Tag: Crafts

Cashmere
The Farm

Cashmere

CashmereCashmere—a word that has denoted luxury and comfort since the most ancient times. Perhaps the oldest reference to this fine fiber is in Exodus 25:4, where God requests offerings of goats’ hair (also known as cashmere) to build the tabernacle. The cashmere was subsequently used to make curtains (Exodus 36:14).

While any goat except the fleecy Angora can technically produce cashmere, some goats have been bred specifically for the purpose and excel in both the quantity and the quality of their fiber. Goats raised for cashmere originally came from Tibet, not from their namesake region of Kashmir in northern India. Kashmir was where cashmere was woven into fabric until the late 1800s, when Scottish manufacturer Joseph Dawson perfected a machine to separate the soft undercoat from the undesirably coarse guard hairs. This shifted the center of cashmere manufacture to Scotland and began a rage for all things cashmere.

In America, Cashmere and Angora goats were frequently confused at first. In fact, a Tibetan Cashmere doe may have been part of Dr. James B. Davis’s purebred Angora flock, imported in 1849. The modern-day Cashmere population of America is of more recent origins, however.

In the 1970s, scientists in Australia established a breeding program to develop the perfect cashmere-producing goat based on feral goats roaming the continent. Their results were outstanding, and it was not long before Americans were inspired to enter the cashmere industry. Cashmere goats were subsequently imported from Australia and New Zealand in the late 1980s. This foundation was expanded with the influence of the Spanish meat goats common in the Desert Southwest and carefully selected for quality fiber.

Because of this mixed background, the American Cashmere population is not typically considered a true breed. However, it is a distinct type from the other goats found in North America, being uniquely suited to the production of soft, fine fiber. Both the Cashmere goat and the cashmere industry are new to the United States with a future yet to be determined, but they show great promise for niche marketers.

 

CashmereUses

The primary use of the Cashmere goat is the production of the prized cashmere fiber. This comes from the goat’s soft undercoat and can be obtained either by shearing or by combing as the goat sheds. White fiber is preferred commercially, but there is a growing niche market for colored fiber for hand spinning.

Thanks to their relation to Spanish meat goats, Cashmere goats in America can also be raised for meat. This option is primarily pursued as a way of adding value to animals culled for low-quality fiber.

And, of course, the weed-eating abilities of these goats should not be overlooked, either.

 

Temperament

The Cashmere goat, being a close relative of feral goats, tends to be keen and wary and may resist human handling. However, it is otherwise quite calm and manageable, not displaying the fence-jumping tendencies seen in many other breeds. Practically speaking, this means that any fence sufficient for sheep will contain a Cashmere goat.

Also in keeping with its feral background, the Cashmere doe bonds with her kids quite readily and makes a good mother.

 

CashmereHealth

The Cashmere goat is very healthy and requires only basic common-sense care to stay in good condition. As a matter of fact, the more naturally this type of goat is raised, the better the quality of its fleece. So let it browse to its heart’s content—it doesn’t need special feed, it just needs to be allowed to be a goat.

Likewise, the Cashmere goat does not need to live in a tight barn. A simple field shelter is quite sufficient. Note, however, that some shelter is definitely required. Cashmere goats need to be able to get out of the rain to stay healthy, avoiding hoof problems and internal parasites. A shelter will also protect very young kids from cold winds.

Cashmere goats are traditionally not dehorned. Not only do their horns provide a good grip for ease of handling, they may play a role in heat dissipation in the summer.

 

Pros

  • Respect of good fences.
  • Ability to survive with minimal shelter.
  • Ability to thrive entirely on natural forage.
  • Adaptability to most climates.
  • Hardiness.
  • Fertility.
  • Exceptional kidding ease.
  • Good mothering ability.
  • High-value fiber.
  • Warmth, comfort, and durability of fiber.
  • Rapid weight gain.

