Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Walking and Dyeing

For a couple months now my neighbor, Billie and I have been walking two miles each day down our country road. We try to do it in half an hour. Max and Cassie ↑ go along on leashes if it's not too sloppy. Then they sack out for the rest of the day. I'm told that some folks don't allow their critters on their furniture ☺

I don't have a lot to say today except that I seem to have gotten the dyeing bug. Here's a few of my yesterday creations from white alpaca, merino, and mohair roving. I feel ok about using it up because I have 10 more pounds right now at Zeilinger's mill.
Four more ounces are cooking away in my crock pot, while four ounces are soaking in vinegar water.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Snickers and Slammie Go on Vacation

Nine year old Amelia is going to show Snickers (Astra), white guy ↑ at the 4-H Fair in Alma this summer so we thought it would be fun for him to be at her house to work with him. Of course, you all know that alpacas are herd animals and won't do well alone so Slammie is vacationing with him. This is great for me because Snickers needs to be weaned and moved away from the girl pen. I've been told that, yes, at 6 1/2 months he could breed - now, I don't really believe that, but am not taking any chances. The only boy left with the girls is JR and I'm surely not
concerned about him connecting.
The picture above is the two of them in the back of my van on their way to Amelias. They both loaded very nicely and were well behaved on the way. Because I have heard horror stories of alpacas leaping into the front seat, I installed the wire barrier. You can see they have plenty of room and eventually cushed down for the ride. .....and here we are at the new vacation home meeting the goats. They are separated now but, hopefully, will get acquainted and be able to hang out together. This picture is a great example of how curious alpacas are. Their curiosity usually overcomes their fear - which, of course, could be dangerous if these were cougars.

I couldn't resist putting up this pretty yarn that I spun up yesterday. It's only 100 yards so not enough to do much by itself. I dyed it from some white alpaca roving that Sharon had given me last fall. I need to wash it and put in my Etsy store.

Monday, March 23, 2009

School Day for JR

Yesterday was pretty cold but Amelia and mom, Gwen, came out to work with the alpacas. Amelia is going to take white Snickers (Astra) to the 4-H Fair this summer. That's Amelia ↑ and Beth giving JR a leading lesson. Now that he's over 40 pounds, he's pretty heavy for me to carry to the scales. Beth is leading Sonata, our barn Diva & JR's mom, and Amelia is handling JR. JR has had a halter on 4 times now and is doing very well.
Yesterday two geese came in to the pond to spend the night. Actually, it's not a pond. It's a lagoon system. When we put the house in, the clay soil that we have wouldn't perk, so this was our solution. It sounds yucky that it is part of our sewer system and I had visions of turds floating around, but the health department checks it regularly and it's as safe as a swimming lake. Definitely no turds!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Merino Arrives

I'm not really a "sheepy" person, but, oh, my, I get so excited when a big box (13 pounds) of this beautiful merino arrives from Desiree and Andy. Isn't it gorgeous? It will live on my kitchen counter for a while so that I can walk by and bury my hand in it, then take a little huff. I must have been a shepherdess in one of my past lives 'cause I love the smell.

I'm always amazed at how clean the McMurrys can keep their fleeces without covering them. Remember, Smitty and I had BabyDoll Sheep for a year and they were covered all right, with poop, straw, and all kinds of VM. Yuck!

My original plan was to have an 80% alpaca/20% merino yarn spun at the mill. Now I'm not sure because I'm getting low on white roving. I carded up some of the merino yesterday to see what it will be like. My carder was happy to have a little lanolin, I was happy because it came out lovely. Now I'll spin a sample, wash it up, and knit a little swatch to get the true picture.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Day to Mourn

