Morning Chores

My husband is gone this week, so I’m doing double duty while he’s away, his work and mine. Along with shipping orders and a number of other things that he normally takes care of, I’m doing the morning chores. I should rephrase this … I get to do the morning chores! There are definitely days I’d trade the time I sit in front of the computer a good share of the day, for the stress relieving, sometimes down and dirty, tasks of caring for our animals.

Alpacas Eating

The squeaky wheel gets the grease is a phrase used to convey the idea that the most noticeable (or loudest) problems are the ones most likely to get attention, and that’s true when it comes to our Angora goats. Quieting the bleating of our three goats, Mike, Ike, and Lola comes first. They act like they are starving, and I can hardly get the feed in the tubs as they push each other out of the way. Not very mannerly.

The chickens are also very near the top of the feeding order. My husband’s automatic chicken coop door will close around 10pm, then re-open around 7am, but it does not open or close the outside people door so I am anxious to get the chickens fed before they are out free ranging and laying eggs who knows where.

If I happen to not get to the chickens before they are out, it’s not the end of the world. They do come eagerly when they see me coming, and I feel like the pied piper as I dish out their feed, and close them back in the coop until later in the day after they’ve had a chance to lay their eggs. They’ll get let outside mid-afternoon hopefully to eat lots of pesky bugs like flies and such, until our beautiful, grey rooster named Beauregard corrals his girls back in at dusk. If all goes well, they are back in their coop and roosting before the automatic door closes. Most nights, this works like clockwork.

Beauregard

Our Angora rabbits are next, especially if we have babies, which we do right now. They get feed free choice until they are about six months old, so I try to get to them early, and feed our rabbit mom, Mrs. Fitz, who can’t seem to get enough to eat. Got to feed mom, so she can feed her babies.

Alpacas are next. They do the least complaining, except for maybe standing at the gate watching, so they are last. My husband and I do this differently, go figure! If you’re going to see alpacas spit, it will be at feeding time, arguing about who will eat out of which feed tub. I choose not to be spit on, so I like to put the alpacas out of the barn, dish out the feed, then let them back in to eat. Less alpaca stress. My husband does not put the alpacas out first, but seems to like the chaos of alpacas practically on top of him trying to get their heads in the bucket, or pushing others out of the way trying to find the tub with the most feed in it. That’s not for me.

I’ll clean up manure next, so that I can just hang out with the alpacas for awhile. I’ll put out hay in various places, or recycle hay from the day before turning it over so the smaller, greener pieces that have fallen to the bottom are at the top and can be eaten a little easier.

Filling water bottles, water buckets, and water troughs is next. From time to time I’ll leave the water running somewhere, so I’ll try not to do that this morning. Check minerals and replenish if necessary. Make note to self that toenails need trimmed on a few of our alpacas next month when we do herd health.

That’s it for the outside animals. I usually will have already fed the cats, Desmond and Priscilla, and our dog Louie as well as carried Louie outside quickly as he has back issues and has become incontinent in his older age.

It feels good to have cared for all the animals, who depend on us to do so, and to be outside in nature, with God’s creations. Unless I leave a gate open somewhere and the alpacas get out, there really is very little stress doing morning chores, but rather something very peaceful, therapeutic, even joyful.

Of course, nothing beats my granddaughter Brylee spending the night, and helping me with morning chores, watching her enjoy the animals, like I do, and happy to be sharing that experience with her.

The Christmas Mouse

First let me introduce a NEW Felted Creation, my Christmas Mouse! It may be way early for this post, but I sure have heard about Christmas in July a time or too, so I think I’m okay at least for today. My cute little mouse was needle felted, meaning I administered lots and lots of pokes with a barbed needle, using alpaca and wool wrapped around a fiber core. His arms are movable, his tail bendable, and he sports a Santa suit and hat complete with fur trim.

I’m also offering a class to make this cheery fellow, for those you that live in Ohio or not too far away. New classes always fill up quickly, so don’t delay registering for the Christmas Mouse Needle Felting Class.

I had a lot of fun creating this little guy, and love him even more, after reading this story of “The Christmas Mouse” by the editors of Publications International, Ltd.

The fun and laughter disappeared when the family sold this big house.

Walter Whiskers was a sad little mouse. This big house was his home. In fact, he had lived in a mouse hole in this very same house since he was a tiny mousekin himself. His little mouse hole had always been a warm, cozy place. And there was always plenty to eat — at least, up until a few months ago. Then, the family that lived here moved out.

Now there were no children in the house, no music or parties or fun anymore. And there were no good things to eat. Walter sighed, thinking how much he missed it all. Walter lived in the house with his wife, Wanda Whiskers, and their four mousekin children, Willie, Warner, Wilma, and little Winifred.

They used to be well-fed and happy, because there were always scraps of food to pick up off the kitchen floor or from under the dining room table. And there were usually delicious tidbits to be found behind the kitchen stove. But now, Walter and his family grew each day more hungry and cold. And to top it all off, Christmas was coming! What was Walter to do?

