Friday, April 24, 2009

Good morning, girls & Cord's new pasture

This is what greets me after my morning commute of 100 steps to the barn. The Girls! Actually, there are 10, not the 8 that you see here. They are always cushed down like this waiting for their morning pellets. The little door that you see on the top right is for the young'uns. The big girls can't get in there so I can keep hay and pellets For Babies Only.
And just below the door, you can see their poop place. Alpacas are so easy to clean up after because they use a communal bathroom. Tidy little darlings, aren't they?

....and here is the yard/pasture that my neighbor woman and I completed yesterday. This is part of my Cut Back on Mowing project. That lovely grass should be eaten, not mowed, right? We cut apart part of Cord's fencing and put a gate in and then wired a large area for him to graze on. I'm so proud to say that I pounded in metal t-posts on the corners and then stepped in these plastic posts. A hot wire runs across the top and then a tape with electricity runs under it. The most time consuming thing was getting the electricity to work. As it turned out the deer knocked out the big pasture again - in three places and after splicing those, we had power.
The horse that you see here is my Ivan on his way out to his own pasture. He's a big guy (Percheron/Thoroughbred) but pretty good at dressage and jumping.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Renee Spins Alpaca/Dog Yarn

A couple of months ago Renee came over to spend the day with me. We played in fiber. I had a few bags of Cassie ↓ hair that my groomer had saved for me. Renee blended it with light fawn (Oppie, I think), ran it through the drum carder a couple of times, and took it home.
........and mailed it to me this week. Two beautifully spun, 2 plied balls of alpaca/golden retriever yarn. Can you see the halo on this yarn? It's really yummy and I'm going to knit something just for myself, probably a hat because I wear one all the time in the barn.
Little Max → wishes for some.....

The really interesting thing about Renee is that she raises camels. Really! She does have an Etsy store for you to visit called HarryCamel Through her store you can commission some of your dog hair spun up. I would definitely suggest adding something like alpaca to it though. ☺from NorthStar, of course☺

Thursday - To answer the guard hair question in comments. This is from Cassie's undercoat, the fine hair that was brushed out.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Just Some Alpacas

I felt that I needed some pictures of the alpacas in full fleece because we will be shearing in less than a month and they look incredibly goofy after that. You will see....
Below on the left is Golden Opportuniy (1 1/2 years) and on the right, NSS Mira (10 months). Mira hasn't been shorn before so her fleece will be true "baby alpaca". It is about 5 or 6 inches long. Oppy's is denser with lots of crimp, about 4 inches long, and will probably be easier to spin. This will be her second shear.

And here is our 7 month old Astra (Snickers) → He's the recently weaned 4-H project. I'm making no predictions on his fleece other than it's long, fine, and crimpy. He's not pure white, more a light fawn with some darker fawn spots. He's a dirt magnet and I'm not looking forward to picking the VM (vegetable matter) out of his fleece before processing it.

On the left below is NSS Lyra, born last June with her mom, Celeste who is 4 years old. Celeste was our first "born on the farm" female so although she is a little goofy, she's very special. She loves wintergreen LifeSaver mints. When she hears the paper rustle, she comes running. Her fleece won Grand Champion OverAll in the MIAF Spin Off Contest two years ago.
An Alpaca Spin Off competition is when you submit 2 ounces of an alpaca's fiber to be judged. The fleece is first evaluated by several categories, then evaluated again as it is spun, and finally, the yarn itself is evaluated. I have been a Spin Off judge for a couple of shows in Louisiana and here in Michigan. Although it is challenging, it's a great learning experience to handle and spin almost 100 different samples of fleece.

Then, of course, here's JR ↓ He weighed in last Friday at 51 pounds, a gain of 3 pounds that week. I had cut out his noon feeding and if he gains well this week, will cut back to just an evening feeding. WhoooHooo, has been a long 7 months. I took his turtle neck off and his fleece was a mess this morning. He was out in the rain at some time and must have rolled in hay chaff, so now he looks like the rest of the babies.....a fleece cleaning nightmare.

I will try to get some more "full fleece" pictures up before shear day, Thursday afternoon, May 7th.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Meet the Alpaca Day

Yesterday our local alpaca 4-H club (the Alpaca Amigos) sponsored a Meet the Alpaca Day at the fairgrounds in Alma, Michigan. Amelia took Snickers (Astra), the white boy above, and John took Chinella, the black girl below. About ten farms showed up to display our critters. I think we had a pretty good turn out of visitors. I will be glad to hear exactly how many. Each farm brought a door prize to be mailed out and the 4-H club had a kids' table for little ones to make things about alpacas.

