Friday, May 31, 2013

Fiber Arts Friday: Shearing Day, 2013

We sheared our herd of alpacas two weeks ago.

We had a great crew of friends who came out to help us.  The dogs were great with everyone and the girls charmed Keyla, our most difficult alpaca.  She got a proper hair cut this year.  She's not currently pregnant and she usually begins to prolapse during shearing, but all was well this year.  Whew.

The only injury was a cut to my little finger on the last alpaca, although there were a few bruises and a couple of raspberries.

16 alpacas are a lot more than the 13 we had last year.  ;-)  We are only expecting one cria this summer, so we will most likely have 17 alpacas next year.  Our friends have said it would be better to break it into two days.  So we'll keep our fingers crossed that they are willing to come back for two days next year.  ;-)

Happy Fiber Arts Friday..

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fiber Arts Friday: My Unusual Fiber Stash

Some questions popped up a "few week's ago" about what rare fiber I was planning to spin next.

I am usually willing to oblige.... ;-)

I am of the mind that nearly everything that is fibrous is spin-able and I am mostly interested in spinning single-source fibers.  As such, I have a few rare or unusual fibers in my stash.

I am also lucky that when I first learned to spin I had access to a Local Yarn Shop (Village Wools in Albuquerque, NM) that had a wide selection of interesting fibers for the spinners in the area.  I also had access to the Taos Wool Festival which had amazing, single-breed options and now the Estes Park Wool Market which also has some unusual, prepared, fibers available.  Lastly my cousin and her family have decided that finding fibers for me to spin is a bit of a sport.

As a result I have an interesting collection of rare and unusual fibers for spinning.... or, at least I think it's interesting.  ;-)

Cashmere and Cashmere+Silk. I have not spun Cashmere or even a Cashmere blend yet.  I'm looking forward to trying it.

Camel.  I have a small amount of raw camel collected by my cousin... I have spun baby camel and a camel blend.  It is divine... so much so that Hubba spent some time shopping for a camel.  I'm happy that he decided they are a little too big for our fences and a little too disagreeable for our preferences.  ;-)

Yak.  Cloud and Roving.  I had been saving this because I think it's very special and I did not want to mess it up.  But I think my skills are up to par now, so it's waiting for inspiration.  I don't want to spin it for spinning sake, I want to make sure I know what it will be before I put it on my wheel.

Black Bear. Hair and Down... both found by my cousins... in their back yard.  I attempted to spin the hair a while back, but it is too stiff for spinning... at least at my current skill level.  It might be interesting in a blend, or might be better for the embroidery that Vivian mentioned way back when...  The Down is quite soft and will be a lovely yarn.

Rocky Mountain Goat... also found by my cousins... on a hike.  I'm about half-way thru the picking and cleaning.  Hubba doesn't like me cleaning fiber in the house, so it only gets attention when I have time and weather to support it.

Milk.  Yep, fiber made from a protein in Cow's Milk.   I made an attempt at spinning this a few weeks ago... it's very much like silk, with a very long staple length and very "fly-away."  I realize that's a lot of "very."  I decided that I was not in the right frame of mind and plan to spin this at a later date.

Navajo-Churro.  This is the only sheep's wool in my stash right now.  I've only spun a little of it.  It drafts nicely, but the guard hair (prized in this breed of sheep) makes for a tough time on the fingers.  I love the way it smells.

I also have a few ounces of llama, several pounds of Tibetan Mastiff and a large amount of Huacaya Alpaca in my stash, which will get much larger since we are shearing our herd tomorrow.

Currently I am working on a Naturally Colored (Green) Cotton.  The colored cottons have not been bred like the white cottons and were (still?) nearly extinct, so the staple length is very short... ~1/2 inch.  My first attempt was pitiful, but this time it is going beautifully.

I have quite a lot to spin and am planning a 2-ply so this will be in progress for a while.

I am on the watch for more Qiviut and Bison.  The Qiviut was so amazing, that I think I will always be in search of more.  The Bison was challenging enough that I want to get better at it.

I am also on the watch for Vicuna and Guanaco.  I have yet to touch, let alone spin either of these.

Also with so many Elk nearby and it being spring I continue to hope to find some shed Elk, but so far, nada.

Finally, if I happen upon any Possum roving I would absolutely give it a try.  I have felt some yarn and knitted gloves made of Possum and was surprised by how soft it was.  I think it would be interesting to spin.

Have you spun any interesting or unusual fibers?  Did you enjoy it?

Happy Fiber Arts Friday!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sliding Block Puzzel

It's a bit of a sliding block puzzle around here right now.

I have a small barn. Honestly, "barn" is a generous term. It's more like a loafing shed with doors, but small is correct. We store hay and feed in the barn. We shear in the barn. We cannot do both very well at the same time.

One bay is for hay, one bay is for alfalfa and the last bay is for feed and other supplies. As we approach shearing day everything gets moved into the hay bay because we shear in the alfalfa bay.

So it's a bit of a game to ensure that we don't have too much on hand and that we don't run out.

Generally we shear the last weekend in April, but this year my regular helpers were unavailable and everyone else I asked was also busy that weekend, so we rescheduled for next weekend.

The good news is that I shear our alpacas so I'm not tied to a traveling crew's schedule that has been booked since January. The bad news is that I'm dependent on my friends being able (and willing) to help.

I also have local shearing clients which means my available weekends were also limited, but fortunately, I have some wonderful friends who will be helping us out next weekend... three weeks later than originally planned.

It turned out to be a blessing in that we got a huge amount of snow and a hard freeze of +11F a few days after the original planned shearing day... both of which would have been difficult with 16 freshly nekkid alpacas.

