Black Diamond Kits

Black Diamond Kits
Sage's Kits, Nine Weeks Old

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bed Socks

I started this post two months ago, but I couldn't publish it because the girls would have seen it, and would have seen what they were getting for Christmas.  I got the idea for making bed socks back in September, when we had a cold snap.  I got in bed one night, and I just couldn't go to sleep because even though the rest of my body was warm enough, my little piggies were about to freeze off.  But it was September, and putting an extra blanket on the bed would mean I was a wuss.  It would also have meant getting out of bed to find another blanket.  So instead I put on a pair of angora/merino socks I had knit the previous summer.  My toes were instantly warm and I was almost as instantly asleep.

I thought the girls might enjoy some angora bed socks this winter.  Now bed socks differ from regular socks in a couple of important ways.  They are knit with heavier yarn on larger needles, so the project goes a lot more quickly.   I used some angora fiber that had little mats and tangles, so the yarn wasn't uniform.  Bed socks are not meant to be worn with shoes.  With the mats and the looser knit, they would be really uncomfortable.

So I chose some merino dyed in a color I didn't like and spun it up.

Merino roving in a color I didn't like.
Angora fiber dyed first and then carded on a drum carder.
I spun and plied the two together.  They were a really ugly blend.

I then over-dyed the yarn with some leftover dye.  I liked this color much better.  

I cast on beginning at the toes so that I could use all of the yarn without worrying about using too much and running out for the next sock. 
Charlotte's socks.  I have not been able to figure out how to get this photo centered, but now as I type a longer caption, it is moving.  Weird.


I tried captioning the above photo as Lydia's socks, but every time I tried, the photo disappeared.  It's late, and I got tired of playing that game, so here is the photo without the caption. 

Anyway, each sock took about 80 yards of yarn.  I used US4 needles.  And to keep it a surprise, I had to guess as to whether I was getting the size right for each girl.  Lydia's were a perfect fit.  I have to re-do Charlotte's.  :(  Lydia has been wearing hers every night.  Charlotte is getting impatient for me to get moving on hers.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Sage's Kits--Seven Weeks Old

Sage's kits are now seven weeks old and Charlotte is ready to start accepting deposits.  There are five bucks and two does.  Both Sage and Muddy Buddy need to be registered as grand champions.  I better get that paperwork done.  Pictures and other info will be posted on the page "Kits for Sale."

Now, Back to the Rabbits--Litters of Phantom and Fudge

Phantom and Fudge kindled their litters on December 12.  Both were first-time mothers.  Phantom pulled plenty of wool for her litter of six.  Two were stillborn; four survive. 

There are two blacks, a chocolate, and what may turn out to be a sable.  They are now 17 days old.
Fudge was a first-timer like Phantom, but her maternal instinct did not kick in, unfortunately.  She did not pull any wool and kindled her kits all in the front of the nest box and did not cover them at all.  She did not clean them, either.  Lydia was gone for the day, and when I checked the kits, they all looked dead.  I quickly brought them inside.  Jared and I found three of the six still alive.  We cleaned and warmed them and hoped for the best.  One of the kits died about three hours later.  A second was just fine when Charlotte took them out for feeding, but was dead when she brought them back in fifteen minutes later.  We think Phantom may have stepped on him and broken his neck.  The last of the three died a week later, reasons unknown.  Lydia was heartbroken. 

Life Beyond the Blog

This post has nothing to do with bunnies.  It's merely to let those who follow our adventures here know what the heck happened to make me/us drop off the planet. 

All is well with the girls and their rabbits.  They continue to care for them without any hitches whatsoever.

However... life in my world has become a little stressed, and blogging about the rabbits had to take a back seat, and may continue to do so for a while.  Hopefully not too much longer.

Many of you know that my eldest son has been sick for some time.  He's been stumping doctors for a few years, and becoming steadily worse as the pain increases.  We got some lab results back last week.  It appears he is allergic/sensitive to wheat/gluten, milk, and eggs.  That has become something of a challenge for me as I try to prepare foods that he can eat.  And it has been devastating for him become he so loves milk and fresh bread.  Unfortunately, even as we have eliminated all forbidden foods from his diet, the pain continues to increase.  He spends his entire day in bed, because the pain diminishes a little if he is lying down.  He has another appointment on Monday, at which time we will discuss everything with his doctor again and then decide whether to try one more treatment option here, or try getting into the Mayo Clinic. 

Thank you for your patience with us.  I still try to check the email if any of you have questions about French angora rabbits.  If you have bought rabbits from us and have questions you would like to get answered quickly, it's probably best to give a call, as I often don't check the email until late at night.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


We sincerely apologize for not posting in over two weeks. 

