Friday, September 25, 2015

It's Open House Time Again!

Mango's new little guy found out early that he could run and has been working on improving his speed each day. I managed to catch him in the act this afternoon. After several missed attempts to get an action shot while he was circling the pasture, I figured out that if I aimed my camera at the corner where he had to slow down a bit to make the turn, then I could snap him in the air. He runs, leaps and pronks from the barn to the pasture, around it and back again. He repeats this route until he tires of the game and then goes over to his mama for a little sustenance and then a nap afterward.

I can only hope he repeats this performance for our guests at the Open House this weekend. Remember to pile in your car and vans or hop on your Harleys (you know who I mean) and get on out here Saturday or Sunday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. We are also having three or maybe four beautiful young assistants to help with activities for the kids this year. Our lovely granddaughter, Olivia, her BFF and "other" granddaughter, Savannah, and a couple of her other besties (Kelley, Libby, Kristina; I'm not sure which) are coming up to assist. We have a few activities scheduled for the little ones. We also have cider and donuts for everyone and alpaca cookies for the little kids. As usual, Nikko will be giving out free kisses!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Mango Did It Again!

And by it I mean, she not only had another boy, but she also had him a mere 30 minutes after I had checked on her and found her peacefully grazing. I was only on the other side of the barn in the store working on a painting project, too! Darn. I still haven't seen an actual birth.

While the odds were in our favor to have a girl, since the other three babies born on the farm have been boys, we are still thrilled to have a lively, healthy little boy. This one has the longest legs that I have ever seen on a cria, which probably explains why Mango stuck out so far on each side of her belly. This new little guy began nursing just minutes after I had picked him up to determine his gender and dip his naval in some iodine to prevent infection. I no sooner put him back down than he ducked under his anxiously waiting mama to begin nursing.

Mango tolerated this for a while but as soon as he let go she began grazing herself. The poor girl seems to be starving. A bit later I will go out and give her a special treat as a reward for her good work.

This is just another added attraction for our fall open house during National Alpaca Farm Days on September 26th and 27th. Be sure to come on out and see this new little one. We will be open between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Yesterday I made a road trip with my friend, Rhonda, down to a new fiber mill in Somerville, Ohio. America's Natural Fiberworks. Carrie and Robbie, who also own a herd of alpacas and some sheep, were so helpful and showed us around their operations. They are going to turn some fleece that was given to me by another herd owner into lovely alpaca rug yarn and lopi. I have completely sold out of my 2014 and 2015 rug yarn and last years lopi bulky. The samples of their yarns and felt sheets were so lovely. I can hardly wait until mine is done. I have already booked a  spot for next year's fleece crop since they are so busy.

I have been wanting to try my hand at dying some of the white yarn that I have in stock. Last year I had an abundance of white worsted so I pulled five 250 yard skeins from my stock and brought them in. My plan was to dye them a light orange but after reading the dye instructions I was afraid that I had too much yarn in the pot for the amount of dye called for. So, of course, I dumped a bit more in the mix. It soon became apparent that I had perhaps overdone. The yarn just kept getting darker and darker. When the process was finally done I ended up with a flaming red-orange yarn. It's not the light orange that I had planned on but since it perfectly matches my crop of fresh tomatoes and the salsa I made from them....

I'm debating about whether to call the yarn "Summer Tomato" or maybe "Salsa." What do you think?

Another reminder, come on out to see us during National Alpaca Farm Days, on September 26th and 27th.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pregnant Alpacas and Tomatoes Everywhere!

Where, oh, where did that lovely temperate weather of last week go? I loved it when it was in the high 70's with low humidity and blue, blue skies. I should have known that when the kids went back to school the hot, humid, summer weather would return. The great thing for my old colleagues this year is that the new school has finally opened and it is air conditioned. I'm happy for them.

Out here on the farm I feel awful for our pregnant girls. Mango and Took are hugely pregnant and suffering in this heat. They spend most of their days in the shade of the barn, sprawled out in front of the large barn fan, and I don't blame them. They just don't feel appearing in the pasture for my entertainment! Leezza, who is due three weeks after them is not as big and I'm starting to fear that she may have lost her baby. If she did then this will be the second year in a row that we thought she was pregnant and were disappointed. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

We turn on the sprinklers in the evening close to sundown and the animals seek relief by splashing around and laying right down on them. When Mango lays down on a sprinkler you can see her belly spreading around her. She and Took jockey for the prime spot where the sprinkler will hit their chest and under carriage.

Next week I will need to cancel any of my activities that would normally take me away from home and begin my "baby watch." Alpacas are pregnant for 11 1/2 months, give or take a week or two, and Mango, especially, looks like she should pop any time now.

I have finally finished the lovely, creamy, white, over sized scarf that I was making for myself out of the DK yarn from Mango's baby fleece.  I used the Misti Diagonal Rib Shawl, pattern by Sue Conway from and added a picot edging. It is so soft and warm and I really am looking forward to cooler weather so that I can try it out. Most of my knitting projects are made for other people so it's nice to have one for myself.

The other day I began and am now over half finished with a lovely cowl Christmas gift project that will keep someone's neck warm when the January winds start to blow. This project is knitted up in the Heathered Mulberry worsted weight yarn that I had made from some of the white fleece from this year's shearing. Morning Star blended it for me with some pre-dyed merino fleece in a mix of garnet and rose quartz. This is one of the best selling yarns at the Tiffin Farmer's Market where we have had a stand this summer. I also bring along my wheel and do spinning demonstrations. Be sure to come on out to the farmer's market to visit with us and buy your produce. The next one is on Saturday, September 12th.

We are also participating in National Alpaca Farm Days on September 26 and 27. The farm will be open to all visitors from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. those days. If you visit on those days the store will be open and visitors will be able to enter the pasture and have an up close and personal experience with the alpacas. If we are lucky, there should be a new cria or two to entertain the kids. Check our Buckeye Star Alpacas Facebook page for more information in the coming weeks.

Now that we have alpaca pastures, Rich no longer has a large garden. He just doesn't have the time for that type of gardening. So in addition to the strawberry patch out where the old sawmill used to be we just put in a couple of cabbage plants and a few tomato plants. This year we had taken out some really old shrubbery behind our deck and instead of replacing it, I suggested to Rich that "we" (meaning Rich) should put the tomato plants in there. It was a perfect spot for a raised bed. We had two early cabbages before the tomatoes took over the space.

We planted one Roma plant and four Better Boys. About a week ago they slowly started to ripen.

Then a few days ago I started to find myself inundated with tomatoes. I have roasted and frozen several bags of Romas and frozen several bags of whole, cored Better Boys to use in soups and stews this winter. I search every day for new ideas for tomato dishes to serve with dinner. We have had rustic tomato tarte, tomato margharita pizza, corn-black bean-tomato salad; and the list goes on. Today I took a stab at canned tomato salsa. I just threw chopped tomatoes, roasted anaheim chilis, chopped onions and a bunch of other "stuff" into the pot and then followed the instructions in the Ball cook book for canning tomatoes. It's not too bad for a first try and it's a pretty color.

I've even been using a bowl of plump, shiny tomatoes as a centerpiece on the kitchen table!