Saturday, May 30, 2009

NutriSystem for Weight Loss??????

Asparagus from my little patch - drizzled with a touch of olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and a generous amount of pepper, and briefly broiled. Yummy! one of the best parts of spring. I won't eat asparagus canned or frozen or anyone elses because nothing can compare to snapping it off and eating it 20 minutes later.

I'll be talking about food on here for a while 'cause I have ordered the NutriSystem. I've been walking 2 miles every morning and biking a couple every evening and haven't lost weight. Discussing this with DD Terre and she tells me I'm just not eating enough. I hate to take the time to prepare food so the NutriSystem sounds like a good plan for me.

The 30 pound box arrived yesterday from UPS filled with 28 days of food. It's all color coded and labeled Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Desserts, which is now arranged in my cupboard as such. By the way this cost $299.95, including shipping. The food is all in a dry form. For example: last night I had a chicken thing that I just had to zap in the microwave, this a.m. I added water to scrambled eggs and zapped it. So far the food has been tasty.

A little record book came with the meals but I like keeping track at their online site. I record what I eat, weight, measurements, and exercise. They have a community with forums but I've only lurked there a little. So, my friends, you will occasionally be hearing about the program and my progress.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

June PhatBox Contribution

This blog entry is a tribute and thank you to the purchasers of the Phat Fiber Sample Box each month. I thought it might be fun for you to see what goes into those tiny little samples that you receive from all of us Phatties.
I'll skip over feeding, vetting, shearing, and caring for our dear 4 leggeds and jump right to that big, clear, plastic bag of freshly shorn alpaca fleece.
That's white Pollux (Luxie) above. After washing his fleece, I dyed three batches in my crock pot. Our Phat theme this month is Oceanic so I thought blues for water, yellow for sun, white for foam, and brown for sand.
I didn't have to dye any brown and just used Polaris's ↓ golden brown fleece just like it is, well, I did wash it...

After all this is dry, it's off to the carder. This picture → shows you peeling the fiber off the carder. If you want more info about my carding go here. I made these batts in layers - example - white, brown, blue, white, or whatever my gutts said to add next. As I was carding, I tossed in some crystal, shiney angelina, and some dyed silk that's been laying around forever. You can be a little creative when carding but after a while, I think it's a little boring. I priced a motor to speed things up a little, but they are about $1,000.
I ended up making 5 batts and stripping each batt to 4 strips which I then drafted a little to make it spin more like roving. (Drafting-pulling the fibers out so they line up next to each other in a thinner little roving)

Then I wrapped each strip around my hand, tucked the end in, to form these little nests.

........and tied each nest with some handspun alpaca yarn. I created little cards on my computer with pictures of Lars and Luxie. They deserve the credit for producing such lovely fiber for me, right? And the buyers need to know what they are getting and who it is from.
The final step is going on line to purchase my postage and stuffing the nests into the bag. Oh, and tossing in a few lavendar sachets. Jessie, our PhatLady who does all the promoting, coorinating, and mailing, gets a bigger sample of what I send to say thanks.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

JR in with the Big Boys

It's time that JR leave his mommy and go live with the boys. He's 8 months old and weighs 60 pounds now. He seems very healthy. I put him in with Tribute ↑ and Snickers →. Trib is a herd sire, but slight in frame and Snickers is just 3 days older than JR. They seem to be getting along fairly well. Last night Trib was chasing the little guy more than I like so Trib got separated for the night. When I went to the barn this a.m., JR was snuckled right up beside Snickers ☺ JR does spend quite a bit of his time looking for mom Sonata, but he's not pacing the fence or crying, and he seems to be eating well.

....and here's a picture of sweet Cassie protecting her duck.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Farm Improvements

Earlier in the week I blogged about adding some cement to the alpaca areas. This is the step that I had made for the girls. I've always wanted one here 'cause it's a little scarey for newborn crias. Can you see that I had the contractors put a rough finish on it? I'm hoping that walking in and out daily, will wear down the girls' toes somewhat so that I have less trimming to do.
And this shot below is where the boys hang out. Whenever we had rain, it would flood quite a bit. No more, I hope, 'cause they raised it about 3 inches.

