Thunder Bay

No goat left behind: Thunder Bay farmer turns to fibre arts to support adopted goats

For the owners of a small farm, located just outside of Thunder Bay, Ont., a soft-spot for goats has turned into an unexpected business venture.

Hair from several goats at Mosquito Ridge helps support the care of others at the farm

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      For the owners of a small farm, located just outside of Thunder Bay, Ont., a soft-spot for goats has turned into an unexpected business venture.

      Mosquito Ridge Farm, owned by Dorothy and Nick Oryschak, is home to eight goats, an assortment of breeds that happily roam within a spacious pen built into the farm's hilly landscape. 

      The goats — which might not have found a home elsewhere — are pricey pets. But the farm is now starting to offset some of the cost, by selling raw fibre, as well as yarn made from the fibre of its two Angora and two cashmere goats.

      "We're already getting ... a warmer welcome than I expected," from the knitting community, said Dorothy Oryschak, showing off a skein of shiny white mohair, with a picture of their Angora goat Hannah smiling up from the label. 

      Hannah the angora goat graces the label on the yarn produced by Mosquito Ridge Farm, just outside of Thunder Bay, Ont. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

      It's taken a bit of work to spread the word about the yarn, she said, especially to those who didn't realize that mohair and cashmere come from goats. There are those who wonder, "Why would you knit with a goat's hair?" she said. "So it's sort of a bit of an education process." 

      But she's hopeful that the popularity of the yarn will grow. 

      The proceeds would certainly help to support the couple's bustling farm, which started four years ago when they moved to the country, and rapidly expanded. 

      "We initially were going to get two horses. And I was going to have two goats. That seems to be kind of a really distant memory. We have a lot more than that now," she said. 

      "I would say my dream started off a little bit smaller," said Nick Oryschak, who used his carpentry skills to build the farm from the ground up.

      "It was more gardens, maybe chickens. And then when Dorothy started bringing home more animals, it sort of expanded. You start with a couple goats, and a horse shows up, and next thing you know you do more infrastructure building. And before you know it we went from basically a hobby to a small farm."

      Dorothy Oryschak feeds Harold, one of her eight goats. Harold, and his brother came from a litter born at a dairy farm, and were the first goats she adopted. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

      For Dorothy and Nick, who also work as a paramedic, and a firefighter, respectively, animal care now takes up just about every moment of their spare time. 

      The farm now has horses, chickens, pigs, and of course, the goats. And while some of the goats don't produce anything at all, they are a lot of fun. 

      "I like the personality of the goats," said Dorothy Oryschak. 

      "They're curious, and they have lots of personality. And in the summer they like to run, jump off of rocks and twist." 

      Mosquito Ridge is a farm, not a rescue operation. However, for Dorothy, who used to take in dogs and cats when she lived in town, the move to the country offered the opportunity to take in some goats not only because she enjoys them as pets, but also because they were in need of a good home. 

      Dorothy and Nick Oryschak started Mosquito Ridge Farm about four years ago, and manage to run it while also holding down jobs as a paramedic and a firefighter. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

      "Goats are one of the [animals] that are very cute when they're little, but they get very large and they get to be 12, 13 years old, and often aren't a priority for anybody and they largely get cast aside. But they're also born every year for dairy farms, and even with really well intentioned people, a lot of the time, various different animals they get tossed aside." 

      At Mosquito Ridge, the comfort and care of all of the animals — whether they're pets, work animals or destined for market — is paramount, she said. 

      They try to exhibit best ethical practices by always providing more space and care than recommended. 

      While running such a busy farm wasn't the original plan, all the time spent working outside in snow and rain and minus 30 degrees has been worthwhile, said Nick Oryschak. 

      "And in the end when you look back it's actually very rewarding to see where you started and where you end up, and the fact that you can actually help these animals and you can do a really good job doing it ... it is worth a lot," he said. 

      Mosquito Ridge yarn is available directly from the farm (more information can be found on the Mosquito Ridge Facebook page) and from Olives and Bananas, a local fibre arts store in Thunder Bay.