Monday, May 31, 2010

One Small Change: Shampoo, Conditioner and Weeds

My goal for One Small Change in May was to migrate from my existing shampoo and conditioner to something that was more earth friendly.

I finished off the Conditioner and Leave-In Conditioner and replaced them with more natural products. I like both of the new products and the bottle designs.  I still have a lot of my old shampoo left. So I will finish it up and move to the new shampoo when it's gone.  Of course, as I'm writing this I'm wondering why I have both conditioner and leave-in conditioner.  I know why I started using both products, but now I am wondering why there are two products instead of one for two purposes.  Something to ponder...

Anyway, when I realized that I would still have old shampoo left at the end of the month, I decided to compare the ingredients between my existing and new shampoos.  I must say that I'm glad that I have decided to move to more natural products.  The outgoing shampoo has a long list of scary sounding ingredients.  The incoming shampoo still has long list, but at least of essential oils and extracts.

It does make me wonder though, why there is such a long list on either product.  Shouldn't it just be soap, conditioner and water?  So, I think this shampoo/conditioner migration might take a long and curvy path.

As for June - The combination of warmer weather and abundant moisture means we are learning about lawn care and weed control.

We haven't used chemical weed killers in years and don't intend to start. 

But, there are so many weeds, that the thought of digging and pulling all of them is... well, it's just something I don't want to think about.

I've recently come across the idea of killing weeds with boiling water and did a test last week...


24 hours later:

3 days later:

It appears we will have some clean up to do after, but I think we can call this test successful.

The boiling water (or bleach or vinegar or salt or rubbing alcohol) is supposed to kill basically everything it touches, so it's recommended to use in areas where broad plant destruction is intended.  Which means we will continue with the dig and pull method in the grassy and garden areas.

One Small Change

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Chasing Rabbits part 2

I mentioned last winter that our dog loves to chase rabbits.

He hasn't caught one, as far as I know.

He sits at the front window and the back porch looking for rabbits.  He chases them into our neighbor's yard.  When we turn into our neighborhood after a car ride, he jumps up and starts searching for the bunnies.  As we reach our house, he's chosen one, jumps out of the car as soon as soon as he can and darts across the yard.

This picture cracks me up... if he only knew the rabbit was sitting right behind him.

He did notice one later... I bet you've never seen a Shar-pei mix point before... me neither.

He is learning to be more patient and is getting closer every day...

... but the rabbits are safe for now.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Alpaca Shearing - Suris

This morning, I helped a friend shear some of her suri alpacas.
We set up at her place basically the same as at our place the week before.

Here are a couple of the big boys before we sheared them...

and one of her young-ens after his first haircut.

Their fiber is just lovely and the luster was really beautiful, especially on the white ones.

I haven't sheared many suris before today, so it was interesting to see how the fiber behaved differently, especially since I just sheared huacayas last weekend.  The suri fiber was easier to fold out of the way of the clippers but was much more affected by gravity than the huacaya fiber.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fiber Arts Friday - Duck Feet part 2

With shearing last weekend and the BolderBoulder on Monday, I've only had a few hours to work on the duck feet this week.

Once I got past the wide part of the foot, the double-pointed needles have been easy to use.  I've just started working on the gusset.  The heal will be next... eek.

Please head over to Fiber Arts Friday and heck in on our Wonder Why Gal and the other amazing Fiber Artisans.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My First Guest Post at One Small Change

I wrote my first guest post ever at One Small Change.  It's about our path to maintaining an organic lawn.

One Small Change

If Only He Knew...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Shearing Day - 2010

We sheared our alpacas last weekend.

We had a great crew of volunteers.

Most of our alpacas, including Charlie, took a break after we were finished.

Bandit was feeling pretty good about his new do.  He called to the girls most of the afternoon.

This is Captain Jack's last moment of full fleece...

... and then not so sure if his legs would work the same after we were done.

The ladies look pretty good, and are most likely checking out Bandit's new do.  ;-)

We collected two bags for Matter of Trust.

Lessons Learned:

1.  Saturday, was a difficult day. Alpacas have a pretty fine fiber, which makes the yarn very lovely, but more difficult to shear. I emailed with my shearing mentor overnight about the issues I was having. I had not been starting with enough tension on the combs and cutters. As a result of his coaching, Sunday was a much better and more efficient day of shearing.

2.  While we have been practicing walking on halters with the alpacas, most of them were not interested in going into the hay barn where the shearing was set up. There were a couple of surface changes... grass to concrete to rubber mat.  It appeared very dark in the barn from outside.  So, over the next year, we will practice walking into the hay barn with each of the alpacas.