After the big house was sold, Walter Whiskers, his wife, and his poor little mousekins were left with nothing to eat.

Then, just two days before Christmas, something happened. Wanda shook Walter awake early. “What is that noise!” she exclaimed. They heard banging and shouting right outside their mouse hole door. Walter ran to the door and looked out. There were people moving into their house!

Rugs and chairs and a large green sofa were being carried into the big living room. And a huge piano was taking up one whole corner. As Walter watched, three children ran in. They were laughing and looking around excitedly. One of them said, “Oh, I’m going to love our new house!”

Walter called for his whole family to come and see the sight. Wanda and all the little mousekins were delighted to have a new family moving into their house. “Now there will be plenty of food for us, and our mouse hole will be warm again,” Walter told Wanda and the children. “It will be just like in the old days, you’ll see.”

As Walter and the mousekins watched the new family moving in, they knew there would be plenty of food and warmth to go around.

But Walter didn’t know what a terrible commotion and racket all that furniture moving would make! The whole mouse hole shook with the noise. The floor seemed to dance. And that night, there was still no food for the little mice. But the next morning, the Whiskers family woke up to heavenly smells. And there was nice, warm air coming into the mouse hole.

Today was Christmas Eve, and the new family was getting ready for its celebration. That afternoon, Walter sniffed a different smell. He peeked out of the mouse hole, and again he called Wanda and the little mousekins to come and look.

The family was putting up a huge, beautiful Christmas tree! It reached all the way to the tall ceiling. And they were decorating it with sparkling lights and balls of all colors. At the top of the tree was a gold star.

The new owners of the big house decorate the tree for a fun-filled Christmas celebration.

That night, after the children had hung up their stockings and gone to bed, Walter and his family crept out into the living room to have a look around. They saw the most amazing sight! “Look, Papa,” cried little Winifred. There, running all the way around the Christmas tree, was a tiny toy train — just their size. It had a big red-and-orange engine, with three cars — blue, green, and orange — behind it, plus a red caboose at the end.

The tracks for the train went over a bridge and around a toy mountain. Beside the train was a tiny toy village. There were trees and shops and even a mouse-size house. Walter and his family could scarcely believe their eyes. Walter said, “I know what we must do. Let’s have a Christmas party of our own!” “Oh, yes!” cried all the little mousekins.

At that, Wanda ran back into the mouse hole to get some old beads she had been saving. The mice hung the beads on a tiny tree to decorate it. They were of beautiful colors and looked like shiny balls on the little tree.

Then Willie remembered some apple seeds he had. The mousekins strung them together to make more decorations for the tree. Wanda even cut a scrap of gold paper in the shape of a tiny star to put on top. Now they had their very own Christmas tree!

Then Walter went into the dining room where the family had eaten its Christmas Eve dinner. He gathered crumbs from beneath the table. There were bits of delicious cheese, scraps of tasty bread, and even tiny morsels of cake. What a feast the Whiskers family had!

Walter Whiskers and the moueskins just knew the train would be a perfect fit — so, they hopped aboard for a ride!

Finally, Walter said, “We must have one last treat to celebrate our good fortune. We will all take a ride on the train. And I will be the engineer.” So Walter climbed up into the train’s engine, while Wanda and the little mousekins piled into the cars behind. Willie insisted on sitting in the caboose. And they rode all the way ’round and ’round the Christmas tree!

Finally, Walter said, “It is time for all you little mousekins to be in bed. We have had the best Christmas celebration ever!” “Oh, yes, Papa!” cried Willie and Warner and Wilma and Winifred.

Next morning, the children of the house ran downstairs to see their stockings. They looked at the train and toy village. The tiny tree had Christmas decorations on it. And there were small crumbs scattered around. Little paw prints led to the train.

Their father smiled and said, “It looks as if someone else enjoyed our Christmas, too. Why, I believe we have our very own Christmas mouse!”

On Christmas Day, the family was happy to discover that the Christmas mouse had been there.

Deep inside his mouse hole, Walter Whiskers smiled. He was thinking of last night’s Christmas treat and of the many wonderful Christmases to come.

See original post here.

Purchase my Christmas Mouse here!

What I’ve Learned About Angora Rabbits

Several years ago at the Autumn Fiber Festival, I acquired my first Angora rabbit, a French Angora rabbit that we named Fitzgerald. I had thought Angora rabbits would be a nice addition to our farm. After all, we have a herd of alpacas, and three Angora goats (more on them later), and I love working with natural fiber. The Angora breed is very sweet, quite docile, has a calm-nature, and I had been thinking about it for awhile, so it wasn’t all that spontaneous, if you think about it. Convincing my husband wasn’t all that hard. I mean why not?

