English angoras at 5 and 10 weeks old

The two current litters of English angora bunnies here at Hillside Farm are now at the ‘absurdly cute’ and ‘merely cute’ stages.  Gomez & Cheiri’s babies are now 10 weeks old and Janet & Phineus’ babies are now 5 weeks old.  At five weeks old, Janet’s babies are all pretty much weaned and eating on their own now.

white fuzzy bunny with ears up
10 week old Zeus

Zeus & Co. are ten weeks old now and getting pretty fuzzy.  He’s still the white boy and there’s two black girls and two black boys as his siblings. Since they’re getting so fuzzy, it’s getting pretty difficult to tell the black ones apart these days.

It used to be that Zookie Schwartz was the smallest one.  Ziggy was the one who would come over and lick folks right away.  Zoey was the one bouncing around and had flippy ear tips.  Nowadays, though, Zookie is as big as everyone else or if it isn’t it’s hard to tell under all that wool.  Ziggy doesn’t lick folks anymore and Zoey’s ear tips are now upright like everyone else’s.  Guess I should tattoo them so they’ll be easy to tell apart.

It will be time for their first hair cut pretty soon, no doubt.  Hopefully, Zeus will keep his fairly open face so he will be easier to groom, but we will see what he does as he grows.

black and white really fuzzy bunnies

It’s quite a pile up of fuzziness when they’re all in one spot.

So far all of them are still here and I should recheck the genders to see if any of them have switched.  It’s pretty difficult to be 100% accurate when they’re young but they’re getting old enough that it should be pretty easy at this point.  Once they’re adults, it’s really easy but we want the males and females separated before then.  Last time I looked, Zeus was male and there were two of each gender for the other four blacks.

small brown angora
5 week old Coconut

For Janey & Phineus’ litter, as far as I can tell at this age, they’re all females.  One of them is going to move to Oahu.  The little brown one is now named ‘Coconut’ and she is planning on flying off to Oahu when she’s older.  She’s only five weeks old now, so it’s going to be another month or so before she flies away.  At five weeks old, they haven’t gotten as fuzzy as Gomez & Cheiri’s babies but they’re working on getting fuzzier.

In non-bunny news, I’m still working on getting the bunnie’s website’s home page to show up on mobile devices.  All the pages except the home page seem to be mobile friendly.  Wish I knew more about CSS and other web page building things.

All sorts of interesting internet things

baby English angoras
baby English angoras

Mostly we’re all about fuzzy bunnies and making fuzzy bunnies and other fibers into yarn.  However, we’ve been delving into internet nuances and learning all sorts of things.

For some reason, why I haven’t quite found out yet, the home page of the bunnies’ new website (this website) isn’t mobile device friendly.  The other pages are fine, but the home page shows up as a weird grassy image with a hammer on it.  Not sure why yet, soon as I find out, hopefully I’ll be able to fix it.

For Google Chrome, my current browser, if the ‘home’ page is set to it gets all bent out of shape and says it’s a dangerous webpage and not secure.   However, if the ‘home’ page is set to then it’s all happy and everything is fine.  ????  What’s up with that?

Most of this webpage is put together with WordPress which wasn’t a program I’d used before so there’s a lot of staggering about pushing buttons to see what they do.  Apparently, we’re working with CSS or Cascading Style Sheets (a method of programming for web pages).  I’d worked a bit with Hyper Text Markup Languange or HTML somewhat, but unfortunately I haven’t met up with CSS before.  Well, maybe one of these days I’ll figure out how to change fonts and other nuances.

Lately, though, it’s been giving bunnies haircuts and picking beans.

Fat yarn

Every once in awhile, we need a new rug around here.  So, here’s the beginnings of the next one.

These are a few skeins of yarn spun in the last couple of days.  The first two white ones and the little blue one in the middle are cotton yarns.  The fiber was grown here in the garden.  The big fat skein is raw wool from a friend’s lawnmower sheep.  It’s a bit rough and not soft enough wool that you’d want it next to your skin, especially with the options of the much softer Seat Island cotton or angora bunny fibers to choose from.

This is the spinning wheel the yarns were made on and the smaller skein of white cotton is there on the bobbin in front.  The wheel has the much larger bulky flyer on it for making the fat rug yarns.

