Monday, June 18, 2012

Spring "Bus-e-ness"

It's almost summer, and we're not sure here in  Troy, ID, that spring really came. We've had more than enough rain. But the daffodils did bloom!

And we got ready for shearing. Fortunately, it did not rain on shearing day. Lots of folks came to watch, to sit and spin or knit, or to help (those who helped get my grateful THANKS!).

Cathy D. spins alpaca
We got 28 animals sheared, 15 of mine, some alpacas belonging to others and three llamas. A friend of mine took some great pictures that she's put on flickr. If you want to see the process, which shows my wonderful shearer and his exceptional shearing table, take a look at
(While you are there, take a look at some of her yarns and batts! She does some beautiful dying!)

Someone looked at the pictures and asked "why is there a sock on the black alpacas nose?" The answer is also the answer to another question: do alpacas spit? The answer is: "In their 11th month of pregnancy, especially when getting sheared!"  Leyla, as of today, is three days overdue. But we're having another cold, windy, cloudy day, so she won't give birth. You see, alpacas (generally--I'm sure there are exceptions) give birth on sunny days between 10 am and 2 pm!  Very convenient for the owners.

And shearing day was a good tryout for my new dog--Sam I Am. I don't (or didn't) think of myself as a dog person, but I keep chickens on the farm--not only because I enjoy free-range eggs and sell them, but because the chickens keep the bug population down! Early this spring, I had at least 18 chickens and one rooster. As the coyotes came and went, I ended up with one rooster! Rosebud (as his former owner named him for his tight comb), as gentle as he had been with the "girls," must know how to fend for himself. So, it came down to this: chickens and dog, or no chickens.
Sam I Am
Fortunately, an acquaintance of mine who had sheep and chickens was preparing to move permanently to New Zealand and had a dog she needed to rehome. I reluctantly called her, knowing the dog was a Great Pyrenees but not knowing gender or age, but I knew Pyrs were known for roaming. Sam turned out to be a one-year old male that had lived with sheep.

So I brought him home. And I'm now a dog person. He has adjusted so well! The alpacas were frightened at first--most of them had never been around a dog. But Sam pays them barely any attention and he calmly lay in the yard while we were shearing, with traffic and animals coming in and out of the place (he was on a chain).

Now, is he going to help me keep chickens. Well, I know he will chase coyote. One of my crew heard the alpacas give a warning call and saw a coyote--he then watched Sam chase after it!! But, I have a funny chicken story. The mother of Madi (my animal manager) brought four chickens out for me and they were put in the coop while I was otherwise busy. Later that evening, I went up to look at them. One panicked and flew out the coop window and starting running around the area that we have penned in, just to keep new chickens in place until they know their home. Well, she just ran around cackling; Sam kept watching with great interest, tail up high--I kept saying, NO!!! But the hen found a place to get out under the fence and ran cackling down into a highly wooded area. Sam followed in pursuit. No way for me to follow. I heard silence, then cackling, more than once.

Very disappointed, I assumed that Sam would end up eating her, and since I got Sam to help me keep chickens, I went into the house, sat at the computer and tried to find information about what to do. Then I heard, outside my window, cackling!! Went outside! Sam had caught and brought back the hen! She was a bit beat up, feathers missing, but no bleeding. Supposedly, he's purebred Pyr, so I wouldn't expect him to be a herder! But apparently, that's what he thought he was doing--returning the chicken to me.

So I need to find out how to stop chickens from panicking and running away!!

So enough for now. But here's a before and after shearing picture of one of my alpacas, Lexy.
Lexy with and without fiber.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Knitting Granddaughter

I visited my granddaughter (and her father and mother) in Tennessee this Christmas. I enjoyed getting to know this precocious 7-1/2 year old who is a tough little girl! We played catch, and she could throw harder than I could and catch better than I ever could. Ellie plays basketball; was in gymnastics before too many other sports took her away--and I think her arms are stronger than mine! You don't say "pink" around Ellie! She fishes and hikes with her father in the Great Smoky Mountains.
And now she knows how to knit! Here she is with the scarf she knit (well, she knit at least half of it!). I cast on for her and was amazed at how quickly she caught on. It's a ten stitch row--she would knit two or three rows and then ask me to knit six! She really sped up as she progressed, learning how to push the point of the needle so her old stitch would come off and recognizing when she made a mistake that needed fixed. She also added the fringe by herself! Next visit, the purl stitch!

I did have a disappointment--As you can read in an earlier blog, Ellieowns Leroy, one of my alpacas. I spun Leroy's fiber and tried to knit her a sweater from her own alpaca. I still spin too tight, so it wasn't as soft as it could have been (which she noticed right away) and it turned out to be too small for her, especially the width of the arms.  But I knew she appreciated the thought--we spent some time looking at the alpaca farm website, talking about Leroy and other alpaca things.
One of my spinning/knitting ventures this Christmas was a success, though. Madi got a scarf made from Madison! BMCA Mitchell and BMCA Madison were both born in 2009 and named for the sister (Madison) and brother (Mitchell) who work on the farm and noticed first when the dams were getting ready to give birth. Both the alpacas now belong to their mother who said she would now always have a Mitchell and Madison at home! They are greatly loved by Madi's twins sisters who call them paca-doos! This is what BMCA Madison looked like before shearing in June 2011.

Anyway, I spun up fiber from Madison and knit a lace scarf for Madi for Christmas. She said it was "BEAUTIFUL," and when she showed it to her mom, her mom said she would have to learn how to spin and knit. Here's a picture of the scarf, on blocking wires the night before Christmas eve!
I'm going to unknit Ellie's sweater and use Leroy to make a vest for me!

I might wait til Ellie's older, or I'm a better spinner, to try to knit her another original!