Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The week is half over . . .

Hi everyone!  The week is half over!

Brian & I have been busy.

Brian has been helping with shearing out in WI.  He is having a good time, sheared a couple alpacas (yesterday they were rained out), and got to chat with Kinney Valley's vet as well.  He has also fallen in love with a clipper.  I hope to purchase it for him when he gets home so he can use it when he shears our alpacas in a few weeks.

I've been felting soap.  I felted 9 bars yesterday, and will have another 4 done tonight.  I've got the process down to about 15-20 min per bar, and they are looking pretty good!  Most of them will be brown or a heathered brown -- that's because our alpacas are brown and rose grey!  (I've also gone to work, and have gone out to the farm and put drops in Lars' eyes.  He had a bout of 'goopy eye', but he has recovered quite nicely!)

Brian comes back tomorrow, which is good because I'll need more fiber carded for the soap!  (Oh, and the cats & I miss him as well).

Until next time!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spring is here!

Spring is here . . . despite the rain today.

Two falls ago we planted almost two hundred tulip and daffodil bulbs.  It is always neat to see which are the first to come up in the spring.

Daffodils and "Ice Stick" tulips

I would have to say that lilies are my favorite flower - Day, Calla, Tiger, Asiatic, or Oriental  - it doesn't matter.  I dream of someday having a whole field of lilies on our farm.

Daffodils and tulips are a close second, and I wouldn't mind a field of them either!

Shearing and Felting

Hi everyone!

It is another rainy spring day.  It is only 43 degrees out, and "they" say we could see some snow showers if the temp drops.  I'll believe it when I see it! 

Brian is off in Wisconsin for the next few days to help with shearing at Kinney Valley Alpacas, a wonderful family run alpaca farm!  KV has over 100 alpacas to shear in the spring, and the owner welcomes any help he can get since he shears them himself.  (KV is where our entire herd came from.)  Brian sheared Bella last year and did a really nice job, and he'll be shearing Bella, Bosox, and Lars in a few weeks.  (I'll be sure to post some pics of him shearing!)

My job this week is to start felting soap.  We received the last of our ordered handmade soap yesterday.  It is so neat to see all the wonderful fresh soap!  We have 160 bars total, from three different Etsy shops. 

As I get the soap felted, I will be posting featurettes on each soap and soap maker.  Let's just say that all three are wonderful and we couldn't choose, so we decided to offer them all!

I have 12 bars completely done, and 6 are currently drying from my work last night.  Hopefully I can get another dozen or two felted before Brian gets back from WI.

Have a great Tuesday!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It was a boy . . .

Well, Bella had her cria today, a little black male weighing 15.2 lbs. 

Unfortunately he didn't survive.  It looks like he was stillborn. 

It's sad, and we gave Bella time to figure out why her cria wasn't coming when she called for it.

We would have named him Mr. T.

Until another day . . .

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cria Watch 2011: Day 16

No cria today . . .

But we did have snow flurries all day -- nothing really stuck or lasted very long on the ground.  We may get an inch or so overnight tonight.  WAY less than the 5-8 inches they were predicting yesterday!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Shearing Season / Cria Watch: Day 14

It is a very sunny day today, too bad it is only in the 40s out, and too bad there is no cria yet today!

We are anxiously awaiting Bella's first cria, she is a maiden, and it is the first cria birth for us as well, which is why we are slightly nervous.  Our other dam, Bosox, has already had three cria, so we probably won't pay quite as much attention to her this summer when she is due.  We have been checking on Bella once or twice a day since the April 4th.  Each day she looks at us like we are crazy people!  Oh well!  One of these days we'll go out and there will be a baby!

Spring is here, and with spring comes shearing!  Brian will have four alpacas to shear next month:  Bella, Bosox, Lars, and (hopefully) Bella's cria.  We plan on cria shearing Bella's cria in May. 

Now that we have this fiber . . . what do we do with it?  We'll first we sort it into classes:  1st cuts (prime, blanket fiber), 2nd cuts (neck and some leg fiber), and waste/garbage. 

Once it is sorted, we skirt the prime blanket fiber (1st) to get all the vegetable matter and 2nd/short cuts out.

Once your fiber is skirted, you have options: 
  • You can show the blanket at a fleece show.
  • You can sell the fiber in its raw state.
  • You can send the fiber to a mill to be processed into carded fiber, roving, or yarn.
  • You can process the fiber yourself.
We show some of the blankets.  We have shown Bella's fleece both this year and last year.  We plan on using our 2nd cuts when felting soap, and we plan to process our prime fiber into fiber batts, roving, and eventually spin into yarn.

We plan on doing all the processing ourselves.  It is a huge and daunting task.  Getting fiber processed can be spendy, especially when, like us, you only have a few pounds of fiber to get processed.  Our farm currently produces less than five pounds of quality fiber a year (fiber that we would want processed into yarn), and at this point it makes more sense for us to process the fiber ourselves, even if it seems to take forever!  (The other fiber that our animals produce is great for felting and other uses, but we wouldn't use it for yarn.)

As we go through the process, we'll be posting on what we are doing and how well it is going.  Look for posts on washing fiber, carding fiber, felting soap, making roving, and maybe even shearing the alpacas and skirting fiber.

Hopefully we'll post about a new cria soon too!

Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cria Watch 2011: Day 13

So we woke up this morning with snow on the ground.  Of course it was gone by the afternoon, but it was still snow in April.

