Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year 2010!

All the best in the new year to everyone!

I'm hoping to make it to midnight before crashing....(I'm writing this at 10:05pm, so it might actually happen!). We just got back from seeing Avatar at the theatre. Apparently, there are a lot of other people who don't do the party-thing on New Year's Eve, as the place was packed with couples and families. Everyone in my family absolutely loved this movie. I was blown away by the artistry and imagination in the scenery...I did find myself looking at a scene and trying to imagine how I might achieve those colours in my yarn dyes!

Last night, we drove into North Bay to watch the Olympic torch relay arrive. The torch was carried up to the stage by a special young friend of daughter Amy's named Nicholas. How exciting to see him run past the thousands of people who turned out to cheer the flame on. We tried to find Nicholas afterward to get his picture, but couldn't. North Bay has a population of about 50,000 and it's likely there were that many people on the streets of downtown last night.

I had a wonderful late present arrive yesterday in the mail.

This is from my wonderfully generous friend, Alice Groeneveld of Alpaca Plus, Inc in Alberta. It's knit from her aran weight 3 ply yarn of 80% alpaca and 20% merino with a thin metallic thread knit alongside. Alice and I met through our work with the Alpaca Canada Fibre Products committee a number of years ago and we really hit it off. I've been retailing her yarns here in Eastern Canada for the last few years...they are fab. Alice and her husband Lloyd were pioneers of the Canadian alpaca industry, and I daresay, Alice has a wealth of knowledge about alpaca fibre and yarn that is hard to match in North America. (She might shoot me for saying that...:) Anyway, I was quite pleased and touched by her thoughtful gift.

Speaking of scarves, I am knitting one out of some special handspun alpaca\merino blend. The pattern is called Autumn Days Scarf by Aimee Alexander. It's a fun knit and I'm anxious to see it blocked and finished.

So, New Year's is the time for resolutions. So here are mine...well, the ones that aren't too personal to publish on the web, anyway:
  1. Buy less but buy better (better quality and locally if possible)
  2. Spend more time with my carder
  3. Spend more time with my electronic spinning wheel
  4. Spend more time with my dyepot
  5. Have less time without a warp on my loom.
  6. Get down one jean size.
All the best everyone. 2010 is gonna be GREAT!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Fun, Food and Family

Hopefully, that's what everyone's past few days have been about.

You know you're a mom when....

I received these from my darling 13 year old daughter. They make me giggle when I wear them.

I also received a Wii Sports Resort game! I love it! I never really enjoyed the Mario Kart game that we had...I'm a bit spastic for to many visuals going on at a high speed. But these games, I like. I am like 'totally awesome' at wakeboarding. There's something kind of sick with my family that we enjoy watching our little Wii guys plow headfirst into a bouy marker.

I've tried the dog-frisbee, archery and the plane games so far. Great family fun.

Okay - so I had to get something alpaca and yarn-ish in here.

These are the wonderfully soft socks that I made for Gary this Christmas. This is great yarn - it soft of felts itself with wear. The socks I have like this are totally solid on the sole. Totally toasty, too.

I've got a bad cough that's lasted 9 days now and is disturbing everyone's sleep. I hope it clears up soon. The good thing about it is, that I'm trying to give myself some R&R and not stress about things to be done.

The library where I work part-time is closed and with the fall yarn and gift sales season over, I should be able to cut myself some slack.
I'm reading Wally Lamb's "I Know This Much is True". The book is quite heavy - in both size and content. I'm glad I have this free time to get through it. He's a great author.

I rearranged my store today and brought my electric carder into the store. The rest of the house has too much static at this time of the year to card fibre successfully. I've started my year-end inventory today and am trying to resist getting my 'LIST' started. You know...the list that says what I need to paint Amy's bedroom, get two scarf warps started, get some yarn dyeing done, get ahead on my carding, etc. Arggghhh....

