Thursday, December 16, 2010


I'm going to endeavor to finally, finally, get the pictures of the new sheep up.  I feel so bad, because they've been with us since Saturday but I just haven't had a moment or a good enough internet connection to make this work.  So, presenting, the new sheep!

The girls have settled in really nicely and are so mellow that they come up and give Adam sheepy kisses.  It's amazing how mellow they are, especially after moving while pregnant (hopefully!) and in the cold nasty weather we've been having. 

They're housed in the barn with Fathead, The Nose and Sweet Pea, who are a bit awed by the much bigger CVMs.  These girls eat like horses; it's crazy. 

The only thing is that we haven't named them.  Adam has come up with some and I've come up with some, but we can't agree.  For the record, I want to name them after X-men (they are, after all, mutants). 
So what these ladies need are names for Christmas. 
Which gives us about a week to find something we can agree on!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

First Egg

Unfortunately, whoever laid this was a little confused as to proper egg laying procedure and we found it frozen outside the barn.  But our first egg regardless!

Monday, November 22, 2010


I just found out our four bred California Varigated Mutant ewes will be ready to go after December 7!  We're getting them from Marushka Farms, who have been lovely to work with.  CVMs are an American breed of fine wool sheep and are one of the rarest true American breeds.  At present, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy lists the breed as Critical, with less than 2000 animals worldwide.  We're thrilled to be bringing this breed to our farm and are very excited about having lambs in the spring! 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thar she blows

A few days ago I posted about Nim and Storm going through blowing coat season again, and was asked the question "How do you know when they're ready?"

I honestly had this exact same question when we got Nimbus and Storm in May.  I was terrified I wouldn't know when they were ready to pluck and we would lose all the fluff and all this fiber farm thing would be for naught and I was going to be an utter bunny failure.

However, I was lucky enough to have a Newfoundland dog already.  At first glance, newfies and bunnies might not have much in common, but Newfoundlands also blow their coat.  For anyone who has had a regular (non-newfie) dog, you may think you know shedding.  Dust bunnies collecting in the corners of the house.  Dust bunnies are nothing.  We have dust buffaloes.  Seriously, some of these things are the size of angora rabbits themselves.  Twice a year, Thora blows her coat and will literally lose hair with every step.  God help us if she shakes, or sneezes, or there's a stiff breeze.  It's everywhere.  It's on everything.  There's no escaping from it.  That's what a blowing coat is like.

For the rabbits, it's a bit more contained because they are in a hutch and outside.  I can usually tell when they are ready to be plucked because there is hair gathering everywhere.  On the corners of the hutch.  On the doorways.  On the edge of the food bin.  The fluff clumps together on any surface they may have brushed up against.  The girls were ready for their first plucking around July, when they were about four months old. 

Also, plucking is very different from regular grooming.  When I'm grooming, I pretty much just brush out the tangles, make sure there aren't any matts, and trim if they need it (usually in the super snarly between the ears areas.)  When I first got the rabbits, I would save every tiny scrap of hair from every brushing.  It was a little ridiculous.  I stopped that after I did my first plucking and realized that spending time getting out the tiny snarls and matts in every day fluff is inane.  These are fiber animals.  There will be more wool.  Save only the good stuff and move on with life.  

This is Storm halfway through a plucking:
The darker hair on top is where she's already been plucked.  The fluffy "dust ruffle" at the bottom still needs to be done.

Mid-pluck.  You can see how much longer the bottom hair is than the top.  I try to pinch a clump of fluff at the base, where her skin is, with one hand and pull with the other.  That way only the loose fluff pulls out and I'm not tugging on her skin.

The fluff that came out with that pull.  Sometimes it takes a few times in one clump to get out all the long loose fiber and leave her short coat behind.  However, if the bunny is ready to be plucked, the loose coat should really just slide out with some gentle tugging. 

This is the difference between grooming and plucking.  On the left side is what came out during a normal grooming, or brushing, session with Nova today.  On the right side is what came off of Storm during today's plucking session.  There's a huge difference in the quantity of fiber you get when the rabbit is ready to be plucked.  Angoras blow their coats around every twelve weeks, or four times a year, so the girls will probably be need to be done again in February. 

Feeding time

The new yak trough is working really well.  Can you spot it?

