Monday, January 31, 2011

Winter is Back

It was about 6 degrees F when I fed the alpacas this morning.  A far cry from the 60 degrees F of a few days ago.

There's a layer of ice over everything then a small amount of snow on top.

It doesn't look like much but it's c-c-cold and slippery out there.  Of course, I've got my St. Paul Parka, several layers of long-johns and woolies and big snow boots to keep me warm and upright.

With the winds being calm, all of the alpacas were out of their shelters enjoying their toasty warm coats.  I like how they look with the snow sprinkled over the top of them.  I didn't take any photos of that though because my fingers were too cold.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Beautiful Weekend

The weather has been so lovely in Northern Colorado over the last few days.  It's hardly appropriate for January, our supposed coldest month.

The tree's are budding, the iced-over lakes are melting and the temperature gauge read 60 degrees F on Friday.

I spent Friday afternoon, coming up with anything I could do outside in the sunshine.  I made sure the water troughs were full and clean and the barn was swept out.

I picked up dog poo and the trash that always appears after a wind storm.  I re-staked our future veggie garden so our neighbor can break the ground with his bobcat.

I sat on the back porch and cleaned all of my combs and cutters so I can send them out for sharpening.

I gave the girls a mud puddle to splash around in.

I love these little breaks the Colorado Front Range can give you in the dead of winter.

Of course winter will be back with a vengeance in a couple of days.  They say we will have the coldest temperatures of the season... a high of 7 deg F is forecasted for Tuesday.  {{shiver}}

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fiber Arts Friday: Spinning, three weeks in a row

Are you getting tired of the FAF Spinning posts?  No? Me neither.  ;-)

This time I have 100% Black Huacaya Alpaca from the Wonder Why Alpaca Farm.

The Story

It was last fall and I had just started spinning the Cashmere/Tussah Silk I shared a couple of weeks ago.  The vision of a project appeared.  It was so vivid that it just about knocked me over.  It was as if the Cashmere told me what it wanted to be and I needed to find some black alpaca roving to make it happen.

We don't have any black alpacas, yet.  Hubba really wants one.  The mother of one of our dams is a true black, so I keep hoping she will give us a black one. ;-)  So far she's given us fawn female and rose grey male.  She's bred to a silver-grey now, so we have our fingers crossed for a black, female cria next fall.  :-)

Alpacamundo's Frieda

Alpacamundo's Big Thompson

Anyway, I did a little asking around and the wonderful Wonder Why Gal said she had it, but it would be some time before it was ready.  I told her I would wait because I had plenty to work on in the meantime.

The Spinning
In early January, the Box of Wonder arrived.  Just as I finished spinning the Aspen I told you about last week.  Talk about perfect timing.  :-)

This is my first time spinning from batts.  So it has taken a little getting used to.  Separating the batts into smaller sections (as recommended) helps a lot.

I've only spun a few ounces so far, but the fiber is as lovely as you would expect from the Wonder Why Gal.

Please make sure you visit her and the other Fiber Arts Friday Folks today.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Making Stuff: Skirting Table

I've wanted to make a skirting table for quite sometime.  So finally, I picked up the supplies and put it together.  But before we get too far, I feel I must apologize to anyone who is a skilled wood worker.

I have no delusions regarding my wood working skills.  This project is not square, nor is it plumb.  It does not have any rabbits or dove tails.  No milling, sanding or staining was done.  This project is functional, but in no way should it be considered beautiful.  :-)

The finished skirting table sits across two folding tables.

L-brackets hold the frame together.

Two hinges hold both frames together.

Welded wire fabric is folded over and stapled to the frame.  Handles are screwed down over the top.

Folded up for storage.

Holding our largest alpaca fleece.

Hopefully next weekend will be warm enough to begin skirting the fleeces I mentioned last week.  :-)

4 pieces of 4ft 1x2 wood board
4 pieces of 2ft 1x2 wood board
16 sq ft of wire fabric plus extra for attaching to the wood frame
16 L shaped brackets
2 hinges
2 handles

hand saw
staple gun
screw driver
tape measure
wire cutters

Time Spent
10 minutes drawing a sketch and making a list of supplies
1 hour selecting the supplies at the local home store.
2 hours putting it together

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Things that Work: Bribery

Our oldest alpaca, Keyla has a little bit of munge on her nose, which means we need to catch her and apply ointment every day.

I love how Hubba is able to catch her all by himself.

Everyone's excited about a fresh bowl of feed.

