Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cranking Out of 2011

Another year is coming to a close in a couple days.  If you read my blog entry from last New Year's, you know that I no longer make resolutions.  There's a reason for that.   I don't need anything else to fail at!

So, it gives me great pleasure to show some progress on the antique circular sock knitting machine that I purchased...ahem....three or four years ago!   

In my defense, the manual is a bad photocopy of the instructions from around 1930-40.  Apparently, if you lived during those times, you would have had a neighbour who had one that could show you how to thread the thing!  The lady that I bought this from had not used the equipment.

I dug out the parts and took advantage of the extra day off work plus the good nature of my family to make this yesterday's project.

The key point that I've learned is that you first need to make some netting to hold your weights.  And before that, my handy hubby had to come up with a device to help with the casting on of the thread.  Thank goodness for helped us get to this point.
At the right end, you see what the netting looks like.  It is made with every other needle installed.  The rest is knit with every needle installed.  I used some 2/8 cotton that I had in my weaving stash, so the knit isn't tight like it would be with sock yarn.  We put a knot in the end to hold the weight which kept the tension.  The whole thing went well until we tried to join some real sock yarn to this.

Our next task will be to produce a simple tube with sock yarn.  There's a few steps to learn before a real sock with emerge from this contraption. 

Don't look for an update on this anytime soon.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  2012 - can you believe it?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Peace and Joy

Well, Christmas is almost here.  Shiny coloured things all around!

This is the last bit of yarn painting that I did...probably the last of the year.  Interesting that these two skeins were painted using the same three colours: burgundy, olive and golden ochre.  The one you see on the left had the dyed applied with distinct colour repeats and little overlap.  On the skein shown on the right, I applied the dyes randomly throughout the skein and the colours mixed quite freely.

On a cool crisp day, the hayloft is one of my favourite places.  I'm not sure what it is about the hayloft that is so comforting.  Perhaps it is the peace in knowing that my alpacas will have enough to eat until spring pasture time.  It could be the quiet stillness and isolation of the hayloft is a good place for reflection.  It might be that the hayloft is a drawback in history, that the skeleton of this post and beam barn reflects decades of honest, hard work by farm families.  Our full hay loft is the result of the labour of two farm families - one who produced the hay and ours that put it up.


It doesn't matter to the herd that they eat the same hay from fall to spring...every new bale that gets brought out gets the same reaction.  It's like throwing candies into the middle of a kindergarten class.


I Wish You Peace and Joy at Christmas and always.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Miracles Happen: An Update

I was thinking of someone the other day, when I was reminded of the theme of my post from last Christmas, called Miracles Happen.
So I reread it.

Here's an update...

The young man in the hospital beat incredible odds and a dismal prognosis.  He came home.

The soldier whose last tour in Afghanistan ended just before last Christmas is expecting my friend's first grandchild!

My friend who spent last Christmas worried about her diagnosis was told that the cancer treatments worked.

And the weight that was on my shoulders is lightened by others.  There are angels among us.

Sometimes, miracles happen.

I still Believe.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December Trials...

The snow has finally arrived!  Oh,'s pretty.

 But why couldn't it just fall on the lawn and not the driveway?

Last week was a fun week of white-knuckle ice, then deep snow, frozen mounds of slush on the highway.  (Note to self:  if I'm worried about getting out of the driveway, I should perhaps stay home.)

Winter has arrived and, if history repeats itself, it will stay for 5 months.  I better get used to it.
It's time for me to look in the mirror and say "Suck it up, buttercup". 

Here's my latest handspun, handpainted, homegrown baby alpaca yarn on my umbrella swift.

The handpainting or handdying process makes a mess of the skein organization, so usually I will wind the skein from the swift to either a ball winder or a skein winder.  In this case, I needed to put the skein on the skein winder in order to measure the yarn.

