Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rain, Beautiful Rain!

We have been under drought conditions for all of this century and part of the last. It has been so long that some people are beginning to think it will be a permanent situation for Southern California. In the past, rain predictions meant the roads might get a sprinkling, or folks should turn on their wipers. But this week we had real rain, with headlines like the following:
Of course, everything is made to sound terribly dramatic, be it rain or drought, but we did get nearly 3" from this storm, and maybe a bit more a few days later.

When the weather finally blew past, we were left with the most beautiful green haze on the hills all around. We were also left with a downed tree in the goat pen. It was an ancient avocado long since turned into a giant condo for the blue birds. I honestly don't know what held it upright for so long.

The only problem was that the downed tree made an excellent bridge up to and over the boundary fence! With just a few strokes of his chain saw, however, ML turned the liability into an asset: now it's a wonderful goat playground!

Tea in the Afternoon

Our traditional Wednesday evening knitties has recently been changed to afternoon, so it seemed very appropriate to bring Sri Lankan tea to our first afternoon fete. Here is the story behind that:

Sunanda is my daughter's mother-in-law. She looks saintly it's because she is! When more than five dozen members of the large, international extended family visited Sri Lanka a few years ago, she spent about 20 hours of every day in her kitchen, making the most amazing meals.

Almost everything is from scratch, and the ingredients usually come from the local outdoor market or their yard, where everything - from mangoes, jack-fruit, papayas, coconuts, herbs and even black pepper and coffee - grows in abundance. She grows and dries all of the ingredients to make her own curry powder, and it can clean out your sinuses like you wouldn't believe. Every day, pounds of garlic are mashed in a huge granite mortar with a heavy 3' long wooden pole. We frequently woke up in the morning to this rhythmic thudding noise, and -- upon wandering into the kitchen -- discovered that she had mugs of milk tea waiting for us. Here is her recipe:

1. First, rinse a 1.5 or 2 qt. brewing pot (she used an old enamel coffee pot) and fill with hot water. Let it sit while you put a kettle on to boil.

2. When the kettle boils, dump out the hot water that's sitting in the brewing pot and put in at least 3 heaping tablespoons of loose tea* (You want it STRONG!), then pour in at least a quart of boiling water, maybe even five or six cups, depending on your preferences and the number of thirsty people that are waiting. Cover the pot and let it steep for several minutes.

3. In the meantime, put the following into your teapot:

3 tablespoons of sugar

3 tablespoons of malt powder

5 tablespoons of "full-fat" milk powder ( can only find non-fat in the US)

4. After the tea has steeped a bit, pour the tea into the pot, through a strainer, stirring as you go. The powdered ingredients should dissolve completely, and you are ready to go! Better put another kettle on, however, because people always want more. Often, Sunanda would add more boiling water to the spent tealeaves, to eke out just a bit more.

*of course Sri Lankan (Ceylon) tea is best, but any good, black loose-leaf tea will work

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Addendum and Updates

The new kid, Phoebe's little white buck (now dubbed Pie) has turned out to be absolutely sound. His leg may have been stepped on or tweaked during delivery, but now there is no sign that he was ever favoring it. And those eyes! Don't they look blue?

Pie is not the only blue-eyed kid, and Phoebe has very pale eyes as well, but it is fun to see the variety.

I have been introducing Mouse to the rest of the herd a few minutes every day so that hopefully, one day, he will remember that he is a goat. But it isn't going very well so far. The does push him away from their kids, so he ends up chasing chickens and wandering around lost.

You can get an idea of Mouse's diminutive size by checking him against newborn Pie, in the background.

Mouse continues to eat and gain and - at two weeks - weighs in at a whopping 3 pounds 6 ounces. I am gradually switching him from goat milk to whole cow's milk, with lactase enzyme added. So far no problems, and he is gulping his bottle whenever it is offered. He stays dry through the night (from 8 to 8!), never pees in his basket, comes when called, and generally is the most entertaining thing to arrive on the scene since the grand kids left.