It's been 7 months now since Smitty died and for some reason I'm having a tough day.
The fact that we didn't really have any final words or good byes hangs over my head. The six weeks that we knew about the cancer flew by quickly with doctor and hospital visits and HOPE. The final week that he was home is a blur with Hospice, family, and friends helping out. I wonder now if I should have forced us to talk about the end but he wasn't really himself. I don't know, but it makes me sad.
I went to see Sylvia Browne talk last week. You all know that she's a well known psychic. Anyway, I'm wondering if I need to connect with my psychic who has moved to Florida. She is very good, in fact, suggested a year ago that I insist that Smitty have a physical. I blew her off which I now regret, although I don't think we could have prolonged his life.
I really don't mind being alone and I think I am taking care of the farm quite well. I miss having someone to run decisions by - is it time to put the pony down? how am I going to get the winter's worth of manure moved? should I have cement poured in the barn? how much should I enlarge the pastures? should I get that herd sire? Actually, this is a little funny because even though I would talk to him about the decisions, I always knew we would do what ever I wanted. I'm a total brat about getting my way.
Sometimes when I think about him being gone, I get this funny little, achy hiccup in my belly. It' hard to describe but it goes away quickly.
I haven't worried about money since the kids were in college, but living on Social Security and Teachers' Retirement makes me think twice about where to spend money. I'm very fortunate that the farm is paid for.
Being able to run things by the kids has helped but they are incredibly busy with their own lives so I don't like to bother them with the little stuff that happens. Nope, my friends get that laid out to them. Thanks Beth and Billie, Sharon and Kathy, Cary and Mary, and dear Marianne and Heather and Kathy. I so cherish my women friends. I really am the luckiest person in the world!
Well, I hope I haven't dragged you down. This has been very cathartic for me and I feel ready to get on with my day....
Oh, the picture - That's Smitty holding Celeste who has had a cria of her own, and Nikki, my oldest daughter holding my granddaughter.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

JR's Morning Feed

I've had a couple requests for a JR update. Last Friday, at 6 months, he weighed 41.6 pounds with a gain of 3 pounds that week. This was a biggy because the most that he has ever gained has been 1 1/2 pounds in a week.
For you folks who are just stopping by or don't follow my blog, JR was full term in September, but weighed only 13 pounds (normal weight here on the farm is 20). He nursed fine but Sonata mom had minimal milk. He's had blood work, been to Michigan State, and we can't find anything wrong except at the beginning he had an immunity deficiency.
Three times a day he gets his gruel. Go here for the recipe.
He's a happy little guy and runs right up to me to be fed. My concern right now is his ears. Can you see in the pictures that he has hair missing? I'm not sure if it is a deficiency in his diet (zinc maybe) or if his friends have nibbled on his ears. Because he is so little, everyone eats their hay above him and they drop it on top of him. I frequently see other alpacas "grazing" on him ☺ Anyway, I'm treating him with some Tree Tea oil that has Vitamin A & D in it.

I sort of liked this picture that I took this morning of the sun pouring into the barn on JR and his mom, Sonata. The shadows are neat......
Yep, he still has a turtle neck on - not for warmth though. I just hate to see him get covered with hay when we are getting so close to shearing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

PhatFiber Samples

These are the 23 yarn samples that I have been preparing to be included in the April PhatFiber Sample Box. (The big skein is for Jessica)
What's a PhatFiber Sample Box? you say...... A couple of months ago a young couple named Marcus and Jessica came up with this idea that sellers mail samples of what they sell to PhatFiber and they, in turn, will create monthly sample boxes to be sold to all of you at $33 through Etsy.
This has been awesomely popular. The boxes went on sale Sunday and sold out in 2 minutes. I think that it's rather humorous that some potential buyers were quite irate that they didn't get a box, most just smiled and said "Maybe next time" I sent 20 samples of brown, Sonata, alpaca/merino roving so will be anxiously awaiting any feedback. I think the boxes were mailed yesterday (Monday).
Because the theme for April is Green, either the color or the environment, I dyed some of my gray alpaca/merino yarn from Tribute, pictured below ↓ (Did I tell you Tribute is going to come and live here?) I wanted to send 20 to 25 yards of yarn but I mini skeined up too little green when I started so I included some of the gray, undyed to bring up my yardage. They look cute together. I sort of wish I had done this will all of them.
There is also a Phatfiber Ravelry group if you are interested. Go here

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wave Scarf and Handspun Yarn

My Monday night Knitting/Spinning group is making a version of this scarf this month. I didn't want to use any of my "good" yarn so used some of KnitPick's Elegance which is an alpaca/silk blend. It was great fun to knit. I thought about making it when the pattern was featured in the SpinOff magazine. Here's where you can get your free pattern: http://www.heartstringsfiberarts.com/a6-pattern.shtm I listed it in my shop here.
I added a few very hard to see beads on each end.