We went out to check on Bella, and she was hunkered in the barn along with some of the other pregnant girls.

Still no cria . . . we'll check again tomorrow.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Cria Watch 2011: Day 12

Another cold, gloomy, and rainy day.

Another day with no new cria.

We went out to the farm today to check on Bella and visit Lars.  He is fitting in nicely and he is still just as friendly!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cria Watch 2011: Day 11

Today is a gloomy, cold, and rainy day.

It is a good thing there was no cria today!  Poor thing would have been cold!

Check in with us tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cria Watch 2011: Day 10

No cria yet . . .

Bella is getting very uncomfortable though, so maybe soon!

Check back tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cria Watch 2011: Day 9

It is a beautiful, warm, and sunny day today!  It is currently 66 degrees at almost 7pm!

A beautiful day . . . but still no cria today!

Check back with us tomorrow and have a great night!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cria Watch 2011: Day 7 / MN Alpaca Expo Day 2

No cria today either!  It was a lovely day even though it started out rainy, and it looks like it may rain again tonight.  Hopefully Bella will have the cria this coming week!

Today was the final day of the MN Alpaca Expo.  Lars was a hit at our stall!  He is very friendly.

Bella had placed third in her class for her fleece.

Unfortunately, Lars did not get a ribbon.  :-(  

It is okay.  He was in a group of nice looking rose gray juveniles.  We got to talk to one of the judges after the show and his only critique was that Lars wasn't as dense, and that there were others that had finer (thinner) fiber.  Hopefully we'll improve on that once he gets his cria fleece off.  (The cria fleece still has the fiber that he was born with.)  We are excited to see what his fleece will look like come this fall.  On the plus side, Lars was very well-behavied in the ring, and stood and acted just like he was supposed to!

After the Expo, Lars got to come home to the farm just outside of town.  He is already making friends!

All the girls love him!

We'll keep you posted about Bella!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

MN Alpaca Expo Day 1 / Cria Watch 2011: Day 6

I thought I'd mix it up with the title today!  Still no cria, but it has been cloudy and rainy, so it is okay if the baby stays inside Bella for a little bit longer.

Today was the first day of the Minnesota Alpaca Expo!


There are over 600 alpacas at the show this year!  It is quite a site to see!

Here is part of one side of the arena . . . this side has the 2 show rings.  (The other half is packed with alpacas!)

Lars was chil-laxing all day.  He is pretty friendly, and he let a lot of people touch him and feel his wonderfully soft fiber.  He is also walking well on his halter and lead.

Tomorrow he will go in the show ring, and hopefully he will be on his best behavior!  There are 7 alpacas in his class, and the top 6 get ribbons.  We hope we don't get the gate!  (Getting the gate means that you don't place/get a ribbon.)

We'll have an update tomorrow on how he does!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cria Watch 2011: Day 5 / MN Alpaca Expo - Registration Day!

No cria today . . .  but it was registration day for the MN Alpaca Expo!

It was so much fun seeing hundreds of alpacas come through the doors to be registered.

We are showing one alpaca this year in the halter class - our little boy, Lars.  We also entered Bella's fleece (from last year's shearing) in the fleece competition.

Yay!  Bella's fleece took 3rd in her class in the fleece competition!  Yay!

Our stall is all set up . . .   half for us and half for Lars . . .

. . . and Lars is settling in nicely.

We got Lars from a farm in Wisconsin.  The owner's son, Owen, helped to halter train Lars this spring for us.  Of course, Owen had to show us what Lars can do.  (FYI:  Owen is 4 1/2 years old.)

Here are Owen & Lars in action in one of the show rings at the Expo.

They are so cute!

More tomorrow!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cria Watch 2011: Day 4

No cria yet . . .

We spend the better part of our day helping with set-up for the Minnesota Alpaca Expo.  We only live a mile from where the show is held.  In case you didn't know, we live in town, and board our alpacas at a farm just outside of town.  Even though we have a large backyard, the city would probably frown on us keeping alpacas back there.

We are excited because this year we are a Bronze Sponsor.  We were able to set our stall up today and everything!  We look just like a real alpaca farm!

Tomorrow is check-in for the Expo so we will get our little boy, Lars.

Lars has been in Wisconsin since he was born since that is where is dam (mom) is.  We haven't seen him since the fall, so we are very excited to see how much he has grown!  He'll still be pretty little though.  Alpacas need to be at least 6 months old to compete in the shows.  Lars made the cut by about 12 days!  After the show, Lars will stay at the farm with our females.  He'll have a few boys to play with get into trouble with there, so hopefully he'll feel right at home soon.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cria Watch 2011: Day 3

No cria yet . . . although it looks as though she has dropped . . . so maybe soon!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cria Watch 2011: Day 2

No cria today.

This weekend is the Minnesota Alpaca Expo

Come see us at the Four Seasons Center at the Fairgrounds in Owatonna, MN.

We are going to be showing our little boy, Lars.  He is just over 6 months old, and we are excited to see how he does in the show ring!

Here he is just over a month old.

I don't think that I will be able to pick him up anymore!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Any day now . . . (a.k.a. Cria Watch 2011: Day 1)


Bella is due any day now!  She sure is huge, and you can tell that there are times where she is uncomfortable.  It is supposed to be in the 40s and 50s all week, so we'll have some nice weather if she has her cria this week.

No cria today, so Cria Watch 2011 goes on!