Fitzgerald

I liked the fact that I could brush him/her and collect the fiber, which is called Angora, for spinning. No harm to the bunny. It’s therapeutic really to brush a super soft bunny that’s sitting in your lap. I’ve learned that some breeds of Angora rabbits typically go through a shedding cycle called molting a few times per year. The wool will start to release and can easily be removed by “plucking” it off or simply by grooming with a comb. This is the preferred method for people who are harvesting the wool for spinning because when you use shears, the guard hairs get mixed in with the wool, and you have many different lengths of fiber. 

Angora fiber
Angora Fiber

Angora is a fiber so fine, that it’s usually blended with other fibers because by itself it’s considered too fine to hold the dense stitches of knitting. Angora is said to be seven times warmer than sheep’s wool and considered too warm for a garment, another reason for blending. Blending Angora fiber with other fibers such as wool, mohair, silk, and cashmere will add warmth and softness, as well as give a ‘halo’ effect to the yarn.

Fitzgerald A.K.A. Mrs. Fitz

The breeder I bought from told me that Angora is also wonderful blended with Alpaca … that works for me!

This is the Bunny Shed which is right outside my bedroom window! There is a cage inside where I feed and water, and plenty of room for bunnies to romp around. There’s room for me too, to sit and have my morning coffee and brush bunnies, which I do frequently.

The Bunny Shed

A year later, at the same fiber festival, I took home two black bunnies (that later turned a beautiful grey) as companions for Fitzgerald. Do you see that fiber festivals might be my downfall? We named them Simon and Garfunkel. They got along great … three amigos!

Three Amigos

This is some of Simon’s beautiful grey fiber. In the background, be sure to notice his beautiful ears with tufts of fiber at the top!

Fast forward to this Spring. We went on a family vacation and when we came home we found babies … two little white baby bunnies in our bunny shed, already with their fur and their eyes open! Knowing what I know now, I’m guessing they were probably close to three weeks old! Initially, I wasn’t even sure who the mother was, but “Fitz” seemed to be paying more attention to them than the others. Shocking, considering we were told Fitz was a male!

Mrs. Fitz

Later in the day, I took my not-very-happy husband out to see the babies, and I found three more, two black and another white one. We were shocked … and thrilled (at least I was) all at the same time.

Here’s a picture of them when they were a little older in an outdoor play area, where we put them so they can get some exercise.

We changed Fitzgerald’s name to Mrs. Fitz, and remodeled the bunny shed in order to keep boy and girl housed separately, though I’ve since learned they can be rebred within 24 hours of delivering babies, and there was a good chance she was already pregnant again! They had been together for weeks! I started reading about baby bunnies to learn what I could … obviously we were not prepared for this was a very unexpected pregnancy! One thing I learned is that determining gender is difficult, especially when they are young, and it’s not uncommon for rabbits to be sexed incorrectly! For more information on sexing rabbits, click here.

Proud Father – Simon

Soon after learning that Fitzgerald was a female, we learned something else. Rabbits can have lots of babies! There were 11 babies in her second litter!

Second Litter

The gestation period of a rabbit is only 28-32 days! If male and female are not kept separate, there can be another litter born as soon as one month later! So, if you don’t plan on getting into the bunny (funny) business, or you don’t have room for 12+ rabbits, be sure your males and females are kept separate. They are cute, but ….

It was amazing to learn and see first-hand how quickly baby bunnies grow! They are born with their eyes closed and no fur, not really very cute at all. In just a few weeks they have fur, open their eyes, and then begin to crawl out of their nesting box looking for adventure.

baby angora bunny beginning to eat grass

Once they were out of the nesting box, we put the bunnies in a cage leaving the top open so that mom could get in and nurse. Mamas only nurse once, or twice a day. In the wild, if they were to nurse more frequently, they would be apt to draw in predators. Even nursing once a day provides all the nutrients that their kits need for the day.

Just the other day, we went out to the bunny shed and realized that they could climb out of their cage (at about three weeks old)! It seems like everyday, there is something new they are doing from starting to nibble on hay, then rabbit pellets, then finding it comfortable to lay in the hay rack, and trying out the water bottle!  They really like lettuce!

We try to hold and pet our baby bunnies everyday so that they are used to people and it really does help form their personalities. Once your rabbits trust you and are used to you and your smell, they become quite friendly. Mrs. Fitz will jump right on our laps and is happy to see us. Some people even have their Angora rabbits inside as house pets. 

Something we have discovered about Mrs. Fitz (and probably females in general, maybe rabbits in general) she is protective of her space. She will lay side-by-side with Simon, but if he somehow gets into her space, she becomes fierce! So, it seems motherhood brings out a protective and aggressive side of females. It’s especially interesting because prior to having her babies, she lived in harmony with the males and there was never any fighting.

Our journey “down the rabbit hole” shall we say, has been quite delightful. This breed of rabbit is charming, and their fiber is wonderful. If you’re wanting to dip your toes into the world of fiber, Angora rabbits just might be a good start!