I was lucky to buy this old skein winder off of a friend who salvages old fibre arts equipment, fixes it and resells.  Along with the swift, it's a valuable tool of my craft.  While my skein is on the skein winder, I can figure out how much yarn I have in my skein and from their determine how it compares to yarn standards in terms of yards per pound or meters per 100g skein. (yes, I have a metric to imperial conversion calculator!)  This is important to know if it will suit a weaving or knitting project, and whether I will have enough to complete the project.  

These are my two newest skeins. 

I can usually achieve a nice balanced handspun yarn.  This latest spinning project was a challenge.  I was using up some wonderfully soft cria fleece that unfortunately had a lot of second cuts from shearing and VM (vegetable matter like hay and twiggy things) in it.  I wouldn't sell that fleece because of that but the fibre itself was way too lovely to throw out (after all, my little cria spent a whole year growing it).  When you start with 'problem' fleece, even with careful preparation, it's hard to end up with rovings that just glide through your hands at the spinning wheel.  While spinning, I had to keep stopping to pick out clumps of crud.  Then, I decided to use my electric spinner, which I am still getting used to, to ply it.  I ended up with yarn that almost has the appearance of a boucle yarn...not what I planned but I think it will still create two shawls or large scarves for a couple of people that I love.  I'm excited to start those knitting projects.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wet Sundays are Good

Today is a wet Sunday in November. 

It's 10C today.  This is somewhat odd for our climate.  We've had an incredibly warm fall and have had no snow to date...none.  Not even freezing rain.  Usually by this time, we've had one or two days where the school buses are cancelled.  I'm not complaining.  I know the snow is coming.  In fact, the weather network says that we'll see it mid week.  I have my snow tires on.  I bought new winter barn boots.  Our cut firewood is piled and ready.    When the cold and the snow come, we'll likely be living with it for 4-5 months, so I will count my blessings for the extra time to prepare.

There's no obligations today that we need to leave home for.  I picked a couple jobs that needed to be done and we worked as a family to get them done.  One job was to replace the mailbox post that was run over by the guy that delivered our logs last month.  That was a rather big job, but it's done!

Now our day is meant for relaxation.  Comfy clothes, hot chocolate.  I've got some handspun yarn soaking in preparation for handpaint that I might get to later.  We might watch some of Season 1 of The Waltons that I brought home from the library.  Family is coming for supper...picking up Chinese food on the way.   Total relaxation is on the agenda!

I am knitting a very simple, long scarf in 100% alpaca of the highest quality.  In Canada's grading system, this quality is known as "Grade 1", but internationally, the fibre used in this yarn would be called "Royal Baby".  Whatever it's called on can just refer to it as "holy cow, that's soft".

I tend to knit pretty simple patterns because I'm not a very advanced knitter.  However, this scarf is absolutely beautiful in it's simplicity.  As I was knitting it, and thinking that it was such a simple pattern (knit 3 and purl 1 in 2 combinations, that's it!) and yet, the outcome was such a gorgeous scarf.

In reality, it is the yarn that makes this scarf a classic beauty that, with proper care will serve someone for a lifetime.  It will become softer with wear as the fibres in the yarn relax and bloom.  The rich natural colour of the fibres will not fade over time.  The same scarf pattern, if knit in a cheap, manmade fibre would simply not produce a classic piece. 

Knitting is labour intensive.  If you knit, you do because you enjoy it.  But it's your labour, your skill, your time.  Choose beautiful yarns made from natural fibres to create timeless classic knitwear.   

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November, BLAHvember

November in Northern Ontario.  Damp, grey, wet, cold, dark at 5:00pm.

All those fun things like:
- getting the snow tires on
- remembering to put my snow wiper in the car and buy some ice-melt at the hardware store
- trying to remember to put away all those tools before they get buried in the snow
- staying out of the bush so I don't get shot by a hunter
- lugging hay out through the muck of the barnyard
- the start of "hat-head" season
- the extra 2 lbs in the newspaper that is Christmas advertising
- someone reminding you that there are only 47 shopping days left, then 46, then 45, then 44...
- freezing rain
- fourteen hours of darkness and ten hours of grey dimness

and for me, November is also the month that my age changes.  Okay, the number doesn't just 'change' actually increases.

