Saturday, October 30, 2010

Junque Shopping

Got the early farm chores out of the way and then friend Gail kidnapped me for a fabulous (and overdue) day of Junque Shopping in the small towns within a rock's throw of the farm.  She has some particular places she likes to haunt,  so we hit those, and then found some new ones.  Fortified with sandwiches and snacks, we hit the treasure trail.  Here's a little flavor of our day...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Little Lost Alpaca

 Little lost alpaca, looking for his friends...

Today started with a call from my friend Cyndi, who alerted me that the police were chasing an alpaca down my street.  Wait, what????  I dashed outside to see several cars in front of my house, and a stately black alpaca with flowing fiber FLYING down the road.  Whew - it wasn't one of mine.

But, still, this pretty boy was terrified and running pell mell toward my neighbor's horse pasture.  I knew it was a fool's errand to try to get a halter on a traumatized alpaca that didn't know any of us, out in the open like that, so I suggested we just let him stop and settle down while we thought out a solution.

I recognized him as belonging to people who lived across the main street and west about half a mile.  So I sent the police to the owner's house to see if they could come lure the poor boy back to safety.

Meanwhile, the PC repairman showed up in his little VW bug.  Drats.  What to do?  Put the repair guy to work and go back to the 'paca problem.

The owner showed up but was unsuccessful trying to get the boy to come to a feed bucket.  I watched helplessly as they tried to push him to some kind of enclosure with pickup trucks, Gators, and on foot.  By this time, they're running all over the 10 acre pasture across from my house like the Keystone Cops, so I had a great view of the not-so-merry chase from my front porch.  If the day had been warm, the alpaca would have dropped dead from heat exhaustion.  Fortunately, in today's crisp weather, he had a surprising amount of stamina.

Finally after two hours, the poor guy was so tired they were able to get a rope around his neck and lead him back home.  The kind fire chief called me to let me know it all worked out well.  And the owner offered to sell the alpaca to me for $100.  That's a bargain, compared to what the PC repair guy cost me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Living Intentionally

Valerie brought her sweet homeschool group to the farm today, to see first-hand some exotic animals and also some "common" animals.  But if you've never even seen a chicken in person before, they all seem pretty exotic.  The kids helped me let the chickens out for their day in the field, and we collected nearly half a dozen eggs.

The alpacas fascinated everyone and put on quite a show as they jostled for their favorite feed bowls on this crisp fall morning.  Many ooohs and aaaaahhhs and squeals of delight.

Many times I find myself wondering if I take this farm life for granted.  The space and fresh air I enjoy every day come at a premium for people in the city or suburb.  So I take in the view and the smells, thank God anew for giving me the gift of this life, and again pledge to share it with everyone I can.

So I repeat the open invitation for you to come...  I can't soak up all this farmy goodness by myself.  Come sit in the pasture or out near the garden and enjoy the peace.  If you like, roll up your sleeves and spend a few minutes indulging in a simple farm chore or two.  Cuddle with the kitty or cackle with the hens.  There's so much fun to be had around here...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When Universes Collide

I got an interesting call yesterday from an old friend I hadn't seen in maybe twelve years.  We used to attend the same church, and our daughters are roughly the same age.  I knew she was still around, but our paths just never seemed to cross.  Turns out she's working for a radio buddy that I did morning show stuff with twenty years ago in Dallas.  He has his own radio/TV production company, and his offices and studio are ten minutes from my house.  And they're looking for a female voice talent for a series of commercials--could I stop by for a chat?

Um, yeah!

I drove over to his studio and sat in the engineer's booth while he cranked out a few radio spots.  Brings back some good old days for me.

Looking over engineer John's shoulder at Rick in the booth.
Brings back some good times.

Voice work is really a blast and I miss it.  My circumstances got too complicated four or five years ago and I had to give it up.  But now, it seems I may get another chance to have some fun with old friends and make a few bucks at the same time.  Tomorrow, I'll go back to do an informal audition, and then we'll see what the client thinks.  No guarantees when the decision is up to a client, but it's worth a shot, and it will be fun just to get back into the saddle.  Or headphones.  Whatever.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Two weeks ago, we cut back a lot of the overgrown plants and trees to tidy the place up for the big fall Gift Market.  This Lindheimer Muhly grass had gotten really huge and dangerous with it's razor-sharp leaves, growing close to the sidewalk.  We cut it back, nearly to the ground, with the thought of breaking it up later and relocating the pieces to better spots.

