Friday, May 21, 2010

Open Barn Weekend-The Preparations are On

After nearly three years owning Alpacas, and having them here on the farm for 18 months, it's time for our first Open Barn Weekend.

We just came back from the PAOBA show in York, and actually did pretty well. We placed in all but two categories. Now our attention turns to shearing day, which is this next Monday.

All the "critters" are suffering in the heat, so we've put on extra fans to cool them down. Try imagining wearing your warmest winter coat in 90 degree weather. We promised them all they can play in the sprinkler right after shearing.
So for "Open Barn", we'll have some of Jo's spinning friends over, and I'll be demonstrating hand weaving. Of course the Alpacas are the stars of the show. We're hoping to have our first baby arrive about that time. We'll be open Saturday and Sunday 5/29-30 from 10-4. We hope to see you there.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Color Everywhere

The Chives are blooming! A welcomed sight.

Things are springing up all over here at the ranch, including a horrible mouse problem at the barn that was quickly solved by the addition of 2 barn cats...Stella and Pest (named by the lady who so generously donated them to us). They are a bit camera shy, but we'll keep working on that.
We have another new addition...this is an old LeClerc loom from Quebec. It is over 50 years old. Bought it on Ebay in hot and heavy auction action. We will use it for demonstration purposes when we take the Take2 Alpaca show on the road at various events. Len started weaving a scarf to try it out.

The loom will be coming along with us real soon too.
This weekend is the annual Pa. Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association's "Breeders Showcase" event in York, PA at the Fairgrounds. We are taking the three cria from last year and our two yearling boys to show in Halter, Produce of Dam, and Get of Sire classes. We also have entries in Handspun Skein, Mill Spun Skein, Fiber Arts, and Photography. We have had a great season so far with year with two 4th places, one 6th place, a blue, and a Reserve Color Champion. We are so so pleased with last year's babies and excited about this year's crias which are due within the next few weeks. We have two more shows after this one.

In the meantime, we have been preparing some skeins of yarn to sell at several upcoming events. I've been a hand-dyer for years dyeing cotton cloth for quilts. Protein fiber, like alpaca and other wool take a different process, using dye, heat, and acid, which in this case is white vinegar. It kind of stinks up the whole house.

Here are jars of dye concentrate. The dye is added to salted hot water on the stove. The particular yarn we are using here is 60% alpaca, 40% Blue Faced Leicester (an English long wool rare breed sheep--the fleeces came from my friend Nancy Landis from Elizabethtown, PA). It's soft and rich with a satin sheen. It was spun for us at Worthington Acres Fiber Mill in Unityville, PA, so we have a 100% PA product, as our farm is a member of PA Preferred and we hope to produce as much in our state as possible, which helps support other small farms like us.

The white skein goes into the dye bath, comes to a boil, and simmers for 15 minutes. Then the vinegar is added and it simmers for another 25 minutes. I've been experimenting with dye recipes to get a reliable palate of colors that will work well year after year.

When the dye has been taken up by the fiber, it cools for a little and then is rinsed.

After rinsing to remove any leftover dye, it goes on our hi-tech drying racks. Sure, they look like deck furniture. Too bad I gave away the treadmill, that would work just as well!

It's a little time consuming, but well worth the effort!

Remember, if you are in the neighborhood and want to visit, please do! Just call first to make sure someone is here.... 610-823-7907.