Chair Seats – Cats Who’ve Owned Me Series – 1

Since I can’t take the afternoon heat lately, I’ve been working (finally) on a set of chair seats in honor of cats who have owned me.  The first one (described in this post) is Sandy and Rori looking out the window.  I used my homespun and millspun hand dyed yarns, all of which are wool/ mohair blends (details).  The backing is 100% cotton Monk’s Cloth.

I designed Blue Skies yarn with variegated blues and a bit of white here and there to look like the sky in weaving and rug hooking.  Similarly I designed Forest Dreams with primarily greens and a bit of blue to be used in weaving and rug hooking for broad expanses of trees or a forest with just a hint of sky poking through.  Here it is used for carpeting or a reflection of the outside grass.


View from the House Chair Seat

“View from the House” Chair Seat

View From the House Chair Seat - Closeup of Sky, Clouds and Bird

Closeup of Sky, Clouds and Bird

View from the House Chair Seat - Closeup of Grass and Edging

Closeup of Grass and Edging


For this size “rug” (roughly 16″ x 14″), not much detail will show.  Next in the series will  be designed with less detail and the lettering will be made larger to show more clearly.

The Monk’s Cloth used was found hiding in my fabric stash (price was right!), but since it was 8×8 epi it was difficult to use for rug hooking.  The design came out but it took more time and yarn than it should have because the yarn did not always stick into the fabric evenly.  It was also hard to get the tension correct.  After some searching I located 12-13 epi cotton Monk’s Cloth and ordered some for the rest of the series.  The best price I found was from Earth Guild at $14/ yard (60 inch wide).  The 8epi cloth was $4/ yard!  It was not easy to find the right epi cloth because most web sites don’t list epi in the description.

Yarns Used

Info on the yarns used is given below.  The picture links to the full description and creation details for the yarn where available.

Sky: Sky Blue Millspun Yarn  Sky Blue Hand Dyed (After Spinning) Millspun. Designed to look like sky with variegated blues for use in weaving and rug hooking.
 Grass:  Forest Dreams  Forest Dreams Hand Dyed (Before Spinning) Millspun. Designed to look like trees/ forest with variegated green and a touch of blue for use in weaving and rug hooking.
 Cats:  Yarn Worsted Tan White Tweed 2Ply Millspun 68% Mohair 32% Wool - Sold by the Pound Tan White Tweed (for Sandy) Natural Color Millspun.
Since natural black isn’t readily available in mohair (black mohair is  dark grey at best) I bought a skein of  Brown Sheep’s Lamb’s Pride Worsted Onyx from Alpaca Direct as they had the best price when I was shopping.  It is a USA made 15% mohair/ 85% wool single ply yarn.  I used this yarn for the black cat (Rori).
Clouds: Yarn Sport White Millspun 2 Ply 59% Mohair 31% Shetland Wool - Sold by the Pound Small amount hand spun natural DWF white mohair/ wool yarn. Sport White Millspun 2 Ply 59% Mohair 31% Shetland Wool.
 Edging: Iris Millspun Yarn  Iris – Hand Dyed (After Spinning) Millspun
 Birds: Yarn Dark Grey DK 2Ply Millspun 68% Mohair 32% Shetland, Blue Faced Leciester Wool - By the Pound  Natural Dark Grey DK 2Ply Millspun 68% Mohair 32% Shetland, Blue Faced Leicester Wool
 Lettering and Cloud Outlining:  Small amount of hand spun, turkey baster hand dyed roving (white with small amounts of orange and blue).  A ball of roving was soaked in water for an hour, then injected with colors using a turkey baster, heated to boiling for 30 minutes to set the colors, then washed before hand spinning.

















Farm, Goats and Mohair – Corrymoor Socks

The Corrymoor Farm web site says it all re mohair!

Their socks are all mohair with nylon added for stretch.  Rare in this day of mostly plastic fabrics!  Ohhh and the goats are gorgeous too.

Corrymoor Farm

Cool in summer, warm in winter.

Any moisture is quickly wicked away. This is true… we aren’t just saying it. It does mean that you can wear them for a considerably long time without washing them!

Good for your feet

Mohair fibres are naturally smooth which makes it difficult for foot bacteria to build up thereby preventing foot hygiene and health problems. Chiropodists and podiatrists recommend Corrymoor Socks. We find that people with sensitive skin or who can’t wear wool can wear our socks.

Hardwearing and will last for ages.

Mohair fibres are 3 times more resistant to rubbing than wool fibres.