So, I am changing the name to BLAH-vember.

Are you with me?

Chin up.  We'll get through it with a big dose of Vitamin D.
And Vitamin F. (F is for fibre, preferably alpaca fibre in beautiful handdyed colours and it's also for friends that make you laugh)

Here's something else.

A few years ago, my sister sent me this silly card by the artist named Sark.  It was titled 'How to be a Succulent Wild Woman' and had suggestions like

- paint your soul
- be rare eccentric and original
- celebrate your gorgeous friendships with women
I have this card cover taped up where I can see it when I am doing office work.

Look what I found in the library the other day!

It's a lovely happy book by Sark, all about learning to cultivate pleasure in our lives no matter what else is happening.  Apparently, there is another book titled " Succulent Wild Woman".

This is good month for this book!
I hope you are finding pleasure these deserve it!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Meet Luxor

I'd like you to meet Luxor.  His registered name is Bolivian Luxor and he is the original herdsire here at Misty Haven Alpacas, since the fall of 2002.  Luxor had been imported into Canada from the U.S. in 1997 as foundation stock for the Canadian registry.  We purchased Luxor from a farm in Saskatchewan along with four females.  We knew his was a special alpaca from the start. 

He is handsome here in this winter picture from 2003.  Luxor always loved the ladies.  Whenever we needed him for service, all we had to do was whistle out the male's barn door and hold up the halter.  He'd come running, and you would swear that as he pranced past the girl's fenceline, he'd nod his head in their direction, give a wink and ask "Which one of you is feeling LUCKY today?"

We started this alpaca gig with no experience and no fellow breeders nearby.  But Luxor turned out to be a reliable breeder who didn't need any human advice or veterinary intervention to do his job.

He also had an abundant, thick coat and long staple length, and passed his nice conformation to the cria he sired.

Luxor was and is a tricky one when we are trying to trim his tonails or get him onto the shearing table.  He knows how to very quickly hit the floor and tuck all four feet under him so that you can't grab them.  We've learned to adapt and he has learned to trust us.

When he was a young stud, he was very aggressive with the other males.  At times, we had to separate him from the other male alpacas.  He was the dominant male and definitely did not want to give up his barn priviledges.

As the younger herdsires came to the farm,  Luxor did eventually lose his standing.  He served as the "spit-checker" for a year or so.  A "spit-checker" is put with a female who is expected to be pregnant.  If she is pregnant, she spits at him and runs away.  It took Luxor a little while, but he did figure out what the deal was.  He got so that he would walk into the barn, take one look at "her", give us a look that said "If you think I'm going in there with that crazy -----, you got another thing comin'" and turn back to the door.  So, we knew the female was pregnant.

At some point, we thought maybe he had just lost the urge to try (and you could understand how), so we called another young stud in as a double-check after Luxor had refused to tease the female.  I swear, as he was heading out of the male's door and the young eager stud was racing in with his tail up....I heard Luxor snicker and whisper to him "Go for it buddy, she WANTS you!!!"  Meanwhile, the big female was aiming gobs of green regurgitated grass directly at the incoming young fool.

The picture above was taken just last week. Luxor will be 15 years old this coming February. He chooses to spend much of his time in the back pasture, either alone or with the old gelding llama. He has his favorite shady stand of trees where he has his own sandy dustbath wore down. He wants no part in the wrestling and competing with the younger males.
His fleece is now pretty coarse. As he has aged, he's had warts show up on his ears and under his coat. Some mornings I have to walk out to the back pasture and call for him as he hasn't showed up at the barn. When he sees me, he will start to walk back to the barn, doing a pretty good Tim Conway impersonation. My friend Marj says that he just does that because he knows I'll wait 10 minutes for him to make his way to me.
The textbooks say that alpacas live to be 18-20 years in North America with proper care and nutrition. I personally question whether there have been enough statistics captured to make that statement. In South America, where alpacas originate, they are usually culled before their natural lifespan. I do know that the past few years, Luxor has maintained his weight and does not seem plagued with dental issues that is often the case with older alpacas. As I have said, I have noticed him moving slower this year but generally, I think Luxor still has a good life on the farm. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Choose to Hope

"Once you choose hope, anything's possible." ~Christopher Reeve

Never....give up.  Never...give in.

