Saturday, January 30, 2010

Workshops, waiting and break outs

I am busy redesigning my shop flyer and updating my class schedules. Most are fixed dates that repeat monthly. I am doing a nuno felting class from 10-1 on February 13th, so email, if you would like to come or get more info. I am limited in space - due to tables.
I am watching all of the sheep closely now, since a few are looking peaky. Above is Mounds. I had to feed her grain last year to prevent her getting toxemia. I am feeding her extra this year to be on the safe side. She has a little bit of an udder, but I think she is too agile to be ready yet.
The Jacobs ewe is shifting from one foot to another and fussing, when I go out, so she is in the final stretch. She is building her nest.

Yesterday a bunch of the does from the far out pasture busted their way through the fence. If we had grass, I would say that the grass was greener on this side. A bowl of grain shaken in front of them got them back on their own side. If they did not pound on the fences trying to beat up the does who are still locked up, I would have left them on this side. I don't need goats breaking their necks. It is also a lot quieter with them in their own spot. No head butting out there.
Oh, and that large grey coyote was back yesterday morning next to the bridge, when I let the dogs out. Since the dogs were not on a leash, that walk got cut short. Wish he would find somewhere else to hang out. The llamas and alpacas must be used to him. They did not make a sound.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Alpacas and first lamb of season

Joshua was really interested in the new alpaca male that arrived today. See Watusi, the last photo.
Josie is a Suri alpaca. Jennifer was checking her out in the typical way - sniffing the rear!

One of the Jacob/Border Leicester/Shetland had a ewe lamb this morning. Don't know whether she will stay black. I do hope so! Anyhow, it is already time for a new theme for babies. I was pleasantly surprised, since there is no way of knowing which ewes are closest to delivery. She was not a first time mom, so I was not worried. Baby has been up and drinking. I was disappointed that she did not use the barn, but not really surprised. The ewes like to move away from the herd for delivery. The only irritating thing is that Marc and I have not yet moved the ram out of the arena. He is the one I have to carry a big stick for. He is going to get caught tonight and moved to a pen. I need to be able to catch mom and babies, so I can ear tag, etc.

Watusi, Thanksgiving's father, arrived today. Funny how color genetics work in alpacas. Pure black dad and a chocolately/orange mom gave me a very light fawn cria.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pin Weaving and Carding

Yesterday I decided to try my hand at pin weaving. I had seen it in a magazine recently and had to wing it, since I could not find the magazine again. It is somewhere between the kitchen and the studio and will turn up now that I no longer need it. I had lots of scraps left over from the layered collar and really wanted to do something with them.
The only two pieces of yarn that I did not use in the collar were the white thick and thin and the beaded yarn. I plan to get the piece framed and maybe offer a class in pin weaving. I am thinking about offering a class in it and I will definitely start assembling batches of scrap funky yarns for future projects.
I have been busy carding. The above is all mohair and you can see how fluffy it gets.
These are several batts that I carded up yesterday and hung with rods and plastic. They looked interesting hanging, so I took a picture. I am now carding solids because they are selling once again. My Suri alpaca skein sold, so I carded up all of the rest of that and a red kid mohair batt. I will do a charcoal gray kid mohair and then some white. Then I am going to go back to the variegated yarns. Marc had to check the inside of the roof above my studio closet, so all of the bags had to come out. It was an opportune time to select a few colors for carding this week. Can't be too neat!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Beating the Blues with Batts

Above is a Jacobs ram named Frodo. I am debating continuing to keep this breed, since he is so aggressive and their fiber is not "next to the skin." The horns and color are interesting, but maybe not $300+ per year?
His companion looks like she might be the first to deliver this spring. She has that depressed look of pregnancy about her. I am feeding her extra grain, since I lost her mother to toxemia last year.
My cure for dreary skies is carding up cheerful color combinations. This is actually still hanging and I plan to spin it up tomorrow, unless someone comes in to buy it before I do.
All of my batts have a front and a back and they never match. The yarns turn out variegated and have lots of texture, since they are a combination of different wools and mohair.
This is a close up of the backside of the previous batt.
This is a cheery orange batt. They all measure between 20 and 30 inches wide and are 60 inches long.
This is a cool blue one. The other side has no blue in it at all.
A close up of one that I will probably spin. I added black Jacob/Shetland to it and the sheen of the mohair really popped.
This is the full length of the batt.
I came up with a new way to hang my batts for photographing. I am clamping one end of the batt between poles and hanging it from one of the shelves in the studio. I carded this batt up last night and it was so lovely that I left it hanging while I pulled strips off it to spin. One 4 ounce skein is drying and the second skein is almost done.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Designs, Dogs, and Drape

