Monday, November 30, 2009

End of Blog

I do believe that it's time to end my blogging phase. I haven't wanted to write for a few months now, and it looms in the back of my mind - thinking that I should. This has been an incredibly theraputic outlet for me, especially last year after Smitty died.

But....I'm putting some closure on that part of my life and leaving a few of my favorite pictures behind.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cold Rainy October

Poor Ivan! When I went to the barn this a.m., his door had blown shut, and he was stuck out in the rain for I don't know how long.
The barn was pretty messy. The boy alpacas didn't want to go out into the rain, so left their pooh all over my new cement floor. I need to figure out some type of box to encourage them to to put it in one place. They do want to be tidy. I just need to help. I've been trying to figure something out because during the winter, they do sometimes get shut in.
Today is definitely a stay in by the fireplace and spin day - with my trusty girl, Cassie, of course.

I just finished this skein of slubby yarn and put into my Etsy store. I really like it and wouldn't mind if it didn't sell because I am imagining a skinny, lacey scarf. The fiber is a blend of three of my brown alpacas - Sonata, Orion, and JR. That's Sonata over there →

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fall Harvest in midMichigan

The soy beans that were in this field to the west of my farm were harvested yesterday. Today Matt is plowing the field. I'm always amazed at the way the sea gulls find and follow the plow looking for food. How do they know? And where do they come from? We don't even have big lakes here in the middle of the mitt.

I like this picture of my big ole Ivan taken from my deck yesterday. Horses don't lay down a lot because they can lock their legs and stand up to sleep.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

'Paca Porno

Yep, here you can see a breeding between light fawn Oppie (Gold In Opportunity) and silver gray Mr. T (Tribute to Money). Oppie is a maiden and this was her first breeding. T was a gentleman and did a suitable amount of courting. There is a very good chance of a gray cria with this breeding because Oppie's black dad had a gray dad and her medium fawn mom had a gray grandpa.
Beth and I also did a behaviour test (spit test) between black Chinella and T. She ran and kicked at him which we hope indicates that she is pregnant. EEEHAW! Lots of gray and black between these two also. Wouldn't it be too incredible to have a black or gray girl cria?
After the breeding event we gave Dectomax injections (for the Menegeal Worm) and trimmed toes on the seven boys. Another day in the barn.....
Oh, and Belita ↓ is eating and doing well.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lady Belita is Sick and Down

Last night when I went out to do my evening feed, Belita was laying out flat on her side. Usually when the alpacas rest, they cush like the picture on the right. She didn't get up to eat her grain which is usually a little bit of a fiasco with everyone joyfully hurrying to get her share. I finished feeding and watched her. She would get up if I got real close, but then would lay right back down. I called for a vet. I was happy that Russ was on call and he was here within half an hour. We watched, listened, tempted, and decided she was colicky (tummy ache) because she had very little stomach sounds. Russ drew some blood and took a stool sample.
We gave her a shot of Banamine, tubed her (run oil through a tube down her throat to her first stomach), and called it a night. Russ was going to be in the area and said that he would check in in the a.m.
So this morning, the dear girl was cushed again throughout feeding. She wasn't stretched out but obviously, didn't feel up to parr and didn't want to eat. About the time that I finished feeding and picking up poop, Russ drove in. We gave her another shot of Banamine, she did have some stomach sounds, which is good. We debated about tubing her again but I really, really hate to stress alpacas, and my gutts said to just take her for a walk.
Her walk helped because when I left to come into the house, she was nibbling grass. Hopefully, she's going to be ok.....

This is Lady Belita with our first born girl on the farm, Celeste. See how Belita's ears are back. That's the way she always looks, which makes her look mean. She's not mean, but would rather be left alone.

Monday, October 5, 2009

My Horse, the Clown

You know how when something happens once, it seems coincidental, but then when it happens again, you know it's not? Ivan, my big ole gray Percheron/Thoroughbred, thinks he's the funniest guy on earth. Twice now when I've been picking up poop in his paddock, I turn my back on him and he dumps the wheelbarrow. I can't catch him in the act because he knows when I'm watching out of the corner of my eye. Then, to top it off, he goes trotting off to his pasture - laughing all the way.
(BTW We were repairing his pasture fence in this picture)

This is Ivan and 30 year old Abbie, my oldest daughter's 4-H horse.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Golden Opportunity's Blue Ribbon

EEEHAW! Oppie's fleece sample got a blue in the Spin Off last weekend at the MIAF. A SpinOff contest is when the breeder submits 2 ounces of fiber, the alpaca's registration, and usually a picture to the Show. A judge evaluates the fleece, evaluates how it spins, and then evaluates the yarn. I believe this is the true test of an alpaca's fiber.
Frankly, I'm not fond of spinning the really crimpy fleece that the judges so like, and I don't enjoy spinning fiber over 4 inches long. The finer, the better, for me though.

