Saturday, May 31, 2008

Nikki's Wallaby Sweater Finished

We took a trip to Corunna today (after we were sure no alpacas were going to give birth). I took Nik's finished sweater to her ↑ (above with wet hair. I'm sure she really didn't want to pose but being the perfect daughter that she is, never let on). Nik is our oldest daughter, middle kid, and the mom of these two darling grandgirls. I'm mighty proud of the way she and her husband, Bob, are raising these munchkins. They are delightful to have around, and much to my delight, are great animal lovers, although the youngest, Elizabeth, isn't really into mucking stalls like Meredith is.
Nik's sweater is the third Wallaby that I have knitted since March and I think that I'm going to take a break. Feel like I owe Bob one, but egads, he's 6 foot 9 inches tall.

Friday, May 30, 2008

What to do with the lumpy/bumpy art yarn?

This is a scarf that I just listed in my Etsy shop. A fast and easy knit, but you must realize that I hand dyed the alpaca/merino/mohair roving, spun a slubby 160 yard single, and plied it with Wooly Nylon. Can you tell there are little ruffles on each end? Here are the simple directions. Cast on 64 stitches (I use the knit cast on), Row 1, knit 2 together, Row 2 knit 2 together. Knit each row until you have about 4 yards of yarn left (I chose the garter stitch because I think it shows off the lumpies best). Increase in each stitch and the last row increase in each stitch again. Bind off loosely. Oh, I used US# 13 needles.
I'm just showing here some other yarns that I think would make similar scarves. With some of the lesser yardage, I would cast on 40 or maybe 48 stitches, and follow the same decrease and increase.

Cyber Friend, Socks, and About Me

My new cyber friend, Chris, mentioned me and a few of our alpacas in his blog if you want to take a look:
Chris and I are negotiating my fiber for a pair of hand knit socks. Notice I said "pair" Folks that know me also know that I absolutely can't do two things alike, be it socks, mittens, leg warmers, whatever. The socks that he has pictured on Ravelry look beautiful, and, Cary and Mary, he prefers toe up. Maybe I'll have to run to Vermont to try them on.
I stuck some roving in the mail this morning to go to him. Thanks for the mention, Chris.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Swatch is not a dirty word

This is a picture of some of the dyed roving, "Philon" that I mentioned yesterday. The color is off because there is no green in the sample. Before I wind the yarn onto my winder to become a skein, I sometimes have a chance to knit a little swatch to see how it works up. This yarn felt downright sensuous in my hands. The merino and mohair adds just the right amount of bounce and luster. Even though I would rather spin than knit, I think that it's important to sample what I'm trying to promote and sell.
When I first started working with the alpaca, I was a dieheart natural color person. I thought it shameful that anyone would contaminate the precious alpaca by dyeing it or adding silk or mohair, or heaven forbid, sheep. After a few years of actually working (knitting) with what I'm producing, I'm loving my blends and yarns. My choices for blends and colors have become intuitive and much more fun that trying to plan everything.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dyed Alpaca Roving

This is Indy - Don Independiente - a very handsome, light fawn, herd sire who lives in Jackson with Kathy and Lew Kukla. He is the father of our goofy Celeste (due to deliver her cria any day now).

The hand dyed roving that I'm showing here is from him - and merino from genopalette and mohair from SpinningMoonFarm. Genopalette has nothing listed right now in their store and I'll bet that it's because Desiree's baby (human, hers) is due the beginning of June. I need to email her to see how she is doing.

I used three different colors of Jacquard dyes and simmered the roving in my crock pot for 30 minutes.

NIKE - "victory"

HELIOS - "Greek sun god"

I named this roving Philon "to love" It's very soft greys, blues, and pinks, rather unlike my normal color choices. I'm spinning 2 ounces of this right now and will probably ply it with a white single.
Actually I had a picture of the spun single here, but it seems to have disappeared. I'm still having trouble with pictures.....

