Friday, November 19, 2010

Fall baby wrap up

This was a great fall. We had a total of 7 beautiful healthy babies and they were born without complications. We were only present for 1 and the other 6 happened like nature intended - without human intervention. Lots of people saw the beautiful white baby born the morning of our open house. All of the little sweeties are getting big - each has their own personality and each has their own opinion of the 2 leggers that are around to feed their mom's in the morning and evening.

Here's a run down of all our babies this year, including the ones born in the spring.
Finnegan and Corado - the spring boys

This is Finnegan in the front and Corado in the back. They were born on June 20th and 19th. Both are boys and their mom's are mother and daughter. They really enjoy each other's company.

Ayla very pretty and proud
This tall girl is Ayla. She was our first fall baby. She's gaining weight so quickly that I expect she will surpass the spring boys any time now!

St. Cloud on his knees to nurse
This white baby is our boy that was born the morning of the open house.  As you can see, he's rather tall and likes to take his meals on his knees. He's also the whitest animal we've ever had, so we decided to call him St. Cloud since it looks like he's down on his knees all the time praying.

Amazing Crimp on little Prince Charming

Shortly after our open house,Charm had her baby a little earlier than expected.  It was our 2nd out of our young herdsire Eldorado and we were very impressed.  We aren't sure if this little guy will turn grey or not.  The tips of his ears have white all through them as well as his tail.  He truly has a grey cast to his face and the lower part of his legs.  Some of them you just have to wait and see how they will turn out.

Gina's baby Gianna
Fanci's baby Fiona

Mid-October was supposed to be a quiet time - I was going to the NY Sheep and Wool Festival and Neal didn't anticipate any births.  Too bad things don't work out the way you expect!  This was our single best girl year ever and 3 of our 4 girls were born while I was out of town.  Way to go Neal!

Sweet little Eden

Tobago - growing as wide as he is tall

Last but not least is this curious looking little boy.  For about a week, he had the cutest curled ears and we started calling him Diablo.  Well, he may act like a little devil, but he doesn't look like one any more, so we are calling him Tobago.  He is a dark silver grey.  The grey doesn't show up on the top of his fiber, but when you look deep in, you see it.  He will be quite a transformation when he is sheared in the spring.  Tobago was born at the end of October.

We hope you will stop by this fall to take a look at these cuties.  Before you know it they will be all grown up!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Babies are here, the Babies are here!

Thinking that 3 babies were keeping us busy was child's play after this past busy weekend. 3 more lovely little crias were born, all under the watch of Neal. I had left for the NY Sheep & Wool festival on Friday morning. Sometime in the late afternoon, Neal called to say there had been a baby born. It was a pretty little girl out of Gina. He told me she was brown with white on her forehead and nose. That was fine, even if we weren't expecting another one for about 2 weeks. I asked for him to send pictures.

A few hours later, we were done setting up our booth and sitting down to a nice warm dinner and he called and asked if I had checked for the pictures. I looked and this is what I received. I couldn't believe that he couldn't tell the difference between black and brown with white spots! Then I saw that I had another email with a picture. It was the little brown girl. So what in the world was this little black bundle? I called him and he told me that after the brown baby was born and taken care of, he ran an errand. When he got home the little black one was there too! Unbelievably, it was a girl too!

Saturday afternoon at the Festival, I was so busy I couldn't take any phone calls. When I called Neal back, he just said, "Here we go again - check your email". And he had this picture for me. This little girl was from our Maiden (first time mom) Enchanted. She was about 3 weeks early as the dates were calculated, but she's up and doing well despite her small birth weigh of just over 12 pounds.

Neal handled it all very well. We joke that he's been around for more of the births than I have, and I think he's correct.

Here's a little video of the babies playing on Monday morning after being penned in for the evening on Sunday. Enjoy!

And for everyone who's been concerned about the little white boy who was born on the morning of our open house - he's doing well. He's stopped taking bottles and has a very unique way of nursing from his mom. I guess since he's so tall, it's just easier to do it this way. I don't expect he's going to have spectacular fiber on his legs since he's always on his knees, but that's a small sacrifice since he's being taken care of by his mom instead of us.

All is well in alpaca land.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Babies are coming the Babies are coming. . .

We knew that 7 babies in one season would keep us hopping and we are only about half the way there. On Sept 30, we had our first girl in over a year. We named her Ayla, but have been calling her Fine a Leigh. She has a beautiful face and would most likely be considered medium brown. She's not as dark as her mama, but her daddy was white, so we are very pleased with her color. Alya is quite a pistol. She loves to play with the other crias and has been gaining almost a pound EVERY DAY! At 2 weeks, she's getting pretty darn heavy!

Then on the day of our open house, Sugar gave us her almost 3 week overdue baby. This little fella still doesn't have a name but he's as sweet as can be! We don't know if it was all the activity at the open house or if nature was just taking it's course, but he never did nurse correctly. We had our suspicions that he would need a plasma transfusion and indeed he did. He had the fairly simple procedure in the vet's office on Monday night and this is him in the back of the van on the way home. He's doing well, but still is taking a bottle which tells us that he's not getting all he needs from his mom.

