Friday, January 29, 2010

Cookies and Storybook Alpacas

I do like cookies, better than cake or pie or candy.  Of course I'll eat anything that has sugar in it, but cookies are my favorite.  Then there are Girl Scout Cookies, oh don't get me started . . .

I just listed this Alpaca Kitchen Gift Set in The Farm Store.  The stainless steel baking sheet was fabricated by alpaca breeder and metal fabricator, Joe Matern.  The alpaca cookie stamps, one is a suri and one is a huacaya, and "Keep It Softs" were designed by his wife Reba.  The mold is a one-of-a-kind so you won't find these anywhere else!  All were made in the USA and make a great gift set, complete with recipes and tips. 
Or bake alpaca cookies for your next alpaca event!

I love what Reba writes about their alpaca farm.

About Storybook Alpacas . . .

Once Upon a Time there was a man who worked hard at his small business and was under a lot of stress. The man had a wife who liked to write stories for their grandchildren. One day she wrote a story about an alpaca and, along the way, discovered a lot about the quizzical critters. So the man and his wife went to visit an alpaca farm. The man said Ahhhhhhh! And his wife said Ooooooo! And the man and his wife were hooked!

And, Once Upon a Time, there was an old dilapidated horse barn with a little bit of land near where the man and his wife lived. It was very dreary looking. But then Sunshine and Annie came to the barn and brought their pals Coco Moco and Little Ricky. They brightened the barn and warmed the hearts of everyone who came to visit. Soon Carmeltina and her cria (baby) came to join the others. They all played and ran around the pasture together and delighted everyone who came to see them.

Every day the man and his wife came home from work and went up to the barn to visit the alpacas. They gave them some fresh water, some hay and a little feed. Then they watched the alpacas jump and run and play. And the man said Ahhhhhhh! And his wife said Oooooooo! The outside world melted away and their happily ever after began.

Play with alpacas this winter, play
 Alpaca-opoly(TM) in the comfort of you own home! 
This is another item available at
Storybook Alpacas or Alpaca Meadows. 
Joe Matern came to the United States from Austria as a child with his parents in 1955. They settled here in Mansfield, Ohio and lived where Storybook Alpacas now reside. Reba came to Mansfield in 1979 where she met Joe and they married in 1984. After a few years of raising children and running Joe's custom metal shop, alpacas captivated their hearts and their world has never been the same. The couple now looks forward to retiring some day amid quiet days and the gentle hum of alpacas.

Need metal fabrication done?  Call Joe at 419-589-3745.  Alpaca breeders, here are a few items that might interest you!

Personally, my favorite cookie is not chocolate chip, but oatmeal raisin.  I REALLY like them all full of stuff like nuts, butterscotch bits, cranberries and more . . .

What is your favorite?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My New Yarn

So, here is where it all starts, with happy, healthy alpacas!

Stress does affect fiber quality - see the smiles on these two? Meet Unlimited Joy and Ariella!  There are two different breeds of alpacas, suri and huacaya, and the difference is their fleece.  A suri's fleece grows vertically to the ground, in dreadlocks, and will grow clear to the ground if not shorn.  A huacaya has more of a teddy bear look and their fleece grows horizontal away from their bodies.  I think of a suri as being majestic and a huacaya as cute!

Huacaya Fleece

Suri Fleece

In the Dye Pot with Gaywool Dye


Carding is the process of combing and blending fibers together - an art form in itself.  This is a blend of hand dyed suri and natural brown huacaya.

Rovings Wound Into A Ball for Spinning

Hand Spun Into A Single Ply Yarn

Finished Two-Ply Yarn - Food For The Soul!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Farm Fresh Eggs

I love, love, love farm fresh eggs.  They actually have color and taste.  Hard boiled farm fresh eggs also can be very hard to peel!   They kind of just get torn apart, sometimes a whole layer of egg gets wasted, and the egg looks like it's been through a war by the time you eat it.  Someone told me it is because they are too fresh.  Eggs from the grocery store are much older and easier to peel when hard boiled - now that is a scarey thought!

