Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Smokey the Barn Cat

Meet Smokey the Barn Cat.

Our property is divided between the 1 acre that the house sits on and the 89 acre farm by a creek. Our dogs stay on the house side of the creek. Smokey (usually) stays on his farm side. Every morning and every evening, Smokey waits for his people to come visit him. He does keep a good eye out for the dogs. Smokey is a great barn cat. He never strays far and will follow us out around the pastures like a faithful friend. His former home was a university frat-house...I think he likes it here much better. He has a cat-door into a heated room in the barn. He gets wet and dry food, flea protection and vaccinations. He's in top form. He even has a girlfriend next door who visits but doesn't want to move in.
Smokey knows that the dogs are getting old and it's only a matter of time before he makes the move from the barn to the house to spend his retirement.

Look like a photo from a National Geographic article on some poor drought ravaged nation?
Well, sadly, this is one of the alpacas dust bath areas in the pasture. At the end of March, this should be a puddle. Yikes, it's dry this year!

Oh, the excitement spring brings! Here are my female alpacas in the front pasture...all on guard and sounding the alarm calls! What could it be?
Curious, I donned my boots and sweater and headed over to their side of the bridge.
Bravely, with camera in hand, I went over to the fence-line. I couldn't see anything but boy, the girls were upset and staring towards my neighbour's field.
So I headed down the fence-line, toward the brush area, to get a better look. Maybe a deer, a coyote, a bear?
The alpacas all made a quick start and made a dash toward the barn.
For that brief second, I thought "Hmmmm....perhaps I should have brought something other than a camera." (I've had those thoughts a lot over the think I'd learn!)

Then, I saw my neighbour Ed, dressed in a black snowsuit, heading out of his old metal outbuilding...probably getting his landscaping tools out for the spring.

I should have known. Last week, the girls were very upset because my westerly neighbour parked her van behind her garage, instead of front as usual. This kept them excited for over an hour.

Another exciting time on the farm!

Another egg picture! Friday, I'll be decorating eggs with my daughter. Have a safe and enjoyable Easter weekend.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cria Memories

Well, it's just a couple months until the new Misty Haven cria are expected. If all goes as planned, we will have 3 young alpacas scooting around in early June. For the first time on this farm, all the pregnant females are first time moms.
Anyway...I've been spending way too much time looking through the pictures of cria today...reminiscing. Some of these little ones have grown up on the farm and stayed. Some have moved on to other farms.

Okay...I have to say it, cause you are all thinking it. CUTE! CUTE! CUTE!

Actually, these pictures above are all of cria that are between a few hours and a few weeks old. They get even cuter once their fleece gets a bit longer and they get a bit pudgy and "grow into their ears".

Cria average from 14 to 20 lbs at birth. We had one weigh in at 24 lbs once. They hit the ground (literally because mom is usually standing, sometimes continuing to eat grass) and are immediately trying to get up. They've usually found their balance and are on their way to the "dairy bar" within an hour of birth. Alpacas are usually born between 6am and noon. By evening, they are racing around the field trying out their legs.

For the most part, we keep a distant eye on the birth proceedings and mom handles things all on her own. We've had many births on the farm and have only had to get "hands-on" a few times.

Given that the average gestation is over 11 months, the anticipation is high to see what last year's breeding strategy will produce.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Chickens Gone Bad

Somehow in college, while studying and working, I had the time to follow a soap opera. My drug of poison was 'Days of Our Lives'. Twenty-some years later, I've flipped the channels and found that series...many of the names are the same. I bet that if I watched it for 3 days, I'd recognize the same plots being played out.

We have our own daily production here. Today's title is "Chickens Gone Bad".

While I was supposed to be catching up on some handpainting in my sunroom....

I spotted Big Red outside the pasture fence. Apparently, he and a couple of the Elsies struck out on their own. I kept an eye on them hoping that they would decide to go home on their own.

They really can't get in much trouble unless they go mess on the neighbour's deck or they venture over to our house where the dogs are sleeping on the deck.
I'm sure Big Red had big plans of starting his own coop without any male competition.

I could hear some pretty sad rooster sounds. I don't know if it was Bates back at the coop trying to figure out where his missing two hens went. Maybe it was Big Red, now regretting his idea and realizing that the two Elsies weren't the ticket to hedonistic freedom he thought they were.

Well, after a while, I couldn't see them anymore so I headed over to the barnyard to find them and herd them home. It wasn't hard.
Sometimes the grass just looks greener on the other side. Their little outing complete, Big Red and the two Elsies were happy to rejoin the flock and resume exploring the thawing fields in search of the first worm.

Yep, it's been a slow day on the farm ;)

A few bellies are starting to show. Here's Makushla.
She should be having her first cria in early June. "Cria" (pronounced cr-ee-ah) is what alpaca babies are called. I often get asked in public if I am having any babies this year. Since I don't like having the people from Guiness World Book of Records calling me about my own reproduction status, I answer clearly and loudly "Well, not me, but I have three alpacas expecting cria in June."