Neither can we.  That's because our greedy yaks are always camped out in front of it.

Niobe stuffs her face.

Vorenus takes a break from chewing to check out the camera.

Even Fathead and The Nose are enjoying a new hay trough.

Sweet Pea is back there, somewhere.  Behind the hay.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Not exciting

I feel badly that nothing has been posted since Halloween, but in truth, not much has been happening that's worth writing about.  Getting the farm ready for winter keeps us pretty busy, but it's not anything to fill a novel.

Adam made a new hay trough, with the help from his dad.  We were having issues with the round bales as the yaks would tear into them and then lay on parts or walk all over them, so we were losing more hay than they were eating.  The new trough works really well, except when greedy Niobe dives in and gets her head stuck. 

Nim and Storm got a new bunny hutch to match Nova's.  The new hutches have a little box in the back so that they can hunker down out of the weather and a large cage out front to hop around.  Which means that they can now all see each other.  Nova was a little intimidated by the bigger girls but realized pretty quickly that they can't actually get to her, so she settled down.  Nim and Storm went through a flurry of foot stomping and gnashing of teeth because, apparently, some rabbits just don't take well to change.  I'm hoping they chill once they realize that they actually have more room than the old hutch.

Nimbus and Storm are actually blowing coat again, so we're plucking rabbits.  I'm not sure about the genetic practicality of an animal that loses most of it's coat in November in northeastern Pennsylvania.  We're trying to pluck conservatively, rather than just taking it all off wholesale so that they have a little fuzz to keep them warm. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat

This morning, as I was making coffee, I peeked out the window.  And saw Sweet Pea, peacefully grazing.  However, the idyllic morning scene was disrupted as my undercaffienated brain took its sweet time realizing that my sheep were outside the fence. 

Apparently the yaks aren't the only ones who find the grass greener on the other side.  Even more concerning- the fact that my dog had been outside for over an hour at this point with no clue that we had escapees.  Some farm dog she is.  The sheep eventually just meandered back into the fence.  Apparently Adam will be putting up yet another string of barbed wire this week.

In other news, love is in the air.  Pullo has apparently decided that mating season is here, regardless of whether any of the other yaks know it or not.  The love of his life?

Gaia.  Gaia is, of course, totally uninterested.  She's still about six months too young for breeding.  Still, poor Pullo is puffing himself up, trying to look as pretty as he can, banging around things with his mighty horns and his Juliet would rather stare dreamily into a hay bale than his big brown eyes.  I kind of feel bad for him.

The course of true love never did run smooth.

Also in other news, it's snowing here.  Our first flurry of the season.  It always snows by October 31, and we thought we might have gotten out of it this year.  Mother Nature waited until the bitter end, but pulled through. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Over the weekend, Adam's dad brought over two of the turkeys he has been raising over the summer: Trigger (male) and Nutsy (female).  If you're a fan of the Disney version of Robin Hood, those were the vultures that were with the Sheriff of Nottingham.  Turkeys + Vultures = turkey vultures. 

Yeah, it doesn't take a lot to entertain us around here.

But right now we're in a bit of a turf war.  The turkeys were temporarily put into the yak side of the barn to get comfortable.  This did not thrill the yaks, as they couldn't get into their barn and they've gotten somewhat spoiled.  Two days later, the turkeys escaped out into the open, but not before deciding that the barn was *their* home.  The yaks feel differently, and are not about to let some gobbley interlopers near their haven.  So we've have a lot of the turkeys trying to get in the yaks chasing them out and the barn cat is enjoying the show.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Shearing Day

Today was the first shearing day at Skirted Fleece. Adam's parents, Dan and Mary, came over to help shear Fathead and The Nose.
First they were walked to the stanchion:

secured in:

and Mary started shearing. 

When the fleeces come off they get skirted, which is where the really nasty bits get thrown away.

The fleece then gets bagged up until it's time to wash it.

Then the belly and neck are trimmed up:

Before and After:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Last weekend was Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool, which is THE wool festival on the east coast. 

The purchase of the day was this little girl:

She's a black otter giant angora. 
Adam has named her Fluffy Nimblekins, Destroyer of Worlds.