Now a little about "dear" Oppie. She is not a sweet alpaca. She's obstinate, has a mind of her own, and is probably the smartest alpaca in the barn. When Beth was training her to halter lead, she was a horrid alpaca. At first she would just cush down and not move - even if we dragged her. Beth rigged up a towel sling so that everytime Oppie would try to cush, Beth would lift her up. After giving in to actually standing, moving forward was the challenge. Oppie would get so mad that she would leap forward and bang into Beth. It took about 2 months to get her to actually lead, and Beth did take her through the show ring at the spring show (she took a second). Cudos to Beth and her incredible patience.
You can go here if you want to see what I said about her a year ago.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Riley and Chinney's Red Ribbon

Aren't cats the most amazing critters? I never know where I will find Riley curled up. Usually he's in my chair that I sit in to spin and I have to move him. But this box is a new place and I just had to photo it. It's sort of artsy, don't you think? The light, the shapes, the texture?

Friend Nancy took our fleece to the MIAF show last weekend for me. Thanks, Nancy. Chinney belongs to both Beth and me and we are very thrilled that the fleece took a second. Remember last spring Chinney won her color championship. I love this picture of her and Beth's son, John, at our 4-H fair last summer.

This really is a very black fleece but the way the light hit it, it looks gray....

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Damn Muskrats

This is the pond/lagoon that I fenced in to make more pasture for the alpacas. Look what the muskrats have done! Can you see all those tunnels? I really thought that the muskrats and I could live together in a peaceful, respectful coexistence BUT the tunnels are caving in and making holes up on top where my 'pacas graze.
I have this horrible mental picture of one of the alpacas stepping into a hole and breaking a leg.
Today I was going to try to fill all the cave ins with dirt, but when I got out there, it made more sense to just shovel and smoosh down the tunnels. (The boys are checking out my shovel)
I don't think this is a permanent fix so I may have to give in and let Josh trap them like he suggested. Geese, I really hate to do that......

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dyeing Frenzy

This is Celeste in full fleece. Can you see how lovely her light fawn fiber is? Last spring she sheared over 7 pounds of 4 inch long fleece.

Celeste was the first alpaca born on our farm four years ago so she's pretty special, a little goofy and I didn't think she would really grow up. She had a lovely cria in the spring of 2008 and is pregnant again by my own herd sire, Polaris. I worried about her being a good mom 'cause she is so silly but she has taken excellent care of her little girl, Lyra.
Her fiber is awesome! At the alpaca shows, we have what is called a SPIN OFF where breeders send in 2 ounces of fiber to be spun by a judge. Celeste won, not only the best in her class, but also best over all at the show. It's long and not overly crimpy which makes it lovely to spin.

So this is what I have been doing↑ Dyeing like a mad woman! The teal and pink/blue are from Celeste's seconds. There is probably about 5 pounds of fiber here.
I think I know why I'm being rather compulsive about this. I can control it and am getting amazing results. The other part of my life has been chaotic.
Some of you may not know that my 89 year old mom came to live with me at the end of August. She was here a week and fell and has been in Rehab at the Alma hospital since. I have been really frightened about taking care of her because she was scheduled to come home today. Well, yesterday, with the help of the social worker at Rehab, we got her a room in a nursing home in St. Louis. I think Medicare will only cover her stay for 20 days, but I'm incredibly relieved that she is going to have a safe place with better skilled care than I can provide.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Baby Alpaca - To Dye For

JR with his momma, sweet Sonata, right after his birth last year, September 19, 2008.

I came across the seconds from JR's first shear. If you are interested, seconds are the less desirable fiber from the alpaca. In JR's case, from his neck, chest, and belly. The fiber is usually different lengths and probably has second cuts. JR's fleece will probably never be as soft and fine as this first shear.

I have never tried to dye over a color as dark as this brown so this is another experiment - that went well.
*I washed the fiber in Dawn and the hottest tap water I could get. After letting it soak about 1/2 hour, I drained it, ran another sink full of warm water to rinse and added a big glug of vinegar.
* While I was washing and draining, I heated up about 8 or 10 cups of water in my crock pot and added another big glug of vinegar just before adding the wet fleece.
* I put into the water about 1/2 teaspoon of red Jacquard dye on the left and the same amount of Burnt Orange on the right. Then lowered the wet fleece in. I did a few pokes to settle it down but didn't stir because I wanted the colors to stay separate. They did....

This is about 6 ounces of fleece. I love the colors!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

JR's Blue Ribbon Yarn

It's such a thrill to hear about my 'pacas' fiber from all around the world. I just received this picture ↓ from Barb in California. This is what she had to say *** Just a quick note to let you know that Kendra won a blue ribbon for JR's yarn at the Los Angeles County Fair. You sent that as a sample to us on (we think) our first order from you. We took a picture for you***

JR's fans will remember this little guy who was born last September and struggled to survive. He has remained very small for his age but is the most delightful, friendly little feller on the farm. I'm so pleased that his fiber has brought joy to Barb and Kendra.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Spun in the Fog

What a breathtaking sight this morning at the beginning of my walk.