I have been playing around with colors added to white. I am in the mode for spring and hope most of you are looking that way also. I have been asked to put some sparkle into yarns, so the above is a kid mohair/Merino/Frirestar/Angelina combination. I decided that I would not run the colors through a second time - it turned the yarn into a pink instead of a red and white. Gorgeous anyhow and I have some solid whites that will go with it.
Last Tuesday at the Barnes and Nobles' knitting group, we were fascinated by some of the fashion magazines. The bored and painted expressions on the models were a turnoff, but the outfits were either gorgeous or outrageous. The batt above was based on an outfit that I saw in a Spanish magazine called Moda - Autumn and Winter edition page 51. I got it thinking I would brush up on my Italian and then realized just now, as I was typing this in, that it is in Spanish. Not that it matters - I am fluent in reading Spanish also.
The puppies are growing. Herd and I went to obedience school yesterday. She did not like the linoleum floors - too slippery - but she did not embarrass herself. She always pays close attention. It was interesting to take her off the ranch. We have only been walking the dogs here at home and on the road. They do very well on a leash and stay fairly close when we go up the washes. They do know their names!

All of the Shetlands and their crosses are in the arena now. The two groups have finally assimilated. I will pull the ram out next week. Right now to avoid having to watch my backside, I am walking on the outside of the arena with the dogs up to the Rambouillet rams to feed them.

My latest design is a layered collar. Here is is laid out with all of the pieces placed as they were later knitted together.

Here the finished collar is on a small dress form. It can be worn several different ways. This is actually what I consider to be the back based on my original plans.

This is what I think ought to be the front, but I have had five people look at it and they are all seeing something different. The layer can also be flipped over and it will look primarily shades of reddish purple.
This is supposed to be a medium sized mannequin, but it is really a size large. The layers fall differently depending on the size of the person wearing it. It was an interesting lesson in draping to see how wider shoulders with the same sized garment totally change the look.

This shows more of the yarn details. Basically, you can pick any piece as your center point and arrange it as you please. I am currently drafting the pattern and will have it available tomorrow.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bunnies and moving sheep

I have finished plucking three of the bunnies and thought I would share a before and after picture. This is one of the bucks.
It is amazing how many people think that you have to kill a rabbit or goat to get their fiber. Just to let you see - Copper is alive and well and thrilled to have a lighter coat.

Since our barn is now complete, Marc and I moved the Shetlands from the far out pasture to the arena. I sure wish we had had a photographer along. We started at 5 P.M.. This guy got moved first. (I keep changing his name, so I can't tell you what it is.) He is my new herd sire and pretty feisty. After Marc moved the 3rd sheep, I suggested that we use the wheelbarrow to move them. Flipped on their backs, they become quite docile. The ewes had decided to rebel by just sitting down and refusing to move. It was an ordeal to keep them on their feet and it was taking way too long. We could not drag them! By 7 P.M., it was very dark and it was hard to keep track of how many sheep were in the shed to be moved. I counted four left and was beginning to feel like we were almost done, when Marc came out saying that there were still four in there - even after he had caught the one he was holding. It got even funnier when we came back and caught the next ewe, because Marc reported that there were still four ewes in the shed. I told him that we were just taking too long and that they were just multiplying before our eyes. There were really four more to go!
By the time the sheep were all moved, I was beat and I still had to feed. The last to get fed were the sheep that I had just moved. The ram was mad and he charged me - knocking over the feed wagon. He gave new meaning to the word "rammed"! I ran out the arena while he was distracted by the feed on the ground. Then I had Marc run interference while I finished feeding. This ram was even in the mood to charge Marc.
It is several days later and I am still having to watch my back when I go out to feed. I had been carrying a large stick and abandoned it yesterday. Well, I will be carrying it again in the morning. Even though I had already put food in the sheep's direction, he came after me again this evening. I let the wagon take the brunt of his hit. Too bad I bought him this year and will need to use him for at least two years to recoup my investment. He is going in a pen back in the goat area on Saturday afternoon. He will be lonely without his harem, but I can't leave him out like I have done with Espresso, since I need to be able to go in and help the ewes during lamb delivery. Can't do that with him coming after me. Those horns are scary!
I have designated this Saturday as the day to remove the bucks and rams from the does and ewes. It is going to be too hot for them to deliver in June. Several of them are probably not pregnant since it has been so hot here. If artificial insemination were not so expensive and unpredictable, I would seriously consider it. The does have gotten picky about who they will breed with and some of the males are just too destructive.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Making progress

Thanksgiving is growing quickly. She is a favorite, when people come out to visit, since she stays still for them to pet. She is now nibbling on pellets and she keeps trying to eat from the wagon.
This is the ram that I bought from Oregon last year. He is going to be my main herd sire next year.
My sister, Shirley, mentioned that she had an Americauna that has never laid eggs and that she has one that looks different from the rest. She was wondering, if it could be a male. Anyone know? I am pretty sure that the one above is a female. The one below has a broader head and I have only ever gotten two eggs from the three that I have. He has never cock-a- doodle-dood!

