Sara

Living on a farm with animals means at some time you have to face the death of those animals. Sometimes it is wanted, when meat is needed, and sometimes it is unexpected, like when animals become sick or injured. We have had all of these deaths on our farm, and I have helped in butchering animals as well as having sick animals die in my hands. You can usually see it coming, and I am better prepared than when I first arrived on the farm.

However there is one type of death we rarely see on the farm, and that is from old age. Most of our animals are livestock and not pets. There are a few exceptions, like Sheldon, our goose who we raised from a gosling. And Sara, our goat.

Sara came to the farm as a baby In 2001 when we bought our angora goats. Her mother died shortly after and she became attached to us, especially my oldest daughter. The two of them would play games of chase together. She is always the first to come to say hello and have you scratch her between her horns.

Sara

This year we noticed that her age was starting to show, and we knew that she wouldn’t be around forever. She started to separate herself from the flock and was slow to come in from the fields. Last week she became weak, so we kept her in the corral with her own food where the other goats wouldn’t push her.  She spent most of the time sitting, getting up to eat, and giving me the odd “baaa” when I checked in on her.

However, I knew when I saw her Sunday morning that she was at the end, and was prepared for her death later that day. I knew it was coming, and I knew she was in a better place, (wherever it is that goats go to jump and play in their afterlife), but I wasn’t prepared for how much it would hurt when I covered her grave, knowing I would never see her again. She would have been 12 this year, which is not extremely old for a goat, but was old enough for her.

 

Sara

October 2001 – September 2013

Sara2

 

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Maybe mohair

The goats on our farm are not pure bred angoras, but they are the reason I learned to shear, spin, and knit.

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The mohair from them is not perfect, and because we have not had any young goats in a few years the mohair isn’t as soft as it could be. However it shines beautifully and the past few weeks I have been dyeing wool and mohair in my solar ovens, as yarn and as un-spun fibre.

ImageI used onion skins, and walnut leaves for the orange and green, then spun the mohair and wool mix on my Ashford Traditional.

I also dyed mohair and wool with avocado skins, which the cats loved.

Pinkwool2

I am planning to blend these together, but first I carded the wool and mohair separately.

Battsandwool

 

The white wool is from our sheep, and the off-white is from the small spots of grey that I occasionally find on the fleece.

Most angora goats can be sheared twice a year, but I am not sure if these goats produce enough hair for shearing twice. However, this year I may try to shear earlier and get a better quality fleece, (these samples are slightly matted). If I leave it too late then the hair starts to matt and comes off by itself.

goatsandsheep

Even though these goats, my “old ladies”, are not pure bred it is nice to know I can still make beautiful objects from their hair.

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Faces

Here are some faces from the farm.

Sara the goat

When we bought our angora (not pure) goats, Sara was only a day old and sat on my lap for the drive back to the farm.  Her mother died soon after, and so Sara became the orphan kid who played chase and tag with my daughter.  Sara will be 10 years old this October, and still greets everyone with a friendly nudge.

Basketful of cats

We have had a lot of cats here on the farm, over 10 in 10 years.  It is a hard life for cats, even though it doesn’t look like it in the picture.

We have had our cats poisoned, (neighbours put poison out for rats or dogs they don’t like).  We have had them disappear or killed by dogs.  And we even had one die of old age.  They are farm cats, live outside, keep the rats in check.  Some are part wild, but most are friendly, taken in when they are left starving on our doorstep. One has a broken tail and a scratchy meow after a cold almost killed her, but she is loud and gently.

What kind of sheep?

Sheep and goats

I learned how to spin when my father bought a small herd of angora(ish) goats, and only later did I try sheep’s wool when we bought two sheep.  They were a male and female, not fully grown and when they arrived on the farm I stared into their eyes and named them Knit and Purl.  Unfortunately I should have stared at the other end because I named the ram Purl, something he would not forgive me for!  I later learned that rams should not be treated like pets, which is what the previous owner had done, making Purl dangerous.

So it wasn’t just my name that made him turn on me one night when I was putting him in his corral.  I was lucky he was not fully grown, or with horns, and that when he charged he hit me below the knee and not on the knee.  Not so lucky I was next to a cement post which is what he smashed my leg into.  The worst part was how terribly scary it was, (I can’t imagine a dog attack), and how persistently he tried to continue when I had climbed out of his reach.

He did not do too much damage; my leg was scratched and bruised, but nothing broken, just my pride.  I felt I wasn’t capable of keeping animals, and I was not being responsible or smart.  It took me a year before I was comfortable around the sheep, and shearing that first year was not pleasant.  Even now I am cautious around them, which is probably better.

We slaughtered Purl a week after he attacked me, I couldn’t risk him hurting anyone else.  We replaced him with Shaun, who is much gentler.  However he is big and I have seen him charge the cows when thinks they are getting close to his ladies, so caution is still needed.   As well as Shaun we have 6 ewes, and 13 goats.

Shaun at the back

I don’t know what breed of sheep these are, and there seems to be two types.  Some have a woolly face and some have a clean black face.  This week I have been trying to spin some of the sheep’s wool, but after working with bought wool it is frustrating.  It is very dirty and greasy, and even when I manage to clean the wool, it is full of neps and short bits.

Maybe I will have better luck when I shear this year, because in the past I have spun a very nice bouncy yarn from these mystery sheep.

Different breeds of sheep, I think

Woolly faces

One of the goats