Some Angora Rabbit Facts

  • Angora rabbits originated in Turkey. They were first seen in a Turkish port called Angora, now called Ankara.
  • Angora rabbits are the oldest type of domestic rabbit.
  • Angora rabbits have super soft and long fur, making them look like big and cuddly fluff balls!
  • The five popular breeds of Angora rabbits are French, English, Satin, Giant, and German.
  • Depending on the breed, Angora rabbits weigh from 5-12 pounds, the higher end being the Giant Angora breed.
  • Angora rabbits are enjoyed by fiber enthusiasts, who enjoy caring and maintaining the Angora fiber in order to spin it into yarn.
  • Angora wool is known for its softness, silky texture, thin fibers, and what knitters refer to as a halo (fluffiness).
  • Angora rabbits make great pets. They are docile and sociable. For those wanting Angora rabbits as pets, they must be prepared to brush them 1-3 times weekly. It’s only difficult if you make it so, and can actually be quite enjoyable. Learn How to Groom an Angora Rabbit.
  • The average lifespan of Angora rabbits is about 7-12 years.
  • Angora rabbits can be Black, Blue, Chestnut, Chinchilla, Chocolate, Copper, Fawn, Lilac, Lynx, Opal, Pointed White, Red, Sable, Seal, Tortoiseshell, Blue-Eyed White, and Ruby-Eyed White.
  • Angoras are constantly producing silky soft wool and need a diet higher in protein than your average rabbit. A pellet feed with 18% protein is recommended. Read more about Feeding Wool Rabbits.
  • Angora rabbits need to eat a lot of hay to help them digest the fur they ingest while grooming themselves. If they don’t eat the hay, the fur while get stuck in their digestive tract and they suffer from something called wool block which can kill them.
  • Fresh vegetables (and fruits in moderation) should also be part of an Angora rabbit’s daily diet. Be sure to read What Not to Feed Rabbits.
  • Like alpacas, hot weather is harder for Angora rabbits than cold weather. Frozen water bottles and fans are a must to help keep them cool. For some tips on keeping Angora rabbits cool in the heat, click here.
  • Angora rabbits are most active at dawn and dusk.
  • They use their keen senses to hear or smell if danger is near. Did you know they could move their ears independently of each other? They can, to help them hear if danger is approaching.
  • Angora rabbits range in price from $50 – $250.

Read more:

Interesting Facts About Rabbits
How Fast do Baby Rabbits Grow?
Care Tips for Angora Rabbits
Learn How to Groom an Angora Rabbit
How to Spin Angora

If you’re looking to purchase Angora rabbits in Ohio, contact us to see if or when we might have bunnies for sale.

Free Crochet Pattern – Sweet Stripes Alpaca Baby Blanket

I’ve been in the mood to make baby blankets lately … don’t ask me why. I don’t know anyone that’s expecting a baby and I certainly am way past those years. Maybe it’s because it took so long to warm up here in Ohio, and I haven’t minded having my lap covered with a warm alpaca blanket!

One thing for sure is that it will be warm and soft on that brand newborn baby skin. Can you think of any better way to welcome baby into this world than swaddled in a blanket made of natural alpaca fiber?

Speaking of babies, this is our newest cria, Ophelia. I just couldn’t resist posting a picture. She was just two weeks old when this was taken.

Newest Cria - Ophelia

I’m really happy with how this baby blanket turned out.

The grey, white, pink combo is so pretty and the scalloped edge is the finishing touch!

The pattern is a free one, from the Lion Brand website. You do have to set up an account and log-in to download the pattern, but there is no cost to do so. They call the pattern Summer Stripes Baby Afghan Pattern.

I used the Classic Alpaca yarn by The Alpaca Yarn Company in the colors Petal Pink, White House, and Liberty Grey. Click the links (or images) if you’d like to purchase!

It’s gotten warmer since I started this post, 90 degrees in Ohio today. I think I’ll opt for some smaller projects, like this matching Baby Hat and Booties!

Both the Sweet Stripes Alpaca Baby Blanket and the Baby Alpaca Booties and Hat Set are available to purchase, and would make a wonderful baby gift, just click the links!

Free Crochet Pattern – Ribs ‘n Ridges Alpaca Infinity Scarf

This pattern is fairly simple, and I love the post stitches that create the ribs and the ridges in this infinity scarf! The pattern I started with is The Ribs and Ridges Scarf on the The Friendly Red Fox website.

I altered it just a bit. Rather than crocheting a rectangle and sewing the edges together when finished like the pattern instructs, I crocheted the scarf in the round. I just like to be finished, when I’m finished. Do you know what I mean?

I used our Classic Alpaca Tweed Yarn for this project and really like how it turned out. This yarn is available in eight different colors, all with little flecks of fiber in them to create the tweed. Of course, it’s 100% alpaca, so very soft and just a pleasure to work with … and wear! The color I used is called Cork.

