One of the most luxurious "natural" fibers is cashmere, the downy fleece of many goats. There is no specific breed of goats called "cashmere" some goats produce more of the soft, warm, durable stuff - as much as a pound from a goat. By selective breeding the quality of the fiber can be enhanced and its yield maximized.
To qualify as cashmere the fibers must be less than 19 microns in diameter and they should also "crinkle" some; the amount of twisting is called "style." Fibers larger than 19 microns are called cashgora and within the cashmere community this lovely stuff is lowly regarded although it is nearly as luxurious as cashmere. Another goat fiber is from the angora goat and is called mohair. "Angora" fleece is from a certain kind of rabbit. Although some extremely rare fibers are reputed to be even more luxurious than cashmere, they are not widely available: quiviut, the down of the musk ox; vicuna from an endangered Andean mini-camel and the legendary Shahtoosh.
You can learn more about this wonderful fiber bychecking out the CashMirror site which has a sample issue and some links to other cashmere info. My main reason for getting into this field is because I once had a cashmere sweater that I've not forgotten and cashmere yarn for my favorite knitter has been essentially unavailable at yarn shops.
The possibility of making one's own garment from one's own cashmere is rather compelling. Economically, it makes no sense since if one does the appropriate "bean counting" the hours spent raising goats,collecting their down, removing the guard hairs, preparing the fleece to spin, spinning the yarn, and knitting the garment add up to hundreds of hours' involvement to produce a sweater. Of course the real way to look at it is as opportunity rather than as burden. If one can maintain this attitude, the procedures for doing each step are available from the web.
My essay on the $5,000 cashmere sweater explains much of the detail of this fascinating undertaking. Actually, as of the end of 1997 I only have a headband/earmuff since I am just learning many of the steps in getting to "garment completion status." One virtue of neohomesteading is that I get to participate in some wonderful new groups of enthusiasts and learn many of the crafts that have been neglected in deference to the constant driving of automobiles and communicating via telephone.
"Proud as a peacock" seems a really appropriate cliche when applied to these exotic birds. A fully displayed tail array has colors and luminescences that are fascinating to those of us blessed with retinae.
Our peacocks have blue necks; the peahens' necks are more green. The "eyes" in their long tail feathers have fascinated humans for millenia. There are many colors of peafowl and they can be purchased by mail order from The Peacock Store. There is an association of peafowl fanciers whose site features pictures of several different colors of peacocks.
For yet more pictures of peafowl and their feathers as well as all the information you'll ever want about raising your own peafowl you could take a trip to The Peacock Page.
The purpose of maintaining a batch of guineas is to reduce the insect attacks on one's garden. They are noisy but the idea that they serve as "watchdogs" is out of line - they're randomly loud. It is quite clear that they reduce plagues of grasshoppers and most of the garden leaves are no longer lacy since the guineas arrived. We've had little success with the flock increasing naturally as the local large crows are effective at stealing the eggs and keets. If you want to see what one looks like and get further information, look here.
I am working on a book called "Blindless" that addresses the concerns of society with outcasts and sociopaths.
The book addresses the war on exclusivity, not by trying to eliminate it but by extending the benefits of any exclusive activity to everyone.
You may read an early draft of the entire book (a rather large file), the title chapter or any of the chapters (most are just outlines) you select from this Table of Contents:
Each of these chapters begins with a personal account of my involvement in various sub-cultures followed by a discussion of what I think can be learned from such groups. Some of these are illegal, many are considered outcasts, and each of them might hold some interest for you.
For many years I have worked with and for blind people and the output has been quite a bit of published stuff about the most prominent of my efforts, Talking SignsŪ
At this time I am mostly concerned with issues of accessibility to the World Wide Web by people with disabilities and to this end I have posted some sample pages that combine my interest in hand-spinning with my feelings for the importance of the Web and how those two passions are co-mingled. These pages illustrate some of the newest techniques by showing the same material presented in three ways: straight; 'formatted'; and graphics/color enhanced.
From about 1940 until 1960 my life revolved around music, largely of the jazz persuasion. A good friend was a legendary New Orleans trumpeter, Willie Gary "Bunk" Johnson. Later I played, recorded and traveled with another trumpet legend, Chet Baker and can be heard on a couple of his CDs "Chet Baker and Crew" and "Young Chet."
One of the most brilliant musical talents I ever encountered was Harry Partch who created a completely new music using instruments of his own design and construction. His "Oedipus" features a huge Marimba Eroica that I built for him and he also made a bamboo instrument based on a design of mine used on the only piece he ever wrote for someone else: "Ulysses Stands on the Edge of the World."
With a childhood friend (maybe idol is better) David
"Buck" Wheat I wrote (me lyrics, him music) some songs that are still being
heard via the magic of electric recording (Bob Dorough, Tuck & Patti, and
Al Jarreau have recordings in print of "Better Than Anything" which was also
recorded by Irene Kral and a host of others in the '60s. The Kingston Trio
and Manhattan Transfer are current with "Coo Coo You"). Dorough and I wrote
"Whatever Happened to Love Songs" (also an opera based on Dr. Brinkley) which is
available. I also wrote lyrics to Miles Davis' "Four" as recorded by Anita O'Day and Gerry
Mulligan's "Line for Lyons" available at last on Chet's "Chet Baker & Crew" CD.
I've had about a half dozen heart attacks, also known as myocardial infarctions, the most recent of which occured as I was having an angiogram for a previous one! As I watched the video of my already scarred heart vainly trying to send itself some blood through hopelessly clogged little coronary arteries, the cardiologist and I said "Oh, shit!" almost in unison and I was wheeled in for my obligatory quadruple bypass.
I had been toying with lifestyle change but the experience in the operating room (the "near death" experience of the "great white light" is likely the lights shining down on one's anaesthetized self) was a great reinforcement exceeded only by the Recovery Room Experience. I haven't eaten fish, fowl, flesh, or fat for the succeeding years.
Various books serve to emphasize my commitment by providing scientific arguments along with excellent vegetarian recipes and my forays into food shopping always contain careful perusal of the fat content. If there is ANY added fat the product goes back on the shelf.
Health considerations for an individual are only one reason people enter a vegetarian state; there are also ethical and religious participants and major effort to encourage folks to become meat-as-food-independent for ecological reasons. All of these are discussed and linked to on a site extolling meat abstinence.
The tallest breed of dogs is the Irish Wolfhound. Ours is named Shea and he is about 3 feet tall at his front shoulders. The bad news is that these friendly giants only live about 6 years, though some have been reported at 12. From what I've seen of others, Shea is typical of the breed in that he is by far the mellowest dog I've ever encountered.
Although I don't want to burden this site with too many pictures, you can see some, as well as linking to many others by looking at a wolfhound website. If you should want to experience living with one you can either follow all the usual advice about locating good breeders or see if you can find an Irish Wolfhound Rescue facility from this list. Because their owners are largely aware of the need for room for these dogs, they aren't often forced into "rescue" situations.