I found a nice scarf pattern yesterday that I think suits the 160g of handspun that I was trying to find a use for. This yarn started out as a large batch of handspun, but I have sold the rest of this lovely stuff made into wraps. It's a special yarn that was made from a blend of my crias that were born in our first year of raising alpacas. I will keep this scarf for myself.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

O Tannenbaum!

O Christmas Tree! It's fake - can you tell? I promise I will never buy another one...well, maybe if it comes with the lights already installed. 10 more days until Christmas. Our community public school had their Christmas concert tonight. The countdown is on.

Here's a spinning project that I've been wanting to try for some time now. I handspun the alpaca\merino blend singles and now I am plying them together with a polyester thread strung with beads. I'm finding it kind of tricky to hold the beaded thread in one hand to pop a bead off into the yarn while plying. The tendency is to hold back on the thread itself, so it is much tighter than the singles yarn. I'm thinking that the colour beads on the white yarn looks kind of clownish, but perhaps it will make a nice edging on a scarf or shawl someday. Come to think of it, it looks a little Christmas-sy itself.

Our chickens are not loving the winter...although they do venture out of the chicken house to get fresh air.

The rooster Big Red is a handsome devil, isn't he?
The hen's name is Elsie.

People ask me whether alpacas like the Northern Ontario winters. Well, they do like the cold weather of December better than the heat and humidity of our typical August. They need shelter from the wind and from getting too wet, but other than that, they do very well in our climate. Today was a mild winter day, but when the sun started going down, it got cooler. In the twilight - which now happens about 5:30pm - I could see this 6 month old weanling and another running about playing and pronking. It's fun to watch.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Yes, it has been a while since I've written. It's that time of year...things are busy for the shop and in life.

I've had two open houses at the farm store and participated in a one day craft sale. I also turned a year older during all this (if anyone asks...39...really;)).

Saturday was my second open house. The traffic out to the farm is dependent on the weather. And boy, did it snow Friday and Saturday morning. Here's the view of the barn area from my back sunroom. Luckily, the snow stopped late morning and the sun came out. In fact, two of my regular customers came out on their way to go kayaking. (May I suggest alpaca underwear?)

We've had a very mild fall. On the good side, the alpacas were grazing in the pastures up until last week. On the bad side, with the ground not frozen, the barnyard was getting pretty mucky.
Like others who don't ski or snowmobile, I generally don't look forward to seeing the white stuff in this quantity. But with the snow came colder temperatures at night, which makes the ground more solid in the barnyard.

Another plus for the snow fall, is that Gary and Amy got to test out 'Zelda' she has been named by Amy. We bought this beater which was sitting dead at some hunt camp outside of New Liskeard this summer. Gary and Amy have been fixing it up for a farm vehicle. It helped us gather fallen wood in the fall and now, with the plow on the front, will make the driveway cleanups more comfortable than the tractor with the snowblowing attachment.

I drive a PT Cruiser year round. Last week, I invested in studded winter tires for the first time in 26 years of owning vehicles. I think it was money well spent.

Here's a picture of my shop. I carry alpaca based yarns and finished products, all from Canadian farmed alpaca and everything is made in Canada. The yarn, especially, is getting somewhat picked over at this time of year. I'll be looking at buying fibre from another farm after New Years', so that I can get some milled yarn ordered ahead of our farm's spring shearing.
There is a pretty big turn around time and effort to turn fleece from the alpacas back into yarn, even if it is milled. Shorn fleece needs to be handpicked for removing vegetable matter, sorted into grades appropriate to end use and by colour variation. This is bagged and labelled. Then it is either brought or shipped to the mill, for discussion with the mill personnel for desired blend, meterage and twist. There is a waiting list at the mill, typically of six months or more. When I get the yarn back from the mill, there is often washing required, sometimes dyeing. The meterage is checked and for knitting, a swatch to check the gauge. Then labelling before stocking on the shelves. There is a lot of hand-work and skill that goes into putting quality yarn on the shelves, whether it is handspun or millspun.

