Black Diamond Kits

Black Diamond Kits
Sage's Kits, Nine Weeks Old

Thursday, December 8, 2016


Another one of those little surprises on the farm happened yesterday, between breakfast and lunch.

About three weeks ago some of our friends decided that they were done with their rabbits.  The rabbits were from the first litter we raised here, and they had had them for 2.5 years.  Our friends and enjoyed the experience, but they were done.  So we took back their rabbits--three total--two does and a buck.  Three days later, Lola, one of the does, started picking up hay in her mouth.  I then remembered what Karsynn had said only a week earlier:  "Oh, and by the way, Remy (Remington) has gotten onto Lola's side (of the hutch) a couple of times."

Great.  Kits whose parents are siblings.

But with every passing day, and no signs of pregnancy or kits, I hoped Lola only had a false pregnancy.  By the third week of having her, I was quite sure that all was going to be well.

And then she started to pull a ton of wool.  In the three weeks she had lived with us, she made one or two nests and pulled a little bit of wool, so I nervously tried to shrug this one off, too.  But she was pulling a lot of wool.  Maybe she was just a little hot in this 40 degree (Fahrenheit) weather.

At 12:30 PM on Wednesday I decided to check on Lola.  I had peeked into the nesting box tons of times already in the last three weeks, and found nothing, so you can imagine my surprise when I found kits this time.  I had been dreading it for three weeks, but when it actually happened, I couldn't help but feel a little bit of excitement, the excitement when you see an animal only minutes old and just starting to discover its new world.

All five in the nest box




Broken lilac


There are five kits.  The broken is a little small and he just may not make it.  Because the parents are siblings I won't be selling these as show bunnies.  Some breeders are just fine doing that, and breeding siblings together is actually a great way to find out if you have any undesirable recessive genes in your breeding stock.  I'm just not comfortable selling them as show rabbits.  However, they will still be just fine to be sold as woolers.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

On the Needles Today (6 December 2016)

I think far too many knit baby booties look like ridiculous clown shoes.  Maybe it's why some babies cry--they know how silly those booties make them look.  (My babies rarely cried--probably because I refused to humiliate them with ridiculous clothes and accessories.)  Anyway, when I was quite happy when saw the pattern for these booties--I had a pattern for a simple, quick, and yet very stylin' baby shower gift.  And I also sold my first pair of these booties on Etsy last week. 

The tan yarn is the most divinely soft alpaca fiber I have ever spun.  I got the entire fleece for about $4. (I bought something like 10-15 fleeces for $50 off Craigslist.  The fleeces came from a woman whose mother was neighbor to a woman who had alpaca ranches in Oregon, New York, and Nevada.  She was moving and for some reason still had these fleeces).  The rest of this fleece needs to be spun into yarn to make a most luxurious sweater.

I've got to figure out how to photograph these better.
The off-white yarn is one ply of very soft alpaca and one ply of white angora.  Super soft and super warm.  Makes me wish I were a baby again--almost.  I just wish booties made in my size would look as cute.  However, I don't think that is possible.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

On the Needles Today (26 November 2016)

Today, and for the past week, I've been working on a sweater from a pattern in the winter 2010 issue of Interweave Knits, Ginevra's Pullover.

 Ginevra's pullover, dramatic neckline.:

Here's the link to a Pinterest page for it:

Instead of using the yarn recommended in the pattern, I (of course) had to spin my own.  And because this is a blogpost on an angora blog, there had to be some angora fiber in it.  :)

The yarn for the body is three plies of white alpaca and one ply of broken blue angora.  The yarn for the laceweight neck insert is one ply of alpaca and one ply of angora.  And all the yarn is dyed using Dharma dye deep magenta.

Because this post is about what's on the needles today, I don't actually have a finished sweater to photograph.  Here is how it looks today:

It has been knitting up rather quickly, for which I am quite grateful, because I have to have this done for my husband's company Christmas party in three weeks.  I should make it with plenty of time to spare.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

On the Needles Today (November 19, 2016)

Most of what I knit with our hand spun fiber here is sweaters for the family.  However, I'm in between sweaters right now and have been for the past week. I had to hurry and finish Charlotte's sweater for her birthday last week and that resulted in not enough time spent spinning yarn for the next project, a sweater for me.  But I need to have something to work on while I help the girls with their studies. 

