The Ice Age Survivor you can spin!


It would be an understatement to say (or sing!) : it’s starting to look a lot like Christmas in the studio and packing area.
There is Christmas wrapping paper everywhere, Xmas stickers, boxes, parcel bags. Parcels being packed, and sorted (by super Xmas Elf Paul !) into bays of “to ship” and “to stash til the 12 days of Christmas event is over and if that is not all..I’m still dyeing and spinning orders and custom orders, and Paul is still at his lathe trying to produce as many spindles as he possibly can. In short: “hectic” sounds more like it here.

And, just in case you were wondering: we will be working up til December 15th and then……the weekly updates will stop until January 19th with our first celebratory 2024 update. It is going to be a very special one, because 2024 will mark the 20th birthday of ME ! (LOL…I wish) ..no, it’s the 20th anniversary of the IxCHeL business ! Oh the stories I can tell !! And I will ..lots of news in the next blog on Friday 15th !

This time of year it is always more than busy, because of the 12 days of Christmas fundraiser event and we are already over half way ! There are still 4 days to go and omg! Are they going to be AMAZING!) you can find all the details of the event here btw: (just in case) https://ixchel.com.au/collections/12-days-of-xmas

Mainly because if all this hecticity (I believe that is a word..lol) I TOTALLY forgot to write the blog last Friday! I still cannot believe I did that..or rather.. I didn’t do that…

So much has happened in the meantime: first of all the December clubs were shipped out to every member so they would receive their parcel well before Christmas, then heaps and heaps of dyeing (of course) and spinning and carding(as usual) which was slightly interrupted by the fact that Paul fell down in the yard, hit a concrete block with a corroded metal pin sticking out (oh joy (not!) to those numpties who thought filling up a yard with building debris was a great idea!) and the pin went straight into his leg…lots of blood, visits to the doctor to get it cleaned out and taken care of and a new tetanus shot. He’s doing okay and it’s healing well. He was very lucky! It could have gone straight into his knee or bone and that would’ve been horrible. He needs to put his feet up…and so do I…soon… Not quite yet though…still a lot to do.

A very sweet thing happened here as well: we have a resident pair of “welcome swallows” nesting …. Near the back door. They built their nest from scratch with mud, twigs and fluff and it is a marvel to behold. I just wish they would have made it NOT next to the back door, because that is the door we always use (we don't use the front door unless royalty comes over so to speak🤣) and it scares the hell out of the little swallows every time the backdoor opens. They start fluttering about and hiding. I try and open the backdoor very slowly and then, hunch over so I am gnome size (well, as much as possible..lolol) but still they panic and fly off in a huff..

I have no clue if there are eggs in the nest yet and it’s too high up to see, but I will let you know once we hear the screams of hungry bellies I guess..lol

It is funny though: they both built the nest in a bit over 4days, but it’s only big enough for one bird to sit on the nest, the other one sits on the light just above the back door, and is on guard duty the whole time! So cute. I don’t know if you have ever heard welcome swallows, but their song is amazing too. I love where we live: so many birds and so much wildlife! The more reason to take care of our environment and be thoughtful about everything we produce, create and use. AThat has actually been our motto ever since we started the business: stay small, stay sustainable, stay fun and fluffy.
Well, here are the various stages of the swallows nest for you to feast your eyes on:

 Welcome swallows nest building stages

 And just in case you’re not impressed by their mud home, these are the cuties who built it: 

Welcome swallow

 Welcome swallow bringing some food to the nest

 For tonight’s update I have planned is something super, super special! I do not have lots left of this blend so this is the time to jump on this blend adventure!

Here are some of the new colourways on the shop update tonight:

Tundra qiviut blend top Lavender HazeLavender Haze 

Tundra Qiviut blend too Secret LoveSecret Love

 

Tundra qiviut blend tops KingfisherKingfisher

Tundra qiviut blend top RomanticsRomantics

Tundra qiviut blend top Autumn SpiritAutumn Spirit

And many, many more! Just have a browse on the IxCHeL shop right here: https://ixchel.com.au/products/tundra

There might not be a lot of animals still around whose origins date from the ice age to tell the tale and be around for us to marvel at them and their unique and magical being, but tonight’s update is one of them: QIVIUT! Or Musk ox as they are also known as ox Qiviut is the name of the wool that comes off of the Musk Ox, a gentle giant of a creature often found in Alaska, but also in Norway, more specifically in the Dovrefjell National park.  Once hunted to the brink of extinction, Musk Ox are now considered to have the most precious, softest fiber in the world. Eight times warmer than wool and finer than cashmere, qiviut is rare and it is one of the most luxurious fibres you can choose for a garment.


