Friday, December 25, 2015

Fiber Arts Friday: Palindrome Scarf, part 8

Two years and three months later, I have a finished Palindrome Scarf.

There was a time where I was knitting 1 inch each week but back in September I was just picking it up after it had been sitting for a (long) while.

The final length is 90 inches after blocking.  It wraps around my neck once and hangs at a favorable length,

which means it also wraps twice on a really cold day.

I ultimately made three stripes with the 15g of black.

I really, really like this pattern.  Simple and easy, but not boring... and no wrong side. :-)

I had lots of purling practice and used up all of my left over yarn (the point of this project) ..... and almost half of the supplemental yarn.  So I still have left over Yak+Merino yarn, which was not the point.  :-/

I used the Miraculous Elastic Bind Off which is quite stretchy, but not crazy stretchy.  I will definitely use this one again.

Happy Fiber Arts Friday and Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy Holidays

It's a beautiful, frosty, Christmas Eve Eve morning here in Northern Colorado.

Happy Holidays from Alpacamundo, Colorado Tibetan Mastiffs and Kathryn's Brain.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Happy Solstice!

It is beautiful and sunny on this, the first day of winter.

Tomorrow, the days get longer. :-)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Fiber Arts Friday: Joining Yarns

For my handspun Tibetan Mastiff Scarf I have two skeins of yarn.  When I finished using the first skein I had a few thoughts about how to join the yarn... Russian Join, Spit Splice or knot.

Because there is so much halo with this yarn, I didn't want the felting of a Spit Splice to show in the finished fabric.

The last time I used the Russian Join technique there were a few stitches that were bigger than the others.  Most likely this would not have been noticeable since the hand-spun is more irregular and heavier gauge and I'm knitting more loosely than last time.

Ultimately I decided to knot the yarn because I thought I would be able to hide the ends well-enough later.

After I had enough fabric on both sides of the join, I untied the knot and started working to hide the ends.

First twisting the yarns to close the hole and then hiding the ends in the purls.

I had to pull the stitches around on the front side, but I think this is pretty close to invisible.

Happy Fiber Arts Friday.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Fiber Arts Friday: Spinning Yak, part 2

I have finished the two ounces of Yak Roving that I've had in my stash since 2011.

Yak is one of those fibers that I spin because it's more difficult.  It's a shorter staple, slippery and doesn't hold the twist very well, much like cashmere.

Last time I had spun just over an ounce and had a lot of over spun areas.  Adjusting my speed and tempo, the yarn improved as I continued to work on it.  I broke the the single a few times while winding off the bobbin.  Something I'm still struggling with on the finer gauge singles.

Another thing I'm struggling with are the small cakes going insane toward the end of plying.

This last bit took quite a while to recover.

A toilet paper tube will fit over the stem on my ball winder, so I will try to wind onto a tube and find a way to secure the inside end so it's findable toward the end of plying.

I'm happy with this yarn.  I like that it has a little bit of a sheen along with being so white, which isn't apparent in this last photo.  I also like that you can see the inconsistencies in gauge and twist.... and if you look closely, there's an over-spun bit toward the left.

These variances should translate into subtle interest on a finished object.

This will most likely be going into a weaving, but I've had a lot of thoughts about it.  I never really know until I've finished using the yarn.  ;-)

Happy Fiber Arts Friday.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

One Year Later

One year ago today, we were welcoming our premier litter of Tibetan Mastiffs into this world.

Noodle was a great mom and all nine of the puppies made it.

Nobu (Colorado's Leap of Faith)

Today the puppies are Livestock Guardians and Family Pets.  They weigh between 90 and 120 lbs and their families tell us that they love their dogs.

Ramen (Colorado's Big Bowl o' Ramen)

We could not be happier with how this litter is maturing and the homes they went to.  We are looking forward to doing it again next year.

Monday, December 7, 2015


If you know me (or other Tibetan Mastiff people), sooner or later you will see photos of the gigantic TMs.  There are Leonberger and Caucasian Ovcharka versions out there too.