3.  Keyla, my teacher, strikes again. She was the only alpaca who got stressed out during the shearing process. A couple of the other alpacas were vocal, but Keyla screamed, spat, drooled, peed, pooped and prolapsed during the process. We only had her down for a few minutes.  I was able to shear off her blanket, but nothing else. So she nearly got a llama cut this year. I will call our vet to see if there's something we can do to help her be more relaxed. She is ok, but saved a special spit just for me. She wanted to make sure I knew she wasn't happy about being sheared.

My next project is to build a skirting table so I can begin to process our harvest.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fiber Arts Friday - Duck Feet

I think it's best to minimize the variables when learning new skills.  Since these Duck Feet are my first pair of socks and the pattern has a long list of new to me stitches and cast on methods, I decided to use a commercial yarn.  I also figured machine washable would be a good choice for baby socks.

I went over to my new favorite local yarn shop, My Sister Knits, and found a pale yellow, machine washable, merino yarn along with the appropriate #2 sized tools.

While we were talking about the different needles, I told the lady at the shop that I was going to make my first pair of socks.  She said, "If you can read, socks are easy..." I had to laugh, because that's the same advice I gave my sister about cooking.

I came home, updated my Ravelry inventory, then opened up YouTube to learn how to do the following:
  • Judy's Magic Cast On
  • Turkish Cast On
  • Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off
  • RLI
  • LLI
  • S2KP
Being a recovering engineer, following instructions are not always my strong point.  So I find knitting to be a good exercise for me.  If you can read (and follow instructions), you can knit.  Right?

The instructions suggest using 2 circular needles, but that 2 double-pointed needles will also work.

I am now at the widest point of the first sock.  It feels a little tight as I reach the end of each row, but since the sock gets narrower from here, I am going to finish with the dpns.

I can't wait to see what it looks like.

Happy Fiber Arts Friday.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Who Wants to go Swimming?

Our girl Kocoa loves to splash in the water.

It's actually quite frustrating.  Whenever we clean and refill the water buckets, she splashes in them.  Which makes them very dirty.

Last week she started splashing during the refilling instead of after. 

The other girls were begging to be sprayed too. My husband called me over to try to keep them away from the buckets so he could at least get some water in them. I tried, but pretty much just laughed and took pictures.

We bought a plastic kiddie pool that we will put out after shearing this weekend. Hopefully then, Kocoa will splash in the pool and not their water buckets.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Preparing for Shearing Day

This is my third season shearing alpacas.  However, this is the first season shearing at our own place.

I am just about ready for shearing day, but have realized a couple of things would be nice to have:
  • Livestock Scale - The farms we boarded with all had a livestock scales that we used for weighing the fleece on shearing day.  We do need a scale for weighing our alpacas, but we won't have one this time around. 
  • Floor Mats - I shear on the ground with leg ties, so rubber mats makes it nicer for everyone.  I saw some at one of those big warehouse stores, so I plan to pick them up on Friday.
Aside from the two things we are missing, I have assembled nearly everything else:
  • Sharp combs and cutters to cover the herd plus a few extra sets
  • Cutting Oil
  • Equipment for toe nail, teeth and top knot trimming
  • Extension cords
  • Brooms and a leaf blower
  • Identified the order to shear and prepared a record sheet that includes ages, colors and due dates.  I generally shear lightest to darkest in color, starting with the smallest alpaca of each color.  I do put the pregnant girls last with Keyla being very last.
  • 4 pre-labeled, clear plastic bags for each alpaca.  The bags are for the blanket, neck, legs & belly, and a sample for analysis
  • First aid kit
  • Safety glasses and knee pads
  • Re-confirmed most of our volunteers
  • Identified the lunch menu
  • Prepared a short to-do list for Friday
Friday's to-do list includes:
  • Setting up ties and supplies
  • Set up cans for trash and Matter of Trust
  • Pickup last minute lunch items and rubber mats
  • Prepare the food as much as possible
  • Review the shearing pattern and plan for Saturday
  • Ensure the camera has a full charge
While we now have a place to shear out of the weather, we do not have a place to ensure the alpacas remain dry if it rains.  The forecast looks pretty good, but I am still praying for a dry week.

We are shearing on Saturday, May 22nd.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fiber Arts Friday - Remembering

I was going through my brain the other day and found my very first Fiber Arts Friday post.

I had been reading FAF for a while and wanted to participate but never quite had it all together until last summer.  Now, ten months later, it's a regular post that I plan for each week.