SKILL LEVEL
Easy

HOOK
5.5 mm (H)

MATERIALS
Approximately 465 Yards of Classic Alpaca Tweed

Stitches used in this pattern (click the links for help with stitches):
CH -chain
Sl st – slip stitch
Sc – single crochet
DC – double crochet
FPDC– front post double crochet
BPDC – back post double crochet

PATTERN

Row 1: FDC 250, join into a circle.

Row 2: Chain 2, alternate FPDC and BPDC until the end, join with a ss in top of chain.

Row 3: CH 2, match your FPDC and BPDC. The posts should line up. Continue around, join with a ss in top of chain.

Row 4: CH 2, FPSC acround. There will be a row visible in the front. Slip stitch to the back stitches, join with a ss in top of chain.
HINT: The slip stitch is only to take you back to the FPDC that you did in row 3. If you crochet on the FPSC then it will not show up as a neat line.

Row 5: CH 2, DC in each stitch around. Make sure that you do not crochet in the FPSC, join with a ss in top of chain. It will be easy to see the ridge if you are doing it correctly!

Row 6: CH 2, FPSC across. Slip stitch to the back stitches (not the line in front), join with a ss in top of chain.

Row 7:  CH 2, DC in each row across. Make sure that you are not crochet in the FPSC. Chain 1 and turn, join with a ss in top of chain.

Row 8: CH 2, FPSC around. Slip stitch to the back stitches (not the line in front), join with a ss in top of chain.

Repeat  Rows 1-8 (With a DC not a FDC for row 1) twice more!
Do not FPSC for the last row.

For a more visual representation the entire scarf should look like this:
3 Rows of Post Stitches (This includes the starting DC row)
FPSC
DC
FPSC
DC
FPSC
3 Rows of Post Stitches (This includes the starting DC row)
FPSC
DC
FPSC
DC
FPSC
3 Rows of Post Stitches (This includes the starting DC row)
FPSC
DC
FPSC
DC

10 Reasons to Raise Alpacas

Why did we start raising alpacas? We fell in love with them, and the alpaca lifestyle! There are soo many more reasons to choose to start an alpaca farm…here’s just ten of them!

1. Love of the Animals

Like I said, we fell in love with the animals! When we visited that first alpaca farm and saw those intriguing looking animals, it was love at first sight! There is a peacefulness about these gentle animals, with their long elegant necks, large eyes, long lashes, and gentle humming. Alpacas continue to transfix us, making them irresistible for those of us who have taken the “taken the plunge.” 

We raise both suris and huacayas!

2. The Love of Luxury Fiber

As I sorted through the crop of fiber after our first shearing, I knew I wanted to learn how to use such luxurious fiber. It is very high quality, super soft, fluffy, lustrous, and silky. While similar to sheep’s wool, it is not prickly and has no lanolin, making alpaca fiber hypoallergenic.

Suri Fiber

The fiber can be sold raw off the animal, carded and spun into yarn, crocheted, knit, or woven into countless products, or felted. The possibilities are endless!

Huacaya Fiber

In both our Online Store and in our Farm Store, you can find anything from raw fiber to finished garments made directly from the fiber of alpacas. Though we do breed and sell the alpacas themselves, today the fiber is my main reason for raising alpacas.

3. The Desire for a Rural Lifestyle

Having alpacas gives us a reason to get outside, be in the outdoors, and enjoy the beauty all around us. Though we live right next to a major highway, there is something much simpler about living on a farm, raising animals, caring for their basic needs because they depend on us to do so, and sometimes getting dirty. It’s a slower pace. I love living with nature all around us, and looking out my window seeing alpacas graze in the pasture just makes it all that more enjoyable. Alpacas are gentle, inquisitive creatures that make us want to take time out to watch and enjoy them.

Our dogs Lizzie and Louie have a lot of courage on the other side of the fence!

4. A Great Family Endeavor

Living on a farm of any kind teaches kids responsibility, and alpacas are good with kids. When visitors come, we suggest they crouch down, so they are more child size because alpacas are less intimidated by children and more apt to approach them. There are tons of ways kids can help to take care of the alpacas, from filling water buckets, to scooping poop, to halter training…there is always a task with which they can help. Giving chores to your children will instill work ethic and responsibility to take into adulthood. Not to mention, they will treasure the bonds they make with the alpacas!

Raising alpacas is great for the kids
My grandson in the middle of things, loving the attention from the alpacas!

If your children participate in 4-H, they can now do alpacas as a 4-H project! When my children were growing up there was not a 4-H group dedicated to alpacas, now it is becoming much more common. The Richland County Fair in Ohio even has an alpaca barn and hosts an alpaca show every year. 4-H is an awesome program for kids to make friends, build leadership skills, learn about the projects they’ve chosen, and participate in the yearly fair. Find out more about Getting Your Children Involved in 4-H.

Alpaca 4h group at the Richland County Fair in Ohio
Richland County 4-H Club

7. Easy to Care For

Compared to other farm animals, alpacas are low maintenance. They are also very adaptable to different kinds of weather and climates. If you have one acre of land, you can comfortably keep six to ten alpacas. Alpacas require regular feeding and easy access to plenty of clean water, as well as adequate shelter from the elements. They spend most of their time grazing in the pasture. Additionally, plan on annual shearing, de-worming, toenail trimming, occasionally teeth trimming, and annual vaccinations.