While I know for certain that some of the Tibetan Mastiffs photos have been altered (I have seen multiple versions).  I can't say the same for the Leo or CO.  But I can tell you that perspective has a lot to do with making big dogs look even bigger.

Here are a group of photos I took yesterday with Nobu and Hubba.

No photo editing has occurred.  She didn't suddenly get much larger.  The only difference is where Nobu is sitting with respect to Hubba.

Nobu will be one year old on Wednesday.  She is a little over 100 lbs and about 27 inches tall.

She's a big dog, but not gigantic.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Fiber Arts Friday: Art vs Craft

I've been posting on Fiber Arts Friday for several years and only now am I really thinking about Art vs. Craft which seems odd to me.  I think it's because I've been so focused on the craft/skill part of it.

I feel I've reached the point with my skills where I have a reasonable chance of executing the ideas in my head.  Which is both exciting and scary.

In no way does that mean that I think I am an expert.  I am knowledgeable.  I am skilled.  I have a lot (A LOT!!) to learn.

For example, when it comes to spinning.... I am continually trying different fibers... yak, cashmere, cotton and chiengora to name a few.  I spin these (shorter, slippery, unusual) fibers so that when I spin sheep's wool and alpaca it seems easier.

It's about learning how they they become yarn and then work in finished objects.  But it's also about the pursuit of the perfect yarn.... stable, even, consistent and not over spun.  Pursuit is the key word here, I very rarely produce a yarn that meets all of these criteria as a single.

Even with knitting and weaving (though that's been a while) it's about consistency and learning different techniques.

At the Finished Object level, I've always been more interested in the details.  Something that is simple but flawlessly executed is more beautiful to me than pattern, complexity or color.

The wonderful thing about it is that handmade things are almost never flawlessly executed.  There's always at least one bit that is not quite right.  I love that part.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Art vs. Craft

A few years ago I was wrestling with whether I was a farmer or a rancher.

I am also an artist (among other things)... and currently wrestling with the idea of art vs craft.

I think it's another pair of words that mean almost the same thing, but evoke different connotations.

There seems to be more value placed on art... unless you're a craftsman, like a cabinet maker.  But what about artisan welders and bread makers.... or since I'm in Colorado, crafted beer and spirits?

Craftsmen seem to go through an apprenticeship period, but several artists I know continue to take lessons to improve their skills or learn other techniques.

Apparently this is not a new question:
Bernard Katz Glass (3 part series)
Tate Debate
One of the commenters on suggested that how it was made was the craft and the ideas it represents is the art.  Essentially, one piece could be both.  But another said "all art is crafted, but not all craft is art."

So I went to Merriam-Webster:
Art: (1) skill acquired by experience, study or observation.  (2) a branch of learning ie, humanities and liberal arts. (3) an occupation requiring knowledge or skill. (4) the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects or works produced. (5) a skillful plan. (6) decorative or illustrative elements in printed matter.
Craft: (1) skill in planning, making or executing. (2) an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill. (3) skill in deceiving to gain an end. (4) the members of a trade or trade association. (6) a boat, especially of small size
Both definitions talk about skill.  Both talk about implementing that skill.

I think we could argue that paintings, photographs, sculpture, furniture, weavings, carvings and literary works all meet both definitions.

So I think I agree with both commenters quoted above.

Monday, November 30, 2015

NaBloPoMo: All Done

At the beginning of this month, I committed to writing every day and hoped I would finish a daily post.  I felt this was daunting, but doable if I put the time in.

I'm really proud of myself for accomplishing this goal and am looking forward to taking tomorrow off.  ;-)

My goal now is to continue a near-daily effort of writing, with publishing twice each week.  I would like to write more about the farm.

Thank you for reading all of these posts this month.  :-)

Sunday, November 29, 2015


If there is anything I dislike more than shopping and returning something that isn't what it's supposed to be, it is returning something because it doesn't work.

