Avalon Springs Farm, Mount Airy, Maryland–Karen Schlossberg
Our farm is Avalon Springs Farm; we are a very tiny farm in Mount Airy, Maryland. We have mainly colored Angora goats, but we also have some chickens, alpacas, a guard llama, and of course dogs and cats. Our family does everything on the farm, and Karen is the indie fiber artist that produces all the fiber products.
Karen got started raising Angora goats in 1997. She started with four wethered males. She absolutely fell in love with the beautiful fiber and their gentle personalities. At the time Karen was a public school art teacher and was taking some classes at the Maryland Extension facility in Frederick in small farming projects. The goats seemed like a perfect match. They were possible to do on a small piece of land and the product they produced had an artistic application. Karen’s background in art was in painting and ceramics. What she didn’t realize at the time, but became a hugely fulfilling part of her career since, was that fiber art was the perfect combination of her interests in color and texture as an artist.
As our family grew, we found it so valuable and special that our children were raised around these beautiful goats. The kids and the kids were great together! Our children learned about earth science, biology and farming, business and art, but also about being attached to and responsible for the goats. It has meant a lot to us as a family.
Our farm does sustain itself from the goats, but it has become a full time occupation and passion for Karen. Today Avalon Springs Farm produces a lot of yarn, roving, fleeces, felt, knit kits, patterns, and some finished goods.
Some things we have learned along the way:
-Mother Nature keeps her own and your schedule.
-One of the greatest stress reducers is a kiss from a goat!
-When you want to go outside the least because it is too hot or too icy cold is when you are needed the most.
-The blending of art and nature provides a lot of happiness.
You can find out more about us on the web: Avalon Springs Farm.com or social media Facebook and Instagram or visit us at shows or come see our booth at the local art co-op in Mount Airy, MD (Moxley’s on Main Street). We just love to talk goats and yarn!
We started out with a red doe and a black wether from Spruce Hill Fiber Farm six and a half years ago. I later bought out their herd of white goats and that gave me my start.
We have four colored angora does and a colored buck. My husband has a Nubian wether who he planned to use as a cart goat but he has pulled exactly zero carts. My herd of registered whites is supposed to be around 25 but I’m currently closer to 50. I think we all know how that is! I have a partnership with Clay Kneese in Texas where I buy goats from him and bring them up north to sell so my numbers fluctuate a lot depending on the time of the year. We also have a kuvasz livestock guardian dog who doesn’t guard livestock, a German shepherd, and a Bernese mountain dog. We have two Maine coon cats, and a turtle.
When my son was younger, he wanted something he could milk. He has high functioning autism and I knew he wouldn’t actually milk a cow twice a day so I said he could get a goat. Not a dairy goat though, that would be the same problem. When I was 10 years old, my childhood mentor brought some Angoras up from Texas and I fell in love with them. So, I told him he could get Angora goats. That way if he ever wanted to milk he could, but the doe wouldn’t be uncomfortable if he didn’t (He has never milked one of his goats to this day). We were having so much fun together getting the goats ready for the county fair that I wanted to get some of my own and show alongside of him. He ended up taking over my first goat and showing her too! Now both of us show, but he does the county fair and I do the fiber festivals.
I love that in early summer here in Ohio, there is a time when the goats just bloom. The weather is finally consistently nice and they are out on pasture and suddenly you look outside and the goats all just look great. I love spending the evenings outside during that time just watching them graze and interact. They are so peaceful and calming; it’s good for the soul. Usually we are outside from after dinner until dark, just sitting in lawn chairs watching the goats be goats. I also love traveling the country going to goat shows. I’ve seen parts of the country I never would have seen, and I get to meet up with friends that I only see once or twice a year. It’s great to get outside perspectives on my goats from the judges and from my friends, and I love seeing what others are producing as well and where I need to improve.
I have learned that it’s a lot easier to prevent problems than to cure them. In that vein, we all go through rough patches and we can just do our best with the information we have at the time. Hopefully, there is something we can learn so we don’t have to repeat the hard lessons. I’m still learning to not beat myself up for things out of my control or times when my best just might not have been good enough. I’ve learned to take the advice of those who have been doing this a lot longer than I have and are successful. I’ve learned to seek out the people that are successful and actively learn from them.