8. Alpacas Provide Stress Relief

Even though alpacas have some quirky behaviors like spitting when they are unsatisfied, more and more animal lovers are opting to raise them because they are easy to look after, intelligent, and tidy. Time spent with alpacas is stress-relieving — perfect for forgetting about all the troubles of the world!

Suri alpaca at Alpaca Meadows
Not a good look for such a pretty girl!

8. Alpacas are Trainable

Alpacas are perfect animals for training using a halter and leash. Though fearful initially, I’m always amazed how quickly a weanling begins to trust and learn once halter training begins, and how quickly they begin to trust and do what you’re they’re being asked. Alpacas can be taught to maneuver obstacles courses, walk across bridges, over teeter totters, through streamers, and even crawling in and out of mini-vans!

Sisters Amelia and Annalise are out for a walk with me!

9. Alpaca Manure is Great Fertilizer

We absolutely love to use the alpaca poop as fertilizer! In my opinion the smell is not as strong as cow manure and our plants grow like crazy! We take it straight out of the pasture and into the gardens. Free fertilizer is a great perk of alpacas.

Speaking of manure…interestingly enough all alpacas poop in the same place…yes, they have communal dung piles! When it comes to cleaning out the barns or the pasture there are just a few large poop piles where they all do their business. I know, it’s weird, but that’s just their nature and it makes for pretty easy clean-up.

Alpaca Manure for fertilizer
I always treat my flowerbeds to alpaca manure

Alpacas are grazers and they love a nice green pasture. Typically we will let them in one pasture for a few weeks, let them eat it down, and then move them to another pasture to let that one grow back a bit. Rotating pastures also helps with parasite control.

Alpacas in the pasture
The girls enjoying a pretty day and a green pasture

10. The Cutest Babies Ever

One of the greatest joys of raising alpacas is the babies, called crias. Seeing them born is extra special, and watching themrun in the pasture just brings a smile to my face. Females can be bred once a year and have a gestational period of 242-345 days. Working with the animals starting from when they’re crias makes for a great owner/animal relationship and deepens trust…and the babies are sooo cute!

Alpacas are herd animals so if you want one, you’ll need to have two. This is actually a great thing because they don’t really need us. If your animal has at least one companion you don’t need to worry about not having enough time for them or keeping them engaged or entertained. Just get them some buddies and they will be just fine.

Want to know more about alpacas and our farm? Check out our website.

save the planet, wear alpaca!

DIY Summer Outfits for Crocheters

Ok DIY-ers, crocheters, and yarn-lovers…don’t think all your projects have to be winter scarves, hats and gloves! Check out these awesome summer pieces and create your very own chic, unique, summer wardrobe.

Boho Mini Dress

This lightweight fun mini-dress is a free pattern by Jenny and Teddy. The pattern uses a worsted weight yarn and you’ll need a few buttons for the front. Our Espiral Yarn is 100% alpaca and is the perfect weight. This pattern is at a beginner level, so it’s great for those of you who want a quick project or are just beginning to crochet. Looking for a solid color, perhaps the white that is pictured? Take a look at our Classic Alpaca or our Astral Yarn, both a DK weight but easily adaptable to this pattern.

alpaca herd at Alpaca Meadows
Our Alpacas

Did you know you can wear alpaca clothing in the summer time? One of the miracles of alpaca wool clothing is that it regulates your body temperature in winter and summer, something called thermoregulation. Read more about it here.

Catalina Tank Top

Enjoy another great beginner pattern for free from Stitch and Hustle.  

Designed specifically for beginners who may not be familiar with making garments, this tank has a light, open, nature with its lacy crochet stitches and will make for a cool tank in warm weather.

Watch writing classes at myBluprint.com

Easy Breezy Cover-up

Wouldn’t this be an awesome cover-up for your next beach day?! This pattern isn’t free but it can be purchased from megmadewithlove on Etsy for only $3! That’s a steal for this precious pattern. Once again, this is made with a worsted weight yarn.

Currituck Coverup

Ok I had to include one more cover up because this is too cute. If you prefer a style that doesn’t cinch at the waist and sports some tassels, this is the pattern for you! This pattern can be purchased from TheStitchandHookBCS. Don’t worry, this pattern is beginner friendly.

Summer Crop Top

This crocheted crop top is the perfect hippy vibe and would look great with a pair of high-waisted shorts or a maxi-skirt. You can find this pattern on Etsy in the CONCEPTcreativeSTORE. This pattern was done with a fingering weight yarn..check out our Mariquita yarn for this one. These big bell sleeves give this top an awesome vintage look.

