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~~*  Black Sheep Newsletter............Issue 126............Winter 2006  *~~


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THE HOMESTEAD: Red Headed Reborns; Cottage Industry Workings


The factory is humming with sound. What I refer to when I say "factory" is our cottage industry, a small fiber business out of our home that deals mostly with the fiber of our angora goats. We market that fiber in many forms, and it is especially during this part of the year, during the winter holiday season, that it feels most like a factory.splash dot!


We sell doll hair – long, lustrous mohair locks from the goats uncombed and uncarded. The locks of mohair are washed and dyed usually, and I dye them in an array of colors. It still amazes me when my "reborners" (customers who specialize in the art of reborning) send me photos of their work, tiny babies that look so lifelike that you can almost smell the baby talcum powder and hear the soft cooing sounds of an infant.splash dot!


Reborning doll

Created by Dream Babies

These reborning customers like mohair best for rooting hair into their lifelike doll heads. Sometimes these dolls are wearing bonnets or small knitted caps. Sometimes the little baby heads are nearly bald except for long strands of nearly straight dark "newborn hair" that has been so carefully rooted into the vinyl scalp of the doll. Always that baby head looks real!splash dot!


It is the holiday season again, the time when I most feel like an elf in Santa's workshop. Though I rarely wear my elven cloak and shun that long green cap with the bell on the end that the head honcho with the full white beard (no, not my husband Stan – I don't mean him) wants us all to wear, behind the scenes I feel no less an elf this time of year.splash dot!


Currently I'm dying mohair in a large canning pot – my dye pot - on the stove. The steam rises upward in white mists that fog up the windows of our factory. I'm using time tested "recipes" to make just the right shade of strawberry blonde, a color my doll hair customers seem to love. I add a dash of black and suddenly the vibrant color is muted, softened and darker. It is now ash blonde.splash dot!


Some of my doll customers prefer natural colored mohair from the goats of color that live in our barn. Those goats are our employees, the mainstay of this factory. If it were not for them, I think we'd have to rethink our business enterprise entirely.splash dot!


A few of my doll hair customers know my goats' names and ask specifically for their fleeces. One wrote me an e mail recently: "Is there a chance you have sheared another of B-1's fleece? Her fleece is perfect for my babies..."splash dot!


Reborning doll

B1's mohair on a reborn

This was early December that she'd written and we'd been experiencing windy, cold and blustery weather for weeks on end. I turned to Stan, Chief Executive on our Board of Directors.splash dot!


"I just can't see shearing B-1in this weather, honey, er, sir. What do you think?"splash dot!


Well, he agreed that with B-1 being in her second month of gestation, we'd have to hold off obtaining another lovely clip of mohair until we had a break in the weather. It would be too hard on the goat and perhaps, especially, on the precious "cargo" that she was carrying.splash dot!


Afterall, these goats are the employees of this factory – and one must keep their employees happy if one expects to keep them around for very long. I had to turn down my customer's request for B-1's doll hair. "As soon as we get a spell of warmer weather – which can easily happen in southern Oregon's Cascades – I'll let you know," I had to type my letter to her. "Please do," she responded, "B-1's hair is the best!"splash dot!


angora goat

"Cinnamon Girl "

Stan named her "B-1" because she was born a twin out of Bubba that year that now seems so long ago. "B-1 and B-2", he christened them once Bubba had delivered her twin girls and had begun nursing them.splash dot!


As B-1 grew, I began to call her "Cinnamon Girl" because of her color which was akin to the color of the spice, a deep rust red. As she grew to adulthood, the goat's fleece never lost its vibrant color. (It's rather rare for a colored angora goat to keep color like that, fading being rather common amongst the "red" goats.)splash dot!


Her sire had been Coon Hollow's Zebulun, the first colored angora goat we had ever purchased. His fleece, too, held vibrant color, even when he grew up to be an adult. Jet black in color, Zebulun, our first "goat of color" grew quickly, until he was nearly as large as any dairy breed goat I'd ever seen.splash dot!


I still recall how he strutted through the buck yard with an air of regal aplomb, the horns on him spiraling out 22 inches from base to tip on either side of his massive head. He'd lower his head and show his horn set to any buck that gave him a hard time. He was the king and breeding season around here always included the sounds from his pen. Massive wood posts set deep into Oregon ground were shaken and 4 x 4s snapped like matchsticks when Zebulun was denied breeding rights. Does in heat always ran to his side of the goat yard and we could hardly persuade them to take a second look at some of the finer fleeced bucks on the place.splash dot!