The scary part is that I planned our hay purchases for shearing day at the end of April and not the middle of May.

I have ~5 weeks of alfalfa still in stock, so we're good there. The part that's giving me heartburn is that I have only about 8 days of hay left and we are shearing in 8 days.

It doesn't make sense to have hay delivered this week because I won't have a place to shear if I take on a whole load. So I'm resigning myself to a few trips to the feed store over the next few days to bridge us until I can schedule a delivery for after shearing day.

I look forward to having a proper barn and hay storage one day and perhaps even our own hay field too.

Happy Spring!  :-)

Fiber Arts Friday: Wingspan, part 10

My Forever Wingspan continues...

It hasn't seen much activity since February, but I got new tires for the truck yesterday so I brought it along thinking I might have to wait...

About an hour later... the truck had new shoes and I had finished off the 10th wedge.  Which makes the Wingspan officially one wedge larger then when I ripped it out.  Woo Hoo!

I think this will end up being 16 or 17 wedges total, so I'm sad to say that you may be hearing about this scarf for a while.  ;-)

I hope you're having a great Fiber Arts Friday.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


I haven't been able to get any planting done, but I spied a few onion volunteers in the 1st garden over the weekend.  :-)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Slow Living: April 2013

We have gotten so much snow this month and we have even more as I write this.

It's not unusual to get snow in April, or May for that matter.  But somehow April had more snow than October + November + December... or, at least that's how I remember it.  I'm having trouble finding the objective evidence to support my memory.  ;-)  The good news is that our drought conditions are improving and we are seeing much less lake bottom than we were a few weeks ago, but we have a long way to go.

Can you believe it's May Day already?  I guess that means it's time for my April installment for the Slow Living Project.  :-)

NOURISH: Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch overpackaged, over-processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead. Share favourite links/recipes/tips from the month here.

With all of the snow, we've also had warmer temperatures so there has been more outdoor cooking this month...  Protein simply seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled then served with a green salad and rice or potatoes has been a favorite this month.  Left-overs are often eaten for lunch.... Hubba can be quite creative with a quesadilla.

PREPARE: Stockpile and preserve. Freeze extra meals or excess garden/market produce. Bottle/can, dehydrate or pickle foods to enjoy when they are not in season. Aim to reduce dependency on store bought items especially those known to contain BPA and other suspect additives. Stocking up on dry goods when prices are low counts too.

This month has been mostly about preparing for Shearing Season which starts this weekend and our puppy who moved in almost 2 weeks ago.

REDUCE/Reuse/Re-purpose/Repair: Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing. A ladder into a strawberry planter? A sheet into a dress? Share ideas and project links here, allowing others to be inspired.

I have attempted to make home made yogurt a couple of times in hopes of reducing the number of plastic  containers entering our home and filling our cupboards.  But I am having trouble with the temperature maintenance during the incubation period.  So, one more try and then I may have to give in and buy the appliance.

GREEN: up our lives. Start (or continue!) using homemade cleaners, body products and basic herbal remedies. The options are endless, the savings huge and the health benefits enormous.

I received a SCOBY from a friend and started making our own Kombucha.  It's going very well and we have been reusing all kinds of glass jars.

GROW: plant/harvest. What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden? Herbs in a pot, sprouts on a windowsill or and entire fruit/vegetable garden -opt for what fits space and time constraints. Don't have a backyard? Ask a friendly neighbour or relative for a small patch of theirs in return for some home grown produce, they may surprise you!

No planting yet, but some of my fruit trees started flowering yesterday.  They are covered in snow today and we are expecting a hard freeze tonight.  Hopefully this won't mean the end of my plums for this year.

CREATE: to fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others. Create something as simple as a handmade gift tag or something as extravagant as a fine knit shawl. Share project details and any new skills learnt here.

There has been a little bit of knitting and spinning as well as yogurt and kombucha making.

DISCOVER: Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests. Trawl libraries, second hand shops or local book shops to find titles that fill the need. Share titles/authors of what is being read this month.

A found Wild Turkey Feather, Great Horned Owls and newborn Cottontail Rabbit Kits have all had me researching the answers to questions this month.

ENHANCE: community: Possibilities include supporting local growers and producers, help out at a local school/kindergarten, barter or foodswap, joining a playgroup or forming a walking or craft group. Car pooling where possible and biking/walking instead of driving. Even start up a blog if you haven't already - online communities count too! Or maybe just help out someone trying to cross the street! The rewards for your time are often returned tenfold.

I helped a friend move into their new house.

ENJOY: Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment. Share a moment to be remembered from the month here.

Early in the month, Hubba and I took an impromptu drive to "look" at property.  I had a feeling I should bring my camera.

I'm so glad I did.  We happened upon four LARGE herds of elk, including a small group of bachelors.  Most were just starting to grow their antlers for the year.

The elk are shedding.  The Fiber Artist in me wanted to "ask" for some samples, but a little self-awareness, and a cautioning Hubba kept me close to the car... or in the case of this last photo, inside the car... these guys were VERY close, VERY big and, of course, are VERY wild.

And just when I thought the wildlife viewing couldn't get any better... Great Horned Owls!

Gunnar, our now 11-week old Tibetan Mastiff is the source of a huge amount of giggles.

Wasabi, our 14-month old Tibetan Mastiff and I have started taking Conformation Classes.

I think she enjoys the one-on-one time together.  I know I do.  :-)

I am enjoying the snow, not exactly enjoying the resulting mud and looking forward to May when I hope to put some seeds in the ground.  Happy Spring. :-)