This little fellow is Buddy, our daughter's dwarf male rabbit. I found out I was allergic to rabbit fur while blending angora with alpaca for my own handspun. That blend makes such a very lovely soft yarn that I shall probably continue to blend it and spin it, but only when I can work outside. Some things are worth the itchy eyes. Just like 'Buddy hugs'.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday the 13th!

Not only is this day remarkable, being Friday the 13th...but it is also the birthday of my sister Sue. Being 2 years apart in a big family, Sue and I, at one time shared a room, a bed and even bathwater! We may not be as present in each others lives now, but we share some similar memories of where we came from and who we once were. Happy Birthday, Sue.

Here in Corbeil, we are still enjoying a very mild and sunny November, although it is frosty in the morning. This is a picture of Benecio in the barn this morning...notice the frost on his head and back.

Velma, the silkie chicken, is very eager to sit on her egg. Perhaps, she's the smartest's a whole lot warmer in the hen house than out on the ground outside. Isn't she pretty? She won't move when you go to get the egg, she's quite protective.

I did some yarn dyeing today. I have some white alpaca\merino blend that was spun at the mill into thick singles. It wasn't what I expected to get back as it's a bit overtwisted, but, that just gives it some other possibilities. I am having fun with the dyeing though. This is what I dyed in the crock-pot last week.

Today, I tried a bit different method of crock-pot dyeing with the 3 primary colours. It's still cooking. I'm not sure if it will be to 'clownish'. I layered the skeins and the ones on the bottom got kind of muddy...but perhaps a nice muddy? We'll see when it is done.

I also did some immersion dyeing with just purple. It's still cooling in the pot, but it looks like the purple took differently at different places. This is probably because I soaked all the white yarn in vinegar, instead of soaking the immersion batch in a soap bath. The vinegar made some areas take the dye too quickly. That's my theory, anyway. I'm still learning...always learning.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

16 Celcius on November 8th!!!

What a gorgeous weekend this was! All the more appreciated after having the first day of winter driving through snow and slush on Thursday.

The alpacas were taking advantage of the beautiful weather to try to get the last of the pasture goodness. It's amazing that there is actually green grass at this time of year, but all the rain and fairly warm fall has helped.

The sky was so blue today, compared to November's usual gloominess. I feel uplifted.

The spring cria don't know how good they have it. They'll get a taste of their first winter soon enough. Actually, alpaca take the winters here pretty well. They have lots of fleece to keep them warm, access to the barn and shelters with straw bedding to cuddle into.

This fellow is MHA Vivaldi. He was named by one of the fibre artists who gather at my farm on my annual 'Fibre Fun with Friends' day in June. I call him Valdy for short. He's a handsome lad with promising fibre. It's been hard to get a good picture of him...he'd rather hide behind the other cria or his momma, usually.

Having lived most of my life in Northern Ontario, we know better than to take this weather for granted. Today, we got the snow equipment ready and put away some more firewood.

This week, wear a poppy. Say thanks to a veteran. Say an extra prayer for the men and women serving our country today and for their families. Talk to your children about why we observe Remembrance Day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Spinning Faster...

I'm spinning so fast, it's making me dizzy :)

No, not really, but...

I remember when I bought my first wheel, a Lendrum DT, my DH offered to "put a motor on that thing". I gave him a look and told him that he was missing the point of spinning.

Someone once likened spinning to the "new Yoga". Well, I have to agree. Spinning for pleasure is meditative and relaxing, as any spinner can tell you.

However, every June I have the job of turning a trailer full of fleece into dollars. Most of the farm's harvest gets taken to the mill to turn into rovings, batts, yarn or felt. However, those special 'best' fleeces or the odd-ball colour\grade fleeces are washed, carded and spun by yours truly for sale as skeins or garments.

I had been half-heartedly looking at the Roberta on the internet. An Ertoel Roberta promised more consistent yarn in a faster rate while saving my ankle joints from treadling.
But, I didn't know anyone who actually used one and the new sticker price was beyond my current gambling limit.

Then about a year and a half ago, I had the great luck to hear about someone in my region selling an electronic spinning wheel. It turned out to be an Ertoel Roberta.