Keyla is the white one in the back.  She's wise to Hubba's tricks,

but cannot resist a bowl of feed.

Getting just a little closer and enjoying the yummy feed,

then a headlock and some ointment to make her nose feel better.

After the ointment application is complete, he lets her finish the bowl of feed by herself.  So she knows he loves her.  :-)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fiber Arts Friday: More Spinning

Two weeks in a row of spinning posts!  I am very proud of myself.  Especially since I haven't done this much spinning since the Tour de Fleece last summer.  ;-)

I am loving it.  There is something about the rhythm and focus of spinning that is very relaxing.

This is an alpaca/silk blend painted by Knitty and Color.  It's just lovely.  So soft and lustrous.

The final result is 4 ounces, 142 yards at 18 wpi.

This yarn is being used for the quasi-commission piece I mentioned last week.

In the meantime, ensure you visit the Wonder Why Gal and all of the Fiber Arts Friday Participants.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Three Seasons of Raw Alpaca Fleece

I have three seasons of raw alpaca fleece in my shop.

There.  I said it.  I feel so much better.  :-)

I have three seasons of raw alpaca fleece in my shop, waiting to be turned into something wonderful.

Why? You ask.

I have very good reasons why.  Ok, I don't know that they're very good reasons, but they are reasons.

The first year, I did not have enough fiber of any one color to meet the minimum requirements for the processors I found.  I had a total of 10 pounds of fiber and did not want all of it combined into one roving.  The resulting color would have been mud.

This fleece has been skirted, but alas has remained packed in boxes for more than two years.

The second year, we were in the process of moving.  So I boxed up our harvest and put it directly into storage with most of our other stuff.

Last year, the third year, I have been on the road a lot.

Now with three seasons of fiber ready to be processed, I can meet the minimum lot requirements on most colors.  I just need to get the rest of the fleece skirted so I can send it out for processing into yummy roving.  Of course in order to do that, I need to build a skirting table first.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why do Dogs eat Poop?

Here's a question I've had for a long time...  Why do dogs eat poop?

The Alpaca Dog loves to eat alpaca poop.  He will stop when I tell him "NO!" But he snags a few beans every day.  He loves it so much that I bet he would do a good job mucking, if we let him.

The Alpaca Dog looking for poop
Years ago we had another dog that thought horse poop was the best thing on earth and our neighbor's dog used to eat cat poop.

Oh, and this brings up another question.  Why do dogs roll around in poop?

The Alpaca Dog went to visit our neighbor's cows last fall and came back covered in fresh cow patty.  He was so proud.  At least until he found himself in the middle of a freezing-in-the-back-yard-cold-day-bath.

So those are my questions for today...  (1) Why do dogs eat poop? and (2) Why do dogs roll around in poop?

If you have any theories or actual knowledge on these subjects, I would love to know.  :-)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Watering the Alpacas

Each season brings us new learning opportunities.

Over the summer, the alpacas water intake increased a lot.  So we added a second water bucket to each corral.  The second bucket meant we were washing and refilling buckets once each week which was fine in the summer.

So as the weather turned colder, I purchased extra de-icers to keep the six buckets defrosted.

The extra de-icers tripped our circuit.  So I removed one each night and learned that we could only support three de-icers.  That's one for each corral, which is what we used last winter.  However, the increased water intake meant we were refilling buckets at least twice each week.

Without snow on the ground it wasn't that big of a deal.  But now that winter has finally arrived it has been difficult to ensure the hoses were also frost free.

So I purchased three livestock water tanks.  These are small as far as livestock tanks go, but much larger than the plastic buckets we have been using for the last year.

Don't worry, the metal trough is full of open water

I swapped out the buckets and filled the tanks on a nice day we had early last week.  And then our circuit was being tripped again.  I suppose there is a larger load with the larger volume of water being heated.  So I found a few extension cords and spread the load across two circuits which has solved the issue... at least until we grow beyond three corrals or install water and electric in the barns and corrals.

No ice even though it was 25 deg F with five inches of snow when this photo was taken.

How often we need to refill and wash the troughs is still unknown.  But after several nights below freezing, a few days in the teens and 6-7 inches of snow, all three troughs have remained completely free of ice.  So I think we can call this good.

Alpacamundo's Augustus striking a pose

More good news about the new tanks: I now have plenty of old water buckets to use as feed buckets and won't have to replace cracked buckets for a long time.  I love being able to use what we already have.  :-)

And, just for fun... a photo of yesterday's beautiful day.

