Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cria feeder

This weekend we put in a cria pen or creep feeder (which ever you choose to call it). This is for cria who are starting to wean and need extra food, so we want them to have access to grain and the best hay, but we don't want the older heavier girls getting it (they all always have access to hay, but this way the babies don't have to worry about the older ones pushing them away). So we made a pen that only the little ones can get in.

We had a pen previously, but since we moved the girls to another barn, the feeder was left behind. This weekend when we moved it, we also made it a bit bigger. It's made with all materials we had on hand, so no out of pocket costs. But that is why it a piecework of wood. Here's a picture of it in the middle of building it:

Once finished, we put a bowl of grain and some hay inside:

And we put Cavalier in there, hoping he'd get the idea that he can get grain and hay anytime he wants:

If you are wondering if he likes it, the answer is no. He refused to eat at all while in there, and ran out as soon as we let him past the door. I can only hope he'll go back in another time.

Our bigger problem is that Spot loves alpaca grain and we can't seem to keep him out of there. We had to lock the alpacas in the paddock, and Spot in the pasture, to keep him out.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fiber projects

Now that the cooler weather has settled into our area, we are doing more inside stuff than outside stuff. Spring and summer is a great time for farm improvements. This past spring we added the girl's pasture back by our house to keep them separate from the boys. As fall set in, J stocked up on hay, that we now store in what used to be the boys' barn. The boys' moved into the main barn where the girls had been. We thought we were well stocked in hay for the winter, but we seem to be going through it faster than we anticipated. Thankfully we have a hay auction nearby, so if we do need more hay at any point, we can go and get some fairly easily.

This year, as the cold weather settles in, we have the opportunity to work on some inside projects. Last year it wasn't until after the new year that I even got my spinning wheel. Without a wheel we had no yarn. Other than practice knitting with store bought yarn, there wasn't much for us to do. I have since learned to spin yarn from raw fiber. What had us puzzled for awhile was that my yarn suddenly got thin and very elegant looking. We especially noticed it when I saw a ball of yarn I spun up for my mom just a couple months ago. It was much more bulky and nobby than a skein I recently spun up. We tried to figure out why some yarn was thin, some thick, some nobby, some not. I thought it might be due to micron count, then thought it might be due to primary vs secondary hairs (another day I will go into what the difference on that is, I'm not even sure at this point I completely understand). What we now figure has been going on is that our flicking method and my spinning skills have improved to the point I now spin fairly thin yarn. I had thought I would spin big bulky very natural looking yarn, so at first this thin elegant stuff sort of threw us.

One project J is doing is taking the coarser fiber, having it spun into a thick nobby yarn, for him to make either slipper soaks, or rugs. He attempted to spin the yarn himself, but quickly decided he didn't like that idea. I have no doubt he could spin quite well, but agreed to spin it up for him. I love spinning, so it took no arm twisting (and I wasn't sure about him using my wheel, I mean, then I can't use it ;) ). Since he wanted thick natural nobby yarn, and I've moved onto thin elegant yarn, it took some adjustment on my part to go back to the thick stuff. He also wanted a tweed combination of white and brown. I am quite impressed with my ability to spin up what he requested. I wasn't sure if I could do it. Up to this point, I let the wheel decide how thick the yarn is. This time I did adjustments and changed my way of doing things so that I could get the desired yarn.

He is also busy knitting up some scarves. Right now he is knitting a neat one out of Tucker's gray fiber. He has a box knit pattern that he designed into a scarf. I'll get picture to put up soon.

I am in the process of knitting a hat out of Victoria's fiber. I completed one already and am about half way through the second one. I am a bit worried I won't have enough yarn to finish. I happened to have a sample of a mix of Victoria's and Tehya's yarn. I decided to use that as a stripe in the hat. I love how this looks! Tehya's fawn color mixed in with Victoria's reddish brown is really neat. I am still keeping my fingers crossed that I have enough yarn to complete this hat. Otherwise I'll have to spin up some more. I usually have a knit project in process, that I take with me to work on during karate practice, and waiting for appointments and such. This stays in my car, so that it is ready whenever I have a spare minute.

