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. :-)  

 
 

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!     

 
 

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! 

 
 

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....
 
 

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! :-)

 
 

An interesting week-end

  I had an interesting week-end up at the Eureka!  Fiber Festival in Eureka, MT.  They have a nice, relaxed, laid-back atmosphere up there, and it is a fun festival to go to.  There are classes on most things fiber related.  Vendors to buy lovely fibery things from, contests to enter, and even things for kids to do.  I took a "Needlefelted Pixie" class form Laurel Orthmeyer that was fun, and my "pixie" turned out pretty good.  If I knew how to upload pictures on here, I'd put one up, but I don't .  I haven't figured that out yet. :-)  I entered a skein of handspun cashmere yarn that took second place, and a farm photo of my goats that got reserve grand champion, so that was a bonus.  I got to see my fibery friends that I only see at these events.  A fun time was had by all!

   Back on the homefront, everything is going pretty good.  Just waiting for my cashmere to be dehaired so I can get to spinning it up.  I have two local stores that want to carry it now!   All my hard work is finally starting to pay off.  This is exciting!

   The goats are all doing quite well.  Their cashmere is coming in pretty good on all but the does with kids on them still.  They won't sprout their cashmere till the kids are weaned in October.  Right now I have 61 goats.  There are 18 for sale on my website.  I don't really want to part with any of them, but I can't keep them all.  I don't have enough land for that.  There are some pet quality ones, and some breeding stock ones.

   The garden is doing pretty good.  The strawberries are all but done now, the zuchini is almost ready, and the beans and other veggies are growing.    We got such a late start to the season this year, I hope we get a good harvest.

   The four or five baby chicks are growing.  I'm not getting many eggs now since there are a few broody hens that insist on setting instead of laying.  There is one guinea setting on a nest, we'll see if anything hatches out of it.  There are still 5 baby turkeys, they are growing well.  Getting into the garden and eating bugs.

  

 
 

It's still raining!

It is still raining.  We did have two nice days over the week-end, especially Saturday.  The Farmers' Market went well.  I sold a couple of cashmere scarves, goat milk soap, and met some interesting people.  Lots of people were interested in my spinning.  I take my spinning wheel so I can get some spinning done, and it really helps pass the time between customers.  It also gives people the opportunity to see a spinning wheel in action.  Very few people have actually seen someone spinning.  They read about it in books, but never see a real one.  Hopefully I've inspired at least one child to take it up at some point in their life, and also to get an adult or two back into it. 

   While the sun was shining yesterday, I got the beans planted finally.  I'm re-doing all the garden beds into Square Foot beds.  It's amazing how much one can actually get into a four foot by four foot bed!  I planted 134 onions, and 38 carrots in one bed.  Since the soil is nice and fluffy, and you don't ever step in it, or compact it in any way, the plants can be put closer together.  It's easier to weed, water and take care of.

   We have had over four inches of rain in the last week or so.  The ground is saturated now.  The goats are in a mud pie in their pen, at least around the gate.  I'm finding big flat rocks and making a pathway for them, and me, to get through the mud.  At least with all the rain, I'm not having to water anything.  I'm also getting in some good spinning time in the house, since I can't be outside doing things.

 Well, back to work..... 

 
 

More rain

It just keeps on raining.  We have an inch now, and it's still coming down.  It let up for a couple of hours this afternoon, so I let the goats out for a while. 

   Since I was inside, I did some spinning, crocheting and cheese making.  It's good to have an "inside" day to get things done.

  Yesterday I was out in the garden most of the day.  The strawberry/asparagus bed is finally completely weeded, at least for the time being.  It was pretty bad.  There was enough vegetation that came out of it to feed all the goats a good amount.  They enjoyed that!

   We are getting a good amount of asparagus this year.  It is so good.  I made my first "cream of asparagus" soup tonight.  It was okay.  Next time I'm going to make my own version, now that I know the basics. 

  We are going back to the Square Foot gardening method.  I've made six beds so far.  Got 134 onions planted in one, plus two squares of carrots.  You can get a lot of veggies in one bed!  I planted potatoes in two others.  Peas along the back of three of them.  It will be interesting to see how it all goes this year.  This spring has been slow, so the garden is just now getting planted.  Thankfully, we usually have a late autumn, so we should still get a good harvest.

  Well, that's it for now.  More as it happens.....

 
 

Rain, rain and more rain

  It has been raining since Wednesday.  We now have a little over 3 inches, and it's still lightly raining off and on.  This should make the grass start growing, if it warms up, that is! 

   My tulips are still blooming and make a nice bright spot in all the cloudy weather.  There are over 100 blooms this year!

  The goats aren't overly thrilled with this weather.  The main pen is a mud bog, with just a few dry spots.  At least the back part of their pen is relatively dry.  They don't have to be in the mud all the time.  The kids can squirt through the fence, so they come out into the yard into the grass and eat.  My version of "creep" feeding.  They can eat whenever they want to. 

   I was making good progress on cleaning the pens, and re-doing the garden beds until I pulled a muscle in my back.  That slowed me down considerably.  At least it's been raining so I can't do much outside anyway.  I've been spinning, dyeing and crocheting, so that is keeping me busy. 

