Monday, June 29, 2009

Rain!

Yes, I have something of a reputation for hating mud. But I'll eat a little crow tonight and just say that I was mighty happy to have that 30 minutes of good steady rain this morning, and the accompanying cooler temperatures. Wow, what a relief.

I used my extra energy (coolness gives me superpowers) to put some interlocking stall mats down where the alpacas spend the heat of the day. The mats are more treasures from pals John and Peggy. When the alpacas hang out in the stalls, they move their "restroom" to the stalls and before long, the floors are in a terrible state. I'm experimenting to see how the mats keep the clay floors cleaner, and to see if the unavoidable cleanup is any easier. Maybe all this falls in the Too Much Information file...

Speaking of knitting (nice segue), and my renewed vow to work on Unfinished Objects (UFOs), I pulled out that cute little bolero jacket I started for Emma many months ago, and set aside for lack of a single yard of yarn. I just needed this much to finish the thing! Urg. It is a certifiable miracle that I have several balls of a nearly matching Lopi yarn, and I plowed ahead and finished with the substitute. You don't even notice it unless I point it out. And the big bonus? Emma likes it!! Now, if she will just stay this size until the weather cools off. Now, time to reach for another UFO... so many to choose from! (More pictures on my Ravelry projects page.)

The baby shower was fun yesterday, and the yellow hat was a big hit. The yarn will be bright and cheery on cold days. I really enjoyed how the yarn came out--the more I experiment with this dye, the more fun I have! Maybe I am OK at this sun-dyeing after all. Today I've been washing and rinsing my third batch of sun-dyed yarn. This time I used Emerald Green, but didn't mix it up too much. The resulting yarn has small sections of an emerald color, but a good bit of a turquoise as well, and some intermediary colors. Very ocean-y. What to make with 270 yards.... hmm. Guess it will have to age a bit before we know what it wants to be.

On the farm.... well, aside from the fiber prep that continues on and on, things are kind of quiet here. The hot summer really is a season that forces us to just sit down a minute and take a siesta. I think that's what has allowed me to luxuriate in some actual knitting and dyeing. In some much-needed cleaning and organizing here in the house. Shareholder Mary came by yesterday and we had a lovely visit in the barn while she contemplates owning a spinning wheel. Love those fibery visits in the Red Barn. The chickens are on an egg-laying sabbatical, and the sheep chew their cuds in the shade a good bit of the day. God's telling us it's time to rest.

So I guess I will. Manana, friends!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Finally, We Play with Yarn

Today was the first Saturday in quite a while with nothing in particular on the calendar. I had several choices, but in the end, I chose to stay home and attend to some long-overdue cleaning and organizing in my office. The "back room" has become the repository of a dozen abandoned project bags filled with luscious yarns and a bunch of crochet hooks and circular needles I had been looking for, boxes of family photos in need of sifting and organizing, Important Papers that need filing, geegaws, and odds and ends--all dusty and cobwebby in the corners. Not much floor was available for walking on, and all furniture was buried and unavailable. I'm the type who can only put up with that so long, and then my productivity and creativity begin to suffer greatly. I'd guess I've been productivity-impaired for about 6 months now... whew.

I devoted several hours to dig into the mess, and have made significant progress. My friends Peggy and John brought me a lovely low wooden bookcase that forced me to move all the junk to one side of the room, and begin the excavation work. I've pulled out many works-in-progress (WIPs) and rediscovered batches of really, really, nice yarn, which once were promised to awesome future projects. Do you have some of those, too? Some of those projects still capture my imagination, but some do not. I'm taking my cue from a Ravelry group I saw the other day, "Finish or Frog." I've made the decision to repurpose some of those yarn projects, and rededicated myself to finishing the remaining projects. For now.

But, and interruptions are an unavoidable part of life, I was invited to a baby shower tomorrow, and a handmade gift is in order. Battle stations: cruise Ravelry for a quick baby hat pattern, mentally inventory yarn for suitable material, gather needles and notions - deploy!

What I ended up with is a really simple, cute pattern by Elizabeth Morrison called The Jester Hat. And the yarn I used is one of the sun-dyed skeins I finished last week - the yellow-orange Knit Picks Bare yarn in a bulky weight. It came together very quickly, and I really enjoyed the knitting. Nothing fancy or complicated, but it has whetted my appetite for more knitting. Add to that the fact that I'm surrounded on all sides by beautiful yarn unearthed in the cleanup effort, and I can see myself sitting with the needles and getting some cool stuff done.

