Wednesday, June 30, 2010

One Small Change: Weed and Time Management

My One Small Change for June was to manage our weeds with boiling water. 

Boiling Water:

It works pretty well for small areas such as sidewalk cracks.  I have had to re-apply in some cases since this method really requires a generous amount of boiling water to ensure the plants are well-cooked.

So I have been boiling a couple pots while I wash the dishes or make dinner.  Which means this process is slow going, but it does work.  Check out this after photo.


Since the boiling water works better in smaller areas, I have started using salt in the parking and driveway areas.  I don't have plans to plant these areas in the future and I don't want to weed them next year.  So I'm not worried about having salty soil in the parking and driveway areas.

This method requires a generous amount of salt.  So I shopped around and was able to find 50 pound bags for about $6 each at a local feed store.

After I got tired of sprinkling salt by the cupful, I used our seed spreader.  While the seed spreader layed the salt down evenly, it wasn't enough to greatly affect the plant growth.  You can see that some areas have dead weeds though.  Perhaps if I went over it a few times??

Dig, Pull and Chop:

In many cases, the weeds are too close to plants we want to keep, so we have to do some good old-fashioned pulling.

Someone told me this is called milk weed, but I always thought milk weed was something else. 

Regardless, it's nasty and we have a lot of them. They have a bazillion seeds and are impossible to pull out of the ground. There was one in one of the corrals and the alpacas would not eat it.

My neighbor told me that goats won't eat them either. So I've started to cut the seed heads off and put them in trash bags. Then digging the plant out with a shovel and composting it.

For July - Weeds:

I plan to continue with our weed elimination program.  It's working, but we have a long way to go with the weeds on our property.

For July - Time Management:

While time management won't directly reduce my impact on our environment.  Starting Alpacamundo, moving to our farm in Colorado and working as an IT Consultant all have their place in enabling our goal for a simpler, more peaceful and eco-friendly life.

The problem is all of these things require a lot of my time and energy and the time between them is blurred.  Working from home and commuting out of state are still relatively new ideas for me.  Which means when I work from home, I want to spend time on farm stuff during the day then I stay up late to work on my clients stuff at night.  When I'm traveling, it's the opposite.

Now bats in the ceiling and escaping alpacas need to be addressed when they occur.  But as a general rule I need to be more structured with my time.

So for July, I will block out a weekly schedule for all of my activities.  I will also carry my idea notebook so I can capture ideas and tasks as they come to mind then work on them during the appropriate blocked time.  I feel if I am able to focus my attention better, I should be able to get it all done more effectively.  Then the more effective I am at getting it done, the more quickly we will reach our goals.

One Small Change

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Black Out

All it takes is a black out to be reminded of how dependant we've become on electricity.

Sunday evening the power went off in our area around 9:15 pm.  The sun had already set, so it was dark outside.  We grabbed a couple of flash lights and lit a bunch of candles.  Then we realized our internet access was affected because the router is powered by electricity.

With no TV, radio or internet to distract us, Hubba pretended to tell ghost stories.  Then he realized the smart phones still worked so he and his buddy compared iPhone and Droid Apps.

It occurred to me while this was going on how much electricity has become a huge part of our lives.

Cooking:  Our stove, oven and microwave are electric.  Even when we had a gas stove and oven they had an electric ignition.

News:  The television is electric, the DSL was probably working, but the router is electric and we haven't had a battery operated radio in years.

Phone:  We did have mostly charged cell phones.  We don't have a house phone, but when we did it was cordless with an electric base.

Light:  We had candles and flashlights, but the alpacascope went dim after a while.  It was kind of fun brushing my teeth by candlelight, but out of habit I flipped the light switch trying to get more light.

Water:  The water heater is gas, but it is controlled by an electric thermostat.

Heating and Cooling: Our house technically has air conditioning and one ceiling fan, both of which are electric.  The heat is hot water/baseboard heat, which is heated by gas, which is controlled by an electric thermostat.

Food Storage:  The refrigerator and freezer are electric.

The power came back on around midnight.  I don't know what caused the outage but it was an interesting period of observation.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Breeding Decisions

The time has finally come!  We are preparing to breed the first female alpaca born under the Alpacamundo Breeder ID.  She's actually been ready since February but I didn't want to have a cria in the middle of a snow storm next year.

I was planning to breed her in the spring, after shearing.  Then some of my friends had issues with still-born cria, so I decided to delay her breeding a little longer to ensure she wouldn't be too pregnant during shearing next year.