We are still alive here.  All the bunnies are still alive and thriving as well. 

We've just been super busy with multiple family events.  And in addition, I have had multiple doctor appointments to take me oldest son to.  After nearly three years of illness, we think/hope we are figuring out what is wrong. 

Anyway, we hope to post updated pictures of the kits by Friday.

Thank you for your patience.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Kits, A Couple of Tips For New Breeders

Just after the doe kindles her litter, you will want to check the kits for a few things.  First, you want to ensure the kits were completely cleaned. If any were not, clean them with a warm washcloth or paper towel.  You also need to check the nest for any stillborn kits and remove them.  Finally, if the doe hasn't pulled enough wool you will want to cover them with angora fiber that you have set aside for this purpose. 

After kindling is probably the most critical time, but the time between ten and fourteen days is also very important.  The kits open their eyes around day 10.  If a kit does not open its eyes by day 12, it is probably due to nest box eye, a common ailment that can result in blindness if left untreated.  Nest box eye looks like a few grungies (in this house, "sleep" in other houses) around the eye.  These grungies are sealing the eye shut.  To treat this problem, dip a q-tip in warm water and gently swab around the eye several times a day until the problem resolves and the eyes open.  Nest box eye is generally not a problem in kits that have a clean nest box. 

The weaning process begins when the kits are about one month old.  This can be a difficult transition for the kits.  Indeed, some will not transition well, but you can help your kits.  This is a good time to start weighing the kits daily to make sure they are gaining weight.  If the kits stop gaining weight or are losing weight two days in a row, you might wish to supplement them with formula in a bottle.  Because this can be a difficult transition for their digestive systems, some kits may get messy bottoms.  You need to clean their bottoms to make sure there is no blockage.  That would be fatal.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Kits, Day 14

Well, here they are, crawling around and every once in a while there is a little attempt at a hop.

All of them have had their eyes open for two days now, but initially they were just little slits.  Now we can see the full eye.  And why is this important, you ask?  Well, eye color can help to conclusively determine the color of the rabbit.  And it was important in the case of this litter.  The two colors we were unsure of we can now say confidently are tortoiseshells. 

So in this litter there are two chocolates, one chocolate steel, one chocolate tortoiseshell (tort for short), two lilacs, and one lilac tort. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Kits, Day 13 (And Then There Were Seven)

So we had a little bit of sadness here this morning.  Charlotte went out to the bunny barn to take care of the morning tasks and check on the kits.  Unfortunately, one of the chocolate kits crawled out of the nest box sometime after the bedtime check last night.  He wasn't stiff yet, but even after half and hour of warming, we couldn't revive him.  While twenty degree temperatures are not too cold for angora rabbits or kits in a nest box, those temperatures are too cold for a kit alone outside the nest. 

Suffice to say, the kits will be sleeping indoors for another ten days or so.

They are definitely plumping up.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Kits, Day 12--Eyes Open

Sorry about no pictures for Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday we were at the show all day, and Sunday is the Sabbath.  I took pictures last week to post on Monday, but we were just busy yesterday.  Becky is getting ready to serve a mission in Houston, Texas, for the next 18 months.  She leaves Wednesday morning, and so we have been very busy with that.

Anyway, here are pictures for Day 12.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Kits, Day 9

We got back from our road trip pretty late, so we didn't post anything for Day 8.  To make up for this gross omission, we will post our first video ever.  This is Sage nursing some of her kits.

This is not normally how the nursing of kits occurs.  Normally, Sage will hop into the nest box once or twice a day.  However, Charlotte is concerned that Sage could be in the first stages of developing mastitis.  The early treatment for this is putting the kits onto the mother and getting them to nurse as much as possible.  So this is what Charlotte does a few times a day.  She sits on the floor with Sage belly up between her legs and then puts the kits on the most affected areas. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Kits, Day 7

Well, we're almost ready to leave on a quick road trip, so here's a quick couple of pics for today.

In the nest box, the kits will burrow deeper if they're cold.  If they're warm they'll spread out and kick the wool off. 

I put the library card in again for perspective.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Chow Time (Kits, Day 6)

Charlotte is a worrywart.  That's just all there is to it.

So she has been hovering all day over Sage and her kits, constantly checking to see whether Sage had fed the kits.  It doesn't matter that it is perfectly acceptable and normal for does to feed their kits only once per day.  Charlotte will not be happy unless they are fed twice per day. 

Anyway, Sage finally went in to feed her kits around 7:15 this evening.  Charlotte wasn't sure whether she had fed them.  They were still pretty jumpy.  But they were all wet, so that was a pretty good sign.  However, Charlotte thought Sage wasn't in the nest box long enough, so she wasn't happy about that. 

