Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fiber Processing - flicking and spinning

I know I've done a lot of blog posts about flicking and spinning yarn. This time of year, we are busy getting product made for gifts. I spin as much yarn as I can, and J still knits it faster than I can spin.


The contrast of a flick lock of fiber vs an intact lock of fiber:

Spinning the yarn is by far my favorite part of this entire process:

It's hard to get a good picture of myself spinning (especially since I often am wearing pj's or lounge wear, might as well be comfortable when spinning). I'll get a picture of the yarn when this skein is complete.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fiber Processing - skirting and tumbling

With the long weekend, I decided I needed to get some yarn spun. It seems every time I make yarn, I do it a bit different, so I'll show how I did it this time.

Step one, lay the fiber out on the skirting table and skirt (take out the big pieces of hay):

Weigh the fiber into two groups of 6 ounces. This way I have two bags, one for each strand for the plyed yarn.

Then I put each batch into the tumbler, this seems to really help get out the dirt and debris.

Inside the tumbler:

Out of curiosity, I weighed the batches again after they came out of the tumbler. I wondered how much dirt and debris really came out of them. Each batch lost about 1/2 an ounce. That's a lot of dirt for such small batches.

Next step, flicking and spinning. I'll put that in a new post.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Alpacas are not aggressive. However, they will fight if they feel attacked. I've experienced that during herd health. Of course when I restrain them, and they don't know what we are going to do, they are going to go into fight or flight mode. We try to reassure them, and most of ours know we are not going to hurt them. Usually the ones that are most upset are one who are new to our farm and don't know us. Once in awhile though, an alpaca thinks they are in danger when they are not. There are other times when they are fighting with each other, and a person can get caught in the middle. This happens to me sometimes when the dams are having a spit fight with each other, and I mistakenly walk in the middle of it.

On Saturday Emma got kicked by one of our males, Apollo. I wasn't there, so I don't know what happened. Emma came home crying, and all I got was a story through tears about Apollo kicking her for no reason. She didn't have a lot of details. Emma has been feeding the boys for close to a year now. She does an excellent job. She has not had an incident like this in the past, so I think it was an unfortunate accident, not anything she did. My guess is that either Apollo was aiming to kick one of the other boys but hit Emma instead, or Emma startled him somehow and he kicked before realizing it was her.

When she got home we took a look at her leg and could see the outline of an alpaca foot (they have two toes and pads on their feet like a dog). By bedtime, there was still a red outline of Apollo's foot:

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Over the spring and summer when cria were being born, we kept Spot over in the maiden girls area. He's never been aggressive, but we've heard it's not ideal to have guard dogs in with really young cria. Plus, our girl Maddie does not like Spot, and this was her first year having a cria. We wanted to make sure she was comfortable.

Now that all our cria are born and growing well, we decided it would be nice to let Spot have more room to roam. Great Pyrenees are big dogs and do best when they do have a lot of room. They can get bored in a small area and that sometimes leads to poor behavior.

J cut a hole in the fence between the maiden girl's area and the dams/cria area:

He still greets me whenever I go out there:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Completing Tehya's fiber into yarn

Before the week was out, I finished making Tehya's fiber into yarn.





After it's washed, I hung it to dry and set the twist. Then it's time to put it into a ball and knit with it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful Farming

Even though it was raining lightly this morning when I did my farm chores, I still found lots to be thankful for.

Guard dogs, who keep my herd safe:

Dams and the great work they do bringing healthy cria to our farm, and helping them grow into wonderful alpacas:

Cria growing well with half a milk mustache (does that show up in the picture?):


Fiber that the alpacas produce:

wonderful yarn and products that I am working on:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rose's Show Pictures

This is the official show picture for our girl, Rocky Rose, who won first place at Alpacafest in Ohio.

A cropped picture of her up close:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rosco's scarf

Here is the scarf that J knit out of Rosco's fiber (keep in mind I am not a photographer, I am not creative that way, so these are the best I could do):

He used really big needles and a lacy pattern. The scarf turned out really nice. The yarn is bulky, so while there are lacy holes in the pattern, it still feels warm, and of course being out of Rosco, it is very soft.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tehya's fiber

This weekend I began working on a skein of Tehya's fiber.





These pictures do not do justice to Tehya's amazing fading fawn color. It is a rich color, from beige to light fawn, to medium and even some dark fawn. I let the yarn flow with various shades so that it is a variated yarn, not all one color. Her fiber is one of my favorites.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Finishing the skein from Lightning

On Friday I plyed two strands of Lightning's fiber (I was glad to have a bit extra on one strand, I need that for another project):

Then I put it into a skein off of my swift:

I washed it (sorry, forgot to get a picture of that step). And hung it up to dry (this time of year I do that in the bathtub, not outside like I do during warmer seasons):

Once dry, it can be put into a ball and used to knit. J has been waiting for this yarn so he will be very happy it is almost done.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Today was officially cold enough that I broke out my winter farm coat, hat and gloves. I'll wait a bit on the snow pants. It actually isn't that cold out (our thermometer is showing an outside temp of 42*), but the wind is very bitter. And today the sun is not shining (we have a heavy cloud cover), which makes it feel a lot colder.

