitting with natual fibers, that will last for years and after vacations sales may pick back up.
For everyone who has been coming to the St. Stephen's Farmer's Market to visit us, we have taken the month of July off and possibly August too. Our reasons are very simple..I am just too busy to leave the farm during the week. My thought is, if I can't keep up with sales, why make it harder on me? This way my husband and I both get a little break. Last Saturday, as part of our anniversary celebration, we did a day trip to Gryffon's Aerie www.gryffonsaerie.com in Whitehall, Virginia. What a beautiful trip this is! It was so clear, not horribly hot, and most of all relaxed. We hadn't seen Ramona for several years and it was just great visiting with her and taking the "ride" around the farm to see all of the cattle and pigs..oh yes, and sheep. She and Collins' farm is featured in Virginia Living Magazine this month, so hopefully many more folks will make the trek out to their place.
This past Saturday we took the day and visited Grayhaven Winery www.grayhavenwinery.com, for their South African Food and Wine Festival. Grayhaven is one of our wholesale accounts and Max and Dion are also very good friends of ours. We had a wonderful time and I have to say, the food was excellent. Oh yes, so were the South African wines! We picked up the coolest print of an African child carrying a lamb over his shoulder. Every opportunity we get, we try to pick up anything that is tasteful portraying sheep. So basically, what we did is take a full week of doing and going and called it our anniversary week. Not very traditional but definitely relaxing and fun. I think that it is important for any of us who run our own farms and farm businesses to take some time for ourselves. It's good for the soul.
On a happy but equally sad note. We had a barn kitten born in May that did not have eyes. We've taken him into the house and raised him with his litter mates and Mom (that's been a real experience) and today, "Baby" is going to live with his new family. The family who is taking him, just lost their blind cat that had been with them for years, so he's going to a home that knows how to take care of his special needs. As I sit here and type this, I am crying like a baby. I'm going to miss that little face held high, inquiring as to what I'm doing when I come into a room. I know he is only a kitten but he has become very important to me and I knew his life would be better if he lived in a home with a little less confusion than ours. Everyone, say prayers for "Baby" and wish him well in this new journey.
Posted by MaLinda
@ 10:10 AM EDT
I’m sure that everyone has noticed my absence, well there is a reason for that. We’ve had an in house snake issue and I have finally grown brave enough to go back into the office. Kinda hard to run the business end of a business when you can only use the computer when Hubby is home from work. For my entire life I have been terrified of snakes. I’ve grown to accept the fact that black snakes are good to have at the barn but when they decide to come in for some air conditioning, it’s too much. I’ve been told that we are “blessed” to have a black snake in the house..not sure on what planet that’s true! So, this is why I’ve been missing.
Aside from the aforementioned, it’s been crazy busy here. We shipped off all of the fiber Friday to the mill. I decided to hold back all of the colored fleeces this time to work on processing myself. When we first started out in 1994, I did all of the processing and did so for years. In some ways I miss having that control but it has become much more practical to send it off. There were some absolutely incredible fleeces this year. We have two white ewes that double any fleece produced by a ram and it’s almost Merino quality. Can’t wait for everything to come back.
We worked the St. Stephen’s Farmer’s Market yesterday. Good Lord it was hotter than the hinges of @!#$! As always, I set up the spining wheel but could only spin in short spurts. My hands were so sweatie that I couldn’t get the fiber off of me. Fiber sales were off but the soaps and lotions did really well. I love the fact that this is a producers only market and they stick to that rule. There are so many F.B.N. (fly by night) soap people, that only use melt and pour soaps that are trying to infiltrate the market these days that it makes it hard for an honest producer to sell their product. You would think that something as pure and natural as soap making could escape all of the nasty back biting and unhealthy competition but apparently that is no longer the case. It’s really quite sad that many of us do our level best to be helpful to up an coming producers, then they come behind us with substandard products and cheaper prices than we charge. They are arogant and down right nasty and plow through us like yesterdays news. We can only hope that in the end, the consumer can see through the outward charm and realize that the quality and pride doesn’t exist with these people. OK, sorry about the rant but I know that many of our fellow producers know exactly what I’m talking about here.
I understand that there are quite a few people in the Fall Line Farms Co-op www.farm2udirect.com that are looking for me and wondering what has happened. There has been a drop point mixup, that has now been fixed. Also, we had decided to only deliver once a month in an effort to justify the expense in deliveries to five drop points but we are changing that as well. We will be back on the list next week and starting the second week in July, we will be back every week (all five drop points). Sorry I wasn’t there but glad you missed us..we miss you guys too!
Make sure you always check out our website for additions of new products and changes www.breezehillfarm.com. Have a great day and say little prayers that we will not have any more house guest of the reptile variety!
Posted by MaLinda
@ 02:05 PM EDT
Here's a way to double your CSA share and only pay for one. We are holding a raffle. For everyone who purchases a share in the Spring 2009 Fiber CSA by June 15th
2009, your name will be entered in our raffle to win a second CSA share. This would be a fantastic way to increase your stash or give your second share as a gift to a family member or friend. It could also be a super way to double up on yarn or roving for your Guild.