On the fiber front, I spun up a neat bump of mohair that I dyed in dark tans and oranges. Sounds a bit hideous, but it really spun up nicely, and - plied with a black llama singles - will make a lovely hat or scarf.

October skein

In addition to spinning, I've been using up bits of leftover yarn making little monsters. Five so far, among them are Boo, Puff, and Stash. Here they pose with two of my "warty squash" and one lovely golden one that somehow managed to get two nearly perfect eyes - naturally!

All of the little monsters are hand knit and felted, except for Fire Fingers (the bigger one in the back) who is a puppet waiting for a face.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Story of Mouse

Oeddie the buck (short for Oedipus - or, as he is commonly known, Eddie) was put in with the girls when we sheared late last April, so I knew to watch for babies anytime from late September/early October on. This was all part of the great plan to have the babies in the fall, when our weather is usually warm and dry instead of muddy, cold and wet as it is in early spring. Another myth shot down: we have had the coldest, rainiest week ever in all recorded history. Well, don't quote me, but it seems that way. So of course, the girls started having their kids.

The tip off was when I looked out to see Mojita, a young pygora doe, acting very strangely, not eating, standing off by herself. When she did approach the hay, her mom, Margarita, gently shoved her away. I kept checking on her all day, but nothing happened, until it did. As it started to get dark my final trip to check on her resulted in her hurrying off in a rush, as if to say, "Thank goodness THAT's over with!" Behind her, in a nice little hollow in the ground, were two newborn kids ... still inside of their sacks. I pulled the biggest one first, and tried to clear his airway with my fingers, then tried swinging him gently by his hind legs to force fluids out of his lungs, but he never showed even the slightest sign of life. Damn.

I turned my attention to the littlest one, who was obviously VERY premature, and - I thought - probably already dead, but when I picked him up he gave a little gasp. Ok, then, let's go, fella! I worked on cleaning him and getting him to breathe, which he finally did with tiny little peeping squeaks. His feet were soft as jello, his ears were folded in half - a storage position for when they're in utero - but by damn, he was alive.

My patient spouse rolled his eyes when he saw me come into the house with a little bundle wrapped in a blanket. I know he was mentally counting the little souls that we have tried to save and lost anyway, after days of sleepless nights. With barely hidden exhaustion he said, "Don't tell me it's alive."

Thanks to kind souls who gave me colostrum last February when I had a needy lamb (thank you Jenna and others!), I had a freezer comfortably stocked with goat milk and colostrum so we didn't have to go chase mom down in the dark to milk her. As a packet was thawing out in warm water, I set out on the hunt for the lamb nipples, which inevitably seem to migrate to far, far corners once the immediate need has passed. Eventually kid, milk and nipple were brought together, and we fed him. He drank, he stood, he peed!

After I fed him and dried him off, I put him on a little scale: he weighed in at @ 20 ounces, with a full stomach.

We fed him on demand for a day or so, but pretty soon we were all sleeping through the night. Today we didn't get up until 8:00! He was on the move, however hesitantly, from day one, exploring the house, meeting the Sheba the cat and Tank.

Kids are programed from birth to head into dark corners, because that is where the milk is, but the problem with that for little Mouse (as he was dubbed) is that he would constantly munch himself into, under or behind pieces of furniture, get stuck, and be totally lost. If he did manage to extricate himself, he would emerge from some dark hiding place bedecked with fuzz, yarn bits and dust bunnies. Most of the time, either we couldn't find him at all or he would dart out right under our feet.

So I found some elastic and a very small bell, and now we can hear him coming and going. The pee puddles are prodigious, but can be easily mopped, and - as of this week - he never pees in his basket/bed!

He is 10 days old now, not much bigger but is very clever. He has figured out how to run, lie down (no kidding - that was really hard for the longest time!), do that cute little sideways jump thing that kids do, and finally calls us when lost or hungry. Even my husband admits: he's kinda cute.

Mouse's favorite spot is a hemp rug just inside the door to the deck, where he loves to nap in the sun.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What a Week!