 

CashmereCons

  • Dislike of being handled.
  • Tendency to shed valuable undercoat.
7 Cold-Weather Country Living Projects
The Lifestyle

7 Cold-Weather Country Living Projects

7 Cold-Weather Country Living ProjectsLooking for something to do indoors on those cold, cloudy days of winter? Put that time to good use with one of these projects:

  1. Set goals for the new year. And schedule time to work on them. When pursuing an objective that requires a long-term commitment, writing down your goal is the first step to making it happen. Planning time into your day for zeroing in on that goal is the second step.
  2. Research a new enterprise. Get a head start on that new project you were contemplating and do some research. Winter is a great time for reading, making notes, calculating budgets, and laying plans.
  3. Plan a garden. Don’t waste a minute of the growing season! By preparing for spring gardening now, you will give yourself plenty of time to create a planting schedule, purchase seeds, and start vegetables indoors.
  4. Learn a new craft or skill. Many crafts typically considered hobbies can be enjoyed for their own sake, but they can often be put to practical use, as well. Hand-knit scarves for the family will be greatly appreciated during winter chores. Original art can be sold for extra income. Woodworking can be useful in hundreds of ways around both the farm and the house.
  5. Overhaul your web content. Are your links (both internal and external) still functional? Is your more timeless content still up to date? Is your about page still relevant? Are there tweaks you could make to your design or taxonomy to make your content easier to find?
  6. Start a reading challenge. Is the weather outside frightful? Sit down with a good book. Taking up a reading challenge is a good way to stretch yourself by reading about topics you might otherwise have overlooked, thus expanding your knowledge base.
  7. Write a book. While you’re reading broadly and acquiring new knowledge, take some time to put your own knowledge into a form that others can benefit from. Research, writing, and editing all take time—what better time than when the outdoor chores have let up a bit?
Angora
The Farm

Angora

AngoraThe Angora comes to us from the Himalayas of Asia Minor. Its origins are so ancient that the details have been lost altogether. It is believed to be a direct descendant of some species of wild goat, perhaps the Persian bezoar or perhaps the markhor, famous for its twisted horns. Read More

Get Ready for December 2016
The Lifestyle

Get Ready for December 2016

Get Ready for December 2016Christmas will be here before you know it! Prepare tasty treats and heartfelt gifts from your own homegrown offerings, and snuggle up on the couch for a little storytelling.

  1. Retell the story of Sod Corn Jones.
  2. Read Scripture passages about the meaning of Christmas.
  3. Make a sweet potato beetle.
  4. Encourage your child to start an EcoJournal.
  5. Give a weather diary this Christmas.
  6. Create homemade gifts from the heart.
  7. Cook up some stovetop apples.
  8. Put a sweet potato casserole on the table.
  9. Visit the Christmas City of the High Plains.
  10. Check out our favorite posts from 2013, 2014, and 2015.
The World of Little House
The Sunflower State

The World of Little House

The World of Little HouseWhat child doesn’t love Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books? Now they can see firsthand what it might have been like to live in Laura’s time!

The World of Little House by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christine Wyss Eriksson introduces the people and places of the Little House series in a fun, child-friendly format.

After a biography of Laura, each chapter begins with an introduction to a little house that she lived in and a description of her daily life there. Then comes an explanation of the historical objects and events that shaped her experience, such as covered wagons or railroad construction.

Next are activities that children can try out:

  • Stitching nine-patch quilt squares.
  • Making homemade butter.
  • Pulling molasses candy
  • Creating thimble pictures.
  • Making an autograph book.
  • Replicating Mary’s beaded bracelet.
  • And many more!

Once young readers have enjoyed imitating aspects of pioneer life, they can look at an excellent timeline to see how Laura’s life fits into the broader context of history. Wrapping things up is contact information for the various places that Laura lived, many of which have been restored and converted into museums.

A fun and informative book for young Little House fans.

