Pine Needle Farm

  (Kila, Montana)
The adventures of raising cashmere goats.
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A long time between writings!

  It's been a very long time since I've written in here!  A lot has happened in that time.  New neighbors, changes on the farm, and weird weather, to name a few.

  I have new neighbors all around the mountain.  Luckily they are all nice and easy to get along with, except for one.  The one is nice, just all over the place emotionally, so you never know how they will act that day.  I don't have much to do with them, just wave and be neighborly when I see them.  

  I've been getting quite a few helpxers through here.  They have all been wonderful people, very eager to learn and fun to be around.  It is so nice to have the help!  I've been able to get a lot done on the place that wouldn't have happened otherwise.  I think I'm pretty much ready for winter, there are just a couple of things left to do.  

   The goats are all doing well.  I have 73 right now!  I have all the cashmere sold from this year, after finally getting it all dehaired, finishing just this week!  Now I can do my outside customer's fleeces.  I should be all done and have the machine put to bed for the winter by the end of November.

 We got 5.5 acres of the place thinned out this summer.  It looks much different now!  The goats will have lots of grass and weeds to eat next summer!  It's so open in there now they won't know what to do.  They are used to the thick trees to have get through, so all this open area is quite strange to them.  Now I have tons of slash piles to burn.  Fun times...

 We've had quite a few bears around here this year.  One, or more, came into the lower pasture and got into the helpers dog food.  That was annoying, I haven't had any bear problems in the 19 years we've been up here, then these guys don't secure their feed and now there is a bear that knows the fence can be breached.  Luckily the dogs scare it away from the animals.  I saw four bears at once last week coming up our road!  That was pretty exciting.  Hadn't seen any all year, then 4 at once.  Pretty cool!

 The rats are taking over the place!  I've caught or shot, 16 so far!  A new record for sure.   I think we are going to have a very cold winter this year.  Coldest in years, with temps well below zero for a few days.  Not looking forward to that.  It's been years since we've had a really cold spell.  Oh well, it is Montana after all. :-)  

 
 

The Perfection in Silence

This evening after I was done feeding all the animals, I just stopped and listened for a few minutes.  It was absolutely still and quiet out.  I just stood there and absorbed the silence.  The snow on the trees and ground was muffling all sound, and it was so beautiful out, that I just had to stop and feel it.  A special moment indeed.

 

   The goats are all well.  They are in full fleece and so soft now!  I love just going out there and petting them and burying my hands in their cashmere.  I really am a lucky person to live where I do and have all these wonderful creatures around me.  Working with cashmere is so great!

  There are 14 does that are pregnant now, so there will be lots of babies come Spring.  

  This fall I had some helpxers up here helping me get things ready for winter.  They were all great, and sure were a huge help!  I look forward to next year and more of them coming and staying for a week or so at a time and helping me get the things accomplished that I want to.  

  I'm hoping to get a little guest cabin built, so people can stay in a more comfortable place than my little camper.  Although the bed in the camper is comfortable, there just isn't much room in it.  I really want to start a farm stay here, which will grow into a fiber arts retreat center in a few years.  I would love to have a space to hold classes, have informal spin-ins, knit-ins, etc. The land around us is perfect for hiking, so outdoor activities will be featured, too.  That is the dream, and I am starting to seriously work towards that in 2013.   Summer will be spent building the cabin to get started.  I have a vision for this place that is pretty neat.  

Well, have a great Holiday Season everyone! 

 
 

Time to Vent

This entry is about the poor quality with which things are made these days.  A couple of months ago I had to buy a new weed-eater.  The one we'd had for 16 years died.  I bought a new one of the same brand, since the old one had lasted so long without a lot of care.  This new one only worked 5 times before the string head on it broke.  I was thinking when I bought it that the head seemed to be made of pretty brittle plastic for the job it's supposed to do.  Sure enough, it fell apart.  I took it back, they replaced part of the head, but not all, which I asked why, they didn't give a real good answer, just bring it back if it breaks.  So I took it home and used it for about 15 minutes, and it broke.  We live a good 45 minutes from town, so it's not just a "quick run to the store" kind of a thing to go to town.  It's a planned event with a list a mile long of errands to do while there.  This is supposed to be a top of the line model that should last for years.  I haven't used it again since I brought it back.  It will have to wait till Spring now.

