Friday, March 23, 2012

Fiber Christmas


Since it only comes once a year, it sure feels like Christmas.  We trailer our boys up to my friends Amy and Arlin McCrosky's amazing ranch in Greenville, and we get to be part of a couple of days of assembly line shearing magic. 


Everyone has a job, and the collective works like a Swiss watch.  After four years, I've finally found my place in the machine, collecting the fiber into bags - one for the prime blanket fiber and the other bag for the leg and neck fiber.  The bags are labeled with the animal's name, date of birth and other background information.  We twist the two bags for each animal together and set them aside.  The floor mats are swept and blown off with an air compressor between each animal to keep the fibers from mixing.


After several hours, we take a break.  This is Mark Loffhagen, the shearer with the golden blades.  I've talked about Mark before... he's the same as ever, an Americanized Kiwi with a rye sense of humor.


We were all ready to take a load off for a bit after about a third of our animals were sheared.  Our lunch break came after about another third of the 'pacas were done.  All told, I think I heard that we did 74 animals.  Tomorrow we'll probably do about that many again.


Fun sights around the barn - this is a female boarding at Amy's place who has the cutest face ever.  Can you believe that silly smile?  And her dark eyes, and black snip on her nose!  She is a doll.


This is part of the group of ladies that occupy the barn where the shearing takes place.  It's quite a crowd - very good looking...


And then here came Amy's star herd sire: Abundance.  Wow - he is really amazing.  So much fleece coverage on his face that he can barely see.  The rest of his body is just packed with fiber as well.  They don't call him Abundance for nothing.


Hi buddy!


...And...  the "after" shot.  He's still a big guy without it, but the fleece is just enormous.


Every time I go there, I am amazed at Amy's fabulous barn.  This much hay would last me for years!  But with all the mouths she feeds, it lasts significantly less time.


She has a cool way of keeping her fleeces contained - we toss them into a big dog run.  They stack high, rather than taking up all the floor space.  Nice.


So, we got home without incident (and me pulling my very first trailer all by myself!) and the three shorn boys had to make friends all over with the still-fluffy boys.  They literally don't recognize each other without their fleeces, just like the sheep a couple of weeks ago.  Here's Boaz - a mere shadow of his former self.


And Moonstruck and Levi, together for comparison.  Not a fair comparison - Moonie is a big piggy boy, and Levi is the tiniest thing we have in the pasture.  But you get the idea.


And the payoff for the day's work:  pretty, pretty fleece.  This is Boaz's fleece.  We made an interesting discovery.  He's not a white alpaca with an apricot cast, he's a bona fide FAWN alpaca.  Amy says our good herd nutrition did that for his fleece, and that it's a very good thing.  Yay!


Levi's huacaya fleece is really, really soft and white, but what you can't see in this shot of the butt ends of the fibers is the outside of his fleece, which is a MESS.  Mud, spit, and who knows what else, got all over him, and it's going to be a job to get it clean.


And then our little Suri superstar, Micah.  Again Amy drooled over his fleece, which we have noticed has a lovely light silver cast to it.  We're considering whether Micah may have a new career path ahead of him, besides growing the softest, densest fleece we've had here to date.  (That may change once we get Joseph sheared.)  More news if it develops.

It was a really great day, and I learned more cool things about alpacas, shearing, fiber, and our own boys.  And the news is all good.  We have some really nice fiber on our farm.  Hallelujah!

And now I have an ice pack on my back and I've taken some Ibuprophen, so I'll be able to do all this again tomorrow, when I trailer the Boys of Color (black, fawn and gray) back up to Greenville for another day of shearing fun.

To wrap up, here's a video about how Amy "harvests" fleeces she may use later in competition.  "Show fleeces" get special attention, and must be handled differently from your regular, run of the mill amazing fleece.  The process is called "noodling," though no noodles are used.  Crazy.  Enjoy:


3 comments:

  1. Love the video! The fiber that was shown in the video looked rather clean, did she bathe the animal before shearing?

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  2. The alpaca in the first picture looks a lot like Tammy Faye Bakker!

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  3. Excellent job with the pictures and descriptions, Cindy! I sure wish I could have gotten out there to help. The video is awesome for showing noodling, which we need to let all of our STAR members know about, since we are trying to host an unskirted fiber event, next winter. Great job!

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