I am in the design mode again. The collection of yarns and pieces below will become a collar. I am writing the pattern as I go and I am keeping track of my yardage. A very hard thing to do!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New ideas for a new year

If you stop by the shop/studio, do take time to say hello to Skyler. He is our 7 year old African Grey and I bought him a smaller cage, so he can come hang out with me during the day. Now that Kyle is working or at school all of the time, Skyler is being neglected. I do want to increase his vocabulary, so I am hoping that the change of scenery will do it.
I keep meeting people who have degrees in fashion and design. My background, as many of you know is a teaching degree and undergraduate degrees in Spanish and English and a Master's in Human Resources Management. Who would have ever thought that I would have settled into the fiber art business? Now I am wishing that I had known then, what I know now. Since I can't go back and relive my life, I have decided to move forward and study fashion design like I have studied animal husbandry, knitting, freeform, etc. If any of you have degrees and would like to share your knowledge or begin along with me, I am going to be starting a group in the beginning of February. Based on feedback from a few of my friends, I am leaning towards Monday or Wednesday evenings at about 7. Email me to let me know your thoughts, if you are interested.
The skein on the left and the scarf draped across all three skeins are already in my etsy shop. I tried twice to duplicate the colors in the scarf and have come close, but can't quite get it. I will be listing the other two skeins this afternoon.

This is the last barn picture! I have approved the paint job and the final touches have been put on. I am going to give the paint a day or so to dry before I move the Shetlands back in the arena. Then I will be able to sort the rest of the animals out. All of my goats have not gotten pregnant, but I am holding to my decision to let the does out next weekend. June is just too late for them to be having kids.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Coyote visits again

If you are squeamish, skip this post. It deals with the reality of trying to raise livestock around wildlife.

Seems like all of the wildlife has decided to visit. As I went out this morning, the alpacas alerted on a different coyote. This one moved off very slowly and I soon found out why. I went to feed the geese and three of them were dead. The neck of one was entirely bit off and the chest area eaten, while the other two had just been killed. I can't blame the coyotes because they will drag off their kill to eat. Plus I just don't see how they could have gone that high to get in. Based on how things looked, I would suspect that a bobcat got in. The fence to the arena is much lower and less secure, so I was really surprised that it happened.

Anyhow, the remaining geese have been returned to the pen in the arena area and will stay locked up, since there are not enough of them to scare off predators now. The duck area was perfect with the pond, etc., but obviously too attractive for the wildlife. Fortunately, the bobcat did not go after Thanksgiving, who was just 10 feet away on the other side of the wash.

Alpacas and llamas do not get excited about cats - so mountain lions and bobcats would not have caused them to alert.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hair Raising

Jennifer, one of my alpacas, just earned her feed for the year. I was out picking up an egg after feeding this morning and she let out a trumpet blast in my ear. Then she and the other alpacas and llamas moved off and stared in the direction of the wash behind the Shetland sheep. I stood looking as they all trumpeted and a coyote started to walk away from the fence. It was pretty big and looked like it had been around a while. It was definitely watching the sheep. You know the expression "hair raising", well my hair did that - at 10:30 in mid daylight! I have chosen an earth tone color for the barn and it will be painted this week and the inner panels installed. Then I will be able to let the Shetlands back into the arena. It will save me hauling the wagon of feed out to them - amazing how much 120 pounds of feed seems to get a lot heavier every time!

I plan to use the blue kid mohair (Royal Blue Wilton's cake icing dye) for my next Barbara shawl. I will also spin extra lock spun mohair. It is time consuming to spin, but it is gorgeous worked up.
This photo was taken on New Year's eve. It was a "blue" moon for us and super bright. It was still really bright when Marc and I walked the dogs last night. We began our walk in almost total darkness. Ten minutes later the moon popped over the mountains and we had the feeling of a spotlight being turned on us.
Hope you are all enjoying the new year and the possibilities that it brings with it. I have decided to start closing shop at 4 P.M. since everyone who comes usually comes earlier in the day, so they can also see the animals. This will give me a chance to run errands - like mailing packages for Internet customers on the same day. During the winter, I have to run out immediately and feed the animals, if I don't want to do it in the dark, and then all of the places that I need to run errands to are closed. This will give me the option of not having to wait till Saturday to run errands or having to ask a friend to do them for me. I will still be here by appointment, if you find that you cannot make it by 4. Do feel free to call (520-572-3758.)