Maxi Skirt and Crop Top

These two-piece outfits have been pretty popular in stores lately! This pattern can be found on Casale Crafts. What a sweet duo…I think I’ll make a multi-colored pair. I have the perfect skein of Paca Paints yarn in mind!

Crochet Hooks, Tools & Notions

Lace Shorts

On to shorts. Forget denim this summer and go with lace! These crocheted shorts are sure to be more breathable, stretchy and more comfy than denim. With DIY clothing, you can adjust the length and waist size to your own comfortability! This free pattern is provided by DIY 4 EVER.

Summer Dress

And…one more dress for good measure! Such a fun and cute pattern for summer…especially in this cheery yellow color. I have a golden tone yarn called Serengeti that I’d love to try with this pattern!

Hopefully this gets everyone a little more excited for summer and inspires some projects! Let me know if anyone tries out any of these patterns, I’d love to see your results. Happy Crafting!

**I do not own any of these images, image credits all go to the wonderful pattern creators**

Strauch Jumbo Ball Winder Videos

The Jumbo Ball Winder from the Strauch Fiber Equipment Co. far exceeds any other ball winders on the market. It’s proudly made in the U.S.A., is super sturdy, containing no plastic parts other than the band which will last for years. Whether you’re winding a small or large skein, lightweight yarn or bulky, this is a quality made ball winder in a class all its own, and is an essential tool that will be invaluable to any fiber artist.

Strauch Fiber Equipment Company is committed to keeping customers satisfied. Enjoy the following videos to help you get the most out of your Strauch Jumbo Ball Winder! Don’t have one yet? To order, click here.


 How to Fix a Squeaking Strauch Ball Winder

 Replace the Drive Cone and Clean out Trapped Fiber from your Strauch Jumbo Ball Winder.

 Winding Slippery Yarns on a Strauch Jumbo Ball Winder

 Strauch Fiber Equipment Yarn Management Tools

 Jumbo Ball Winder and Swift. The Perfect Couple.

 Checking the Ball Winder Internal Bearing

 We Love Happy Customers!

 How to Wind Super Wash Merino on a Strauch Ball Winder

 Winding Slippery Yarns – Another Technique

 Winding Merino Yarn

 Strauch Jumbo Ball Winder Maintenance

What makes the Strauch Jumbo Ball Winder so special?

  • Makes a very large center-pull ball – up to one pound of yarn.
  • Great for winding large skeins or bulky yarns.
  • No oiling or adjusting required thanks to a ball bearing drive.
  • Longer counter-weight bracket greatly reduces vibration.
  • 15″ base eliminates “knuckle-smacking” while winding.
  • Tall, soft rubber feet prevents the winder from sliding and scratching your table.
  • Special drive belt material makes for less slipping while making a ball.
  • Extra long table clamp secures the winder to a variety of table surfaces.

Of course, the perfect companion to the Jumbo Ball Winder for all your yarn winding needs is the Strauch Swift/Skeinwinder!

5 Unique Crochet Patterns to Try

There’s so many things that can be made by knitting and crocheting…the possibilities are endless! If you’re bored of hats, scarves, blankets etc., here are a few unique things you can make! There are great patterns for unique gifts, decorations, or just a new accessory for yourself!

Save The Drama Llama

Llama doll crochet pattern
Pattern by Nancy Anderson

Llama and alpacas are all the trend lately when it comes to decorations, toys and accessories. Every time I go to the store I see something with a cute alpaca or llama pattern or some new alpaca knick knack. With this pattern, join the alpaca/llama craze and crochet your own! Customize your llama to be any color you like! My recommendation would be to use Snuggle yarn for a fluffy, squishy soft alpaca or llama! For some extra crochet help see
Online Crochet Classes.

Floor Pouf

crocheted floor pouf
Pattern by MJ’s Off the Hook Designs

Ok, I think poufs are the perfect addition to any living room! Everyone likes to kick back and put their feet up. Relax in style with your own custom floor pouf … you can even make it multicolored! The pattern calls for three strands of bulky cotton and an (L) crochet 8mm crochet hook . Again, I would use our bulky Snuggle yarn for a super soft pouf!

Slipper Boots

Crocheted slipper boots
Pattern on SMP Craft

Slippers are great in the winter and summer! These babies would make an awesome Christmas gift! Just sayin’, it’s never too early to be thinking about Christmas gifts. Try out some Classic Alpaca Tweed yarn for this pattern!

Gypsy Boho Bag

Pattern on Make & Do Crew

I guarantee no one else will be carrying the same purse as you after this pattern! Create your own one-of-a-kind bag! The style is so “Gypsy Boho”… this is sure to be the perfect lightweight purse for you this summer. Choose one of the many solid colors of Classic Alpaca Yarn or go with a worsted weight and use one of the pretty colors in our new Espiral Yarn line. I am also picturing using some Alpaca Art Yarn on this bag for some wild colors and texture.