She brought Sage and the kits inside and we decided to put Sage upside down on Charlotte's lap and put the kits on top of her.  First time we've ever done that.  And Sage didn't seem to have a problem with it.  All of the kits chowed down.  Some finished up pretty quickly while others were insisting that they hadn't been fed in three days. 

It's now half an hour later and Charlotte is still examining Sage to be sure that all is well.  I'm telling her to tell Sage that it's a spa day and she should be grateful for the special treatment.  I think Sage is buying the story. 

Breeding Day

So we waited a few days after Sage kindled her kits, hoping Phantom and Fudge would do the same.


It was a real bummer.

But if at first you don't succeed....

So in between hours of sledding today (we got 12 inches of snow last night), Charlotte and Lydia bred their does again.

Phantom, a self-black, was paired with Coal, another self-black.  We anticipate lots of self-black kits.

Fudge, a self-chocolate, was paired with Ninja, another self-black.  We anticipate a wide variety of colors, mostly selfs and some REWs.

The kits are due December 12.

We're keeping our fingers crossed!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Kits, Days 4 and 5

We look at the kits and hold them several times a day.  And while we do see changes in color, I would swear that they are no bigger than they were at birth.

The colors are becoming a little more differentiated from one another.  Best guess right now is three chocolates, two lilacs, one chocolate sable, one lilac sable, and one chocolate steel.  Again, they're still guesses.

Day 4.  The camera was misbehaving; this is the best picture we got.

Day 5

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Kits, Day 3

I should have waited until after the kits received their evening feeding to take pictures, but that isn't for two more hours.  And I am really tired after a day of working in the garden cleaning up all the dead tomato plants.  (I would have cleaned them up last week before the storm had the weather service been a little more accurate.  The weather service forecasted a high of 46 degrees and 1/2 inch of rain.  What we got was a high of 33 degrees and five inches of snow.)

Jennifer asked us to post a picture  showing the kits next to a familiar object for perspective. 

The library card they are next to is the full size card (credit card size), not the keychain card.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Kits, Day 2

I thought maybe I'd post pics of the kits every day, at least for the first two weeks, so that you can see the changes and growth.  Unfortunately, it may be a little difficult for the changes to be visible through the camera and the 'net. 

The big change we noticed today is that three of the "chocolates" are not chocolate.  They are probably lilacs of some sort. 

The lilacs are the two lying horizontally on the top and the one on the bottom right.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Box of Chocolates

Well, it's a nest box of chocolates.  Not that you can see any in there, because they are all down deep in the hay and wool snuggled up with one another. 

Two hours old

Sage had eight beautiful, healthy kits at around 9:00 this morning.  All appear to be of a chocolatey color.  However, there are two with white bellies and chocolate bodies.  Maybe they are chocolate tortoiseshell, but we think those are supposed to have orange-y looking wool.  We're not quite sure--we've never had any tortoiseshells here before.  The rest of the chocolates should be either self-chocolate like their dad or chocolate steel like their mom. 

Nest Building

When we first started breeding our rabbits, Lydia and I would put the nesting boxes in seven to ten days before the does were due to kindle.  (We then learned that if a nesting box is put into the cage too early, the doe will use it as a litter box.)  I read in a book that if a rabbit builds her nest on the 18th day, that she is not pregnant--that it is a false pregnancy.  So I was sad when Snowball started building her nest on the 18th day.  We debated whether to just breed her again, but in the end we decided against it.

We were very glad that we had not tried to re-breed her when we found eleven kits in her nesting box.

We have found that Snowball will start building her nest as soon as the nesting box is put into her cage.  She is our over-achiever.

On the other hand, Tootsie and her daughter Sage were/are our multi-taskers.  (My mom wrote that they were/are slackers.  That was not nice.  At all.)  They basically build their nests while kindling their litters.  Seems a little amazing. (My mom said reckless.  That wasn't very nice, either.)


That's what it has been, waiting for new litters of kits to appear. 

We begin to wonder if there will even be any this time.  Maybe it got too warm for the bucks at one point (while angoras need something to cool them down when the temperatures rise above 85 degrees, bucks can become temporarily sterile when temperatures rise above 80 degrees), or maybe one of the bucks was too young (Winchester was just over four months at the time), or maybe they just didn't do it right. 

The girls don't palpate to check the doe for developing kits as that increases the risk for stillbirths.  So they have to rely on their observations of changes in the does' behavior. 

Phantom made a beautiful nest.  Sage did nothing out of the ordinary.  Fudge removed all the wool that Lydia had placed in her nest box. 