 

    Then, my husband was interviewed for the CBS national news last week.  There were two pictures of yours truly on there to show what he was missing by having to work away from home.  One of which was me combing one of the goats.  That was all fine until the last sentence or two when the reporter called the goats "cashmere sheep" instead of goats!  I've been working for years trying to educate the public on what animal has cashmere, and then in one sentence, it's all for naught.  She was told what kind of animal it was, she's looked on my website and everything. She also called them "his" cashmere sheep!  He hates the goats and wants nothing to do with them.  With those errors in a simple little 20 second spot, it makes you wonder just how accurate the whole newscast is.  Not very, I wouldn't think.  Everything has it's own spin on it.

 

   Now for some good news.  I actually got the main goat pen all cleaned out and ready for winter.  The woodshed is almost half full, and we are working on that the rest of this week.  I re-did some of the goat pens so there will be way less snow shoveling to do this year.  I'm trying to make life a little easier around here.  

  It's breeding season for the goats, so all of that noise is going on.  So far, there is one unplanned pregnancy.  Hope that is the only one!  The doe is one that I wanted to get bred this year, just not so early as she did.  MIdnight, one of the bucks ,got out and joined the herd when they were out in the lower pasture and had his way with Astrid for the afternoon.  Thank heavens she was the only one in heat that day!  Now there will be kids born in early February.  Hope it's half-way warm then!

 

  The chickens are laying lots of eggs now.  Nothing like farm fresh eggs from your own chickens!  These are a bit small, since they are the first ones laid by them, but they are starting to get a little bigger now.  There is one hen that was having a time regulating her eggs.  She was laying a double yolked egg each day for a good two weeks before her body figured out to shell one egg at a time.  They were big eggs, too!  Now there are just single eggs coming out all the time.  Nice dark yellow to light orange yolks, firm whites.  Good stuff!!

Well, that's all that is happening now.... 

 
 

Where did the Summer go?

So, what happened to summer this year?  It went by so fast, it's unreal!  I didn't get half the things done i wanted to.  

  Now the bears are getting pretty active looking for food to eat to get ready for winter.  I've been taking the goats out into the neighboring properties to browse and reduce the fire hazard around us and I'm seeing shredded logs and stumps, overturned rocks, and broken branches on apple trees all over the place!  

  The goats and I had an almost close encounter with a bear the other day.  We were down in a little clearing by a big aspen tree that had fallen down years ago when the goats gathered into a tight bunch, started really looking intently at one spot and were generally on high alert.  I walked over that way and saw the vegetation laying down in a large circle.  My LGD Nellie went over there and started following the scent through the grass and brush, through a clump of little trees.  All of a sudden she came back a lot faster than she went.  I heard some crackling and crunching, so the goats and i beat a hasty retreat.  Never did see a bear, but it was pretty close.  The next day, the goats didn't even want to go down in that direction, so it must have still been around.  

  The neighbors down the hill a ways have had a bear come into their yard and garden two nights in a row now.  Tore up the apple trees, chicken coop, and put it's paws up on their door!  I'm sure glad we have this place all fenced off and Nellie is here barking most nights!

  A deer has got into the garden a couple of times and severely trimmed the peas, ate all the broccoli, and a lot of the green beans.  The peas are actually coming back good and producing peas, although the plants are short.  A bonus, I don't have to stake them now.  I'm just not getting as many as I had wanted and planned on getting this year.  It also pulled up a lot of the carrots, took a bite, and left the rest.  Dang beast!  With literally thousands of acres of forest land all around us, there really isn't any reason for it to come in here and eat my gardens!!  Hunting season is almost here, that deer should taste pretty good with all the goodies it's been eating.... 

 
 

June Already!

It's been a long time since I wrote in here!  A lot has happened.  Kidding season this year was the most challenging one I've ever had.  I lost two does and four kids.  But, there are 26 live and healthy kids out there, growing fast and bouncing around all over the place.  They are so fun to watch, better than TV any day!

