Roving Winds Farm
Catching up on 2011
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Catching up on 2011
18-Dec-11, 10:37 AM

OK, so I do realize I am kind of delinquent when it comes to blogging regularly.  Something that was pointed out to me when we got together with friends last weekend and again this weekend when we had a family of new goat owners over to get some hands on goat husbandry experience.  To those of you who have emailed me and mentioned you are following my blog, I do apologize for not getting to this sooner.  I am sitting her waiting for a fibre customer to drop by and purchase some raw fleeces as a Christmas present so thought now was as good a time as any to catch everyone up on the happenings here since my last entry and promise to be a better blogger in the coming year.

Oh dear, it is worse than I thought.  I decided I should look and see what my last entry was so I could be more concise in the update ....huhm it has been forever since I last posted about the 2011 harvest beginning and here we are almost into another harvest -actually I am again ignoring the signs of shedding in the herd since we have not actually had winter truly begin yet!  So again, I apologize for being a bad blogger and at the length of this blog but I wanted to update you on the year so future blogs make more sense.

The cashmere harvest this past year was not as productive as it could have been. This was mostly due to my being at work on the days that were most suitable for combing and my farm days being for the most part miserable and wet.  We did manage a decent harvest though and my good friend Marie of Greenelf Wild Woolens did manage to come out for a day of combing again this past spring.  We always have a lovely time and I truly appreciate her help.  I am going to try to invite more people to come and experience combing this spring, but there is a bit of a learning curve to harvesting cashmere without damaging it, so sometimes it stresses me out more than it is worth for the extra help and I can be particular about the way in which it is combed which can be frustrating for the one learning. However, I figure some damaged fibre and more harvested overall is likely better than missing some of my best fleeces all together. Patience be with us all this year.

The 2009 harvest was in mill purgatory as of the last blog, but promised to be back soon …… as the date kept being extended, I decided to cut my losses and did manage to get it sent on to Still River Mill in time to meet up with this years harvest and be processed along with it. Thank goodness Still River was kind enough to take the extra on and having both years processed together allowed us to expand the product line a bit and get 3 different shades of cashmere yarn produced as well as FINALLY getting some coloured roving back for those lovely spinners who have been so patiently waiting for us to finally catch up on the back log of yarn orders from the Yarn Harlot's blog about our soft grey/brown cashmere yarn in her Pretty Thing entry. 

This year we also teamed up with Vicki and Paul Aikens of VIP Alpacas to put out some alpaca blend rovings and yarns as well as a line beautiful cashmere alpaca blends yarns.  I wish I had thought to ask for some roving back from these cashmere blends, but I promise I will have some available this coming fall.  Once again I have to thank Still River mill for taking on our rather large order this year, which took them most of the summer to process and they almost beat the hurricane to get all of our fibre shipped back in time for our fall shows.  The cashmere/alpaca blend yarns missed the first show but were here in time for the second show despite their being without power for a week from the storm. 

We had around 120 kids born on the farm this year, 19 lambs and 6 calves, 2 of which were actually heifers for a change! Sadly, we only had one salt and pepper buckling born this year and even more disheartening was that we lost our salt and pepper buck Gilligan suddenly in August.  Thankfully we do have 3 sons from him currently on the farm although only 2 are salt and pepper and I am seriously leaning towards the other boy as being his best replacement, but we will see how it goes when I comb them out.  We do have two salt and pepper does here and everyone who comes to the farm wants to take them home, especially Fantasia, who is the most amazingly symmetrically and stunningly marked salt and pepper animal I have ever seen.  The kids have mostly gone off to their new homes now but we have a few doelings still available and likely some more will be available once we have combed and evaluated their first fleeces.  Duke produced some amazing kids for us this spring and we are expecting more in April, some of which will be 3/4 US genetics and unique to Canada at this time. 