If the above yarn doesn't sell right away, I will probably use it to make another Wave Scarf. On my carder, I blended white alpaca with light fawn alpaca and added some green icicle that I got from the Etsy shop Yarn2Spin
This is a 4.8 oz./135 gram skein of 236 feet.
This is white Lady Belita (bad hairdo) and her light fawn cria, Celeste, whose fiber I used to spin the yarn.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Alpacas on Pasture

It's so nice to see the alpacas out in their pasture and not holed up in the barn. The grass isn't green yet, but it will soon be. I love that they are soaking up sunshine. In South America (Peru, Bolivia, Chile) they are at a higher elevation and nearer the sun. I always worry they aren't getting enough Vitamin D here.
☼ I shot this picture off my deck with the zoom. They are three acres away.

....and here we have little JR in his spring turtleneck. I think that if the weather continues to be so nice, he can go coatless. Although I dread thinking what his fleece is going to be like. He's so little that all the others eat over top of him and all the VM falls down on his neck and back.

Yesterday I had to drive to Jackson to pick up alpaca feed. This is Kathy and Lew Kukla, our alpaca mentors, who own Luka's Alpaca Ranch. They have become the very bestest friends imaginable. They order several tons of our feed twice a year for several of us alpaca breeders, then we go pick it up, get to visit, and catch up.
☼ Hey, that's the van that I traded the truck and Trailblazer for. I can haul alpacas and feed in it fine. Lots easier that the big clunky horse trailer. I did worry a little on our hour and a half drive home. It drove differently loaded with 1080 pounds of feed. Lew checked the air in my tires before we left and sort of assured us (neighbor Billie and me) that we would be ok.

Here are the 27 forty pound bags of feed in my arena. It's always so much easier to unload. Billie helped me and it was a piece of cake. Now it all gets dumped in to garbage bins so that it stays clean and rodents can't nibble into it.
The feed is called Pac-A-Nutrition that we order through Knoblocks in Kansas. We all believe that this is the very best nutrition that we can provide our alpacas - besides, it's pretty much choke free (which is a nasty problem with alpacas).

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Felters Using Alpaca

I'm really sorry that this picture came through so small. Nope, you can't click on it to make it larger. Really. It's a needle felted bear that Kathleen from New Jersey, made with some of my alpaca fiber. Go here to visit her Etsy shop McGregor Dolls
You will be amazed at what she can do with a pokey needle and a pile of fluff.
....and this morning I sent a package to Canada full of gray fiber from Reggie. Jennifer has used it in the past for her incredible elephants. Look at her creations on Etsy at Totally Timmy Studio.
These needle felters are amazing!!!! I would never have the talent nor patience to do this - let alone enough band aids to soak up the bloody pokes that I would give myself.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Girls' Day + Dogs

Yesterday was another one of those "Oh, my gawd, I'm so happy/lucky to be alive" days. Maryann and Judy came up from down by Nashville, MI, Heather from Kalamazoo area, Beth from Alma, and neighbors - Billie and Karen filled my house with love - and dogs as you can see above. Widge, we can hardly see you back there. Five more were left home. They all got along great except once when my Sheltie Max didn't want little beagle Penny near his friend human Billie. (Or maybe, because he was the only male in the house & had to assert himself ☺)
It was pretty neat because 4 of us do get messages from animals and I have been worried about Max because he has been so clingy to me since Smitty died. They helped me come to the conclusion that, yes, he is a little insecure, but will be fine, and that I need to include him on my daily walks.