The Latest Scoop
2 September 2011 - I was looking for some small inexpensive items to fill out my inventory for the upcoming Endless Mountain Fiber Festival and, after much trial and error with various patterns and yarns, came up with this felted rose pin. The flower is first knit, then felted in hot water and shaped.
I then found a pattern I liked for a crocheted flower. These are really quick – especially the leaves. This is a nice change of pace from hats and scarves that have been occupying much of my time lately.
How about a whole bunch of flowers?
These cute little brooches are so quick and easy to make – they are addictive!
The Endless Mountain Fiber Festival will be held Sept 10-11 at the Harford Fairgrounds in Harford, PA. A fiber festival is similar to a craft show with the emphasis on fiber arts, fiber animals and products.
In the words of the organizers of this event:
“The festival is a celebration of Fiber Animals and related items. The event includes: raw and processed fibers, yarn, clothing, fiber arts and crafts, sheep skin products, and spinning and weaving supplies. There are vendors, exhibitors, animals, workshops and demonstrations. Vendors participate from throughout the Northeastern United States.”
There will be sheep, alpacas, llamas and angora rabbits present. I am not taking any of my alpacas, but the booth next to me - Endless Mountain Alpacas - should have some of their alpacas there for me to visit for a quick paca fix. I will also make a point of stopping by to see the llamas that will be there from Snowy Oaks Fiber & Llamas. Their llamas look so dignified in their traditional Quechuan headgear.
Last year, at this festival, was the first time I had been anywhere as a vendor. It was such a great experience and I am looking forward to another great weekend there.
22 August 2011 – I always fail to remember in July and August – when our pastures are dried out and scraggly-looking – that it only takes a few late summer rains to bring back the lush grass that our alpacas enjoyed in early summer. During these times, our pastures look so dead that it is hard to believe that they will easily revive with enough rain. For most of July our alpacas have been on a “grass diet” with their pasture time severely limited to avoid too much damage to our dried out fields. Now the rains have come and the pacas can look forward to a couple more months of good grazing.
Our M-O-Lee does not handle clover in the pasture very well. Too much clover gives her an upset stomach and I have to give her Maalox which she does not like. I know how bad she is feeling when she lets me sit next to her, stroke her neck, and tell her how sorry I am that she is sick. Usually she would not tolerate this familiarity!
Here is a picture of our poor sick M-O-Lee – like most females when she is feeling rotten, she does not look her best! She is actually a very pretty girl.
So although the pasture is revived –the clover is also revived - and we must continue to keep a close eye on M-O-Lee.
5 August 2011 – For the most part, I enjoy our mid-Atlantic climate with its four distinct seasons although it would be nicer if it were less humid. However, August is my least favorite month. I think that every August that we have lived here has been miserable. No matter how much it seems to rain, there is still a drought – the grass turns brown in large patches and it is a struggle to keep alive anything that is supposed to be green.
The girl alpacas are on very limited turnout in an effort to preserve their pastures. The other day, Calla came in with roots – grass roots – dangling from her mouth so I need to limit their turnout time even more. They don’t appear to mind this as they prefer to kush in front of the fans and chew cud all day.
The little boys – Petey and Cosmos, along with their llama Jack – have turned into real stall potatoes. They have quite a bit of pasture available to them but prefer to spend most of their days inside with the fans. When we had a recent relatively nice day – low humidity and breezy – I chased them outside. Within an hour they were back inside. I guess the half-dead summer grass wasn’t worth the effort.
The big boys – Acer and Alder – are doing well with their own digs separate from the barn. They have a field shelter and lots of pasture to roam. I had previously made provisional plans to bring them into the barn with fans during the warmest days of summer but this has not been necessary. They have several shady locations available to them and enjoy at least a slight breeze most days. Now that we have repaired the water line leading to their shelter, we can hose bellies on the hottest days. They appear quite content with their setup.
So, it’s just a matter of plowing through these last miserable days of summer. I check their water frequently – it is amazing how warm it can get just standing in a bucket – even when the bucket is in the shade. I give each group a pail of electrolyte water each day and make sure their mineral containers are full. So no one appears stressed – and aside from an occasional spat between the various girls – everyone is relaxed ---but we are all ready for fall
22 July 2011 – It has been a busy summer ever since our alpacas were shorn 2 months ago. Their fiber is our product - our harvest.
By shearing time, each alpaca has grown a thick and luxurious fleece.
There are several things that I like about the shearing process. The most important thing from the alpacas’ standpoint is that they are free of all that heavy fleece. And from my standpoint, I don’t have to worry quite as much about the effects of heat on them.
I like seeing the fleece roll off the alpaca – I find I can really begin to judge the density and brightness of each individual fleece in a way that I am unable to do while it is still on the alpaca.
This is Belle's fleece coming off.
I also am always curious to see how the yearlings will look after their first real shearing. This year, Cosmos was the most changed. He went from medium fawn with a beige spot in his blanket to dark fawn with no spot. I knew that his “Bambi spot” was growing out, but was anxious to see how it looked at the skin.