Keep believing, even when others say you shouldn't.

P.S. If you think this message is for you...that's exactly who I wrote it for.

Monday, October 10, 2011


It's been the most beautiful Thanksgiving weekend here in Ontario. 

Saturday morning was 25C and sunny.  I had a booth at the last Saturday farmer's market in North Bay.  I was looking forward to the nice weather for my outside booth, instead of huddling against a wet, cold, wind like usual.  Usually, my warm woolie goods don't sell as much in the warm, sunny weather, but for some reason, I had a super sales day.

Having a booth at the market is often a hit and miss for sales.  Some friends wonder why I would bother lugging my car full of goods, tent and tables, along with my sleepy teenager to the market for 4 hours of promotion in all kinds of interesting weather on a Saturday morning.  Sometimes I've wondered myself.  However, I always feel great after the market.  I talk to wonderful people, some are local, some are tourists from all over.  Many have an interest in the animals that I raise and the process of making fleece into yarn.   Most are appreciative of quality handcrafted goods.  Some are die-hard fibre art addicts like myself.  I always have great conversations there.  I've been involved on an occasional basis for 3 years now, and I've come to know many of the other vendors.  We are a committed group that know that our offerings of locally grown food,  quality handcrafted products and a great shopping experience bring value to our community.

 I have saved my seeds from my squash, lettuce, beans and tomatoes this year.  Packaged and labelled, they will go into the drawer for next year.  You may notice in the farm shot above that the middle small pasture has been tilled.  Part of that pasture will become a vegetable garden next year.  We will take the lessons learned from our little garden and expand next spring.

Saturday afternoon we went to the lake, cooked steaks on the open fire, then watched the stars over the lake into evening.  We slept with the windows open to a warm breeze.  In the morning, I took my coffee to the lake to watch the sun come over the hill and take the mist from the lake.  The lake was like glass reflecting the forest of autumn colours.  (Yes, you guessed it, I forgot to bring my camera.)  It was an incredibly beautiful scene, made even more special knowing how unusual weather this was for mid-October in Northern Ontario.

Somebody got massacred on the picnic table yesterday at home.

I spent part of today dyeing some beautiful colours while the turkey cooked.

I have much to be thankful for.

Monday, October 3, 2011

October Stay-cation

One thing our family does really well is work.  Declaring a "day off" is difficult.  As the "mom" of the household, I declared Sunday morning that we were going to have a much-needed "fun day".

With so much to do around here, it's hard not to commit to an hour or two of labour before taking the rest.  If it hadn't been for a broken ax handle, we would have put in an hour of chopping and piling our winter wood before hitting the road.

It's seems funny to say that on our day off from the farm, we drove to an agri-tourism destination called Leisure Farm.   The farm is a popular day-trip around our parts, although mostly for families with small children.  Our tall, teenage daughter still loves it though.  It was a beautiful, sunny October day.

This pig was hilarious.  He had his own pile of reject pumpkins that he was pigging out on.  Most times, he had his whole head stuck inside a pumpkin, and would then emerge with an orange-pulpy face.

There were about eight turkeys this size, trying to snooze in the sun by the parking lot.  It never lasted long, because some young children would invariably wake them up so that they could chase them through the parking lot.

The farm had wagon rides, a corn maze, a playground, a kids craft room, a marshmallow roast, and a kiddies haunted house.  You could also buy pumpkin, apples, lunch and baked goods.