48 deg F and melting like crazy

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fiber Arts Friday: Finished Cashmere/Silk Yarn

Back in October, I showed the Cashmere/Tussah Silk yarn I was spinning.  It is now finished.  :-)

I wound it on my Christmas niddy-noddy and have to say, I may not ever use my itty-bitty-teeny-tiny-niddy-noddy ever again.  ;-)

I just love this yarn... the color, the lustor, the softness are all fantastic.  Of course there are areas that are over-spun and the gauge is a little bit wonky, but I do love it.  :-)

It's 2.875 ounces, 104 yards at about 18 wpi of liquid silver.  I have a (currently top secret) plan for this yarn which includes a lot of other yarn to make. 

Details will come later because this project has been bumped for a quasi-commission piece. :-)  But I will give you a sneak peak of the lovely-ness to be paired with it... 100% Black Huacaya Alpaca from Wonder Why Alpaca Farm.

In the meantime, please head over to the Wonder Why Gal's blog and see the wonderful projects others have shared for Fiber Arts Friday.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Fiber Arts Friday: Plumber Sweater, part 6

When last we left the Plumber Sweater I had just completed the first decrease.

As I've mentioned, the sweater has gotten too big to take on my trips.  So it has stayed home and been relegated to weekend and holiday work.

Fortunately (?) I was sidelined with a cold over the New Year Holiday and thus able to work on this sweater quite a lot.  I figured since I was decreasing, each round should go faster than the previous and I might finish this guy off.  Of course, there are at least two inches between the decreases, so the rounds haven't gone a whole lot faster.  At least not yet.

I've now completed the second decrease which makes the yoke five inches.

I have been working on this sweater for 14 months now and I have five inches to go.  :-/  I don't know what that means for my finish date, but I'm anxious to see it.

Part of me wants to say I will never do a sweater again.  Of course, another part of me already has three sweaters in the queue.  Hopefully the rational part of me will keep only one large project in work at any one time.

What have you been working on?  Please share it with us at Wisdom Begins in Wonder because it's Fiber Arts Friday.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Future as Past

I often write about my future as if it is my past.  Is that weird?

I've done it for almost as long as I can remember.

It is a way for me to organize my thoughts, goals and priorities.  It is very much a journaling exercise and therefore private.  Only, it is (almost) never actually in a journal.  I prefer loose-leaf, white paper and a comfortable pen.

One time, I wrote a speech for my college reunion about the businesses I had lead.  It included the achievements I had made and the life I was proud to call mine.  Of course, I was still a college student at the time.

I neglected to put my future-past-tense speech away and left it with my homework.  My room mate found it, read it and was mad at me.

I don't remember why she would have been mad about it, but it was the first time I thought maybe everyone doesn't do this.

Since then I have made a lot of those achievements.  I have not been to a college reunion (or high school for that matter) so I have not actually made the speech.  I don't necessarily want to make the speech.  It was just a tool for me to organize my future self.

Do you have any useful ways to organize your self?  How do you set your priorities and goals?  I'd love to know... whether they're weird or not.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Things that Work: Salt Water

When I was a kid, my mom used to insist that I gargle with warm salt water when I had a sore throat.  I hated it.  I hated it so much that I wouldn't tell her my throat hurt until it hurt so much that I couldn't stand it.

Today though, I am older and wiser.  ;-)

Warm salt water is a cure for many ails.  I use it in a Neti Pot most days and gargle with it at the first hint of a sore throat.

For example, I woke up (very) early Thursday morning with a terrible sore throat.  I pretended it wasn't there and tried to go back to sleep.  After an unsuccessful hour, I got up and prepared my gargling water... warm, not hot, stirred in a teaspoon of salt, took a mouthful, tipped my head back and gargled.  I gargled a few times and attempted to sleep again until it was time for work.

I still got an awesome cold that has had me sidelined for most of this New Year holiday, but I do not have a sore throat.  :-D

Saturday, January 1, 2011

One Year of Alpaca Farming

One year ago today, we woke up to a new way of life.  We woke up to being full-time alpaca farmers.  Something that we had been working toward for nearly two years prior.

A new year, new chores, new responsibilities and new opportunities.  It has been fantastic.  It's been everything we hoped it would be.  We've made new friends and clients.  We've learned a lot.

We love being farmers.

I've put up our Alpacamundo website.  I plan to write more about the alpacas and our adventures in fiber processing this year both here and there.  Of course, you can still find us on Twitter and AlpacaNation.

Here's to a prosperous, productive and wonderful new year. :-D