Speaking of getting cool stuff done, I've sent out feelers on the farm's Ravelry group about participating with Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm in their current benevolent project-- Yarn Storming. This is how you play: we send surplus stash yarn to a central location where it is redistributed to worthy knitters who can't afford yarn due to unemployment, personal tragedy, or other Bad Thing. Cash donations are also welcome to help defray postage costs to the recipients of the Yarn Love. The recipients will receive a box of goodies and a note informing them that they've been Yarn Stormed. Sound like fun? Here's the link to Susie's blog post about it with all the pertinent contact information. Her shareholder Nancy is heading up the effort to both collect yarn and also to collect names of worthy recipients. Please consider donating to this cause for our fellow knitters. Love comes in all shapes and sizes, and often, via Priority Mail. Maybe the Texas Twisters could gather up one box to send together?

And to wrap up, here's a picture of my current sun-dye project: It will be several shades of green, as the different pigments strike at different places on the skein. I think this one will be kind of cool. One more day in the sun and I'll unveil it.

Have a blessed weekend! Stay hydrated!

Combustion



I have noticed that the alpacas aren't drinking much water, considering the crushing heat. In fact, I decided all the animals needed more hydration. But the problem is, you can lead a chicken to water, but (say it with me) you can't make her drink. Or can you?

Electrolytes to the rescue. Last year the temps never did what they've done all this week - stay at or near 100 degrees. So I never really had to worry about forcing liquids on the critters. I did add some apple cider vinegar to the water buckets to keep the algae down, and maybe once or twice I added some Gatorade powder to give them some added punch. But today I went to the feed store and brought back heavy-duty electrolyte powder for all the animals' water buckets. We are going to stay hydrated. The electrolyte solution contains salts, calcium, magnesium, potassium, etc., to help adjust the body's chemical balance and fluid demand. Drinking this encourages the animals to drink more. Dehydration is a killer, and I'm not going to let it visit our farm.

I dosed every water container on the place, including the bucket that catches drips under the water faucet (the cat and the chickens drink out of it) so that every animal will get the benefits of these life-giving minerals. Fortunately, the pink powder has cherry flavoring in it (no sugar) and by late afternoon, I saw water intake nearly double all over the property! Yay!

I've taken other heat relief steps, like propping up the long metal doors on the chicken tractors to vent out more hot air. The chickens have taken to laying their eggs in the grass rather than in the nests because it's just so darn hot. That is to say, WHEN they lay eggs, they lay them in the grass. Today, instead of 19 or 20 eggs, I collected 6. Uh oh. Production is screeching to a slow crawl. So if you count on my girls for eggs, we may have to buy from the store a little more often through this awful weather.

Every season brings its challenges on the farm. In this season, we battle spontaneous combustion.

In happier news, I have a great reason to sit in the air conditioning a good bit of tomorrow - I learned that I've been invited to two baby showers in the next little while (the first one is Sunday!) so I need to work up some cute gifts. This evening, I cast on a little baby hat with some yarn I dyed in a pickle jar in the sun. Appropriately, it's a sunny yellow-orange, with enough variegation to give it a little interest. I'll post finished pictures, since I have to give it away on Sunday. Knitting.... I remember those days.... ahhh.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Max Meets the Sheep

My dear friend Jordan and her family were in town from Virginia to visit relatives (also my dear friends) and she brought her kids out to visit The Farm. Max, her 4 year old son, had seen and enjoyed chickens before at another farm close to their home, and was terribly excited about the prospect of seeing (and chasing) more chickens. When they arrived, I explained to Max that my chickens were very friendly and didn't need to be chased, but if he was very slow-moving and sweet to them, he might get to pet one up close. I also was anxious to show him our friendly sheep.

The only thing more fun than playing with sheep myself is watching a child discover sheep for the first time. Oh my. After some initial reticence, Max decided he really liked the sheep and would someday like to own some. And one will be green. And one will be flat. I'm not sure what that looks like in his mind, but he's very clear about it. Max is deliberate and well-spoken--way beyond his years.

We also went to see the alpacas, but since they are not as interested in being touched, Max asked if he could go back and see the sheep again. He was really very brave when you consider that Shadrach is almost as tall as Max, and probably outweighs him twice over. To satisfy his original interest, Emma held a chicken for him to touch.

Come back soon, Max. Next time I'll teach you all about the joys of cleaning stalls.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lots to Crow About

We have a winner! The Random Number Generator came up with Commentor #8, which is our friend, Joanne! Congratulations, Joanne - I'll get your book to you very soon. It's the kind of book which after you read it, you may want to pass it on again. Thanks to everyone who left a comment on the post and shared your chicken hopes and dreams. They are incredibly fun creatures, and I'm so glad they're part of our landscape.

