New Girls

This past autumn, my daughter shadowed Fred DePaul, a renowned New England shearer, during a video documentary project she’d self-assigned.  And that was how I met Debbie Kirby, of Kirby’s Happy Hoofers.

Debbie, with the help of her clever & willing husband Dick, raised Registered Angora Goats and has been selling, and selling out of, her heavenly hand spun, hand knit thrummed mittens for nigh on 20 years. Imagine slipping your hand into a cloud. You will want to get yourself on her waiting list for these beauties.

We spent many hours at her farm video-ing Fred & Debbie while her herd got their hooves & horns trimmed, kids’ ears tagged, gorgeous Mohair shorn, and scheduled meds applied.  I had an instant bonding to these silly, poodle-y goatsies.  They reminded me so much of our Shetland Sheep, but had a completely different fiber, as well as they were goats.  I hardly think of them as goats, though, because my three dairy goats have such an opposite presence.  Smart, boisterous, loving, large & troublesome presence.

Debbie is ready for retirement.  She & Dick would like to visit their family and save their backs from the chores of raising goats in the winters of Vermont on a 13-acre hillside in their backyard.  She was raised most of her life on a dairy farm in Vermont, has been working at the Vermont Fiber Mill, and at another tent-rental business in the Brandon/Middlebury area as well as processing her Mohair and other fibers(some of our Shetland fleeces!) She could use some down time.

But are any of us ever ready to send off our flock or herd?

I felt honored and exhilarated to be deemed a worthy new home for the herd.  We updated our fencing in our back pasture to allow for the dancing around of the different animals here and ensure safe and strong borders for everyone.  We educated ourselves on Mohair and Angora husbandry, calling and emailing every registered Angora breeder that Debbie recommended to find a buck to breed this December.  We borrowed our friend Tara’s horse-trailer for fetching the girls.

Two weeks later, we picked up our 7 new girls, mamas and kids, and loaded every hoof trimmer, book and bucket that Debbie & Dick had acquired through a lifetime of raising them. Debbie went through all of their registration papers with me, showing me lineage going back and back and back.  It was bittersweet saying goodbye. We brought Thelma, Louise, Thalia, Buttercup, Brigid, Sweet Alyssum & Sabrina home to our barn and unloaded them into a stall, safe and sound.

All was well.  We adjourned to the house to make celebration Sunday night crepes for dinner.

We went out to the barn at around 9p.m. to have a look around, discovering the beginning of the month-long antics.  Ruger Jac, our big horse/toddler, had decided to open the Angoras’ stall in the pitch black wind and rain.   We opened the aisleway door to show a late night visitor the new goats, and saw their stall door gaping open to the dark paddock.

Ruger Jac and Nite Nite(the Shetland pony), were having games of tag in and out of the stalls and paddock area while one lonely Angora hugged the barn, looking for a gap to get back into her stall.  But where were the other 6?

We played musical ponies and got the horses all separated and out of the paddock so we could search for the goats.  One of them was on the other side of the fence, entirely, and we’re all still not sure how that had transpired.  But the rest of the lot, 5 nervously nibbling curly white goats, were standing in the far, far corner of the pasture shadows.  We spotted them with flashlights as we came upon them, rattling a bucket of grain, chatting to encourage and keep them from flight again.

Eventually the girls were tucked in safe and sound. We double locked the stall doors to prevent Houdini-horse from unlocking them again and gave everyone extra hay to calm their nerves.  (Hay always calms their nerves.)

Since that first evening, there’ve been a few occasions for hay to calm nerves.  I’m going to take up eating hay.

It was Ruger Jac’s new game to free the goats.  There are not enough carabiner clips, bungee cords, hay strings or screws to keep the doors closed from his giraffe-lips.  I should plant a surveillance camera and share with you some day.  It’s astonishing and impressive how he can unlock a barn door.

I surveyed the New England and Mid-Atlantic Angora Goat farms to find a registered buck for my does so that we would have kids in May(along with lambs), but every breeder that found out that my 3 dairy goats are CAE-positive(another story, another day), was closed to my inquiries.  Eventually I worked out with Joanne at Wind-Gait Farm in Connecticut to buy her registered buck, Milkweed, to bring home.