So today's project is a pair of preemie-newborn booties with some incredibly soft angora/alpaca blend yarn.  As I contemplate the softness of this yarn, I am prompted to consider that I should spin a whole lot more of this yarn and make a sweater.

The pattern is "No Button Booties" from  But I am modifying it a bit so that I don't have to sew the sole to the sides of the booties.  I prefer to avoid seaming as much as possible.  

When the booties are finished I'll take more pictures and post them in our Etsy shop.  And I plan on writing my own pattern for them in the future.  I just have to work out what I perceive to be kinks in the original pattern as I modify and improve it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

How We Got into Sheep

One year ago, actually about 54 weeks ago to be exact, we were heading home after we had finished selling four rabbits.  Lydia and I were chatting about all the Legos we could buy, when an idea struck.  My mom noticed how I had stopped participating in the conversation of all the toys and clothes we could get.

I had been thinking about it for about five minutes when my mom asked, "So, Charlotte, what are you going to spend your money on?"

I immediately answered, "A lamb!  I want a lamb!"

I started researching right then and there, since we had brought a laptop and myfi with us.  I was able to research numerous breeds of sheep before we even reached home, a two-hour drive when I began the search. 

I knew I wanted a smaller sheep--after all, I'm only fourteen.  I was afraid I couldn't handle a one hundred-fifty pound sheep. 

So miniature was on the list of requirements.  I knew that just beginning in the livestock business I wanted a docile wool breed; no messy butchering.  But also one that could be used for meat should the need arise.  And lastly, I wanted an easy lamber and good mother.  I was beginning to think this sounded more like a dream sheep, a sheep breed that probably didn't exist.  And then I found it:  American Brecknock Hill sheep.  It satisfied all my requirements. 

And then just as suddenly, my hopes were dashed, because "American Brecknock Hill" did exist, but were no longer being bred.  However, with a little more research, I found it did exist still, but under different names--American miniature cheviot and border cheviot.

I continued the research and emailing a breeder on this breed from early fall until mid-spring, when I got my first two beautiful miniature cheviots.

Little did I know that such a perfect breed of sheep existed.  In fact, it has existed for more than two hundred years.  It is actually a descendant of the historical sheep that resided in Wales.

It is the perfect breed.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Mittens for Abby

If you've been reading our blog for some time, then you know that the oldest son and brother in our family has been sick for a long time.  Jared and I traveled to the Mayo Clinic in January and finally got a diagnosis for him.  We thought all would eventually be well, but such has not been the case.  Jared's recovery is taking a long time.

Anyway, Jared had to drop out of school and spends most of his time lying in bed.  He'll be well someday, but it's going to be a while.  Fortunately, Jared has some wonderful friends all over the world that keep in touch with him and keep his spirits up.  We appreciate every one of them.  And then there are the friends that go a bit further.

Abby is one of those friends.  She added Jared to her Netflix account so that Jared can escape his boredom every once in a while.  And the rest of the family gets to watch, too.  We've all been sucked into a few Korean TV shows. Descendants of the Sun is fabulous, in case you were wondering.

So I really wanted to do something for Abby to thank her in some small way for her kindness.  I offered to let her pick out anything from our Etsy shop, or I could make something custom for her.  Abby wanted natural-colored mittens, and she wanted them to be warm but without so much halo.  So I blended gray alpaca with blue angora and then spun it up and knitted the mittens.

I thought they looked kinda blah.  So I asked if Abby wanted some snowflakes on them to jazz them up a bit.  I gave her a couple of options and Jared showed them to her through his laptop camera.  This is the one she chose. 

Maybe if I get lucky she'll send a pic of her wearing them.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Preparing for Winter

First and foremost, the bunny must be protected from wind.  Wind can be quite bitter, and we must remember that for our rabbit's health.  Although the rabbits don't need protection from the cold, they absolutely must be protected from rain and snow.  It is not only because of the various sicknesses that can occur (pneumonia, snuffles), but with angora rabbits rain or snow can completely destroy their wool.  When their wool gets wet, it mats, and then the body heat from the rabbits can totally felt the wool, which can make the rabbit really uncomfortable.

During the winter, around the Sierras, sometimes the semi-trucks carrying hay and feed can't make it over Donner Pass.  This can be pretty serious because you can't just suddenly switch the rabbit's feed to something else; rapid changes in feed can be fatal.  And of course, you need hay.