The second thing I want to share is congratulations to our friend Suzy from Oklahoma, who fell in love with little Zacchaeus during the Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm meet up here at Jacob's Reward, and vowed to figure out how she could be his shepherd. Well, she's working a great plan, and today made the leap of faith into livestock ownership. Actually, that's not quite true. She has been tending a small flock of laying pullets in her backyard for a few weeks, and is easing into her new role quite nicely! But today she added sheep to her budding farmstead. So, we'll enjoy little Zach for a while longer, and then he'll be moving to that place where the wind comes sweeping down the plain. And the land of red dirt and tag agents. Congratulations, Suzy - welcome to Shepherdhood!

And thirdly, I am very excited to announce the date for our Spinning Yarns storytelling day: draw a red line around October 17, 2009. Peggy and Gene Helmick-Richardson, professional storytellers in high demand, will be with us to share lots of Texas prairie tales while we knit and spin and enjoy time and refreshments together. There are still lots of details to work out, but this is the date on which we'll be planning. Any thoughts about whether it should be morning or afternoon or evening?

The next couple of months are going to be very exciting around here! In the words of a good friend of mine, pinch me.

Bad Case of the Slooooows



















Last year, I don't think we hit 100 degrees at all.  This week, it's forecast that we'll see 100 several times and 99 and 98 the rest of the time.  Here on the banks of Maxwell creek, we get a little less heat than in the concrete-filled towns, thanks to the transpiration of moisture by all the large trees on the property. The critters hold up pretty well, but most activity ceases as they bear up during the worst hours of the day.  Here are a few pictures of the furred and feathered kids waiting out the sun, and like me, aching for the long shadows.  (Only Dewy enjoys sunbathing.)

In my next post, I'll announce the winner of the book Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mother and Daughter Podcast


The Telisak girls are hot tonight, and not just from global warming.  Emma helped me with Episode 2 of the Farm Podcast.  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cat Days of Summer, and a Giveaway


First of all, Happy Father's Day.  I hope you feted any dads in your household with good food and activities that help them feel loved and appreciated.  If you are the dad, I hope you were treated like a king today.  My dad's in heaven, and I miss him a lot.

The rhythm of the farm changes noticeably at this time of the year.  That's mainly because I don't do heat very well.  And just because we had a pretty decent spring this year, doesn't mean I'm going to like 98 degrees any better when it does hit.  Like it did today, and like it will 
probably do every day this week.  Everything slows down.  I try to get chores done early before the mercury rises, and then camp out in the AC for the hot part of the day.  I understand the civility of cultures where siestas are popular.  Then as it cools down, I get back out in the pasture to spend time with the critters.

I think I've mentioned that the new alpacas are doing fine in the heat so far, sunbathing in the pasture at times when the older, dark colored, huacaya boys are snoozing in the barns under the fans.  Even Smokey Cat works to find cool concrete to help dissipate some body heat.  There's just no reason to move quickly or be in a hurry.

But life at the farm is still perking along.  We're still planning neat events to keep us connected to the land and each other.  Every day I see evidence that what people crave in our society is meaningful connection.  And my goal is to provide as many opportunities for being together to do what we love as possible.  I have some ideas brewing, but if you have a brainstorm, please let me know.  I'm also on a campaign to support and draw public attention to as many local food farmers as possible.  Know any we can plug and patronize?

I was looking through my embarassingly vast and comprehensive library this evening and found a couple of books that I have enjoyed immensely, but which might bring another budding homesteader some joy and information.  Tonight, I'd like to offer one of those books to a commenter here on the blog.  Leave me a comment about your love of chickens, your interest in owning chickens, your curiosity about chickens, or your love of animal books, or whatever, and on Tuesday night, I'll give away Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance.  It's really funny and I know you'll enjoy it.

Also, there's another podcast in the works, so stay tuned.

Right now, I'm going to try something I saw on TV once, or was it on the internet... maybe you've heard of it, "going to bed early?"  Maybe it will help me be more productive tomorrow.  Worth a try...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Widening the Circle

There are new spinners in the world tonight, friends.  Rejoice with me!  Today in the Red Barn, I had the pleasure of helping my new friend Holly, and my old friends Mary and Peggy get wool to become yarn - on drop spindles and on a beautiful antique Wee Peggy wheel from New Zealand.  OK, I met Mary for the first time last month, but that just goes to show how awesome this community of ours really is!  Once you sit down with us at the round table in the Red Barn, you're family.  That's all it takes.  A little later in the morning, Shareholder Linda got to stop by and tell us all about the incredible felted art pieces she has crafted that are making the rounds at art shows around town and out of town.  We're so proud of you, Linda!

We also wandered outside to meet the new alpaca boys and spend some time with the sheep on the north pasture.  All our critters are such fun to watch.  I love introducing them to new people and explaining each one's unique history and contribution to our farm.