I ran back into the house and grabbed my camera because I had to record this work of art by a fellow spinner. Sharon, I thought of you because you are the only one I know that could possibly reproduce this beautiful design.
Local schools were on delay and then cancelled this morning because of the fog. We were a little anxious on our two mile morning walk and listened carefully for approaching vehicles.

That's my barn walking from the east.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Alpaca Scarf - Start to Finish

My goal for this scarf project was to see if I would be happy spinning and knitting with a single ply yarn. My thoughts have always been that a single would slant and perhaps even fall apart.
I started with a couple year's growth of white alpaca fleece from the handsome Target who lives with Chris and Jenn in St. Louis, Michigan.

To Target's fleece I added a few pounds of white merino that I purchased from the McMurrays' who have the shop Genopalette on Etsy. They always provide me with the most awesome, clean sheep fleece imaginable.
So below is little Max with this huge bag of top beautifully processed at Zeilingers' in Frankenmuch, Michigan.

I dyed up a few pounds of the top in my crock pot and have some still listed in my shop (This isn't the same dye lot as my scarf)

I spun 2.6 ounces of the dyed top rather tight for me. I was really afraid it would fall apart, but I didn't need to worry. I washed the yarn in hot water and agitated it a little so that it would felt some. It did just that, stayed together, but retained its lovely softness.

....and here, TA,DAHHHHHH, is my scarf.

It is for sale in my shop here if you want to look more.
In conclusion - YES! I will continue to knit with a single ply yarn, but I will probably always worry about the possibility of a slant - probably never doing a vest or sweater, anything large....

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Garden Harvest

Yep, that's it, friends..... Have I mentioned that I don't like digging in the dirt?
☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺

Friday, August 28, 2009

My "Golden" Couch

Two Golden Retrievers - bliss.... That's Terre's Izzy on the left and my dear Cassie on the right.
Terre has flown to Daytona Beach today and will bring my Mom back tomorrow to live here with me and my 4 leggeds.

Kendra's Yarn

Target is the handsome donor of the yarn pictured below. He lives with and is loved by Jen and Chris at Diversified Alpacas just down the road in St. Louis, Michigan

I love getting pictures of my fiber after it has been spun. This lovely yarn below was spun by 24 year old Kendra. Kendra has been spinning for two years after learning on a drop spindle at her County Fair. This year she won the honor of Best Handspun Finished Article. You go, Kendra!
This is a link to Kendra's spinning progress: Here
Kendra's mom Barbara Klause who lives in California is the perfect mom 'cause she ordered this fiber for Kendra. In fact, she just ordered 6 more ounces of it (opps, hope that's not a surprise)

Monday, August 24, 2009

'Paca Play

My mom in Florida is moving in with me so Nik and the grandgirls came over to help me do some furniture rearranging and cleaning. Thanks, Meredith, for doing the bathroom. Of course, we had to go out and play with alpacas for a while.

JR and Elizabeth ↑

Meredith and JR - they both look like they are wondering just what they are supposed to do with that mint. ↑

...and here Elizabeth and I are trying to get a nose rub from Snickers.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Rainbow Remembrance

I think this rainbow into the bean field from yesterday evening was a gift to help ease me through today. It was a year ago that Smitty died.

I find myself doing so much reflecting and remembering.....but it's good. I don't think so much of the last horrid, yucky month, but more of the good times. Sort of like the symbolic rainbow after the storm.
Smitty's energy and spirit is very strong and surrounds the kids and me every day (although they may not accept it). I didn't really understand before when the churchy folks would say things like "his spirit lives on", but I get it now. In fact, he has made his presence known to me by doing things like turning on and off the tv and electric fireplace. Not a bit spooky, but sort of amusing and comforting. He was always in control of the remotes ☺
The only times now that I have my heart hiccups is when I think of the kids and grandgirls missing him. That usually brings the tears on.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Single Ply Experiment

This is the handsome Target who lives with Chris and Jen at Diversified Alpacas in St Louis, MI. His lovely fiber is what I used for this project.

I am determined to find a way to spin and use a single ply for knitting. My nonknitting friends may not know that normally we spin 2 singles and then ply/spin them together going in the opposite direction. Supposedly if we knit with a one ply the project will take on a slant in the direction the single was spun. You can imagine a sweater leaning/slanting off to the right.
My idea is to knit a lengthwise scarf (you know, cast on a couple hundred stitches and knit 10 or 12 rows). I don't think the slant would matter.
So, what I did was spin a single from some roving that is alpaca/merino that I hand dyed in my crockpot. I spun it tighter than I normally spin, then I wound it on my winder, tied it off, washed it, and stretched it back on my winder to dry. The picture below is of it drying right now on my deck (Yep, that's Cord in the background)
When it's dry, I'll cast on and start my experimental scarf. I'll let you know how it looks when I'm done.

Smitty memories - I thought this week was going to be more difficult that it's turning out to be. Am staying busy. Friday marks one year from his death. Daughter Terre and I are going to do something together and then Nik, my other daughter, and the grand girls will be around for the weekend.