   It's been a chilly, rainy spring so far.  The garden has pretty much stalled out for the time being.  I'm waiting for warmer weather to plant anything else.  I've got garlic that I planted last fall growing well, radishes that are just kind of growing, lettuce that I planted last fall that didn't come up then, but decided to come up this spring.  So I have some early lettuce.  I also planted some salad greens and peas in the greenhouse in March, so I'm eating lettuce out of there.  It's not as good as lettuce grown outside for some reason, but it's okay.  I have two volunteer peas from last year that came up this spring and are not very tall at all, which is surprising, since peas are a cool weather crop.  I planted broccoli and spinach, beets and carrots and onions and they are all just barely growing.  So I think I could have waited till this month to plant and been ahead of the game. 

  In the past, I've waited till the first week in July to plant anything and that was one of the best gardens I've ever had.  We are at the elevation that is in between the cold mountain top air and the cold valley bottom air, so we don't get frosts as early as the valley does in the fall.  We are about three weeks behind in the Spring, though.  Plus we are on a south slope, so we are in a great spot!

  I'm busy doing cashmere things, dehairing, spinning and crocheting.  I have fiber CSA's this year, which have sold fairly well.  There are a few left, but only of the cream color, the Aspen color is all gone for this year. 

 There were 8 black colored kids born this year, so next year I should have a lot more of the aspen color.  After I spun up a skein of that yarn, I went out and held it up against some of the different trees we have around here, and the color matched the bark of the aspen tree the best.  So, since I like "aspen" better than "gray/brown" for a color name, aspen it is. 

  I have a good variety of goat colors out there now.  Lots of brown ones, black, cream and even a few red ones.  There are a couple of white ones, too.  A colorful herd when they are out in the pasture in a big group. 

  This year is going by way too fast!  I'm looking for a person (female) or a couple to come and help out around here so I can get more cashmere things done.  I signed up with the HelpX network and have one married couple coming in late July.  There is a lot to be done before that, though.  So if you would like a working vacation and learn all about goats, both fiber and dairy, come for a visit for a few days, a week, or two and I'll put you to work, although it won't all be work, there is time to play and explore, too!  Glacier national Park is only a two hour drive from here. A beautiful place to visit!

  Well, that's all for now.  Hopefully I'll write again sooner than last time!     

 
 

Happy New Year!

Happy New year!  2012 is going to be an interesting, fast paced year.

We are having a very mild winter so far.  Our road is pretty icy now, a couple of sections you could go ice skating on.  The scariest parts are down to the bare gravel, thank heavens!  there isn't very much snow up here at all.  The hill behind the house is bare, along with under the trees.  Where there is snow, it's only about 5 inches deep.  It's got a crust hard enough for me to walk on, and I'm no lightweight!

  The goats are all doing well.  The does are starting to look pregnant now.  Miss Astrid stuck her head through the fence again yesterday and got beat up pretty good.  She's got the goat equivalent of two black eyes.  Will she ever learn?  She is always the one to get in trouble, get in places she shouldn't be and get stuck, wherever there is trouble, there she is.  Her kids from last year, Socks and Oksana are the same way.  I'm in the process of getting all of the goats' hooves trimmed, and those two are right there getting in the way all the time.  The goats get a little treat while they are standing in the grooming stand to help keep them standing still and Socks and Oksana have discovered that, so every time a goat gets up there they try to get up on the stand with whoever is on it at the time to get at the treats.  The little piglets! lol  They are a fat little set, but they are so cute, I just have to laugh at them. 

   I am about to start dehairing all of my own cashmere now!  I am really excited to get at it again.  I did some of it for the CSA shares, but there is still about 5 shares worth of the 2010 harvest left, plus all of 2011 to do.  Then it will be time to comb the goats for this year.  Time flies!      

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Winter is here, and came with a bang!

    Winter is here, and it sure came in fast!  We got 16 inches of snow in about 12 hours.  Spent two days digging out, then got 9 more inches!  Thank heavens most of it melted this last week, down to 5 inches.  Friday morning we had a raging blizzard that dumped 3 more inches.  I woke up at 4:30am, looked out the door and couldn't even see the deck railing, it was a white-out!  Went back to bed again, got up at 5:30am, looked out again, a deeper white-out!  When I got up again after daylight, it had let up a bit, but the wind was still howling.  We usually don't get hard winds up here, being tucked up against the south side of a hill, but it sure has been windy the last week or so.  Today was finally a still day.  Cloudy, but no wind.

  I'm almost done with dehairing outside cashmere for the year!  Then I can get mine all done finally and spend the rest of the winter spinning and crocheting nothing but cashmere.  What a life of luxury. lol !!