The softness of Qiviut is something that must be touched to be believed! Qiviut is not only soft, it is also non-irritating to the skin, and is very durable - garments made from it are worn for years and can be hand washed in mild detergent. It retains warmth even when wet.

The lightweight fibre preserves heat in the winter, while also providing cool, breathable comfort in warmer weather. This fibre has been carefully gathered by hand and no animals were harmed in the gentle shedding of it. This fibre generally sells for anywhere between $70-$100/28grams/oz, and skeins of yarn often sell for a lot more!! Fibre count is 100s+ (12-15 micron)!!!

A musk ox mum and her baby

the Qiviut (down of the musk ox)  peeking through the guard hairs

Musk Ox male in Alaska

One of the baby musk ox





The mighty muskox (Ovibos moschatu) is a survivor from the ice age. Possessing powerful curved horns, which hang down like side bangs from a helmet-like skullcap, muskoxen are actually more closely related to sheep and goats than to cattle and oxen (although all of the above are members of the Bovidae family).

Adult muskoxen weigh from 180 to 400 kg (400 to 900 pounds) but they look much larger on account of their thick coats and large heads. Once muskoxen proliferated throughout the northern hemisphere alongside woolly mammoths, but hunting and habitat loss caused them to retreat further and further into the remotest parts of the north until the end of the nineteenth century when the animals could only be found in the unpopulated wilderness and empty islands of northern Canada and deep in the arctic vastness of Greenland. In these remote locations tiny herds of one to two dozen muskoxen still subsist on grasses, willows, lichens and moss while contending with terrible arctic predators and fearsome cold.

Fortunately the muskox is provisioned with fearsome horns and doughty neighbours to fend off polar bears and wolves. The herd is capable of assembling in a ring formation with horns outward to stand off wolves and ice bears (although such a strategy works less well against humans with our projectile weapons). To fight the cold, the muskoxen have fat reserves and one of the most remarkable insulating coats in the animal world.

A muskox’s coat is divided into two layers: a long stringy layer of coarse outer wool and an inner layer of soft warm undercoat called qiviut (this Inuit word now primarily denotes muskox wool but it was once also used to refer to similarly soft warm inner down of arctic birds). Qiviut is one of the world’s premier luxury fibres: it is allegedly 8 times more effective at insulation than sheep’s wool and yet is softer than cashmere.

The Musk Ox survived when the other greats of the Pleistocene – woolly mammoth, mastodon, sabertoothed cats, giant sloth – all went away. And it returned to Alaska by way of New York Harbour. Now, it turns out, the musk ox could again be the great survivor in our new Arctic age of extinction. Ross MacPhee, a curator in the department of mammalogy at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, says the musk ox’s homogenous genetic makeup suggests it has been through population stress before and can survive boom-and-bust cycles.

“What we find with living musk oxen is they’re not exactly clones, but they’re so amazingly similar that there’s only one explanation,” MacPhee says. “And that explanation is that they had to have had a very severe pinch on their populations. We estimate that that happened about ten thousand years ago.” But that doesn’t mean it’s all good news for the cold-weather beast, which is most closely related to goats and sheep and can weigh up to 800 pounds. The pace of these changes could challenge even an animal as resilient as the musk ox, scientists say.

Brendan Kelly, an Arctic ecologist and research scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says all Arctic species are currently endangered by the rapid speed of climate change. “For organisms to adapt – whether it’s changing body size, or changing the timing that they have their calves, and hence can match when the plants are most nutritious – it really depends on the rate of the environmental change relative to the generation time of the organism,” Kelly says. “So if there’s a really, really rapid environmental change, it’s very hard for there to be an adaptive response.”

As I was reading about Musk Ox I found out that all of the muskox at the Myskoxcentrum in Härjedalen, Sweden, came from Ryøya, near Tromsø, Norway. What?!? Muskox on Ryøya? I knew about the Dovrefjell group and an attempt to introduce muskox on Svalbard, but I had never heard of a group in northern Norway. The search was on.

It turns out that there is a flock of more 40+ animals now running around free on a small island named Ryøya off the coast of Tromsø. NRK’s Ut i naturen television program made a 24-minute show about “Moskusøya” (“Muskox Island”) in 2006. Unfortunately the show is in Norwegian, but even if you don’t speak Norwegian, it’s still worth watching for a while if you want to see muskox running around and scientists trying to catch them. In the Ut i naturen program, we also get to see some historic television clips from the 1960s when the muskox first came to Troms.

In 1969, 25 muskox calves arrived in northern Norway via boat from Greenland. The idea was to raise muskox for their wool as domesticated livestock. The University of Fairbanks in Alaska had some kind of research project related to muskox husbandry (I haven’t looked into that yet) and the idea was transferred to Norway.