And here we are inside with the girls. I made them a feed trough from gutter evetroughing. Kinda cool, isn't it? I did manage to have the drill slip and I have a very black spot on my thumb nail.
They were all hesitant about eating from it, but are doing fine now. Well, except Ariana, she doesn't seem to trust that it's ok. I may have to give her a separate over the rail pan if she doesn't catch on soon.
And below is my yesterday project. There has been a rather large area of grass between the girls' pasture, on the left, and the outdoor arena, on the right. I didn't like mowing it so fenced it in. There were gates that will open so that I can let the alpacas in through here to the outdoor arena for more pasture.
I built it with 6 old metal gates that have been around for a long time. I pounded in the T posts and wired the gates to them. Hope it holds. ☺ The really good thing is that the alpacas don't challenge fencing at all.
If it sounds like I'm bragging about my projects, well, I guess I am. I am really pleased that when I get an idea, I don't have to run out and find help. I'm slow and maybe a little dangerous with the power tools but I can get stuff done. About the power tools, I really am afraid of them. The louder the noise, the bigger the fear factor from me.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Busy Day on the Farm

I am going to receive a couple thousand dollars in June and really need to spend it. ☺Help the economy, you know ☺ I wanted either hard wood floors in the house or cement work in the barn. Guess you know what I decided on......
Yesterday about one, the cement guys showed up. We had to rip out the mats that were in the stalls. Remember that I used to board horses. The right amount of dirt was underneath so they didn't have to add or take away any.
This is the skid loader that they used to get the cement down the aisle to the spot. I also had them build a little ramp outside the girls' door which I had them really rough up. I'm thinking less toe nail clipping. They finished about 6 and all the 'pacas had to spend the night outside. Glad the weather has improved.

....and across the road Matt was planting corn. Isn't it amazing! I think he's planting 24 rows at a time. Holy Sha mo lee!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Almost Nine Months

You know, I haven't mentioned lately how I've been doing..... For newcomers to my blog, my husband was diagnosed with colon/liver cancer last July and died in August. I'm 67 and live alone now, well, except for my dear 4 leggeds. Family and my incredibly awesome friends have helped so much to make this transistion to single woman easier.

My 2 dogs, 3 cats, 4 horses, and 16 alpacas are an excellent reason to get out of bed in the morning. I've never thought of being too depressed to get moving and frankly, before Smitty's death, there were a couple of mornings when it felt like too much effort and I had no good reason to face the world. I know that these animal friends are sending me good energy all the time - the cat and dogs in the house, - cats, horses, and alpacas in the barn.

Because of them I am quite physically active. Keeping the pooh picked up from these critters keeps me moving. Billie (my across the road neighbor) and I walk 2 miles every morning and ride our bikes a couple every evening - weather permitting.

Sometimes I do a reflection and think about what it was like a year ago when we didn't even know that Smitty was sick. Sometimes I get out his journals and take a look at what was "normal" for us.

Strangely enough, the only time now that I feel the overwhelming, oh, my gawd, he's gone feeling is when I'm alone in the car. Don't really know what that's about.....maybe it's a safe place to be sad.

This is Smitty with our first granddaughter and his Haflinger pony, Thor. He loved them both.

I regret that the kids and I never had a "so you're leaving" discussion with him.....

What has brought up these thoughts is that yesterday I spun for classes at a nearby elementary school and at lunch a woman said - Isn't it interesting that when a couple isn't close, the survivor does real well, but with really close couples, the survivor has a hard time because the two of them had become one. This really pissed me off at the time - and it still does. How absurd to make a comment like that...

Cold Michigan Mornings = Shivering Alpacas

We sheared last Thursday and then had a couple of below freezing nights and a few cold alpacas. I coated the ones who seemed the coldest. Above is Tribute (showing off behind him is little Snickers and on the other side of the fence is our other herd sire, Polaris). And on the right is JR who is still in with the girls. I know, I know, they probably would have been just fine, but it made me feel better that I could do something for them. I have to admit though, we had quite the battles getting the coats on and off.