Milkweed is a sweet gentleman.  My first experience with keeping a buck during breeding season has had mixed results.  I’m sure we got what we needed out of him over the past month, and more. There were a few break-ins in which hot little does found him to be quite alluring.  And as much as I had thought that we had secured the paddock to keep unnecessary pregnancies at bay, I failed.  Now May will bring possibly more kids than I’d originally planned.

My goals are to keep everyone healthy and strong for whatever comes in the spring now.  I’ve gotten myself into it…  No use knocking myself on the head for having the best of intentions, trying hard, and then failing.  Forward, march!

At some point in the past week or so, amidst holiday festivities and knock-down-cold-viruses, I hauled Mr. Milkweed on out of his wedding reception and tucked him in with the alpacas.  The alpacas like him, he likes them.  No worries except that occasionally Milkweed likes to take on the wooden posts in frustration and so has an abrasion at the base of his broad horns.  He’s good natured and seems unscathed, has a healthy appetite and happily interacts with us.

Debbie & Dick have yet to visit the girls at their new home, but we keep up frequently. I’ve certainly shared the ups and downs of the past month and a half and Debbie has been very supportive and encouraging.  She does, indeed, miss her curly crew and will come and see them as soon as the weather gives us a break for travel.  There’s been a lot of ice in Vermont over the past month.

I couldn’t be more pleased with our new girls.  New adventures and lessons to keep me sharp.  New livestock to love and care for.  New fiber to add to our offerings.  New friends.

Hopeful, here, as always.

How it all started

How it all started

Debbie & Fred giving little kids their meds and ear tags after their first shearing in October

Debbie & Fred giving little kids their meds and ear tags after their first shearing in October

Happy Hoofers indeed

Happy Hoofers indeed

Thalia's Mohair -virgin shearing

Thalia’s Mohair -virgin shearing

Freshly shorn Angora

Freshly shorn Angora

photo

Thalia, Thelma her mama behind, testing the waters

Thalia, Thelma her mama behind, testing the waters

Thalia the Brave

Thalia the Brave

Happy Angora Goats

Happy Angora Goats

You provide the hay, we'll take it from here.

You provide the hay, we’ll take it from here.

Sweet Alyssum is a charmer.

Sweet Alyssum is a charmer.

Dairy Goats leading the way for the Angoras to investigate the pasture

Dairy Goats leading the way for the Angoras to investigate the pasture

Ruger Jac, introducing himself as the cell-keeper.

Ruger Jac, introducing himself as the cell-keeper.

Our Shetland fleece & now, our Angora Mohair, spun and knit into Debbie Kirby's amazing thrummed mittens

Our Shetland fleece & now, our Angora Mohair, spun and knit into Debbie Kirby’s amazing thrummed mittens

Thrummed Mittens -like wearing a cloud

Thrummed Mittens -like wearing a cloud

Here is the result of our Shetland fleece + Kirby's Happy Hoofers (now OUR Happy Hoofers!) Angora Mohair

Here is the result of our Shetland fleece + Kirby’s Happy Hoofers (now OUR Happy Hoofers!) Angora Mohair

Milkweed, our new Angora buck, came to us from this gorgeous South Glastonbury, CT farm

Milkweed, our new Angora buck, came to us from this gorgeous South Glastonbury, CT farm

Buck-In-A-Truck

Buck-In-A-Truck

Marcia doesn't miss a meal, and doesn't care about Milkweed either

Marcia doesn’t miss a meal, and doesn’t care about Milkweed either

Dick helps to load the kids

Dick helps to load the kids

Harmony in the Park

Harmony in the Park

Joanne demonstrated some aspects of the FAMACHA test to determine parasite-load

Joanne demonstrated some aspects of the FAMACHA test to determine parasite-load

Loading up, Wind-Gait Farms Beebalm inspects Milkweed's ride

Loading up, Wind-Gait Farms Beebalm inspects Milkweed’s ride

Angora Nuptials

Angora Nuptials

 

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Tammy this is a great article makes me miss them all the more but know we did the right thing and they are now in a better home. Hope to see you soon.

    1. Debbie:
      Thank you. They sure are adorable. Today the girls and I sat in the paddock with them and watched them nibble hay and come ’round for visiting. They are so curious and curly and just lovely. We just talked on and on about how much we love them. So of course you would miss them so. And as soon as the weather improves, I hope you can get here!