Anyway, it turns out there are instructions on the world wide web on how to hard boil the perfect egg - who would have guessed!  There was a point in my cooking career that I could have used that information!!  An interesting tidbit that I do know is that in Colorado, where I once lived, it takes seven minutes to hard boil an egg because of the higher altitude, versus three minutes here at home in the midwest.

I'm so easily distracted, especially on the internet.  Wouldn't you know, I also found information on peeling those hard to peel eggs.  I think I'll give it a try - How To Peel/Shell Hard Boiled Eggs Perfectly.   

We actually have tried raising chickens (among many other species including ducks and rabbits and goats and guinea pigs and mice and geese and puppies and kittens and cows and of course, alpacas) but every darn time, they have met their demise thanks to predators, the chickens that is. I'd like to try it again sometime as I love the eggs, enjoy gathering them, and like just having chickens around.

The first time we raised them they were free range, big mistake. Even our shitzu became predator to those chickens - she was so proud the day she dragged one through her doggy door to show us!  My daughter will never be the same after being chased by the rooster.  It was hysterical to watch but not at all funny for her. 

Another chicken story, who would have thought I'd have chicken stories, was when we were having our barn built. The builder drove a red pick-up truck and one of our hens layed an egg in the back of his truck every day while he was working - how's that for take-out service!

It was too funny the first time our alpacas saw chickens in the pasture! This is Shining Star, one of our vey first alpacas, still on our farm today.  We bought her at a show, watched her take a blue ribbon in the show ring, then followed her owner back to her pen and bought her! 

When I was looking for this picture I was reminded she has had five beautiful babies (called crias) for us.  King James was the first, we sold him and repeated the breeding because we liked him so much.  Thunderstruck is in our breeding program today and making awesome babies, as is his half-sister Crassy, out of our Grand Champion, Accoyo Matterhorn. Rebel is a Rocko baby, not on our website yet, yikes I'm behind, but he has taken some ribbons and is definitely show quality!  Ranger is her latest baby and he is looking every bit as nice as the others.

  Shiny makes awesome babies - she is a keeper! 

I told you I get distracted . . .

Besides predators, our chickens decided to roost in the alpaca barn, which became a problem because they were pooping in the feed trays. Back to the chicken shed they went.

Sometimes I feel like it's a zoo around here!

The Jack Russell had to go back where he came from . . .

More later on the jackass/pony that my husband received from my son on Father's Day.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Is Needle Felting?

Needle Felting is a craft that is easy to learn, inexpensive to do, and fun!  You can create flat objects or three dimensional objects. 

Felting Needles are straight needles with barbs cut along the shaft. When repeatedly pushed into a tuft of wool fibers, the barbs pull the fibers down, compressing and locking them together. The barbs are cut in one direction so that felting or matting together of the fibers will occur when the needle is pushed in and not when it is pulled out.

These were done in a heart cookie cutter shape with fiber I cleaned out of my drum carder - waste not, want not. So very easy!

I ran across a website called The Silver Penney.  She has posted some helpful Needle Felting Basics for Felting a Flat Shape, (without a cookie cutter) and a very helpful video on Needle Felting a 3-D Object.

This is Alpaca Felting Fiber in some shades for your Valentine's Day projects!  It has not been carded but only needs pulled apart slightly and works great on small projects.

I've added a pin to the back so that it can be worn.

Or given as a Valentine.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Prayer Shawls

Ice and a two hour school delay - enough to put me in a tizzy!  I'm involved in a Prayer Shawl Ministry and the group meets at my house once a month.  Today was the day.  When my husband reported on the condition of our driveway - sheet of ice, I e-mailed the group and cancelled our get-together.  I moved on with my day, but no one got the e-mail, and at 10am they showed up anyway!

Our small group has given away close to 200 prayer shawls in a little over a year's time.  The following pictures are just a handful of them.