I just call her Nova.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Open House

Yesterday, Skirted Fleece hosted our first open house party.  We invited family and friends, some of whom had not been able to see the farm yet, and some of whom had helped us get the farm to where it is today.

Even the animals looked their best for the party.

It was a great time and it was wonderful to see everyone. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

The arrival of sheep

We finally have sheep at Skirted Fleece!  It was very odd to be a fiber farm without sheep, the primary fiber animal, so we're very happy to have some new arrivals.

From left to right:
Sweet Pea, one of this year's bottle babies
The two white ones are Shetland/Babydoll Southdown mixes, who Adam has taken to calling Fathead and The Nose.

We're open to other naming suggestions. 

Very open.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gone Rogue

The other day, Adam happened to catch our neighbor out and about and stopped to mention that he had spotted a bobcat in our field, just to give him a heads up.  Jeff replied with "speaking of strange animal sightings..."

The neighbors to our left also seen Jeff out recently and stopped to chat for a few minutes.  The neighbor said "Hey, check out this really strange bird that wandered into our yard the other day.  Maybe you know what this is"  and whipped out his camera phone.

Jeff replied with "Um...yeah.  I'm pretty sure that's one of Liz and Adam's chickens."

Apparently Amadeus was NOT carried off by something, but is out for an extended walkabout that appears to include tours of the neighbor's yard.  We now have rogue chickens roaming the wilds.  We're keeping an eye out for him but are hoping that he eventually finds his way back home. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Today we have a meeting with Damascus Township's Sewage Enforcement Officer to discuss what to do about the waste water issue so that we can *hopefully* get approval from the township to start the mill.
Wish us luck!

We met and finally had the chance to explain to him what a fiber mill actually is, as he was very confused.  No decision made yet, but he's going to do some research and get back to us within the week.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Other Side

The other day, Adam was doing some weeding around the house.  When he had a full wheelbarrow, he took it to the compost pile to be dumped.  And there he noticed a yak pile.  It wasn't on the compost pile itself, but near the pile.  And it was fresh. 

Adam walked the fences, but everyone was inside, munching away.  No signs of where this fresh pile of yak dung could have come from.

A few hours later, he found his culprit.  Niobe.  Outside the fence, eating happily.  When she saw him, she got a little huffy in a "you weren't supposed to be out here right now" sort of way, turned around and stomped back into the paddock.  Through the electric fence.

Yes, that's right.  The yak has figured out that the bottom wire is not live.  So if she times it correctly, she can stop over the bottom wire, duck under the first live wire and make it to the outside.  If she's fast enough, she barely gets zapped.  We've watched her not only figure out how to do this, but to plan ahead between the ticking of the electric fence so that she can make it through between the zaps.  Our yaks does math.  We're a little terrified. 

This went on for another day or two, with Niobe sneaking out and Adam catching her.  Each time, she didn't even have the grace to look guilty.  She would flounce (seriously, this yak flounces) back inside the fence and defiantly give him the look the says "You can't stay out here forever.  As soon as you go inside, I'm going right back out."

So now we have a yak smart enough to come and go as she pleases.  That was bad enough, but the very last straw was when we woke up to find yak poop in the driveway.  Not only was she escaping, but she was coming ever closer to the house.   At that point, I started fully expecting to look over one evening and see a fuzzy yak head peering through the window, watching Master Chef with me. 

So this week Adam and his brother in law Josh have been out every night stringing barbed wire above and below the electric wires.  The other five yaks couldn't care less, and mostly ignore them.  But Niobe is livid.  She stands there and stares at them, grunting angrily the whole time they're working.  Plus, she's now frantically trying to eat ahead of the new fence line, so every morning Adam finds new piles just beyond where he finished the night before.

Apparently, the grass really is greener on the other side.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Random and Zombies

Today is one of those days at the end of one of those weeks.  In addition to losing Amadeus, Niobe keeps escaping the electric fence and is driving Adam completely bonkers.  It is always a bad day when you discover that your bovine are smarter than you.  In his defence, she's apparently some sort of evil genius yak.