   I think all the does are bred now, except for Bridget.  She's going to visit Rusty on Dec 1st and stay there till the deed is done.  I've somehow missed two of her last heat cycles, so this time I'm just putting her in a few days early and hope it happens.

   Hunting season is over tomorrow!  I will be so glad to have the road to ourselves again.  No annoying road hunters creeping along, not pulling off till one honks at them.  Road hunting is illegal, too! 

 
 

Getting Ready for Winter

Winter is coming, ready or not!  We've already had a brief dusting of snow.  I'm not ready yet! 

  Having help around here is a wonderful thing!  The goat pens are now cleaned, we are working on making some nice houses for them this week.  These goats will be living in style this winter!  Deluxe goat condos for all. ? 

   The Bucks are having a grand time with the ladies now.  All the dairy goats are bred, now it's the cashmere's turn.  There will be lots of babies come Spring if all goes well.

   Finally got the dairy goats' hay in their barn.  That is a relief!  It is a grass/alfalfa mix that is pretty stemmy, so they aren't eating the stems.  You would think that since they eat tree branches a little hay stem would be tasty, but, no, they pick through that and go for the leaves, dropping the stems on the floor.  Luckily the  mini horses like the stems, so about every other day I gather the wasted hay and take it to the horses.

   The greenhouse is still staying above freezing.  This is good since there are a lot of tomatoes still ripening and there is no room in the house to spread them out to ripen.  Cashmere has taken over the house!  It's everywhere!  Pretty soon I'll be asking dinner guests if they'd like some real food with their cashmere, or just cashmere for the main course.  It's a good thing I love working with cashmere!  Although even I draw the line at eating the stuff.

   It's hunting season now.  I haven't heard very many gun shots up in this area.  There aren't many bucks up here any more.  I haven't seen any since early July and that is rather odd.  They are always around all summer.  The mountain lions worked them over pretty heavily this last winter.  About every three days another deer out of the bunch that lives here was gone.  Better the deer than the goats!  Especially since the deer keep getting in the garden and in my flowers around the house.  I swear if I left the door open, they'd walk right in!  Brave little buggers.

  The dehairing is going well.  A slow process for sure.  I'm almost done with the last batch of cashmere, then it's on to individual fleeces!  That is my new direction with this machine.  I didn't make enough money dehairing other people's cashmere to make it worth while to do.  And, since I never intended to do a lot of other people's fiber, just my own and a few others, this is the way I'm heading now.  Dehair my own fiber and spin it and crochet with it has always been my plan.  I got pushed into doing other people's cashmere when I first got the machine and have been going that route for a year.  A learning year, for sure!  Now I know what doesn't work, so I'm ready to do what does work from now on.

   Lessons learned-- 1. shearing is a waste of money.  The amount one loses in the dehairing process is just not worth it. 2. a cashmere fleece turns out better if dehaired separately as individual fleeces, than when all combined.  Each goat has slightly different hair, just like each human has a different head of hair.  3. this is the slowest process in the whole fiber processing operation!  I love doing it, the time goes by quickly, and when it's time to quit, I look at the amount that got done, and I say to myself, this is all I got done today?

  I do still love everything about cashmere, from the goat to the finished product, it's just very labor intensive.  It's all good though! 

    

  

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Cashmere everywhere!

The cashmere I'm dehairing is starting to take over the house! Pretty soon I'll be asking my husband what he'd like for dinner with his cashmere. :-) I am really going to build a "real" dehairing room next year for sure. There will be lots of room for fiber storage in there, too. My tulip bed is amost ready to start blooming. There are going to be around 200 blooms this year! The daffodils are looking really pretty now, too. My goats are so bored having to stay in their pens now! The grass and other forage is just starting to grow well. We had a nice rain today, so if the sun comes out and it warms up, everything will really take off. I have promised the goats they get to go out on June 1st. It's not helping that we have four to seven deer that have decided to live on our place. They are eating the grass as soon as it starts to come up. The four kids are doing great. Growing fast. Astrid's two are just as full of it as she is. Always getting into something they aren't supposed to. They are the only two that go through the fence into the other pens, too. Mariah and Luna stay in the pen with their moms like good little kids. We had our first meal of asparagus the other night. Boy was that good! Yummm!!! I cheated and bought some lettuce starts, and some cabbage starts at the FM on Saturday. They are growing already, and I just planted them three days ago. I'm also going to plant some seeds in the next couple of days. We haven't eaten lettuce all winter, except at friends' houses. We like to try and eat locally grown food (mostly our own) as much as possible. So lettuce in the winter is not on the menu. The strawbale wall in the greenhouse is now stuccoed, so DH has planted his tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. He still has some work to do in there, but at least the important stuff is in the ground now. I've finally figured out a work schedule that is really working. I was trying to do a little of everything every day, and that just wasn't working very well. So now I have decided to focus only on cashmere four days a week, and do all the farm stuff the other three days. Of course the feeding is every day, twice a day. But gardening, cleaning, fencing , all that good stuff only happens on the three days away from cashmere. I'll get a lot more done on both fronts now. Well, that's it for now....
 