Get Ready for June 2016
The Lifestyle

Get Ready for June 2016

Get Ready for June 2016June is just around the corner. Take some time to sharpen your knowledge of farming, music, crafts, and history.

  1. Find out how glyphosate-resistant crops work.
  2. Brush up on your mandolin technique.
  3. Teach your kids how to knit on those rainy days.
  4. Discover the story of the Stetson hat.
  5. Make a strawberry shortcake.
  6. Collect five things every beginning charcoal artist needs.
  7. Consider what caused the Dust Bowl.
  8. Learn to play 10 essential bluegrass songs.
  9. Start working on your life list.
  10. Add some recommended remedies to your farm first aid kit.
5 Homemade Gifts from the Farm
The Skills

5 Homemade Gifts From the Farm

5 Homemade Gifts from the FarmThere’s nothing like a homemade gift to warm someone’s heart at Christmas.  The time and love put into a handcrafted present make it special.

If you enjoy country living, you have an excellent opportunity to make and grow gifts that will touch others.  Need some inspiration?  Consider these ideas:

  1. Heirloom seeds.  If you raise and save seeds from heirloom plants, why not share that favorite variety with a gardening relative?
  2. Live plants.  Some of your family members might enjoy a sample of a perennial plant to grow.  Perhaps you can share a productive and hardy variety of berry, or maybe an herb in a pot.
  3. Herbal concoctions.  Many people have an interest in herbs, even if they don’t necessarily grow them.  Delight someone this Christmas with dried herbs for cooking or making tea.
  4. Kitchen treats.  Are you good at baking homemade bread?  Is your jelly a favorite?  Share some of that down-home goodness with friends and family this year.
  5. Country crafts.  Put your skills to work creating something for that special someone.  Build a birdhouse; knit a scarf; paint a rural scene.  The sky is the limit!

 

Helpful Resources

Stocking Up
Consider some of these ways to share your produce this Christmas.  Read our full review.

Kids Knitting
Children will enjoy making these projects as much as friends and family will enjoy receiving them!  Read our full review.

HomeMadeHomeMade
Looking for something useful to build?  This book might provide some inspiration.  Read our full review.

Homemade Cards
Don’t buy a card this Christmas—make one!  Read our full review.

Homemade Cards
The Skills

Homemade Cards

Homemade CardsLooking for a way to say it just right to that special friend or loved one?  Don’t buy a card—make one!

Both adults and young people can enjoy making their own greeting cards, and Homemade Cards by Charlene Kennell offers great tips and inspirations:

  • How to find useful but inexpensive supplies.
  • How to use the elements of card design to advantage.
  • How to add special embellishments that will make each card unique.
  • How to choose a message that will touch someone’s heart.
  • How to make envelopes that will fit unconventional cards.

Along the way you will find examples, illustrations, and patterns galore to get you thinking out of the box.

Great for those who love homemade crafts, and also an excellent choice for creative children.  A little booklet, but a good one!

4 Uses for Fresh Cucumbers...and a Bonus
The Lifestyle

4 Uses for Fresh Cucumbers…and a Bonus

4 Uses for Fresh Cucumbers...and a BonusYes, we all know that cucumbers were made for pickling.  But not all of us want to go to that much time and trouble.  We’d rather enjoy a nice, fresh cucumber straight from the garden.

Please note that not all cucumbers are suitable for eating fresh.  Some varieties are bred specifically for pickling, and they are too bitter to be a pleasant experience for most.  If you want to enjoy fresh cucumbers straight out of the garden, be sure to raise a “slicing” or “burpless” variety.

So what can you do with a fresh slicing cucumber?

  1. Top a salad.
  2. Garnish a sandwich.
  3. Cut and dip.  Peel the cucumber, cut it into sticks, and serve with veggie dip.  You can easily make your own dip by combining equal parts of mayo and sour cream, and then adding salt, pepper, minced onion, garlic powder, and either dill seed or salad dressing to taste.  Whisk thoroughly to combine.
  4. Make cucumber salad.  Slice and toss with chopped onions, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and a little bit of salad dressing.