We have been battling Damascus township for six months to get approval to put the fiber mill in.  First we have to get a conditional usage permit for the mill as the land is zoned rural residential.  In order to do that, we have to have an approved plan for the wastewater coming out of the mill.  Despite my best efforts to convice the sewage enforcement officer that fiber mill waste water is essentially what comes off a sheep when it rains, they stuck to their guns on the "no commercial waste on rural land" rule, so that meant to spraying it on the fields.  They wanted us to put in a sand mound, but that apparently requires getting a perc test, which apparently requires a backhoe, which raises Adam's blood pressure alarmingly.  Finally someone had the brilliant idea to see if the building is hooked up to the exisiting septic tank, which could then have the waste water run to it and simply be pumped more often.  Fantastic!  The only problem being that we had no idea where our septic tank was.  We have four pipes and one metal detector, four sewage guys and one very large hole in our yard, but have located the septic tank, which is indeed hooked to the shop.  Now we just have to get township approval, which will hopefully be easier than the rest of this process was.

To top it off, today is one of those nasty, cold and wet days that makes you want to crawl under a quilt and not come out again. 

But to prove that this week hasn't been a total waste, I proudly present- one finished Christmas present.  I mean, it's barely September, so that should count for something.  Right?  Right?
These are fingerless gloves knitted in Zombie from Lizard Toes, for Martin, being modeled by Martin.  He helps Adam out on the farm and helps me run to physical therapy and other assorted errands during the week, in addition to keeping the house from exploding around us.  He is also not a fan of surprises, so he picked out the yarn and the pattern and tried them on during the knitting process.  Not suprisingly, they were exactly what he wanted.

One down, a mind numbingly large amount of projects to go.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Earlier this week, we noticed that Amadeus was missing.  We didn't think much of it at the time, as the chickens are all free now and spend most of their days holed up under the lilac bush or trying to get into the most inconvenient spot possible.  Also, Amadeus is known for getting lost in his own coop, so we weren't terribly concerned and figured he would eventually wander home.  However, as the days passed, it became clear that he is not just walking in circles somewhere in the tall grass.  And given our beloved idiot's inability to see the food right in front of his beak, much less anything swooping down on him, it's a good possibility that he was carried off by something.  Which makes it a sad day here on the farm.   We know it's a possiblity when you live in a rural area, and we've certainly seen our share of coyotes, bears, foxes and bob cats, not to mention the million red tail hawks that circle the yard.  It just doesn't make it any easier when it happens.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I'm really happy to report that Storm is doing much much better.  She's responding really well to her antibiotics and she and Nim spend most of their days, quite literally, bouncing off the walls.  I swear it sounds like elephants doing handsprings in the mudroom, but whenever I peek in, I get a "Who?  Us?" look from both of them.

Every night we have to wrap her up in a "Bunny Burrito" in order to give her the medicine. 

Some nights are pretty good.  Some nights she just puts up a pretty good fight.  I think that's also a good sign, because she definately has enough pep to protest being syringe-fed pureed carrots.  I think we're out of the woods now, but she's going to stay in the house until she's done with her medicine, just to make sure. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010


It is a hard truth about raising animals that sometimes, even with the best of everything, bad things happen.  The animals can have a lot of love, good food, clean environments and still get hurt or sick. 

Two days ago, as we let the bunnies out to hop about for a little bit, we noticed that there was something wrong with Storm.  She was bopping around just fine, and didn't seem to be in pain, but when Adam picked her up to put her back in, there was something wrong with her "girly" parts.  She was red, swollen, bleeding and things were definately not right. 

Yesterday we took both girls into the vet and found that Storm had somehow managed to tear the skin in that area.  Even the vet was stumped.  We don't know whether she had an accident with her sister (bunny nails are very sharp and the girls like to sleep in a dog pile) or maybe got caught on some of the mesh wiring in her cage.  Either way, we had a pretty hurt bunny on our hands.   The biggest concern right now is fly strike, since flies like to lay eggs in open wounds so we wanted her in the cleanest possible place to make sure that didn't happen.  Luckily, our house has a mud room is never used so the room was thoroughly cleaned and made bunny friendly.  The girls now have the run of the room so Storm has room to spread out and rest.  We were also given antibiotics and pain medicine to keep her comfortable while she heals. 

The good news is that this morning she seems to be responding really well to the medicine.  She's up and hopping around the room with Nim and the area is much less red and irritated.  Nimbus is also taking good care of her sister, and I'm sure her company helps.  We're hopeful that she'll keep improving and keeping our fingers crossed.