Tuesday, March 31, 2009
I have freely received so much. I look around me, especially on a drop-dead beautiful day like today, and I can hardly believe my overwhelming fortune - family, health, enough to eat, freedom, friends, prosperity, land, loveable critters, kindred spirits in the fiber world, mentors, peace and security of soul... the list goes on and on.
What option is there but to give back out again?
So I invite you to come to the farm - drink in its peace. Stroke the woolly back of a sheep and hear him bleat, visit with the hens who have an opinion about everything, smell the garden earth, damp from the rain, watch the stately alpacas glide across the pasture. This gift that was entrusted to me, I am honored to share with you. And let's take the gift of fiber from the animals, shape it into unique creations, and share that with others! If you have a willing heart and hands, I can teach you how to make yarn and fabric from wool and fiber. What a gift we've all been given!
The forecast for this Saturday looks sunny and fair. Tim Daugherty of Paca D'Lites Alpaca Ranch has agreed to come help us vaccinate the alpacas and worm them, since they were exposed to lots of other animals at shearing on Sunday. This is just a precaution, but it might save a lot of grief in the future. We'll need lots of hands to help hold and walk the haltered boys, and then we can get our mitts on the freshly shorn fleeces!
The harvest is beginning! It's not too late to get your share!
Sunday, March 29, 2009
We had an awesome day at shearing today, and have bags and bags of beautiful fiber to show for our effort.
The day started pretty early with Mary Berry arriving and helping us halter all the boys. Ted and Emma were also a big help. Keely showed up right on time with the trailer, and we shoehorned all the animals in, nine in all. We headed up the road to A and A Alpacas, owned by Amy and Arlen McCroskey, and home to over 120 alpacas. The weather couldn't have been more beautiful, especially after a couple of days of rain, cold and wind. Today turned out to be frankly, spectacular.
Amy runs a smooth operation, with folks handling the critical jobs who have done it for years - it's like watching ballet or a Swiss watch working. The key is to watch for the little tasks that need doing and then making yourself useful... all the while, staying out of the way of the guys pulling the ropes or the ladies gathering up the fiber.
We kept the line moving - one alpaca after another - and Mark Loffhagan, professional alpaca shearer, worked steadily and smoothly between two stations. One alpaca was sheared while the next one was prepped behind him. Then he would turn and begin shearing the next animal. Mark's helper would trim teeth if needed and other helpers trimmed toenails while the animals were restrained - easier on everyone!
After a lovely lunch break, we went back at it, shearing the llamas last, since the pulleys had to be repositioned to accomodate their larger size. You'd have been proud - Gideon was a very good boy. He never spit or fussed once he was strapped down. He did fidgit quite a bit as he waited for his turn. We got his toenails trimmed while he was down and avoided feeling the wrath of his finely honed kicking skill.
Of course, as usual, the boys look really silly without their regal fiber coats. They are just a collection of sproingy pipe cleaner toys. But the new fiber will begin growing right away, and soon they'll regain their dignity.
I'm every grateful for Mary's help today, and for Keely making room for us in her trailer. It was great fun to play with alpacas and with great friends! And of course, many thanks to Amy McCroskey and Mark Loffhagan, for all they do for us.
The video I posted here is "Part I" of Mark shearing an alpaca. At the end you can hear me say to one of the helpers, "Am I in the way?" and he nodded, "yes." So I moved and resumed my video from another position. Part II, and a bunch of still photos are in my flicker set called, "Shearing 2009." Find it here.
Now, we have some skirtin' to do, my friends.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Now it's afternoon and the sun is really helping my outlook on life. Emma helped me by walking the lambs while I cleaned out their crate. Wow. Farmer versus ammonia! While the lambs were getting some sun and stretching their legs, I got a picture of the meeting of the alpacas and the sheep. Everyone was very curious about the others.
I'm off now to get all my details attended to for shearing tomorrow. Keely is picking us up in her truck and trailer very early in the morning. Mary Berry is coming along to help out and get her feet wet in the world of alpacas. I need to make up name cards for each of the alpacas, to go in their respective fiber bags. This helps a lot in sorting out the fiber once it's bagged and collected with all the others. I need to make sure I have halters and lead ropes all sized and ready to snap onto the boys so we can lead them nicely into the trailer. I also want to take a bunch of mini-muffins along to share with all the hard workers involved in this amazing adventure. And of course, I need my camera to document the whole affair.
So, next time you hear from me, it will be with reports of our awesome fiber harvest. Film and video to follow.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
After our rains yesterday, the boys were a little fidgity from being cooped up in the barn. I don't lock them up, but they stay in the stalls out of the rain. So today, they made it clear that they wanted to run out in the larger section of pasture currently occupied by the donkeys. So I let them out. Boy, howdy - did they need to run! Just watching them makes me want to kick up my own heels. But then I remember that that might put me in traction, so I defer.
