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Friday, April 26, 2013

Spring Means Lots of Activity on the Farm

Just what the Aussie ordered 3 miles into a 3 1/2 mile hike on a warm day
This week has brought warm but not hot weather and a couple days of much needed rain.  The grass is growing and Sam has had to break out the lawn mower.  He also spent a day spreading a year's worth of alpaca poop on the hayfield.  Not nearly so many spreader loads as last year since we have half the number of poop makers.

On Sunday, I spent some time up on my walking trail on Wayne National forest cutting dead trees off the path.  There were a lot that came down in the derecho storm on June 29th that we have just been climbing over or going around, but now the path is mostly clear.  There is still one good sized tree across the path, but it is easy to go over and I am not sure enough of my chainsaw skills to try to cut it up.  This makes Sam happy because it is about time to start looking for morels.

On Monday, I picked up my new package of bees and installed them in the relocated top bar hive.  This being the third time I have installed bees, everything went really well and quickly, but Sam was not around to take pictures.  I have posted pictures and video on this blog of my past installations, just check April of 2011 and 2012 if you are interested.  On Tuesday, I got into the Langstroth hive for the first time in too long and did some moving around of boxes and definite pissing off of bees.  The hive is quite crowded and so today I will be going back and giving them another box or "super" full of frames that they will hopefully fill with honey for me to harvest in another month or so.  

I have also weeded out the asparagus patch and there are lots of asparagus spears coming up.  Unfortunately, we are still getting down into the low 30's overnight frequently and the asparagus does not handle that well.  Really looking forward to enjoying some of that soon.

I finished up the shawl I was knitting and got it blocked.  It is very pretty and I had lots of yarn leftover, which makes me think I could have made it a little larger, but I hate worrying about running out of yarn!  I also wish I had used beads that  had more contrast with the yarn.  They are so hard to see.

I have dyed up some of the white alpaca I washed a week or so ago.  I dyed it in 2 colors and am going to make layered spinning batts with the alpaca and some silk I also dyed.

 
 The alpaca is the blue and red and the silk is variegated purples.  it will be interesting to see how this comes out.  I made similar batts last year with the dyed alpaca and bamboo that I made my Spanish Armada shawl out of.  The colors were very different, though.

I am also thinking of spinning 100% natural colored alpaca to weave a throw.  Ok, so I have a fleece washing right now, but this will not be a short term project.

I have also heard from the mill that my yarn is ready.  I e-mailed and asked them to ship it, so hopefully it will arrive soon. It is a heavier yarn than I usually get and I am anxious to see it.  Thinking about dyeing.......





The days are so pretty.  The redbuds  and the tulips are in bloom and the woods are carpeted with wildflowers.  I have even gotten my deck furniture out of the barn and dusted it off.  It really IS spring!
  




 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Spring is Bursting Out!

Look how green it is!  And pretty purple weed/wildflowers are coming up everywhere.  It gets greener outside by the day.  

I have had so much going on since last I posted.  I started by heading over to Dayton to do a demonstration on spinning for a group my mother belongs to.  It is a type of guild consisting of mostly retired home-economists.  My mother is a retired registered dietition/college professor and only recently became involved with this group.  When they found out I was a spinner/alpaca farmer, they requested a demo.  There were a LOT of people present, I would say at least 25 to 30 women and it was held in someone's house.  I think, judging by the responses I got, that it went very well.  I know I talked til I was hoarse, though since I was coming down with a cold, that was inevitable.

Later that night I had a very nice dinner with 3 of my high school friends at a Bonefish Grill  which incidentally happens to be located in a huge shopping plaza only about 2 miles from where I lived from 1971 until I graduated high school.  When we moved there, there was a Stuckey's (anyone remember those?) and a gas station.  That's it.  It is now unrecognizable.  I guess a lot happens in 40 years.  Can it have been that long????

Once I got home Friday, my cold really hit me and I was not too active Friday or Saturday.  Though Saturday and Sunday were alpaca moving days and I managed to get all the alpacas moved who needed moving, with Sam's help.  First, I am selling 4 females, 3 of whom have never been bred and I told the buyer I would put them all in with one of my males until he is ready to come get them in the hopes that one or more will become pregnant.  So, I moved those 4 and Eclipse into the pasture next to the garage so I can kind of monitor things.

 Next, the 3 crias born in the fall are now all over 6 months old and so their mamas are ready for a break.  So Peg, Tunita and Miracle got to move down the road to the pasture across from the guest house.  I find that there is less whining from the crias if the mamas just disappear instead of physically relocating the babies.  There was a little angst on the part of the crias for a day or so, but they seem to be fine now.  

