Friday, September 15, 2006

There's More Than One Way to Skin A Cat

At least that's what they say.

Fourtunately for me, I have never had to test that theory as the method I use has always worked well for me.

Kidding. I'm kidding.

Not funny? Well, let's move on then.

Anyway, the reason I start off with that age old axiom is that I am guessing the saying has it's roots somewhere in reality - most likely Asian cuisine. (Ah, young must first know the mind of the feline.)

Which gives me reason to hope. For if there is more than one way to skin a cat, it stands to reason that there must also be more than one way to shear a goat.

Because if the way I used is the only way...well...

...anyone want to buy an angora goat?


Ok, fine.

So, you might ask, "What is the method you used?"

Well, I guess technically speaking, it's called the Figure 4 Leg Lock.

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(I would be the one in yellow.)

So, on one of the past bright suuny days - you know, the one where you might have been having a picnic or enjoying a nice hike in the woods or something - I was splayed out on a tarp with a black kid goat and a pair of scissors.

Yes, I said scissors.

Why didn't I use electric shears? Oh, like the ones they use at the county fair during the sheep shearing demonstration?

That's easy. $300.

Any other smart-aleky questions?

Three hours, if you must know.

Yes, it was woman against goat, on the mat for three hours straight. On the bright side, there were only three pooping incidents. I will not divulge the score on that.


In the end, it all turned out fine. The goat - by the way, her name is Rhubarb - was happy to be rid of her dense coat. I was happy to have a nice, black kid mohair fleece which, I am told, is highly prized by handspinners. And my chiropractor is very happy as I will be putting her child through college this year.

See? Everyone is happy.

So then what?

Well, according to internet sources (translated: because I have no idea what I am doing ), the next thing is to try to rid the fleece of vegetation. You know, stick, leaves, trees... So I spent the next 6 years picking through the fleece.

Let me pause here for a bit of advice to prospective goat owners. Clearing brush = meat goats. Mowing lawn = fleece goats.

moving right along...

After the fleece has been cleaned of vegetative matter (fiber craft lingo), you can either wash it yourself or bring it to a mill where they will wash and then process it to whatever state you wish. Not state as in New Jersey or Schuylkill County. State as in roving, batts, or yarn - all lingo of the fiber craft which I am still kind of learning so I will not try to explain here.

I am still trying to find a mill in the general area (northeast US) that will take a small quantity. As it turns out, people actually do this for a living and tend to have many, many pounds of fiber to process. Who would have guessed? They must be the people who buy the electric shears. Or slaves. Or 4H kids.

Note to self: stop at the feedstore and ask where I can buy some 4H kids.

In the mean time, I decided I would try to wash a little bit myself and see what happened. The first thing you have to do is soak it in hot water for 30-60 minutes. Goats have a greasy coat and the first step is to release most of the grease.

Boy, did it ever. I had no idea how greasy it was.

Next, you start the soaking/washing process. You basically just let it sit in hot water with mild detergent for awhile, squeeze it out and then do it again. The internet sources all caution against agitating the fleece in the water OTHERWISE YOU WILL HAVE FELT!!!!!!!

Hello? What? Felt?

Like from grade school?


I still have no idea. Fortunately, I don't think I felted my fleece.

For a felted fleece forbids fortune from finicky fabric fanciers.

hee, hee, hee

Then you have to move somewhere where there is sun for at least two days in a row, like Arizona. Or, if you can't move out of Pennsylvania, take a screen out of your window, spread the fleece on it and rig it up over a dehumidifier. For 6 more years.

When it is was all done, I had a pile of black mohair that - and I'm not bragging here or anything - is some of the silkiest stuff I've ever felt.

Didn't felt.

I didn't felt it!

I've ever touched.

Man, you really have to watch what you say when you are a fiber producer.

And that, folks, is what I am. I am now a fiber producer. Because we are now on our way on to becoming a legitimate farm. I know - one goat, big deal - but if I may end this with another tidbit of ancient wisdom...

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Tru dat!

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nadzent said...

Oh my God! The goat is so cute! For some reason I remember it being grey, but then I only saw it once, and briefly.

Kudos for you on not felting your fleece. Are you going to spin it now?

My friends Melissa's family raises Alpacas and sells their fleece. They may have some ins to some mills...

Kelly said...

I love your goat. So cute. I need one to eat all the stuff that is growing in our rocks.

Maybe someday...a girl can dream.

Kate said...

Awww, too cute! And congrats on not felting the shearings.

anne said...

I think the goat you saw was Gyra - the goat featured in one of my posts last summer. This goat is the one we got this summer. I can't remember if you and Ernie were here this summer to see her...isn't that awful?

Anyway, the link you posted for Steam Valley Fiber Farm just so happens to be the farm where we bought Rhubarb! I just got to see the proprietor again this past weekend at a fiber festival. At the festival I bought a drop spindle for hand spinning and I just finished spinning my first ball of...well, it looks like twine but I guess it's yarn.

I don't think I'm quite ready for a spinning wheel yet but we'll see...

Kelly -
You and Rob need a goat! Maybe a little pygmy goat or something. You can find them easily enough and they will eat, eat, eat (and poop,poop,poop).

Kate -
Thanks for the congratulations. I'm pretty proud of myself considering I had NO clue what I was doing.

tony c said...

Not ba-aa-aa-ad.

Arkansawyer said...

Awesome! Great job... When you get all the details ironed out (don't iron... might get back to felting or something..)umm... when you get the details worked out, and you go through them a couple of times, you're going to turn this into a self-help book, or series, right?

D.B. Echo said...

I've alwayys read you as a smarter, funnier version of Erma Bombeck. Well, I should day "funny", since I never thought Erma Bombeck was that funny.