I’d had some other fiber on a bobbin next to the drive wheel’s hub and it got into the hub.  It ended up pulling almost all the fiber off the bobbin and winding it around the axle of the drive wheel so we had to do a bit of wheel maintenance.

Ashford Traditional spinning wheel with the drive wheel off
wheel repair

The fiber on the ground behind the wheel is the trouble making fibers.  I think this is the first time the drive wheel has been taken off the frame since the wheel arrived in 2009.  In this picture, the smaller standard flyer is there and the cotton yarn has just been finished.

This spinning wheel is an Ashford Traditional, they’ve been made for almost half a century if not longer and are probably the most common spinning wheel on the planet.

Email to Blog Post

Word Press tells me if I send an email to this email address (they generate one for you, nothing easy you get to pick) then it will automatically be set up as a blog post.

Will it work? Let’s find out!

Can we add pictures? Let’s find out!

(Ah, logging on to check, it looks like sending them via Outlook emails who likes to put a blue background to the emails adds the blue back ground as a picture.  Guess I’ll  use the bunny’s email of instead.)

Now if there was some way to get different fonts in there, that would be fun.

Spinning Cotton

handful of white cotton bolls
Sea Island White Cotton Bolls

This is about five bolls worth of, what’s the term for cotton picked off the plant but still has the seeds inside?  ‘Picked cotton’ perhaps?  This is Bleak Hall Sea Island White cotton and it typically has three lobes per boll.

close up of a cotton leaf
Bleak Hall Sea Island White leaf

This is a close up of a typical Bleak Hall Sea Island White cotton leaf.  It typically has three lobes that are deeply cut.  I wonder if lobes on leaves indicates number of lobes on the bolls?  I think a short staple cotton plant has much shorter lobes on their leaves, but this is the only type of cotton growing here so I can’t post a picture to compare.

close up of yellow flower and cotton boll
Flower and boll of Bleak Hall Sea Island White cotton.

The flowers are yellow with some red in the center.  It makes bolls with three lobes instead of what I’ve heard is the more usual four or five on the short staple cottons.

Folks also talk about it being painful to pick cotton, something about stickers on the bolls or something.  Bleak Hall Sea Island cotton doesn’t seem to have the same sort of stickers.  There’s a point at the tip of each section of the pod around the cotton fibers, but that point isn’t sharp or even particularly hard.  It usually is somewhat soft and curls back on itself.

The cotton fiber and seeds pull easily out of the bolls and the fiber comes off the seed easily and cleanly.

pile of cotton bolls, some seeds with fluff pulled off and a pile of fluff
picking seeds

Removing cotton seeds from the fluff, (which is usually called ‘lint’, I think), anyway removing the seeds is called ‘ginning’ although there’s no gin or even rum involved.  I don’t have any mechanical means to remove the seeds since Eli Whitney’s famous cotton gin uses these sort of toothy saw blades to get the lint off the seeds.  Which doesn’t work for a really long staple cotton since that method tears the fibers into short strands.

One of the reasons for the decline of long staple cotton may have been a lack of machine ginning for it, I think.  It would take a roller gin instead of a saw toothed gin to keep the staple long, I’m not sure if there were a lot of roller gins or what.  There was also the boll weevil and the Civil War that took it’s toll on the cotton fields of Sea Island cotton.

This particular variety of cotton, Bleak Hall Sea Island White, was last commercially grown in 1922, I think.  It did sell for a much higher price than the other varieties of cotton but what with the weevils and war, it wasn’t commercially grown after that.

The USDA collected seed from it in 1934, I think it was, and a friend of mine, Joey on Maui, got some cotton seeds for some genetic experiments he was doing in the late ’70s.  He chose ‘Bleak Hall Sea Island White’ because he thought the name was interesting, at the time he didn’t care about staple length or quality of fiber.  He did his experiments in collage and then put the remaining cotton seeds in the refrigerator.

At some point, he grew out some of the Bleak Hall cotton and then came to get an angora bunny for some matching fibers to go with his cotton.  As part of that, he brought me six plants.  I gave two of those plants to one of my rabbit wranglers to have a reserve in case something happened to my plants.  The remaining four have been planted here for 697 days now (just under two years) and are still growing and producing bolls.

