Alpacas and fiber–what to do with it?

Alpaca fleece is so soft; even the stuff I have not skirted properly but just run through with my fingers to get out the big stickery stuff.  I just had my first sale of fleece  to a local resident who is planning to try her hand at spinning her own yarn because she doesn’t like the commercial yarns on the shelf.  She can make her yarns bulkier to her liking.  She will be back because she only bought 3 bags of fleece and she wants some more from the other alpacas she didn’t get this time. She is bringing a friend next time who also wants to try some.

 I haven’t aggressively promoted the fleece, but did during the recent National Alpaca Farm Days event.  I also have it listed out on the national Local Harvest website.  I will also take some fleece to drop off at some area knitting stores and let some of their customers try it for free, then I plan to leave some with the stores to put on their shelves for sale.

Project Linus–blankets for kids in crisis

I wanted to add a link to a great organization; if you can sew or not, crochet, knit or otherwise be creative with fabric or yarn, please look at their website and donate a handmade blanket or two. 
Sign up for their newsletter and find a chapter near you or start your own. 

Those who do not sew or knit, can make a blanket easily out of polar fleece type material by cutting to a specific size and finishing the edges as they indicate in the instructions on their website. 

I have the link in the left hand column; please check them out, organize a blanket making party. or on your own, and donate often.

Alpacas in the rain

We finally had some tremendous thunderstorms yesterday and last night; more are expected tonight.  My one pregnant girl is due anytime, so I wanted the girls to stay out of the wetness as much as possible since the winds were predicted to be high and I needed the barn to stay somewhat dry.  On their end of the barn ( 30’wx50’long, it runs north to south, with a rollup door on the east side and a matching opening with no door on the west side that opens into an fence enclosed area I call the “night pasture”).  I closed their roll up door to keep them in the barn and night pasture area. 

The boys right now share their barn space (built same as the girls with a roll up door; an opening on the west leading into their night pasture)  split down the middle with a fence to keep the herdsire in his own side (he fusses with the other boys) so closing their door is usually not necessary unless some truly bad weather or freezing precip is expected. 

It is great to have this flexibility.  The girls stayed dry and munched hay inside during the storm; this morning they wandered out into their fenced night pasture area until I went out and rolled up the door so they could get out into the soggy pastures.  My pregnant girl is still “with child”; something should happen sometime this month.  Stay tuned for updates.

Places to find answers

There are so many places now to find help with any questions you might have on any subject.  Since moving to our 104 acres in 2005, there have been so many questions.  In many of the places I looked, I found a reference to a book that everyone said “you have to have” if you have any country living related questions.  It was a bit pricey but I kept watching for  a bargain price. The book is by the late Carla Emery, entitled  The Encyclopedia of Country Living, and this year it is in it’s 10th revised edition.  I searched Amazon and found it at an amazing $16 brand new through AbeBooks.  I am so glad I finally got it; it has so much info, including reference material like book names with authors, recommended newsletters, magazines and websites on most of the subject material written about.  Go to and click the books sections and look under this author name or book title for more info.  Some subjects: Grasses/Grains, Food Preservation, Animals (bees, sheep, pig, etc), Dairying, Herbs, Housekeeping, Recipes, for food or soaps, etc, How to buy your land, How to build your house or cabin, Government Resources, How to Pinch a Penny, etc. 

.  There is no way to explain how comprehensive this book is (922 pages, 8 1/2 x 11) and interwoven is the authors personal story as well as commens from readers over the years providing more info for Carla Emery.  It originally started as several memeographed pages, stapled together, all from her kitchen table.  That was in 1969.   I hope you can buy or check out this book from your library (it even describes inside how to go the library and have them find a book for you from another library, shipped to them and checked out by you).  I purchased this as a birthday present to myself this year.

Eggs for the table

Well, I have successfully raised my chicks to the egg laying phase.  They just started this past week.  I have 3 coops my husband the architect built and they each are in separate pastures, close to each other but with pasture fencing separating them.  They do have some places where they can go under the fence into   adjoining pastures, but generally each coop has developed it’s own clique and they don’t mingle much with the other coop members.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

So the coop with 10 Partridge Silkie Bantams (9 pullets, 1 cockerel) has started laying; at least 2 of the females it would appear.  I initially found an egg outside of the coop on the ground, then I found one inside another day, and since then I find 2-4 inside the coop each day, usually in the morning when I let them out for the day.    I have set them up nesting boxes but so far they don’t care for them; I will make some improvements so maybe they will have an interest to lay there.  I now have over a dozen eggs this week, but since they are smaller (I read 3 bantam eggs equals one regular size) then by the weekend we should have enough for our first omelet of “homemade” eggs.  Their eggs are a nice warm beige color; if an egg can be cute, theirs are!

Even though I have seen hawks flying around our 104 acres, I have not yet lost any poultry to them.  It could be the alpacas and guineas keep them scared off, or because the coops are sitting so close to the barn.  They are also raised up on concrete block corners so the birds can take cover underneath.  However, they tend to really like the barn during the day and I find them burrowed in the alpacas hay bins, or in the cool sand of the barn floor where they have scratched themselves out a nice resting place and clucking softly, contentedly resting from their recent foraging expedition in the pastures.