When temperatures drop below freezing, water bottles can freeze and even burst.  For a thirsty bunny you want to get it water as soon as possible, so it isn't such a bad idea to store one or two extra water bottles.  That way the bunnies don't have to wait for you to thaw their water bottle inside the house.  On bitter nights it can even be a good idea to get up at midnight to change bottles.  Rabbits won't eat if they can't drink.  It can also cause kidney problems later in their life if they go long periods without water.

It is a good idea to buy extra food for those days when the semi doesn't make it.  It causes a lot less stress when you don't need to worry about feeding your rabbits.  I would recommend three extra bags of rabbit feed (for my ten rabbits).  It isn't likely that the semi would actually take that long, but you don't want to be going to the store once a week asking if they have food.  People who didn't store food before winter can get stressed when they go to the feed store and there is no feed.  They can then end up buying a bit because they don't want that to happen again.  This happens with multiple breeders.  Even though the semi eventually made it, it can be bought out quickly. 

In areas that experience freezing temperatures

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Feeding Naturally

Along with pellets and hay, we also give our rabbits greens from the garden.  Not only do these greens help keep our rabbits healthier, but they also help us keep feed costs down.  Therefore, feeding rabbits greens from the garden is not only easy, but also a big money saver.
What greens do we feed our bunnies?  We feed our bunnies grasses, weeds, strawberry leaves, corn stalks, lettuce (only a very little), broccoli leaves, beet greens, and carrot tops.  We never feed any plants from the nightshade family (tomatoes and peppers) because they are poisonous.

broccoli leaves
carrot tops

wheat grass

strawberry leaves

corn stalks

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Sad Bit of Angora History

Any historical information on angora rabbits is pretty hard to come by.  There are little snippets here and there in encyclopedias on online, but just not a whole lot of detailed information.  Even books dedicated to angoras are a bit sketchy about their history.

So today I came across an intriguing link on Facebook.  I checked all over the website, but I couldn't find their rules governing reprinting their articles, so I hesitate to post the article here.  I'm including the link so you can read for yourself (and so I can find the article when I want to).

I already knew the basics that the article covers, and I'll share them with you so that you can decide whether it's something you want to learn more about. 

The author tells about the raising of angora rabbits in Nazi Germany at the concentration camps.  Of course, the rabbits were treated vastly better than the Jews.  While the subject itself is disturbing to ponder, there are not any photographs in the article to worry about showing to children. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Novelty Yarn (Don't Throw Those Little Mats Away!)

Our view count is down some days, so I had hoped that the traffic from icky sites was shrinking, but alas, such is not the case.  I wish it didn't bother me so much, but it does.

Anyway, on to a topic that people raising angoras don't normally discuss in public.  Mats.  We just don't want to confess that we sometimes get them in our rabbits, and we want to believe that other breeders don't have this problem, either.

We started raising French angoras because we don't want to deal with mats.  And we still prefer to avoid them when at all possible.  The senior rabbits the girls have here all grow relatively carefree coats.  They really only need two minutes of grooming per week until they are close to shedding their coat.  But junior rabbits usually are an entirely different matter.  Sometimes they have coats that mat way too quickly, even with grooming several times per week.  Usually it is just the nature of the baby fiber, but it can also happen when they take a fancy to rubbing against their water bottles or playing in water crocks, or rubbing against each other if they are sharing a cage.

It used to be so annoying because I viewed it as a complete waste of beautiful fiber.

But now I've come to see it as not a complete waste.  I become a lot less stressed when the girls miss grooming an area on the rabbit and find some mats.  It's good to chill out.

Anyway, the mats are spun into the yarn and provide an interesting texture.  It gets called novelty yarn, and I've been told that novelty yarn actually sells better and commands a higher price than evenly spun yarn.  I can't comment because I can't compare.  I've only sold two mini-skeins of yarn, and those were both novelty yarn.  I've got a couple of skeins to put in our Etsy shop, one white novelty yarn skein and one chocolate lace-weight yarn skein.  We'll see which one sells first.

I think it makes beautiful mittens. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Bad Stuff Happening

We haven't been posting much at all because we're just depressed about what is going on with the blog.  Unfortunately, for some reason, our traffic has jumped about eight-fold, from the normal 30 hits per day to well over 200.  And it's all due to hits coming from sites dedicated to the number one internet use, which shall remain unmentioned in the hopes of not attracting more of that attention.