This afternoon, I got to meet sisters Liberty and Crystal, local girls who are very interested in learning to felt.  I think they enjoyed getting the nickle tour of the farm, and getting a quick look at the vast potential of this incredible material that is wool!   Our friend Kim also stopped by to glean more information and photos, in her never ending quest for a richer life closer to her food and her world for her beautiful family.

Then, to cap off our day, the family went to see Food, Inc., a very 
important film that exposes the disturbing stuff going on behind the scenes of our country's food industry, and the dangers posed to our country's farmers and food consumers.  One of my agricultural heroes, Joel Salatin, is featured in the film.  His Polyface Farm is the poster child for how to do food right.  He's written several books that I highly recommend to anyone thinking about taking their food quality into their own hands by raising their own crops or livestock.  I hope you'll see the movie, and I hope you'll let me know what you think about it.
 
It makes me want a shirt like Susie G. had on at her lecture at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.  "Grow Your Own Food" indeed.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Spin-In Day

Tomorrow morning we'll host our first scheduled Beginning Spinning Class for a few folks who have indicated an interest.  Other folks who already spin are, of course, welcome and invited.  I find that the more people that get together to spin, the more learning can go on.  Everyone has a little different take on this ancient craft, and sometimes, just watching different spinners can help the newbie pick up some small thing that makes all the difference.

Me, I teach the "park and draft" style on the drop spindle because I like how that method allows the spinner to separate the different operations and work on each one in turn: pinch, twist, draft, repeat.  As the spinner gets more time in the chair, as we say, the operations can meld together and blend into a smooth flow.  Not all people need spindle work before wheel work, but I think most benefit from the transition.  In any case, it will be loads of fun.  Y'all come.  I think some other folks have planned to drop by later in the day to officially welcome the new alpacas.  Bring a camera.

We've moved into the hot-and-muggy portion of the calendar year, and even though the official first day of summer is a little ways off, the temperature qualifies as Summer to all of us who spend time outdoors.  I've been relieved to see that the new little suri alpacas mind the mid-day sun less than the huacaya boys do.  Maybe that's because the huacayas are mostly dark and the suris are nearly white, or maybe it's the difference in the fiber (fluffy vs. drapey), or perhaps a combination of both.

Speaking of critters who don't like the heat, today Ted and I got a lot more wool off of our poor Babydoll ram, Zacchaeus.  He still looks like he was mugged by Edward Scissorhands, but I think he'll be much more comfortable.  That Babydoll fiber is something else-- it's like a solid, spongey surface, instead of individual fibers.  I'm still fiddling around with the electric shears.  I'm certain I'm not using them absolutely perfectly.  I adjusted the tension knob today and got them to run quieter and cut much better than before.  I hate learning by trial and error; I'd much rather have a teacher show me the ropes, and save me all those time-wasting errors.  If you hear of a shearing teacher in my neighborhood, give me a shout.  I might even consider hiring a shearer to do the whole job next year, if I could find a good one around here.  In the meantime, I'll continue my yearly hack job on all the poor sheepies.

Ah... It's a nice night.  The Red Barn (where I'm currently relaxing) is reasonably presentable, considering it's lined with piles of fiber bags.  We are coming down the home stretch of having all the fiber ready to go off to the processor.  You should see all the colors and textures!  We can see light at the end of the tunnel, and will have everything clean and ready to process in the next week or so, I hope.  I really want you to be pleased with your harvest share.

How about you?  What's your favorite thing about this time of year?  Picnics?  Watermelon?  Full-blast AC?  Bare legs and SPF 50?  I keep it pretty cool here in the Red Barn so that I'm still inspired to knit.

See you tomorrow!




Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wired for Interdependence

This past 24 hours without easy access to the internet has given me time to ponder the modern technological miracle that is the World Wide Web.  (Joe, the Verizon Guy was up on a ladder outside my house this morning repairing my connection.)  I'm not a tech guru, so my understanding of the internet is strictly practical and utilitarian.  I was kidding a lot yesterday about how I was getting the shakes without being able to check e-mail and all the social networking sites where I spend a good deal of my day.  But I really started thinking about the place I've given to my computer in my daily life.  I even happened upon an article called "Moms and Internet Addiction" that had me a little nervous for a minute.

Even before I started an on-line mail order business, I learned about the convenience and immediacy of e-mail.  How wonderful to communicate, even in one direction, with people who didn't share my night owl bio-rhythm, or were in different time zones across the country!  Instead of calling at inconvenient times, or launching a deep conversation when I only needed to convey quick, non-essential information, it was a wonderful option to fire up a quick e-mail and be done with it.  The folks on the other end could pick up the message at their convenience and respond, also at their convenience.