Our lead herdsire has been calling to her and she flirts with the boys whenever we bring them around.  My plan was to breed her with our lead herdsire, so I was happy they were interested in each other.

Then Wednesday, the girls got out.

The maiden (Daisy) went directly to the boys and started flirting, the pregnant girls went out to the pasture for some fresh grass and our 12 month old female (Frieda) went to the boys corral and cushed.

The boys (Charlie and Bandit) orgled, jumped on the fence and fought over who would have Frieda.  I told Frieda she's not old enough yet, and told Charlie they're related so it wasn't going to happen for him either.

The incident made me realize I hadn't thought about who I would breed Frieda to when the time comes.  And the time could very likely be this fall when we're breeding the other girls.

So I put together two matrices.

Ancestor Matrix:
Our herd across the top and their ancestors down the left.  I indicated what generation each ancestor was for each of our alpacas.  I already knew that some of our alpacas are related since they share a sire/dam or are full siblings.

Able to Breed Matrix:
Boys across the top and girls down the left.  I identified if the match was ok.  This is not a matrix to show who I plan to breed with who.  It is only to show whether they could be bred together based on ancestry.

I learned a few things by doing this.
1.  The planned Daisy - Bandit matchup would not work.  They are related 3 generations back.
2.  Daisy could be bred with one of our junior herdsires.
3.  Frieda has many options when the time comes.

The Junior Herdires:

Blue Mesa Yoda:  We bought this Legacy grandson with the express purpose of breeding to our Augusto granddaughter, Enchanted Sky's Kocoa Moon.   Both alpacas have amazing fleece.  Yoda is showing signs that he is ready.  We plan to make this match up in the fall after Kocoa has her cria.

Alpacamundo's Augustus:  Gus is three weeks older than Daisy.  He was the very first cria to be born under the Alpacamundo ID.  He has beautiful, fine and lustrus fleece.  He tried to breed a female when he was two weeks old while other breedings were going on.  Gus is part of the Augusto line and will be two years old in the fall.

The Decision:
I have decided to hold Daisy until the fall when we are breeding the other girls.  We could have four match ups and therefore, we should have four cria born close together next year, which would then be weaned about the same time too.  This way the crias will be able to have friends their own age rather than one born this time next summer and three others a few months later.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What a Year it's Been

Yesterday (June 25th) was our Colorado anniversary.  One year ago, we sold our house in Albuquerque and moved to Colorado.  A lot has happened since then...
  • We moved everything we own in a U-Haul truck and put it in a storage unit off the freeway somewhere in Northern Colorado.
  • We stayed in a scantly furnished, small, rented house in Greeley while we searched for our new home and farm.
  • We "enjoyed" the wonderful "aroma" that Greeley is known for.
  • We found, purchased and moved into our new-old home and farm.
  • We've learned about feed and tractor supply stores.
  • I bought hay.
  • We un-finished some of our basement, repaired the sewer line in the front yard and sacrificed an apple tree in the process.
  • We built corrals and loafing sheds.
  • We built ramps.
  • We moved our alpacas to our new farm.
  • We've learned about caring for a lawn.
  • I've sheared 28 alpacas, 17 of which belong to people other than me.
  • I've improved my knitting skills tremendously.
  • I've changed day jobs.
  • I've travelled to MSP 27 times.
  • We've taken three long weekends.
  • We put one alpaca down for behavioral issues and one due to age.
  • We put a dog down due to age.
  • We lost our kitty to the food chain.
  • Hubba buried a rabbit the dog finally caught.
  • We bought a truck, ATV, lawn mower, freezer and washer/dryer.
  • We used a laundromat for four months.
  • We expelled bats from the space between our ceiling and roof.
  • We saw owls and a bald eagle
  • Hubba saw elk for the first time ever.
  • We went skeet shooting.
  • Hubba raced in 7 marathons, 2 half-marathons, 1 10k and 1 2k.
  • We've made new friends and reconnected with old ones.
  • We shoveled snow.
  • We registered to vote
  • I've made blogging a regular activity.
  • We've had dinner with my parents just because we're close by.
  • We went to Wyoming for lunch.
  • We disassembled a deck and hot tub.
  • We took a walks along a lake and a river.
  • I entered a smackdown with a rabbit.
  • We had an Alpaca Naming Contest.
  • We Halter Trained alpacas.
  • We repaired a fence.
  • We pulled off a major surprise for my sister.
  • We found out my other sister is expecting a baby.
  • Two cria were born and we re-bred two dams.
We've got a ways to go for Alpacamundo to be self-sustaining and to be fully living our simple life.  But sometimes I think it's good to stop and think about all that has been accomplished and experienced.

