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.

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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!

 

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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?

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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!

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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

Crocheted summer dress

 

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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

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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.

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Alpaca Meadows