This year, I reluctantly paid $14 for my daughter and I to go through a haunted house.  The sign said that you had to be at least 12 years old, so I thought it might not be too corny.  Well, my daughter and I had a very good scare.  My hats off to the young people that put it together, it was very professional.  There was always something touching you in the dark and the scenes that you came upon were very realistic and scary.  I probably have a bruise on my arm from my daughter clutching me so hard.  We screamed a lot in the dark and then laughed a lot when we got outside.  It was worth my money.

Here is a picture of my multi-tasking last week.

Judith McKenzie's "A Spinner's Toolbox" made is easy for me to get through peeling 10 lbs of carrots.  I had a hard time making time to finish watching that video, so having to sit to peel carrots was a good excuse to multi-task.

This video is a must watch for anyone who spins without the benefit of a good workshop or lessons.  I've been spinning yarn for about six years, and I cannot beleive that there were so many basic things that I did not know!  She covers worsted, semi-worsted, woolen, semi-woolen, slub and boucle styles.   I'm anxious to do some slub and boucle yarns as my next spinning projects.  I highly recommend this video to any spinners.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Day Spent My Way

We've had a lot of beautiful autumn days so far.  Tuesday was one of those days.  The sun was shining and made a perfect day for washing some windows. The temperature made it lovely to be outside and pull the garden that the frost had taken.  A nice warm breeze was perfect for hanging out blankets on the line.  I could leave the door open while dragging out the basement "barn room" rugs and boot trays to wash outside.

Oh, the list never ends...

But, I had something else on my list. 

So, Tuesday afternoon was mine...alone...

with a DVD that I borrowed from the my local spinners and handweavers guild...   

and my spinning wheel...spinning soft the kitchen, with the warm sunshine streaming in the window.

I needed that.  I should do it more often!

Take the time to do what you love.  You deserve it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cap Complete!

I finished my In-Between Seasons Cap that I knit in my lovely handspun 3 ply yarn.

I've had this yarn labelled and on my store shelves for a while.  One day it called out to me and said "Hey, I'd feel great wrapped around your head!".  And if you knit, you just know, that when a yarn calls to is time to listen (in other words, if you hear little voices in your head, it might be time to slow down and knit yourself something!)

The yarn was homegrown. I carded some fibre from my bay-black Cyrano with some lovely dark Polwarth lamb fleece. The colour is of the very darkest chocolate. It was spun and navajo-plied on my Lendrum DT.
This is a picture of my alpaca, Cyrano.  This picture was taken when he was about 3 or 4 years old.  By then, he had won a few show ribbons and would have just started his breeding career.  He is 8 now and has sired several offspring.

It was a good thing that I really enjoyed knitting the hat.  The pattern told me to start my decreases after I had 4 inches knit from the edge.  As I knit a few decrease rows, I had a feeling that I might end up with a hat that was too short for my big fluffy-haired head.  But I also feared getting to the end of my one ball of this handspun before getting to finish the hat.  So I took the chance, continued to knit the whole thing and as suspected, it didn't cover my ears.  I also had a good size ball left.  I ended up ripping the hat half back and putting in an additional 1.5 inches before the decreases.  I'm so happy that I did.  I love this hat, in the look, the fit, the colour and the OMG-its-so-soft yarn.  I may knit another hat in this pattern.  I enjoyed the twisted stitch patterns.

I've been taking advantage of the nice fall weather to get my raw fibre skirted and sorted in the shearing shed.  This is the tedious work that goes on between the day of shearing and the day that the fibre can be sent to the mill, but it needs to be done properly to ensure that the yarn is of top quality.  Because my shear shed isn't complete weatherproof, the day must be warm, not raining and not windy.  If I don't get it done while the weather outside is nice, then I have to drag my skirting table into the sunroom for the winter.  Skirting raw fleeces is a dirty job and I don't like having to do it in the house.

Dyeing is something else that I like to do before winter as well.  I heat the dyepots in my sunroom where the windows can be opened and the rest of the house is closed off from the smell of hot vinegar.

