Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One Small Change: Putting Up Fruit

Aside from the bags of green chile we freeze every year, I have done very little canning and freezing as an adult.

I remember my mom freezing peaches and my grandmother freezing green beans.  Those days of putting food up were always fun for me, and to be able to have peaches in the middle of winter is something that even child can appreciate.

We have an apple tree on our new place.  I don't know what kind of apples they are, but they are small, turning red, have a nice white flesh and are a little tart.

The apples are starting to fall and the squirrels and rabbits seem to be enjoying them.  So, I think it's time to start picking and putting them up.  :-)

Therefore my One Small Change for September is to learn how to put up apples.

I'm thinking about making apple sauce, apple butter and sliced apples for pies and crisps to be made over the winter.  Fruit leather and dried apples sound interesting too.

I don't know how many apples we have or what's entailed in all of this putting up.  So this month will be much more about experimenting than accomplishing a specific goal.

I do want to have canning and freezing as part of our yearly activities.  I think there is nothing better than being able to store a bountiful harvest for use later.

As for my August Change of breaking ground on my veggie garden; that did not happen.  My true goal was to have it dug out, and mixed with alpaca manure prior to the snow flying.  So preparing my vegetable garden is a goal for September too.

One Small Change

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fiber Arts Friday: Two Hats for Twin Girls

New friends of ours had twin girls recently.

Hubba thought it would be nice if I knit something for them.

I don't have a lot of yarn that is suitable for baby girls in my stash, but I did find some luscious wool/alpaca/silk in white and brown.  This yarn is so very soft and has a bit of a pearl effect due to the silk.

I checked a few patterns then decided to try something on my own.

Hat A on the left and Hat B on the right.

Here's what I came up with for 14 inch heads:

16 inch #7 circular needles
#7 dpns
1 stitch marker
~ 2 ounces of Sulka Mirasol yarn (50g, 55yd) per hat

Hat A:
Cast on 54 stitches
Place Marker, join stitches
Knit 5 rounds in seed stitch
*knit 9, inc 1* (60 stitches)
Knit rounds until the piece measures 3.5 inches from the cast on edge
*k8, k2tog*
knit 3 rounds
*k7, k2tog*
knit 1 round
*k6, k2tog*
knit 1 round
*k5, k2tog*
knit 1 round
*k4, k2tog*
knit 1 round
*k3, k2tog*
knit 1 round
*k2, k2tog*
knit 1 round
*k1, k2tog*
knit 1 round
*k2tog* (3 stitches)
knit I-cord for 15 rows
Bind off
Tie the I-cord into a knot
Weave in Ends

Hat B:
Cast on 54 stitches
Place Marker, join stitches
Knit 5 rounds in seed stitch
*knit 9, inc 1* (60 stitches)
Change Colors
Knit rounds until the piece measures 3.5 inches from the cast on edge
*k8, k2tog*
*k7, k2tog*
*k6, k2tog*
*k5, k2tog*
*k4, k2tog*
*k3, k2tog*
*k2, k2tog*
*k1, k2tog*
Bind off
Add a pom pom
Weave in Ends.

Be sure to check out the wonderfulness and share your own because it's Fiber Arts Friday.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Working with my Hands

I love working with my hands.

I love spending time in my brain too.  But sometimes, I feel a need to work with my hands.

I suppose it's part of the reason I became a mechanical engineer.  Working with machine tools, getting dirty and building stuff were all things I loved to do.

Of course the reality of being a mechanical engineer is that I did not physically build stuff very often.  It depended on the company and project.  Some products I was able to build entirely and some I only wrote the instructions for how it should be built.

I have been able to do a lot of planning and designing which I also enjoy, but it means as my career progressed I have become further removed from the end product.

As my distance from the end product grew, so did the time in my head.  Which made the need to work with my hands grow stronger.  This is part of where Alpacamundo comes from.

Working with animals and fleece is very tactile.

As a shearer I am working with animals as well as mechanical tools.  It's a very physical and dirty job.  It's one I love very much. 