So I'm going to delete a bunch of the posts that I think attract that attention and hope that it will correct the problem.  It probably won't, but I have to try.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My First Yarn Sale

Charlotte and I spent this past Saturday (oops, apparently I didn't publish this last month and just now found it) at the UNR Field Day.  Once again, I forgot the camera (and I have only a stupid phone), so no pics.  Anyway, we were there for Charlotte to share her rabbits with youth and adults and talk about raising the bunnies and spinning and knitting their fiber.  Charlotte had her teeny tiny angora bunnies for sale and was pretty happy to bring home $40 for the ten she sold (she probably could have earned twice as much if she'd remembered to get them out before lunch).  Her last buyer wanted four, but she didn't have any cash on hand.  Hmmm....

We were trying to figure out a way around this dilemma that didn't involve us making a special delivery later.  I couldn't remember my PayPal account password.  I suggested our Etsy shop, and she could buy everything there.  Unfortunately, I somehow set it up so that only one teeny tiny bunny was listed, and not the dozens that are available.  So that wasn't going to work.  Ugh.

Erin had already asked about whether I spin angora to sell, and I told her that I don't.  If I spin it, I want to knit with it.  She ventured to ask whether I would sell the two mini skeins of pure white angora novelty yarn that I had brought to display.  I had plans for that yarn.  But anyway, I wanted Charlotte to be able to sell her bunnies, so I sold the two mini skeins.

And now I'm wondering whether I should spin more novelty yarn to sell.  Hmmm....

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Who's Buying Bunnies?

On average, the people who buy our rabbits fall into three pretty evenly divided groups:  one-third are for show, one-third are for spinning, and one-third are for homeschool families who want the whole rabbit-raising and showing and spinning experience for their education. 

This past month, however, all our bunnies have gone to homeschoolers.  I wish I would remember to take pictures of our buyers with their new bunnies, but we're usually so caught up in demonstrating holding and grooming and spinning that I totally forget about photographs.  It happens almost every single time. 

Anyway, our first family bought two of Charlotte's does for their daughters to start showing in 4-H and to start spinning and knitting.  We look forward to seeing them and their bunnies at local shows.  The girls were so excited to be taking Lyra and Vela home and we know that they will be very much loved.

Our second family just got settled in Reno after leaving the military.  They decided to begin their angora journey with our two wool bunnies Leo and Jasmine.  And the whole family (well, maybe not the three-year-old) is planning to be involved with the bunnies, with the girls feeding and loving the bunnies, and Mom grooming and spinning, and Dad--a Marine--knitting and maybe even spinning.  They're going to have a great experience.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Fingerless Texting Mittens Pattern

I have been making quite a few pairs of these fingerless mittens for our new Etsy shop.  Of course, nothing has sold yet.  We've been open less than a month and it is still summer after all.  Most people don't even know what they're having for dinner tonight; thinking that people would actually plan ahead for winter would be unreasonable.  But for now I'm spinning, dyeing, and knitting up a storm.

Lydia really likes the colors in these mittens.

And I'm really loving it.

These are Charlotte's favorites.

You see, with smaller amounts of yarn, it's a little easier to experiment.  If I decide that I don't like the result, well, it was only 80 yards, not over a thousand like I need for a sweater.

I liked how this turned out so much that I dyed 1500 yards of angora/alpaca blend to make a sweater.

So far I've really liked most of the results, and there are some mittens that we just really love.  The girls hope they don't sell so that they can have them for Christmas.

Anyway, I thought I'd share the pattern.

80 yards handspun art yarn  (Sometimes I use 100% angora, sometimes it's a 50/50 of angora and merino or alpaca)
Needles size US2 and US4
Yarn needle
Stitch markers

Everybody's hand spun yarn is going to be different.  What I am spinning right now is thick and thin.  And the thickness of the yarn ultimately determines how many stitches you should cast on.  Normally (at least at this point in time), I cast on 56-64 stitches.  I knit a few rows, and sometimes I find that the mitten is going to be too large or too small and I have to start over.

Using smaller needles, cast on 64 stitches, place marker, and join to work in the round.

Row 1:  K2 together, P2 together for one row (32 sts).  This is to make a more elastic cast on that is necessary for angora mittens. 
Rows 2-12:  K1P1 rib. 
Rows 13-15:  Change to larger needles and work three rows in stockinette stitch.