I don't like this time of year. I don't like the sunless cold dreary days. We've been blessed with a warm and sunny fall, I knew these days were coming. The sky just looks grey, no sun shining, and the trees look a dreary brown color.

The dams and cria area:

The maiden girls area:

In the spring and summer I spent a lot of time outside with the alpacas. I'll go out just to watch the cria, and the chores get done without thinking too much of it.

This time of year you are much more likely to find me spinning yarn in front of the fireplace. Now that is a nice way to spend time! (see all my fiber bins laying about, our living room often is taken over by alpaca fiber):

One of the things I do like about having the farm, is that it forces me to go outside on these dreary days. While it can be hard to motivate myself to get out there, once I am, I really enjoy it. The fresh air, the activity, always raises my spirits. I come inside refreshed.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rosco's Yarn

I mentioned a few posts back that I completed a skein of yarn from Rosco's fiber. I didn't get a picture of it then, so here are pictures:

This fiber spun up with a nice rich black color. The yarn is very thick and bulky, which I think will work great on really big needles. It has a lot of texture to the yarn, with the neat bulky look.

I know I should have snatched this yarn up right away before J had a chance to get it. But since I was spinning up Lightning's fiber this weekend, J needed something to do. He took the yarn from Rosco, but agreed to make a scarf that I was planning to make out of it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Spring Shows

While spring seems like a long ways away, it's already time to start planning what shows we want to attend. I am finding it hard to find information though. Many sites have not been updated with this coming years information. I will start putting what I can in our "Upcoming Events" section to identify shows we plan to attend. This will be a work in progress though, so expect changes to that section as new information is discovered.

We are always eager for spring show season to begin. We are excited to see what this years cria can do in the show ring.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fiber Update

This past weekend my goal was a spin up a skein of Lightning's fiber. Unfortunately, I did not meet this goal. I finished flicking the first batch of his fiber for the first strand of yarn:

And I started spinning up that strand:

By Sunday evening I had the entire strand completed:

But since I make 2 ply yarn, this was only half of what I needed completed.

Then, on Monday evening I flicked up the second batch, for the second strand. It turns out, if I put my mind to it, I can flick up an entire batch in one night. These were even bigger batches than usual, since I wanted to make sure J will have enough yarn to complete the hat he plans to knit. I hope to spin this up on Wednesday and Thursday evening. Then on Friday I can ply it.

2011 Due Dates

Now that we spit tested all the females, I can get a more accurate list of our upcoming due dates for 2011. I love cria season, so these births are something I am very much looking forward to. I put the list of the due dates at the bottom of the blog, so that we can keep track.

Tehya is due 5/11/11
Tehya is bred to Our Peruvian Navigator, who is a fancy rose grey male (he'd be considered a tuxedo, a classic grey). We have a 50% chance of getting a grey cria out of this breeding. We also have a good chance of getting a fawn cria. Tehya is a beautiful fading fawn, we'd love a Tehya clone as her cria. Tehya did great in the show ring, and has wonderful fiber that is always my first to sell out.

Sancha is due 6/4/11
Sancha is bred to our male, SA Peruvian Greyt Exxpectations. Greyt is a modern rose grey and this is his first year breeding. We are so excited and anxious to see what he can produce. Sancha has produced a rose grey in the past, we are really hoping to have a repeat of that! But being she is white, there is always a 50% chance she will pass on her white gene and the cria will be white.

Lucy is due 6/13/11
Lucy came to us this fall, from Straightfork Farm in Ohio, already bred. She is bred to a male, Peruvian Mr Bojangles, a medium brown male who has won many 1st and 2nd place ribbons.

Snickers is due 6/30/11
Snickers came to us bred to Conan. We were so excited about this breeding, only to have her absorb the pregnancy. Alpacas have a high rate of uterine absorption. Typically it is stress induced. We believe moving Snickers to our farm caused her to absorb that pregnancy. We then bred her to Georgio. While I think Georgio is really great and I am excited about this breeding also, it comes with the cloud of disappointment that we lost that Conan cria. I know once I see this cria, we will be just as excited. We have heard from Georgio's owner that his cria from this past year have been the best on his farm. We know Snickers can produce quality, so we have every expectation that this offspring will be amazing.

Kateri is due 7/12/11
Kateri is bred to our own Lightning. Lightning was the first cria ever born on our farm, and this was Lighning's first breeding. We made this match because Kateri has produced all 1st place ribbon winners, she really is the complete package, then add on Lightnings incredible fiber characteristics and this cria should be completely amazing.