And the price tag on a used one was worth the gamble. Especially, if I could process more fibre at home rather than paying mill processing costs (I can justify any expense :)).

Well, even though it has taken me a year and a half of 1) findling around with it 2) getting frustrated with it 3) swearing at it and 4) staring at it for Roberta and I have finally bonded. It took some adjustments and oiling, and use to both wear it in and get comfortable with it.

The on\off switch and the speed control are hand knobs on the front of the unit. This is a bit awkward when you start out. I was going to either get a pause-switch foot pedal or have DH make one, but it never got done. Now that I'm used to it, I don't think I actually need one.

I used some Polworth from my old stash to test drive her. It ended up quite overtwisted, but I'll use it for some spare mitts.

Then, I started spinning some of my 70% alpaca\30% merino rovings. Since I don't have a 3rd bobbin for plying on my Roberta, I plied on my Lendrum.

I'm really happy with the result. It's very consistent and wasn't overspun.

I'm starting another batch of the same yarn and I'm going to track my time this round.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mini-Vacation Ends

Slow getting this post up...I've been back for 8 days and I need another mini-vacation (warning to "the Nancy's" not to answer the phone!)

After saying my goodbyes to Nancy and Paul and leaving the Silver Cloud Alpaca farm, I drove over the beautiful countryside to Stirling to visit Marj Brady at Amazing Graze Alpacas. Boy, the sky was blue that day...a perfect day to go and check out Marj's fine herd. Just look at this shot...isn't that a perfect fall day?

Following a nice but too short visit at Amazing Graze Alpacas, I drove over to Enniskillen to Spinning Wheel Alpacas, farm of Nancy and Garth Hutchinson. For the past two years, I've joined Nancy in a booth at the CreativFestival in downtown Toronto. This year, I couldn't participate, but thought I'd pop down with Garth to the show, in time to help Nancy dismantle her booth.

The CreativFestival was a smaller footprint this year, but from my quick scoot through before closing time, it looked like there were more fibre and yarn vendors.

It was too short a visit with Nancy this time, but I did get to check out her new critters! Her alpacas (of course), angora rabbits, new LGD puppies, rescued pot-belly pigs...and ROCKY! Rocky is a young male camel that Nancy is fostering for a local zoo. Nancy is committed to training Rocky on halter and to trailer.

You might have seen Rocky and Nancy in the Toronto Star earlier in the month. It's like a love story...which is a bit twisted (but have to know my friend, Nancy, to understand that:)).

Anyway...visits to the Hutchinson's farm is always interesting and always too short.

What I appreciate about the time spent with these other alpaca fibre producers, besides their warm friendship, is the information and knowledge shared about our product improvements and discoveries. (Sometimes, seeing the great things that others are doing keeps the fire under us to work harder!)

Home again, home again....jiggity-jig.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mini-Vacation Starts...

Where does an alpaca-farmer-slash-fibre-artist go on a mini-vacation....

Friday, I started out heading east along Highway 17. I stopped at Deep River where there is a really wonderful Artisan cooperative shop where I bought a few little gifts. Then a meandering drive south-east to the Wilton Road Mill at Oddessa where I picked up my new yarns, rovings and felt. I'm loving my replenished supply of rovings and this new yarn pictured below. This lofty 2 ply yarn is a blend of several colours in my herd and blended with 30% merino.

Then I carried on to arrive at the farm of my good friend's Nancy Carr and Paul Ropp of Silver Cloud Alpacas in Elginburg. Nancy's a well-respected alpaca breeder and knitter. Paul is a serious baker of things that delight me. Here, I get to wake up in the quiet farm house bedroom to the aroma of coffee and cinnamon buns.

On Saturday, I was fortunate to be able to go to a fibre arts event in Napanee, where several talented fibre artists were have a show at the historical McPherson House. One of these talented women was Tracey Asselstine, a handspinner,knitter,weaver,fibre farmer. Tracey is also the person who I entrust with producing yarn from my fibre, as she also works at Wilton Road mill. Her work is beautiful. Even I couldn't resist picking up a little handspun hat for my daughter.