Cactus Pots

crocheted decorative cactus pots
Pattern by PlanetJune

Anyone have trouble keeping houseplants alive? Problem solved. Add some greenery to your house that you never have to remember to water! These cacti pots are sooo stinkin’ cute…and Southwestern decor seems to be all the rage lately.

Preparing for Shearing Day

Shearing day is one of the most important days of the year on alpaca farms. It is the day that we harvest the beautiful fiber that our alpacas have grown over the last year. Getting organized for the day ahead of time certainly makes the day less stressful and chaotic. Teamwork and a well thought out plan will make shearing day run like a well oiled machine.

That being said, shearing is one of my least favorite parts of raising alpacas, because though our shearers claim it takes them just eight minutes to shear an alpaca, and though they are not harmed in any way, it still is a scary experience for them. Some tolerate it better than others. All of them feel better when it’s over.

So I think of it as an day at the spa for alpacas … they get their teeth, their toenails, their topknots, and their tails all trimmed … in addition to a summer haircut!

alpacas

The cleaner your alpacas are on shearing day, the more value your fiber harvest will be. It has been said that you should “Groom your pasture, not your alpacas.” Make sure that briars, sticks, evergreen needles, dead leaves, and other small, loose vegetative matter are removed from your fields so that it doesn’t get into the alpacas’ fiber. Ideally, keep them in a nice grassy pasture with no hay one week prior to shearing.

I did say a green pasture was ideal. Our alpacas were on straw and a winter’s worth of manure (layered with straw) on shearing day. In Ohio, we go from winter to mud season and it just always seems to be too wet to clean the barns and haul manure anywhere. It’s not the end of the world.

In the pictures, you can see that we’ve used our interlocking stall panels so that we can herd each alpaca into our chute for cleaning. Our chute has belly bands and various restraints to keep the alpacas semi-still while we do some cleaning. Cleaning involves picking the debris out of their fiber, as much as they will tolerate. If they are getting stressed, we quit. This is also a good time to give yearly vaccines, dewormers, and any other medication they are needing.

Here is a list of items to have on hand on shearing day:

  • Large sheets for collecting blanket (prime) fiber. Plastic tablecloths work nicely for this, or a large plastic bag cut up both sides.
  • Large clear plastic bags for seconds (neck and upper leg) and noodled blanket fiber. Clear bags can be hard to find. Check Costco or Odd Lots. Read how to noodle alpaca blanket fiber here.
  • Trash cans for collecting thirds (leg fiber, tail, top knot, trimmings), or a smaller bag if you plan to weigh fiber from each alpaca.
  • Trash can for contaminated fiber.
  • Labels to identify fiber from each alpaca.
  • List of alpacas in order you plan to shear, males first, then light colors to dark colors.
  • Loaded syringes if you plan to administer shots the day of shearing.
  • Towels for “accidents”.
  • Broom for sweeping fiber.
  • Halters/leads to move alpacas to shearing area and back to pasture/barn.
  • Cleaning tools. We use the Crimp Slick N Go and the Oster Curry – Coarse, found at Quality Llama Products. Some people use blowers, but we never have.

Weather is always an issue. If it looks rain, keep your alpacas in the barn to so they can stay dry. A wet alpaca cannot be shorn.

We shear males first so they can be put back out in the pasture and away from the girls that will be parading by all day. We then shear lightest colors animals to darkest, which helps to prevent color contamination.

If we have a mother and cria, we try to keep them close in the shearing line-up to minimize stress for both.

You will need some help. The shearers, of which we have four young, strong men who are professionals and know what they are doing, will perform most of the physical work. This year we got by with three additional people helping the shearers, four or more is better for our size herd. Each helper has a job:

Helper One and Two: Halters alpacas for shearing in listed order, brings alpacas to shearing area. Once alpaca is restrained on mat for shearing, brings next alpaca. Returns alpacas to pasture once they are shorn, making sure to return males and females to appropriate places!

Helper Three and Four: Lays sheet down next to alpaca to collect and noodle blanket fiber, collect seconds, and puts correct label with each. Collect thirds. Sweep up any fiber too dirty to use, toenails, etc.

In the background, you can see the plastic sheets we use, and bags ready to go. Next to them is a clipboard with the list of alpacas in order to be shorn. Labels for bags are also on clipboard.

It’s always a delight to see the lovely fiber that comes off our alpacas!

This is a picture of blanket fiber that has been noodled, label enclosed, with a bag of seconds next to it. I slip the noodled fiber in the bag of seconds, using just one bag per alpaca, but still keeping the blanket and seconds separate.

Alpacas spit! Usually it is at each other, or when they feel threatened. Unfortunately some of them feel threatened on shearing day, and Kevin took it right in the face.

Our grandchildren, Wade, Clayton, and Brylee were the clean-up crew this year! I love that we live on a farm and can involve them!!

Alpacas look a whole lot different without their beautiful fiber, just in time for warm weather to arrive.

Be sure to see Shearing Day and Shearing Day is Behind Us. Coming soon … What to Do With All This Alpaca Fiber!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Alpaca Meadows