Since I wrote about puppy-proofing our de-icers, I have bought two more of the second brand... for a total of four this year.  One works, three don't.

Those are pretty bad odds.

So thinking that my brand new de-icers should be in working order, I have replaced extension cords, swapped outlets and swapped cords.  When the second one didn't work either, I did the whole thing again thinking I had missed a scenario.  So when the third didn't work, I resigned myself, went back to the first store and bought one of the first brand from last time and that one is working.

We haven't been above freezing since Wednesday evening... all tanks have open water. :-)

Now to hope Miss Nobu doesn't decide to kill this one.

Happy Winter!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Winter (Finally)

As the saying goes, "There is no bad weather, only bad clothes."

Before I was a farmer, I was an alpine ski instructor.

Just like skiing, how you dress is important for farming.

It's important to stay warm, but not too warm.

If you start to sweat, you you will get chilled.

Of course the Himalayan Canines and Andean Camelids could not be happier that winter is finally here.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Fiber Arts Friday: Voie de Vie

Sometime last summer Denise at Voie de Vie offered to make a cowl for me.

I don't exactly remember the circumstances, but I do remember feeling both inadequate and grateful to be offered such a gift.

Miso the kitty loves my Voie de Vie La Coeur Cowl too

Having made for others and rarely making for myself, I know how generous this sort of gift is.

We talked about some of the prepared yarns I had available and she decided on my handspun Keyla singles.  I sent her all I had left and included a skein of Bandit that I had spun last year for her trouble.

Keyla's yarn

She decided to use all of the yarn I sent and included some of Wonder Why Gal's handspun too.  She wrote about it here.

Bandit (grey) paired with Wonder Why Gal's handspun alpaca

I'm not certain I can convey what this gift means to me.  I bought the yarn before I bought Keyla.  She was always a teacher for me, up to and including when we lost her over the summer.

Denise, Thank you so much for this wonderful, generous gift.  I love it so much.  :-)

The pattern is La Coeur Cowl.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving Thanks

This was a surprisingly hard post to write.  Today is Thanksgiving in the US so social media will be covered in thankful and food posts.  I am most definitely thankful for my life and the food I'll be eating later, but it's been a tough year on many fronts.

Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday.  Not only do I love turkey (and food in general) but I love getting together with my family.  They are loud and overwhelming.  There are a whole lot of them and I adore them.

I will laugh at my BIL's stories until I cry.  I will compare my height with nieces and nephews.  (I seem to be getting shorter.)  We will tease and make each other the butt of jokes.  We'll talk about what's going on, jobs, school, dreams and goals and we will toast each other's successes and blessings.  This is really one of my favorite days of the year.

Of course I will make time to watch the National Dog Show.  The show itself was November 14th, but the NBC broadcast is today.  A couple of friends were exhibiting and one's Tibetan Mastiff won Best of Breed, so I'm looking forward to watching her in the group ring.

I will take moments through out the day to pause, reflect and say thank you... as I do most days.  Life is precious.  I am grateful for the one I have and especially grateful for the many blessings and acts of kindness we've received.

I hope you have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


My MIL's recipe is a closely guarded secret.

I promised to never share it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


These weeks from the end of Daylight Savings until the Winter Solstice can be tough.  The days are just too short.

The time change has the sun go down an hour earlier when the days are already getting short.  Then they just get shorter.  This last week has been especially noticeable.

The sun is officially setting around 4:30pm now.  Which means at 3pm, it's really feeling late.