Saturday night, Paul and Nancy treated me to a the light-hearted play 'Letter from Wingfield Farm' starring Rod Beattie at Ganonoque's 1000 Island Playhouse. What a treat!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A New Hat!

Yeah, I finished my hat from my hand paint handspun. I kinda just winged a pattern. It ended up a bit big, but I'm happy with it. I like the little I-cord with tassels from the top. It's not a style that I would typically wear, but I've grown attached to the yarn and want it on my head :)

This long weekend, we all wore off some turkey and pie by clearing up some deadfall and bush from the pastures to top up the woodshed. It's the kind of work that makes you feel good physically and mentally.

We've been watching the Weather Network's report of snow in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I guess we are next!! So warm hats and stove wood are good things....

We've been watching this little industrious guy stripping the pinecones off the trees around the house lately.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's a time to be thankful for all we hold dear. Have a safe weekend and hug the ones you're with.

Monday, October 5, 2009

My Hat Project

After spinning some of my hand painted rovings (70% my alpaca/ 30% somebuddy else's merino), I had a hard time deciding to try my hand at Navajo Plying. (For those non-spinners, it's a way of plying that uses one strand looped within itself like a crochet chain. For painted rovings, it allows colour to stay together in lengths of the 3 ply yarn.)
Well, I ended up with a useable yarn, but I'm going to have to practice this. The yarn was quite overtwisted.

I've started knitting a simple hat for myself.

Yesterday, we went to the Sturgeon River Museum in Sturgeon Falls, Ontario for their annual Cranberry Festival. We had a great breakfast of pancakes and sausage there, then took in the museum and visited the artisans on display. We skipped the expedition to the cranberry marsh, as we had an outside day planned at home. I was pleased to run into a fibre artist friend who had a booth there, along with several other quality artisans. The museum is worth a day trip any time, as they displays of the history of logging, the fur trade and the people of the area are very educational.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Well, we made it to the International Plowing Match in Earlton on Friday. We caught the train in North Bay at 7:00a.m. and arrived at the Tent City at 10:15a.m. It was Amy's first train trip. The scenery of the wilderness lakes of Northern Ontario brought back some nice memories for me. Hats off to the people of the Earlton area for pulling this off. The IPM is always an amazing sight, but to realize that it was done in Northern Ontario for the first time - where infrastructure, accomodations, food vendors, and emergency personnel are not available without much planning - well,.. remarkable...
Amy had another first, getting a chopper ride with her dad.

Also, for the first time, Misty Haven Alpacas yarn and rovings are conveniently available in another yarn store in downtown North Bay. Congratulations to Rae Brenne, for opening Stix and Stones this summer. Rae stocks some of the nicest yarns available from around the world. Before her store even opened, Rae searched me out at my farm to see my products as she knew her customers would be looking for locally farmed, Canadian milled quality alpaca yarns.
Here's a picture of Rae in her store and that's Misty Haven Alpaca yarn and rovings on the shelf beside her!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Harvest Rewards!

It's the nature of the fleece to yarn business that you have to wait a very long time to see the end result of your labour.

Just prior to last weekend's studio tour, I picked up part of my mill order from the bus parcel office. While still in town doing errands, I ran into my pal Rebecca in a plaza parking lot. "Want to see my new yarn?" I asked? We ripped open the box and found my new yarns.
They still felt damp.
"WOW - FRESH yarn!", Rebecca exclaimed, rubbing the skein against her neck.

I've never heard my harvest called fresh. We sheared late May, it takes quite a bit of time to skirt and sort the fibre properly and then get it to the mill. I was fortunate to get some of the order back by September. There is often a 6-7 month wait at the mini-mills.

Here's the FRESH stuff....a 3 ply sock blend I've named 'Blueberry Smoothie" and a grey-green alpaca/silk blend "Nipissing Granite".

This past weekend's Country Roads Tour was very successful and I enjoyed meeting many new visitors to the store.