It’s a tropical cotton so it likes water and grows for at least several years.  I’ll see if it dies off after another year or so.  So far it’s grown into a medium sized sort of spindly shrub.

seeds with cotton fluff pulled away from them
Lint pulled on seeds

To ‘gin’ the seeds by hand, I just pull the ‘lint’ out from the seed and then pinch the seed out from the middle or pull the fibers off, which ever is easiest at the time.  Occasionally, a seed with at least a portion of crazy long fibers shows up, sometimes I’ll plant that seed.

cotton seed with a portion of four inch fiber

This particular seed is the last one I planted.  Not all the fiber is as long as that one section, but that one section is crazy long.  From what I hear, most cotton has a staple length of about three eighths to maybe half an inch.  Most of the fiber length from Sea Island cottons are almost two inches but if I can grow cotton with a four inch staple, that would be amazing.

pile of cotton fluff from the four or five bolls in the earlier picture
fluff from four or five bolls

This is the fluff from the four or five bolls that were picked yesterday.    I should have put the ruler in the first picture, I guess, but oh wellos!  These things aren’t scientific, just making yarn from cotton in hopes of maybe growing a shirt someday.  There’s enough now for a washcloth, not sure if I want to make a washcloth first, though.

three skeins of cotton yarn, one dyed blue
Bleak Hall Sea Island White yarns

The smaller white skein on the bottom is the one made from the four or five bolls picked yesterday.  The blue skein at the top is one which has been dyed with fresh indigo.  Indigo grows as a weed around here.  Next time it flowers, I’ll pick a bunch and dye all the yarns blue.

So there’s still some more work before a shirt has been grown, but it’s got a start at least.

Cotton yarn

I’m not sure if it’s a washcloth or a shirt or what, but now we have some cotton yarn.

It’s spun to yarn thickness and not thread thickness.  I don’t have the patience for thread, either to make it or knit with it.

Maybe I’ll make a shirt or something.  Kinda interesting growing clothes.  You figure it wasn’t all that long ago – relatively speaking – that all folks had to grow and spin cotton or wool if they wanted to wear something other than tanned hides.

When did commercial spinning and big powered looms come into existence?  1800’s?   Egyptians were making cotton cloth seriously way back when, but they had spindles and not spinning wheels, didn’t they?  Wonder what sort of looms they had to weave the yarns on?  The Chinese folks were making exquisite silks way before any European industrial revolution.  Guess I should go study the history of textiles.  At what point did the majority of folks cease to wear tanned hides and switch over to woven textiles?

Why do folks take textiles for granted so much today?  Is the entire process mechanized so folks don’t appreciate it as work?

Last day of June

Summer is here, it’s the last day of June and soon we will have July.  Woot!  Not that it makes a whole lot of difference to our seasons or anything.  We do get more flowers appearing in the summer.  This one is a volunteer.  I think it’s a gloriosa lily and it’s somehow survived 27 years of neglect in the back yard.

I think it’s supposed to be poisonous so it won’t be fed to bunnies, but it is very striking looking.  A long spindly stalk with almost vine habits that has flower buds that look more like pods and then these flowers appear.

When opening the flower buds they go through a ‘helicopter’ stage with is interesting.  Then the flower petals go up like alarmed bunny ears.

Another question is how or when to harvest oats?  These are special ‘hull less’ oats which are supposed to be able to be harvested and processed without machinery.  I have an oat flaker, so if we can figure out how to harvest and dry the seeds and get the husk off, then they can be made into oatmeal.  I’m sure the bunnies will want to eat the grassy parts.

There’s the current state of the garden.  The lettuce is still hanging in there pretty well.  A few of them are thinking about bolting but haven’t done much about it yet.  There’s been tons of beans, still no tomatoes.  The oats are the silvery green in the back left corner.  The orange in the middle is a large marigold.  The really red lettuce is outside the picture as well as the gloriosa lily.

So far there’s just one melon but it’s bigger than a softball now.  It’s escaped out the back of the garden and is climbing all up the hillside.

The watermelon isn’t the only climber around.  Ziggy climbed up and over the wall between the baby bunnies and the three adult REWs.  So, Ziggy was visiting with her aunties, Dolce, Petunia & Suzie.

The rest of the ones who weren’t climbing over to visit with the Aunties had ti leaves to munch on for awhile.  Hopefully Ziggy will decide to stay on the side with ti leaves.