Simply go to our website www.breezehillfarm.com and purchase your Share/Shares, we will notify you that we have received your order and email you a confirmation number that will be your raffle number. Hold on to the email for your records.
The drawing will be at the end of the day Monday, June 15th 2009. If you have any questions or want more information, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.
*Note: Please do not use our Local Harvest Store to purchase your share/shares for this raffle. This only available through our website!
**The fine print: The winning share will be a natural colored share only. Dying will be available for an additional fee.
Posted by MaLinda
@ 09:44 AM EDT
Has everybody missed me? Wow, what a past couple of weeks! We've finally gotten some of the garden in, most of the sheep have been shorn, llama shorn, most of the fiber is packed and ready to go to the processor, filling orders at a much slower pace than I am taking them, goat's milk soap and lotion has definitely become something that everyone wants NOW, life is good. I am tired. Always remember, you can order our soaps and lotions through our website.
By the way, we now have a Store on Local Harvest and the Spring 2009 Fiber CSA is available through it. In the listing it shows that when you order you will get 5 skeins of yarn. That's not necessarily so, it's just listed like that to give LH a quantity to work with. Before making the decision to purchase, be sure to check out our website www.breezehillfarm.com for more details and be sure to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or concerns. As with so many other things in life..knowledge is power! Being fully educated in this process is very important. Knowing what to expect makes all of us happier. The sheep wool and alpaca fiber blended yarn is just wonderful. I worked up some samples for potential shareholders and I think that has made the decision to participate for quite a few folks.
Within the next week or so, I will be sharing some new and exciting ideas and plans for Breeze Hill Farm's future. Keep checking back to see what's happening.
Posted by MaLinda
@ 02:53 PM EDT
Yesterday, I spent the day at Magi’s Wood Farm. They raise Icelandic sheep and we are adding this breed to our farm. As you will see in the photo’s below, the sheep are a really cool looking breed and I enjoyed the time spent with them, but Magi is an incredible Felt Fiber Artist. I wish I had photographed some of her work to include in this post but didn’t even think about it until I had left..that’s OK, I’ll be back there next week giving a spinning lesson so I’ll be sure to get some great photos of her work. What she has done with this fiber art medium is too beautiful to put into words. I am so impressed and so fortunate to call this amazingly talented lady my new friend.
In the top photo below you’ll see Holly, she is one that we will soon have at our farm. I’m trying to make up my mind which ones will be the other’s. These girls all have such cool personalities, it’s hard to choose. Being a dyer, I’m always looking at white sheep but I’ve learned through the years that over dying colored sheep fiber gives some excellent results too. I just can’t wait to have all of our new babies here at the farm. Once everyone has moved in an are settled, we are having a Field Party, to introduce everyone to the neighborhood..any excuse to have a party!
With all of these new additions, Breeze Hill Farm’s Fiber CSA will be absolutely awesome in the Fall.
Posted by MaLinda
@ 11:40 AM EDT
Things are progressing nicely with the Fiber CSA. Several shares have sold but there are many more still left. This is an exciting concept for the knitter, crocheter, felter, spinner and it is an excellent opportunity to add some really cool fiber to your stash.
This coming weekend we will be at the St. Stephen's Farmer's Market again in Richmond, VA and are looking forward to seeing the new friends we've made and hope to see more new customers. I just can't say enough good about this market and hope that their success will keep them going strong.
After the market we will finally plant our garden. It's been really slow going this year because of all of the rain and the fact that we kept having frost. Can't wait to see the first sprouts! Also, on Sunday we will have our sheep shearing day. Since we do this ourselves, it will be more like sheep shearing "days" but Sunday will be the start. The fleeces are absolutely beautiful this year. Looking forward to getting them skirted and shipped off for processing. I've done a little sample blending of the wool/alpaca blend that is being offered in the CSA, on the roving carder, it is spectacular! Not only is it beautiful to look at but it takes dye like I had not expected. The alpaca fiber that I have this year has a high luster so it takes the dye much like mohair. The handle of this blend is so wonderfully soft too and it spins like a dream. I will have the samples that I've worked on at the Farmer's Market Saturday for potential share holders to see.
Don't forget, until the Store Listing on Local Harvest is available, you can always go to www.breezehillfarm.com to read more about the CSA and to order.
Posted by MaLinda
@ 08:39 AM EDT
Would you look at what we found at the barn this morning. Twin doelings and oh my are they just too cute? We were hoping that these two would be black. Their Mother "Blackie" (our stray goat - another story for another day) is obviously black and our Angora buck is white but his father was black. It looks like one wants to have blue tiping but the other one, as you can see is white. So exciting, more milk for soap and future fiber for next years Fiber CSA. I have to share just one photo of the babies. I just can't believe how perfect they are and I cannot say enough good about their Mom. She isn't in the photo because she was taking down a bale of hay all by herself. Busy night she had.