So far, only one of the three has kindled a litter.  (More on that in another post.)  I thought I would relax and be grateful that there was at least one litter.  Nope.  Still stressed.  And they aren't even my bunnies.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Breeding Pairs

Once we sold enough of our rabbits we were able to breed our does. 

Sage was paired with Muddy Buddy.  Both are grand champions (or will be as soon as we receive the paperwork back).  Sage has six legs; Muddy has four.  Sage is a chocolate steel and Muddy is a self-chocolate.  They should produce lots of chocolate babies.

Phantom was paired with Coal.  They have one leg each; furthermore, Coal's leg was a best of breed among sixteen rabbits in open competition.  So that is significant.  Both rabbits are self-blacks; however, we anticipate a wide range of colors.

And for the final couple, Fudge was paired with Winchester.  Each of them have one leg as well.  Fudge is a self-chocolate and Winchester is a self-blue.  And again, there should be quite the range of colors.

All three does and two of the bucks are first-timers.  We don't anticipate that all the does will kindle litters this time, but we are keeping a very close eye on them.  We've been checking hourly all day today.  Phantom built a nice nest.  Sage appears clueless.  And it looks like Fudge has a smaller nest in back.  Maybe she just wants a little more privacy. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Winter Preparations

Winter's cold temperatures don't bother French angoras; in fact, they enjoy the cooler weather.  However, if temperatures drop below freezing, your rabbits' water bottles or crocks may freeze, leaving them without water.  (Heated water bottles are available but I have never tried them, so I cannot comment on them.)  Depending on how low the temperatures dip, we may fill bottles morning, noon, and night with warm water to ensure their supply is always available.

In addition, it is important to have a good supply of feed at all times, but especially in winter.  We live on the eastern side of Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevadas, and frequently semi trucks can't make it over the pass.  We were sweating bullets a few times last year when trucks didn't make their scheduled deliveries.  This year, Lydia and I each bought enough feed to last through February.  Having a good supply of hay is also an important consideration. 

Here's hoping we have lots of snow this winter!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Crazy Eights Angora Handwarmers

School is out this week for the public school kids, so for some reason Charlotte and Lydia have taken the week off as well.  It is well past midnight here, but I am up finishing the last canner load of potatoes before heading to bed.

Anyway, I've been thinking about this for some time, and I decided to try my hand at writing my first knitting pattern.  The number eight appears frequently in this pattern, and it reminded me of a game I used to play with my grandmother--Crazy Eights.  I haven't played that game in over 40 years, and have no idea now how it was played.  Maybe someday I'll look up the rules.  Anyway, the "eights" come from the size of the needles used, eight rows of ribbing knit in the round, eight rows of stockinette stitch knit in the round, eight rows of knitting and purling back and forth to form the thumb hole, eight rows of stockinette stitch knit in the round, and finally eight rows of 1x1 ribbing, followed by a bind-off with US8 needles.

So I started off with about 1.3 ounces of chocolate tortoiseshell angora.  I didn't wash or card it; rather, I just fluffed it up and began to spin.  I spun it all onto a single bobbin and then Navajo plied it. Two hours later I had roughly 78 yards.

After washing the yarn in hot water and a little bit of Dawn to set the twist and prepare for dyeing, I rinsed it and put it in the dye pot with some hot water.  

Despite having purchased dozens of different colors of dye, I've been a little hesitant to use them, which is silly.  If I don't like the result, I can always over-dye.  Anyway, I decided to see what fire engine red from Dharma dyes looks like.

 I have no idea how the camera made the dye look blue instead of red.

The result was a bit pale and uneven, so I added more dye.

After rinsing in hot water and drying on the clothesline, this is the result.  Now for the pattern:

Crazy Eights 100% Angora Handwarmers

Notes:  Pure angora yarn lacks elasticity.  To compensate, I doubled the number of stitches one would normally cast on, and then in the first row knit two together, purl two together to form an elastic edge. This is an easy pattern.

Yarn:  Handspun 100% angora, about 60 yards (of the 78 yards in the skein)

WPI: 12
Gauge:  4.5 stitches per inch; 6 rows per inch
Needles:  US6 dpns (double pointed needles); US8 dpns or US8 9-inch circular needles
Measurements:  6.5 inches circumference of my hand, 7 inches from my wrist to the tip of my middle finger
Additional items needed:  yarn needle, locking stitch marker

Using US6 dpns, cast on 52 stitches.  Divide onto three or four needles, PM (place marker), join to work in the round, taking care not to twist.

Row 1 To make 1x1 ribbing,  K2tog, p2tog all the way around; 26 stitches remain.

Rows 2-8:  Ribbing K1P1. 

Rows 9-16:  Switch to US8 9" circular needle (or dpns).  St st 8 rows.