 

Spring might be here, Finally!

I think spring might finally be here!  The snow is almost all gone, at least here in the yard.  There is still some out in the forest, but it's going away.  It's been a long, snowy winter.  Now the Glacier Lilies are blooming, the pussy willows are budding, my tulips and daffodils are growing, the grass is turning green, life is good!

  The deer ate half my tulip bed, even though it was covered.  The deer stuck it's head under the corner and lifted the mesh up and got a corner of the one bed.  GRrrrrr!  A deer also was going inside the hayshed like it owned the place.  Grandma, as I call the biggest doe that comes around, even has the dogs afraid of her!  She looks at them, stomps her foot and they turn and run.  She has gone after them before it seems...

   There are four Cashmere kids this year.  Three girls and one boy.  The one boy is a dark brown with bright white socks that go up to his knees on the front legs.    He looks like he's wearing splints or something.  He's going to be a nice looking wether when he grows up!   The girls are all solid colored, two black and one brown one.  All very cute!  Now I'm waiting for the one dairy doe to have her kids, which should be sometime next week, then that will be all for this year. 

   It's Spring clean up time around here now that the snow is going away.  It's rather scary what is appearing as the snow melts! :-)  Lots to do around here, as usual.  There is the dehairing on top of that now.  That is going well.  Never a dull moment around here!  Happy Spring!

 
 

Mountain Lion!

I had a most exciting Saturday!  I got to see a treed mountain lion just up behind our place!  I got some really good pictures of him, which if I knew how to put them on here, I would.  I do have a picture on the blog off my website.

   Hounds are quite loud when they are baying right next to you!  Cute, too.  It's chase season here, so cameras are the only weapon used.  The hunter I was with said this is a new lion, a young tom that he hasn't seen before, so that makes four different lions in this area.  They are staying away from our place, and just eating the deer that are around.  Nellie, our Great Pyrenees, is doing a wonderful job of keeping all the predators away.

   I am still waiting for Maggie, the first doe to kid this year.  She was due last Thursday, but still hasn't done anything, and doesn't look like anything will happen anytime soon.  Another sleepless night, getting up to check on her at least four times during the night.  Since this is her first one, I want to make sure she takes care of it.  I don't want to go out in the morning and find a dead kid because it didn't get the proper care right away.

  Well, off to check on her right now...

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Happy New Year!

Well, it's hard to believe 2011 is here already.  2010 went by in the blink of an eye, it seems.  Lots of things happened last year.  Not the least, me getting my dream come true, a cashmere dehairing machine!

  I am out there almost every day, weather permitting, dehairing cashmere.  I have a nice little room built around the machine, but it isn't really well insulated, so if it gets below about 14 degrees outside, it's too cold to work in there, even with the Buddy heater going full blast.  We are having a real winter this year.  Lots and lots of snow, and cold temperatures.  Haven't had this much snow in years, especially this early.  

    The goats are all doing well.  I did the first-of-the-year hoof trimming and all of that good stuff on the dairy goats Sunday.  Now they are ready for the rest of the winter.  Finally got Belle bred, she didn't take the first two times I put her in with a buck.  Now she seems to be pregnant, so I hope she carries it full-term, and it's a girl this time, or girls.  She usually has twins.  I was looking back in her records, and she has had 15 kids over the years.  Dottie has had 17!  A whole herd of goats from just those two.  I don't even have any of their off-spring any more, except for Jared, Belle's kid from last year, who I kept as a buck.  But, he's a mixture of all the dairy breeds, so he's not pure-bred, so nobody wants to buy him. He's related to all the dairy does, so I'll put him in the freezer one of these days.  I should have "wetherized" him when he was little, but I wanted to see what kind of kids he'd throw.  He did throw three nice looking kids this last year.  Nice markings and conformation.  Oh well...Hopefully someone will come along and want him.... 