Catawampus Farm in Minot, Maine–Janet Beardsley
My grandmother and great grandmother were both fiber artists. The hooked rugs they created, with hand-dyed wools, are pieces of art. The back of their rugs show as perfect a picture or pattern as the front, and most of the designs they created themselves. My mother’s artistry runs more to drawing and painting, although she has knitted off and on throughout her life. They all loved to garden and filled their yards with a tapestry of flowers, shrubs, and fresh vegetables. It’s been a few generations since anyone in the family raised animals (other than dogs), but the creativity and nurturing/growing traditions were passed down.
In school, I trained as a scientist. I did not think the creativity was part of my genetics. But I did have extensive flower gardens, even in rental properties, and spent winters planning their expansion. It was not until I was in my late 30s that the fiber addict in me awoke. We had moved from Vermont to Maine, and I attended the Common Ground Fair for the first time. Walking through the locally farmed fiber vendors, I fell head over heels in love with yarn. I wandered through the booths, fondling skeins, and feeling envious of anyone who knew how to make something with these lovelies. I said to a knitting friend the next week, “That yarn at Common Ground was amazing, how much did you buy??? I would never have gotten to the rest of the fair, if I knew what to do with it!” She smiled and said, “We need to teach you how to knit…” And so, she did. The next year, I learned to spin from Pogo and Marcia at Friends Folly Farm, and happily came home from the Common Ground Fair with my first raw wool fleece. It was a beautiful Romney from Joe and Judy Miller, who later became mentors and friends in the World of Wool. I was hooked, and mohair/wool blends from our local Friend’s Folly Farm was one of my favorite fibers.
So, when our elderly Saanen wether, Kermit, lost his brother, the first Angora goat arrived on our new farm. She was an AAGBA doe named Neva, and I adored her. She and Kermit followed us around as we set up fences, and I sheared her beautiful fine mohair with our dog clippers. A CAGBA doe named Tawny and a few kids arrived the following year, and our herd began. A few years later, we added Jacob sheep.
Raising Angora goats in Maine requires planning for winter as we design structures and time our breedings. We have snug barns and fences that sometime disappear under snow banks. We added a “porch roof” off one end of the doe barn, so they can still get outside, despite the deep snow. But many winter days, everyone decides to stay inside. We usually kid in March or April, and still have to deal with the risk of hypothermia in newborn kids. I try to predict who will be next to labor, and the does stay in small “Mama Motel” kidding stalls with heat lamps as their due date approaches. When the does and their kids are reintroduced to the larger group, we have a warming box with a heat lamp in the main stall. Usually all of the kids are pig-piled in there together, which makes the does crazy, but the kids are very content. A kidding stall adjacent to the main stall converts into a kid creep, so the babies can eat grain and hay without competition.
Having been a midwife to humans for more than 20 years, I often remind new goat and sheep breeders that newborns first need to be warm, and then need calories. If a newborn is chilled, it cannot digest and all the tube feeding in the world is not going to help. One of the most important lambing/kidding pieces of equipment on our farm is the pellet stove in our kitchen. A chilled baby comes in, warms up, and then I syringe feed colostrum from mom until they perk up. I have a low threshold to syringe feed a little colostrum, while babies figure out nursing. If they use up all their newborn brown fat staying warm, they do not have the reserves to keep searching to nurse. I will not hesitate to hand milk and feed a kid in the first few hours, unless they are immediately latching on and eating vigorously.
Sometimes, we start our kidding season and Mother Nature has decided to let winter linger in Maine. If we still have single digit (or lower) temps, I postpone shearing the mother and opt for crutching (which we call a “bikini trim”). This keeps the hind end clean and the teats easily visible/accessible for the kids. Kids climbing all over their mothers will ruin the fleece, but I’d rather keep my girls warm and lactating freely than have them lose energy because they are cold. Mamas also need to be warm and well fed, especially in the last month of pregnancy and the first month of lactating. They are growing babies and mohair for us and need to have enough calories for both.