As a spinner, knitter and weaver I am working with my hands as well as designing and planning.  I can do these almost anywhere which means I can still get my manual fix when I'm on the road.

For now, I am focused on improving these skills but I like the idea of spinning, knitting and weaving on commission.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fiber Arts Friday: Getting my BFF Hat Started

I am finally knitting the BFF Hat, inspired by my best girl friend.  She chose the roving at the Estes Park Wool Market.  I spun the yarn during the Tour de Fleece.

The gauge is 17 wraps per inch (wpi).  Which, according to this site, is between a lace and fingering weight and should be knit with a #2 to #4 needle.

I swatched the yarn with #2 needles and determined I need to cast on somewhere around 148 stitches.

I did some pattern math then decided to cast on 147 stitches.

I do have to say that after using these #2 needles, the #7 needles on my Plumber Sweater seem huge.

It's Fiber Arts Friday, so please take a look at all that's going on over at Wisdom Begins in Wonder.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hecho en Mexico

When I lived in New Mexico, we would occasionally come across Coca-Cola that was made in Mexico.

This Coke is made with real sugar.  Not the high-fructose corn syrup stuff we get in the US.  It's also bottled in the older fashion glass bottle, which I prefer.  I think beverages always taste better out of glass.

I'm pretty sure this is the "Old Coke" recipe.  If you happen to remember the 80's, they said that "New Coke" was preferred and "Old Coke" was phased out.

I guess I have different taste buds from everyone else, because this is how a Coke is supposed to taste.  So if you ever come across Coca-Cola Hecho en Mexico, do yourself a favor and pick up a couple.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Great Customer Service

Earlier today we had a power surge.

I noticed only because my computer screen changed slightly and then the garage door opened on it's own.  Which really freaked me out.

After the dog and I checked it out and verified nothing malicious was going on.  I figured I should accuse our neighbor of pulling a prank on me but he wasn't around.  It was then that I realized our Internet service was out and put the pieces together.

Fortunately with today's technology, I was able to get online with my smart phone and check for known outages.  Nothing was listed.

So I made this tweet.

Within a few minutes Qwest responded

and within an hour they told me what was going on.

I call this great (and I mean GREAT) customer service.

Thanks Qwest.  I do appreciate it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Surprise: Green Chile!

As I walked up to the local grocery store today, I spied this:

It's a chile roaster.  Essentially it's a fiber tumbler attached to a flame thrower and can roast a large volume of chiles in a short period of time.

If you're not from New Mexico or don't have an appreciation for New Mexican food, you may not fully appreciate the excitement that was welling within me.

Then I spied these:

It says Hatch Green Chile.  These are New Mexico Green Chiles from Hatch, NM.... aka the food of the gods.  OK, maybe not really the food of the gods, but they are pretty darn awesome and there is nothing quite like the flavor of a New Mexican Green Chile.

Some people will tell you that Anaheim chiles are the same.  They look the same, but they are not the same.  It's like saying Krab is the same as Crab.

I confirmed with the clerk that he was setting up to roast chiles.  Then I convinced him to roast a box just for me.  He looked at me like I was a bit nuts, because they sell their roasted chile in small containers like these...
But I convinced him to give me the full 30 pounds in a garbage bag.

Once the chiles have been roasted, they need to sweat until they're cool enough to handle.  Sweating makes the skin easier to remove, which is why I wanted the garbage bag.

Here are my chiles after sweating about 20 minutes.  They are ready to start pealing.

The alpaca dog and I found a comfortable spot in the back yard, poured an icy-cold beverage and embarked upon peeling.

A bowl of peeled Green Chile.

30 pounds of roasted Green Chile resulted in 15 quart sized freezer bags, which should last us about 4 months.

Hubba is still planning a trip to New Mexico to get more Green Chile.  Most likely he will pick up freshly roasted Red Chile too.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fiber Arts Friday: Plumber Sweater

My neighbor is a plumber.

He saved us when the apple tree broke our sewer right after we moved in. He plows our road and driveway in the winter. He drilled the holes for our corral fence posts. He has been a terrific neighbor.