Then just 3 days later, Charm had her baby. This one was just a few days before we expected him and was under 15 pounds, but he was up and nursing before we came home from work. Both mom and baby are doing very well. Sometimes the names just come to you and we think he will be Prince Charming. Though it may be hard to see in the picture, he is brown with smokey gray tones which promises to be a very interesting fleece.

Both Ayla and Prince have the same daddy, Eldorado and these are our first 2 cria from him. Needless to say, we are very pleased.

Check back in the next week or so and I'm sure we will have some new baby pictures for you to see!

Monday, August 23, 2010

In the heat of Summer!

I can't believe that it's nearly 3 months since we've sheared the alpacas! I know they are glad to be rid of all that fiber, but they still seem so hot. This is how they enjoy their summer afternoons.

Sometimes they aren't so lady-like and fight over who gets the spray. Even the babies seem to enjoy it on the really hot days.

Since it's getting to be time for the fall fiber shows, I have to get geared up to have the fleeces ready to go to the mills for processing. That involves sorting and dying the fleece. Each fleece takes up to an hour to sort. In sorting, we separate the best fleece from what we call 2nds or 3rds. The seconds are used in things like rugs and rug yarn or felted projects. Most of our 3rds this year went to A Matter of Trust to work on the almost impossible task of cleaning up the Gulf oil spill. Every little bit helps.

The prime blanket will be processed into either yarn or roving. Once all of the fleeces are sorted, we will put them together based on how similar they are. Sometime later in the fall or early winter, we will have lots and lots of yarn here to dye and get ready for the spring shows.

Take a look at what we've done with last year's clip in our Etsy Store.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Love those Babies!

Since our last post, we had our 2 anticipated crias for this spring. Eternity & Lili (mom and daughter) delivered baby boys a day apart in late June. Both girls were bred to fawn herdsires, so we were hoping to see a little color from these girls, but alas, both fellas turned out white - or maybe beige if I push it a little.

They look so much alike that we called them Fluffy and Curly because their fiber characteristics were different. These aren't their real names, but they work in a pinch. Just like the rest of the animals, we shear the spring babies so that they too can enjoy a little less fleece over the hot summer months. So after the curls and fluff were gone, all that was left to distinguish the boys was a tiny dark spot on Fluffy's lip.

Here's a short video showing how everyone likes to meet the new babies.

Both boys are growing well and are learning all about things like halters and leading thanks to Anna, my super-duper 4H helper. She's been putting halters on the babies and "leading" them around a bit. Leading isn't exactly what I'd call it, but she does a great job with them.

Anna comes almost every morning to help with the feeding and to work with her 4H alpaca Sea Splash.
Here's Anna at a 4H meeting dressing up Splash in preparation for the 4H Fair and show next week. The 4Her's will show their alpacas over obstacles, in Showmanship and even in a costume class. If you'd like to attend, it is at the 4H center on Stoverstown Rd at 7pm on Thursday August 12th.

If you think your kids would be interested in working with the alpacas in 4H, just drop me a line. We'd love to have them join us!

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spring Time / Fiber Time

After all the shows are over in the spring of the year, the next big thing we do is get ready to shear the alpacas. Not only do they love to be free of their heavy winter coat, but we get to reap the harvest that we've been waiting all year for. 2009 was an exciting year for me because I was able to process all of the fiber that we sheared that year. In years past I wasn't so diligent about it and a lot of fiber sat around in bags just waiting to be turned into something fantastic.

Typically it takes us a few weekends to complete the shearing of the entire herd. Somehow, this year we were a bit more organized. Neal and I were able to shear the yearlings by ourselves on Thursday and Friday. Then for the adults, we recruited as many friends as possible to help on the weekend. We had a wonderful crew of helpers this year and were able to complete all 28 animals by Sunday afternoon.

Here are a few pictures of shearing day.

First step is to get the alpaca on the mat and put ties on all 4 of their legs. Once the ties are on, several people lift the alpaca and put it on it's side. The legs are then stretched out so that they don't fight with the shearer or jump up in the middle of the process. Once down, the shearing of the blanket begins. Everything on their sides and back is considered the prime fiber. Fiber from the neck, and upper legs is considered seconds and is usually not as high a quality as the prime blanket. Fiber from their lower legs, tail and head is usually considered thirds because of it's short length and coarser texture.

We even take care to give them a nice hairdoo on their top-knot. Sometimes, not often, we get one that is none too happy about the shearing event and shows their displeasure with the smelly spit that llamas and alpacas are known for. We have a simple solution for this. It may not be pretty, but it does keep everyone working on the animal clean and stink free.

Because I'm not what is considered a professional shearer, I do each animal in about 20 minutes. (The professionals take about 5). It's a back breaking weekend, but in the end, we have bags and bags of fiber to work with.