I've finished weaving my heron and black alpaca scarves. Hand twisting the fringe is not my favorite task. I find it boring and have to be in the mood to basically sit and roll my thumbs...
It's a good feeling when it's done, though. I'm happy with the first one that I've finished. I brushed the textile to make it even softer.
This one will be going in my shop.

I've also been busy skirting and sorting fleece that I bought from my friend and alpaca farmer, Sally. I know Sally from the shows and association happenings, but I've never seen her herd as she lives many hours away. I was very pleased with the fleeces that I bought from her sight unseen. It takes beautiful fleeces to make beautiful yarn, and this batch of yarn should be wonderful.

It feels like we've been living in spring for weeks now. Apparently, tomorrow is the first official day of spring. I think we are expecting cold weather and snow. Go figure...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fantastic, It's Friday!

Funny that I should feel like "Thank God It's Friday", given that I don't work a regular Monday to Friday work week. But I do.

Here in Ontario, we are having record breaking warm temperatures for this time of year.
Look, it's not even the middle of March and there are green things growing where the snow is melting!

Still some snow left, but the llamas have been out walking to the big pine in their pasture. See their tracks?
That big pine must be very old. I've only been around this property for 28 years and it has a huge history for me. Nephews and nieces had forts in those branches. I used to pick raspberries underneath...that was until the llamas came and found that raspberry bushes make good bellyscratchers. I always think of the history of these old trees and how many other previous owners of this property have used this tree for shade while taking a break from working the fields. How many other people have watched a lightning storm, hoping that their favorite big pine would be saved.

The chickens are venturing outside these days, excited to be looking for yummy things.
However, when I spread some hay on the ground for the alpacas right next to the chicken house...the chickens decided to run for cover before the alpacas remembered how much fun chicken-soccer was.

Alicia decided to cooperate with me and give me some good pictures.
If you aren't an alpaca-producing fibre fanatic, you might look at these pictures and admire the cute face.
And you might be thinking about what a gentle looking unique creature an alpaca is.

I, on the other hand, look at Alicia and see....
This picture is of product created from her last year's fleece.

I am getting anxious for harvest time again! It's easier to rub the fibre against your neck, when it's off the animal. If you don't understand what I mean by probably aren't a knitter or weaver. (smile)

If you are enjoying my blog and if you have the time, please leave a comment.

Have a good weekend.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Is Spring Possibly Here?

Temperatures here have been unseasonally warm and sunny here this week.
Everybody is asking "Is this it?"

Yesterday, I saw my first motorcycle of the year on the road. It was a perfect Northern Ontario spring day. Blue sky, clear roads and the snow on the snowmobile trails was still packed and hard enough to take a long hike through the bush with my daughter.

However, I remember that our members event on May 31 last year was cancelled due to a snow storm. Yes, that was a freak weather event, but having lived most of my life in Northern Ontario...I know not to put the snow tires or the plow away.

View of the farm from the back yard.

Pine trees and blue sky...this is where I always will call home.

My weekend dyeing, rose and denim 4 ply bulky 100% alpaca. It's available in the store now. I knit myself a afghan out of this yarn in natural cream....yummy, warm and soft. It does have a weight to it, which is perfect for a snuggly afghan.

This is my most senior dog, Molly. She'll be soon turning 14. We've had her since she was a pup from the pound, so she's been through a lot with me. Molly is the kind of dog would put herself in between me and a bear to protect me to the end. It's sad to see her getting tired and slow.
Thanks for reading my blog and I really appreciate it when people leave comments. It makes me feel connected.

I have a few favorite blogs that I follow. It is addictive. Check this one out when you have time. It's from a lady in Australia who is keen on living simply and it's chock full of good ideas. The funny thing is, with the time difference, I read her Friday entry on what is our Thursday night...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

It's March and It's Sunny!

Well, I can't say that I haven't posted because I've been extremely busy! I often just forget to be taking pictures of everything.
And admittedly, I think the Vancouver Olympic coverage took over my life for a while!

The infamous black alpaca jacket is closer to being a reality. Suzanne has finished weaving...7 yards in a week...what a woman! And it is truly perfection.

She had a bit of warp left on the loom when the black alpaca weft was used up, so she wove the last bit with some black wool boucle, so we should have some matching purses!
I might be testing my friendship here...Suzanne has made me 3 mock jackets in cotton sheeting to try to find the perfect fit without any chance of tugging on the shoulders. The textile is slippy and Suzanne is afraid that it may distort the fabric over time if there isn't enough give at the shoulders. I'm learning an amazing amount about textiles and garment construction from Suzanne.

Even Quincy is impressed! "Black alpaca is totally stunning and always in fashion", she says.

Well, I've taken my own woven scarves project off the loom at the studio this week. Hopefully, I can post a picture here soon with the fringes done, washed and pressed.

I have been doing quite a bit of handpaint dyeing lately.

These are skeins of 2 ply sock yarn in 60%alpaca/20%merino/20%nylon blend. I'm pleased with the result and they are on the store shelves now.

This is my handspun 2 ply yarn of alpaca\kid mohair\merino blend. I intend on knitting a shawl for myself. I had handpainted it, but the colours were brighter than I wanted, so I overdyed it with blue.

I'm very happy with the results.