To form the thumb gusset:
Row 16:  Slip marker, knit one front and back (k1fb), place marker, k to end.
Rows 17, 19, 21, 23, 25: Knit
Row 18:  Slip m, k1fb twice, sm, k to end.
Rows 20, 22, 24: Slip m, k1fb, k to st before m, k1fb, sm, k to end.

You should now have ten stitches for the thumb gusset.

Rows 26-27:  Knit.

Row 28:  Remove marker, bind off ten stitches for thumb, k to end.
Rows 29-36: Knit.
Rows 37-41: Switch to smaller needles, k1p1 rib.
Row 42:  Using larger needles, bind off loosely.  Weave in ends.  Repeat for second mitten.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

CoyoteRidgeKnits--Our Etsy Shop

So last month the girls and I decided to open an Etsy shop.  Probably the most difficult part of the decision was what to name our new venture.  I thought it best to stick with the Black Diamond name, but the girls insisted that Black Diamond belonged only to the bunnies, and that we needed something else to cover the sheep that they now raise as well.

Using anything with our surname or obvious physical location was out of the question.  So was anything that sounded too cutesy.  I suggested something with Juniper Ridge in the name, as that is what detailed topographical maps call our exact location.  But the girls don't like the name Juniper.  So then I suggested Coyote Ridge, which is the name of the ridge that we look at through our windows.  They liked that.

CoyoteRidgeKnits (Etsy doesn't permit any spaces in shop names) is open for business.

The girls knit and sell mostly cute animals (naturally there are lots of bunnies) of all sizes.

I currently focus on mittens and booties.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Two Thousand Pageviews in the Last Month

That's a lot of people looking at and learning about French angoras.

It's over double our monthly average.  I keep wondering if somehow something spooky is going on. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sage's Kits For Sale

This post is long overdue.  The days keep zooming by.  We look forward to the fall when our schedule slows down.

Anyway, here are current pictures of Sage's kits and assessments of their bodies and wool.

From left to right, chocolate steel, agouti, black, chocolate agouti, chocolate.

BD512, "Cassiopeia," doe, junior, self-black, known genotype aaBbC_D_E_, show quality, $90.  A little catchy at the hips, lesser flesh condition.  Not as smooth as the others.  Ranked 4/5 in the litter.

BD510, "Orion," buck, junior, chocolate agouti, known genotype AabbC_D_E_, show quality, pick of the litter, $110.  Overall very smooth, super sweet, great flesh condition, legs don't sprawl, nice fiber.

BD511, "Leo," buck, junior, self-chocolate, known genotype aabbC_D_E_, wool quality, $70.  Short body, not great flesh condition, catchy on the hips.  Beautiful crimp to his fiber.

BD513, "Lyra," doe, junior, chocolate steel, known genotype aabbC_D_Es_, show quality $100.  Super duper sweet.  Sweetest of them all, super nice wool, good finish to the fiber, smooth body, good flesh condition.  Ranked 2/5 (can't decide between her and her sister).

BD514, "Vela," doe, junior, chestnut agouti, known genotype AaBbC_D_E_, show quality $100.  Super sweet personality, sweet body, a little on the smaller side, a little lacking in flesh condition--nothing more food and time won't fix, really pretty wool.  Overall a really nice doe.  Ranked 2/5 (can't decide between her and her sister).

Friday, July 22, 2016

Snowball's Kits for Sale

Lydia has made her choice of the three REW does in Snowball's litter.  The other two are now for sale.  Truth be told, they kinda look the same.  ;)  The parents have four legs each.  Both are registered and both are grand champions.  Snowball is a superior mother.

However, there are differences between these two, the most important being that one has only a fair body and will thus be sold as a wool bunny.

BD141, "Lily," REW, junior doe, known genotype _a_bcc____, show quality, $100.

BD142, "Jasmine," REW, junior doe, known genotype _a_bcc____, poor shoulders, wool quality, $85.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Sage and Coal's Litter

We  have been very extremely negligent about blogging.  It's summer.  That's our only excuse.  We are well; the rabbits are well; the sheep are well.

Sage and Coal's litter is now four weeks old. They will be ready to go to their new homes August 27.

BD512, "Cassiopeia," Self-black, doe

BD510, "Orion," Self-chocolate, buck

BD511, "Leo," Chocolate agouti, buck

BD513, "Lyra," Chocolate steel, doe, super duper sweet

BD514, "Vela," Chestnut agouti, doe, also very sweet