I think blogging about my projects has helped me become a better knitter and spinner.  Certainly FAF and Twitter have helped me build relationships with other knitters and spinners who have provided guidance, support and challenges which have improved my skills.

I did give my sister's husband and son the matching hats for Christmas and I finally gave the initial scarf and hat to my sister for her birthday last month.

They gave us some very exciting news that day, which means I will be attempting these very soon.  :-)

I love you guys.

Enjoy the rest of Fiber Arts Friday over at Wisdom Begins in Wonder.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Compost Bins

We have two piles composting behind our shop.

There is a large pile of alpaca manure on the left and a smaller pile of yard waste on the right.  We have been collecting the alpaca manure for six months now and the yard waste for about a month.

I have the separate piles because the alpaca manure does not need to be composted prior to using it.  However I have found that a little aging mellows the aroma.

My husband is supportive of composting and recycling as long as the place is neat and tidy.  I have to agree with him and feel these piles are not the way we want things to be.  Which means I've been thinking about compost bins a lot lately.

After our fence repair last week, I had a waste piece of fencing that I figured might be useful in building a compost container.

The fence it 5 feet high, so I cut it in half.

I bent the ends and latched the fence into a circular container.

The holes in the fabric are 2" x 4" which seems to be holding the material together pretty well.

I should be able to remove the containers easily when the compost is ready.

I need to make a few more bins for the yard waste, then I will tackle the manure pile.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Snow in May

It's still snowing a little and is supposed to continue much of the day.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

ABS Alpaca Status

I haven't posted any progress about our Berserk Male in quite some time.  Mostly because there hasn't been much to report.

Yes, we reached the point to where I could feed and muck around this alpaca by myself.  I continued to be able to do this work.  However, we had not made any progress with handling.

He would pace and jump on the fence whenever we handled the other alpacas. Then when he couldn't get to the alpaca on the lead, he would attack his corral mates.  He injured our other gelding.

If I was in the pasture without my husband, he would pace and rear up against the fence.  His eyes fixated on me until I would raise my arms and yell loudly.  At which point he would stop and turn away, but maintain an aggressive stance.

He was always better behaved when my husband was around.  Finally, when our neighbor came for a visit with his young son, the alpaca was very aggressive toward the boy.

So my husband and I now agreed that the alpaca was dangerous.  We believed it was only a matter of time before he tried to hurt me again or someone else.  This was our first time euthanizing an animal that wasn't old or sick.

The reason I share this information is to help raise awareness.  Yes, Aberrant Behavior Syndrome is rare, but please learn the signs and stop the behavior before it starts.  It's always easier to prevent than repair.

An alpaca should be interested in people but only for a short period of time and from a distance. They should be more interested in their herd mates. If they hang around you too much, or enter your space without being invited, their behavior needs to be corrected. Swiftly. What is cute at 30 pounds is dangerous at 200 pounds.

At the beginning of this process I did not know what the lesson was. Today, I would say how important it is to remember that alpacas are livestock and not pets. They must be treated as such, especially when they are so darn cute as cria.

Aside from this one male, we have found alpacas to be very easy to care for. They are easy to train, handle and shear.  They are entertaining to watch and produce wondrous fiber that makes beautiful, soft yarn.
Since carrying out our decision, the mood on the ranch is calm and peaceful.  I have been able to catch, handle and lead all of our alpacas without incident.

Here are some resources to learn more about Aberrant Behavior Syndrome aka Berserk Male Syndrome aka Novice Handler Syndrome:

Cathy Spalding
John Mallon
Marty McGee Bennett

Monday, May 10, 2010


My tomatoes, basil and jalapenos have not survived my risk-taking, early planting and we have a chance for snow on Wednesday.  At least the apples and strawberries are blooming.



Saturday, May 8, 2010

Captain Jack

Last September we had a naming contest.

Alpacamundo's Captain Jack was named by @Molleo1.

Jack is just about ready to get his first hair cut.  He appears to have oodles of fleece which I think he gets from his poppa.

You can see from his newborn pic that he looks almost black, but a current pic shows him looking brown.  I'm anxious to see what he and his fleece will look like after shearing.  His poppa looked almost red in full fleece, but almost black when shorn.

Jack has a black face and points like his poppa, but his face is his momma's.  That's his best bud, Eduardo, on the left.

Captain Jack is our youngest alpaca and therefore still our smallest but he is full of personality.  He jumps with excitement at feeding time and is still a bit dramatic during halter training.

We love this little guy.

Shearing day is scheduled for May 22nd.