But it would not be stopped.  It didn't take that monumental setback as an excuse to give up.  Almost immediately, it sent out brand new green leaves.  You could almost stand there and watch them grow.

That's what you call endurance and perseverance.  Today when I walk past it, it reminds me to not flag or tire, and to not give up, no matter what discouragements come my way.

Monday, October 25, 2010

'Paca Pedicures

Can't slow down yet.  I'm still spinning alpaca samples for all I'm worth, and the day-to-day chores around here don't let up.  Thankfully, my co-farmer Gail stopped by today to help me clean the chicken coop, scrub out all the water buckets, and especially, trim alpaca toenails.

This was Gail's first experience trimming nails, and as usual, the 'pacas made a complete liar out of me.  The one boy from whom I expected trouble, Solomon, stood absolutely still while I trimmed his toenails - no need for any restraint at all.  But our littlest boy, Micah, who I think of as a pushover, gave us the ride of our lives.  We were dripping sweat after that little exercise.

Gail and Solomon, inexplicably on his best behavior.

It just goes to show you - these critters will keep you on your toes and provide surprises around every bend.  Tomorrow - guard dog grooming.

If you would like to have a turn at helping with hands-on animal work, please let me know your availability (weekdays, weekends, evenings) and I'll let you know when somebody needs attention.  Lots of these jobs need at least two sets of hands.  Get paid in critter smooches.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

We Don't Melt

Yes, we saw the forecast - thunderstorms and tornado warnings.  But we fearless friends trundled to the Little Red Barn today to enjoy some quiet fellowship and fiber shenanigans.  It's hard to beat hot coffee and knitting on a gray, drizzly, 60-degree day.

Gay came and went before I could get any photo evidence.  She didn't even leave behind any trace of the beautiful peach and gray batt she was spinning.  But she did leave behind a gorgeous ripe pomegranate from her yard.  Talk about sharing the harvest!  Thank you Gay!

Then Rita and Marlene came by for some group knitting time.  Rita's been working on a really beautiful entrelac baby blanket for a coworker who will be a first-time grandmother next week.  We've watched this blanket grow over the weeks, and today, she finished it, save the crochet border and end-tucking.  That's going to be one lucky baby!

And speaking of lucky, our lucky Marlene worked down her stash a bit with this pretty two-toned scarf of unknown fiber content.  It's soft, and that's what really matters.

When I remembered to keep my hands going as diligently as my mouth, I got more of my alpaca sample judging done.  It's so nice to have company for what is usually a solitary responsibility.

A small group, to be sure, but just the right size to spread out and enjoy coffee and sweet conversation.  We'd love to have you with us next time, 'k?  Our next spin-in here at the Little Red Barn is November 20th.  We'll save a place for you...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fall Flowers Flourish

On my way out to the barn for morning chores, I was struck by the colorful display going on in my flower beds. I'm not the best vegetable gardener around, but my Texas native and adapted perennials sure put on a dependable show every autumn.

Potted mums.

Snap Dragons.  Not a perennial, but pretty on the porch.

 Gregg Salvia (or Autumn Sage).  Comes in lots of colors.

 Fall Aster.  Pops open every October like clockwork.

Mexican Mint Marigold.  Smells like anise and makes a nice tea.

Turk's Cap.  Hummingbird magnet.

Turk's Cap makes "hips" like roses.

Blue Mist Flower (or Boneset, or Ageratum).  Monarch butterfly crack.

Flame Acanthus.  Hummingbird crack.

Scull Cap.

Autumn Joy Sedum.

Russian Sage.

Pavonia (or Rock Rose).