Source: farm, goats and mohair – Corrymoor Socks

Secret to making no-smell socks is kids’ play, says Devon farmer

Nice article from the Guardian….the strength, smoothness and gorgeous ability to drink up dye are well known mohair properties but I’ve never heard about anti-backerial properties of kid mohair!

‘Steve Whitley uses the fleece of his young angora goats in hosiery that ‘can be worn for as much as a year without washing.

Mohair from angora kids is said to prevent bacterial buildup by drawing sweat away from the skin.

A Devon farmer is claiming to have invented by accident socks that don’t smell and don’t need washing.

Steve Whitley said the fleece of angora kid goats does not trap smelly bacteria in the same way as scalier wool or cotton fibres, and his mohair socks can be worn for as much as a year without washing. Originally he sold the socks for their comfort and durability, and it was only the feedback from astonished customers that alerted him to their unique selling point.

“Customers began telling us that they could wear them for days without them becoming stiff or smelly,” said Whitley, 65. “It was the men who were more forthcoming about this, but then women began writing in. One orchestra leader boasted that he’d had his for a year without washing them.”

Bear Grylls, Fiona Bruce and Stephen Fry were among celebrities who snapped up his Corrymoor Mohair brand, which he claimed “can be worn day after day, week after week, in extreme conditions without any problems from foot odour or discomfort”.

Mohair, shorn from angora goats, is prized in the fashion world for its strength, warmth and resilience. Less well known is that the first shearings from kids are highly absorbent and prevent bacterial buildup by drawing sweat away from the skin.

The products, which cost around £10 a pair, are good news for a nation which, according to new findings, loses 84 million socks a month in the wash. Research commissioned by Samsung discovered that the average Briton will mislay £2,528 worth of dirty socks over a lifetime.

Whitley said he wears the same pair of socks round the farm for up to a fortnight before entrusting them to the laundry basket. Grylls, Bruce and Fry were among a dozen celebrities who promised to report back on how long theirs can withstand the heat.

They have a challenging record to break. “We received a letter from a lady who had recently lost her husband,” says Whitley. “He was so attached to his socks that he asked to be buried in them.”’

Source: Secret to making no-smell socks is kids’ play, says Devon farmer

2016 International Heritage Breeds Week – How You Can Help

“1 in 5 breeds of the world’s farm animals is on the verge of extinction”

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

The easiest way to help is to use rare breed products and services!

Find a local farmer that sells fresh, healthy rare breed products. By giving these breeds and farmers a job, we help ensure their futures.  Help rare breed populations grow by purchasing products like meat, milk, eggs, and fiber from heritage breeds.

You can search for products by location on Local Harvest (then check farm listing for breeds raised) or on the Livestock Conservancy (members that sell heritage breed products).

I’m listed on both.  My eggs are generally sold out in advance but there’s always lots of fiber looking for a new home!

NOTE:  the Livestock Conservancy product directory search is down for updates as of today (May 5, 2016).  If you join, members get a paper version of the directory.

2016 Livestock Conservancy Conservation Priority List

Good news for poultry breeds!  I love my rare chickens and am thrilled to be helping preserve these breeds for the future (Australorp, Chantecler, Delaware, Dominique, Favorelle).

Delaware, Australorp, Dominique, Ameraucana Hens

Delaware, Australorp, Dominique, Ameraucana Hens

Dominique Hen in Wildflowers

Dominique Hen in Wildflowers

Australorp Hen Meets Salmon Favorelle Chick 4 Weeks Old

Australorp Hen Meets Salmon Favorelle Chick 4 Weeks Old

Pittsboro, NC  [May 4, 2016] – Today, The Livestock Conservancy is releasing its 2016 Conservation Priority List, and is excited to report that overall trends in North America are improving for endangered livestock and poultry breeds. 25 breeds have improved in status, 12 have declined, and 3 have been added to the list. 2 breeds of chickens, Orpingtons and Wyandottes, now have secure populations and are no longer at risk of extinction.

The majority of changes this year have occurred in the poultry categories, because The Livestock Conservancy recently completed an extensive nationwide poultry census, which polled thousands of poultry keepers to determine the population status of more than 90 poultry breeds. It revealed that more than 25% of poultry breeds’ populations grew in the past ten years.

“Even with the progress we have made in some breeds, many others still have a long way to go” said Dr. Alison Martin, the Conservancy’s executive director. According to a recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, at least 17% of breeds worldwide are at risk of extinction.¹ In North America, the percentage of endangered breeds is much higher than average due to highly specialized agriculture, in which production is dominated by just a few breeds.

