Senior Project

Its senior year, and part of that, beside freaking out is creating a senior project. For me that obviously has to include my goats Nymeria and Summer. I decided that the best way to do this was to breed Nymeria so she would produce milk for me, and in the process I would hopefully understand the deep connection between humans and goats.

Meet the project

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Nymeria and Summer where born March 10th 2014 as part of The Dairy Project.  I raised them as bottle babies, so from the start I have had a strong connection with them.  There is somthing magical about being part of a herd, even if its a small one.

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Summer and I cuddling


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Saying Goodbye

Last year I had to say goodbye to Rue and Odin. They were my first ever goats, and it was heart breaking to say goodbye to them.  It’s not all bad, because they now live on a wonderful sanctuary farm in PA, where they can be as cranky as they want to be without getting in trouble.  I will always be grateful to them for teaching me, and staying in their fence.  They will be missed, and they will always be loved.

Rue on the left Odin on the Right
Rue on the left Odin on the Right
Rue and odin helping students put up the hoop house
Rue and Odin helping students put up the hoop house
Odin on his way home
Odin on his way home
Rue and Odin
Rue and Odin

Over the years I worked on training Rue and Odin to become pack goats.

taking everyone out for a walk
taking everyone out for a walk

Besides packing I was also training Rue to pull a cart, he was great at it.

Rue and his cart
Rue and his cart
Rue and Odin in thier new home, with a new friend
Rue and Odin in thier new home, with a new friend
What a beautiful photo of Rue in his new home
What a beautiful photo of Rue in his new home

A Sweater from Scratch

Knitting a sweater has to be one of the greatest achievements that a knitter can do (asides from crazy lace things).  It’s what many people aim for when they first start out..”I want to be able to knit a sweater’

In my 13 years of knitting I have done maybe 3 sweaters 2 were piece sweaters, and 1 from the top down.  They were all very simple patterns, nothing fancy.  This time I wanted to test myself by knitting a cable sweater out of the yarn that I processed and spun from the fleece.

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Hand Spun

In my light research for a sweater pattern, a fellow student lent me this wonderful book called Aran Knitting by Alice Starmore.  This book was such a great help and a must for the knitter’s library. There is a brief history explaining Aran knitting, and all sorts of cable patterns, that lead to full sweater patterns.

Aran is an island that is a part of Ireland, the sweater patterns are distinct to that region, but  when they came about is questionable.  Some say that the patterns are as old as time and were passed down through generations in order to help identify any of the men lost at sea. Others say that the sweater patterns we see today started in the 20th century, and anything before that came from a Scottish pattern known as a Scottish Gansey.

In order to start this sweater I needed to pick out what cables I wanted in it, and where they would go on my sweater.  (I chose to do a plain top-down sweater instead of one in the book).  To do this i looked through the patterns in the book, and made swatches of the cables that I liked.photo-2 copy

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Hand Spun

Once that was done I sketched out my sweater design.  photo-5 copy

And finally once I started knitting I sketched out how the cables would work with my pattern.  When making a cable sweater using a plain sweater pattern, you have to remember that the cables take up inches so knitting a large womans sweater is really about a small, this was also due to the fact that I used smaller needles than required. (very upsetting, but I was already half way done, so no going back).photo-6 copyIt turned out that the cable with the blueberry stich, didn’t translate to my hand spun yarn, so I had to use another, but it worked out really well.

To date the sweater is half done, just a little more to do on the body, then its on to the sleeves

The Dairy Project

It has been a year since I bought and sold Salina, a sable Saanen Alpine cross doe.  She came form The Beekman 1802 farm in New York State.  Along with two other goats, they were to be a project conducted by myself and two other students.  We had a very rough set up for milking our goats, but we made it work.  The goats were milked on top of a turned over water troth, without a head stand. We had a leash tied to a post, where they were secured and we gave them a bucket full of second cut hay to eat while we milked them.

Photos by Ileana Montalvo form Loisaida Nest

Dara trying to eat my hat
Dara trying to eat my hat

No head stall, meant that Dara would try and eat your hair, or if she wa feeling nice give you kisses.

Milking started at 5:30 or 6:30am. If we were early enough we could miss running into students doing  farm chores. As a two person team, we would take turns milking, I would do one day and T would do the other.

Walking to the Barn 5:30am (April in Vermont)
Walking to the Barn 5:30am
(April in Vermont)
Milking Salina
Milking Salina

After milking the goats, we would walk with the buckets of milk to Houston House. This is one of the dorms at Sterling College that used to be a bed and breakfast, so they have a walk-in fridge and a sink system that makes it easy to clean buckets.

Straining the milk into Jars
Straining the milk into Jars
Milk in the Fridg
Milk in the Fridge
Prepping the Nipple bucket for the kids
Prepping the Nipple bucket for the kids
All the baby goats drinking from the nipple bucket.
All the baby goats drinking from the nipple bucket.

Birth

No matter how many books, or blogs you read, videos you watch, or people that you talk to,  you don’t know what birth is like until its witnessed first hand.  There are so many things to worry about like milk fever and ketosis, and when it starts to happen is the baby facing the right way.  All the diseases that I learned about in Animal Science class that week were running through my head, and I was convinced that all the kids had white muscle disease.  This is when a baby is born and they look healthy, but they can’t get up.  This happens because of a deficiency in selenium.  I was absolutely terrified, good thing everything turned out great.  Two beautiful healthy kids, one boy and one girl. The birth was quick, easy and fairly quiet, nothing to worry about, but at the same time I think I lost ten years from my life from stress.