The undercoat wool of muskox, known as qiviut, is a highly valuable wool: it is warmer than wool, finer than cashmere and hypoallergenic. Sounds like the perfect winter clothing material, except that muskox are pretty rare and not widely domesticated – which makes it a very, very expensive material

In 1969, the herd was established at a farm in Bardu with the hope that eventually every farm in the area could have 2-3 muskox for a meaningful supplementary income. But by 1975, calls for the end of muskox experiment were being made. According to media reports, a hunter was killed by a muskox and the muskox population was being devastated by a virus (hmmm, sounds familiar, right?). So in 1976, the herd was moved to northern Troms, and five years later, the Tromsø University is taking care of them to preserve the species.

The Department of Arctic and Marine Biology took over the herd and moved them to Ryøya to study their behaviour and adaptation as arctic animals. Muskox as livestock in Norway didn’t work out, but who knows what the future holds. The Qiviut are still here.

While the scientists herd the muskox to collect measurements and/or for transportation to the overwintering station on the mainland, they quickly pull out the qiviut, which they sell to support their research. Qiviut is a bonus of having muskox in Norway — if you can catch them.

Well , don’t you worry I caught some of it for you to support the musk ox population growing not only on the American continent but also in other habitats that are good for them. This will enable the species to grow, get stronger, adapt and hey, probably outlive us all, since they already did that to the woolly mammoth.

Don’t worry, if I EVER find a woolly mammoth, I will share its’ wool with all of you …

As far as rare breeds are concerned and especially with the musk ox, they are being monitored by scientists to see what is happening with the herds and what their health is. A musk ox can be up to two metres long. The animal is characterised by a long and dense coat and wide hooves and drooping horns. Like domestic cows, musk oxen are ruminants, and allow their food to ferment in a separate stomach prior to digesting it. Musk ox are well protected against the cold Arctic winter. They have two layers of hair--a thick undercoat and heavy outer coat of long, dark hair. Musk ox are a key species in the Arctic, but populations are in decline. A new method is helping scientists to monitor these animals in often difficult to reach, remote locations.

A new method of hair analysis reveals what musk ox in the Arctic have been eating in recent years. The hair is sampled from the animals’ buttocks where it is longest and preserves a longer time series of the animals eating habits. Buttock hair also grows continuously throughout the year and so it gives the most representative picture of the animals’ yearly food intake. “Musk ox [are] a key species in the Arctic that we know surprisingly little about,” says lead author Jesper Bruun Mosbacher, a PhD student at the Arctic Research Centre, Aarhus University, Denmark. “We use a new method that has never been applied in this way before. And we can use it to monitor [musk ox] populations in locations where we otherwise wouldn’t visit very often,” says Mosbacher.

Musk ox are found throughout the Arctic, in Greenland, Canada, Alaska, Norway, and Russia. And some local populations are thriving. 
In west Greenland, populations have soared from just 27 in the early 1960s to around 25,000 estimated individuals today, says Mosbacher. But scientists still do not know where most musk ox are or how they are faring. "No one knows how many there are among the [unmanaged] population on the east coast [of Greenland]. The most recent estimate in 1990 was between 2,900 and 4,600 musk ox within the area of the Zackenberg research station," says Mosbacher.
Mosbacher and his colleagues analysed hair from ten Greenlandic musk ox and discovered that the animals’ diet is directly linked with their environmental surroundings and the number of calves born. Fewer calves were born during and after particularly snowy winters.

 

 

"In winters with lots of snow, the animals starved and burned their layer of body fat. Musk ox live in such extreme areas and they are very dependent on sufficient body resources both to survive and to be able to produce calves," says Mosbacher.


 The scientists analysed the stable isotope composition of the hair, which indicates the type of food that the animals ate in recent years. An isotope is a specific version of an element and every element has several different isotopes. A stable isotope means that it is not radioactive and does not change into another isotope by radioactive decay.

The analytical tool is useful when predicting future population trends in the face of climate change, says Mosbacher. “Our study tries to understand how climate influences the musk ox’s diet, in a region where [climate] is changing twice as fast as in other ecosystems and where populations [of musk ox] are declining,” he says.

 

“Understanding the connection between the environment and food is important, because then we can begin to understand what will happen as the climate changes."
This new Tundra blend top are perfectly blended  super fine fibres which will make fine spinning very easy and more homogenous. 
It is not only easier to spin but also a very nice overall halo once spun into yarn. I love this blend and I hope you do too !
Have a wonderful weekend with lots of happy crafting ! 
Don't  forget to do some 12 days of Xmas shopping to help with our fundraising for wildlife  on the IxCHeL website til the 13th of December.

Big hugs
Charly

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