Friday, August 31, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: Raw Camel

I've mentioned my Personal Rare Fiber Dealer a few times (bear, bearrocky mountain goat).

Well, it turns out his sister does not want to be outdone...

1/2 ounce Raw Camel

They were on a family vacation this summer and saw a few shedding camels at a preserve.  So she asked if it would be ok to bring some raw fiber home for me.

I love that my cousins are so supportive of my fiber-y obsession.  :-)

Happy Fiber Arts Friday.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Food: Making Pectin, er Jelly, er Syrup

I've been saving apple peels for the last couple of weeks.

I followed the instructions to make Pectin.  I was planning to can it, but I'm still not sure about the conversion rate between homemade liquid pectin and commercially produced powdered pectin.  So I wasn't really sure if it made more sense to can in pint-sized jars or half-pint jars.  So I decided to make Apple Jelly instead.

The 4 pounds of apple peels turned into 10.5 cups of salmon-colored pectin.

I added 7 cups of honey which is a little less than the recipe called for.  Then I boiled the mixture for nearly 3 hours and it was still very runny.

So I gave up and canned 9 1/2 pints of Apple Syrup.  I think it's a beautiful color and it's quite tasty.

Earlier in the day, I also made 5 pints of Applesauce using a different recipe than last time.  So Hubba has to decide which sauce recipe he likes better.  ;-)

I have plenty of apples left, so I should have the opportunity to try pectin or jelly again.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: It's Not a Toy!

It would appear that the girls had a well-crafted and executed plan.

Wednesday evening, Wonton was calling for my attention.  So I went out to see what she wanted.

Wonton and The Alpaca Dog

The door to the house does not always latch on it’s own and did not this time.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize it until it was too late.

Wonton, who is not much for opening doors, went straight to it and kept it from latching until Noodle was able to come over and fling it open.


The both of them went straight into my office and snatched something to play keep-away with.

They raced around the house until we cornered them in the bedroom.  It turns out that they had a ball of llama-silk roving that I had started spinning.  :-/

Fortunately what was already spun is ok.

But what’s left is now covered in dried dog saliva.

Some is definitely felted, but I think most of it is salvageable.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Paralympics are Starting Soon

If you happen to be in countries other than the US, I suspect there's a good chance you will be seeing some Paralympic Coverage on your local television channels.  However, if you're in the US, you will need to go to YouTube,, or  Or if you have cable TV, then NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will air one-hour highlight shows on September 4,5,6 and 11 at 7pm ET.

Finally on September 16, NBC will broadcast a 90-minute special from 2-3:30pm ET.

The London Paralympics run from August 29 - September 9.  In London, at the same venues, playing most of the same sports.

While this is more coverage than we expected and more than has ever been provided in the US before, it is still very little when compared to the Able-Bodied Olympics.

USOC Press Release

If you still don't know what I'm talking about, the Paralympics are just like the Olympics, but way more exciting.  Consider, if you will...Blind Sprinting or Long Jump, Amputee Soccer, Wheelchair Basketball or Racing, Archery without arms, Swimming without legs or arms.  If you haven't seen (or done) these things, then you have no idea what you're missing.

Certainly you have all now considered Amputee Sprinting and are perhaps now reconsidering the idea of a Disabled Athlete.  As cyclist, Greta Neimanas recently stated, "We compete to win, not for hugs."

You'll be able to see Oscar Pistorius race again and see how he performs against other amputee sprinters.

For us, we'll be watching Hubba's Training Partner compete in the 5000m, 800m, 400m and Marathon.  She already has a gold medal in Basketball from Beijing (#12, white).  Her former team mates are going for a 3-peat in Women's Wheelchair Basketball in London this year.

I hope you will take time to catch some of the events that are most interesting to you.  If you do, please let me know what you think.  Or better yet, let NBC know what you think. :-)

The opening ceremonies start in one week... 21:00 London time, Wednesday, August 29th.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Food: What Does Your Food Eat?

Have you heard this story yet?  It's a news story about a cattle grower in Kentucky who went searching for feed alternatives due to the high price of corn.