I love the cooler weather and winter in general.  I mean, we do raise wooly mammals.  But I am looking forward to the Winter Solstice next month.  ;-)

Monday, November 23, 2015


I've been perusing the BlogHer list of posts for NaBloPoMo.... apparently I'm supposed to be linking my daily posts.  Oops.  I wonder if I should go link each day from the last three weeks... Engineers are not good at following directions.  ;-)

Anyway I've found a few new blogs to follow.  A recent one is Retired Ruth.  I tend to enjoy school teachers and this post about advice hit a chord for me.  She started with a quote she had read recently...
"When you feel like quitting, think about why you started."
Definitely worth thinking about.  Sometimes there are reasons to quit, as noted in The Dip by Seth Godin.  He says, if you're going to quit, quit early... for example, my basketball career.  I sucked... Big Time.  But don't quit just because it's getting difficult... most things worth doing are going to be hard at least some of the time.  So the point is... when the going gets tough, think about why you're on your path.

The piece of advice that came to mind for me was...
 "Stick your finger in water.  If the hole remains when you remove your finger, only then are you irreplaceable."
That was tough to hear put so clearly, but the reality couldn't be more true.... as I'm in the midst of my 5th lay off.  :-/

So when the going gets tough, and you are replaceable, what are you going to do?

I've been searching for a new day job and working on the farm's business plan.  In both cases, I've been refining my focus on what I want to do and what value I can provide as well as attending classes and networking sessions.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Star Wars

Star Wars was the first movie I ever saw in the theater.

My sister, parents and I went to the Continental Theater in Denver.  At the time it was a nondescript, square, white building.  The line went around the building and everyone was excited.  I remember feeling excited too, but not understanding why.

We finally made it into the lobby and I was in awe.  High ceilings, chandeliers, archways and fancy carpet.

My next memory is sitting in the theater.  Everyone surrounding me was still excited and I still didn't understand why.

Then the lights went dark.  The music started.  The opening narrative flew through the sky.  There were space ships.... and then.... Darth Vader.  He scared me, but he had my full attention.

Good vs. Evil.  Good wins.  Amazing Music.  What's not to love?

Return of the Jedi was the first movie I saw in the theater without adult supervision.  My friend wanted to see one of the Jaws movies because she had already seen Return of the Jedi, but agreed it was worth seeing again.  It was.  I've probably seen it 20 times since then.

I'm excited about the next installment.  Every time I hear the music, I'm brought back to that first experience.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


My pancakes were legendary when we lived in New Mexico.  Thick, fluffy, buttermilk pancakes.  We had a gas stove and I loved cooking on it.

Here in NoCO, I have a smooth-topped electric stove.

6 years later I've figured out how to cook most things on the electric stove, but not pancakes.

I've tried different skillets and fats but the pancakes are not legendary.  Or perhaps they are just legendary at the other end of the spectrum.... burnt and raw at the same time or if I'm lucky, not raw but still burnt.

Clearly my temperature is too high but the electric stove takes so (sooo) long to change temperature.  Ugh.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fiber Arts Friday: The Nook Chair

Sometimes you find fiber arts in unusual places.


I happened upon The Nook Chair while reading a contemporary architecture blog a while back..

Cool, eh?

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Fencing, with respect to livestock, provides three functions for us.

First is to contain our alpacas.... boys and girls separately and occasionally smaller groups for other reasons.  A 4 foot fence is sufficient for this.  Some of the alpacas will get their head stuck in the 4x4" pig fencing that came with our property.  But when I go to help them, they usually figure out how to get their head unstuck.  So we prefer to use 4x2" "no climb" fencing.

Second is to aid in keeping predators out.  While bear, mountain lion and coyote are in the area, we are flanked by dense residential property.  We have seen coyote on our property, but the bear and mountain lion tend to stay west of us.  We don't have poultry or rabbits so the plentiful raccoon, skunk and raptors are not a current threat.  With all of that said, our biggest predation threat comes from neighborhood dog and human.

Third is to contain our Livestock Guardian Dogs.  All LGDs will expand their territory without proper fencing.  The Tibetan Mastiff, being a perimeter-style guardian, is especially prone to roaming, aka expanding their territory.  A 5-6 foot "no climb" fence is better for this.  Most of our dogs are fairly grounded.  Noodle can get over a 5 foot fence, it just hasn't crossed her mind to do it yet.  Nobu can climb a 4 foot pig or chain-link fence without any trouble.

