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
As most of you know the other
side of my farm business is goats milk products. This time of year I am
kicking it into high gear getting ready for Holiday Markets, Open
Houses, and Shows. One item that I make (knit or crochet) is a big
supply of wash cloths. Usually out of organic cotton. I keep them
simple because the only time I can knit or crochet is late evening
after chores and dinner.
This year I am changing up what
the cloths are made from. I’ve noticed many specialty facial and body
cloths are made from a dense over twisted cotton and are sold as
exfoliating cloths. Not being a super cotton spinner and not liking any
of the yarns I had found in cotton to try that would accomplish a cloth
that would be exfoliating too, my search brought me to Noil Silk – raw
rough spun silk.
I’ve made a dozen or so of them
and used one as a test. So far, after using it in the shower and
laundering it 6 times – it’s definitely a winner! The cloth keeps it
shape, of course no shrinkage and it maintains its exfoliating quality.
I am only using yarns that are natural colored or natural dyed and
From my standpoint…I think their great!
To see what other are doing this Friday check out Fiber Arts Friday
Posted by MaLinda
@ 12:04 PM EDT
amazing how little it takes to excite me anymore. I just joined several
Ravelry Groups in hopes of sharing some of what I do and make new
friends in the fiber world. If you don't know what Ravelry is check out
their website at Ravelry.com. It's pretty cool stuff! My screen name is "Breezhill" if you'd like to check out the Groups I've joined.
have now determined that our Icelandic sheep are not that bright.
Yesterday evening we were at the barn pulling a couple of sheep fleeces
that are sold. We took a little time to just sit with the animals and
visit. Apparently, Ricky and Holly didn't see any food in this visit so
they went off on their own. The next thing we knew, they were on the
other side of the fence looking at us. When they realized that we could
see them, they leisurely walked back to the hole in the fence and
stepped back in. Now maybe I'm not being 100% fair here..possibly they
are not dumb but incredibly smart. Do you think they may have been
trying to let us know there was another hole in the fence?? Can't wait
to see what they come up with today. I swear they remind me more of
goats than sheep.
Tomorrow is Fiber Arts Friday on Alpacafarmgirl.com. It's a lot of fun to see what's happening with others and their new creations. Come on over and join in.
working on our new goats milk soaps and fragrances for the Holiday's
and would love some input from you all. Each year I try to come up with
at least 2 special fragrances and a new mold for the season. Something
to make the bath smell good and a gift that people will enjoy giving
and receiving. Leave
comments as to what you think would be nice. If I pick your idea, we'll
send you a gift box with the new fragrance soap and some other goodies!
Posted by MaLinda
@ 10:21 AM EDT
Good Morning Everyone! It's been awhile again since my last entry. If this happens again you will know that I have been too busy to Blog. Everything is going very well here. Business is great and we are adding more every day. All of the animals are surviving the high heat that we've had for the last few weeks and the first part of the garden all came in at one time. So, on top of making soaps and lotions, milking goats, going to markets, filling orders, etc., I had to roll up my sleeves and start canning and freezing. Occasionally, I get to sleep!
We were all kinds of excited Saturday when we finally had rain. Of course, we couldn't just have a normal rain, we had to be under a Tornado Warning for several hours and it ended up raining about 5 inches. Then last night before we went to bed we took a look at the weather radar and noticed that there was a storm right on top of us. Well, we got 3 more inches of rain from that. This morning, with the warm sun shining, you can actually hear the grass growing! I am so thankful we finally got rain. Apparently, our geographic location has some kind of anomaly that makes weather patterns go around us. We can actually stand in our garden and watch storms divide and go to either side of us. My husband is a ham radio sky warn spotter and he says that he can't explain why this is, only that when we move again he is going to look at the weather history for an area before we move there. Each summer we pump too much water from the well to keep the garden going. Save money on growing food so we can pay the power company for extra electrical usage. Catch 22 much?
We have added some new products, they are not on the website yet but keep checking back. We are in the process of revamping the site too. Busy, busy, busy. I think that once all of the work is done on the new site, people will find it a little less distressing to navigate.
I asked this question a while back and didn't get a response from anyone, but I am curious if anyone has any idea for what we can use on our tobacco plants that is safe and natural for eradicating Hornworms? Thank God, it's only 100 plants because our current approach is to pick the worms twice a day and as the plants are getting bigger, it's becoming a full time job. I'd appreciate it if anyone could make suggestions.
It's off to soap making! Have a wonderful day.
Posted by MaLinda
@ 11:46 AM 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
What a beautiful morning this is. It was 62 degrees at the farm when we got up, bright sun and almost no humidity. That’s really saying something for summer in Virginia. A morning like this made fixing a country breakfast mandatory. The most enjoyable part of it was including our first tomato of the season. It was nice finally getting something out of the garden that wasn’t zucchini! For the past month, it’s been nothing but zucchini bread, fried zucchini, sauteed zucchini, mock zucchini crab cakes (these are amazing!) and veggie mixes..with zucchini. The freezer is full of it, friends run when they see me coming, it’s a sad state! This is the down side of putting in a late garden, it's not easy being patient.
It’s been months in the fine tuning and testing and finally our new Jewelweed Products are ready for sale (they are not on the website yet so you will have to email me firstname.lastname@example.org to order). For those who do not know the significance of Jewelweed, it is wonderful for shortening the duration of an out break of poison ivy and oak and in some cases stopping an outbreak from occurring.
The two new products are a Jewelweed Balm, which is made with all natural and organic ingredients and Jewelweed Soap. Not being a person who has bad reactions to poison ivy or oak, I had to take the product to quite a few people for testing. The positive results were 100%. Both products benefit from having a variety of oils that help clear up the problem and leave the skin feeling soft but the soap has an extra bonus of containing goat’s milk. These two items are a must have for the summer first aid kit!
Well I’m off to take a look at 3 possible new goat doelings that were born in March. Because of the increase in business, we need to add to our herd and these girls will make a wonderful addition. Then it's back to get the Co-op (www.farm2udirect.com) orders ready for delivery tomorrow. Busy day!
Posted by MaLinda
@ 11:08 AM 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 email@example.com.
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
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
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
The day we've waited for since last November is finally here. I love the surge of energy that comes with getting everything ready for the first Farmer's Market of the season. Doing last minute details to the products I'll be carrying. Setting up the canopy to let it air out from the few months it spent in the basement and realizing that I am missing two large tubs of yarn! Kind of hard to sell it and the Fiber CSA if I don't have it. So, I took a break from frantic searching to bore all of you.
The goat's milk soaps and lotions are always a work in progress so finding them..not a problem. Oh, by the way, we have still not had another baby here since the first one that I announced earlier in the month. So, of course, we will have to have a farm sitter while we are gone tomorrow. We got new table covers (aka Walmart bed sheets!) this season and I noticed this morning that something had spilled on the packaging and bled through to to sheet, so now I get to add laundry to the list of the "To Do's".
Each year, the inventory grows, the tubs and boxes get heavier, I seem to get heavier, and those first time organization skills are out the window. You know what? We wouldn't have it any other way!
Good luck to everyone who is getting started tomorrow. My hope is that it is a healthy and proffitable season for all of us. It's our time to get the word out to "buy and support local" and to educate.
Posted by MaLinda
@ 10:23 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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