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'.