Mystery Mail from 4thGenFiberArt

This arrived in the mail from Debbie Evans who has the Etsy shop, 4thGenFiberArt. I had no clue why....I knew it wasn't a swap, I couldn't remember ordering or asking for samples. A really big mystery. My memory's not too great, never has been. I know to write stuff down. As it happened I had saved a conversation from Debbie who was trying to mend an alpaca glove for her daughter (I think these details are right). I sent a little bit of alpaca roving, different colors of brown, I think, for her to spin up and match the glove.
And, lo and behold, look at the lovely package she sent. Some beautifully spun yarn (it's going to be a little purse/pouch with an alpaca needlefelted on), a delightful card, some dyed mohair locks, a sweet sample of soy silk roving. and a delicious bar of soap that made the whole package smell yummy.
Because of the joy I received getting this, I now have to think of something nice to do for someone to pass the love along.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Alpaca Fleece to Zeilinger's Mill in Frankenmuth, MI

Yesterday we delivered 42 pounds of fleece to Zeilingers in Frankenmuth, MI, to be made into four batches of roving. If you haven't been to their mill, you are missing a super treat. When I go back to pick up my lovelies, I will try to remember my camera so that I can give you a tour. Gary has always been there to greet me at the door, help reweigh the fleeces, offer advice, and answer any questions that I have. I had 4 batches to be blended which I'm going to describe to you.
Blend # 1 - 11.3 pounds - 50% Merino, 49% Alpaca from Ana, pictured above, and 1 % Mohair.
I purchased the white Merino from Genopalette, McMurrys, this winter with this blend in mind. This picture is of their Merino lambs that they were kind enough to send to me. Notice the lambs tails haven't even been docked yet so they must be quite young.
The beautiful white mohair is from Edie, here in Michigan and her store SpinningMoonFarm. This is a picture of her little Ted born this spring.
Blend # 2 - 8.84 pounds - 35% Our BabyDoll Sheep fleece and 65% alpaca from Lady Belita and Celeste.

Blend # 3 - 9.28 pounds - 25% colored Merino from Genopalette and 75% brown alpaca from Sonata (pictured above) and Orion (you've met him here many times because of his school and 4-H adventures).

Blend # 4 - 13.3 pounds - 100% alpaca from the seconds (neck and hip fiber) of Ana & Pollux (WHITE), Luke, Orion, Polaris (BROWNS), and naughty Gunny (BLACK & GRAY). These colors will be added around each other in the roving. It's called a 3 way swirl.
Just in case anyone is interested in the finances involved here. The cost was $308.72 but Zeilingers offers a 10% discount if paid there by check, so it was actually $277.85.
♥ ♥ ♥
Now the anxiety of waiting 2 months for it to be finished. An incredible amount of time and energy goes into this final act of delivering fiber to the mills. I wake up at night thinking about what I want to do and spend hours on my deck going through each fleece, discarding vegetation, second cuts, and coarse fiber. Today is a little anticlimatic. It's sort of like getting the kid off to college the first time - the years of prep and worry and then just dropping him/her off. This analogy is an exageration, of course, but you get the idea.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Lambs are 13 days old

Frankie, now a wether (thanks, Cary and Bill) is definitely more curious, athletic, and braver of the two. He runs and pronks like a deer. When he is inside, he likes to climb the straw bale in his pen and look over his kingdom. He accidently got himself outside the fence on the pasture today, and was quite frantic until he charged through a very low hot wire when Smitty went out to save him. We don't leave them out there without supervision for this very reason.