I've added a skill to my knitting bag - the Twisted German Cast On.  My friend showed me how to do this particular cast on method on a sock that I had started about 10 months ago!  The one sock languished in my knitting bag for a long time.  I recently picked it up and finished that sock.  Then I couldn't remember that cast on method that she had shown me.  YouTube to the rescue again!  It didn't take me long to find the KnitWitch video on Twisted German Cast On .  I cast on using the two needles of the circular held together.  This makes a nice, loose, stretchy edge on the top of my sock.

Do you look for something to put on your knitting needles as soon as the weather starts to turn cool?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Making Pickles

I confessed to a friend, Pat, recently that I had never made jam.

"What?", she said, "You, of ALL people, should be making jam!  You are a farm girl!"

Sister, this FARM girl grew up in suburbia. 

I did have enough farm visits to relatives to know where milk came from, to appreciate that something had to die so that I could eat roast chicken and know that nothing I could buy in a store could come close to my grandmother's apple butter. 

My grandparents were the original homesteaders that many "back-to-the-basics" folk are now trying to emulate.  (In fact, I think Ma and Papa would really get a kick out of the homesteading blogs that I follow and be amazed that people are having to research how to grow potatoes.)   My own mother grew up in "hard times" but she raised her own family during the "good times" when everything suddenly became available in ready-made form and families had the money to purchase all of their groceries.  I'm sure at one time, she would have made pickles, jams and preserves, but I don't recall it and the knowledge of this art was certainly not passed down.

So...I mentioned to hubby that I thought I would make pickles this year.  Thus set off a never ending discussion (which could be called debate) on what we would pickle, how we to pickle, what equipment we needed to pickle....and so on.  I quickly tired of pickling before we even started.

My teenager can eat a 1 litre jar of dill pickles in 2 days.  Hubby calculated how much we could save by pickling our own.  It was becoming evident that this pickling idea was not going to disappear and it was going to be a family project.

So, this morning, we were at the hardware store buying jars and tongs.  Then, to the grocery store to buy pickling spice and cider vinegar.  Then, to the vegetable stand to buy pickling cucumbers, garlic and carrots.

There we were, a family of three, working together to make dilled pickled, carrots and green beans for the first time.  Boiling water, knives and hot glass jars all in close proximity. 

Did I say "working harmoniously"?  No, I did not.

I'm glad to say that no one was hurt in the making of these pickles.

We are all proud of our production though.  We may do it again.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Blueberry Cake Recipe

Okay...I just KNEW when I posted that picture of the Blueberry Cake last week that I really should be typing out the recipe.  It's only fair because I've taken so many recipes from other blogs
(like Our Forest Haven).

But, I really didn't have the time to type it out and recheck it for I thought....

HEY, haven't I already admitted that THIS IS NOT A COOKING BLOG?

But, Val asked and I'm happy to share.  It's good and it's quick.  I've been making it for about...ahem...35 years (I know, you had NO idea I was that old, did you?)!!!!! 

During the blueberry seasons of my youth, my sister and I would spend hours out on Blueberry Hill with a canoe and our bathing suits and pots and Tupperware and friends.  There were always a few of these cakes made during the season.

This is picture of my recipe card. (Note she called it Squares, but it's the right recipe). The card is filthy from use and time spent in baking chaos.  It's my sister's handwriting.  Aren't these old recipe cards just precious family mementoes?  I have some recipe cards with my late mother's handwriting for recipes I'll never make, but I couldn't part with those cards that she penned.  It keeps us connected.

Blueberry Squares
1/3 cup margarine or shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup of milk
1 1/2 cup blueberries
(1 tsp grated lemon rind - optional)

Cream together margarine and 3/4 cup sugar.  Add vanilla and eggs.  Beat until fluffy.  Add dry ingredients alternately with milk.  Pour half the batter into oiled 9x9 pan.  Cover with mix of berries, 1/4 sugar (and lemon rind).  Pour remainder of batter over berries.  Bake at 350F for 45-50 minutes.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gardening Lessons Learned

My foray into vegetable gardening has not been a total bust this year.  We ate quite a lot of lettuce, and are currently eating purple beans.  I had a few cucumbers before the plants got run over by the squash plants.  I have several promising squash and an abundance of tomatoes...although they haven't turned red yet.  The little ones in the picture were ripened on my windowsill.  I'm not sure if the big ones will ripen, but they had pretty well overburdened their stalks and were sitting on the ground when I found them.  We'll see.