For some reason I wanted to show you the pallets with what's left of my hay. I had 700 bales, stacked up above the windows, and this is it until Phil, my super hayman, cuts more. Fortunately, I'm not feeding much now because we have quite a bit of pasture. This picture was taken in my indoor riding arena which has now become alpaca pens and hay storage. My horse friends will recognize the dressage letters on the wall. I like to keep them up as a reminder of another era in my life.

......and this picture is for my son, Rob, who teaches at Scranton U in Pennsylvania. He asked me on the phone about JR because he couldn't tell from my blog pictures just how much he is growing. Here he's standing in front of Chinella who is a year and a half. Looks great, doesn't he? He runs and plays now and wants nothing to do with any supplement that I offer him. He does love his pellets though. I'm thinking that he should be weaned soon and go over and live with his buddy, Snickers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Drum Carding My Alpaca

Yesterday I talked about washing this lovely fiber from Mira (white) and Lyra (dark fawn) and today I will show you how I prepare it for spinning.
This is my Strauch carder which I love. I've tried others but my alpaca fiber and I like this best (although I would dearly love to put a motor on it). On the left above I've fluffed up and spread out some of the fawn fiber. Turning the red handle will pull the fiber in to the picky/pokey licker-in while the big drum with the little curved wires rotates and straightens the fiber out. I planned this batt to be in layers.

After carding the first layer of fawn in, I add a layer of white as you can see in this looking down on the carder shot. Then I layered up another fawn and another white. As the wheel is turning, the brush on top lightly presses the fleece down, but after each layer, I use an old cheap bristle brush to further compact the batt.

There is a small strip with no wires on it so that you can slide a big knitting needle or special tool like the one above to loosen and pull the fiber up.

Then using your hands and slowly turning the drum, you pull the fiber off. This came off very smoothly, probably because the staple lengths are 5 to 6 inches long.

I like to run my fleece through just once to avoid any broken pieces (noils), but if I wanted to I could divide this up and run it through again for a more blended look. I want the white and fawn separated because I think it will spin up beautifully.
Roll those little beauties up and you have gorgeous batts ready to be spun. I have enough washed up to card some more for me to spin, so I think I'll put these in my Etsy shop when I get some time. One weighs 1.6 ounces and the other is 1.8 ounces for a total of 3.4 ounces

Monday, May 11, 2009

Washing Alpaca Fleece

I get so excited with all this freshly shorn fleece around that I just don't know what to do next. It's all weighed, staple length measured, recorded, and compared to last year's shear, so I can play. I don't know if there is a correct way to clean it, I'll just tell you what I do.
I work with about 4 or 5 ounces at a time. Running the hottest tap water that I can, I add a couple squirts of Dawn dishwashing soap, then gently sink the fiber in. I let this soak for about 20 minutes, every once in a while giving it a few pokes. I lift the fiber into a colander and drain out the dirty water. You will be amazed how filthy this is compared to the fairly clean look to the fleece. I repeat this wash, usually 2 washes are enough. Two rinses should finish it up.
I have never had my fleece felt but I think that it's important to know that you can go from cool to hot, but NEVER hot to cold......and as little handling and agitation as possible.

Above is some of Lyra (dark fawn) and Mira's (white) fleece washed up.
After washing and rinsing the fleece, I put it into mesh bags, and using the last spin cycle on my top loading washing machine, I spin it out. This cycle adds no water so my fiber is safe.
It will come out of the bags rather clumpy, so I pull it apart and sort of line up the fibers, and spread it on my counter to dry. By now most of the vegetation has disappeared and I pick out any remaining, along with second cuts that might have been missed.
Mira and Lyra's fleece is drying. Tomorrow I will show you how I'm going to card these two colors together.
Aimee, I would think that you could do the entire fleece in the bathtub, or even your washing machine, if you didn't agitate. I just don't like lugging around that much wet fleece.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Shear Day Visitors & JR Update

