I used to keep a wide range of colors in my cashmere goat herd. Color of the goats’ guard hair had a wide range including white, various shades of silver/gray, brown, black and patterns containing several colors. Cashmere colors ranged from a bright white, soft brown to dark brown. I divided my annual harvest of cashmere into four categories – white (only from the white goats), white with color (from goats of color – mostly grays – but cashmere appears white-ish), and brown, for all the rest. Sometimes I saved out a few very dark brown fleeces for special treatment. In later years, I decided I liked the gray goats best, so now I focus on just keeping the silver colored goats and a few white goats. I put all their cashmere together in one batch and label it as white. A few non-preferred colors of kids are born each year, but customers like the colored goats and they are easy to sell.
This is how I rainbow dye. I use Landscape dyes (from Australia), but any dye could be used. I use this method to dye handspun cashmere plyed with a silk thread. The resulting yarn is 400 – 500 yds/oz, so it is very fine. I try to make the colors subtle enough so that it isn’t a distraction for lace-knitted items.
I dye outside using a single burner hot plate in order to avoid evil fumes (and mess) in the kitchen. First I soak the skeins to be dyed for 30 minutes in water with just a drop or two of dishwashing soap. Squeeze all the water you can out of the skeins.
In the dye pot, I use a base skein of some other yarn so the cashmere skeins are only partially covered in the dye bath. I call this the throw-away skein, but it also turns out pretty and usually sells quickly at shows. I use 2-yard skeins (because this is what comes off my niddy-noddy) and arrange them as shown in the pot on top of the base skein. If you have more than one skein, just layer them up. Add just enough water to partially cover the top skein. Using a small amount of dye mixed with water (about 1/2 tsp per cup of water with my dye) and pour some of it carefully onto the top skein. I use 3 colors on the outside sections of the skein path and another color in the center. The colors will mix in the cooking and how much dye you place on the skein, how much water in the pot and how vigorously the water boils will have an effect on the mix.
Gently simmer for however long your dye instructions tell you. I use 30-35 minutes for my dye. Don’t even think about stirring it or even poking it around in the bath! When done, wash it well with liquid dishsoap (I use Dawn) or whatever you generally use to wash wool. Rinse well and let dry.
There’s a lot of serendipity involved although in 15 different batches, I’ve only had one batch I considered a failure and that wasn’t because it was ugly; it just wasn’t a color combination that sold well. I eventually dyed over it with a couple other colors and it sold at the next show.
Knitting note: I like to use this yarn for lace knitting. Because of the silk thread for the 2nd ply, the lace has more definition to the stitches than 100% cashmere.
One more note: Originally I thought I got the idea for this from an old Woodland Woolworks flyer by Melda Montgomery, but after doing it for a while, I looked back at her flyer and find I don’t use anything from the flyer except how much dye powder to add to the water.
In the winter and early spring, it’s foggy here a lot. Sometimes it doesn’t even lift during the day. What constructive can we do with fog? Peggy Clyne told me of a technique that she’d heard from Judith Mackenzie for puffing up wool for spinning.
I tested “fogging” using my Shetland roving. I put the roving or batt outside for a day or even just overnight and the wool absorbs moisture and expands. I hung some brown Shetland wool roving from the Christmas light hooks under the outdoor porch roof. Next morning I was surprised to find that the roving had expanded to at least double it’s pre-fog size!
However – I found I don’t have to wait for nature’s fog – I have lots of fog in the greenhouse on a regular basis. I tried some white batt that I carded in the greenhouse overnight with the same amazing result.
Goatmowers run quietly and use very little fuel. Unfortunately, repeat application is sometimes required: In April I noticed a rather nasty patch of blackberries and weeds behind my garden plot so I built a temporary electric fence and housed a few goats in the area for a month or so. When the patch was cleared, I moved the goats back to the main herd and took down the fence. I shouldn’t have taken down the fence as last week I noticed the blackberries had come back with a vengeance. So, I put back the fence and captured a few goats and put them in. This time, when the spot is cleared I will remove the goats, but not take down the fence!
It was a good kidding year – thanks to the help of family and friends. The final count was 23, 12 girls and 11 boys born February 22 – May 2, 2018. Have to see about grouping them up next year as it seemed like a long drawn out kidding season. I wean the last of them near the end of July. All are doing very well. All of the doe kids are sold, but there are a few wethers left not spoken for. If I end up keeping them, that’s OK too as I’m thinking of doing less breeding in the future. I still want to keep quite a few goats on the place as there is a ready market for their cashmere and I have a lot of brush and weeds around that isn’t getting eaten.
One of the seven wonders of the preserving world is Quince Jam (Preserves). It starts out as a beautiful, aromatic, inedible fruit. However, you can devote about 6 hours to it and turn it into something wonderful. Preserving books call is Quince Preserves. I call it Quince Jam. We have a small tree which lives in the temporary turkey pen and despite being roosted in by turkeys and occasionally nibbled on by goats, produces a bumper crop of quinces each year. This year was no different. To make the preserves, you peel and chunk up the creamy white quinces. You make a sugar syrup, add the chunks and then (patiently) boil it down for hours and hours. As the mixture boils down, it thickens and turn a lovely ruby shade.
We had a light kidding year this year – only 16 kids with the last born May 1st. In the past few years, we’ve had a high percentage of does vs. buck kids born. This is a good thing as we usually sell more does than buck kids and the bucks born are generally too related to our existing breeding stock for us to use. This year the count was 11 boys and 5 girls. Guess we were due. However, all are healthy and bouncy and we had no kidding problems, so we still count this as a good year.
We had a collection of old horse/cow feeders from over 20 years ago. They had never worked well for our sheep and goats as the animals pull the hay out on the floor and on themselves and get their heads stuck between the bars. Using discarded feed sacks and zip ties, we improved them. They seem to work well. We have less hay waste and fleece contamination and haven’t had to build/buy another option.
While packing the cat and spraying the dog, it’s a wonder I get time for garden watering at all!
We weaned the first group of cashmere kids (11) a week ago. Their home for 3 weeks away from their mothers is a small pasture across the fence from our early garden. They learn quickly that this is a very good deal as they get “throwovers”. Throwovers include weeds and other garden plant disposals thrown over the fence by the gardener. Here they are getting the lower leaves from the sunflowers and weeds. Recyclying at its finest!