   

 
 

End of the Year already!

It's hard to believe it's almost Christmas already!  This year has gone by so fast.  I'm busy dehairing cashmere now.  I've been doing this for two months now.  It is literally the slowest process on the planet, but I am thoroughly enjoying doing it.  Watching a clump of cashmere go into the machine and come out the other end a nice soft cloud is really neat!

  We started out with a bang in the snow department this year.  We had almost 18 inches, then it rained hard for two days.  Now we have half as much snow and the road is ice and frozen slush.  Just lovely.  I expect we will get hard again in January.  We are supposed to get between 36 and 46 inches of snow this winter, so we have a ways to go yet.

  The goats are all doing fine.  The three does that I wanted to breed this year are now pregnant.  Everybody else gets to wait till next year.  Until I know exactly how the dehairing business is going to go, I didn't want to have a bunch of new kids to deal with in the spring.  There should be 5 or 6, which will be a good number.

    We are getting out of the turkey raising segment of our lives.  I want to concentrate on the fiber, so I don't have time to deal with all the other things around here.  Time to focus.

  Well, I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas/Holiday season!

 
 

My Dream Come True!

My dream has come true after 9 years!  I have my own cashmere dehairing machine!!!  Now I can process mine and other people's cashmere into cloud ready to spin, or process further at another mill.  This has been a dream of mine ever since I got into raising these wonderful creatures.

   Since there aren't many of these machines in use in this country, and I am the only one concentrating exclusively on cashmere, that I know of anyway, I expect to be happily buried in cashmere for the rest of my life. 

  I am getting everything all set up and organized gradually.  The machine came a month early, so I don't have a building built for it, it is in the corner of the hayshed now.   I was trying to get a little loan to build a real dehairing room for it, but no one will loan me any money without collateral, so I am going to have to build walls around the machine where it sits now, dehair like crazy all winter, and get something built next year.  Not the ideal situation, but I can make it work.  I am feeding mostly round bales of hay this year, so I don't need every inch of space in the shed, I think this will be okay for this winter.  As long as I am warm and dry while working on the cashmere, that is all that matters.  It will be tight quarters, but it will work.  I am just so excited to have the machine here!

     Now that I am dehairing cashmere full-time, I won't be doing the Farmers' Market anymore.  I'll kind of miss the interaction with people.  I've met a lot of nice, interesting people through there.  But, one door closes, another one opens.  Onward and upward I go! :-)

 
 

New Additions

Well, we have two new additions to the crew here.  This last week-end I went over to Spokane, WA and picked up two miniature horses!  One is a former show horse that has won everything there is to win her yearling year, and the other one is just a broodmare.  Now Rascal has some company of his own kind.  Although, he doesn't seem to be too excited about them.  He met them across the fence, and after going back and forth along the fencline for about 10 minutes, he walked away and started eating, then pretty much ignored them.  When it was time to go back to his pen, he came right up when I called him.

   I got to visit my friends and fellow cashmere raisers while I was over there.  That was fun.  It was a nice little get-away.

   I'm getting some calls on my goats that are for sale.  I might sell some of them yet.  Although I won't be too sad if none of them sell.  They are all my pets, and most of them have excellent fleece.  I just need more land to graze them on.  They have eaten our place down pretty good now.  I've been playing goatherder for a couple of hours most afternoons and taking them out into the forest to browse.  They fill up in a hurry and look like they will pop if you stick a pin in their sides.  They usually follow me around wherever I go.  Sometimes they take off on their own, and I have to follow them.  They sound like a herd of elephants out there stomping through the woods. 

   I  got some of my cashmere back from the mill, so now I can sell the cloud and also start spinning it up into yarn!  I have to hurry and get some done before the end of the Farmers' Market in October.  I'll be at the market for the next three Saturdays at least, maybe another week or two, depending on the weather, and all of that.

  Well, that's it for now.... 

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