Little black Meri is more timid and quite business like. She's cautious like her mum, Jennie.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Alpacas to School and Worms

Orion (Slammie) and Pollux (Luxie) are at school today in Breckenridge, MI. The FFA (Future Farmers of America) are having their Open House. All the elementary children get bused up to the high school to see the exhibits. The girls pictured above have studied up on alpacas and will care for "the boys" and answer questions.
Even though I know they will be fine, I will worry all day about them. We left our number on Jessica's cell in case they need us.
Yesterday all the boys received an injection of Dectomax, a wormer. I give the shots SQ, which means just sliding the needle under the skin and injecting. It can't hurt too much 'cause they hardly flinch or squirm. The only hard thing about giving it is that their skin is tight and tough.
Dectomax works on a variety of parasites, but the main one that we are concerned about is the meningeal worm, or more commonly known as the brainworm. The primary host for the meningeal worm is the white tailed deer and the intermediate hosts are snails and slugs. If an alpaca is infected, the larva causes a severe reaction in the spinal cord; it's very serious and frequently results in death. In the summer we treat every month and a half. The really good thing is that I have never seen deer in our pastures, or even close, so hopefully those snails and slugs can't travel too far.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Life after shearing

This is my buddy, Beth, whom I mention frequently, and the little ram lamb (don't know if that is the right term in sheep language, I'm still learning). Smitty hasn't officially named them yet, but the grand girls were here for Mom's Day and I think Meredith wants to call them Frank and Meri.
Cary's husband Bill is a retired vet and they graciously came over last week to dock the tails and remove the boy parts. I couldn't look...... Actually, the little darlings hardly whimpered.
Life since shearing last week has been incredibly busy. I'm trying to go through all the fleeces to evaluate them and decide what they will become. They are very clean so I'm removing hardly any VM (vegetable matter).
For some reason I have had lots of sales in the last couple days - fleece and roving. I'm surprised because lots of folks seem to back off from knitting and crocheting when the weather warms up. I guess the spinners just keep on spinning - I know, I do.
Last Saturday above mentioned Cary and I did a dye workshop. Great fun to teach others from our experiences. I dyed some alpaca roving as a demonstration, and spun it up at home. It's below ▼ I spun a single, then plied it with Wooly Nylon.

I used Jacquard dyes, (Periwinkle Blue, Burnt Orange, and Fuschia) and Indy's blend of alpaca, merino, and mohair in roving form.

Tara, my blondechicken friend, asked what I will be doing with my fiber. Well, Tara, as I'm going through the bags, it comes to me and I jot it down. Right now I have chosen some to be blended with some purchased Merino and some to be blended with our BabyDoll sheep at Zeilingers' mill in Frankenmuth. A couple I'm sending to Suzanne's because she will do small batches and I want to keep them separate. I'm saving a few just like they are. I already have 10 pounds up at Stonehedge being made into yarn. One black I'm just saving until this winter when I can take the time to pluck all the white guard hairs out. Have I mentioned that I HATE guard hair ?!?

Michelle akkasha, I can't leave a message on your blog?????

Friday, May 9, 2008

Alpaca Shear - Before and After

Photos by Beth
This alpaca is Orion, otherwise know as Slammie. His total fleece weighed 5 pounds and 4 ounces. The Prime which is from the top of the back and sides was 2 pounds and 10 ounces and was 4 inches long, Seconds from the hip area and neck weighed 2 pounds and 10 ounces. I don't keep or weigh Thirds (Garden Mulch) which is the fiber from the belly, chest, and legs. The thirds are usually hairy, different lengths, sometimes matted, and quite coarse.
Two people and the shearer evaluate and sort the fiber into plastic bags as the alpaca is shorn. I think I am quite critical because I don't like to take the time to work with low quality fiber. Dave, our shearer, has a motto "If in doubt, throw it out" and I totally agree.
Our total shear weight yesterday for our 11 alpacas was 57 pounds and 12 ounces which gives us an average of 5 pounds and 4 ounces per alpaca. The lightest fleece weighed 1 pound, 1 ounce, and Polaris, our herd sire, weighed in at 8 pounds, 14 ounces.
These statistics fascinate me. I woke up at 3 this morning thinking about it and had to get up and do the weighing and recording.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Jennie's Lambs Arrive

Jennie had her lambs last night. We went to the barn to check her at 9 and she was acting VERY uncomfortable and I could see an occasional contraction. Back out at 11 and there were two wet lambs, on their feet, and nursing. We looked them over, tried to help Jennie dry them off with towels. and sprayed an iodine solution on their navels. Then just sat and observed. This was our first lambing experience and we felt like proud grandparents, praising Jennie on a job well done.
The little black girl (or should I say ewe lamb) isn't as aggressive as the white guy below.
I hope Smitty names them soon. Everything needs a name to establish permanency in this world of ours, don't you think?