And now I have less alpacas per acre since the garage pasture was unoccupied all winter and the green grass is growing.  And I still have hay in the barn!

On Sunday, I spent a lot of time cleaning out an old fence that was between our yard and the creek.  While my old friend Apache was alive, this fence allowed him to wander up the creek and kept him out of the yard.  It was really not much of a fence and was old barb wire and rusty and the posts were mostly falling down, so now that he is gone, there is no need for it.  In the photo, you can see where the yard ended and the weedy stuff on the other side of the fence began.  Hopefully it will eventually be lawn from the deck right to the creek.  Kind of a sad chore, but we had been planning to do it once Apache was no longer with us, so it was time.

 





One of the reasons for all the greening up is that we got some much needed rain on Tuesday.  Unfortunately, it came in the form of a torrent instead of a steady gentle day-long soaking that I would prefer, but we got rain!



The tulips and the peonies are coming up, as are the weeds.  Last year my tulips came up extremely early and got frost-killed so they never bloomed.  I think this year they will bloom.


 I think I mentioned I had knitted an infinity scarf from some of my hand-dyed alpaca as  sample for the show I went to earlier this month.  I finally had Sam take a picture of me wearing it.  It is wrapped twice around my neck here.  I am wearing it today, though probably not for long since they are forecasting 80 degree temps for today.

I have been knitting a lacey beaded shawl from some yellow wool yarn.  I started a mystery knit along last summer with this yarn and beads and just did not like the resulting shawl at all, so I "frogged" it (rip it, rip it) and am much happier with this little shawlette.  It is almost done and needs the magic of blocking to bring out its true beauty.  It is called Heaven Scent and is a pattern I purchased through Ravlery.com



 Last night I started to spin the purple gradient polworth (wool)/silk roving I purchased from Fibernymph Dyeworks at the Knitter's Fantasy.  Very nice to spin.  I plan to spin it fine, fine and then do a Navajo ply 3-plied yarn from it.  It will take time to spin.  Spinning it on my beautiful 24" Reeves Saxony wheel, which is my preferred wheel for fine spinning.



 As I said, I've been busy.  Next week, I am getting a new package of bees to install in the top bar hive, which you may remember did not survive the winter.  So this weekend, we need to get that all ready for new occupants.  We are making some changes to the hive and have relocated it into the garage pasture at the far end of the garden.  I also really need to get into the Langstroth hive and see how those girls are doing.  I'm hoping for a honey harvest in June!




Had some beautifully dramatic clouds this morning!

 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

It's Warm Outside!

Yes, the warm weather finally arrived.  Actually I think it is around 80 today.  It went from winter to summer in a matter of days, but there is a cooler weekend ahead, I think.  Now what we really need is some rain.  We've had nice warm sunshine and now we need the rain to make the grass grow.  The alpacas say "please"  because I am not letting them out on the pasture until we get a good soaking rain.

I was looking at my blog entry from April 5th last year and the photo at the top of the page was of Rowdy sitting amongst bright yellow wildflowers with redbuds blooming behind him.  We are so far behind this year, there is almost no color in the woods yet, but it's coming!

I have mostly fibery stuff to write about this week.  I attended the Knitter's Fantasy Show in Youngstown Ohio on Saturday.  It was a nicely done show and well attended.  Here is my booth all set up.  My sales were good, but not fabulous.  I sold some syrup, some yarn, some roving and some alpaca bears.   So many people oohed and aahed over my rugs, but no one bought any.  I guess I would have to say I would attend this show again.  I even talked to one nice lady (whose name I neglected to get) who says she follows my blog and purchased a black alpaca fleece from me on ravelry a couple years back and she even brought along some of the beautiful yarn she had spun from the fleece.  Gorgeous.

It is always wise to take an easy project along when one is going to be sitting at a festival all day.  I finished up a pair of fingerless mitts from some of my handspun alpaca/wool roving.  I basically knit the entire second mitt while I talked to people  who came through at the show.



 The pattern is a freebie on ravlery.com called Bainbridge Mitts.  They used about 100 yards of yarn and are incredibly simple.  I have enough of this yarn left that I plan to make a matching hat.  I need a new hat, but I guess there is no rush now, right?