Rows 17-24, to form thumb hole:  
Row 17:  Knit to marker and turn.
Row 18:  Purl to marker and turn.
Rows 19-24:  Repeat rows 17 and 18 three times.

Rows 25-32:  Join both sides together again and knit in st st.

Ribbing, rows 33-40:  Switch to US6 dpns and K1P1 for 1x1 ribbing.

Row 41:  Bind off loosely using a size 8 needle for bind off.  Weave in ends with yarn needle.

I think each mitten takes about an hour.

This free pattern is provided for your personal use only.  It may not be copied or distributed without written permission.  Copyright Black Diamond Rabbitry, 2015.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Angora/Merino Ballet Sweater for Lydia

Lydia had initially decided that she wanted the Lindon sweater that I had already knit twice, once for Charlotte and once for me. 

But then she saw the Fuzzy Ballet Sweater pattern by Kris Percival on Ravelry ( 

I spun two plies of blue merino and two plies of very pale blue angora.  It is a very easy pattern to follow and knits up really quickly.  I made it in the small  size.  I should have made it a medium or large. Live and learn.  The more I knit, the better I get at choosing the correct size.  

I would knit this sweater again in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Differences Between ARBA and 4-H Shows

What is the difference between ARBA shows and 4-H shows?  There are actually some significant differences.  I'd love for my readers, especially the youth, to understand so that they are more prepared for their first shows. 

For example, 4-H shows are almost always smaller, with far fewer people and rabbits.  One will not find vendors selling cages and other products at 4-H shows.  Sometimes they are limited to just 4-H members; other shows invite the community--including adults--to participate.  Though it seems like adults would not enter a 4-H show, sometimes these shows are a good way to help get started because they are less chaotic. 

In addition, 4-H shows usually include three classes that ARBA shows do not.  These are the cross breeds, DQs (rabbits disqualified permanently or temporarily for color, weight, congenital defects),  and pet classes.  Not only are these classes judged first, at least here in Northern Nevada, but the prizes are usually pretty cool!

At 4-H shows, we learn more about the health of rabbits in general, entrepreneurship, and record-keeping.  At ARBA shows, I learn specifically about improving French angoras. 

ARBA shows have nice prizes for Best in Show and Reserve in Show.  For 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places in the breeds they usually have cheapie ribbons.  On the other hand, 4-H often have nicer ribbons and nice prizes for Best in Show.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Ear Mites

Ear mites are usually contracted at shows, either from another rabbit when they are on the show table, or by the judge passing them from one rabbit to another as he judges the show. 

How do you know if your rabbit has ear mites?  Well, you should be performing a quick health check on your rabbits once a week or so.  When you check the ears, if you see dry, peeling skin on the inside, it's a pretty good bet that your rabbit has ear mites. 

Fortunately, this condition is easily and cheaply treated.  All you have to do is get a little coconut or vegetable oil and spread it around the inside of the ears.  Do this every day for a week or so. 

No more ear mites!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How To Sanitize a Cage

Sanitizing a cage is very important.  If you have a rabbit that is going into a cage that has had a different rabbit in it, you will want to sanitize the cage to kill germs.

The first thing to do is get all the loose waste out of the cage by dumping it and using a stiff brush on the wire and pan.  Then hose down the cage.  After that pour a little bit of vinegar on a scrub brush and scrub all the way around the cage.  Then hose down the cage again. 

The next step is to set it in the sun to dry.  The ultraviolet light of the sun helps to kill germs. 

The best thing to do to make sure the germs are really killed is to use fire.  Because it isn't always convenient to start a bonfire in the backyard, especially here in the desert, we use my brother's acetylene torch.    When you torch a cage, you need to wear gloves for protection.  You also need to torch your cage far away from trees, grass, and anything that can catch fire.  We have a lot of sand here, so we just do it on the sand.  All you do is turn the torch on and move the flame all over the cage.  It burns the hair right off, so it really is the easiest way of removing hair from the cage.  If you are a kid, make sure you have an adult supervising while you do this.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

It's Been a Really Busy Week

It's been a really busy week here at Black Diamond, so we haven't blogged as we should have. 

Charlotte and Lydia actually sold an amazing seven rabbits, making for a hopping busy week.  While I was occupied with a whole lot more emailing than normal, Lydia and Charlotte were visiting with prospective buyers and demonstrating how to groom, talking about 4-H, etc. 

Two rabbits--Winchester and Blueberry--went to their new home today.  Four--Honey, Duchess, Colt, and Honey Bear--will be going to their new homes tomorrow.  Another one--Lady Amber (being renamed Pumpkin)--will be going with Winchester and Blueberry.  Lady Amber just couldn't help wriggling her way into her new owner's heart when the latter was here to visit about Winchester and Blueberry.  But she has to wait for an extra cage to be ordered. 