I've learned some lessons about vegetable gardening this year.

1.  It is possible to humanely evict a family of groundhogs that have made your garden their home, with the help of this neat battery-powered stake apparatus that chatters everytime the ground moves.

2.  It is best not to tell your neighbour where that new family of groundhogs in her garden came from all of a sudden and why.
3.  Plant half of the lettuce that you think you will need and plan for salads every night.
4.  Don't plant squash in your little 10 x 6 will end up with a jungle of squash plants.  Next year I will throw some seeds in the old manure pile and let them grow wild.
5.  Pick the beans sooner than later or they get tough.
6.  Pick the runner branches off of the tomatoe plants so that the stalks bearing flowers will grow big enough to support the tomatoes. (Who knew?  Now I do!).

Today, I baked a Blueberry Cake.  Delicious!

I rinsed out the alpaca fibre that I dyed yesterday.

I rinsed out the alpaca\merino blend lopi yarn that I dyed yesterday and then dyed some more.

And best of all...
I had a gentleman caller for lunch. (He brought his own).

Too cute, isn't he!

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Today, I feel like sighing.

Selling some livestock is part of the business of farming.  This morning, I prepared to transport some alpacas, including the two cria born here in June and a llama buddy that has been on my farm for nine years to a new farm.

The females have been sold for quite a while, residing on my farm to birth out their cria or to be bred while their new owners made their new farm ready for them.

I'm happy that they are going to such a great home, where I know they will be cherished and properly cared for.  And as a bonus, the farm is very close and I hope to be invited over to see them once in a while.

I had no other cria born on the farm this year.  So I won't be seeing cria pronking and playing silly in the front pasture now.  Perhaps I will train myself not to keep looking out the window to watch them.


I guess you can't blame me for being a little sad to say goodbye.


I keep telling myself that I'm free of the responsibility of having little ones in the field.  And I won't have any cria to wean in late fall or halter train in the spring.


So...anyway....I'm expanding my repertoire of knitting techniques.  I've wanted to knit a hat pattern called 'In-Between Seasons Cap' by Cathy Campbell (find it on Ravelry), and had picked some lovely soft handspun of Alpaca\Polwarth wool blend in chocolate brown from my ever-growing stash.  The pattern uses twisted stitches and describes how to do a twL and twR stitch.  Apparently, I just could not compute.  I tried these stitches several times to no avail.


Youtube to the rescue!!!
I found the Knit Purl Hunter who described it perfectly.  This lady has a lot of valuable videos on her website.

I love the look of the cabled band.
Knitting with this handspun alpaca/wool blend is heaven.


I heard someone describe the difference between commercial yarn and handspun yarn as "the difference between store-bought bread and homebaked bread".    Love it.


So...tonight my family is going to the movies.  It wasn't my turn to pick.  We are going to see "Rise of the Planet of the Apes".   Really.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Something Old and Something New

There's a new piece of equipment at Misty Haven Alpacas.  Well, it isn't actually new.  In fact, this tractor is about 72 years old.  It's an Allis Chalmers B...we beleive from 1939 or 1940. 

My husband and daughter have made a new hobby out of this old tractor.  And it works!  Although it needs some adjusting and a few replacement parts, hubby has been cutting the back fields with it and hauling the manure spreader with it.

There is something amazing about motorized equipment that works 72 years after it came off of an assembly line.  Why is it that our cars seem to expire after 10 years maximum?

It's not just the admiration for the strength of the metal and the simplicity of the mechanics to last over seven decades.  I can't help looking at this tractor and try to imagine the farmer that bought it when it was brand new so many years ago.

