Fiber artist, thrummed mitten guru and Angora Goat mentor Debbie & I went on a mill run today. We brought all of the fiber she’d accumulated and all of the fiber I wanted to have processed and trekked north to a small mill, Hampton Fiber Mill, in Richmond, Vermont that is owned and operated by Michael Hampton. The property and location are beautiful, the facility is clean and organized, the equipment is in excellent repair and I have a lot of faith that our fiber is in good hands. In six months there’ll be some beautiful blends of mohair and Shetland wool and mohair and Cotswold wool to add to our fiber shop, alongside our raw & washed fleeces and yarn and roving. Debbie will have a good stockpile of roving to spin for her mitten business.
Shearing days from fall are behind us now, with the conclusion this past weekend when we clipped the Angora Goats. All of the goats got some sort of a coat(sweater, sweatshirt, vest) to wear afterward because the temps had dropped sharply and it would’ve been too stressful for them. Angora Goats lose 25% of their weight when they are shorn, and if you lost 25% of your weight in 15 minutes, you might feel stressed too. Many asked “why did you shear them just before winter?” or “why did you shear them so late?” The answer is that we were growing their locks a little bit longer because they had been shorn at the end of May this spring, which is late, and we wanted to give them a little longer to grow out their fleeces. Also, we shear the Angora Goats 2x/year just as we shear the Shetland Sheep to get the best quality harvest from their fiber.
The sheep had all been finished being shorn by mid-October and good weather was on their side in the days that followed shearing. They’re quite comfortable and have already grown back fuzzy coats. Lately they’re all very cuddly, they love a good rub, and my hands feel rejuvenated after the lanolin manicure they get from petting the sheep.
Preceding the shuttling of fleeces, there are hours and hours of planning and organizing, weighing, measuring and record-keeping that I go through in order to plan best for the various end-uses of our fiber harvest. That follows the actual shearing and skirting of the fleeces in and around shearing day. I am one person with 40 fleeces to sort, weigh, record, organize, photograph, fend cats and puppies away from, and then plan the mill order-forms. It takes me about 2 days to get it all done in and around the many other duties here on the farm.
The drive from my place to Richmond is almost 3 hours, so between picking Debbie up and then picking our way through the north central parts of VT, then returning, it was a full day’s outing. We did stop for a late bite of lunch in Bristol on the way back, a nice treat, but I chored in the dark when I got home and made it to vote just as the polls closed.
It’s a good feeling when you’ve shorn the animals and sorted and organized all of the fiber. Some of the harvest is staying here because I wanted a few fleeces for my own handspinning stash. Some of the fiber is staying here but is in our Etsy shop so that handspinners can purchase it online, or from the farm should they be interested. And some of the fiber is in the undecided category – I’m not sure I want it to handspin, I’m not sure I want it to sell online, I’m thinking it might be nice blended with something from the spring 2015 shearing.
It is akin to the harvest feeling you imagine if you are farming fields of grains or other plant crops, or if you’re a backyard gardener and you get the potatoes out of the ground before it freezes, pick the last of the beans or bring in those dahlia bulbs before they become stones in the earth. Harvesting the fiber, preparing the animals for winter with changes in diets, cleaning and preparing stalls and paddocks, readying breeding pens – changes in the seasons precipitating changes in the chore-list.
And now for a dramatic commercial break:
Debbie & I were COVERTLY bringing our fiber to this (new) mill. Now that it is on the World Wide Web, it is less covert, but still, don’t tell ANYONE because it is a secret. I can’t tell you why. I would have to kill you.
I hope you can take a joke. I’m not going to kill anyone.
But I’m also not going to tell you why(the trip was covert.) Some day I will. If I forget and you must know, just bug me. Often times, this is what happens with me and a secret. I forget about it. So, no offense, if I never reveal why our trip was covert, you’ll have to ask again. But I might not tell you then, either.
…which leads me to think of other covert operations…
We’re just living on the edge, here, on this sleepy fiber farm in Southern Vermont.