Then, people started discovering the dangers of e-mail: sending a note accidentally to the wrong recipient (ouch), forgetting to include the critical attachments (dang), and most troublesome, innocently offending the recipient because of the difficulty in communicating nuance of intention through the written word (ruh-roh).  Because of these challenges, many people avoided e-mail altogether.  Which was kind of overreacting, in my opinion.  E-mail, and the mind bogglingly vast internet, are just tools.  Tools can be used for good or ill - a hammer can build a house or break a window.  Tools are good or bad depending on the intentions of the wielder.

Along comes my first social network experience, Ravelry.  If you're a knitter, you probably know about Ravelry--a place for knitters to connect, organize their stuff, and find ANYTHING related to knitting or crochet.  It's a beautiful site, and very addicting.  When I started marketing my farm more aggressively, I could see how all these sites could get the word out about my CSA and products in a very economical and professional way.  I "met" lots of kindred spirits.  I finally gave in and got a Facebook account, and I put up a profile at LocalHarvest.org, and CattleGrowers, Farmers for the Future, and Alpaca Social.  Not to mention Twitter.  Good tweeting takes some practice, and a lot of effort.  Again, some people abuse the tool, but in deft hands, it's a wonderful marketing and networking venue.

All this takes time.  But building a good business reputation has always taken time.  I want so badly to let people know that the farm is here and has so much to offer.  I'm not going to sit on the sidelines and hope people drive onto the property and ask me how they can get involved.  I think with all these tools, getting the word out takes less time than it used to.  An on-line presence is critical, but it has to be backed up with a real person with real integrity.  And all the well-placed ads in the world don't replace actual relationships with clients and customers.  

So, I'm happy to say that even as I work on getting the word out on the internet about Jacob's Reward Farm, I have my flesh and blood family and friends to remind me that it's face to face where the real magic happens.  And my daily chores and labor remind me that the farm is a wonderful physical place that needs care and maintenance and nurturing.  In the end, it's balance I'm working for... balancing time in the real world with my family and animals and garden, with time on the 'net singing the praises of the life we have together here at the farm.  

Ahhh.  That's the ticket.  Want some coffee?  OK, just let me check my e-mail first... 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Adrift Without the Internets

Emma and I are hanging out, outside the Starbucks that just closed, slurping up some WiFi.  I feel a little unhooked if I don't check in with you here on the blog.  

I spent some quality time with my spinning pals today, though I was mostly catching up on my computer work rather than knitting or spinning.  We finally got to celebrate Laurie's birthday, and Mary's, too, with chocolate cake and cheesecake.  Oh, yum.  It was a great show-n-tell day with folks showing off some gorgeous knitted treasures they have completed.  Someday, I'll get back to knitting.  (sniff.) Terri taught me more tricks with the Mac, and I'm just deeper in like with it.  Indeed, I think I'm hooked for life.

I'll share a couple of cute photos and then we're going to have to leave this muggy table on the
 sidewalk with dive bombing mosquitoes.  (See how devoted I am to you?)  

The boys had fun in the pasture for a couple of hours before Mr. Dewey got stuck in the (unplugged) electric netting.  So he was freed, and they were ushered back into the pen until I can get that fixed.  Don't want to risk any accidents.  They still sort of move as a unit around the pen and around the pasture.  I'll know they're really relaxed here when they wander around individually. 

OK.  Emma's turn on the computer.... TTYL.

No Obstacle Too Great

Alpacas Settle In from Cindy Telisak on Vimeo.

We lost radio contact last night – my wireless router died, I think, and I’m going to have to determine if that’s my problem or Verizon’s.  As we learned on our trip, if you live by the internet, you die by the internet.  Guess I’m just plugged into the Matrix and there’s no going back.  I’m going to have to turn in my Luddite card for sure now.

Anyway, if I don’t get this fixed soon I’ll have to turn to the life of an internet vagabond, moving from one WiFi connection to another, always looking for a hookup.  So to speak.  Today I’m here at my church with my spinning group, taking time away from making yarn to upload a blog post. 

I wanted to post my little video alpaca update to tide you over until our Welcome Home open house here at the farm on Saturday.  In this video, Boaz exhausts his food supply and must come to me for more goodies.  He is definitely the most outgoing and adventurous.  But last night even Mushroom ate a few kibbles out of my hand.

The boys have been here since Sunday night, so it’s time for them to move out into their little patch of pasture and see how they like that.  Then we’ll begin some halter work.  Ann got a good start with them, but now they need to learn to work with their new Mamas.

OK, after a little sleuthing, I’ve figured out it isn’t the modem that’s on the fritz, it’s the phone lines.  Now to do a little troubleshooting on that end.  Big sigh.

UPDATE:  The phone repair guys are scheduled to come by tomorrow to check out their lines.  I'll let you know how it goes...