The associated text is copied here: (source

Cows eating candy during the drought

Updated: Thursday, 16 Aug 2012, 6:53 AM CDT
Published : Thursday, 16 Aug 2012, 6:53 AM CDT
MAYFIELD, Ky. (CNN/WPSD) - Ranchers have struggled with skyrocketing corn prices, because the drought has made feeding their livestock very expensive. But one rancher has turned to a very sweet solution.
At Mayfield's United Livestock Commodities, owner Joseph Watson is tweaking the recipe for success.
"Just to be able to survive, we have to look for other sources of nutrition," he said.
His 1,400 cattle are no longer feeding off corn. The prices, Watson says, are too high to keep corn in stock. So earlier this year, he began to buy second-hand candy.
"It has a higher ratio of fat than actually feeding straight corn," Watson explained. "It's hard to believe it will work but we've already seen the results of it now."
Watson mixes the candy with an ethanol by-product and a mineral nutrient. He says the cows have not shown any health problems from eating the candy, and they are gaining weight as they should.
"This ration is balanced to have not too much fat in it," he said.
The packaged candy comes from various companies at a discounted rate because it is not fit for store shelves.
"Salvage is a problem for a lot of these companies and they're proud to have a place to go with it," said Watson.

The grower is sourcing candy from "various companies at a discounted rate because it is not fit for store shelves."

He "mixes the candy with an ethanol by-product and a mineral nutrient.  He says the cows have not shown any health problems from eating the candy, and they are gaining weight as they should."

This story is about how industrious the farmer is.  There does not seem to be any alarm, which really bothered me at first.  However, I suppose it's the reporter's job to not impart opinion.  But I'm a blogger, so I can share my opinion...
  • If the candy is not fit for humans to eat, why is it ok to feed it to the animals that humans will eat?  Cows are designed to eat forage, not refined sugar.
  • Of course the cows are gaining weight.  When we humans eat refined sugar we tend to gain weight too.
So I wonder these...
  • What is the nutritive value of beef subsisting on a diet of candy, ethanol by-product and Mineral Nutrient compared to beef subsisting on a diet of hay and forage?
  • What is the difference in flavor and fat content?
  • How well will the cows be able to carry to term and then nurse their calves?
  • Will we be treating our beef supply for Bovine Diabetes in a few generations?
  • What are the human health implications for eating beef that subsisted on candy?
Did we learn nothing from Mad Cow Disease?  Cows are designed for eating forage.

Of course, I'm not a cattle grower and I do greatly appreciate that the cost of feed has increased significantly.  Our hay prices are up nearly 100% over 2 years ago.

I also do not know if this is general practice or if this is the only farmer feeding candy to his livestock.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Food: Canning Apples

The apples are ready!

If I don't get busy, I think my tree will break.

I peeled and sliced about 16 pounds of apples before I had to stop and rest my peeling hand.

7 pints of sauce and 10 1/2 pints of butter.  It sure does seem like there should be more for all of that effort.  Of course the tree is still hanging very low.  I think I can be busy with apples until the first freeze that's coming in about 2 months.  ;-)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: Wingspan, part 4

I think it's time for a Wingspan update.  :-)

I think it's looking pretty good.  But I feel the colorway should be called Swampy instead of Gilt.  ;-)

Happy Fiber Arts Friday.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Food: Blossom End Rot

I've always had some tomatoes with Blossom End Rot.  Usually it's just a few of the very early ones.  But this year, we have had a lot of them.

These don't look so bad, but I tossed a whole bunch of grody ones into the compost heap earlier this week.

Blossom End Rot is the result of a calcium deficiency.  It can be related to low calcium in the soil, but is strongly associated with moisture levels in the soil.  Soil that is too wet or too dry prevents the uptake of calcium.

This year, even with the well amended soil, we're definitely having issues with dryness in the garden.

Ha ha, that is a huge understatement...  We're on pace to becoming the hottest and driest summer on record. So our tomato plants have gotten way too dry more than a few times.  But now that I know the cause, I will be more diligent with the watering.  ;-)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Adventures in Alpaca Breeding

As I've mentioned a few times, we are moving our birthing/breeding time to June/July.  So we have been breeding our two maidens over the last month.

Alpacamundo's Apple who is truly a maiden.  She is just under 2 years old and this is her first time breeding.

Alpacamundo's Daisy has been infamously not pregnant, twice.

During the ultra-sounds we had earlier this year, our vet did a cursory exam.  He said nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary for Daisy, so we just need to make sure we finish the protocol.  Then if she's still not pregnant, we can explore other reasons why.

We paired Apple with Enchanted Sky's Charlie Brown.  Charlie is still relatively new to breeding, but he knows what to do and takes his job very seriously.

I really must get a current photo of Charlie
  • They got to breeding right away the first week.
  • The second week, she resisted but he was persuasive, so they bred again.
  • Last week she appeared to be very convinced that she is pregnant and mostly ran around the corral and refused to cush when he would catch her.
  • Yesterday, she spit straight away and then busted out of the corral.
Aside from the busting out of the corral part, this is pretty much the text book protocol.