“The Livestock Conservancy’s priority list serves as the guide for our conservation efforts and shows us which breeds need the most help,” said Martin. “Some breeds like Choctaw hogs, Crèvecoeur chickens, and Caspian horses are actually much more rare than endangered wildlife species that most people are familiar with.” The Conservancy currently lists 51 breeds as Critically Endangered, meaning that they could easily become extinct without careful monitoring and breeding strategies in place. An additional 113 breeds are in less critical categories, but are still in need of conservation.

Chicken Breeds

Since there are many “would be” or new chicken owners looking for guidance I’ve begun a series of articles summarizing what I’ve learned over 16 years of raising chickens.  Seems like the place to start is with chicken breeds.

Delaware (left), Australorp (back on left), Dominique (black and white) and Ameraucana Hens (multi colored)

Delaware (white, far left), Australorp (black, back left), Dominique (black and white) and Ameraucana Hens (multi colored) Anticipating Dinner

I feel it is important to support rare breeds as genetic diversity is very important to preserving chickens for the future.  Currently genetic diversity is rapidly being lost in livestock species as farming becomes larger in scale and utilizes single breeds.  In the poultry industry the white leghorn chicken is used pretty exclusively.  Should something happen to the leghorn without other breeds available, chickens as a species could be wiped out.

I’m a member of the Livestock Conservancy and they provide information for free on rare and heritage breeds.  These breeds are typically very thrifty, meaning they forage for themselves and are smart enough to recognize and try to elude predators.  In many cases they were developed by our colonial ancestors who needed chickens to fit on a small homestead as good producers with minimal supervision.

Take a look at the Livestock Conservancy resources on chickens for help selecting the best breed for you.  They have a great breed comparison chart (pdf) that will let you quickly scan for the features most important to you.  A few notes on the breeds I have raised are below.  Since I keep my hens until they die of old age (10+ years) and I focus on egg layers as I don’t sell my chickens for meat, my experience is different than those who only keep them a year or two.

Ameraucana or Easter Eggers:

Sienna (Angora Goat) with Ameraucana Chickens

Sienna (Angora Goat) with Ameraucana Chickens

Very prolific egg layer, with egg shell color in green shades.  They are variable in personality and color as they are typically hybrids.  Some are quite friendly, others are nearly wild (ie- flighty) but not aggressive.  They have small combs so do well in cold weather.  Roosters are pleasant and safe even with children.  They are prone to reproductive tract issues as cause of death.


Very prolific egg layers, calm and easy going temperament.  Large comb that is prone to frost bite even here in central NJ.  I have never had roosters of this breed.  Mine have all had crop issues (getting things stuck) but always (so far!) have recovered.  I’ve only had mine for 3 years so don’t have any long term experience with them as yet.


Chantecler, Favorelle in Background

Chantecler, Favorelle in Background

Developed in Canada for cold weather tolerance (no comb), and good egg production in winter months.  Very active, quick, and flighty personalities.  I haven’t noticed better egg production than my other breeds during the slow season.  I have never had roosters of this breed.  They tend to be broodier than my other breeds.  I’ve only had mine for 3 years so don’t have any long term experience with them as yet.


Large, friendly, easy going and tolerant birds.  They are very good egg layers with a large comb that is  prone to frost bite even here in central NJ.  The roosters are wonderful, safe even for children.  They don’t tend to live as long as other breeds, presumably due to the small genetic diversity within these chickens as there are so few of this breed around.  Generally reproductive tract issues will do them in.  They are incredibly resilient though.  I have experienced them egg bound (with broken egg shells inside – you could hear and feel them) and they not only survived but recovered fully, at odds with what you can read in the veterinary literature.


Small, easy going, curious and friendly black and white birds.  Barred rocks were bred from these birds and they carry sex linked coloring so that the females can be distinguished from the males at birth by the white dot on their foreheads.  They have small rose combs which make them good in cold weather environments.  They are also good egg layers.  Roosters can be aggressive with strangers and I would not trust them with children but they never attacked me (they definitely recognized me as their caregiver).  Prone to leg mites in old age.


Regina - Favorelle Hen

Regina – Favorelle Hen (was helping me paint the hen house green!)

Active, vocal birds with a few feathers on their feet.  They definitely have in your face personalities but are not aggressive, just talkative, curious and friendly.  They were bred in France for good egg laying in the winter season.  I haven’t noticed better egg production than my other breeds during the slow season.   I have never had roosters of this breed.  I have only had this breed for about 3 years so have no long term experience with them.