Monday, June 15, 2009

We're Live in Three... Two... One...

At long last!  I've published our first Jacob's Reward Fiber Farm podcast episode.  This road trip turned out to be an exercise in using every available piece of technology at our disposal all while wrangling livestock and pulling a horse trailer 1200 miles.  Not only was Emma playing with her Game Boy in the back seat, but Mary and I were updating our Twitter feeds, posting to Facebook, visiting with the nice OnStar ladies, tracking our route on the GPS, taking and uploading photos on the go, blogging on the Mac, sending photo messages and texts to our pals back home on our cell phones, and maybe some things I don't remember.   As if I didn't already want an iPhone really bad.  Mary can make that thing jump through every hoop imaginable!

I really wanted to get a podcast recorded - it's been my goal for some time.  I had Mary captive while she was driving home yesterday from Missouri, so using the Garage Band program on the Mac, I recorded a short conversation of us visiting about our visit with Ann.  Very fun, and after pounding around in there, I believe I got it to work.  Please give it a listen and let me know what you think.  This is just a test, so we can continue to make improvements.  I'll post some photos here to go along with what we discussed on the podcast.  (Lots more photos on my Flickr page.)  We were fresh from Ann Mayes' alpaca farm, so that's what you'll hear about.  And here's what we saw there...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

We're Home

What a great trip.  We pulled in to the farm at about 8 PM and unloaded the new boys.  They're in their own pen adjacent to the big boys' pen - there was a lot of nose-sniffing through the fence. The new boys are so small next to the JRF crew.  And white!  Especially in the waning daylight, they looked so etherial.  They had been understandably upset during the trip, and worried us a little by not drinking anything the whole way, but arrived no worse for the wear.  I called Ann M. to let her know her boys were fine and settled into their new home.

Before I blab on and on about the new alpacas, I wanted to mention that my nephew's wedding
was a lot of fun, and we had a great time visiting with family we don't get to see very often.  It was just a short visit - wedding, cookies and punch, kiss-kiss, and off we go again.  My niece has become my Facebook buddy, so we enjoyed spending some face-to-face time.  She's so darned grown up.  I was holding up pretty well at the actual wedding ceremony until my nephew marched out with his groomsmen, turned to the congregation and looked down the aisle for his bride.  He looked JUST like my dad as a young man.  Waaaahhhhh.  Tissue time.  My sister and her mother in law had gorgeous dresses.. all blue and sparkly.  The bridesmaids were in satin red dresses - very dramatic.  Weddings sure are fun.

Then it was off to Auxvasse, MO to Ann Mayes' house for the alpacas.  She and her mom, Mickie, each have a small house on the property, with the barns and pastures and alpacas in the back.  The Missouri weather was much cooler than Texas, and the tour of her farm refreshed us after a long drive.  We met the girls, penned up close to the house.  She's got a week-old cria who needed lots of extra care after her birth.  The little babe managed a baby spit at Ann as she picked her up.  Whoa!  Smarty pants!  The boy alpacas lived in another paddock, guarded by two brother Great Pyrs - Snow and Ice.  Though fierce to intruders, they were very luvvy with us.

Now, when you get even a little free time with another fiber fanatic, there's going to be some 
serious fiber discussion, handling, planning, and, um, purchasing.  Ann is overrun with neck fiber so she sold me a bunch really cheap to get it out of her house.  I'm thinking rug yarn.  Or roving to be crocheted into rugs, like Ann did.  Those rugs are very nice.  We could have talked about and played with fiber for days on end.  Ann's mom, Mickie is a great cook, and we loved her roast and vegetables dinner and her breakfast casserole this morning.  We've not lacked incredible food since we started our adventure.

There's more to share, but it's time to turn in.  I'll have more Suri pictures tomorrow.  I'll need to stare at them for several hours, I think.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bye-bye St. Louis!

Fun on the Road

Short version: we're having a blast.  The drive to St. Louis (and O'Fallon, IL beyond) was great fun.  The Suburban drives like a dream and it's almost hard to remember that we're pulling a trailer.  Mary and I have enjoyed visiting and getting in a little knitting time.  Emma's being a really good sport, and waited 457 miles before asking how much further we had to go.  That's my girl.

We made good time and arrived in time to get invited to the rehearsal dinner.  The hearty fare included pulled pork, spaghetti, fried chicken, corn, mashed potatoes and bread.  I think my brother in law had something to do with the restaurant choice.  He doesn't eat anything green.  Great to see my sister, BIL, niece and nephew and all their kin.  Met the bride for the first time, too.  Great accommodations at my sister's in-laws house.
Today we'll attend the 1 PM wedding and then it's off to Missouri and Ann Mayes' house, to see our new alpaca boys.  We should get there well before dark, so we'll have time to see Ann's farm and all her 
critters.  