Well, old king Zebulun definitely made his mark here, and it finally came the time for him to go the way of all good goats. As time progressed, however, we selected some of his best progeny and kept his bloodline going.splash dot!


Both of his daughters, B-1 and B-2, have a fan club when it comes to doll hair customers, and I can definitely be thankful that we had Zebulun's genes to work with, for I'm certain that the depth of color found in B-1, the deep cinnamon red that just won't quit, is due to his influence.splash dot!


Sounds from the Factory

So, even as I stated in the first part of this column, I'm here in what feels to be "Santa's Workshop" these days, much like an elf, hard at work with this mohair that our employees produce. The gentle sounds of "swish" and then "thump" as the beater bar on the loom swings forward along the mohair warp is echoed with another resounding "thump" as I gently beat the weft once again for good measure.splash dot!


Meanwhile, the little timer in the kitchen suddenly gives off a "bing – bing – bing" and I know it is a signal for me to check my dye pot. The doll hair customer has asked for "Soft Baby Brown" - a favorite color I discovered on my own, my hands stirring the pot and adding little bits of this dye and then a pinch of that, like the hands of an alchemist. It's a color I have learned to dye just right and I receive requests over and over for it.splash dot!


After I complete this writing, I'll remove that second woven piece from my loom. It's been woven 2 ½ x 10 feet, all homespun white mohair. The piece 5 x 10 feet was taken from the loom weeks ago. It sits folded at the foot of our log bed. One more 2 ½ x 10 foot section of weaving must be completed. Then I'll be hand seaming the three woven pieces, making one giant bedspread to be shipped to my customer.splash dot!


She, my customer, seems to have the patience of Job. I began to spin the yarns for this bedspread in early June 2005 and here it is already nearing the end of December. How the time does fly and how slowly my shuttle seemed to as summer fell into autumn and autumn then into winter.splash dot!


My customer is wonderful and tells me not to rush along nor feel that there is any kind of deadline, but now that I'm ¾ of the way to finishing my project – I make the completion of this king sized bedspread a priority. Everything else is on the back burner (and that includes the dye pots!)splash dot!


Sounds from the Employees

I hear snorting through the intercom that's been stationed in the barn and connects to our bedroom. It's a loud, quick, continual noise, the sound of goats blowing air from their noses. The sound of bucks in rut, it grabs my attention. Late autumn, a week before Christmas, and we still have got does coming into heat.splash dot!


The intercom tells us that one of our female employees must be in heat. The two yearling bucks who are doing all the snorting are penned inside their enclosure and have begunin earnest making sure the doe will not ignore them. They now begin to ram stout horns on the wood struts that surround them. Those two employees always alert us when a doe cycles in.splash dot!


Poor little guys. Of course those young bucks won't be considered (yet) for that duty. The breeding belongs to one of the older bucks and I don't know who yet – not until I see which doe is in heat. This year I'm using the new registered white buck, Roz, to upgrade some of the colored does. If it's the black doe, Silverada, for instance, Roz will be brought out from the buck pen into the "honeymoon suite" to be paired with her.splash dot!


It's all a cacophony of sounds now streaming from the speaker in our bedroom. Two livestock guardian dogs sound their alarm (they don't like it when goats bash their horns against their pen), goats bleat and bucks snort.splash dot!


I'd better get up there to the employees' lounge and find out which doe is the cause of all the commotion. Coffee break is over, girls. Let's make some more mohair...we've got customers waiting. Seasons' Bleatings to all of you, and to all a good night.splash dot!



This morning Stan calculated the amount of single-ply mohair yarn that I have spun up for the entire 10' x 10' bedspread. His tally is 21,500 linear feet of mohair yarn; 18,000 feet of it was for the warp. This single-ply yarn I speak of was later plied. The rest of the yarn was for the weft. I looked at his calculations with astonishment. That means that the bedspread contains approximately 7,000 yards of yarn, or if we must carry it one step further, it contains a little over four miles of hand spun yarn! No wonder I have felt at times that I've been spinning my wheels.splash dot!


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Alexandra Scribe
Homestead Home


Stanley & Alexandra Petrowski
34620 Tiller Trail Hwy.
Tiller, Oregon 97484