In June I made the move to full time farming, so this has been a big transition for us. We are now forced to get down to the farm covering its own costs, period. It has been a good experience so far though and balancing costs and sales was something I really never had time to ensure when I was working off farm 3 days a week so I feel more in control even if farming is a totally unpredictable entity. I don’t like gambling in general, but I see it more as a challenge and an exercise in divergent thinking and creative marketing.  Part of the decision was an unfulfilling job but I also knew I was having trouble keeping up with the demands of the farm and that was weighing on my mind more and more while I was away from it. I had fully expected to be caught up on farm tasks by the end of the summer.  However I didn’t gamble on a very wet fall and poor drainage which has delayed my progress as I slosh through the mud morning and night for chores and spend much of the time in between trying and keep on top of creating dry paths for the animals to get to and from their feeders and trim and treat hoof issues that might arise.  We are going to have to look at a serious overhaul of the main doe winter pen this summer to alleviate this problem but  financing that will put more strain on the farm to produce extra to cover that cost.  At the moment I am selling more does from the herd than I really want to, but there is a lot of interest in starting new herds currently and I feel better getting my girls into good homes and away from this wet environment than keeping them and potentially having things get worse the way this fall/winter has been going so far. There are some really good animals going on to new herds to start them out right and I can not feel bad about that.  The move to full time farming, as scary as it can be, has been a blessing for me really.  I am happier, healthier and more content than I have been in a long time and I think the animals are too, knowing I am not far away at any time and our time together for all tasks is certainly less hurried. 
We expanded our cattle herd this fall with some new genetics from western Canada and we have started AI with some of the cows to further this expansion. It is something we have been wanting to do for a long time now, so it is really nice to be able to start the process. We are trying to breed for fast maturing beef animals who also have excellent dairy traits. I am planning on starting to milk some of our cows in the next few weeks and the goal is to have all breeding cows produced on the farm from here on in, halter trained so they are good milking prospects or are already proven milking cows.  There is an incredible and still growing interest in the family dairy cow and dexters are a perfect animal for this market.  I even spent some time halter training one of my 4 year old girls and I am so glad to be able to walk out to them give a treat, put the halter on, give a treat and turn and lead them to where I want/need them to go. I don’t have time in many cases to go for help, so ease of handling and trust go a long way.
I also hope to make cheese in the future. My dear friend took the time this summer to teach me how to milk and begin the process of becoming a cheese maker. And of course as most mixed farming folks know, if you are milking and making your own cheese, you really need some pigs to make efficient use of any extra milk and to consume the whey which is a by product of the dairy making process. Whey is chock full of all sorts of vitamins and minerals so it grows very healthy pigs which of course translates into healthy humans.  We got our first two pigs in mid October, Large Black Yorkshire cross weaner pigs, and I am amazed at how fast they are growing, considering we are not yet feeding them any milk or whey. Our lovely neighbours are helping out by sorting their compost into piggy appropriate offerings and delivering them every couple of days. We are trying to raise them as organically as we can for our own families health so it is important for them to consume as much vegetable matter as possible just as they would if they left to their own devices. We also try and ensure that they have access to fresh pasture area so they can do what they do best and find those added delicacies on their own. They are currently doing a wonderful job routing up and turning over next years’ planned cucumber and tomato beds.  I hope to have a larger garden for other items, but wanted to keep the more water dependant items as close to the house as possible in case we get a dry summer. If all goes well, Daisy Mae will get to stay on with us, so we may have a limited amount of freezer pork available to our customers in the future along with our currently available lamb, goat and beef products. My friend also taught me how to make soap. I am looking forward to making my first batch at the house soon. 
On the Thanksgiving weekend we decided to renovate about 12 feet of the kitchen and finally install the window we bought for over the sink in 2005 when we started the renovation on the back part of the house. We moved our temporary sink (build it in 2001???) out to the back lawn figuring it would be replaced in a week or so. It was really kind of wonderfully zen doing dishes on the back lawn amongst the fall colours and when the leaves would rain down it was only slightly annoying when they would fill up your sink water. When the rain of leaves turned to rain for three weeks straight and the temperature turned unseasonably cold and rainy it was not so enjoyable. The sink got moved into the tiny back mud room with buckets under it …. Next it got moved to the living room where the kitchen had been when we bought the house, although this sink had been in what we now have as our kitchen. Well when my dad came over yesterday to help me get the final fittings for the milk machine sorted out, he asked where the sink was now …..I said oh still in the living room ….with buckets under it …. These kinds of things bother my dad …like goats in the kitchen all winter long. Maybe by the end of January we will once again have a kitchen sink. However then we will be into the cashmere harvest almost full swing so huhm,…… maybe by next Thanksgiving is a better goal? I do have more prep space though as we are using the dry sink that we purchased to house the kitchen sink as a work top for the moment. However, I will definitely need a kitchen sink before I can process milk beyond cream cheese, so I may need more pigs sooner rather than later!
As usual, the farm has connected us with many wonderful and interesting people. We are grateful to our new customers as well as our many returning customers for their support of our goals and their appreciation of our products. Thanks to all of those new breeders who chose to invest in our stock this year and with whom we will continue to grow the rare and heritage breed industry with in the future. And of course a big thanks to the animals that we love raising, even on the days they decide to conspire to push our buttons, which thankfully is not that often; it has been a pleasure each and every day. Congratulations to Natalie and Paul on their wedding and cheers to a wonderful life together! Thanks again for choosing to include Canadian cashmere in your special day and helping to support the local farmers. Special thanks to the lovely gentleman, retired from the “oil foods industry”, who struck up a very long conversation with me at the dollar store; shortly after I had learned to milk and make butter and explained the very long, disgusting process of making margarine. He won’t even use it and believes that if the public only knew what went into it, they would never believe the claims that margarine is better for you than real butter! It was a fascinating conversation and I wish I had caught his name, but I am thankful that my career change afforded me the time to stand and chat with him for over an hour on a beautiful sunny afternoon.
In the New Year we will be adding to the list of events we attend and hope to expand our fibre product line and offer more finished and custom order items and we hope to meet more of our followers and supporters in person. I promise to blog more often about the day to day life of a mixed livestock fibre farmer and the wonderful experiences that come along with that. Best Wishes for a wonderful holiday season and please support your local farmers, and be healthier and happier in the years to come.

Tel: (705) 326-6993