When we moved to our property we did a lot with what the previous owner had left behind and supplemented that with 5 foot welded wire no climb fencing.  For the most part it has worked pretty well.  The fencing we bought is not as durable as we'd like it to be, so we've had to replace several sections and are finally using up the last of our initial buy.

Replacing the 3-strand barbed wire perimeter fence with 6 foot woven wire horse fencing has kept the coyotes and neighborhood dogs out of our pasture.  Which makes our dogs' job easier and helps us to sleep a little better.

Our task last weekend was to replace a line of pig fencing on the girls' interior corral in order to contain Miss Nobu.

This line was in place when we moved in; two panels of pig fencing sandwiching a livestock gate.  It was ugly, but for the preceding dogs and all of the alpacas, it was functional.  We replaced the inside line of pig fence and livestock gate with 5 foot no climb fencing.

Nobu inspecting the new fence

For Miss Nobu, it had been an easy way out of the corral and into the pasture... and now that she's approaching her first season, she showed me that it was an easy way back into the corral so she could cosy up to Miles, who is very much in tact.  While we are considering this breeding for the future, it's too early for both of them and will not be happening this year.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

More Video Testing

So embedded videos are not viewable in Feedly, on email subscription, in the Blogger App or on the mobile version of this site on my iPhone... even though the video was taken by my iPhone. :-/

But they are viewable on the computer UI even if they are not viewable in Preview mode up to at least 7.1 MB.

Here's yesterday's video embedded from YouTube:

And the YouTube link.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

LGDs at Play

Here is the video (hopefully) of Wonton and Gunnar that I've been wanting to share.  I took it about a week ago.

I like it for two reasons: it shows that a working dog's life is not all work, and it shows Gunnar being respectful of Wonton's position as the leader of the pack.

I just recently put these two back together since all of the older girls are now past their season for the year.  Noodle is back to mentoring Miles and Wonton is back to helping Gunnar bring up the puppies.

Wonton has had a hand (er paw) in raising each of our younger dogs.  She is the pack leader, without question.  She does not put up with shenanigans and all of the other dogs defer to her leadership.

Wonton and Gunnar are a great team.  So to see them playing together is a treat.  It tells me that she's happy to back with him and that she trusts him.

While watching the video you'll see that even though he is bigger, he is submissive and a little bit flirty.  She is altered, so no puppies will be coming from this pair.  ;-)

At one point Wonton lays down and Gunnar is not sure how to be lower than her.

Later he anticipates her jumping up but she does not go as high as expected.  So he briefly has his front leg over her neck, quickly fixes it and pauses until she resumes being playful.

ETA: I am able to view this video after publishing.  It was added with the Blogger icon and was not viewable in draft mode.  Yesterday's video was viewable in draft mode.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Test Video: Miles Being Silly

I'm still having technical difficulties.  The Blogger online help was not helpful.

I found this article that says the max file size is 100 MB and that supported formats are .mp4, .wmv and .mov.  My file is 7.1MB and .mov, so I'm good there.

I experience the same behavior in Chrome and IE.  So I made sure I had a default video player set up on my computer and verified the video is playable outside of Blogger but that didn't help either.

So I'm just going to post a silly, short, video and hope that it's view-able after publishing.  I'll be doing my own tests, but if you don't mind letting me know if you can watch the video and what browser/version you are using.


Here it is...  Miles Being Silly.  20 seconds.

Of course, this one played in preview mode.  hmmm.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

NaBloPoMo: Half Way There

Whelp.  I thought I  might fail on Day 4, but here we are half way through the month.

I hope you're not tired of me yet.  ;-)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Technical Difficulties

I don't know if it's the Blogger Video Plug in, the fact that I'm using Chrome or if there is something wrong with my video, but I am unable to get videos to play in a draft post.