Can you believe how big they are? We know at midnight last night she had not given birth and she was showing no signs of labor.
Again, we need to give them names. Any suggestions? We ended up naming our first kid "Regan", so maybe we're doing presidents this time. Who knows!
Posted by MaLinda
@ 11:31 PM EDT
This Farmer's Market is in Richmond, VA at the interesction of Grove Avenue and Three Chopt Road from 8:00 til Noon. We can't wait it is a new market and it is an all producers market. They have really done a good job of getting the word out so it should be a great market. So far, we gotten a lot of calls asking if we are going to have our goat's milk soap and goat's milk lotion available..of course we are and we'll be selling "shares" in the Spring fiber CSA too. It may not be the best day for that since Maryland Sheep & Wool is this weekend too, but not everyone will be heading in that direction tomorrow.
It's going to be so much fun to introduce our new products too! This will only be the third time we've put our Collina Breeza in front of people, so I can't wait to see the reaction to a lotion and cream that is "paraben free" and is made from 92% organic materials. So many of our customers are cancer survivors and they appreciate how gentle our soaps are on their skin and now they will have a lotion and cream that they don't have to worry about it harming them. If any of you are ever interested in what we carry you can check us out at www.breezehillfarm.com .
To everyone heading out to the market's tomorrow have a great successful day!
Posted by MaLinda
@ 03:05 PM EDT
This Blog post may look familiar to all of you. Because of some changes in content had to take the original post down, so I am announcing the CSA again!
The Breeze Hill Farm Spring Fiber CSA is up,running and available.
The Local Harvest Store Listing is soon to follow.
We offer you the opportunity to enjoy the fruits (of a different kind) of our 2009 fiber harvest. We hope that this first offering will be a great success and look forward to everyone who will choose to sign up. What a wonderful thing to be able to purchase fiber from someone you know (kinda). A farm that believes in leaving the “bad stuff” out and only offers pure quality.
Check out our other blogspot at: www.breezehillfarm.wordpress.com
You can pick up our “Tweets” at www.twitter.com Look for screen name: Shepherdmal
Posted by MaLinda
@ 09:10 AM EDT
Well good rainy morning! Went to the barn around 5:00 a.m. and look what we found. This little "buck" is our first birth of 2009. We really thought our girls were just going to keep the babies this year. Apparently, our careful planned breeding didn't work our exactly as we had planned. Usually by now we are done with kidding for the year. This little guy will be a keeper. In an effort to grow the herd, we will make him a wither and enjoy years of wonderful fiber from him. His photo is not that great but when they are newborns you tend to get a lot of butt shots!
We haven't named him yet. Maybe some of you would like to do the honors. We did names with an Italian theme last year and have done the Irish and Scottish names for our sheep. Let's see what you come up with!
Saturday is our first event of the market season and I am sure, at this point, I'll be working the market event by myself. Someone will have to stay at the farm for continued birthing assistance if needed.
I promise I won't bore everyone with every birth but the first is just special.
Posted by MaLinda
@ 08:52 AM EDT
Spring has definitely sprung here at the farm. Still no babies yet but our Mama's are about to burst. We spent the day shearing the goats yesterday. All of our Alpine x Angora's produce beautiful fiber that is blended with our sheep wool to make a glorious yarn for our knitting and crochet customers. When this blended fiber is dyed it is simply beautiful. Thursday will be Alpaca shearing day which will bring us about 150 fleeces and Saturday we'll shear the sheep. So much fiber! I love it. Within the next several weeks we will announce the details on our Fiber CSA. So far, just sharing this idea with our customers, we've sold several shares. Having been in the fiber business for since 1994, we've developed a good size customer base that is familiar with the quality fibers we offer. We love this time of year even though our aging backs don't!
Thanks to the fact that goat's milk can be frozen I've been hard at work making soap. With Farmer's Market season upon us, it's time to grow inventory. The selection of new Farmer's Markets in this area has grown unbelievably for 2009, so this year we are employing family and friends to help us out. This way we can be at more than just one or two markets. It is a good positive feeling to see so much interest in providing local grown to those who are seeking it. It is also good to see so many people adding vegetable plants to their landscaping..this is how it should be. We should know where our foods and yes, even our fiber and soaps come from. One of the sell points we use with our goat's milk products, that seems to really make a difference is, "we are trying to take care and put only the best there is in our body's but let's not neglect the largest organ we have..our skin". It's a great feeling to see that lightbulb go on when they get it.
Our new website is almost ready to launch. For those who have painfully looked at our existing site, I am so sorry you had to go through that. This has been an exciting task..though at times it has gotten tense. Having your husband as your web designer can prove to be, let's say annoying. After 30 years of marriage, I simply cannot understand why he can't read my mind! He's a great guy and he's doing a beautiful job on the new site. Can't wait!
Well that's it for our news from the farm. Until next time, take care.
Posted by MaLinda
@ 04:33 PM EDT
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