He said something about liking an alpaca sweater, so I told him I'd hook him up... but it might take me a while.

It has been a while.  I cast on last October and have been working on this sweater in between other projects ever since.

I am using the Cobblestone Pullover pattern by Jared Flood.

I have a couple of more inches to go on the body, then the chest and sleeves.

Hopefully I will be done before it gets cold.

I wonder what else is going on for Fiber Arts Friday, how about you?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My First Cria Watch

I knew it was coming soon, I just didn't realize it was so soon...  Our first cria watch begins in a couple of weeks.

We've had five cria born to our farm.  All of which were born while our herd was agisted, so we weren't the one's "watching."

The first year's crop was on a farm about 45 minutes from our home.  So we did get to see them when they were a few hours old and were able to re-breed the dams in person.

Last year's crop was born in New Mexico while we were in the process of moving to our farm in  Colorado.  We made arrangements for re-breeding via email and didn't get to see our new additions until the herd arrived on our place last New Year's Eve.

This year, we are expecting two cria.

Our first dam, Keyla, is very predictable.  She breeds on the first shot and starts spitting off right away.  She also delivers very close to her due date.  She even spit at a boy a couple of months ago when I brought him around to see if he and the younger girls were interested.  Keyla is due on September 6th.

Our second dam, Kocoa, is not so predictable.  This is her second cria.  She's looking quite pregnant but hangs out at the gate looking at the boys.  She is a flirt and bred several times for her first cria and twice for this cria.  So she is either due on September 19th or October 17th.

I have taken a neo-natal class and witnessed one birth.  I know alpacas generally birth easily on their own, but I feel a small urgency to make sure I have everything in place over the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Things that Work: Citronella Candle

It's true.  Citronella candles work.

I assume we have mosquitoes because we live near lakes and irrigated farm land.  But since we don't have screen doors (yet) or enough ceiling fans (yet) we have been getting mosquitoes in the house.  Blech.

I got this citronella candle so we could have dinner on the back patio overlooking the alpacas.

Then the other night, we had mosquitoes in the bedroom and I was trying to sleep.  So I brought the citronella candle inside and slept a peaceful, candle-lit night.

This candle does not have the strong citronella smell, but it still keeps the mosquitoes away.

Citronella candles definitely work.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


The cows across the street have new friends.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fiber Arts Friday: Hmmm

It's Thursday night.

Usually on Thursday night I am putting the finishing touches on the FAF post I drafted earlier in the week.

But not tonight.  Tonight, I'm wondering what to write about.

I've been spinning and knitting a little but I don't have much to show of either.

Wonder Roving courtesy of our FAF host the WonderWhyGal

A third Duck Foot since the first one was not so good

I did shear some alpacas and llamas today which I completely love doing.  Especially when the clients are as great as they were today.

One of the llamas is a rescue who was feeling pretty good after we cut off her dreadlocks.

I wish my photos of the animals were better, so instead I give you the view from our shearing area.

I love living in Colorado

Please head over to Wisdom Begins in Wonder for Fiber Arts Friday.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Landing does not equal Arriving

Last week I got stuck on an airplane.

The flight attendants were very proud that we landed 30 minutes early.

Yes, landing early is necessary for arriving early and it's a good thing when I can get off the plane early.  But, because we were early our gate was not available.  Which means we waited in a holding area a short distance from our gate.

The Captain said the other plane would be pushing back soon so we should only have to wait a few minutes.

Then a storm came through.

The ramp employees can not be on the tarmac when there is lightning in the area.  I don't disagree with that, but it meant the other plane did not push back and we stayed in the waiting area.

We waited for an hour just a short distance from the gate.

We landed 30 minutes early, but arrived 30 minutes late.

The airline sent an email the next day apologizing for the situation which I appreciated.  They also sent a voucher toward future travel which I also appreciated.  I fly this airline a lot and feel they are the best domestic carrier out there.


My point is this... it happens a little more than occasionally where we land early and arrive late.