Sometimes the simplest uses of a fresh cucumber are the best.

4 Uses for Frehs Cucumbers...and a BonusAnd now a word of advice on using those really big cucumbers, the ones that hid under the leaves and grew to be three times their proper size.  You could feed them to the chickens, but why not try getting some use out of them instead?

Take your clean and dry, but oversized, cucumber and glue on a pair of googly eyes, a pompom for a nose, and a craft foam mouth and tooth.

Voila!  Larry the Cucumber!

7 Unique Fiber Animals
The Farm

7 Unique Fiber Animals

7 Unique Fiber Animals

Alpaca fiber

We all know that sheep are raised for wool. But sheep are not the limit when it comes to producing fiber.

Some of the alternative fibers you have probably heard of, such as cashmere and angora wool. Others may come as a bit of a surprise….

  1. Bison
    Bison hair can be difficult to work with, but those who have taken the time and trouble to spin it have loved the results. A bison has five kinds of hair: four types of guard hair in various thicknesses and lengths, and then the soft undercoat. The outer hairs can be used to make ropes, but only the undercoat is used for spinning. Once the bison is sheared or brushed and the hair is sorted, the undercoat is typically mixed with longer fibers such as wool or alpaca hair to make it easier to handle. The resulting yarn is durable, but incredibly soft.
  2. Cattle
    Of course, you can’t just spin fiber from any old cow that comes your way. The Highland is the only breed in America that really lends itself to making yarn. Unlike sheep, Highland cattle are typically brushed out, not sheared. This separates the fluffy undercoat from the shaggy outer hair and relieves the animal of its heavy blanket in warm weather. The resulting fiber can be difficult to work with, but makes durable yarn.
  3. Llamas
    Different llamas have different types of coats. Some are hairy, some are woolly, and some are silky. In general, however, llama fiber is lighter and warmer than sheep’s wool. The llama can be shorn, clipped, or brushed. Shearing can be difficult, and it takes a llama two years to grow its hair back. Clipping is easier than brushing, but leaves more of the undesirable guard hairs in the fiber. Brushing is time-consuming, but usually results in high-quality yarn.
  4. Alpacas
    Alpaca fiber is a favorite with hand-spinners because it is soft, attractive, and easy to work with. Unlike wool, alpaca fiber is hypoallergenic and free of grease, making the cleaning process much simpler. Alpacas also have an advantage over llamas because they do not have thick guard hairs to sort before spinning.
  5. Goats
    Different breeds of goats produce different types of fiber. The Angora goat produces mohair—a long, curly fiber prized for its luster. The Cashmere produces softer, downier fiber, not quite as durable as mohair. The Pygora is a cross between the curly-haired Angora and the downy Pygmy Goat. The result is a soft, curly, lustrous fiber. Angora goats are typically shorn and Cashmere goats brushed, while Pygora fiber can be collected either way.
  6. Dogs
    The farm guard dog can earn his keep in more ways than one! The key is that he must be a double-coated breed because only the undercoat is collected and spun. The undercoat must also be at least 2 inches long and fairly clean. The result is an incredibly soft and warm yarn, often used to make keepsake sweaters which pet owners cherish. Dog hair can be collected during regular brushing sessions.
  7. Rabbits
    Angora rabbits produce an exceptionally clean, soft wool when properly cared for. Unfortunately, this very softness can make it difficult for beginners to spin the fiber into yarn. Combining Angora wool with sheep wool can make the fiber easier to handle and give it a little more durability. Rabbit fiber is collected either by brushing or hand plucking.

 

7 Unique Fiber Animals

Angora rabbits

You don’t have to raise sheep to spin or sell your own fiber. Many of the fibers listed above are specialty items, making them suitable only for small niches, but they can provide interesting streams of income if you love working with animals and yarn.