We have gals that knit and crochet, and we have a gal that weaves.  The maker of the shawl prays for the person who will be receiving the shawl.  Sometimes we know who that will be, but usually we don't.  The prayer shawls become a tangible reminder that we are wrapped in God's warmth, blessings, and peace.

We have received so many notes and stories of how these shawls have arrived at just the right time - God's time I think!

Free Prayer Shawl Patterns for both knitting and crocheting, are available on the Lion Brand website.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dyeing In A Dye Pot With Gaywool

I don't guess this blog will have any kind of order to it, any rhyme nor reason.  I'll just write about what I'm doing or thinking about at the time . . .

So here we go.  

Another thing I couldn't wait to learn, right after spinning, was dyeing.  You can't really make a mistake - it is kind of like tie dying a T-shirt - you don't know what you'll end up with until you're done but the results are always good.

For breeders of fiber animals that are looking for ways to sell your fiber, this is one way to add value to your fiber without adding much expense. Natural colors are beautiful - and alpacas have 22 of them - but oh, there are so many others!  I have tried kool-aid dyeing but then I found Gaywool and love it, so I've stuck with it.  Gaywool dye comes from Australia, is very safe to use, and has both the mordent and dyebath acidifier, which is all that is necessary to produce true-to-type, color-fast dyeing.

Gaywool comes in over 50 different colors.  The Original colors are vibrant hues and Bush Blends are more subtle colors that you might find in nature.  

Though there are a variety of methods, dyeing in a pot is probably the simplest, especially if you are just learning. 

I begin by weighing my fiber or yarn and I don't usually dye more than a pound at a time.  When dyeing fiber, I use zippered lingerie bags to contain it.  If dyeing yarn, it should be skeined and tied loosely in four places.  I then soak the fiber or yarn in warm water with a bit of detergent added to it.  This allows the scales to open and be ready to accept the dye.  Soak for at least 15 minutes.

It is not necessary to wash the fiber first, there will be plenty of rinsing after it is dyed.

Place your yarn or bags of fiber in your dye pot and fill it about half full. It makes no difference how much water you use as long as you use enough dye stuff for the amount you are dyeing.  Be sure there is enough water so that you can turn the fiber over easily.  Place on stove and bring water up to steaming, just below a simmer.

Measure the dye stuff and dissolve in warm water.  One capful of is enough to dye approximately 4 ounces of fiber, rovings, or yarn. I recycle dish detergent bottles and use them for mixing the dye. Fill the bottle about half-way with warm water and using a funnel, add the dye stuff.  If you are doing a pound of fiber, you will need 4 capfuls.  Once dissolved add to dyebath and stir gently so that it is evenly dispersed.

Keep the dyebath just under a boil for about 30 minutes.  Turn off heat and let cool completely.  This may take the rest of the day or overnight.  Don't rush it!  This allows the dye to be fully exhausted.

Remove and rinse the dyed fiber thoroughly in warm water.  Do not allow water ro run directly onto it, this can cause felting.  Fill your sink or bucket, allow it to soak, then using up and down motion rinse fiber, empty sink, refill, repeat process until water in sink is clear.

Squeeze out excess water.  Wrap in a towel to absorb excess moisture.  Hang yarn to dry.  Lay fiber on screens or skirting table to try.  Circulation above and below fiber is best to allow fiber to dry more quickly.

Relax and have fun - you'll love the colors you can produce!

An excellent article on dyeing with Gaywool written by Karen Kinyon and published in Alpaca Magazine in the Fall 2006 issue, is called
In Search of the Purple Alpaca: Mysteries of the Dye Pot Revealed!

Gaywool Dyes are available in The Farm Store on our website.  They come in jars of 100 grams (3.52 ounces) and 80 grams (3.82 ounces). I also have made up Try Gaywool Dye kits which include three different colors, enough to dye 12 ounces of fiber or yarn, and a HandPainting Kit complete with dye stuff, bottles to mix in, rovings to dye, and instructions for handpainting.