Research is required.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Fiber Arts Friday: Bandana Cowl, v4.0

I have made this Bandana Cowl four times now, and am reaching into the bowels of my drafts for this post.  This was a Christmas gift for last year... all drafted and ready to post well before Christmas 2014, but one never knows who's reading and then life happened. ;-)

The latest edition was made with Manos del Uraguay in a colorway I had been calling Muddy.  It's a rich, deep, earthy brown with lots of variation and hints of mossy green. (edited to add, it's real name is Moss...  lol.)

The recipient is a hunter so I made it a little longer than normal and was really happy with the camo-effect of the yarn.  I'm told he liked it.

Happy Fiber Arts Friday!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Farmer's Market

My love affair with the Farmer's Market began the summer I lived in Boulder.  I was in college, staying with my parents.  We would walk along the creek path to the Farmer's Market.

There was wonderful produce, fresh bread and cut flowers.  There was fresh coffee and places for breakfast.  Everyone seemed so happy.  What a tremendous way to live I thought.

A lot of life has happened between now and then and I continued to frequent Farmer's Markets.

Today, we have our own farm with a decent  sized garden.  Hubba and I go back and forth between thinking about having a booth and relishing the fact that we are just able to enjoy it.

Especially since dogs are allowed at Farmer's Markets in Colorado and it's great socializing for the puppies.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Things I Wish I Could Grow

While snacking on some guacamole, it occurred to me there are a few things I really wish I could grow at home...

Avocados - I love guacamole in and on so many things... and frankly a slice of avocado on a grilled turkey sandwich or salad is pretty hard to beat too.  Of course I can buy pre-made guacamole and we do have avocados in the grocery store every now and then, but they're definitely not local so their flavor and ripeness is always a challenge.

Indian Mangos - ever since I visited India years ago, I have a mostly unresolved craving for a good fresh mango.  We do get the larger Mexican mangos here, but they don't have much flavor.  I suspect they are picked prior to being ripe.  Which makes them just unsatisfying.  I have been able to find a good substitute with Ceres Mango Juice that in imported from South Africa and occasionally I find a decent mango sorbet.

Oranges - There is absolutely nothing better than fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Olives - I love olives, olive oil, olive oil soap... I love olives.

Teff Grass Hay - My first hay buy when we moved to our farm was of locally grown teff.  It's a thin stemmed grass that the alpacas loved.  When it came to buy hay again, the farmer had gone out of business.  So I have been buying a different grass hay from the feed store.  It's more stemmy than the alpacas care for, so a lot is sent to the "spent hay" pile.  Technically I can grow Teff Grass here, but I don't have the space to make it worth the cost of haying.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Hot Air Balloon

When our oldest girls were young and a long way from being on full-time guardian duty, a Hot Air Balloon came close to their corral.

They instinctively knew to round up the alpacas and defend their herd.  Noodle took the front line and Wonton went back and forth between checking on the alpacas they put in the loafing shed and backing up Noodle.

I did not tell them that balloons were not a threat because I was so impressed with how well these puppies worked together.

Fast forward 4.5 years: I've managed to convince all of the younger dogs that Hot Air Balloons are nothing to be concerned about.  However both Noodle and Wonton are still convinced that they are out to hurt their alpacas, me and/or Hubba.

Hot Air Balloons don't listen to their warning, so the dogs get more upset the longer the balloon hangs around.

As you can see from a couple of these photos, we have close residential neighbors who don't care for barking dogs at 7am.  But residential property adjacent to farm land is an entirely different post. Suffice it to say that we try to be good neighbors.

There are two Hot Air Balloons that regularly fly in the area.  So every weekend during the spring and fall, as long as it's a cool morning with clear skies, we will see a Hot Air Balloon at least once.

Normally it's a quick pass in less than 15 minutes and they don't come too close to our property.  So it's not a big deal to keep Wonton and Noodle in for a little while longer.  But on Sunday, this balloon hung around our property for close to two hours.

Since Hot Air Balloons are dependent upon the winds at the time I know they weren't hanging close on purpose, but it really messed with my priorities for the day.