I will get some better pictures when the light is better. Their pen area is pretty dark. They are in their own little space, enclosed with straw bales. I think the sheep folks call these little ewe/lamb spaces "jugs" and they stay here for a few days for bonding and easy access.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Fiona Goes to Charm School

This is not a good picture of Smitty's little Haflinger mare, Fiona....but I can't take another one for you right now 'cause she's at a trainers learning to be a driving pony.
Andy, the trainer, says they are driving 6 miles a day. When she comes home at the end of the month, she will be the fittest thing on the farm. She is doing well, but the second day, she reared up in the shafts and went over backwards. Sure am glad that she did it there. Actually it's probably a good thing. The old horsemen always told me that if you have a horse that rears, the best thing is to pull them over.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Upcoming Alpaca Shear and 4-H Practice

John is leading Slammie (NS Orion) over a ramp practicing for the obstacle course at the 4-H Fair this summer. Some of the other possible "tricks" will be walking over plastic, side passing, pivoting on front feet in a circle, lifting a foot, going over a jump, - pretty much horsey trail class stuff.

We shear our alpacas this Thursday. I can hardly wait! You can see by the picture, Slammie really needs a haircut. Our "Alpaca Barber" is the same gentleman that sheared our sheep a few weeks ago. He says doing the alpacas is easier. We lay the alpaca down on its side as gently as possible, stretch out their legs, hobble them, shear one side, and roll them over. They tend to lay there quietly, although, we do have a mother (Lady Belita) and daughter (Celeste) who get quite verbal. As Dave shears he tells bag holders where the cut fiber goes (Prime, Seconds, and Thirds). This makes my life much easier when it comes time to screen and pick through the fleeces. Apparently this sorting doesn't happen with sheep shearing.
I don't save the Thirds at all and they frequently become garden mulch. This is the hairy (guard hair), coarse and short fiber from legs mainly. Each alpaca is different. I have a few older boys that the neck and chest fiber becomes Thirds and that the blanket, (usually prime from back and sides) becomes seconds.
We have 11 to shear so I need to prepare 22 bags with name, date, and lines for pounds/ounces sheared. I weigh it all when we are done and keep good records for each alpaca. Small samples of fiber are put into little baggies to be sent to a lab to get a micron/comfort level count. I only do this for some. As the alpaca ages, his/her fiber usually becomes more coarse and I think this info is important for breeding selections.

Friday, May 2, 2008

View from my deck - Ivan and Abbey

The dark horse here is Abbey who was my middle daughter's 4-H, Jumping, and Dressage horse. Abbey's 28 now and retired. She has quite a bit of arthritis in her hocks and has Cushing's Disease. You would never know she is over 15 because she is so spunky and full of life.
The big white guy is my Ivan. He's 19, a Percheron/Thoroughbred cross and has lived with me since he was 3, when, by the way - he was black. He and I have pretty much done everything you can imagine - dressage, jumping, trail riding, shows, camping. He's a wise horse with an incredible sense of humor. Unfortunately, he uses his wit and wisdom teasing and making life difficult for my husband. For example, Smitty calls him and like a good pony, up he comes - until he gets to the gate and whirls around, kicks up his heels and gallops away, laughing at husband's cuss words.
Three other horses live here at our farm and be assured, you will hear about them eventually. I do love them all.

Handspun Yarn from KittyGrrlz

This is a lovely skein of yarn that Bobbi from Greenfield, Wisconsin spun from my dyed roving that I called Tulip Leaves. Maybe you remember the roving from an entry here right after Easter. I have admired Bobbi's work on Etsy for some time now. You can visit her shop here to see some more of her creatively done handspun.