Also, as you may have noticed, the girls finally bred their does on Monday.  We are happily anticipating three new litters of kits on November 4.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Lindon Sweater, or Instant Gratification

This sweater really is Instant Gratification. 

The pattern was featured in the Spring 2015 issue of Knitscene.  If you can't locate a copy of the magazine, the pattern is also online at 

The yarn called for in the pattern is Classic Elite Yarns Silky Alpaca Lace (70% alpaca, 30% silk; 440 yds; 2 skeins required) and Classic Elite Yarns Soft Linen (35% wool, 35% linen, 30% baby alpaca; 137 yds; 1 skein).  (I used one ply of alpaca and one ply of angora for the main color, and doubled this yarn for the contrast).  Of course, I wasn't going to make it in those colors.  Black was the natural choice.  It goes with everything. And it was going to be my first dyeing project with professional dyes, rather than the food coloring I had been using. 

I don't remember much about the whole project.  I should have blogged about it at the time, but I finished this sweater in May, and who wants to read (or write!) about an angora sweater in May?  I only got to wear it twice for short periods before it had to be packed away for the summer.

I know I used one ply of alpaca and one ply of angora.  I don't even remember which bunny the angora fiber came from.  Shameful.  It dyed up beautifully.  I do remember that.

The pattern was very easy to follow.  I think it took me only two or three weeks to make it.  I think the sweater photographs horribly on the table. 

As you can see in the photograph above of the model wearing the yellow/gold sweater, it is a very open fabric.  That is precisely what I wanted for an angora sweater.  I wanted to be warm, not overheated.  However, that means the sweater needs to have a layer underneath it.

I'm actually wearing this sweater right now as I blog about it and the pattern.  Our high today is supposed to be 59 degrees.  We've been getting rain and have more in the forecast--yippee skippy (we do live in a desert already and on top of that we have been in a drought for some time now);  it's gray and looks cold outside.  So that means I should be able to start up the pellet stove, right?  Wrong.  Unfortunately, the thermostat says it is already 73 degrees in here.  I can't justify turning the heat on.  (Well, I could, but my children might rat me out to my sweetheart.  Were I home alone....)  Anyway, the point is, I am deliriously happy in this sweater.  It's making me think I should knit up a whole lot more in various colors.  Immediately.  For instant gratification whenever I need it.

I only used about half the yarn (I had planned this yarn for a different sweater, but changed my mind), so I got to thinking that I could make a similar sweater for Charlotte.  Charlotte, of course, was thrilled with the idea.

She wanted a contrasting color, so I got out an angora alpaca blend that I had dyed with Kool-Aid.  It's pictured somewhere on the blog, but if you don't want to go look for it (I didn't), it was lime green, lemon yellow, orange, and pinkish-red.  Naturally, Charlotte did not want that on her sweater.  So for my second dyeing project with the Dharma dyes, I overdyed this yarn with Berry Crush and then knit it doubled stranded for the pattern. 

I didn't have quite enough yarn, so her neckband is thinner.  But she still liked it just fine.  Her sweater looks better photographed on the table.  I think the contrast helps.  Or it could be that she is 35 lbs lighter than I am.  I would photograph her wearing it, but she is upstairs recovering from the stomach bug that afflicted Lydia last week.  So that's why I have been doing almost all the blogging lately.

Did I say yet that I absolutely love this sweater?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Is There Something in the Air?

That's what I've been wondering the past few days.  You see, while the number of page views on the blog isn't a whole lot higher than average, what people are viewing has shifted dramatically.  There have been fewer views of older posts and far more views on the three pages showing rabbits for sale.  Some have just been brief inquiries about whether rabbits are still for sale, and then we never hear from them again. 

And that has always been the case.  But this past two weeks there have been a whole lot more serious emails from people who, it seems, are working on building a sustainable lifestyle.  In the past about 40% of our rabbits went to spinners, another 40% to 4-H youth, 10% to homesteading type people, and 10% to people who wanted our rabbits for pets. Lately, however, the numbers have changed.  The spinners are still about 40%, 4-H youth are about 20%, and homesteading/sustainable living people are about 40%.  People looking strictly for pets have disappeared.

Maybe there's something in the air.  Maybe people don't like what's going on in our economy.  Maybe they want a slower-paced, more sustainable lifestyle, even if it's only on a postage-stamp sized lot.  I'm not quite sure. 

Is anybody else seeing this?

