Saturday, January 23, 2010

Levels of Dirty

Much like the Five Levels of Consensus (which I realize I haven't posted about here), I have discovered there are Five Levesl of Dirty.

I've known about the first four levels for quite some time.  But now that we operate our own farm, I've learned there are actually Five Levels of Dirty.

Here they are:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fiber Arts Friday - Learning to Knit

I have been learning to knit.

I knit several hats and scarves with knitting looms, but was starting to get a bored.  So about 18 months ago, I decided to learn to knit with real knitting needles.

I bought a copy of The Chicks with Sticks Guide to Knitting by Nancy Queen and Mary Ellen O'Connell and promptly started working on the first scarf in the book.  It's a simple garter stitch with fringe.  I was using smaller needles and different yarn than the pattern called for.  Which means I knit back and forth for what seemed like forever.

I didn't finish the scarf.  Don't get me wrong, I think this book is a great reference.  Using it to understand knit, purl and cast on has been working very well.

With the hats I was more specific about the yarn weight and needles, so I could follow the patterns directly.  But the one thing I didn't find was what size head certain patterns should fit.  So the patterns I selected didn't always fit the intended head.

When I thought I was ready to modify a pattern for the yarn, needles and head I intended, my hats were always too big.

My husband decided he wanted a hat, but it couldn't be too hot and needed to be machine washable.  I thought cotton would be cooler than alpaca or wool and it shouldn't felt.  So I knit him an orange cotton hat for his 24.5 inch head.  Of course the hat is way too big and the cotton doesn't hold it's shape very well.  We washed it a few times.  It shrunk a little, but not enough.

After two failures for my husband's modified London Beanie, I made a twitter plea for help.  There must be some sort of guideline to understanding how much a hat would stretch.

The answer is: it depends.

It depends on the yarn you are using, how tight you knit and what pattern you are using.  It may also depend on the moon but I'm not sure about that.  ;-)

The advice I was given for my latest hat was:
  • Knit 18 inches for a measured 22 inches
  • Plan for 20-30% stretch
  • Use 90 stitches
  • Put the big hat on his head, pull it to a comfortable tightness, then subtract those stitches
  • That's why knitting a swatch is a good idea
I put the big hat on Hubba's head and pulled it tight, counted the ribs and ended up with 93 stitches.  I also estimated 25% stretchage (that might be a new word) and ended up with 88 stitches.  So I did the math on the pattern and am beginning the modified London Beanie one more time.  This time I am casting on 90 stitches.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Spring? Is that you?

It's January 19th, there is snow on the ground and it is overcast here in Northern Colorado, but I'm certain these are buds on one of my trees.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I used to be an Engineer

When I was a young girl, I was curious about how things worked. I was good at math and science and loved puzzles. I also loved animals (especially horses) skiing, rocks, hiking and Miss America.

I remember one of my parents friends asked if I wanted to be an engineer when I grew up. I told him that I was absolutely not interested in driving a train for a living.  Then many years later a career councilor suggested I think about engineering, because "engineers solve problems."

Engineering school was challenging for me but I could see how the coursework might be relevant someday. I graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Colorado and completed some graduate study in fluid dynamics and heat transfer.

My first professional job was as a Manufacturing Engineer on the Space Shuttle Main Engine working in Los Angeles, CA. At Rocketdyne we manufactured most of the pieces that went into the Space Shuttle Main Engine, as well as other rocket engines and assemblies for the International Space Station.

This job was like living a dream.

As a child, I remember watching the shuttle launches on TV. Everything would stop.

The world, my world, would stop to watch the launches and landings. Of course that was until Challenger. So to be able to watch the shuttle launches as a contributor to the space program was incredibly special to me.

Alas, my (soon-to-be) husband and I did not enjoy living in Los Angeles. We moved to Albuquerque where I had the opportunity to work with entrepreneurial companies on multiple laser systems, an electric generator, defense programs and an airplane.

These smaller companies allowed me learn how businesses operate. Specifically I have been responsible for purchasing, manufacturing, shipping, customer service and marketing as well as product development and traditional engineering. Some of my favorite accomplishments include developing and certifying two quality and production systems, of course with a team. No one can do everything by themselves.

Today, I work for a young IT consultancy, Astral Technology Group. We develop user interfaces and improve processes for our clients as well as develop and host websites. With ATG, I am primarily a project manager, but as the young companies I've worked with before, I have the opportunity to wear many hats.

To this day, I love the smell of machine oil and I love seeing the progress from day to day. Much like gardening, where the plants look different every day... the assemblies look different every day too. I really enjoy seeing them grow and eventually ship to customers.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Miss Kitty found the Barn

Miss Kitty finally made her way out to the barn this weekend.

She hasn't been out since before the snow and alpacas.  She's not too sure about the alpacas yet, and there's a lot of new things in the barn.  Most recently, mice have made an appearance. 

It's just a matter of time before she discovers the mice and takes care of it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hay Bins

We were feeding with large plastic buckets initially.  This was causing competition between the alpacas since they could only fit two heads in a bucket at a time.  They often knocked the bucket over and spilled hay everywhere.

So we asked our carpenter to build 3 hay bins; one for each corral.  We put them out this morning and suddently feeding time was a more peaceful experience.

There is a trap on top of the hay to keep it from being easily tossed out of the bin.

Each bin is six feet long which gives everyone a little more space to eat.

Even the big boys were able to eat together.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Alpaca Ranching: T + 9

The alpacas arrived on New Year's Eve.; nine days ago.  It's been a fun week-ish getting used to living together.

We are feeding twice a day and mucking once.  With 12 alpacas, mucking once each day seems to be ok for now.

Each group of alpacas has agreed to the location of their poop pile.

We had an emergency with our oldest female.  Which means we met our vet, who lives up to his accolades.

We weaned the three crias.

The Dog we Should have Named Houdini has been working hard to change his name to Alpaca Dog.

We've had lots of visitors and are getting to know which feed stores are best for what.

I wouldn't change it for the world.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Things that Work - Glittens

While in St. Paul, Minnesota before Christmas I was browsing in an outdoor store and found these glittens.  I'm not entirely sure that's a word, but these glove-mitten hybrids are neat.

Minnesota has it's reputation for a reason. It gets cold there. It also gets just as cold in Northern Colorado, but not as long. That means my fingers had been getting cold in my gloves.  I considered buying a pair of mittens but I really don't like the limited dexterity.

These Glittens have taken a little getting used to, especially the handling of car keys.  The real test however, was while doing ranch chores this weekend, I had the appropriate warmth and dexterity for filling feed containers and moving bales of hay.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Days Two and Three

Days two and three of being full-time alpaca farmers have brought us several visitors.  It's been really fun sharing our joy with family and friends.


Friday, January 1, 2010

The First Day

Here are some photos from today, the first day of 2010 and our first day as non-virtual farmers.

The girls and boys spy each other.

Phil loves to have his picture taken.

Moms and Crias.

Jane is beautiful when she batts her eyes.

The big boys.

Happy New Year - 2010

Today, is New Year's Day.

Today, we begin the first day of the new year with a new task... feeding our alpacas and mucking the corrals.

Today, is the first day we can say, "We are Full-Time Alpaca Ranchers."

Today, is the first day the Ray Family and Alpacamundo are in one place.

Today, if I want to visit my alpacas I can walk across the back yard.

Today, Project Relocation is complete.

Today, a new year and a new life begins.

Happy New Year!