Later kidding means our babies are not weaned and ready for new homes as early, and they are often not as big as the other kids when we show then at Rhinebeck in October. But, as I look outside today we have lots of ice and snow, and probably many days and nights below zero to come. Although I am a little envious of other farms posting baby pictures in February, I am quite content to see growing bellies in my goat barn and not have cold stressed newborns (and goat farmers!) as we deal with the winter storms. So for now, I eagerly await warmer days and the arrival of our newest crop of kids. We have been adding new genetics, including does and bucks from: Kid Hollow, Kneese, Giant Cricket, Caravel, Buckwheat Bridge, and Ross. I can’t wait to see the results!
Mountainside Farm, Nelson County Virginia–Julie Burns
Greetings from Mountainside Farm, Nelson County, VA.
My name is Julie Burns and I started with angora goats back in the early 1980s after seeing a photo of an Angora goat and information at a booth of a hand spinner at the Crozet Arts and Crafts Fair. I was on the organizing committee for VAGMA (now EAGMA) as well as on the organizing committee for Fall Fiber Festival at Montpelier. I’m pleased both organizations are still going strong. Due to unforeseen circumstances I had to sell my Angoras in the mid-1990s and go to work at the University of Virginia. I recently retired and decided to get back into farming. I was able to buy some white registered Angora breeding stock from Peavine Hollow Farm and 2 colored Angora wethers from Kid Hollow Farm as well as a wonderful Karakachan livestock guardian dog named Yorgi (also from Kid Hollow).
I am enjoying the challenges of Angora goat farming. I love being able to get outside every day. I will strive to build a happy, healthy herd of great producers. I find the Angoras easy to care for and good for the land. I also hope to create some products with their beautiful mohair. And I am looking forward to meeting the EAGMA members and perhaps reconnecting with some members that I knew back in the eighties and early 90s.
The photo is of the latest addition born Sunday, April 22nd a doe kid now almost one week old.
We are Mea & Roman Stone and our farm is Stony Woods Farm, now located in McCormick, SC. We started farming in Texas when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2006. I am obsessed with our Angora goats and their intriguing colored genetics. The patterned goats are mesmerizing, as is getting the consistency between colors is one of the many things I am working on. I found solid goats are much more consistent then the patterned ones to reproduce. I shear my own goats and for the most part process their fiber. I then spin, crochet, weave and/or needle felt my own mohair and wouldn’t trade my life for anything.
Roman and I went to a show in Granbury, Tx and saw Lisa Shell and Deb Sharp pulling their screaming goats around the ring and I turned to Roman and said, “I can do that.” From that moment on, I was hooked. And with no prior farming experience we got our first 4 goats from them, two pregnant girls, a buck and a wether.
Lisa spent many hours on different occasions teaching me about the goats and the standards that we strive to achieve. More than anything, she taught me that everyone has their own priorities in regards to the traits that mean more to them. I also learned the importance of a good mentor. Today I try to help others who are thinking about venturing into raising Colored Angora goats.Estes Park is a goat show in Colorado and here we met the McCauls. This elderly couple showed up with these stunning goats and worked together to put all their goats into their pens and settle them in. Their beautiful wooden signs were hung with such care. I knew that they emulated what I wanted. Then two guys came walking by our pens and one said to the other, “Who did you sell those goats to?” I got so excited because I knew the goats came from a farm out west. One of them introduced himself as Allen and said those two goats were from their farm. I introduced them my doeling, Buffy, that their old red doe, Hutu, had given birth to before I got them, and was the product of two of their goats. When Buffy won her Junior Doeling class I ran up to Allen, gave him a big hug and said, “Congratulations, your baby goat won.”
A few years later, we traded goats and they took Rosalie home with them and we took Juliet home with us. Juliet has been a farm favorite ever since, and since that moment we have remained friends with Randy and Allen. Year-after-year we are inspired by the goats they produce.