Here's to an even more exciting and productive year ahead.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fiber Arts Friday: Starting from (almost) Scratch

My best girlfriend and I went to the Estes Park Wool Market a couple of weeks ago.

We graduated from engineering school together, so we both know that if we can't find what we're looking for, chances are we can make it.  In fact, when I was longing after a drum carder and told her how much they cost, she said, "Well, you can make one."  I smiled and thought, "of course I can make one.  I'd just have to acquire a couple of wood working tools first."  :-)

Anyway, while we were looking at all of the wonderful things in the vendor's tent I could tell she loved the products, but wasn't quite finding the thing she wanted to take home.  I knew I could make something she would love and since she's not really a knitter (yet),  I offered to make a hat for her from any yarn or roving she wanted.

She chose this beautiful hand painted bamboo-merino roving.

I love the blue, green and purple together and the silvery sheen makes it even more special.

I started thinking about hat styles that she might like and we looked at a few hats I have around the house.  We talked about the features or design elements that she liked and didn't like.  We passed a few patterns back and forth over email and finally settled on a combination of Lauren's Simple Slouchy Hat and the Mushroom Hat.
While this isn't my first specific project for a specific person, it is the first time I am starting a project this early in the process.
I need to spin 175 yards of worsted weight yarn.  I have never spun with a specific project in mind and have only knit projects based on what was in my stash.  If there was a particularly wonderful pattern, I would take a trip to the local yarn shop.
So, I'm starting from (almost) scratch.  I have not decided if I will make a single or plied yarn.  I prefer to knit with singles, but plied yarns seem to behave better after they've been knit.
I will be spinning this roving for the Team of Wonder during this year's Tour de Fleece (Ravelry Links) which starts on Saturday, July 3rd.  I would love ply or not-to-ply advice from the wiser and more experienced fiberistas out there.
If you would like to join the Tour de Fleece Wonder Team, take a look at Knit with Snot's post, then get on Ravelry and join the fun.
In the meantime, have a gander at the other fun, fibery, fluffinistas because it's Fiber Arts Friday.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Organic Lawn: June

Last month I wrote about our plans to maintain our lawn organically at One Small Change.


We have mowed and edged a few times.

We started watering the over the Memorial Day weekend.  We don't have a sprinkler system, so I bought a couple of hoses and sprinklers that I've been hauling around the property.  I set up rain gauges to ensure we are getting 1 - 1 1/2 inches of water each week.

I've been working on the weeds in the garden areas, cracks and driveways.


The back and side yards are holding water very well.

The front yard was extremely dry when I watered it for the first time and the water started pooling which would indicate there is more clay than in the back.

There are more dandelions and clover than I initially realized.

Aerating and fertilizing have had to make room for lawn mower maintenance.  My husband bought an old riding mower from the house sellers. 

We could tell the blades were dull because the tips of the grass were more whacked off rather than cut.  Then the tips would turn brown soon after mowing.  The strangest thing though, was the mower was leaving a mohawk in the center of each cut.

Our neighbor helped us remove the blades so we could sharpen them.  We couldn't believe the thing was cutting any grass.  The blades were dull and chipped.  The ends were completely gone.  I wish we had kept the blades or at least taken a picture.  It was really quite impressive how bad the blades were on this mower.

We made a trip to a tractor supply store and picked up new mower blades and a belt.  Our awesome neighbor helped hubba replace them.

Hubba mowed last night.  Everything went much more quickly and neatly with his newly refurbished mower.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

We Have Bats

We woke up Monday morning to a large amount of droppings on our back patio.

Neither of us had noticed droppings on the patio before.  I assumed they were mouse droppings and figured  the time had come to get a new kitty.

While we were cleaning up, more droppings fell from the rafters.  Gross!!

I decided a kitty would not solve this problem and planned to call a pest specialist later in the day.

Then while I was working on some project stuff, I heard squeaking in the ceiling.  Double Gross!!  I found a local pest specialist right away and told him I thought there was a mouse in our ceiling.

After listening to our symptoms he thought it was very likely a bat.

