Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Listening, Learning, and Creating a Community

     We've spent a lot of time lately at the farm brainstorming about how we can better serve our fellow crafters. In years past we have participated in the East TN Yarn Crawl, taught beginner knit and crochet classes, as well as knit-alongs. We also host a twice weekly Stitch n' Spin. We consider each of these events to be valuable to our yarn loving community, and we have every intention of continuing them. The question is, what should we do with the rest of our time?! We thought asking you directly would be a great opportunity to find out just what sort of activities you would enjoy participating in.

     We will have a calendar of events available for you at this year's Yarn Crawl. It will contain a list of new classes we are trying out at the farm. These include: a collection of knit/crochet blankets and toys for the Claiborne Animal Shelter, a fiber processing class (from shearing to the final product), a spinning class, a yarn dyeing seminar, as well as a seminar centered around raising Cashmere goats. We will also be conducting our usual events such as the yarn retreat, Christmas in July, and Goat Combing Days.

     That's what we've come up with so far. We're trying our best to further strengthen the bonds of the fiber loving community in our area. Now we would like to open the floor to those folks directly. We would love to hear what you all are interested in learning. Please let us know in the comment section of our blog. We truly appreciate your input!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Goat Husbandry

            When I began working at Mountain Hollow Farm, I had absolutely no knowledge whatsoever about goats. I knew they were cute, and that I had almost passed out once in a vet tech class in which one was being operated on. That is as far as my experience went. Here I am roughly seven months later, and I feel pretty adept at caring for these fascinating creatures. Working here has also given me the confidence to delve into buying dairy goats of my own. However, none of this would be possible without hands on experience and a mentor.

            I can attest that there is nothing like doing it yourself. I could’ve read all the books in the world and not gained the sort of knowledge I did by actually being around and caring for the goats on a daily basis. One of the best ways to learn is by getting a goat on the stand. If we have to move all of our goats into a new pasture, it makes sense for us to catch them one at a time and get them up on the stand.
            We start out by weighing them, and checking their eyes according to the FAMACHA scale. Depending on their score, we may or may not worm them using an oral drench. We will check their hooves to see if they need trimming. And if there is any sign of hoof scald, we follow up by cleaning out the hoof and squirting penicillin between the toes. We conclude by checking them for mites and lice. If there is any evidence of either, we treat them with Cylence. Go through this routine enough, and you’ll know a lot about goat health!

            Hands on work is not all there is to it though. We try our best to use a rotational grazing system. Goats are browsers and prefer being in pasture that would be considered overgrown by most. Some people shoot for leaving their pastures fallow for a year. However, most farmers do not have enough land to make that practical. We aim to keep our goats in each pasture between 3 and 4 weeks. Keeping this schedule reduces the goat’s exposure to parasites, and also keeps us from feeding an abundance of hay.

            There are different husbandry techniques for different breeds as well. For instance, we are more diligent about checking our cashmere goats for mites and lice. These little critters damage the cashmere crop by chewing on it. Our dairy goats receive more grain than our cashmeres, due to their high milk production. Each breed has its individual quirks and requirements. If you spend enough time with any of them you’ll eventually get the hang of it, but it helps to have an expert around!

Thanks for reading,