I'm all packed up for my trip to the elementary school tomorrow. I'll be sure to take my camera and get some pictures of kids learning where some of their clothes come from! It's so great to watch the light bulb go on in their little heads, that clothes come from somewhere else before they come from Target. The little boys find the wheel utterly mezmorizing. The girls seem to enjoy the end product. (These are gross gender generalizations - I know. I'm just sayin'.)
The side perk to doing these little demos? I actually get to sit down at my beautiful Pippi spinning wheel and make some yarn. Don't worry, I practiced today so that I don't get there and embarass myself from being too rusty, or losing my oriface hook, or messing up the tension. Ask me why I'm so glad I practiced first this time...
Getting late... time to (what else?) feed the babies!
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
But just to give you a little taste of my new and beloved duties several times a day, I recorded a short video. Sorry about the cell phone ringer; just consider it a quirky soundtrack to the video.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 09, 2009
Saturday, March 07, 2009
Unless you're reading this after Saturday night, and you've already woken up late and cursed, and rushed to get dressed to make it to church on time, or to your golf game, or to the corner bakery for a bagel and the paper. In that case...
Have a nice day!
PS - sheep don't care what time it is, unless you're late with the goods.
Friday, March 06, 2009
So now, before the weekend, it's time for a look forward on the Jacob's Reward Calendar and see where we're headed:
Next weekend, March 13-15 I'll be at the Wildflower Fiber Retreat in Tyler, TX. This is an awesome annual gathering of fiber artists that is celebrating its 15th anniversary deep in the piney woods of East Texas. We'll enjoy great food, fellowship, and of course, fiber. In addition to re-connecting with spinning pals and enjoying some down time, I'll be spreading the CSA story and selling some of our wonderful rovings. Learn more about the retreat here.
The following Saturday, March 21, is our next "Herd Health Day" where we'll concentrate on the alpacas - haltering, trimming toes, and making sure they're ready for their shearing which happens on the Saturday after that, March 28. I'll be taking lots of photos and video that day, since I cannot invite visitors up to the hosting ranch in Greenville.
Backing up a day to March 27, I'll be demonstrating wool processing and spinning to the fourth graders at Hedgecoxe Elementary School in Plano for their Fine Arts Day, as I have done for the past 3 years. Those kids are really smart and well-behaved, asking great questions, soaking up the information, and then always sending me a stack of the cutest thank you notes I've ever seen. (A few are featured in this post.)
In April, our "Herd Health Day" is scheduled for the 25th, which seems like such a long time between events. So, I've had another idea. I'd like to have an Easter Egg Hunt for your kids, or kids you know, under the age of 6, here in my front yard. Saturday, April 11, we'll have a fun hunt for plastic eggs with candy and prizes inside - you could win a dozen eggs, or some fiber, or an appropriate Easter toys! I will be working on an activity for older kids, too, so no one feels left out. As the time gets closer, I'll ask for RSVPs, but for now, just think about it and pencil us in on the calendar.
May is going to be a very busy month, too, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.
Thank you to everyone who has sent in egg recipes - there's still room for more, so please don't be shy! Keep them coming! This is going to be a really fun little booklet, free for the asking once it's published.
If you have a fun idea for an event here at the Farm, please let me know. As friends and shareholders, this is YOUR farm, too!
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
And let me say that if any of these boys strike your fancy, but you don't have a place to keep them, well, I'm here to help. I have room for some alpacas to board here at Jacob's Reward if that's what you need. Have your people call my people and we'll do lunch, and work something out.
First, my friend Peggy has two intact huacaya boys (that's the teddybear kind) who need homes. I can attest to the fineness and density of their fiber - it's wonderful! She'd like Hondo and Oceola to go together, and is asking $1300 for the pair.
Then, up in Missouri, my friend Ann has four young boys that don't fit into her breeding program, who she'd like to go in pairs. The prices are incredible, because she knows that some transportation is probably going to be involved. Take all four for $900, three for $750, or two for $500. And if you only wanted part of the package - talk to me. Even I might be able to afford one of these gorgeous Suri boys (the dreadlock kind). None are gelded yet because of their ages so they might have breeding potential. And they're cuter than snot.
Top left is Kid Kanduit with great fiber and personality, top right is Mushroom with nice fiber and a blue eye, bottom left is Big, who (though he looks little in this picture) is a sizeable boy now, and bottom right is Magic, who just appeared in the pasture one morning by - magic. Very fine fiber on this little guy. Ann has more current pictures of these little guys if you'd like to see them.
If you have any interest in these guys, please call me to contact their owners for more information.
Me, I'm just trying to spread the alpaca love.