Next:  Buying chicks….

What to do with all that yarn and cold kids?

Source: Goats born in Cumberland this week rock wool sweaters

My kids were always dressed in diapers with the crotch cut out to fit over their heads as they made nice disposable sweaters!  Back then I hadn’t taught myself to knit and didn’t have fencing to separate does and bucks so that I could plan births for more reasonable weather months!

Little Guy (aka LG) in Diaper ( Jan. 2000)

Little Guy (aka LG) in Diaper ( Jan. 2000)


For fun videos from Sunflower Farm check out their YouTube of kids in pajamas:

and quad kids with what looks like an Australorp hen:





Jasper Welcomes This Year’s Chicks

Jasper Welcomes New Chicks


Always helpful, Jasper gave the baby chicks lots of attention.  Of course after above average March temperatures, April has been well below average.  Thus the chicks arrived on the coldest day (24 degrees F) since late January.  They are all fine although issues with the brooder light caused about an hour of worries trying to get the temperature correct.

You can tell when baby chicks are unhappy as they make a lot of noise.  Happy chicks are silent or talk to one another in very soft cheeps.  All the noise made them even more attractive to Jasper.

When baby chicks go into the brooder I give them water that is quite warm, about 98-100 degrees F as they will want to drink a lot and it’s important that the water doesn’t chill them.  After a few hours ambient water temperature water is fine.

They do a lot of sleeping the first day, but it is amazing how quickly they catch on to eating and drinking.  I start feeding them by sprinkling food on paper towels and by the end of the day have progressed to an open dish.

Watch the weavers at work! – Skye Weavers: Tweed, Scarves, Throws, Clothing woven on the Isle of Skye

A beautiful, informative 6 minute video of a small weaving company on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Their looms are powered by bicycle! Gives me lots of ideas.  Gorgeous woolens.

Watch how we design and weave our woollen cloth, scarves, throws and more. Follow our footsteps across hills of Skye to find inspiration for our designs.

Source: Watch the weavers at work! – Skye Weavers: Tweed, Scarves, Throws, Clothing woven on the Isle of Skye

Farewell Ginger

April 16, 2001 – April 5, 2016
Of natural causes, heart failure.

Ginger was a sweet, beautiful goat with one of the best fleeces I’ve ever had in my goats, the best of those with color  genetics.  Her father Sprout was a gorgeous goat and she got her great fleece from him, and the color gene from her mother Red.  She passed the color genes on with great fleeces to her offspring too.  She lived a great long life, serving as the herd matriarch until two days before her passing.  She went downhill suddenly, enjoying life up til the last day or so.   I opted to put her down as she was showing significant signs of distress – great difficulty breathing, she would not lie down and she stopped eating.  The vet said she had never seen a case of heart failure in a goat, but she had a significant heart murmur and it was likely fluid around her heart that was causing her to have such difficulty breathing out.  Also, laying down would have been painful because of the fluid in her chest.   I believe that my goats are veterinary “experiments” because they live such long lives – most goats (or any livestock species) don’t get to live much past 2-5 years.  Ginger died of natural causes – how often does that happen to livestock?  She died with me holding her and she relaxed quickly and easily into an eternal peace.

It was so sad later in the afternoon when the other does went out to pasture because Ingrid came to the corner of the barn where Ginger had been for the last day and started calling for her.  Ingrid had been standing on the partition and checking on Ginger while she was in a separate pen. She called and called until I went out and let her smell my hands since I had Ginger’s scent on my hands.  I rolled Ginger (who was temporarily on a cart) to the pasture fence for Ingrid and the other does to smell.  Then after a bit Ingrid and the others walked off, seeming to understand that Ginger would not be back.  Ingrid did not cry for Ginger again.

Here as a memorial are some of my favorite photos of Ginger.


Ginger Wearing Bucket (Nov 2001)

Ginger Wearing Bucket (Nov 2001)

Ginger 7 Months Old (Nov 2001)

Ginger 7 Months Old (Nov 2001)


Ginger and Scamp (2002)

Ginger (left) and Scamp (2002)

Ginger with Newborns Sienna and Jasmine (2003)

Ginger with Newborns Sienna and Jasmine (2003)

Ginger with Kids Leo and Rembaldi (2004)

Ginger with Kids Leo and Rembaldi (2004)

Ginger in Snow (2014)

Ginger in the Snow (2014)