My grandfather loved the large draft horses on his farm.  I have a favourite black and white photo of me standing in the field with my Papa and his huge horse, Pete.  I was about 4 years old and the top of my head was at Pete's mid-thigh.  I am wondering how my grandfather viewed the advent of the tractor on the farm.  Was he happy, did he view it as progress or did he know that it would lead to the demise of the working farm horse and thus the bond between farmer and his horse.

I have a few new yarns in my shop.  I had a new yarn done at Wellington Fibres in Elora, Ontario this year.  This is a fingering weight 2-ply yarn in a blend of 60% alpaca, 30% kid mohair and 10% fine wool.  I've created handspun in this blend for a shawl last year, and it's a beautifully soft blend that blooms with use.  I usually handdye my farm's yarns, but this year I asked the mill to dye some of the yarn.  I was very happy with the colours.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

If I Won a Million Dollars...

I do buy the odd lottery ticket.  Strangely, I often think to buy it when the jackpot sign outside the store says that the night's draw is some bizzare amount, like $44 million.  Then, after I buy the ticket, I pray I don't win 44 million.  Really - who needs that much stress?  Or that many long-lost cousins?

But every once in a while...usually on days when I wake up to the news about the economic debt crisis and then open my email to find a panic message from my financial advisor...I think about what I would do with $1 Million Dollars.  The fact that last week, not one but both of my part-time jobs ended, may have prompted me to think a little heavier about this.

1.  I have some debt.  I'd definitely pay that off.

2.  I'm thinking that I have some people to show my gratitude.  However, the people top on of that list, my father and my in-laws are doing what they want in life and I don't think extra money would make them enjoy it more.

3.  I need expensive repairs to my farm bridge.  I'd reconfigure my farmyard and put up a separate barn for the males.  Farming would be simpler and the barnyard more tranquil.

4.  I'd definitely hire a housecleaner.  Well, after I cleaned the house, that is.  I'd be too embarrassed to have some stranger see inside my fridge or my laundry room.

5.  I would hire who I needed to do all those house repairs that have been half-finished or totally neglected.  (But would I have to clean the house first?)

6.  I'd spend some money to hire a competent alpaca-knowledgeable farmhand for a few weeks of the year, and take my family away on some fun carefree vacations.  (Who am I kidding?...I have a teenage daughter...carefree? for who? Mom?)

7.  I'd donate money to my favorite charities and non-profits.  Community Living comes to mind, but I don't have to look far for valuable organizations that are doing important work.

8.  I'd spend my days writing, reading, spinning and well....creating.  Oh, maybe I'd even have a well equipped studio built for me and my artsy friends!

Hmmmmmm...when I started writing this post, I didn't think that I'd be able to come up with many items on my dream list.  Now the ideas are coming quicker and becoming grander.  Time to stop.

I realize that I likely won't ever have that cool $1 Million to throw at the items on the list.  However...

1.  My debt will get paid...sooner or later...likely later.

2.  I can let the people in my life know that I am grateful to them every day.

3.  My bridge will get repaired in time.  Farming is pretty simple already and usually the farmyard is tranquil.

4.  I choose to only invite friends over who vow to ignore my chaotic, messy house because it gives me more time for creative expression.

5.  If all the house repairs were done...what could I nag my husband about?

6.  I spent part of today sitting in a boat reading while my daughter fished and then went kayaking and swimming with her.  That was after a morning of spreading manure and doing spit-checks on the pregnant alpacas along with my hubby.  Okay, it may not be YOUR dream vacation, but it was a pretty good day.

7.  I may not be donating money to my favourite charities this year.  Someday, I will.

8.  I don't need a fancy, picture perfect studio to have my artsy friends over.  I've had a lot of fun-filled afternoons with my fibre-art friends in my kitchen and sunroom.  This will continue. 

I don't need $1 Million to read books or write stories or spin yarn or felt scarves or weave rugs or blend fibre or dye roving.  I need to give myself time...that's all!

I live a blessed life and have everything that I really need...and more.