Come enjoy our garden if you're in the neighborhood.  Soon, they'll all be going to sleep for the winter.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pity Me

Apart from my daily chores, my life is completely consumed now with touching, fondling, sniffing, fluffing, shaking, carding and spinning some amazing alpaca fiber.  I also enter my judgment on each of these alpaca samples into the computer, which tallies the scores.  Ribbons will be given.  The results will be displayed at the Kid N Ewe Fiber Festival in Boerne, TX, November 11-14.  It's a grueling job, trying to rank the various qualities of each of these amazing fleeces, but somebody's got to do it.

Somehow, I'll try to bear up.  If you don't hear from me for awhile, send cookies.

All in a day's work.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Woolly Days

Spinning outside on a cool autumn day sounds like heaven to me.

With the Holiday Gift Market behind us, we are turning our attention to very woolly pursuits.  For the next couple of weeks, I'm up to my ears in spinning and judging alpaca fleece samples for the STAR spin-off competition.  (The winners will be displayed with their ribbons at the Kid N Ewe festival in Boerne in November.)  There's a little pressure with this job, but I just love being knee deep in gorgeous fiber--what a way to go!  This is my fifth year to serve as a judge, and I've learned more about spinning and alpaca fiber every time.  What beautiful, amazing stuff.

Peggy R. spun some lovely, artsy Jacob wool at the LRB yesterday.

Gail took her new wheel, "Keeta," for a whirl yesterday at the Barn.

This Saturday we'll be spinning in the Little Red Barn if you're available to join us.  We start around 10 AM and go till mid-afternoon.  Some folks bring a snack to share.  Knitters and crocheters are also welcome, of course.  There's a little rain in the forecast, but we've got all the comforts and conveniences of home in the snug LRB.  (Rita brought us a microwave!)

Itzhak enjoys his breakfast, while I spy on his fleece.

Today during my feeding chores I was looking closely at Itzhak's fleece.  He's one of our Gulf Coast Native sheep, and he has a very interesting lock structure.  I'm really hoping his fleece turns out better this year than last--avoiding any stress breaks, and that we can finally include our Gulf Coast wool into the shares.  Right now it feels soft and sproingy.  That's a technical term that means "full of elasticity and bounce."

Close-up of Itzhak's fleece, on the hoof.
But this is the time of year when we can relax a little and just enjoy the break from the severe heat that had us working so hard all summer.  The sheep are placid...

...and we can dream of next year's bountiful harvest.  Load up the wagons, boys!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Flashback from the Fun, Forward to the Future

Just had to post a quick moment from Saturday's Gift Market. The warm fuzzies will last me well into the coming winter.  The only thing more fun than attending a craft market chock full of splendid handmade lovelies, is having that craft market in your front yard...  Oh yes, in your front yard on one of the most beautiful days of the year.

And speaking of what's coming, our 2011 Shares are already selling briskly. Get a whole or half share and join us in all the fun we have planned at the farm this year. Links in the right margin.

Hint: Christmas party... just sayin.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Treasure Hunt

This morning I pointed the F-150 east and headed out to Quinlan, Texas, to meet a couple who had some alpaca fiber to sell.  I met Lois and Bill Anderson on their nice homestead way, way out in the country, down county roads and farm-to-market roads and gravel lanes.  On this beautiful day, it was a refreshing drive.

Bill had served in the Air Force, and the more we talked, the more we found we had in common.  Lois is recovering from a tough bout with cancer, which is why they chose recently to sell all their alpacas.  Bill wanted to share his bounty of fiber with someone who'd appreciate it, to offset some medical bills.  I was happy to oblige.

He showed me to his neat shed/workshop where I found a mountain of lovely fiber to pick through.  While I touched and weighed and strained over my decisions, Bill went back outside to continue work grading his driveway with his awesome John Deere tractor.  I admit to a bit of equipment envy.

I decided on three lovely fleeces - "Hannah," a dark fawn, "Hotty Totty," a very nice white, and "White Puff," an eat-it-with-a-spoon white.  These will become part of our 2011 harvest, in keeping with our mission to support local alpaca owners whose fiber might otherwise stay stashed away and wasted.  As our financial situation allows, I'll  probably go back and take another prowl through Bill's fleeces for more treasure.  This fiber needs to be seen and used and valued.

"White Puff" has blinding white fiber with great lock structure.  It feels like a cria fleece.