Today, the International Plowing Match opens in Earlton, Ontario (new New Liskeard). This is the very first time in the IPM's long history that it has been situated in Northern Ontario. The people in the area have been working so hard to make this a success. I'm looking forward to taking the special excursion train for the day with my family. I've worked a booth at previous IPM's in Eastern and Southern parts of Ontario and it's always been a great time.
This will be Amy's first trip on a train. Such adventure awaits!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Country Roads Tour

If you are in the vicinity of Nipissing-Almaguin (North Bay/Restoule/Callander) area this coming weekend of Sept 19th and'll want to take in the 29th Country Roads Fall Tour.

We are Studio #3 on the tour. Come and check out our new yarns, handwoven and handknit accessories. Find out about alpacas and the wonderful fibre that they produce.

Along the tour, besides Misty Haven Alpacas Yarn and Garments, you will find the work of 13 other unique artists and artisans:

Maggie's Mouse Nest, At Wit's End, Jack Lockhart Art Gallery, Afrocentric North, Stroke of Genius, Ash Creek Pottery, Trach Art Studio, Edna Scott Art Studio, Studio in the Grove, PieBird B&B, Board's Honey Farm, Rockcliffe Pottery and Craft Shop, Commanda County Gardens

Find more information at:

Green with Envy

Well, I think I can say with all certainty now that I am a farmer.

There was a day that when eyeing a friend in a great suit or an exquisite pair of leather boots, I might have been quite jealous and in dire need of a shopping trip. However, the other day, while reading my newly arrived issue of "Camelid Quarterly", I spotted an article written by my friend, Marj Brady of Amazing Graze Alpacas. The article was a humorous take on manure management. While the article was entertaining, I was more captivated by the photo of Marj's pastures.

Yes -- I had a serious case of Pasture-Envy. Marj's were lush and green...the same shade of green as my jealousy.

Gary and I have been keeping our eye out for an inexpensive small-scale manure spreader for a long time. Most of the used ones are for large tractors and the new small scale ones are quite pricey. It just so happens that on friday, I had to run an errand to "the tractor place". If I hadn't seen Marj's photo earlier, would I have asked "the tractor guy" once more whether he ever came across a used small-scale spreader?

Well, I did. And he did! The right size, the right price and home it came...

Isn't it a thing of beauty, too? Not one of those shiny metal things, this beauty has a history to it!

It works like a charm. The sh-t really flies!!! In fact, it worked so well, my 13 year old daughter thought it looked like more fun to work with her dad than to go shopping at the mall. An that in itself is priceless!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Living to Dye

For those that know me... lately, I've fallen in love with colour...colour....colour.

We all know that alpaca fleece comes in a wide range of natural shades from snow white, browns to true black. However, everyone who markets their homegrown yarns know that the bright fashion colours fly off the shelves faster than anything. So my journey into dyeing was purely business....but WOW, I've found that discovering and playing with colour on my rovings and yarn is a new passion. I do my handpainting on a table in my sunroom that looks over my front I can watch my chickens and alpacas while experimenting with colour blending on my yarn.

And yes...I watch chickens! We've acquired some lively little young chickens this summer. Buff Banties and Silkies. When I mention how fun they are to watch when I talk to people...I get one of two reactions...1) strange looks from people as they kind of take a step back or 2) adamant agreement from people who have ever lived on a farm with 'real' chickens (not the commercial modified Franken-chicken). I had my sister visiting from the big city and we ate supper in the sunroom while watching my 'happy chickens'...even she agreed that watching my happy chickens was better than anything on TV! Still waiting for the first eggs, though! Hearing the cock-a-doodle-do from 'Bates', the silkie rooster brings a smile to my face every morning. That's worth gold, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First Post at Misty Haven Alpacas!

Welcome World to Misty Haven Alpacas.

Today started like most of my days. Get up, let the dogs out (Molly and Lucy), put the coffee on, out to the barn to let the chickens out, feed the alpacas and llamas, feed Smokey the barn cat, back home to feed Beatrice the house cat, have coffee with Gary and Amy.

Now the day starts....