I tried to add this picture ↑ yesterday but it totally disappeared. I frequently have picture troubles here on blogger. Anyway, these are some of our shear day visitors who happen to be from the Lansing area. Heather, who isn't in the picture, has become an online friend. Visit her Etsy shop here → WineMakersSister Yep, the family does produce wine, and it's delicious. Heather brought me a couple bottles on her last visit. Don't you wish that you had that kind of friends?
......and here's JR before his first shear. He hardly stressed at all although his leading isn't the greatest. Had to pretty much drag him to the shearing aisle. His shear weight was 2 pounds, 12 ounces of incredibly fine, gorgeous fiber. Good job, JR.
I think the daily feedings are pretty much over. I have to catch him now and plunge a little in his mouth. He used to come running up to slurp down 3 tubes of his special gruel. I'm happy that he must be doing well and I don't have the chore anymore (after 8 months), but a little piece of me is saddened that he no longer has to depend on me. Sort of like sending the kid off to kindergarten.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Alpaca Shear Day

I'm going to sort of talk you through our shear day which was yesterday. The first thing we do is lay the alpaca down which takes a coordinated strength. The two guys (one in front & one in back) reach under the alpaca, grasp his legs, and in a lifting, pulling motion lay the 'paca down as gently as possible. Then both front and hind legs are hobbled and stretched out along a metal pole. You can see Celeste's legs above. After one side is sheared, the animal is gently rolled over.
Dave Binkowski and his daughter Katie both shear at the same time so that the entire shear takes less than 10 minutes and the animal isn't stressed too much.
Neighbor Dean. at Celeste's head, has removed her halter to trim the top notch and to have her teeth checked. Instead of teeth on top, alpacas have a hard palette so it's important that the bite is correct. Alpaca Barber Dave will use his Dremel tool to correct any imperfections and whack off fighting teeth if necessary.

While they are down is the excellent time to trim toe nails. Alpacas have two hard nails that sometimes grow screwy so Beth is shown here snipping away. I also give them injections while they are down. Yesterday they got Dectomax to prevent Menengeal Worm which in the deer world is called Brain Worm.

So while all this is going on, the shears are helping us sort the fleece as they remove it into Prime, Seconds, and Thirds (which becomes mulch for my flower garden). Persons (Billie and Gwen) are handy with plastic bags to collect this precious stuff as it comes off the animal. You can imagine how busy this all appears with 8 of us working around the animal.
The pictures on the right are before and after of 10 month old Mira. If you click on them, they get bigger. This was her first shear and the prime of her 6 inch long fleece weighed 3 pounds, 5 ounces. Her seconds weighed 2 pounds.
In spite of being extremely tired last night, I was wound and couldn't sleep so was still up at 3 a.m. weighing, measuring, and languishing in freshly shorn alpaca fleece.
☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺

I am extremely fortunate to have such great friends who come and help me out. It is physically hard with all the ups and downs that we do, and. yes, dusty and dirty also.
So thanks, folks, for being my friends and making me the luckiest woman in the world.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Grand Champions Chinella and Beth

I've had a little blog neglect going on here. Last week was spent getting ready for our alpaca show in Davisburg, Michigan. Both Chinella ↑ and Oppie ↓ loaded and traveled well in my van. The woman at McDonald's window did a double take at what was with us. Buddy Beth (critter lover in my comments) took both girls through the ring.
Chinella was our star! She won her class of black yearling girls on Saturday, and Beth took her back to win the ♫ Grand Champion ♫ of all the black girls at the show. You can only imagine how excited we were. We are a small farm and have never even won a blue before.
As soon as folks arrive at a show, a team of "checker inners" reads the alpaca's microchip, examines the health papers, and does a color check in the bright light before they are allowed to be stalled. Oppie's color has changed from light fawn to beige and she competed in a class called Light Colored Yearlings.
I'm very pleased that she took a second. For the folks who have followed my blog, Oppie (Golden Opportunity) is the really athletic little girl who has a mind of her own, so just getting her through the class was a super big achievement. Many thanks, Beth.
We spent time on the way home trying to decide on our breedings. Both these girls will be 2 next fall and we think that Tribute might be a good match.

This is the first that I have been away overnight in over a year and was able to do it because daughter Terre and her Golden Izzie came and stayed to do chores and care for the barn critters.....and can you believe, she even vacuumed the house. Thanks, Terre.