When we moved our herd and our other animals from Texas to Iowa we learned to deal with totally new issues. Cold, freezing temps that last and last. The hot humid summers that caused parasite issues. We showed our colored Angora goats at the Iowa State Fair our first summer, but the show was a white show only. The judge said he loved our goats, but that they couldn’t win a white show, so we got a lot of seconds which I was thrilled with. The following year the show was an Angora Goat show and we showed on equal footing with the white goats. The following years CAGBA held two National Shows there.
We then moved everyone to our current location of South Carolina in 2014. Hopefully that will be the last farm move for us.
We have three Great Pyrenees, a donkey, lots of guineas and chickens, as well as five cats. By moving my goats to different states, I have learned that every area is different and what works for one farm will not necessarily work at another. For instance, South Carolina has parasite issues too; I believe everywhere does. It is just that some seasons last longer than others so the length of time the goats are susceptible to them varies. There is no rule book for raising Angora goats, and no one ever will be able to know everything. This is why working together, and getting together at show venues to discuss what we have learned and what has and hasn’t worked is so important.
Trinity Farms, Nokesville, Virginia–Deeann & Chris Ross
Trinity Farms is family owned and operated on 30 acres south of Mananass and approximately 40 miles southwest of Washington DC. Our mission is to offer a place for people to unwind, find peace, feel loved, and help organizations hold outreach events. We offer horse boarding, raw and dyed fiber for sale, Angora Goats, Angora and Jersey Woolie rabbits, Spinolution wheels, and coming soon–spinning and fiber events.
Deeann is one of the owners at Trinity Farms. Her passion is crafts and helping people. Just a few years ago she was invited to see the neighbor’s baby rabbits. They had super soft long hair. Inquiring what they were, she was told Angoras and that people make yarn from their fur and that it can be made into angora scarves and such. Deeann had never connected that angora sweaters started out as bunnies!! Zoe and Gizmo started out as pets and now we average 20 rabbits. Deeann started looking into angora and spinning. WOW, she had no idea how huge the fiber industry was, and was very sad that this industry had been a secret to her for years. She also had no idea how much she LOVES bunnies, fiber processing, and making yarn!!!
After going to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and meeting the Lawwills, goats were soon to follow the rabbits. Deeann’s part of the farm business is raising angora rabbits, processing fiber, selling bunnies for fiber, raising goats and Maremmas. She is also a dealer for Spinolution wheels because she fell in love with the wheels on her search to make spinning easier and wanted to be able to help others find a great wheel that works well for fine wool and art yarn. Since she has been teaching and doing crafts for many years the farm will be offering fiber arts classes.
Chris is married to Deeann, is retired Air Force but still works at the Pentagon. Having a full-time job as a professional government worker, he gets to come home and “unwind” doing farm maintenance and helping with the goats, chickens, and dogs. He has also enjoyed the fiber world and the great people it attracts.
We have had white angora goats for a year now. We jumped into this large ocean and just keep swimming and we aren’t what you call spring chickens. However, if we didn’t have bad luck we wouldn’t have had any luck at all. Our starter herd had three bucks and five does. Thankfully we were mentored by Kristina and Larry, but still had a crazy year. We learned what transport fever was, how to shear and then how to hire someone to do it (Tex is a big boy!!). We had a crash course on birthing goats–that was not a happy time and learned what pregnancy toxemia is the hard way, learned does can get pregnant in January, learned that all hay may not be good even if it looks good, learned that my goats are picky and had to try five different types of grain, learned that goats can be overfed, and finally learned about LGDs. Each season has brought new adventures in goat raising. We are about to repeat the end of summer and maybe this fall we will not feel so lost.
This start-up year with goats has been full of challenges, but meeting fiber people, setting up at festivals, dyeing and spinning have been what keeps us going. Deeann loves all things fiber, Chris loves the animals, fiber everywhere, not so much LOL !! The rest of the family helps when they are needed. Our oldest daughter manages the horse barn and is a huge help with animal care. Our light at the end of the hard 1st year was our surprise goat birth that DID NOT require our help.
Looking forward to what the next year brings this new fiber-loving farm.