We also paired Daisy with Blue Mesa Yoda.  Yoda is still a little young, so he's not entirely sure what's going on.

  • They got to breeding right away the first week.
  • The second week, she resisted but he was persuasive, so they bred again.
  • Last week she wrestled Yoda to the ground.
  • Yesterday, Yoda was a bit nervous while walking over to the breeding corral.  But when I put him in the corral, he decided to get to work and she cushed right away so they bred for quite a while.
I had no idea what this meant.  I fully expected her to wrestle Yoda to the ground again.  After all was finished, she hung out by the gate looking longingly toward the boys' corrals.

Our vet came by today for other reasons so we discussed our recent breeding experiences...  He suggested that we spit test Daisy again this weekend, but don't let them breed if she's receptive.  Then spit test her a second time a week later and she should spit off.

Assuming that goes as planned, we will be asking him to come back for ultrasounds in a couple of weeks.


The first two of our expected cria are due on October 2nd.  Which had me realize today that we will officially be on cria watch in a month.

It also means that we're about two months away from the first snow and the end of our growing season.

Which means we're about two months away from learning if my bet on the hay prices was good or bad.

I'm feeling optimistic about this coming winter.  Much like I always feel about the first signs of spring.  But this winter I am looking forward to lots of snow and fully-frozen lakes and the end of a terrible fire season.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Garden: Squash Bugs

I have been very lucky in that all of the vegetable gardens I've had, I've never had an issue with bugs... late freezes, hail, dogs and birds but not bugs.  Until Saturday.  :-/

Miss A was helping me harvest a few veggies when she very calmly told me there were "bugs on that plant over there" and continued checking the other plants for things to harvest.

I verified there was a lot of squash bugs and then quickly had a brain fart about what to do.  So I consulted a few friends and was reminded that dish soap and water should do the trick.

I cut out the affected parts of the plant.  Sprayed a very non-scientific mixture of dish soap and water all over and started looking for the copper colored eggs on the underside of the leaves.

All of that went into the garbage and I sprayed the plant again a short time later.

I also gave it a sprinkling of Diatomaceous Earth (DE) for good measure.

It's a few days later, and it seems that we are now squash bug free.  But I'll keep checking over the next several weeks, just to make sure.

It got me thinking though, how is it that I haven't had an issue with bugs before?  I remember my neighbor saying that she had squash bugs last year, but we did not.

The only thing I really did different this year is the arrangement of the plants.  So perhaps the fact that chiles are not amongst my the other plants is the reason I have bugs this time?  Or maybe there were eggs on my seedlings?  Or perhaps the drought and mild winter have something to do with it.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


I've seen that some people who can/bottle make pectin from apples.  I've also seen that some recipes call for pectin but I didn't know what it was or why I would want to use it.  So I asked my mom.  She didn't know what or why either... other than her mom used it.  :-/

I told my mom that if I was going to go through the effort of making and canning my own jam, I wanted to make sure I knew what I was putting in it.  She told me to have fun with my research and let her know what I discovered.  lol.

So off to the Internet, I went...

According to Wikipedia, pectin is a structural heteropolysaccharide contained in the primary cell walls of terrestrial plants.

It's been a while since I've had any chemistry training, so I can't say I exactly know what a heteropolysaccharide is, but at least it's not from Extra-Terrestrial plants.  That would be difficult to source.  ;-)

According to PickYourOwn, pectin reduces cooking time for jams and jellies and allows you to use less sugar.  I'm not sure I buy the less sugar claim, but getting peaches to the jam stage with pectin takes a lot less time than getting peaches to the butter stage without pectin.

Pectin also has an entry on WebMD.  lol.

I also consulted a couple of books in my library and a few other websites that I don't remember.

Essentially pectin is a fruit-based complex-carbohydrate that can be used as a thickening agent and is apparently good for resolving diarrhea.

I feel better now.  Don't you?  ;-)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

First Watermelon

I'm feeling a little sad that I only planted one zucchini this year.  The production of the zucchini has been slow.  But after last year, I guess it's not a bad thing to be wanting more.  ;-)

The tomatoes have started ramping up.  They're still small and Hubba usually eats them before we make it to dinner.  :-)

The exciting news is that we picked our first-ever watermelon yesterday.  :-D

It was still a little green, but boy was it juicy and sweet.  Yumm

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: County Fair

Miss A, her family and I did a little reconnaissance at the local county fair last weekend.