Calla wins the prize for “the most alien appearance”.
Cynara did not change at all. She is a little smaller than the others and has always had a babyish look about her. Shearing did not cause her to appear any closer to looking like an adult alpaca.
The alpacas carefully check each other out as the shorn ones re-join the herd. They don’t look the same but obviously smell the same . After each newly shorn alpaca is sniffed all over, she is accepted back into the herd.
As I prepare for the fall fiber festivals and craft shows, I am at last working with the fiber from my own alpacas. I will have items for sale made from the fleeces of Alder, Barbi, and Belle. And lots of ideas in mind for the remainder of our harvest.
10 May 2011 –Last night when the girls came into the barn I couldn’t help but notice how clean their fleece appeared. Just a few days ago I had been despairing over how dirty they were. With shearing time fast approaching, they need to be as clean as possible so that their fiber is in the best possible condition for processing.
The girls were rotated into a different pasture at the beginning of the week. The first thing they do when changing pastures is to run about kicking up their heels and rolling in the grass. This does wonders for clearing off all the little bits of hay, seed heads and other debris from their fleece.
To help keep their fleeces in good shape, it is very important to maintain a clean pasture - as free from weeds and debris as possible. This is something that we give close attention to. As we are now well into spring, the pastures have greened up and are growing fast. This means lots of work on our part with over-seeding, fertilizing and liming. We are careful to mow frequently to keep down the weeds as well as seed heads forming on the pasture grasses. Our hard work has paid off - our pastures are growing well and look clean.
I enjoy the effort that goes into maintaining our pastures and see it as an extension of my passion for gardening. Just as I love seeing the green shoots of my perennials emerging in early spring, I love seeing the pasture seed that I have sown come to life.
The joy of the spring pasture is not just for the alpacas.
25 April 2011 - Some of us have commented that it is interesting, now that the sales of animals and breedings are down due to the economy, that the industry is putting more of an emphasis on fiber. Developing a framework for a fiber market should have been a primary focus all along - from the very beginning - instead of the strong focus on sales and breedings. But as the saying goes, “follow the money”. The money was in sales and breedings.
In today’s market, it is the cottage industry people – and their fiber products – who appear to be doing the best at hanging in there. I am of the belief that there is a use for all fiber and my inspiration is my gelding Alder. I have been playing around with his fleece and it has been a fun challenge to see what I can come up with – even for his seconds and thirds, the less desirable parts of his fleece.
I keep a little notebook in which I record my plans for how each alpaca fleece will be used and the associated costs. Because Alder is my inspiration, and I do concentrate on the best use for his coarser fleece, I have come up with more ways to utilize his fleece than that of my fine-micron girls.
This felted hat is an example of a product which can be made from the coarser grades of fiber. I made this hat from imported fleece - not Alder's fleece - his fleece is still at the mill - being made into worsted yarn from which I will be making more hats such as this one.
I prefer the saying “do what you love and the money will follow.”
It really is about the fiber.
16 April 2011 – What are the odds that a small, 1 inch long wire, lost several months ago when dropped in the pasture, would become firmly embedded in Acer’s foot? This is in a field that is not being grazed at present due to over seeding, but one that the boys walk through twice a day on their way to and from their day pasture.
A horse person would say the odds are pretty good – as the saying goes - “if there’s trouble in a pasture, the horse will find it”.
I think the same saying would apply to alpacas – and one to keep in mind.
8 April 2011 - First let me say that it has been brought to my attention that I am somewhat behind here – while I do not write on a schedule, but rather when the mood strikes me, I did not realize that so much time had gone by. More in the days ahead about what I’ve been up to but I want to tell you about my “aha moment” in regard to my alpacas.
This weekend is the big MAPACA show. (Mid Atlanta Alpaca Association) Formerly the largest show in the country, it is now I believe the second largest. We have never shown at MAPACA – as a small farm, I feel totally overwhelmed by the atmosphere there but many other small farms do show there and feel quite comfortable. In talking with people before this show as well as others this spring, several have commented that judges appear to be valuing density above fineness this show season. A couple of people have remarked that they have been breeding for fineness, but now density takes precedence in the show ring.
My juvies had disappointing results at our recent show in Virginia. As always, I try to learn from the experience and from the judge’s remarks. As the judge had remarked that a couple of my animals did not have crimp that extended the length of their fleece, I was second-guessing my decision not to put fans on their wet fleece. Due to the set up at the Virginia Horse Center, they were sleeping in pens under an overhang – they were wet and it was below freezing at night. So I elected not to put my fans out.
Now, a few weeks later and back home, I have been examining their fleece under different conditions. The juvies’ fleece, when wet, does tend to flop and the crimp flattens out. When dry, the crimp extends the full length. My aha moment came this morning when I was looking at my wet girls – the little girls’ fleeces were wet and flopped over. The rain did not penetrate the fleeces of the older, more dense girls.