  2. They are completely adorable with their curls and funny expressions…loved reading the adventures of your new flock

  3. Quite the undertaking. Knowing when enough is enough and when to pass along the flock is a very tough decision indeed, and one that Joanna and I fear is around the corner for us as well. I feel for Debbie and Dick and am glad that your path crossed with theirs – they are lucky indeed for you will always do what is best (and more) for the genetic heritage that they have entrusted to you. Our shetland flock is now down to just 23 ewes and 2 rams. We began to keep good records in 1993 … our first ewe, Katie, was tagged #1 and I just noticed that our first lamb this spring will be tagged #407 … and I can count the number of animals we’ve brought onto the farm from elsewhere on the fingers of both hands. We have always culled intensively and are now in possession of what we feel is the quintessential spinners flock. Whether or not we would bring the flock with us when we move is a constant topic of consideration – we are leaning toward parting with the sheep – but it is entirely dependent upon where we go. Anyway thanks, on this very first morning of the new year, for the story and the wonderful photos. It’s always nice to be reminded of what the like-minded are up to. You must have composed this from somewhere ‘out west’ for if you had been home you wouldn’t have had the time to do so. I hope you are relaxing and soaking up the sun. D

    1. Oh my goodness – #407? WOW!
      I am getting more sheep, this week, too. A woman called me and wondered if I would take her two Cotswolds. She’s unable to keep them where she is and is looking for a good home for them. They sound like they’ll fit in beautifully. And they have gorgeous fiber. But they’re fat! Just spoke with my shearer and he says I’ll need some help loading them!

      Had a great visit to the west coast and was back in 5 days. It was enough time to indulge in a change of scenery (and weather!!!!), but not enough for the farm to fall apart. But one chicken did die in the horrible cold. Which troubles me.

      Brought home my new ram and my ewes yesterday that I’d been keeping at a friends’ farm while another ram I was using was here for the past month. That other ram is gone back to his home now, so I can house this ram and the move went well.

      There’ll be many, many kids and lambs next spring. It’s going to be fun. Debbie & Dick feel really good about placing their herd with me, and I’m crazy about the newbies. The buck that I acquired, Milkweed, is also turning out to be delightful. Originally I was anxious that I’d be able to keep a buck, but I am more confident now.

      So who knows what 2014 will bring(oh, wait, 2 Cotswolds and, I forgot, an American Guinea Hog that a friend is giving to me on Tuesday!) I mean, I think I know what 2014 will bring. More to love!

      Happy New Year and thanks, as always, for the wonderful notes!
      -T

  4. DONT KNOW IF YOU REMEMBER ME..BUT I MET YOU AND YOUR DAUGHTER AT THE GEORGIAN MANNER IN LOGAN, OHIO. AM IN THE PROCESS OF MAKING FINGERLESS GLOVES WITH THE YARN THAT YOU GAVE ME, AND WILL THINK OF YOUR KINDNESS WHEN I WEAR THEM. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE YOUR STORIES. CONGRATS ON YOUR NEW FAMILY!

    1. Hi Debbie – of course I remember you! Glad you’re enjoying that yarn – it makes beautiful fingerless gloves! We loved your stories while we were there that morning. Thanks for “visiting” the farm! Happy knitting!!!

  5. Really neat post, esp the photos. It’s a whole other world for someone who grew up in NYC. I read an excellent book two years ago by a woman who visited a shepherdess to understand better the Scriptures about Jesus’ being our Shepherd. Your photos bring that chapter to life.

    1. Thank you for the comment and the visit! I completely appreciate your thoughts about “bringing that chapter to life.” As a shepherdess, the references in the bible and throughout history to the place of the shepherd/flock in culture are crystal clear to me. If I could, I would spend MORE time in the fields with my flocks. It truly feels like a vocation.

      Glad to know/hear you are able to enjoy the photos and to have your appreciation. Thank you so much.
      Sincerely,
      Tammy

    1. No! Sorry, I didn’t realize this, Dave. I’m going to contact them today. I having a lot of problems publishing lately and loading photos. I get very frustrated with the amount of time it takes me to put up a post 🙁
      Thanks for calling this out to my attention.
      I apologize for the inconvenience.
      -T

  6. No problem really .. just a bit of an annoyance .. I wonder what’s up? I also wonder what was supposed to be the advantage of going independent at WordPress.org? D

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