The technician came out on Tuesday, confirmed it was indeed a bat and very likely more than one bat.  He put up some Bat Away aka Moth Balls for Bats.  He said, they don't like the smell and will most likely leave in the evening and find another place to roost.

In the meantime, I asked him about installing a couple of bat houses.  Bats are beneficial to have around because they eat thousands of mosquitoes every night.  I just don't want them in my ceiling.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Hubba and I took a little vacation.... a long weekend in Duluth, MN around the Grandma's Marathon. Hubba ran the race, so for him it was a working vacation.

This was the first time Hubba and I had travelled together since the alpacas came to stay with us.  We each travel quite a bit, so being away from the animals is not new.  However, being away from the animals together is a new feeling.

Since I'm a planner and project manager, I prepared a sheet that included how much to feed the alpacas and our dog along with important phone numbers.  My mom agreed to stay at our place and handle the chores, ear scratching and belly rubbing.  The neighbors promised to keep an eye out for anything unusual.

We had a dry run a couple of weeks ago.

Of course everything was fine and we had a fun weekend away.... but honestly, there is no place like home.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fiber Arts Friday: Duck Foot, part 3

I finished my first foot!

Yes, I need to weave in the ends and fix a hole I made, but I finished knitting my first sock!

It's Fiber Art Friday, so please go see what the other folks are sharing at Wisdom Begins in Wonder.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Estes Park Wool Market

My BFF and I went to the Estes Park Wool Market on Sunday.
It was a cold, rainy and muddy day. Fortunately most of the show was under cover.

Sheep to Shawl:

We saw a few teams competing in the sheep to shawl competition.  Each team came with a warped loom and washed fleece.  During the show, they had to card, spin and weave their project.  These teams were working furiously to finish their projects so we watched mostly and didn't talk to them too much.

There were 3-4 spinners making yarn for one weaver. Each team had a drum carder, bags of fleece and a poster board describing the team.

I like this type of competition because you can see most of the process right there in a small space.  It was a great way to show my friend how wool becomes a finished object.

One of the teams had a Nadeau "Hand Skill" loom.  It was built in about 1950 and was used entirely by hand.

The shed is changed via this wheel with the pegs on it. It was quite the curiosity and looked more like an old plumbing fixture than a tool used to make fabric.


I didn't realize there would be so many animals at the wool market.

We saw many different kinds of sheep.  I don't remember what breeds they all were... I know we saw some Corriedale, Romney and CVD (but I don't know what that stands for).

This was the biggest sheep I had ever seen...

...until I saw this guy.

I wish the livestock pens had been labeled with the breeds but I did recognize the Jacob, Navajo-Churro and Baby Doll sheep right away.

We saw Yaks and Rabbits.

There were also a few breeds of goats. 

One of the nannys looked like she was going to kid any day.  We could see the babies moving around and her udders were quite full.

The Cashmere Goat show was going on while we were there.

Finally, we saw Paco-Vicunas, Alpacas and a lady walking three Llamas.


In the vendor's tent we talked with many artisans and proprietors, touched lots of raw fleece, rovings and yarn.

We saw beautiful hand painted rovings, yarns and finished objects.  We saw fiber related tools and some very interesting textiles.

We even talked with a member of the famed Vigil family of weavers from Chimayo, NM.  I didn't realize who she was until we left.  Their rugs were fantastic.

I picked up a few rovings and promised my BFF that I would spin and knit her a hat from any roving she wanted, so she selected this beautiful hand-painted Bamboo/Merino roving.

I love being able to browse and touch everything, as well as talking with the shop keepers and farmers about their products and the animals they come from.

Aside from being able to handle all of the fleece, yarn and textiles, one of my favorite things was to be able to show my friend the Navajo-Churro Sheep in full fleece, then show her raw and washed bagged fleece then finally the finished Rio Grande style rugs woven by members of the Vigil weavers from Chimayo, NM.

While we never did see the tops of the mountains, we did (finally) get to see the Colorado Blue Sky.

Sunday was an absolutely wonderful day.  I sure wish every day could be all about fiber.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Coffee Ritual

We make coffee at home every morning in a very manual way.  I like the slow, methodical process.

We grind beans.

Place the grounds in a funnel.

Boil water.

Pour the hot water through the grounds.

A little half-and-half for him and a little more for her.

A little song to start the day off right.

Then, finally.... the first sip.

Have a beautiful day.