The weather here is heavenly - I sure wish I could send some of
 this cool weather back home to Ted who's taking care of our animals. 
And, I hope the coolness holds while we drive the alpacas from Missouri to Texas in the trailer.

More updates from the road...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jack Kerouac Meets Mrs. Greenjeans

Yeah, the three of us are set to hit the road bright and early in the morning, so if you're in Texas on US-75 stuck in southbound traffic, we'll wave as we go by, headed north.  Mary has the trailer hooked up and the Suburban gassed up, and I'm planning on getting coffee-ed up so that I can start out as the designated Fascination Officer (the gal riding shotgun with the responsibility of keeping the driver awake and alert).  Emma is in charge of taking along all the entertainment she can think of for herself.  She's stoically bearing the cross of being 12 years old and having to travel 10 hours each way with a couple of old broads, one of whom is her mother.  
And speaking of riveting entertainment, we will have Twitter along on the cell phone, and the laptop charged up and ready to blog, and we MIGHT even try to figure out how to podcast on the fly.  If we pull all this off, we may have to take more of these girly-fibery-road trips.  Farmer-geeks on the loose... striking terror in small rural communities across America with their prowess at social media networking and alpaca wrangling.

Hoo, boy.  Sorry, that's just the sleep deprivation talking.  Time to turn in.  Watch for updates from the road.  Over and out, daddy-o.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Texas Twisters

The storm blew through tonight like the Cowboys' defensive line in the last seconds of the Superbowl.  You know, like back in the 90s when the Cowboys were really good.  (But I digress...)  A very strong line of thunderstorms brought 80 mph winds and a good bit of rain.  Tornado sirens blew and I kept my eyes glued to the radar.  The critters were all fed and tucked in for the night, so I wasn't too concerned about them, but I really didn't want the electricity to go out and spoil my evening.  I could see that it was moving fast, and if we could just hunker down for a little while, I knew it would blow on by.  Thankfully, that's what it did.  In fact, it blew by so fast, we got to enjoy a gorgeous sunset underneath the last of the rain clouds.

Today I spent making preparations for the big road trip this weekend, getting the chores streamlined for Ted, who is in charge of the flocks and herds in my absence.  The weather will be more favorable for him than it was when I went to Maryland, so that's a blessing.  Nobody should be left with a bunch of unfamiliar duties that have to be done while slogging through ankle-deep mud.

I also spent part of today indulging in my regular Wednesday spinning group time.  That bunch of ladies means the world to me.  We've been through quite a lot in the last 7 or 8 years - some of them have been together for more years than that.  They lift you up when you're down, keep you grounded when you are tempted to float off into irrelevance, and slap sense into you when you threaten to jump off the cliff of foolishness.  They are wonderful.  The group as a whole has a deep compassion and exquisite sense of humor.  So today, I have pictures of my friends, the Texas Twisters.  

Now that I have advanced technology at my disposal, I hope to blog from the road, and also tweet from my phone.  If you're on Twitter, follow me at JacobsReward for all the highway hijinx.

BTW - this is my first post composed and formatted completely on the MacBook.  Workin' without a net here...  So far, so good.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Telling Tales

OK - things are firming up, so I'm ready to let the cat out of the bag. Another incredible event we're adding to the farm calendar will be an afternoon of brilliant storytelling and fiber play. I think we'll call it "Spinning Yarns on the Farm." My friends, Gene and Peggy Helmick-Richardson, also known as Twice Upon A Time Storytellers, will spend the afternoon with us, regaling us with stories of the Texas prairies while we knit, spin, and enjoy some refreshments. Doesn't that sound like a blast? (Do check out their website. I think you'll be impressed.) The only thing we haven't firmed up yet is the date. But as soon as we can nail it down, I'll let you know. This is something we will publicize far and wide, and hopefully draw in lots of the area fiber people. Tell your friends and bring them along! Even if they aren't knitters or spinners, I think lots of folks would love to hear these great tales, told by folks who know how to bring the past to life. Know any Texas history buffs? Bring 'em! We have such a rich heritage here in Texas; this is a great way to learn more about it. All while spinning and noshing. Does life get any better?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Big Week Ahead

Just a short post tonight, friends - it's late and we need to be fresh this next week. We have four days to prepare for the big road trip to Illinois and Missouri. We'll be returning with four handsome suri alpacas! Serious fun.