I'm super pleased that both Snickers and Chinny were so nice to our guests. They allowed everyone to pet and feel their delightful fiber. You know, alpacas aren't normally the cuddly critters that we portray. They are curious but usually aloof and just as soon not be touched.
I took along my spinning wheel to show folks what we do with our fiber. Was an easy day for me because moms, Beth and Gwen, did all the hard work like setting up the pens, tearing down, and transporting the alpacas. Kinda liking this.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Alpaca Poodle

Last week Pamela Hughes from Raleigh, North Carolina bought some white alpaca roving (Andy ► & Polaris) to use for needle felting. This morning she sent me this picture ▲of the poodle that she created. Isn't it amazing? She says that she is just getting in to needle felting but she certainly looks like a pro to me.
When someone makes a purchase, I like to visit their shop. Hers, The Cosmic Pepperini (← just click here to visit her shop) had delightful soaps for feet with loofah imbedded in them. I couldn't resist and bought two bars. I thought it was neat that I was her first customer.

Well, look what came in the mail....all for happy feet. Can you see what all is here? Starting on the left is a foot shaped brush, behind that is a pumice stone on a rope, at the center top is one of the soaps that I bought, a peace sign with a loofah, then top right is the other foot shaped soap with loofah that I bought. You can see the darling rubber duckies in front and a container with "Pure Almond Butter Foot Softener" in the center. WOW! Thanks so much, Pam.
The other day when Ben hauled my manure, he also destoned my yard. This is his cute little tractor with the brush on the front. The balls in my driveway are walnut shells from my messy black walnut tree.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bye Bye Poop

I just went out on the deck to take pictures of Hedda and the hat that I just finished ↓ and look who's here with their tractor. That's Ben and his dad, Dave, here to haul off my winter's worth of alpaca and horse manure. ♪♫♪ EEE HAW ♫♪♫ I'll bet they just went home to get their skid loader. See, I'm telling all of you that life is good and those worrisome things will get taken care of. Aren't I so fortunate to have friends to help me out? I'm reasonably sure that he won't ever see this post, but Thank You, Ben - again and again - for all the things that you quietly do to make my life so complete.

And here's Hedda on a post of my deck posing for an addition to my Etsy store - I do enjoy knitting hats and they sell well around Christmas. The fall that I quit smoking, let's see, 3 years ago, I think, every time that I wanted to pick up a cigarette, I would pick up my knitting needles instead. I think I made about 30 hats in September and October.

Friday, April 10, 2009

PhatFiber Blog

Oh, my, everyone. Look what I found this morning What a lovely write up. Thank you, Jessica.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Getting Ready for Summer

My latest accomplishment! I am on 5 acres of land and, granted, a lot of it is already pasture, but a lot (way too much) is lawn, so I've vowed to cut down on what I have to mow this summer. If you recall, last fall I taught myself to drive the riding mower (with instruction manual in hand), but I was always terrified of mowing around the lagoon ↑. I found some plastic posts that I could just step into the ground and added 2 strands of white webbing and 3 strands of red and gray cable which you can hardly see in the picture. It's being mowed as we speak by the boy alpacas.
My other accomplishment, which probably doesn't seem like much to you, is that I put the screen door on the tack room. I am woman, hear me roar.
I am ecking away on the winter's worth of manure left for me outside by horses and alpacas. I need to get it out of here before the flys arrive. I really, really dislike flys around my 4 legged friends.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Love Me, Love My Dog

The granddaughters stayed with me for a few days of their spring break. I considered not posting these pictures for fear their folks wouldn't let them come back to this unsanitary home, then realized they're critter lovers also.
JR update: He weighed in at 44.7 pounds last Friday at 7 months old. A loss of .1 pound in a week. I had decided that if he gained substantially, I was going to cut out his noon feeding. Not happening.....

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tribute to Tribute

Look who came to live at our farm today. Beth is unloading Tribute to Money, a light silver gray Huacaya herd sire, born 3/10/03. He is 1/2 Chilean and 1/2 Peruvian and what a gentleman! We picked him up in Belding at Irish Valley Farm owned by Leslie and Bob Gosnell. We are hoping to get some outside breedings for him. There aren't many gray herd sires in our area. I will advertise him as a drive by breeding, meaning I can take him to the female's farm. He's such a nice guy that I can easily load, unload, and handle him by myself. Tribute has several cria on the ground so he is considered a "proven" stud.
That's the girls' pen behind and Tribute has just arrived. Is that lust in their eyes? The youngest girls, maidens, were the most interested in him. The older girls just came up for a look and went on with their business of cushing and chewing.

It's such a joy to have this handsome guy in the barn. All the way home, Beth, John, and I were talking about which of our girls would be the best matches. We also have medium fawn Polaris here, our own home grown herd sire. He hasn't proven himself as a breeder yet, so we are trying to figure out the best match for him.
Alpacas are induced ovulators which means that they ovulate after they are bred, sort of like rabbits. This means we should be able to time the breeding for when we want a cria. Gestation is roughly 11 months. So, if we do a breeding in June, we should have a May cria, or an October breeding should produce a September cria.

....and look at this totally awesome fleece that he's wearing.....