Monday, September 28, 2015

UNR Valley Road Field Day, 26 September 2015

Unfortunately, my camera broke Friday night.  (I am one of the few remaining people in the country without a smartphone, which is fine because doing whatever the crowd is doing or having whatever they have has never been a desire for me.  What is deeply disturbing is that now stupid phones like mine are becoming popular with celebrities because they can't be hacked.  But I digress.)  My husband said he'd come down and take pictures for us.  And he did come down.  Twice.  The first time was to take Lydia home because she came down with a stomach bug.  And the second time was at the end of the day to help us pack up, which was very thoughtful of him.  But we were still so busy with visitors that there was no thought of pictures.  So there will be no pictures from our activities at the Field Day. 

"Innovation for a Sustainable Future" (the theme of this year's Field Day) began at 9AM, but since all the parking was down at the opposite end of the field and half of the exhibits were there as well, we didn't see any traffic until about 9:45.  (Next year I will know that if I want to go see the exhibits and demonstrations--and I did--that I have to go first thing in the morning.)  From then on we had a pretty steady stream of visitors with a few small breaks. That was really nice.  We were able to give individual attention to almost everyone.  Charlotte and I could bring Fudge and Duchess out of their cages for the children to pet without having twenty little hands trying to reach them all at the same time. 

We were actually wearing two hats on Saturday.  We found out about the opportunity to participate through a lady in the Carson Sierra Spinners and Weavers Guild, of which I am a member.  So we were grouped with the other spinners who were teaching about wool and spinning on a drop spindle or a spinning wheel.  But we were also there as representatives of our 4-H club, and as such were able to share our experiences of the advantages of participating in 4-H, particularly with regard to rabbits.  We met some really nice families that we hope will be joining us. 

The Field Day was a perfect venue for the girls to share the advantages of raising French angoras with the community.  These rabbits are actually a perfect fit for sustainable living.  All in all, it was a well-organized event, the staff were extremely helpful and polite, and we look forward to participating again next year.  And next year I will take pictures.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

River Birch Cowl Knitted in Luxurious 100% Angora

This is the largest item I have knitted using 100% angora.  Because angora is so very warm--eight times warmer than sheep's wool--and because it lacks elasticity, it is often blended with other fibers.  I was a bit nervous to make a cowl. What if it was just droopy and unattractive? What if I put all the time into spinning, dyeing, and knitting, and I didn't like the result?

I finally decided that the world would not come to an end if I didn't like the result.  And it helped that Stephanie Gaustad, the fiber judge at the Nevada State Fair, said that my skein of yarn was "almost drop-dead gorgeous," and that it would make a lovely cowl. 

1.1 ounce skein of 100% angora yarn on the right
Brown is a lovely color on Fudge, but it does not look good on me, so I wanted to dye it.  I didn't think I would like a pastel color because the chocolate would come through.  After much agony, I finally settled on purple.  If I didn't like the result, I could always dye it black.

I used Dharma dye.  But I forgot to take a picture of the dyed skein.  (Fortunately, I had 0.4 ounces of yarn left over, so I made up a mini-skein for this post.)  

Selecting a pattern was a huge challenge.  For one, I always look for pretty simple patterns that I can knit while I sit next to the girls and help them with their schoolwork.  And because I spun this yarn so that it would develop a nice "halo" (basically, it's the fuzziness of angora yarn; "halo" just sounds a little more sophisticated, I guess), I didn't want a pattern that would get lost in the halo. 

I finally settled on this pattern.

 River Birch Cowl

You can find the pattern here:

It couldn't be any more basic.  It is just row after row of garter stitch that gets its lacy appearance from the large needles used to knit the fine yarn.  If you don't want to bother looking up the pattern, get some size 11 needles, cast on 40 stitches, and knit every row until it is 50-52 inches long.  Graft the two ends together.  I think it took me about four hours. 

And how much fiber did this cowl require?  I used a whopping 0.7 ounce.  Of course, how much yarn you will need depends on how finely you spin it. 

Ugh.  I should be wearing a white top.  And the picture shouldn't be blurry.  I will try again tomorrow.

4-H Presentation on French Angoras

Below is the presentation I gave earlier this evening at our monthly 4-H meeting.  You are welcome to use parts of it for your own 4-H presentation.

My presentation is on French angoras. Most people won't even consider French angoras because they think they take too much time. But that is simply not true.

French angoras are the lowest maintenance angora because they have more guard hairs than the other angora breeds. Guard hairs keep their wool from matting easily. French angoras are also larger than satin angoras or English angoras and have a mellower personality. Junior rabbits take about 3-5 minutes per week for grooming. Their baby fiber can be cottony because they haven't grown in their guard hairs. And the ends of their hairs are much finer on a baby coat and mat more easily. Senior rabbits take only 2-3 minutes per week because they have grown in their guard hairs and do not mat very easily.