It started with rain, cold and Mouse, and ended with a total of 10 new goat kids! Number eleven was born Saturday.

Several of "the girls" had been quite huge for some time - here even Munchie is beginning to wonder just how many kids Adelle is carrying.

But neither she nor Angel (who was also as wide as she is tall) had their babies right away. The first was Chocolate Kiss, who had a lovely little black and white reverse-badger-faced doe, a carbon copy of her grandmother Mazie, who died last winter.

Chocolate Kiss and Kiss Me Kate

Then, Kiss's mom, Daisy, had a very handsome black and tan buck kid - showing a HUGE presence, even at one day of age:

Daisy and the Duke

Angel finally gave out with one, just one! But the kid, is more than lovely enough to make up in quality what her mother lacked in quantity. Angelique is a beautiful, soft caramel color with blue eyes!

Angel and Angelique

Margarita was next with - finally! - a set of twins! Maria is a beautiful tri-color with frosted ears, while Miguel is jet black with frosted ears.

Pygora Margarita with Miguel and Maria

But her kids are little devils. We have two big "circular brooms" (from a street sweeper) for the goats to scratch themselves on. These are huge affairs, weighing several hundred pounds each, and are great for self-grooming. The hollow cores, however, make excellent if unfortunate hiding places for naughty kids. Poor Margarita spends half her day looking for the little demons, while they sit, snug as bugs in a rug, and watch her frantic searching.

The big brush -- and half of what's hidden inside.

Finally, FINALLY, Adelle went into labor. It was a day-long affair, culminating in a wet pile of TRIPLETS just as it grew dark. We wondered if she had one more, because - even though they were good sized - she still seemed quite large. But hubby opined that she would stop at three because there weren't any more colors.

One white, one tan, one bi-color dark chocolate and tan, and all does.

Adelle is going to be our nominee for mother of the year. Although this is her first time kidding, she jumped right in and is the best possible mother, nursing and nurturing her brood with amazing attention.

Phoebe is going to be nominated for surprise mother of the year. We didn't even know she was pregnant until she showed up with a new little white kid! He seems to have some slight disability with a rear leg, but is bounding and bleating with the best of them.

The does take turns "babysitting" at dinner time - first Margarita, then maiden cashmere doe Dorrie:

Phoebe and her kid on the left.

If you look closely you can count nine of the ten kids at dinner time: Mouse is still a house goat.

Weed yarn

Well, that is how it's generally described on the list of items to be auctioned off, and apparently it is a popular item. But then, you have to know the audience.

The mission of Cal-IPC (California Invasive Plant Council) is to protect California wild lands from invasive plants through restoration, research and education. The group is an amazing network of volunteers, researchers and land managers who do legislative work as well as hands-in-the-dirt grunt work.

Every year they hold a symposium and an auction to raise money for their causes, and because my #1 son is a conservation biologist and very involved member, he tapped me for something to put up for auction. Every year in the fall I go scouting the fields and roadsides for something that is (a) invasive and (b) might yield a decent color on wool. Over the years I have harvested lambs-quarters, horehound, eucalyptus, blackberries (what a bloody one that was!) and nicotiana glauca, or Tree Tobacco. Generally I find the offending plants on premises, but this year we did too good of a job of weeding, so I had to stop along the road and hack off an armload of nicotiana branches and buds.

I chopped the flowers, leaves and finer stems, covered with water, and simmered for an hour. Then I strained the "salad" off and added some pre-mordanted woolllama to the pot.

This is wool from Bubba and llama fiber from Lani that had been treated earlier with tin. After another hour of simmering I added a glug of vinegar (technical term) and left the pot to cool overnight.

In the morning one of my trained helpers assisted as I untangled the roving and hung it out to dry.

Half of the roving was carded with white alpaca while the other half was blended with some dyed Wensleydale locks for a bit more color. Each batch was self-plied to yield a total of four skeins for the auction. Hopefully they will be well received!