I've had an idea for another fun event, so after I nail down some details, I'll let everyone know what I have in mind.
So, I'll leave you with a picture of Eli enjoying his dinner this evening. He's wishing you shady green meadows, cool buckets of water, and soft hay for munching and napping on.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Caprine Athlete - Olympic Proportions

Hat-tip to Shareholder Brenda who sent me this blow-your-mind video. At first I was afraid I was going to watch the "extreme sheep herding" for the umpty-umth time. But this is not that. She sent it with the suggestion that this might be another way to make money with the critters between shearings. As if.

Check it out.
video

Easy Pickins

Yes, it's getting warmer. But the morning was still breezy and pleasant and I enjoyed my chores. The sheep are learning the new routine for getting to the north pasture for breakfast, and the new Gulf Coast babies are getting more and more tame. Of course, Mary Elizabeth and Itzhak are quite tame, and Shadrach and Zacchaeus will nearly mow you down for a scritch, but the new boys needed some warming up time. I'm hoping that north lot will hold out with enough browse for the sheep so that their old paddocks can rest and get some new growth on. I'll do another fecal test in a few days to see how our worm load has changed.

The alpacas really love their box fans. In the heat of the day, they retreated to the shade and the breeze of the stalls, but moved back out to graze once the zenith was passed. I'm amazed really, at how much heat they can take under their fiber. Sure, they were just sheared at the end of March, but you can see it's growing back even now. The boys love a good blast with the hose on their tummies, and fight for the front position when I am filling up water buckets. Only Jonah hangs back, wanting nothing to do with the spray. To each, his own.

Brenda joined me today for some fleece skirtin', and grass pickin' fun. (Sorry, I took this picture with my phone.) We worked on Moonstruck's blanket and got most if it done. Another comedy of errors - Ted took the truck to run errands this morning, with my skirting table in the back. I totally forgot it was laying in the truck bed, so Brenda and I had to do without. Instead, we sat in the air conditioned Red Barn and picked fleece by the handful and worked a good ways through that big blanket of fawn alpaca scrumptiousness. Some kind of wonderful. It was a very special day visiting with Brenda and getting to know her better. What a dear, sweet friend!

I think we'll have an informal get-together to meet the new 'pacas on June 20 at 2 PM. We'll have light refreshments and a time to visit, knit and spin. Come meet your new boys!

And that's after the morning spinning lesson time that same day at 10 AM. Y'all come!

Friday, June 05, 2009

If You Can't Stand the Heat...

...move to Minnesota. Here in Texas, I think summer is about to commence. The overnight lows will be jumping from the mid 60s to the mid 70s tomorrow, if the weather dude is to be believed. Next week, highs are predicted in the mid 90s. Sure smells like summer to me. So, it was time for the annual Hanging of the Fans in the barn. Not an immense job, but one that hadn't made it to the top of the list, until today. Now all three stalls are equipped with box fans to keep the hot humid air from descending into the barn and unpacking its bags for a 5 month visit. I'm hoping the moving air will also discourage the flies.

The sheep are still enjoying spending the day in the north lot, munching on poison ivy, little elm tree seedlings, wildflowers, wild grape vines, Bermuda grass turf, and some stray Johnson grass. Ted was absolutely amazed at how much poison ivy those sheep put away yesterday, with apparently no ill effect. It really works having the sheep clear the brushy stuff! Very cool.

We had a special visitor today - my friend Peggy who I hadn't seen in about 15 years. Peggy got the nickle tour of the farm and an impromptu spinning lesson. She went home with a student spindle and some Jacob roving to keep the fibery goodness going. Peggy is a professional writer who learned to spin 20 years ago and is hoping to take it up again. She got that spindle singing before she left... she'll have it full of wonderful yarn in no time!

This is a good time to remind everyone that I'll be available for spinning lessons every third Saturday from 10 - Noon in the Little Red Barn. Come if you want to learn. Come if you already know how. Just come!

And if you're free tomorrow morning about 9:30 or so, we'll be cleaning the last few alpaca fleeces for the 2009 fiber harvest. The mornings are going to start getting warmer, so there's no time to lose! Must get work done before mercury climbs! Join us if you can; we'll miss you if you can't.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Grass Really IS Greener

Finally, the motley sheep crew got to dig into the grass and brush in the north pasture. The move was delayed by a series of unfortunate events, but now, everything seems to be working. The electric netting is up and operational, and encloses an area of grass, vines, small trash trees, and lots of poison ivy. They love it. I'll have to remember not to snuggle them too much for a while, until the poison ivy is gone and washed off of their fleeces. If you see me covered with Calamine lotion, you'll know I forgot myself. In the meantime, the sheep are busy brush-busting. It's a great area with both shade and sun most of the day. As we speak, the flock is sleeping in the shade after several hours of browsing.

One down side to this new arrangement is that I have to carry water to that pasture. But aside from that, it's great to get them off of that overgrazed paddock and let it rest.