So – it is density that is lacking. If they were very dense, the rain would not penetrate, the fleece would not flop over, the the crimp would not flatten out. I wish the judge had been more direct in her comments. I would have better understood . And now I understand why some farms run the fans non-stop at the shows, regardless of the temperature.
And poor Cosmo! When the judge examined his “privates”, she exclaimed “Do you realize that his testicles are unequal in size!” She went on to say that this was a big fault and that I needed to get my vet out. She again repeated at the end of the class that I needed to get my vet out to see him. Perhaps others with more experience in this area can advise me as to exactly what my vet will be able to do. If it involves hormones or surgery, I am not interested. Cosmo can live with what he has. And, for the record – his little “jewels” are not unequal – one simply hangs lower.
But our little Pete – our new guy – redeemed the weekend. Petey was bought to be a companion to Cosmo. He is a slow-grower and small for his age. I took him along to the show to be company for Cosmo. While waiting for Pete’s class – the white yearling class – I was talking with the woman sitting next to me. She pointed out her yearling who was to be in the same class. He was an offspring of one of the current “boys du jour” – a well-known herdsire - well-known because he was sold for an amount in the upper 6 figures. This yearling was indeed a studley looking guy. My Petey – only 98 pounds at 22 months of age - would be no match for the likes of this.
Just before entering the ring, I whispered into Pete’s ear as I do with each of my alpacas upon entering the show ring – “walk in like a winner”. Our Petey walked in proudly and stood tall – and we were thrilled to place 3 out of 11 – and place over the famous stud’s offspring.
A good way to end the weekend.
5 February 2011 - Many of us in the camelid community have been following the story of the rescue of over 600 llamas from the now defunct Montana Large Animal Sanctuary. At some point in time, this sanctuary was begun with good intentions but, due to various problems, ended up in a bad situation, with hundreds of llamas, males and females together, roaming over large acreage in the mountains of Montana. With severe weather coming on and food running out, an enormous effort was launched to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home as many of these animals as could survive the journey.
One hundred of these llamas recently arrived at the Northeast Llama Rescue in Middleburgh, NY where they will remain until new homes are found for them. Go to the following rescue site to read about them:
Be sure to read the blog by Gayle, one of the rescue workers. Her daily reports were heartbreaking to read – especially the story of Elizabeth, one of those who was not strong enough to make the journey from Montana. I am in awe of the determination, courage and love shown to these animals by the rescue workers who persevered through very difficult conditions to bring these animals to a better place in life.
As you read their story, I hope that you will be moved to contribute to Elizabeth’s Fund, which is dedicated to those llamas requiring special care, or to the general fund administered by NELR to assist with the expense of providing for these wonderful animals.
Those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to provide a good home for our charges can do no less than to make some effort to assist these poor creatures in their journey to their own good homes.
3 February 2011 - During a long stretch of heat last summer, I thought of the endless days of hot weather as just time to plow through mindlessly with routine chores, doing whatever was necessary to keep my animals comfortable and healthy. Now we are experiencing day after day of cold, complicated by snow and ice that is slow to melt. Again, there’s that same feeling of just getting through the daily routine, knowing that more pleasant days are ahead.
The alpacas seem content to stay in their stalls quietly chewing cud and arranging themselves where any spot of sunshine manages to come through. I usually send them out mid-afternoon – I scatter hay in their pastures which gets them out and moving but then they are quick to return to the barn and long before sunset they are back in their stalls, waiting for their evening feed.
We have a new boy in our herd! Cosmo was our only male weanling and he had been feeling very lonely. We had another male weanling staying with us for a while but after he left, Cosmo appeared to feel isolated. He did not consider Jack the llama to be company and constantly hung out along the fence line, trying to get as close to the girl weanlings as he could. My efforts to locate a boarder of the appropriate age did not bear fruit so we went shopping for a male weanling. During our search, we came across Pete. He is an older yearling, not the weanling we were looking for, but something about this boy grabbed my heart - now he is here to stay and we are happy to have him as a part of our little herd.
Pete is a very quiet, gentle soul and his calm demeanor has certainly had a positive effect on Cosmo who has always tended to be somewhat rambunctious. So now I think of the grouping of Cosmo, Pete, and Jack as “the quiet boys”.
The “rowdy boys” are Acer and Alder. Alder had some sort of accident this past weekend. I think that someone’s fighting teeth were somehow involved. We found him with his lower lip thoroughly lacerated, inside and out. Our vet did a beautiful job of suturing it all back together and as you can see in this photo, the area is barely noticeable.
The cold weather has certainly helped to keep down the swelling as his lip is in frequent contact with the frozen ground as he eats the hay that I put down and digs through the snow to try to find grass below.
With all of my planned meetings and activities cancelled this week due to the weather conditions, I could easily spend hours in front of the fire with my knitting and spinning projects - but I find myself bundling up and heading out to check on my boys – no matter what the weather and the discomfort involved, they will always bring a smile to my face.