I also have to brag about my Spanish Armada Shawl, which I think I posted about finishing last month as I was boiling sap into syrup.  Our county artists' group has an art show every April and this year I decided to enter some photographs and also my Spanish Armada Shawl.  I dropped everything off last Monday and on Sunday I was able to go into town and see how my entries had done.  My photos did not take any prizes, but my shawl took first in the "Fabric" category.  It scored 50 out of 50 possible points.  The judge was a former art professor at Ohio University.  My mother-in-law also got a first place for a batik watercolor and my father-in-law took a first place in the sculpture category, so the Moores were well-represented.



 This is a short week at home for me since tomorrow I leave to go to Dayton to do a fiber demonstration for a group that my mother has gotten involved with.  She said most of the group are retired home-ec teachers and once they found out I was a spinner, they were anxious to have me come and visit.  So I drive to Mom's tomorrow afternoon and will do a demo on Thursday morning, then have dinner with some high school friends while Mom has her book club and I will come home Friday.    I need to get a lot of things together for this demo, various types of fibers, hand cards, my wheel, prepped fiber, finished items, etc. so that is tonight's project.

I have also finally washed up a fleece I have been hoarding until I had time to work with it.  it is a beautiful LONG staple, super fine alpaca in white with fabulous crimp.  It is too long to send to a processor, over 6", so I plan to do it all myself.  The plan is to blend it with silk and I will probably dye part of the fleece as well as the silk before carding it into batts to spin.  Here is is on my drying rack in the ever-so-useful mudroom!  3 1/2 pounds of fiber looks like a lot, doesn't it?

 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

April's Here.......C'mon Warm Weather!

Chasing squirrels makes dogs tired!
I believe today the warmup is supposed to start.  Yesterday my thermometer read 17 degrees when I got up and while it warmed up to the 40's and was bright and sunny, there was a sharp wind blowing.  Brrrrrr!  This morning, it was 22 when I got up and it is forecast to be in the mid-50's today and 60's by the weekend.  I am so ready!

 




Speaking of ready, I have been working to get ready for the Knitter's Fantasy show this Saturday.  I already have my large display items in the car and have all my yarns labeled.  There are about 45 skeins of yarn in here.  I am so pleased with how they all came out.  




 There are 6 "colorways" and I did 8 skeins of each or about 2 pounds of each.  I made an "infinity scarf" out of 1 skein of the purple/green color, but I didn't take a picture of it yet.  I washed and blocked it last night.  I will probably wear it to the event and it will give people an idea of what the yarn looks like knitted up.

 
I also had to finish spinning a 2 oz sample of the wonderful roving I got back a couple weeks ago.  It is superfine baby alpaca blended with a Blue-faced leicester lamb fleece.  It is a light fawn color and it came out gorgeous.  I'll post the photo next week.  I also washed it last night and hung it to dry.  The blend is about 80% baby alpaca to 20% BFL.  I am very pleased with how it spun. I still have to weigh out and package the roving for sale.

My 3 rugs have been cut off the loom and cut apart and the fringes have been tied.  Very pleased with them as well.  They each measure 26" X 36" not including the fringes.

So I have a few things to get ready tonight and I plan to be off tomorrow around 1:30  to drive to Youngstown and set up.  The show opens Saturday morning at 8 am.  I'm looking forward to it.
Plus, I have a friend who helped me learn to spin about 13 years ago who since moved to the Youngstown area and she and I are planning to go to dinner together tomorrow night. we have a lot to catch up on.



 We are thinking of changing insurance providers for the farm and if we do, we have to reduce the size of our alpaca herd by about 10, so I have some great deals on alpacas right now.  I have decided to sell 2 of my 3 female crias from this past fall.  This is "Mayhem" to the left.  Her sire is an awesome rose grey color and her dam is our own Miracle.  We don't really breed for color, but I had bought this breeding a couple years ago at a silent "herdsire auction" at the Ohio alpaca show.  It's hard to let these little fuzzballs go.  But I can't keep them all.  Plus, one fleece this color does not make a batch of yarn!



This one is "Piper".  Yes, she is white and fits into the program, but her sire is here on the farm so I can't use him with her when she is old enough to breed.  She has great genetics and will make someone a great production female.  Plus, her fleece is wonderful.

I have decided to keep Peg's cria, Caley.  There was no question there since Peg will be 14 this summer and I do not have a daughter of hers on the farm.  Caley is also white, but I did not get a good photo of her the other day.  Maybe next week.  As the weather warms up it will be easier to sit around in the pasture waiting for good shots.


 I spied these daffodils  yesterday poking out of the weeds over where the old house used to be on Wayne National Forest behind our place.  I guess spring really is coming.