Victoria is due 7/20/11
Victoria is bred to Georgio, just like Snickers is. We are eager to see what Victoria and Georgio can produce. Victoria is the perfect phenotype in an alpaca. Her fiber is fine and dense. What Victoria lacks is crimp, but Georgio has plenty to spare. We have found with all of Victoria's offspring, they soak up crimp and all display not only her phenotype, but also amazing fiber.

We are sad that Maddie did not hold onto her pregnancy. Like Sancha, Maddie was also bred to Greyt. We were hoping to get a good idea of what Greyt can produce by having two of his cria on our farm this year. Greyt has been bred to females from other farms, so we will have to make sure to get a look at those cria once they are born.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Spit Testing

Today we decided to spit test our pregnant females. This is a fairly reliable way to determine if they are holding their pregnancy. I say *fairly* reliable because it's not a perfect method, and it's reliability depends greatly on who is doing it and how. We've been breeding for three years now, and have carefully watched how our females act both pregnant and not pregnant. Our first couple of years of breeding, we had a vet do an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy for sure. Last year was the first year we opted not to follow up with an ultrasound. All of our girls were pregnant, as we had spit tested to be the case.

The reason it is called Spit Testing is because you bring a male to the female as if to breed them, if pregnant, the female will spit at the male. An open female will drop to be bred. Though specific behavior for each female varies to some extent, the basic idea is that a pregnant female will not let a male breed them and will do whatever necessary to keep him away.

This year we did take Snickers and Tehya to have an ultra sound done. We did this a few months ago, because we could not tell if Snickers was pregnant or not. Snickers is new to our farm, so we had no frame of reference to determine her behavior at spit testing. Tehya is a maiden and we weren't sure how to read her either. Both ultra-sounded as pregnant, so we used that information to show how they behave at spit testing when pregnant. Since alpacas can absorb a pregnancy, just because they ultrasounded as pregnant then, does not mean they have held onto that pregnancy, so we knew we'd be spit testing them in the future to see if the pregnancy is holding.

Today J brought Tucker back to the girls area to test all our pregnant girls. At this point in the season, it's too late to rebred them. Their pregnancy lasts on average 11.5 months. In our location, it's not ideal to have a newborn cria in October or November. The latest we'd prefer would be early September. So, testing them today was only for our information. Any female that showed to be open, will be held open until spring.

We were especially curious to see if Kateri has held onto her pregnancy from Lightning. The farm that has Lightning now has expressed concern that none of their females are showing as pregnant. We are very happy to say that Kateri spit tested as pregnant. Kateri is a girl who we have had since the start of our farm, and is very easy to determine pregnancy with spit testing. She's a crabby pregnant lady.

Sancha, Victoria, Lucy, Snickers, and Tehya all spit tested as pregnant. We knew Latte is open, we did not breed her because she arrived at our farm in October with a newborn cria. We planned to hold her open until Spring. The only one who we hoped was pregnant but is not, is Maddie. Unfortunately she spit tested as open. She dropped to the ground and was ready to be bred. So she will be held open this year and bred early next spring. While that is a disappointment, we are thankful only one tested this way.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hay diggers

It's no wonder we have problems with the alpacas's top knot being full of burrs. These animals insist on diving their heads deep in the hay bin. I don't know if the hay down there is more tasty or what.

Friday, November 12, 2010


I caught the little guy, nursing off of Sancha (who is not his mom)! She was clucking at him and encouraging him. His mom, Kateri, is the brown female closest to them. I don't know why she isn't bothered by this behavior. They all seem to fully accept this. So, I guess no harm no foul.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Milk Snatcher

I have heard about cria who will snatch milk from a dam other than their mom, but I had never seen it happen. Then just this past week we caught Chaska nursing off of Sancha. The odd part is that he looks like he could be her cria, they are both white with a fawn spot. However, he is not her cria.

Here he looks so innocent, next to his mom:

I couldn't get a picture of him nursing off of Sancha, by the time I got the camera he was done. But we've seen him do this more than once.

We've debated moving Chaska to the little boys barn so that he can't do this. But, he's not even 4 months old yet, he still needs mother's milk. I have seen Kateri nurse him too, so he's getting milk from his mom also. We also debated moving him and his mom in a pen away from Sancha, but there was no easy way to do this either. For now, as long as Sancha stays at a good weight (doesn't start getting thin), and no one minds the milk snatching, we will keep them where they are. In a couple months we will be able to wean Chaska, moving him up to the little boys' barn.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Beautiful Fall Day

I'm generally not a fan of fall. The colder weather and the fact it gets dark so early, wears on me. But this fall has been wonderful. We've had warmer than usual weather, and it's been so sunny. I love sunny warm fall days.

The alpacas seem to act the same no matter what the weather. I actually think Victoria likes the snow (I've caught her sleeping out in it). Today they were enjoying some hay on this nice fall day.

Even little Ginger munches on hay:

Twilight likes to smile for me:

Spot always greets me:

Shadow thought it would be a good day to bury a bone:

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