Neither one of us have ever entered an alpaca performance show, so we wanted to get a better idea of what she would be asked to do at the November show.

I concede that animal shows can be quite boring to watch unless you happen to be very interested in what's going on.

Even if you're very interested in what's going on, when you're eight years old they still get boring.  So Miss A and her family went home after a couple of hours.  ;-)

That being said, we learned a lot.

First there was a halter show.  This is where the competition is mostly about the breeding.  But since this was a 4H Performance Show, the competition was more about how well the kids handled their alpacas.  This is really boring, unless you happen to be a breeder or a huge fan of one of the kiddos presenting or a huge fan of the animal being shown.

Setting up for a Youth Performance Class
Then there were the obstacle courses with four levels of difficulty.  This is what we were interested in.  A course is set up and the handlers are judged on how well they get the alpaca to navigate the obstacles.  We took notes and planned ways to practice the different elements at home.

There was also a costume contest.  The kids dress themselves and their alpacas up and write a short story about the characters they are playing.  I always thought this was kind of silly.  But realizing what it must take to put a dress and hat on an alpaca leaves me impressed with the relationship built between those kids and their alpacas.

After the alpaca show, I happened upon a Tractor Parade.

Then I went in search of the Fibery Fair Entries.

I found a few weavings...

and a few handspun yarns...

But clearly, the Quilters are in full-force here in Northern Colorado.

I remember going to a quilting circle with my mom when I was very small.  It seemed like those ladies were having fun and I think they were all working on the same quilt at the same time.

I've never tried quilting myself, but I have always admired them greatly.

I hope you're having a terrific Fiber Arts Friday.  Be sure to visit everyone over at Wisdom Begins in Wonder to see some beautiful work.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Food: Canning Peaches

Hubba ordered 2 Lug Boxes of Palisade Peaches from our neighbor.

We picked them up on Friday.

I canned on Saturday and Monday evenings.

I made two jam and two butter recipes.

There were six total batches and 50 half-pint jars.

Hubba awarded me a Gold Medal for Jam.  :-)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


As a farmer there are a lot of things I think about, but there is only one thing I really worry about.

90-lb grass hay bales on the left, 65-lb alfalfa bales on the right

Being a commodity, the price of hay is very sensitive to supply and demand.  So, with the hot, dry summer we've been having, the hay harvest has suffered and the price has gone up.

A lot.

My preference is to work with the 60-65 pound, small-square-bales.  These are easy to move and come pre-rationed... one flake = one alpaca per day.  But these cost more for the farmer to produce.

Last year I bought the larger 90-100 pound, bigger-small-square-bales.  These are a little less expensive for the farmer to produce and still relatively easy to move around.  But honestly it means I am dragging them.  90-100 pounds is too much for me to lift.  The ration is still easy to figure out though... two flakes = three alpacas per day.

This year we had been talking with a couple of other farms about going in together on a full truck-load.  One of these friends found a local source of hay/alfalfa mix at a reasonable price.

I prefer to have my grass hay and alfalfa separate because it give more flexibility for meeting feeding requirements.  Alfalfa is generally too high in protein to give to non-lactating or pregnant alpacas, but sometimes you have to take what you can find.

What we found were 800-lb large-square-bales (4 ft x 4 ft x 8 ft) and we do not have a tractor or skid-steer to move them.

We figured we would need 14 of these to cover the year.  Based on the rough dimensions I determined they should fit in our barn and asked our neighbor if he could unload the truck with his Bobcat.  The only question being whether his Bobcat was small enough to go through our barn door... which is only 7.5 feet high.

The answer was yes.  So we went to place the order.

The hay was no longer available.

Our friend had a line on another source of the 800-lb large-square-bales hay/alfalfa mix that was much more expensive.

I did a little math and decided that I could get the smaller bales of straight hay and straight alfalfa for about the same price from the feed store.

They came out on Friday.

In hopes that more rain will come and that the hay prices will drop before winter, we only bought a 6-month supply.  I hope this bet pays off.  Otherwise we'll be paying a lot more to bring us through the winter.

In the meantime, having fresh cut hay in the barn smells oh so good. :-)

Monday, August 6, 2012

What happens when the Internet goes out for 4 days?

We got hay delivered, went to the Farmer's Market, canned some peaches, saw an old friend, went to the county fair and watched some of the Olympics coverage... and since I do most of my Day Job and a lot of our farm-related work online, I also watched my To Do list pile up.