I usually also have a project going on at home. My at home projects are the ones that aren't very portable. I would like to spin up some black yarn. I have Maddie's fiber washed and I am about half way through flicking it. It's been a pain to work with because this particular batch has a lot of second cuts. Second cuts are when the fiber is shorn, but it is done so twice, making the cuts short. I am struggling to flick this particular batch because of this. I hope this weekend to complete the flicking so that I can spin up the yarn.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


November is a special month in the history of our farm. In November of 2007, the first alpacas arrived at our farm. We purchased Victoria and Kateri from South Haven Alpacas. The girls, along with the gelding Snowstorm, were brought to our farm the week of Thanksgiving in 2007.

We are now entering our 3rd year of alpaca farming.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Growing Cria

This weekend we did our monthly herd health day. We weigh the younger alpacas (typically we do not weigh the older pregnant girls or the older boys, we use body score to make sure they are doing ok). The young ones we like to weigh to make sure they are growing as they should.

For this years cria was have these weights:

Lily, at 5.5 months old = 73 pounds
Pocahontas, at 4 months = 53 pounds
Cavalier, at 3.25 months = 37 pounds

They are all growing well. We've notice Lily now hangs out with the yearling girls, whereas Po and Cavalier tend to run and romp around together.

Cavalier has been the first of this years cria to eat grain. We have tried to convince Lily to eat some grain, but she will not have anything to do with it. I do not know why, but she will see a bowl of grain and will lay down and roll right by it, knocking over the bowl. She does this every time, so it was more than a coincidence. I do not know why she thinks she needs to roll and knock the bowl over. Po has shown no interest in grain either (at least she doesn't knock the bowl over). I had not yet tried to Cavalier when one day I saw him standing next to Sancha when she ate. Sancha is older and is a messy eater, so she drops quite a bit out of her mouth when she eats. Cavalier figured this out and was snatching up everything she dropped. Smart boy! We joke this is because his mom is Victoria, who is well known on our farm for being a pig. She will do anything to get to grain, and has been observed ignoring her baby in order to eat hay. Once I realized Cavalier was interested in grain, I started giving him is own bowl. The first couple times he ignored the bowl, but tonight he started eating and ate every drop. I hope the other two cria will copy his behavior and start eating grain too. Especially Lily, who is getting quite big. I worry how much of a strain her nursing may put on her mom.

Cold and Wet Fall

Fall on our farm has been fairly uneventful, which is why I haven't updated much on my blog lately.

The weather has been cold and wet. After a cool and dry summer, the rain was at first a welcome sight. But we got so much rain, that even our sandy soil started to have standing water. I think we've made up for the rain we didn't get all summer. This past weekend the wind blew so much that almost all the leaves are off the trees. I expect it won't be long until we see some of that white stuff. I decided that rain isn't so bad, provider the farmer has proper rain gear. After years of camping, I've found what clothes repels water. I bundle up in my water proof gear, and head out to the barn with food. The alpacas even let me stand in the barn out of the blowing rain while they eat.

Looking ahead to the winter weather that is sure to come, I've decided that spring is my favorite time on the farm. I love the new cria arriving, and the plants coming to life. I enjoy the sunny warmer days. And I like seeing the very wooly alpacas. Winter would be my least favorite. I don't like to be cold, for one thing. I do bundle up, and have found the secret to layers to provide ample warmth. The issue for me is pushing the wheel barrow through the snow. A couple inches isn't a big deal, but when we get a big snow fall, I often have to shovel a path, and then struggle to push the wheel barrow through the path I carved out of the snow. I'm dreading that already. And I've heard it is supposed to be a rough winter.

One plus to the cool summer and cold fall and likely rough winter is that the alpaca should have very long staple length on this springs shearing. I am looking forward to a great new crop of fiber to spin up :)
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