The most important tools for grooming are the poodle comb and the slicker brush. The poodle comb is good for preventing mats before they begin and for combing out their fiber when they shed their coat. The slicker brush is important for taking out small mats and cleaning out hay and such from the fiber. A blower is only used by people who are showing. It allows you to keep the wool in longer.

French angoras are an ideal homesteading rabbit for several reasons. First is their fiber. Each rabbit grows an average of 16 ounces of fiber per year, and it sells for $5-10 per ounce. French angoras can also be used for meat. Senior French angoras weigh between 7.5 and 10.5 pounds. French angoras also make very sweet pets that you don't have to eat. And finally, their manure is great for gardens.

Angora fiber is eight times warmer than sheep's wool. It is also much softer—it is often used for baby clothing. It is hypoallergenic. It does not have to be washed or carded before spinning. It can even be spun right off rabbit! You can also use a drop spindle to spin it instead of a spinning wheel.

French angoras really are the best rabbits ever. Does anyone have any questions?

brush and comb
raw fiber
natural color yarn
dyed yarn
drop spindle

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Stockton Show Report

The Stockton show as held on the 19th of September.  We entered both youth shows, both open shows, and the angora specialty show.  I entered my two junior blue bucks and Phantom in the youth shows; Sage was entered in the open shows (she already has six legs), and all rabbits were entered in the angora specialty. 

Charlotte clerks for Judge Kevin as he compares Lydia's two junior fawn does.
In the first youth show, Phantom was considered to be superior and won BOB.  Fudge was DQ'd for being two ounces under weight.  The second youth show was judged by Kendal Bledsoe, who usually favors juniors, and BD312, one of the blue bucks, won BOB.  This same buck also won BOSB in the first show, and Fudge won BOSB in the second. 

Charlotte and Lydia watch Judge Kendal make his choice.
As for the angora specialty, we were up against adults who have been breeding rabbits for over thirty years.  Fudge wasn't weighed, so she didn't get DQ'd, but Phantom was weighed and was DQ'd for being eight ounces over weight.  Oops.  Yeah, I knew about that.  But I need her to earn some legs.  And she swears she will run away if I put her on a diet. 

Lydia watches Judge Allan make his decision in the angora specialty show.

Monday, September 21, 2015

UNR Field Day--September 26

 The girls and I are participating in UNR's annual Field Day.  We really have no idea what we are getting into, what is involved, what will be demonstrated.  We at least know that we are taking two rabbits, a spinning wheel, a couple drop spindles, and some fiber.  We hope it will be a great opportunity to educate the public about French angoras.  We think it will be a good fit, based on what we read in their ad for the event.  I copied and pasted most of the info down below, for the locals who would like to attend.  We hope it all goes well.  Wish us luck!

Also, attendees are supposed to pre-register.  More info at the address:

“Innovation for a sustainable Future,” is the theme for this year’s annual FIELD DAY. The event focuses on the technological advancements and efficiencies in agriculture, nutrition, natural resources and the environment. Field Day will be held on Saturday, Sept. 26th, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on UNR’s Valley Road Field Lab & Greenhouse Complex.
The event is a collaboration between University of Nevada, Reno’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station, and University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. The public is encouraged to come learn more about the organization’s programs with a day filled with exhibitors, great food, and fun.
Field Day is fun for all ages. Celebrating all that the these units have to offer, visitors can experience everything from Master Gardener demonstrations, farmers market, research exhibits, 4-H activities, greenhouse tours, and much more
The event will be held at NAES’s Valley Road Field Laboratory, located at 910 Valley Road, Reno. Both admission and parking are free and the event is open to the public, but registration is required. .

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Nevada State Fair

The Nevada State Fair was held July 30 through August 2 in Carson City.  (Yes, I clearly should have blogged about this a month ago.  Summer vacation and family visits and the start of school got in the way, I guess.)

I thought it would be a lot of fun and a good opportunity for the girls, so we all entered a few items.  The girls entered canned nectarines and peaches and jam, but that doesn't have a whole lot to do with raising angora rabbits.  So we'll just focus on the items that have at least a little something to do with bunnies.

Charlotte and her best in show knit bunny

Charlotte and little knit animal scene that also received best in show.

Charlotte and Lydia with their second and third place wins for their fiber.  First place for angora fiber went to the offspring of their rabbits.
Lydia's Rabbit Kit Cowl garnered first place.

Judging the handknit and handspun entries.

Lydia's knit bunny earned her a second place ribbon.

We all really enjoyed preparing our entries.  However, we just didn't have enough time!  So the girls have already started preparing for next year. We can hardly wait!