    I've also made a couple of batches of soap and figured out a new packaging idea.  I'll see how it does at the Farmers' Market next time I go.  I've only been to two markets so far this season.  The weather has not been cooperating.  Last week I listened to the weather forecast which said it would be rainy, so I didn't load up my stuff Friday night.  I woke up to clear skies!  So I missed that day, I didn't have enough time to get everything loaded and there in time.  This week it was raining, so I didn't go.  Hopefully next week I can get there.  I want to see how my new products do.

  Hopefully after this rain, it will warm up and everything will grow.  Then I can get the garden planted!  Good thing we have lettuce and spinach in the greenhouse.  This is the earliest we've ever had our own salads! Yum!  We planted potatoes about a month ago, and they all rotted in the ground.  The soil just isn't warming up very fast this year.  But, we've planted the whole garden as late as mid-June and still had a great harvest, so we shall see.  Life in Montana....  The weather is changing all over the planet, so we just have to be prepared for anything these days....

 
 

Kids are fun!

  All the kids are doing fine.  The 14 cashmere kids are always getting into mischief.  The 4 dairy kids are trying to, but they don't climb through the fence like the cashmeres do, so they can't get into much.

   I am getting plenty of milk now!  I've been making cheese, butter, ice cream and soap with it.  We drink quite a bit, too.  Good stuff!!

   I have two of the cashmere does for sale now.  I finally have enough does that I can sell some for breeding stock!  These two have longer guard hair than I want in my herd, so they are going to find new homes.  Each one has a new kid that comes with her, too.  I will miss them, but I can't keep every goat, and these two have good fleece, so they will make someone a nice little starter herd.  Bridget, one of the does, throws really nice kids.  Lucy, the other one threw a nice one, too.  This was her first one.  She is Bridget's daughter.  The buckling I sold two years ago out of Bridget is throwing some nice kids over by Spokane.  His micron count is 14.1!  He's got nice cashmere!!

   Bridget and her kid, a wether named Lucky are both black.  Lucky looks like he will have the shorter guard hair.  Lucy is black and her little kid, a doeling is a rich dark red.  She is cute!  Lucky comes right over to me for petting when he sees me come into the pen.  He's a very friendly little guy.    Carmel, the little girl is getting pretty friendly, too.  Both Bridget and Lucy are friendly and easy going.  There are pictures on my website of them on the goats for sale page.

 
 

More Babies

We got 10 inches of snow on Tuesday!!  There were three kids born that day, too.  Yesterday there were two more born.  All are doing fine.  The snow has pretty much melted away again.  The main goat pen is a swamp with all the water in it now.  I hope it dries up quickly!  I am going to rent a tractor to clean out the pens this year. 

   There are 18 kids out there now.  One more boy than there are girls.  There are still two does left to kid, tho, so I'm hoping for more girls.  They are so cute and entertaining to watch.  Lucky is starting to jump up into my arms now.  He does it once, then forgets how he did it, and just jumps up and down instead of running up my leg.  He's such a funny little guy. 

  There is only one little guy that doesn't want to have anything to do with me.  The rest of the them are friendly and come up to get their daily body scratches.  I sit down and they are climbing all over me.  I'm their personal jungle gym. :-)

I'm starting to make butter and ice cream and all that good stuff from the goat's  milk now.  I'm getting 5 quarts a day with once a day milkings, and the kids getting their fair share.  Dottie has a ton of milk!  Her udder is huge.  Speckles isn't giving me all that much, and Belle is only giving me about 2 cups a day on her second year without kidding.  She will have kids again next year.

  I'll be posting some pictures of the new kids on my website one of these days.  I've taken a lot, so I need to sort through them to pick the best ones.

Well, that's all for now, more as it happens....

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Kids everywhere!

  Today there were three new kids born within an hour of each other.  Sara had twin girls and Camilla had one big boy!  They are all doing great.  All three of them are shades of brown.  Rusty is throwing some really nice kids this year.

   Tomorrow there should be at least two other does giving birth.  I hope it's not at the same time as the guy coming up to do the house appraisal is doing his thing!

   I am up to 56 goats already with these babies.  There are twelve new kids out there now.  The girl/boy ratio is improving a bit.  5 girls, 7 boys.  Hopefully there will be some girls born tomorrow.  It will be interesting to see what colors come out next.  So far Lucky is the only black one.  There are two cream colored ones, then the browns.

   When I was down on my hands and knees helping deliver the kids today, the other kids were jumping all over me and just generally getting in the way.  They would grab the paper towels, the bag I was putting the used paper towels in, and just being little pests.  The little varmits.  They are too cute!

   Well, that's the update for today.  More as it happens.... 

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Dottie's kids finally arrived

  Well, Dottie's kids finally arrived on Friday the 9th, at 11 am and 11:40 am.  Two huge boys!  Rusty throws some big stout kids!  Mom and kids are doing fine.  Now the boy/girl ratio is skewed towards the boys again.  Out of nine kids, only three are girls.  Hopefully the rest will be mostly girls. 

   I don't seem to be going to get a baby on my birthday like I was hoping to.  There is one doe that is getting ready, but I don't think it will happen tonight.  I was really hoping I would this year.  There are two does that are due now, but nothing is happening yet.  Probably tomorrow they will all come and I will be worn out trying to take care of them all.  The joys of kidding season!  They sure are cute, though.  It makes it all worthwhile.

   The mama chicken is now setting on 10 eggs, and it's taking two turkey hens to cover all the eggs in their nest.  By the end of the month, there will be babies of all kinds everywhere!  Springtime is in full force!  A fun time of year.

   Well, that's all that is happening around here for now.... 

     

 
 
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