For everyone, it's a weekend, well spent!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Flying Fiber

As much as I love fiber and yarn, I've never actually felt the need to see my fiber being turned into roving or yarn. Until last week. For some reason, perhaps because I've just about cleaned out my 2009 clip and this was the last batch to be processed. I've spent a while taking several of my light colored fleeces and dying them into colors that I will have blended into multi color rovings. Almost all of it was dyed, so I called up Lydia at Gurdy Run Woolen Mill and asked her if I could come help process my fiber. She graciously agreed to let me come and process my fiber into roving. As soon as I arrived, I was greeted by Cheddar her mill assistant. Here in the photo, Cheddar is taking her morning/afternoon nap.

The hardest decision was trying to decide what colors to put together. Once we did that, the fiber went through a picker. Here, Lydia is cleaning out the picker after one of the color runs to prevent too much color contamination. The picker takes the fiber and opens it up. All of the fiber goes into the machine and then is blown into a small closet in a big fluffy pile. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of that. Lets just say it seemed much bigger coming out than it did going in.

After the colors were picked, we took a break for lunch and I went outside and was greeted by Ollie. I was kind of surprised when this adorable little sheep came right up to me. Just like with alpacas, if you bottle feed a baby, they are very motivated to make friends with humans. Ollie was looking for his lunch and he had no problem telling me about it. Ollie would have come in to help us process the roving, but I suspect that he may have caused more trouble than help.

The next step was actually making the roving. Here I had to decide what colors went together best and how they would look blended together.
This is a run of fall colors that turned out beautifully. Once the fiber is placed on the belt, my only other job was to make sure it was landing in the bucket neatly and not jamming up the machine.

I know this sounds like a simple process, and thanks to Lydia, it was very simple to me. Behind the scenes, there are hours of machine adjustments, cleanings and repairs.

Here are some of the fabulous rovings that we made that day.

Spending the day with Lydia makes me appreciate her all the more. I can't say enough good about Gurdy Run Woolen Mill and the folks that run it.

If you like the look of these great rovings, you can get your hands on some by visiting the farm or by taking a look at our Etsy Store.

Friday, February 12, 2010

More snow than we know what to do with

It's February in Central PA and that means cold weather and sometimes a bit of snow. Well this year we've been hit hard twice already. Here are 2 videos that show how the animals feel about the snow. This is the day after the storm has passed, so you can see it's sunny and beautiful. I assure you, no one left the barn during the worst of the storm. Here are the alpacas enjoying the snow.

The horses might even like it more! We call this one Eat or Snow Bath.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Isn't this fun?

A friend just introduced me to this fun little gadget yesterday. Since I'm a crazy knitter (and a digit head as my friends call me) I thought it might be fun to track how much I actually do knit in a year. Lets just hope I can keep up with it. Sometimes you get started at the beginning of the year with all these plans to be more organized, create lists to keep you on track or however you might decide to do it. Well, this year I purchased an iPhone (and just LOVE it). With all the cool apps you can get, I should be more organized and stay on task better than ever. And I figured since I started in February, perhaps I'll do better than if lets say I started on Jan first.

I also promise you that if it says I haven't knit any this month - it's just not up to date!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's January - Must be Farm Show Time!

If you live outside of Pennsylvania you may not know of the phenomena that occurs the second week of January in Harrisburg. It's Farm Show Time! This is the week that every 4-H'er and producer of every kind of livestock look forward to for the entire year. This is the week they find out if they are the best of the best. You can look at and learn about everything, including but not limited to solar power, replacement windows, jewelry woven out of real hair and tractors. If you delight in locally grown and produced foods, the PA showcase area includes all types of dips, vinegars, pretzels, cheeses, bolognas, candies, and wine. And everyone gives out free samples! Actually I have to admit, the wine tasting is one of my top activities at the farm show. We found some of our new favorites at Long Trout Winery. While their Yellow Snow isn't something I'd drink with dinner, it sure is great to cook your dinner in. My other favorite has always been the milkshakes, but I don't recommend doing the wine tasting and milk shakes at the same time.

If you happen to be at the show on a Wednesday, one of the biggest events is the Sheep to Shawl competition. In the morning, youth teams compete to create a shawl in just 3 hours. They start with a fleece and have 3 spinners turn it into yarn and one weaver create a shawl. In the afternoon, the grownups do it - and they have to shear their sheep, and make the shawl in just 2 1/2 hours. It is truly an amazing sight to see and well worth the crowds and packed stands.

While all these things are great, I look forward to farm show for a bit of a different reason - our state alpaca organization, PAOBA, has an educational & sales booth. For 8 long, cold, dusty days we have the opportunity to educate the 500,000 people that come to the farm show. We have alpacas, both huacaya and suri to greet the public, spinners, weavers, knitters and crocheters demonstrating their craft and a wonderful sales area where all the members have the opportunity to sell the fruits of their labors - beautiful yarns, rovings and finished items, handmade from the fiber that their animals produce. It is also one of the only times though the year that I have a chance to see friends from across the state that have the same love of the animals that I do.

If you've never had the opportunity to visit the PA Farm Show, plan ahead for next year. It's always starts the second Saturday of January and runs through the next Saturday. We'd love to see you!